THE HOUR OF THE SON,
DOI link for THE HOUR OF THE SON,
THE HOUR OF THE SON, book
From the perspective of two millennia, late-fifth-century Athens seems like a golden age of youth. From Antigone to Alcibiades, from Theseus to Iphigeneia, from the young men who flocked around Socrates to the youthful indiscretion suggested by the mutilation of the Herms, Athens seems like a youth culture. As one approaches closer to the surviving documents, the impression of youth in prominence remains, but the details become more complex. Chronologically, the era seems to fall into two periods. The first is marked by a combination of confidence in youth, some good-natured irritation at youthful exuberance, and an undercurrent of doubt about the arrogance, egotism, and contempt for everything traditional-including Athens’s now traditional form of government, democracy-on the part of some of the members of the wealthiest and most privileged generation in Athenian history. This period dates from about mid-century to the Sicilian Expedition of 415-413. After that disaster, sentiments become reversed. Confidence in youth fades, the irritation loses its good nature, and the older generation’s worst fears about youth
seem confirmed. Suddenly, not youth but maturity, in the person of paternal authority, begins to become the byword of the day. This second period lasts from 413 at least to the trial of Socrates in 399. The second period is the subject of the next chapter; this chapter examines the first period, from ca. 450 to 414, especially the period 430-414.1
The first half of this chapter focuses on the two politicians whose public personas exemplify the extremes of paternal and filial ideology: Pericles and Alcibiades. It also considers the question of the generation gap of the 420s BC. The intergenerational tensions evident in the assembly and the salons of the sophists left their mark in the theater as well. Accordingly, the second half of this chapter examines four comedies of Aristophanes as well as one Euripidean tragedy. Taken as a whole, the evidence demonstrates that, at least within the Athenian elite, there was a perception of Athenian public life ca. 430-414 as a social drama of father and son.