Assignment Sixteen: What is the difference between the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns? What would moderns find lacking in ancient liberty?
In the modern world, liberty and freedom are considered essential to most parts of the world. The ancient Greeks were very passionate about their freedom as well, only their view of freedom was vastly different than what we perceive as liberty. So what makes the two so different? What separates their perception of liberty and ours is the concept of liberty. What does liberty mean to us? What did liberty mean to them?
The ancient Greek were very passionate about their liberty. They wanted the freedom to be involved in their city states’ government. They wanted the freedom to collectively pass judgement on criminals in their city, freedom to have a free-speaking council, and the freedom to collectively make laws for their city states. They reserved the right to travel without permission, and to express their opinions in the for of free speech. They also reserved the right to use their property as they saw fit without the influence of the government and to associate with others. Their perception of liberty included the right to discuss and make decisions about war and peace, form foreign alliances, vote over new laws, examine the records of the magistrates, call the magistrates to appear before their assembly, and to accuse and render judgements if necessary on the magistrates. In short, their perception of liberty primarily revolved around collective rights.
I’m not very well-versed in international politics, nor have I ever been outside America before, so I will be comparing the ancient Greek’s perception of liberty to modern day America’s perception of liberty. Our view of freedom is so vastly different than that of the Greeks on so many levels! Modern day America is huge on the concept of freedom. What is America’s concept of freedom? We believe in the right to express our opinions, to dress the way we want to dress, and to practice religion without the government’s influence. America’s perception of liberty also includes things like equality, women’s rights, and the right to bear arms. These are things a large percentage of the population accepts and demands as their liberty.
We can see many differences right off the bat, but what is the main difference between ancient Greek’s perception of freedom and modern day America’s perception of freedom? The answer is concept. To ancient Greece, the concept of liberty was freedom as a collective whereas to modern day America, the concept of liberty revolves around the individual. What is right to me? What is my opinion? What does my religion or morals say about this? Those are questions that we don’t even think about but are running through our heads. In fact, as you read the paragraph above this one, I bet you were thinking about what you thought about each of the controversial subjects, or what you’d been taught about it. It’s become second nature to us to think that way. There are many things ancient Greece and modern-day America would disagree on. What do you think about it?
What would modern day America find missing from the concept of liberty in ancient Greece? I believe it would be individual freedom, and all that that encompasses. Whether it be the right to practice any religion you choose, or to dress a certain way, or woman’s right to vote, it all falls under individual freedom. That’s something we would find supremely lacking in ancient Greek politics.