The fourth century BC, the events after the defeat of Athens by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, is often seen as the decline of the Greek world, a mere echo of a golden age. But this view overlooks a vital period of Greece’s intellectual achievements and political maturity. At this time, the Athenians reformed their institutions to turn them into a stable government under decent legal processes, the Greeks developed nascent federal political leagues, new markets flourished, orators brought forth groundbreaking ideas, and the philosophical schools of Plato, Aristotle, and others were established. The Greeks began to contemplate the possibility of a “common peace” for all, based on the autonomy of each city-state.

In this course, historian John Lewis defines the major political and military developments of the first half of the fourth century BC (403 to 355 BC). He emphasizes the main events that define this period: Athens’ return to prosperity and power after the defeat by Sparta and the collapse of the Spartan authoritarian society at the hands of the rising Theban leadership, who set free fellow Greeks held as slaves for generations—one of the most liberating events in all of history. Central to these stories is the concept of autonomy, which greatly influenced attempts by the Greeks to resolve their political conflicts under federal political systems. The course concludes with the political and military developments that set the stage for the rise of the Macedonians under Alexander the Great.

This course was recorded at the 2011 Objectivist Summer Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL.