When I read "History of the World" by Roberts he presented the theory that part of their inventiveness might have had to do with the fact that the geography of Greece made it likely that there would be tons of city-states that were connected by trade and travel to other city-states but that the land was too rugged for them to be united politically and under the same banner. Also because of the shitty soil you could only grow so much food from it so migration to Islands was inevitable.
Once you had dozens or hundreds of independent political structures who mostly spoke the same language and mostly had the same culture and were linked by regular trade you had a situation where ideas could spread really easily and because there were so many different city-states there were constantly new things happening and developments that each group reacted differently too. In that way it was a fertile ground for the exploration and exchange of ideas and concepts. Their Minoan heritage and trade with foreigners helped too.
It seemed like a good theory when I read it and I don't see why it wouldn't be.
Humanity in toto has not changed in a genuinely (and pardon the office-jargon) "game-changing" way since the ancient world. We've done a bunch of cool incremental things (technology), but the basics of human existence haven't changed:
-we are born, live for a few decades on the outside, and then die. We bury or otherwise formally dispose of our dead in ceremonial fashions which have emotional and cultural importance for those living. -we have both spoken and (often) written languages. We use our written language to create permanent narratives which can be reproduced. -we are, as social animals, alternately obliged to cooperate and compete with each other, which goes some distance toward explaining how we have both empathy and war. -we are (literally now, in the sense of the animal's capabilities, not fluffy language): imaginative, introspective, creative, and speculative, capable of abstract thought which we can express in the above narratives. These narratives frequently concern ourselves, and the ups and downs of our shared human experience as social animals (ethics, politics, etc). -insert just one more true banality about how we all eat, piss, shit, and do /something/ with our free time: sculpt, paint, read, shitpost, etc.
Since all of this has been true all along, we can appreciate complex narratives from the ancient world as having tacked the resulting subjects "first". But of course one can argue over who actually did what first, we still suppose that someone /did do/ xyz first. The Greeks left a large body of narrative for us to work with, /on a sufficiently wide variety of subjects/, that the body of work continues to hold modern interest, and so the meme snowballed.
The Greeks were/are "great" /because we can still empathize with them, because basic and relatively complex features of our existence have not changed/. If someone gets biological immortality going or some other crazy sci-fi outcome which changes the above, then we will have less empathy and consequently less interest in the ancients.
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