.    Instructor: Dave Tamm / Term: Spring 2008    .



THE GREEKS (Pg. 30-50)



GREECE. Davies says, "There is an excellence about greece. In the same way that greek light enabled painters to see form and color, so the conditions for human development favored external enviornment and the internal development of mankind. high intensity sunlight was an ingreedient that produced the parthenon? plato is native genius plus photochemistry? In any case, why greece? 1. sun means vibrant outdoor life. 2. the aegean sea and island straits provided ideal nursery for commerce, seafaring and colonies, and diversity of place. 3. proximity of older est. civilizations whose achievements could be imported and adapted. other places? california, north east florida, south australia, baltic, great lakes,... but nowhere did all three merge. perhaps only around the sea of japan. breathtaking achievments in every feild of human endeavor, history knows of no such burst of vital energy until the renaissance.

CLASSIC. There is something about the word classical. We look to the past to find our roots, the place where we began. And we find Greece. We speak of classical music, classical films, classic coke even. something that has stood the test of time and is considered good, maybe not only for an age, but for all ages. Greek world was different than the Hebrew. Not the world of covenants. The greeks placed the western tradition on a footing that remains to this day. we take it for granted because the greeks created or invented so many of the strains of human activity that occupy us today: science, math, literature, arts etc.

BIRTH OF THE WEST. You were born in greece. no i was born in detroit. but intellectuals used to say it. we were born in greece. we've spent time studying pre-greece. well the greeks learned from these people... and some things, phoenician commerce, monotheism, etc. but there is an unbroken line between the greeks and us. the greeks are the birth of Western Civilization.

The Heroic Age: Minoans and Mycenaens (3000-1600)

The Dark Age (1100-600)

The Golden Age (Hellenic) (600-323)

The Hellenistic Period (Alexander) (323-31)

AEGEAN. On Crete, ships were being made and sent into the Mediterranean. Egyptian and Minoan vessels went to Canaan, Phoenicia and around the coasts. They did not venture into the open sea because they did not know how to navigate without landmarks. Minoans had an advantage- the islanders did not face an enemy with good ships. So many islands in the Aegean gave them plenty of landmarks.

MINOANS. Minoan Crete around 2000 BC starts it all. Minos gives his name to it. legend, mystery. we dont know who they were, like the sea peoples. Indo-European language, but not deciphered.

They wrote Linear A- and we don't know the language! its not like Greek, and since scholars classify people by their ethno-linguistic group, we dont know who they are! But they left us big hints of what they were like, the palace of minos at knossos is huge. 5 acre building, central courtyard, 50m inside a house. and beauty. unlike the near east palaces, elaborate asthetics- so we infer but without documents. Excavated by Arthur Evans. Total pop. 250,000, 40k in Knossos. Storehouses on the exterior flanks, cereal, grain, olive oil. Linear A documents probably bureaucratic stuff like the sumerian cuneiform. Art: frescoes (painting on wet plaster of a wall so the paint becomes part of the wall itself). art suggests contact with egypt, seafaring, transfer of ideas, trade with mesopotamia too, but a people apart. a civilization apart. other things permit inference: utter lack of fortifications. No fear?

No fear of attack from anyone from each other. no fortified palaces though wealthy, no fortified seaports though traders. women wearing cosmetics, beautiful hair styles, jewelry, etc. and time, time spent on pleasures and pleasing.  Bull leaping? how about that! their favorite sport was bull leaping. Minoans did this gymnastic thing with bulls, though it was tough for a loser- but compare this with the assyrian art or babylonian? or the hittite, or egyptian. men, weapons, submissive peasants.  

CATACLYSMIC DESTRUCTION. Tidal wave from Thera, 1626, crushed it all. initiated a process of decline. dissappearance of half that island into the mediterranean. Lost city of atlantis? about 75 years after it... Minoans were conquered by... people who came from the Greek mainland... who had contact with them (we know from their art) to the Myceneans.  The Minoans and Mycenaens period, splendor of Crete and Knossos. Thera erupted and sent the Minoans into decline. A rain of ashes on Crete, a tidal wave tsunami. Greek legend of Atlantis arises perhaps. Minoan civilization was shaken down by Thera's eruption and Mycenae's advances, and Mycenaens took them over. The Phyrgians to the east, meanwhile, had created a power vacuum. When Mycenae moved eastwards, they sacked Troy in the great event of Homer's Illiad.

MYCENAEN GREECE. We think of the stunning cultural achievements but the land it tough, craggy, bad weather in the north, hotter in the south. bad soil, tough place. Life of the Greeks is not played out on Hawaii... not paradise. 3000 BC to 1700 BC migrations from central europe, or from Anatolia, related Mediterranean triad of crops begins: cereals, olives and grapes. wine, not beer. all of those made with cereal grains. 2000 BC a Mycenean culture begins. Mycenae is the best of the Mycenaen cites. Mycenae was the city of agamemnon. They conquere minoan crete (at a late stage) because they grew up with them, were behind them, and saw they were ripe for the picking after the volcano, and went down to do it.

City states, each with a king. Agamemnon, Menaleus, etc. In archeology, massive remains. Pylos, Corinth, Mycenae. Now we have citadel. AND citadel at the center... NOT a temple, not a tomb... but a warrior aristocracy's palace. People had their day jobs, and they were also warriors. The only time the cities may have united is against Troy.

Considerable wealth and power, massive building projects, huge citadel, road with stone walls from city wall to citadel. quite impressive. Sustained by agriculture. Linear B was their language. thousands of documents, bureaucratic. no first edition of the Iliad! How is A vs B? Well we can read B. Not A though. Enigma code breakers during WWII went to work in the late 40s on "What is Linear B?" Well they figured out that it WAS Greek, but written in a bizarre way. Arrayed in lines, like cuneiform, but a particular kind- a syllabic writing. Not a pictograph where pictures are nouns and verbs, but syllabic writing. cuneiform is, but less efficient than alphabetic. we need a symbol for every single sound combination. a ba ca da fa ga... They WILL learn phonician alphabet, alpha beta etc but for the ancient period its all Linear A and B, the syllabic predessessor.

TROY. Sacking Troy was quite a feat for the Heroic Age Mycenaens. But soon Mycenae would be struck with invasion: other Greeks from the north, the Dorians, moved in and the bronze age Mycenaens could not hold their own against their iron. Dorians moved into the Peloponnese, including Sparta, home of the beautiful Helen of the Trojan War fame. Ionians moved on into Athens and Anatolia, called Ionia. The Greek Dark Age followed.

DARK AGE. But there was not a straight line from destruction of Mycenaen sites... even if burned buildings were rebuilt, we can find fire evidence. widespread destruction. inference tells us that they all burned, the cities were burned. It may well be that the Mycenaens spent themselves in the Trojan War. Though won, recall egypt and the hittites. wearing out.

A number were never again inhabited. Mycenae was never. Corinth was etc. Invaders? The Dorians. People who trailed behind the first greeks in Thessaly. Now they entered the Peloponnesus. But they were not alone. Greece? They call themselves Hellens, and Hellas! Why Greece? Romans called them Grecians and Grecia. Many kind of Greeks. Spoke in slightly different ways: Dorians on mainland, Ionians on Asia Minor, Illic Greeks north of the Gulf of Corinth near Olympus, Attic Greeks near Athens.

It was not an awful time, small illiterate communities. Gee, yes, they actually forgot how to write. Totally and completely. No Linear B anymore. Hundreds of years. They just stopped. Dark because of the fact we don't know much. Depopulation, deurbanization, scant construction. Archeology: in the past it was to 'find awesome things' 'beautiful things' venus de milo now: to slowly strip the stuff away, to find ordinary things, to reconstruct daily life.

So: life went on in Greece, albeit of a lower order. no palaces and great works left, but cities remained. pottery etc. declined in worth. But, as the centuries went on, stirrings returned: the Games of the Olympiad I: 776. The writing by Homer of the Iliad and the Odyssey: 750. Optimism and adventure. At least, it was peaceful. Depopulated. You lived undisturbed by external forces. When population grows, and it did everywhere. arable land becomes scarce. But the fundamental institution that was built was the Greek Polis. How did they respond to it?

HOMER. Homer brings this period into focus for us. Illiad and Odyssey were these. Homeric poems, Iliad is Ilion, Troy. Agamemnon going to fight at Troy. Controversial because of the age of the material. Gods and goddesses of the Iliad have different jobs of the classical greeks. assembled as a corpus of material and iconic in the 700s. You had to tell it a certain way, and that is Homer. Homer made the story into a supereme epic poem. But how to reconcile 700 with 1200! They are 1) a work of art, an artistic vision. They are also 2) oral formulaic poetry. Rosy fingered dawn and the wine dark sea, and wide ruling agmmonon and diomedes of the loud war cry. these formulas appear because they fit with a metric. people can build poems that way. So is it just a free for all? then we can't read it as history. he made it up as they went along. And then, in Jugoslavia in WWII some guys found bards that had half a million lines at at time. or a popular singer who knows all the songs, or lawrence olivier, who did every single shakespearian play. but we dont use our memories to their max today as much... so its not unreasonable to think they DID remember it for 500 years. Names of characters? no reason to change. cities? no change. iron weapons? well no. there were no iron weapons it was the bronze age. And then Schleimann found it. 1194-1184 BC the tradition says, 1210-1200 archeology says. was certainly a mycenean war vs. the trojans across the sea. not by Helen, the face who launched a thousand ships, but probably a trade war.

Ethical teachings though, are probably from Homer. To that epic world, in the dark age of greece. we now turn.

Homer's epics are not a sacred text, but ones esteemed above all others. amazing- when they started writing again, they took the phoenician alfabeta and added vowels... and the first thing written down was the Illiad. The metric moves the illiad. and remember, you cant look anything up. the equivalent of the library of congress is your head. Old Homer dictated the Illiad and the Odyssey to a young lady who wrote it.

The story is what it is. its not like the bible, no rules or legislation. it revealed greek ways. focusses on about a month and a half in the 9th of 10 years. to watch him in battle is amazing, not possible! incredible. that is what achilles is bringing to the table. so no matter what he does, the greeks honor that. Helen of troy? the cause of immense suffering, describes herself as a slut. but is so unbelivably beautiful and desirable, that as she walks along the walls of troy, the men who are too old to fight look at her and say "we do understand". there dispicable husband paris says "i am awesome." people fight about being awesome and their reputation. an evocotive model is high school boys. whose cool. whose got the best girl the best sports the best stuff.  

"Who is the fairest Paris? Hera bribes him with power. athena with technae (technology- the ability to do and know stuff), aphrodite bribes him with total erotic fulfillment in the guise of marriage to helen. Paris picks... Helen. But Helen is married to Menalaus of Sparta, Brother of agamemnon of mycenae. Paris makes her and takes her and after ten years of siege, a fight between agamenmnon vs achilles (who informed everyone that agamemnon). Theme: its all based on the pursuit of arete. like pursuit of happiness, but different: pursuit of excellence. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. neither one was flawless. Cobb had every vice of the spirit, Ruth had every vice of the flesh. still they were great. achieving greatness is an end in itself. for us too!!! we try to gain the admiration of people. But there is no commandment that says "thou shalt make the best of your abilities"

We are greeks. we hate to say it but for everyone trying to be st. francis, dozens of others are trying to be achilles and helen. arete, if its manifested, generates cleos "praise". did you see that? wow! man! whoo! that was great! that is what achilles had. THAT is claos. There is another kind of reputation too. not from ability really, but by position. If Prince Charles and Michael Jordan walked into a room... one has timae, one has arete. Charles has position, jordan has prowess in sport. all the stuff that comes with it, stuff, is the pursuit of cleos. unabashed and ok. they didnt have the checks on that stuff in their culture which we do, which comes from the bible and hebrew / christianity. amour propre. the only check is that you dont want to crow around too much, because the gods will not like it. that hubris. you'll be cut down. cuase you forgot you were mortal. From Homer then, we get nothing preached. but he cristialized individualistic ethic of achievement instead of submission, obedience and compassion. Well, Homer informs western culture and lets face it, American culture in particular.

What gives hints about the polis? a vista of ideologies and changes. Iliad is intense in competition. olympics, iliad, and others besides... about prizes! all the time games, panhellenic games too! not for the fun of it, for the winning! athletic stuff was about the winning! not about  in greek art, warriors fight with words: speeches, fighting with words!  you dont just die... you die with your words! BRAINS AND BRAWN- sound mind and sound body. powerful sense of competition. achilles, wise old man in iliad always turned too... questions too... is the king worthy? is he a good king? obligations of the whole story is if achilles wrath was justified. his honor is damaged? is it worth it? what do i owe you in our political community? can you make me fight? citizens of the polis will for the first time see they have no "betters" but only equals. Not in the presence with betters. no betters, but citizens. with citizenship you are a real one.

END OF THE DARK AGE. Each valley again considered itself a separate political unit. City states are forming. Largest is Athens/Attica, about the size of Rhode Island. Homer writes the Illiad and Odyssey. Two overwealming masterpieces that are as alive and popular now as 2,700 years ago. hesiod wrote Theogony, a guide to mythology. The city states rise with a population boom. Phoenician subjection by Assyria let them operate more in the Mediterranean, and Athens and others did that. Colonies were sent out. If anyone was competitive, it was not Phoenicia but Carthage, their colony. Syracuse is a notable colony from 735.

OLYMPICS. The Olympic Games begin in 776 at Olympia. The most joyful date on the Greek calendar. Athletic competition and cultural competition. Body and mind. Open to all Greek speaking cities. Conflicts were suspended and everyone travelled freely to Olympia and back. Greeks wound up counting the years as Olympiads. Together with language and Homer, the Olympics held Greeks together. Sparta fought a war to subjugate Messinia, and became the largest city state in the land.

EARLY GREEK ART. All greek stuff, were spread all over the mediterranean basin. phoenicians were the first spreading of a common culture. but they were never as numerous, and not so much of an singular idea, a consciousness, of spreading yourself there. the stuff of the west. common culture. accelerating the process of spreading a common greek culture. They also took from others some things: borrowed the alphabet from the phoenicians. from 8th century. a huge thing, plus spreading writing all over. Greek attitudes also emerge: decorations on pottery- not the first to make beautiful pots but... they put beautiful geometric designs on them. measuring precisely. you think geometry you thinks shapes, forms, measure, proportion... Greek. on some pots, you reduce the shape of living things to geometric forms. neck on the pot you get stags. all the same stag, stylized abstract image. abstracts from the world around us. suggest there may be another world - one of perfection, a 'heaven' where perfection is, and here an imperfect world. There is a quest for order and balance and harmony. Also a spectactual level of ceramics, sculpting and technae, skill in greek. there is the skill but also the vision that informs the skill. bronze figures, stone figures, early sculpture gives us hints on the differences that the greeks thought of the world: hittites, egyptians and mesopotamians all had unblinking, unfeeling and unthinking people. But now we get the hit, a suggestion, of someone who is an actual person. not a lifeless figure, but a real one. now close observation.

MYTHOLOGY. The myths of Greece are with us still...







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