By Hal Marcovitz
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As with urns, Greek paintings often depicted battles and other historical events or scenes from mythical tales. In 472 BC one noted Greek artist, Polygnotus, was commissioned to adorn the walls of several buildings in Athens with frescoes. Along the wall of the Athens stoa—a public walkway—Polygnotus painted a scene from the Trojan War. He chose not to paint a scene from a battle or a depiction of the Trojans hauling the wooden horse into their city, but a scene illustrating the aftermath of the sack of Troy: Greek soldiers standing amid the bodies of dead Trojans.
For example, the Greeks were responsible for some of the earliest discoveries in astronomy. Greek astronomer Anaxagoras, who lived from about 500 BC to 428 BC, correctly deduced that the moon shines by reflecting sunlight. He also suggested that all heavenly bodies are made of the same material as the earth. Anaxagoras did get some things wrong—he thought the sun was a big hot rock and that the Earth is flat. Another astronomer, Democritus—who lived from about 460 BC to 370 BC—suggested the Milky Way is composed of a great mass of stars.
Its navy devastated by the defeat at Aegospotamoi, just a handful of triremes remained seaworthy. The Athenians could no longer protect their settlements along the Turkish coast. These settlements soon fell victim to Persian attacks. Athens’s new leaders looked for a scapegoat—someone on whom to blame the outcome of the war. They settled on Socrates, who had consistently questioned the war. In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial, convicted of trumped up charges of worshipping false gods and corrupting youth, and sentenced to death—forced to drink the poison hemlock.