English Essays · Uncategorized

Ethical Cause and Effect in Greek Culture

For English I have been reading a lot of Greek stories and plays. Today I will be contrasting the theme of cause and effect in two  different Greek Documents.

The first one is the letter Works and Days by a famous Greek writer named Hesiod. He wrote this for his brother attempting to persuade him to give him back the portion of their father’s inheritance that belonged to him. Hesiod also provided his brother with a lot of advice that he felt was important to know for life. Things like what trades were best for a living, and how to honor the gods properly were included.

First off, what is cause and effect? Well here is an example of this idea:

Cause: I broke my arm.

Effect: The doctor put a cast on it.

Do you see what I mean? Cause and effect is a reflection of an idea or event and what happened when it is put into effect.

Now let us first look at some examples of cause and effect in Hesiod’s Works and Days. In his letter, he provides an example of contention between the gods. Prometheus (a Greek god) gave mankind fire against the will of Zeus. Then, in punishment Zeus brought curses upon man in the form of a woman Pandora who opened up a box containing evil spirits which were released onto the earth to torment man forever.

Near the end of his letter, Hesiod tells his brother what days are good for planting, marrying, and harvesting. They all revolved around some sort of superstition of their gods. If you do the wrong thing on the wrong day, you could be cursed and your work would become unprofitable.

The Second Greek document I will be talking about is the Eumenides. In this play, these spirits called Furies want to avenge the murder of a mother by her son. The son is scared for his life because he knows that the Furies are after him. He claims that he is justified for killing his mother, because he was only avenging his father’s death at the hands of his mother.

The Furies had the philosophy that if you do kill someone, no matter the circumstances; whether you are justified or not, you still deserve to be punished cruelly for your actions. They are thirsty for blood and take pleasure in avenging the deaths of others.

So, the view of cause and effect in the Eumenides is different from the view of cause and effect in  Works and Days. The Furies believed that if you do one thing (kill someone) there is only one consequence (death). No matter the circumstance, it can not be changed. In Hesiod’s Works and Days, he believes that specific circumstances account for different effects. In other words, the effect of your actions depend on the circumstances surrounding your actions when you perform them.

 

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