This article justifies that fifth century B.C. was the golden age of Greece.
Fifth century B.C. was the Golden Age of Greece, an Age of Illumination. Athens became the intellectual capital of Greece.
The individual initiative that the Athenian democracy had given rise to not only showed itself in politics and development of economy but in the field of creative art.
The sixth century B.C. was, however richer in lyric poetry because of the aristocratic patronage which had decayed in the fifth century making lyrics rather poor in comparison. Pindar was a transitional figure in this regard. Lyrics apart, Pindar composed music for chorus, hymns, paeans, dirges,, songs of victory, etc. If Pindar, Simonides and Bacchylides had given to the posterity what late in Europe took the form of Sonata, the Dionysian dramatists gave Europe the forms of Tragedies and Comedies.
A genius does not normally arise at the outset. Tragedies Many a talent precede the genius. So also was the case with the master playwright Aeschylus. From Thespisto Aeschylus many lesser playwrights had intervened. But Aeschylus arose to dominate the Athenian literature for a generation. It was he who had moulded the Greek drama into its classic form which was copied in the Western literature till we reach the age of Shakespeare.
Not only his Prometheus Bound, Oedipus the King, etc., supplied the theme for many a writer of the West, but the classical form of the drama in which destiny ruled held good till we reach the sixteenth century when Shakespeare made Character destiny. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, enriched the literature of the Greek Golden Age but left a storehouse of literary models for the posterity.
The dramatic technique of Euripides, according to Aristotle fell far short of the standards set by Aeschylus and Sophocles. Euripides’ Medea, Hippolytus, and The Bacche cannot compare with the structural integrity of Oresteia or the complex unity of Oedipus the King. The three unities of Aristotle unity of time, unity of place and unity of action as exemplified in Aeschylean tragedies set the standard for Comedies Europe. Comic poet Aristophanes dramatised the contemporary political and socio-economic situations and through, sometimes vulgar humours, castigated his political opponents and warned against democracy and irreligion which, according to him were causing disintegration of the Athenian public life.
If Greece gave the West their first tragic and comic dramatists, their first lyric poets, she also gave the first historians. Herodotus was the father of history while Thucydides was the father of scientific history. Herodotus was the first historian whose works have come down to us, but historiography reached its maturity in Thucydides. Thucydides is regarded as one of the phenomena of the Greek Enlightenment
All this was a rich heritage, if not in quantity certainly in quality and form. Form and order are the essence of the classic style in literature as well as in art. Persistent effort to subordinate fancy to reason is the dominant quality of the Greek mind and of Greek literature. Therefore Greek literature is modern or rather contemporary; we find it hard to understand Dante or Milton, but Eurypides and Thucydides are kin to us mentally, and belong to our age.