Archives for the month of: May, 2013


Thales was the founder of the physicalist stream of philosophy which attempted to explain the world in materialist terms[1]. The foundation of this philosophy is described as arkhe or the basic principle of all things[2]. This principle has matter being the original source from which all things come and in which all things are made[3]. Matter, being composed of elements, is always preserved and, for Thales, the basic component of all matter is wáter[4]. Aristotle says that Thales drew his conclusión that wáter is arkhe from his observation of nature[5]. According to Aristotle, Thales argument would have been that all food contains moisture, therefore what nurtures and sustains all things must substantially be wáter[6]

The difficulty with this theory was that Thales had to justify how all things could come into being from water and ultimately return again…

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Amatya Sen claims that ‘capabilities’ provide the relevant evaluative space for understanding equality. However Sen’s theory has been criticised on the grounds that it does not provide sufficient specification of which functionings and capabilities are valuable. This essay investigates the capabilities theory with reference to this kind of criticism and finds that, on the basis of its reliance upon universal values of liberty and autonomy,  Martha Nussbaum’s development of capabilities theory could provide a possible framework for specifying valuable functionings and capabilities.
The capabilities approach is dependent upon the evaluation of those particular functionings that are concerned with the value of life. In the study prepared for the United Nations, Amartya Sen put forward the argument that the capability approach is an improvement on other theories of justice, such as utilitarianism, Rawlsian egalitarianism and libertarianism because it uses other informational focuses to consider social advantage (p.30). The main criticism of Sen’s approach is that it is considered vague in that it does not provide sufficient specifications as to what he thinks are valuable. Martha Nussbaum has taken Sen’s capability approach and put what she argues are universal and concrete values upon it, allowing it to become a theory of justice rather than simply an evaluative space for reckoning what values we should hold.


Sen posits that his approach relies upon the functional states through which one can achieve quality of life. These include such functionings as being adequately nourished, having good health, and are functionings which would be obviously considered values by all. However, other functionings may be more complex but just as widely valued, such as belonging to a social group.  Sen stresses that, although individuals may differ in what they assess as valuable, it is important that these differences are acknowledged when assessing the capabilities that can be derived from these varied functions (Sen, 1993, p.31).

Therefore, Sen (1993, p.32) states that two necessary questions must be asked to evaluate these differing values:

1)      What is the object of the value?

2)      How valuable are the respective objects?

To identify the object of the value entails specifying what Sen terms as ‘the evaluative space’. For utilitarians this is usually defined as happiness or pleasure, whereas the capabilities approach entails identifying the evaluative space in terms of an individual’s capability to function. In this way the capability approach uses evaluative space to allow for a variety of human actions that are ends in themselves rather than means of living or freedoms, such as amounts of income, wealth, or resources etc. (1993, p.33). For Sen, when it comes to questions of freedom of choice then the criteria to be assessed must be linked to the evaluation of the range of capabilities that are open (1993, p.35).

An interesting point that Sen makes about the association of an evaluation of capabilities with freedom is that a person may have the advantage of more freedom than another but it may still result in her achieving less. For example, a person may have access to a capability such as a good education system but for reasons of personal characteristics, such as laziness or distraction, still not bother to achieve their best within it (1993, p.34). Therefore, Sen breaks down these associative values of human advantage as being:

1)      well-being achievement through the promotion of a person’s well-being;

2)      individual achievement through the pursuit of one’s goals; which result in:

3)      well-being freedom

4)      individual freedom (1993, p.34)

For Sen, the well-being of a person becomes an evaluation of the ‘wellness’ of that person rather than an evaluation of their contribution to the state or their success in reaching their goals. In this case, the functionings of the person will be comprised of the four elements above. With regard to this, the functionings of a person appear fundamental to the nature of their well-being, even if they are sourced externally from the person themselves, such as through the fulfilment of helping someone else (1993, p.36).

The functionings that assist well-being vary from the elementary, such as life-expectancy, to the complex, such as being a valued member of the community. The success of the agency of a person requires a broader assessment that can be narrowed to the evaluation of a standard of living to the broader sense of political freedom. It can even be said that the broader sense includes injuries to others, especially loved ones. These things all contribute to the success of someone developing an ability to be happy or the development of their well-being (1993, p.37).

An important thing to note is that, in Sen’s concept of evaluative space, capabilities are derived from functionings. The concepts of well-being and living standards belong to the assessment of functioning rather than capabilities. Therefore a capability is set in the space of functionings (1993, p.38). This calculus model can be used to assess basic needs and is crucial to the identification of capabilities. Sen states that an income-derived concept of poverty can be quite misleading when evaluation allows discrepancies in functionality. This is because the ‘poverty line’ in a developing nation may be quite distinct from that of developed nations (1993, p.40). Sen sees the most advantageous role of the capability approach being the ability to assess varied objects of value, rather than the utility-based approach of happiness or desire fulfilment as being the only value. It also does not place primary goods or resources as value objects, as do the Rawlsian and Dworkinian models (1993, p.44).

Sen (1993, p.49) thinks that it is in its plurality of purpose that that the capability approach works best, especially with regard to well-being and agency. This is especially relevant when judging standards of living and its particular usability lies in its egalitarian calculus that is dependent upon the truth of seeing individual advantages in capabilities and therefore its relevance to other sorts of social evaluation. In having the ability to assess the particular space for the evaluation of opportunities and successes of individuals, Sen asserts that the capabilities approach is an important addition to other theories of justice (1993, p.50).


Nussbaum takes Sen’s abstract mathematical calculus of functionings and put them into concrete terms through which constitutional guarantees can be drawn in civil society. This is Nussbaum’s universal approach (Nussbaum, 2000, p.70). Through applying concrete concepts Nussbaum breaks down standard theories of justice into questions that show how the capabilities approach can change someone’s life. The central question for Nussbaum is: “What is Vasanti actually able to do and to be?” The answer to this question is sought rather than the utilitarian approach: “How satisfied is Vasanti?”; or the  Rawlsian/ Dworkinian: “How much in the way of resources is Vasanti able to command? (2000, p.71)” For Nussbaum, the priority is to measure quality of life so that capabilities can match functionings. The next thing to do is to argue that if people fall below a functioning threshold that is necessary for justice then it should be considered urgent in terms of the injustice it creates (2000, p.71).

Nussbaum’s criteria is based upon the intuitive concept that particular functions are universal in human life and that it is these functions that separate us from other animals. Using the philosophy of Marx, she argues that humans need to be cultivated through education, leisure and self-expression, and also through socialisation with others. Nussbaum adds to this liberty of thought and association, as well as freedom of religion or worship, being fundamental to human autonomy (2000, p.72). A person has activities, goals and projects that are above the needs of nature and need support to fulfil these ideas. The essential element of this is that capabilities are sought for the individual, not groups or states or corporations. These entities can be valuable as means to ends but the well-being of the individual is the end itself (2000, p.74).

Nussbaum states that a list of concrete functionings cannot be a theory of justice however it does advise on what will be a minimum of social justice. She also adds that they could be adjusted to suit the various cultures that they encompass (2000, p.75). Nussbaum’s list of capabilities is a list in which all of the elements are distinct and equal in importance. She gives the example of the absence political rights not being able to be compensated by great economic growth (2000, p.81). Nussbaum states that the capabilities that go with these functionings are of three different types:

1)      Basic capabilities- innate equipment necessary for developing more advanced capabilities and morality, such as the capability of love, gratitude, reason and work;

2)      Internal capabilities- maturity, language, political reasoning, socialization, freedom of speech or religion; and

3)      Combined capabilities- where the environment is prepared so that individuals are able to exercise their major functionings (2000, p.85).

There is also a distinction between internal and combined capabilities in that when there is a sudden alteration in the environment in which the individual is placed, perhaps they have had to flee or migrate to another country, then they may not be able to enact their functionings. Nussbaum gives the example of a child who has never experienced freedom of speech or thought and is not able to develop the same capabilities as someone who was raised in a nation that protects these liberties. Nussbaum focuses on a social minimum of these capabilities as suitable for a system of justice (2000, p.86).

With regard to individual liberty and autonomy being safeguarded in such a system, Nussbaum states that it is important to note that ‘capability not functioning is the appropriate political goal (2000, p.87)’. This appears to coalesce with Sen’s evaluative space, where capabilities are derived from functionings. Nussbaum points out that the capabilities approach is much like Rawls’ notion of primary goods, but the difference between the capabilities approach and Rawls theory of justice is that it does not consider wealth and income as goals or ends, more a reliance upon Rawls’ natural goods such as ‘health, vigour, intelligence and imagination’ (2000, p.89). Capabilities are the things needed for functioning such that any rational being would want them. Even if one does not make use of all of them then no harm has been done if they had the choice (2000, p.88).

However, Nussbaum also states that it is important that capabilities such as bodily integrity may be regulated so as not to undermine the functionings of an individual. Although this may be seen as paternalistic it is perhaps synonymous with illegal contracts in that health and bodily integrity are so important to capabilities and functioning that there can be legitimate interference with choice up to a point (2000, p.95). This does seem to call into question whether Nussbaum would allow such choices as being a sex worker in her system of justice, but she does state that such decisions can be left to the democratic process in each nation (2000, p.95). Nussbaum also states that her list is not meant to be an exhaustive account of what is worthwhile in life and is a facilitation list rather than a tyrannical one (2000, p.95). Nussbaum contends that the political purpose of these capabilities is human well-being. She quotes Sen: ‘Political rights are important not only for the fulfilment of needs, they are crucial also for the formulation of needs. And this idea relates, in the end, to the respect that we owe each other as fellow human beings.’ (Sen, 1994, p.38)

Therefore Nussbaum sees her list of functioning capabilities as being closely aligned with universal human rights. They are quite similar to those initiated and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was ratified in 1948, and have been used by many different peoples to assert justice. One of members of the drafting subcommittee of this document stated: “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality”.(U.N. n.d.) Nussbaum’s list is intended to give fundamental access to capabilities in order to provide a stable society, which was also the intent of the UDHR. Nussbaum argues that these are not only Western notions of rights: “Ideas of activity and ability are everywhere, and there is no culture in which people do not ask themselves what they are able to do, what opportunities they have for functioning (2000, p.100)”. Considering that what differentiates humans from other animals is their need to realise their ideas, whether they be social, creative, technological, or scientific, it seems that Nussbaum’s argument about the universality of her functional capabilities is valid.

Rather than being a strict theory of justice, Sen’s capability approach has the ability to allow a framework that is both accommodating and adaptable. It has the ability to assess individual well-being and evaluate social arrangements so that policies may be designed that can enact just social change. Through being a practical guide it can inform citizens and governments of the directions that may provide desirable outcomes. While criticisms of Sen’s approach state that it is unclear about how it can be extended into a theory of justice, his non-commitment to single distributive rule allows his notions of functionings and capabilities to be a formula for an evaluative space through which justice may be approached. Nussbaum’s transfer of Sen’s evaluative space into a concrete list of functioning capabilities is comprehensive and is not limited to single-types of social systems but holds true for all human beings. Therefore both Sen’s formulaic approach and Nussbaum’s sufficient account of social justice could be used together to provide a constitutional guarantee of human rights.


  1. Nussbaum, M 2000, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, University of Chicago pp. 70-101
  2. United Nations (n.d.), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, viewed 5 April 2013,
  3. United Nations (n.d.), Universal Declaration of Human Rights: History of the Document, viewed 5 April 2013,
  4. Sen, A 1993, ‘Capability and Well-Being’, in M. Nussbaum & A. Sen (eds),The Quality of Life, Clarendon Press, Oxford pp. 30-52
  5. Sen, A, 1994, ‘Freedom and Needs’, The New Republic, January 10/17, pp. 31-38


The Spartan relationship with those that they conquered was designed to maintain their superior strength as a fighting power. To do this they needed an underclass of workers who could maintain the living standards of their society. Those that they subjugated within the Peloponnese were called Helots, and they fulfilled this role. To consider whether this relationship could be described in terms of class struggle it is necessary to identify who the Helots were, their particular role in Spartan life, their reaction to this role, their treatment by the Spartans and its eventual effects.


Excepting for a few Achaean centres, when the Mycenaean period ended in about 1200 BCE it was followed by a severe depopulation of the Peloponnesian peninsula. In about 1000BCE, the Dorians, a northern migrant-warrior tribe invaded and settled Laconia. This occupation of the land happened over a long period, with any pre-Dorian population being used as slave labour or expelled, as the Dorians were not an agricultural people[1].

The city of Sparta began as a conglomeration of villages on the Eurotas River[2], on a site founded in the early tenth century that was previously uninhabited, evidenced by the absence of Mycenaean sherds[3]. About ten kilometres south of Sparta was Amyclae, the centre of the Laconian Achaeans. It was captured by the Dorian Spartans in the middle of the eighth century adding a fifth village to the four villages of Sparta. The land of Helos at the mouth of the Eurotas River was also subjugated[4]. In this early Spartan period of settlement and occupation social conditions developed that were the result of a relationship between the conquerors and the conquered[5].

Being a warrior community of small numbers, the Dorian-Spartans needed others to work the land for them. The land was divided into lots and tilled by the conquered, that filled the role of serfs, or Helots [captives[6] ], and provided the livelihood for their masters. These early Helots were made up of a pre-Dorian agricultural community[7]. The Spartans, being a dominant force and increasing in number, acquired land in the west, north and south[8], but in particular the land of Messenia in the west of the Peloponnese.

This led to the First Messenian War around the latter part of the seventh century[9]. After the battle for the Messenian’s mountain fortress at Ithome, the Spartans were victorious and turned the inhabitants into Helots[10]. The seventh Spartan poet Tyrtaeus describes the Messenians paying tribute to their new masters ‘just like donkeys, worn down by heavy burdens[11]. This burden was great, in that Helots had to deliver half of their crop to their Spartan masters[12]. Yet there were many of them and consequently they became a threat to the Spartan state.

Although the expansion of Spartan territory into Laconia and Messenia doubled the state’s size and resulted in whole populations being subjugated into serf-like primary producers, it also found the Spartans constantly having to control ‘an enemy within’[13]. Unlike slaves elsewhere in Greece who were bought and sold by individual masters at will, Helots were not of disparate origin but born only in Laconia or Messenia and not sold beyond these lands[14]. Ehrenberg states that ‘it was the Messenians who ever afterwards threatened to revolt against Sparta’[15]. Forrest also asserts that through their numbers, their race and their identity, being of Messenian or Dorian-Greek origin, these Helots were a constant threat to Spartan society[16].


Surface surveys conducted in southwest Messenia show isolated settlements across the landscape, rather than individual farmsteads. This suggests that Helots lived together on estates and under some surveillance, not spread out in small family groups on cultivated land[17]. Xenophon saw the Helots as being integral to the Spartan state, much like slaves elsewhere[18]. Other than agricultural tasks, the functions performed by Helots were as domestic servants, wet nurses, grooms, attendants to Spartans on military campaigns, as well as troops and even hoplites between  424-369BCE[19]. Kennell thinks that Helots may have been owned individually[20]. Xenophon writes that the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus allowed anyone to borrow another’s hunting dogs, horses or helots[21], which suggests that they were considered private property[22]. However, this could also mean that, rather than being owned, they were considered part of an individual’s share of the common good.

Helots did have a form of property and marriage rights and some form of social life. Talbert argues that, for some Helots, life must have been good through having some influence and power in administrating property while the owners were away fighting or in the city. This meant that they might profit from their work and their loyal military services and might suggest an acceptance of their position[23]. Herodotus states that Helots were used as troops in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BCE[24] (Herod. 6.80; 8.25), and at the Battle of Plataea in 479BCE there were seven armed helots to one Spartan hoplite[25]. There was a substantial drop in the Spartan population during the fifth century and therefore the number of Helots required serving in Spartan military expeditions increased[26]. Being small in number and located in the city itself unless on official business, the Spartans must have left the Helots to their own devices much of the time[27].

The territory of Sparta was extensive and difficult with many mountain ranges isolating various areas. Spartan households used a large amount of domestic attendants to do tasks such as wool-working that were normally carried out by women in other areas of Greece[28]. As a Spartan’s whole life was training for war, the whole orientation of society needed an enslaved population to assist this and constructed their lifestyle to make this hierarchy. In this way, the Helots were fundamental to the Spartan economy[29]. To rely for their survival on the helots the Spartans had to turn their city into a military barracks, but the compensation for this meant that Sparta became one of the most powerful cities in the Hellenic world[30]. However, this also resulted in Sparta having to devote much energy to asserting its power over the Helots and, until the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BCE; it involved a constant rebalancing of benefits and dangers[31].


Talbert asserts that the longevity of Helot submission is more significant than Helot rebellion, and the fact that population numbers remained high points to general well-being[32]. The helots had the advantage of being in a country that was protected from outside invaders. It was also a country where the masters had limited literary or cultural interests, therefore it is unlikely that isolated Helots would have been politically interested. As Sparta’s neighbours were all oligarchies, rather than democracies like Athens, it would appear that there was little chance for political organisation for the Helots, being isolated and uneducated[33]. As Helots infrequently came into contact with free people, this situation may have changed with the use of Helots in military expeditions in the early fifth century.

While the first revolt of the Helots came in the latter half of the seventh century, the Spartans took years to quell the rebellion and suggests a cause for the ongoing tensions between the Spartans and the Helots. While there are no accounts of rebellion in the sixth century, there are more than a few accounts of Helot disloyalty or conflict in the fifth and fourth centuries. By the time of Thucydides it seems that Spartan society was designed to keep it secure against the Helots[34].

Thucydides[35] states that all Helots, whether Laconian or Messenian were called Messenian, which suggests that the Spartans saw them all as potential dissidents[36].  An earthquake that devastated Sparta in 465/4 BCE[37] had an immediate effect upon the helots, with those in Messenia revolting and again being garrisoned in their mountain stronghold at Ithome. It was not until a decade later that there was a compromise[38]. However, Xenophon writes that by the late fifth century the Helots would have been happy to eat the Spartans raw[39].


In the Parnian area of Sparta a seventh century pattern can be seen through site surveys of small single-family farmsteads and hamlets. Surveyors surmise that these were evidence of the perioeci, free people who were neither helots nor Spartans. After the middle of the fifth century these decrease sharply indicating Spartan security concerns after the earthquake[40]. All Spartan treaties with their allies had a clause calling for assistance in case of a helot uprising[41] , and the Spartan state allegedly maintained an annual declaration of war against the helots through the use of a secret service of young warriors who would murder unsuspecting helots[42].

A fragment from Myron[43] tells of how the Spartans forced the Helots into the most insulting and degrading positions in order to reinforce their inferior position, even to the point of giving a death sentence if they looked too robust. Plutarch cites the practice of making Helots get drunk within the Spartan common dining halls as a form of humiliation designed to reinforce their inferior status[44]. Also, during a siege at Sphacteria during the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote that many Helots came to assist the Spartans who offered them silver and freedom[45]. Later 2000 of these Helots were alleged to have been executed by the Spartans in fear that they had become too powerful[46].

Spartan apprehension of Helots is highlighted by them sending seven hundred with Brasidas to Thessaly[47] during the Peloponnesian War. When they returned in 421BCE they were freed by the state and offered land at Lepreum becoming known as ‘Brasedeoi’[48] and part of a new class of Neodamodeis [‘new men’]. This new status for Helots may have been a state action to balance the societal problems that arose through the stark inequalities of the Spartan/Helot relationship[49]. However, while they were granted land in return for military service, they were not granted citizenship[50]. There is also evidence of the state allowing Helots to be freed in exchange for helping besieged Spartans with food and also on the eve of the Theban invasion of 369BCE. However, so many volunteered to be hoplites that the Spartans retracted their offer in fear that they were arming their enemy[51].


It appears that with the severe decline in Spartan population during the fifth century, there was a need for Spartans to rely upon Helots as a fighting force which contradicted the underpinnings of their society, where Spartans were the soldiers and Helots were the workers. However, the longevity of the relationship over centuries between Spartans and Helots infers that the relationship was much like that of serfs in medieval society. Although there were periods of unrest the relationship relied upon a mutual security which could not be completely undone unless there was a significant change in political outlook. This change may have occurred with the use of Helots in more military expeditions, allowing them to observe other relationships and societies outside of their own isolated experience and being the likely cause of demands for freedom in the fifth and fourth centuries. Therefore, as population decline was a major contributing factor to the eventual demise of Spartan society, it would seem that Cartledge overstates the role of class struggle in Sparta.



  1. Cartledge, P. (2009), Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities, Oxford University Press, New York
  2. Ehrenberg, V. (1971), From Solon to Socrates- Greek History and Civilization during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., Methuen & Co Ltd, London
  3. Forrest, W.G., (1968),  A History of Sparta: 950-192 B.C., W.W. Norton & Co., New York
    1. Herodotus, The Histories, viewed 16 April, 2013 on
    2. Kennell, N. (2010), Spartans: A New History, Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex
    3. Pausanius, Description of Greece, 4.14.4, viewed 19 April 2013 on
    4. Plutarch, Lycurgus, viewed 17 April, 2013 on
    5. Thomas, R.M., (n.d.), An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander, 6.8 viewed 20 April 2013 on
    6. Talbert, R.J.A. (1989) “The role of the Helots in the class struggle at Sparta”,  Historia , 38:2 , 1989
    7. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, viewed 15 April, 2013 on
    8. Xenophon, Anabasis, viewed 15 April 2013 on
    9. Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, viewed 15 April 2013 on
    10. Xenophon, Hellenica, viewed on 16 April 2013 on

[1] Ehrenberg, V. (1971), From Solon to Socrates- Greek History and Civilization during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., Methuen & Co Ltd, London, p. 29

[2] Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 1.10.2

[3] Ehrenberg, (1971), p.29

[4] Ehrenberg, (1971), p.30

[5] Ehrenberg, (1971), p.31

[6] Cartledge, P. (2009), Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities, Oxford University Press, New York, p.75

[7] Ehrenberg, (1971), p. 31

[8] Ehrenberg, (1971), p. 39

[9] Ehrenberg, (1971), p. 34

[10] Ehrenberg, (1971), p. 35

[11] Thomas, R.M., (n.d.), An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander, 6.8

[12] Pausanius, Description of Greece, 4.14.4

[13] Cartledge, (2009), p. 75

[14] Kennell, N. (2010), Spartans: A New History, Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, p. 81

[15] Ehrenberg, (1971), p. 35

[16] Forrest, W.G., (1968),  A History of Sparta: 950-192 B.C., W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p.31

[17] Kennell, (2010), p.81

[18] Kennell, (2010), p.79

[19] Kennell, (2010), p.81

[20] Kennell, N. (2010), p. 82

[21] Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 6.3

[22] Xen., Hellenica, 6.4.11

[23] Talbert, R.J.A. (1989) “The role of the Helots in the class struggle at Sparta”,  Historia , 38:2 , 1989 , p.31

[24] Herodotus, The Histories, 6.80; 8.25.1;

[25] Herod., 9.10.1; 9.29.2; 9.30

[26] Talbert, (1989), p. 23

[27] Talbert, (1989), p.33

[28] Xen. Lac. 1.3-4

[29] Cartledge, (2009), p. 71

[30] Cartledge, (2009), p.81

[31] Forrest, (1968), p. 39

[32] Talbert, (1989), p. 32

[33] Talbert, (1989), p.30

[34] Thuc. 1.132.4-5

[35] Thuc. 1.101.2

[36] Talbert, (1989), p. 37

[37] Thuc. 1.101.2

[38] Thuc. 1.103. 1-3

[39] Xen. Hell. 3.3.6; Anabasis 4.18.4

[40] Kennell, (2010), p.81

[41] Talbert (1989), p. 34

[42] Plutarch, Lyc., 28.2

[43] Talbert, (1989), p.36

[44] Plut, Lyc. 28.4

[45] Thuc. 4.26.5-6

[46] Thuc.4.80.3-4

[47] Thuc. 4.80.5

[48] Thuc. 5.67.1, 71.3, 72.3

[49] Thuc. 5.34.1

[50] Talbert, (1989), p. 27

[51] Xen. Hell. 6.5.28-9

The Coming of the Cardinal


The concepts of myths in ancient societies dealt with the difficult aspects of human existence such as death, despair and defeat. However, besides being etiological in content they also had a strong purpose as charter myths, validating authority or unifying dispersed peoples. This essay will explore how the emergence of creation from an abyss, humanity’s quest to be like the gods and their subsequent defeat are the basic elements of all the creation myths from this part of the world.  But also, although influenced by the older Babylonian myths, how the Hebrew concept of God in Genesis was particularly different to the concepts of divinity in the Ancient Near East and Greece.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[1]The creation myth of the Hebrew bible was written around 1000 BC and is founded on a monotheistic god. There is no explanation of the origin of…

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