Following the civilizations and cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt from 3500 BCE to the I century BCE, an emerging Indo-European culture settles in the Greek islands of the Mediterranean Basin.
In the IX and VIII century BCE, Greece is consolidating a forma mentis that will influence and nurture European cultures of the future. It’s the time of great myths, of epic literature, the heroic age of Greek culture.
Homer and Hesiod, mythmakers and poets, the ethos of a civilization in the making. Oral or written the tradition of the Greek genius starts with them.
From the Geometric age to Classical Greek culture will pass roughly 300 years of development, struggle, colonies, wars, revolts, peace, alliances, expeditions.
The V and IV century BCE and age of Pericles are known to be the glory of Classical Greek culture in which its most remarkable values have been consolidated in arts, science, literature and philosophy.
These centuries express an ideal, stability of values, a canon of aesthetic form. The model of classical Greek culture will have a direct impact on Roman Republican culture and beyond time in most countries of Renaissance and XVII and XVIII century Europe.
From this “moment” of stability, from Thesis, Greek cultural values evolve in their opposites and with the date of the death of Alexander the Great, 323 BCE gradualy they move to a period of political and social unrest, clashes of ideas and trends, diverse ethnic coexistence, and deterioration of a Greek ethos in what was to be named the Hellenistic culture.
The drama, the tension, the shift from archetype to the individual, the anxiety, the insecurity, the contradictions of the Hellenistic forma mentis will reappear in another tumultuous century, the XVI century Europe, in the baroque Weltanchauung.
The Hellenistic tension will solve in the Christian Zeitgeist of the first century CE, the passage from Antithesis to Synthesis, the leap to a new cultural model in the Roman Empire and the world for centuries to come.
Arts and architecture will create a new aesthetic form, the Christian art starting with the second century CE.
But literature will have to wait until the XII and XIII centuries Europe for a heroic age of cultures like the Spanish or the French with Cantar del Mio Cid and Chanson de Roland and the Nibelungenlied of the Germans or The Song of Igor’s Campaign of the Slavs when again Medieval cultures start with the consolidation of their chivalrous values, the Thesis of the Christian moral model of feudalism.
A monumental work of the Catholic West is Dante’s Divina Commedia, 1320.
From this date to the publication of Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man in 1496 more than a century will pass, the antithesis started with Averroism and Siger of Brabant in the previous centuries will be completed by the XVI century when Reformation and Counterreformation will have an impact on culture in what was called the Baroque style.
From the Renaissance Italy with a class of merchants and bankers in ascendence in the XIV century, Europe will develop a bourgeoisie by the XVII and XVIII centuries that wil consolidate new values and ideals of knowledge and reason in the scientific revolution and the new classical era, the Enlightenment. This is the leap to a new societal model, the bourgeois Zeitgeist.
This new societal model will have its expression in the wave of revolutions in 1848 Europe’s Spring of Nations.
Carrying out a model of scientific progress, the bourgeosie of the XIX and XX centuries developed in Europe and the Americas national cultures with a variety of literary and artistic genres and styles, with important philosophical contributions and the creation and new fields of research and science.
Culture passes from Modernism in late XIX century to early XX century to Postmodernism in the second half of the XX century and beyond. As a culture, the capitalist society lives a period of Antithesis on five continents.
For the third time in history there is a déjà vu of a Hellenistic period, today with the mark of the globalized neoliberalism and its consumerist culture.
Somewhere in the near future the social, political, philosophical or scientific change will bring forward the negation of the negation and eventually mankind will make again the leap to a totally new society, young and fresh.
Elena Malec, California Oct. 5, 2020