Yet another day: airplanes hum, cars drone and conurbations grow, but in this fanciful retelling of the tale of history, it is the dawn of the 11th century AD and the capital of the world is the Athens/Sparta metropolis. The Peloponnesian War has never occurred. In 434 BC the Athenian Empire and Peloponnesian League, rather sagaciously realizing that they were perfect complements, held talks which resulted in an alliance of over a thousand years. Much of the West we know is under its domination and speaks, quite understandably, Greek.
The Academies, modeled after the first by Plato and Aristotle, both embody the populace’s supreme principle of the sacred prominence of the intellect and serve as the symbols of the apotheosis of Thought. In them students are drilled for eighteen years in the venerated disciplines of philosophy, science, and mathematics, and for the last millennium the energetic rivalry among these veritable churches of the mind has produced a lush plain of illuminating scholarship on the nature of the universe. Due in part to these Academies science has progressed with breathtaking speed, encouraged by the unwavering promotion of rational discourse and free speech.
In this Greek world politics is largely conducted by direct democracy. Citizens contribute substantial portions of their time to the government of the community by serving on legislative assemblies and committees, and frequently perform jury duty with a surprising degree of enthusiasm. By our standards, these committees are large, consisting of thousands of people. The tender doctor by day can be a ferocious politician by night. The laws and courts have fortuitously managed to maintain a remarkably stable society. Unfortunately, universal suffrage is not yet a reality: there being no Enlightenment, slaves are chained against a backdrop of levitating trains and holographic projections, and women continue to suffer discrimination and be excluded from political life.
The swiftness of scientific development too, sadly, has not come gratis. If our Western tradition is the heritage of the Greeks and Christianity, the absence of the latter has resulted in the shocking disappearance of much of our greatest art, music, and architecture. After the golden age of figures such as Sophocles and Euripides, the drama and sculpture of this fantastic world would never again reach equally original and creative heights. Without, additionally, the circumstances making possibly Thyucidides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, the subject of history and many social sciences have yet to be developed into the disciplines we know today. Banal video-shows and mass-produced sculpture replicas flood the streets. The plays of Aeschylus are still drearily re-enacted in its few remaining theaters. Art, this world’s Nietzsche would say, is dead.