I am reading a fantastic book. It is called Lords of the Sea written by John R. Hale. It chronicles the correlation between the rise of democracy in Athens and the ascent of the Athenians to "Lords of the Sea."
I once took a class at the University of Oklahoma called Freedom in Greece by the great professor Dr. J. Rufus Fears. In that class, though we covered many aspects of Grecian power, we studied extensively the Athenians and the Spartans (bitter enemies of one another). They had an intense desire for liberty that no man would take from them. This was my introduction to Ancient Greece and her exploits.
I also took two other classes there, The Ancient Art of War and The History of Sparta. Both of these classes were taught by Dr. Alfred S. Bradford. He was a kind-hearted professor who also happens to have served in Vietnam. In these classes I was able to dive more intensely into the warfare culture that had developed in ancient Greece, especially in Sparta.
Now with this book, I am getting the strictly Athenian side of the history of the Greek world. It is interesting to see the difference in perspective when reading this book as compared with The Spartans. It is clearly more sympathetic to the Athenians, though it does do a fair job at not demonizing the Spartans.
The book covers a timeline from about 480 BC until c. 320 BC a period of roughly 160 years. That is less time than the U.S. of A. has been around. It is incredible to see the dynamics of government go from oligarchy, to democracy, to oligarchy, to tyranny, to oligarchy, to democracy, and never remain stable AND how it ultimately resided upon the success of their maritime activities. Simply incredible. As I near the end of the book, I begin to realize how quickly these changes took place within Athens, and how comparable some of the Athenian situations are to the current government of the United States.
Immigration, taxation, disappointing government officials, allocation of state funds - all of these things which were problems and instigators of change in Athens are current problems in America. Sure we are much larger than Greece, but the problems remain. Perhaps it is only a indicator that changes are coming, but they will only come more slowly.
Athens was the superpower of the Ancient World. It was the most technologically advanced civilization. It was the leader among its allies, and its allies aided the greater Athenian seafaring forces in battle. Yet, how quickly the tides could turn. Athens quickly went from superpower to subservient city-state. What lessons can we learn from them? I think that may be still up for debate. But, I am afraid that the U.S. is on a collision course with history, and if we don't yield and learn from that great passing ship, we might end up like the Athenians and find that we have become but a small vessel drifting helplessly against the out going tide of time.