CLS 150-01

We know of people & events from prehistory, but mainly without date relationships

Early Greek/Mycenaean records mainly economic – written on clay, accidentally preserved by baking in building fire (mainly accounting/inventory ledgers)

Is history subjective? Is it possible to achieve something like objectivity in historical interpretation? Different eras look at the past differently. New translations reflect linguistic and interest shifts in each generation.

Homer’s Iliad = first piece of Western literature

Arthur Evans: reconstructions @ Knossos palace with modern materials to show scale & detail

pithoi: man-sized clay storage jars

Bronze Age 3000-1000BC

  • Minoans (Crete) 2500-1500BC
    • centralized society & economy, “palace-based,” 1/2 dozen sites
    • maritime power = thalassocracy
    • sophisticated art & engineering, metalwork, architecture, craftsmen
    • trade contacts with Egypt, Hittites, Near East
    • Linear A (mostly economic, as yet untranslated) is not Greek!
  • Greeks/Mycenaeans 2000-1200BC
    • 2 groups of Greek speakers arrive separately
    • 1st group arrive in Balkans from SE Europe circa 2000BC
    • coexist with and borrow culture from Minoans, then conquer them.
    • Greeks adapt Linear A into Linear B (this writing is Greek and translatable)
    • Differences from Minoans: religion, architecture (megaron/tholos)
    • 2nd group (Myceanaeans) 1600BC (indicated by shaft graves @ Mycenae
    • many continuities with later Greek culture: gods, myths, modes of living
    • major political & economic differences from first to second immigrant group
    • writing: syllabary instead of alphabet

    Rise and fall of Mycenaean palaces

    • move from subsistence farming to centralized control
    • agricultural surplus allows for control of wealth, military, “prestige” building
    • widespread uniformity of culture: same pottery, art & building styles from Sicily to W. Turkey/Anatolia (not necessarily political uniformity)
    • 1400-1350BC partial destruction of Minoan civ, “big-ass walls,” tholos (beehive) tombs introduced
    • in 1200’s, uniformity breaks down, replaced by local (inferior quality) pottery and building styles
    • by 1200BC nearly all Mycenaean sites destroyed (other Mediterranea cultures also suffer setbacks: Hittites gone, Egypt has problems
    • cause unknown: speculations of internal strife, natural disasters, socioeconomic systems collapse

From “Bruce M. Laforse”
Sent Wednesday, April 2, 2008 11:52 am
Subject CLS 150 Homer Reading Questions

Here are some questions to keep in mind while doing the reading of Homer. Be sure to print out a copy of the reading to bring with you.

1. Can you detect a hierarchy among the Greeks? Who’s most powerful? Why? (By the way, what does Homer call the Greeks?)

2. What role do the gods play?

3. Any idea what might happen to Troy if the Greeks take their city?

4. How do the Greeks make decisions?

5. What things do the Greek leaders seem to value the most?


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