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“The fundamental political idea of justice can already be found in archaic [Greek] poetry… Setting the terms of right or fair treatment, justice was widely seen by Greeks as the key to civilisation. Living in over 1,000 separate communities of different sizes, scattered across a mountainous mainland with its Peloponnese peninsula as well as hundreds of islands, calling themselves Hellenes but speaking diverse dialects, the Greeks were acutely aware of how recently human societies had become civilised and how precarious the fruits of civilisation remained. They knew themselves to be relativity latecomers in comparison to long-settled communities of Mesopotamia and Egypt from which they have learned much. Civilisation freed humans from bare subsistence by developing arts and sciences such as agriculture, metallurgy, navigation, architecture and the very poetry that Hesiod composed. For Hesiod, whose poetic voice gave substance to archaic Greek ideas, it was justice that made all this possible. Why? Because without it, humans would be in the same position as the nightingale seized by the hawk, described in the poetic fable. ‘As I wish, I will make a meal of you, or let you go,’ says the hawk to his hapless victim clutched in his talons (WD – 209 [Works and Days – Hesiod]). Without justice, human society could never have risen beyond such an incessant struggle to kill or be killed. ”

p. 30-1. – Greek and Roman Political Ideas, Melissa Lane, 2014.

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