Greco-Latin cultural age

From Anthroposophy

The Greco-Latin age is the fourth and middle cultural age in the Current Postatlantean epoch, and lasted between -747 BC to 1413 AD.

After the descent of the previous Egypto-Chaldean age, Greek culture rose to its heights between the 7th century BC and the 1st century AD.

In a transition period of various wars, the Roman empire reach its heights around the 1th century AD and lasted to the final fall of Rome in 476 AD.

After that period the empire was fragmented into many smaller states and new structures formed such as the Ostrogothic and Visigothic kingdoms.


Seeding of Greek culture before fourth cultural age

Greek culture

  • Greek mythology
  • education (1923-08-06-GA307, and 1923-08-06-GA307)
  • architecture - the Greek temples (eg Acropolis, Parthenon, ..)
  • Greek Mysteries (see Mystery School tradition)
    • Ephesian, Eleusian, Chthonic, Samothracian mysteries
    • Oracles (Delphi)
  • important personalities (see Sources of spiritual science)
    • Pherecydes of Syros (ca 580-520 BC, teacher of Pythagoras), Heraclitus (ca 540-ca 480 BC), Pythagoras (570-495 BC), Parmenides (515-450 BC), Empedocles (490-430 BC), Socrates (470-399 BC), Plato (ca 428-348 BC), Aristotle (384-322 BC)
    • Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
    • Apollonius of Tyana (15-100), Plotinus (204-270), Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500)
    • scientists: Archimedes (287 – ca. 212 BC), Hipparchus of Nicaea (ca. 190 – ca. 120 BC): known oa from trigonometry & precession of the equinoxes

Roman culture

  • important personalities (see Sources of spiritual science
    • Julian the Apostate (Flavious Claudius Julianus) (330-363), Augustinus of Hippo (354 – 430)

Roman catholic - middle ages

  • continuation of the Latin culture after the fall of the Roman empire
  • development of art (painting, with Raphael, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, etc)
  • important personalities - see Sources of spiritual science
    • John Scotus Eriugena (815-877)
    • Christian mystics


Schema FMC00.047 below gives a tabular overview of the cultural ages for the current Postatlantean or Aryan epoch.

Schema FMC00.239 shows the archangelic rulers of approx 354 periods for the current cultural age (plus and minus a cultural age). See also Spiritual hierarchies and their eigenperiods for more info on the 354 period. Rudolf Steiner uses this period to describe the nature of current Michael age and the future Oriphiel age.


Lecture coverage and reference

1923-01-26-GA220 sketches the state of soul in the Greek culture, and their very different feeling relation to 'beauty' versus today

.. the consciousness of mankind has changed in the course of time. For instance, we may describe something as beautiful. But if we ask a philosopher of today to explain what beauty is (for he should know something about these things, should he not?), we shall receive the most incredibly abstract explanation. “Beautiful” is a word which we sometimes use rightly, instinctively, out of our feeling. But modern man has not the slightest notion of what, for instance, a Greek imagined when he spoke of the beautiful, in his meaning of the word. We do not even know what the Greek meant by “Cosmos.” For him it was something quite concrete. Take our word “Universe.” What a confused jumble of thoughts it contains! When the Greek spoke of the Cosmos, this word held within it something beautiful, decorative, adorning, artistic. The Greek knew that when he spoke of the whole universe he could not do otherwise than characterise it with the idea of beauty. Cosmos does not only mean Universe — it means Nature's order of laws which has become universal beauty. This lies in the word “Cosmos.”

When the Greek saw before him a beautiful work of art, or when he wished to mould the form of a human being, how did he set to work?

By forming it in beauty. Even in Plato's definitions we can feel what the Greek meant when he wished to form the human being artistically. The expression that Plato used means more or less the following: “Here on earth man is not at all what he should be. He comes from heaven and I have so portrayed his form that men may see in it his heavenly origin.” The Greek imagined man in his beauty, as if he had just descended from heaven, where of course, his exterior form does not resemble that of ordinary human beings. Here on earth human beings do not look as if they had just descended from heaven. Their form shows everywhere the Cain-mark, the mark of man's fall. This is the Greek conception. In our age, when we have forgotten man's connection with a pre-earthly, heavenly existence, we may not even think of such a thing.

Thus we may say that “beautiful” meant for the Greek that which reveals its heavenly meaning. In this way the idea of beauty becomes concrete.

  • For us today it is abstract. In fact, there has been an interesting dispute between two authorities on aesthetics — the so-called “V” Vischer (because he spelt his name with a “V”), the Swabian Vischer, a very clever man, who wrote an important book on aesthetics (important, in the meaning of our age), and the formalist Robert Zimmermann, who wrote another book on aesthetics. The former, V-Vischer defines beauty as the manifestation of the idea in sensible form. Zimmermann defines beauty as the concordance of the parts within the whole. He defines it therefore more according to form, Vischer more according to content. These definitions are really all like the famous personage who drew himself up into the air by his own forelock. What is the meaning of the expression “the appearance of the idea in sensible form?” First we must know what is meant by “the idea.” If the thought-corpse that humanity possesses as “idea” were to appear in physical shape, nothing would appear.

But when we ask in the Greek sense: what is a beautiful human being? this does indeed signify something. A beautiful human being is one whose human shape is idealised to such an extent that it resembles a god. This is a beautiful man, in the Greek sense. The Greek definition has a meaning and gives us something concrete.

What really matters is that we should become aware of the change in the content of man's consciousness and in his soul-disposition in the course of time. Modern man believes that the Greek thought just as he thinks now. When people write the history of Greek philosophy — Zeller, for instance, who wrote an excellent history of Greek philosophy (excellent, in the meaning of our present age) — they write of Plato as if he had taught in the 19th century at the Berlin University, like Zeller himself, and not at the Platonic Academy. When we have really grasped this concretely, we see how impossible it is, for obviously Plato could not have taught at the Berlin University in the 19th century. Yet all that tradition relates of Plato is changed into conceptions of the 19th century, and people do not realise that they must transport their whole disposition of soul into an entirely different age, if they really wish to understand Plato.

1923-08-06-GA307 is on the principles of Greek education

1923-08-07-GA307 is on Greek education and the middle ages


[1] - Elements of Greek science and culture

  • Antikythera mechanism - astronomical gear based device that predicted orbits and eclipses, only a single such device exists that was found in the 20th century and analyzed with modern technology. Also called the first analog or mechanical computer.

Related pages

Further reading and references