What is the difference between the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns? What would moderns find lacking in ancient liberty?
The ancient view of liberty, that is, the idea of liberty that was prevalent in Greek city-states (most notable Athens) paints a very different picture of liberty than the one that we as modern individuals hold today. In fact, one could say that the ancient Greeks had an idea that is fundamentally opposed to our own ideas on what it means to be free.
For the ancient Greeks of Athens, freedom and liberty were synonymous with government and community, as in "The freedom of the city to make decisions about its running for itself, and the freedom of the citizens to participate in the city's decisions." Every male citizen of Athens was allowed to play a direct part in the government, allowing every citizen to help rule the community. This was the Greeks' idea of freedom – city-state autonomy, run by the people.
Our idea of freedom, however, is much different. We believe that every individual has inalienable rights, rights that cannot be taken away by any man or government, and our freedom allows us to do essentially as we please without infringing upon others' rights and freedoms. Our liberty is focused on the individual, while the Greeks' liberty was focused on the community – to the point where a citizen could even be banished from the city, guiltless of any crime, as long as enough citizens with their idea of community freedom decided he was too much of a problem to keep around and voted him out: "The good of the one for the good of the many."
Plutarch tells about an important episode in Alexander's life. What characteristics is it intended to show?
Plutarch tells a story about a young Alexander, son of Philip of Macedonia, watching a horse be trained by his father's men, who are unsuccessful even after many attempts to break it. Finally, when Philip's men had given up on the horse and the king had decided to sell it, Alexander stepped up to ask his father if he could try breaking it. Naturally Philip was displeased with Alexander's request, thinking that his son was being arrogant by not heeding the example of his elders, who had all failed to break the horse. Alexander insisted, however, and was given the chance to try training the horse.
To everyone's astonishment, Alexander succeeded. Philip was amazed and, Plutarch says, told his son to "Seek another kingdom, my son, that may be worthy of thy abilities; for Macedonia is too small for thee."
Plutarch uses this story to illustrate Alexander's independence and bravery in standing up to his father, which are both important parts of his character that eventually help shape his conquest of the known world.