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'Ancient Greece, the Middle East and an ancient cultural internet'

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  • 'Ancient Greece, the Middle East and an ancient cultural internet'

    Ancient Greece, the Middle East and an ancient cultural internet | Education | The Guardian

  • #2
    Interesting article and good to see some educated people still raising these issues. As to the questions it raises:

    Were the Greeks African or have African origin? We don't really have DNA samples to compare so barring that classical or ancient historians tend to look for similarities in for example burial practices (in very old cultures), languages (if examples of scripts remain), pottery and any other artifact type that remains, and in later cultures stylistic changes - red and black figure vases in ancient Greece for example. There is nothing artistically nor in terms of the language (Greek is Indo European) nor in how they made pottery or other artifacts or in how they buried their dead to suggest that Mycenaeans or later Greeks derived from Africa or the Levant. Probably the best way to work out where they came from is from their language. It is presumed that originators of the Indo European language derived from what is now Russia (see One of the first Indo European peoples to reach Europe were the Celts but Europe was almost certainly inhabited before them and in most cases the original languages died (Basque is a remaining isolate presumed to be pre Indo European). The Greeks themselves speak of the country being inhabited by Pelasgians and while some have theorised that they may have been related to the Etruscan (see The Enigma of Pelasgians and Etruscans, Albanians) the truth is we know so little about them we will probably never know.

    The other pre Greek language we have examples of from Greece is Linear A, which is said to have been used to eto Cretans (where 'eto' means real or original). As I said here while Linear A and Linear B share around 80% of their symbols they are proved to be entirely distinct; linear B is a proto Greek script (ie Indo European) and Linear A appears not to be. While it remains possible that Linear A is a Semitic script or Afroasiatic (like ancient Egyptian) script these were the people that inhabited 'Greece' before the Indo European Greek tribes arrived. For Linear A lecture (and problems) see; The chances are then that the 'Greeks' of Mycenaean and Classical Greece were a branch of Celts or perhaps pre Celts who arrived from the north, not the south or east.

    Other evidence suggests the same, for example Dorians, of whom the Spartans were a part, are said to have come from the North. Robert Graves (who wrote I Claudius) makes an attempt at Greek myth interpretation where the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnese is told in the stories of Hercules (his Books Greek Myths 1 and 2). So I think it unwise to regard the Mycenaean's or the later Hellenes be they Dorian, Aeolian, Ionian or even Epirote/Macedonian as 'African'.

    For the same reasons I discount the idea that Alexander was Egyptian. There is a good reason for the Alexander Romance being so widely read and written; the Ptolemies and the library they founded at Alexandria. It is 'good propaganda' for the Ptolemies and as they survived longest and their Greco-Egyptian culture even longer than them lots of time to justify rule by Ptolemies and later Constantinople. Alexander did claim that the oracle at Siwa acclaimed him the son of Zeus Ammon and it does seem to have been accepted in the East. When his divinity was proclaimed in Athens some wit is reported as saying "If Alexander wants to be a God let him be a God".

    Certainly pre Alexander the Hellenes identified themselves very much with their city or polis. A Spartan during the Peloponnesian War didn't even regard himself as 'Spartan' primarily - although he lived in or near the town Sparta, but so did helots who were not 'Lacedaemonians'. He was a member of a ruling caste and his allegiance was to the caste. An Athenian or Corinthian likewise owed his allegiance to his polis. Outside that Dorians, Aeolian etc cities (they apparently had distinct dialects) would normally ally to each other. Syracuse (in Sicily) was said to have been founded by Corinthians and was therefore Dorian so when Athens sent a fleet to attack Syracuse the Spartans sent help etc.

    Certainly the Ionians (the Hellenes living on the Western coast of modern Turkey and the Islands) probably had a lot of contact with Medes - the myth of King Midas presumably derives from Ionian interaction with the inhabitants of the interior and later were threatened by Persian rule. The fact that they resented and rebelled (and they rebelled lots!) against this rule - identifying themselves primarily as members of their own polis and then as Ionian Hellenes and that the other Hellenes in 'Europe' helped them and also identified the Ionians as Hellenes was one of the reasons for the Greco-Persian wars. Why were they prepared to fight if not to preserve their own cultures?

    It is only post Alexandrian conquests that a form of 'pan hellenic' culture and trade can be said to exist. For me this is the distinction. Pre Alexander and the Diadochi 'successors' certainly the Mycenaeans up to the Peloponnesian war Hellenic culture is certainly distinct. It certainly borrows from neighbouring cultures but identifies itself as related - Ionians and Dorians might fight each other but they are all 'Hellenes'. Post Alexander Alexandria (the Ptolemaic one) became the largest city in the Greek world, probably all the world. Only post Alexander can we talk about the Hellenic cultures in the east that survived for centuries after Alexander but to talk about Greece of the Mycenaean or Classical period as African or non Hellenic because Hellenic culture and language later spread east is getting the cart before the horse in my opinion.
    Last edited by snapper; 22 Jul 13,, 07:53.


    • #3
      ''What if what we think of as the classical world has been falsely invented as European...''
      What if NOT?

      ''He adds: "There is a strongly political dimension to the kind of claim I am making, and you would probably find that most people who were pushing for a very hybridised vision of the Greek world would … be naturally more left-leaning and have their own idealised view of the ancient world as a place of opportunity and hybridisation...''

      How about you STFU,''professor''.

      Now only the classical fields is a European invention of the 19th century,but even the fabled Orientalism is the same.And not only that,but the studies of the pre-Columbian societies,African societies,of the Australian,Maori or the Yanomano in S. America.
      And all these are separate fields,because the societies were separate.There is no need for an artificial integration.

      At least this chap is dumb enough and honest enough to admit his political motivations.
      Those who know don't speak
      He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36


      • #4
        To be fair you quote Whitmarsh (presumably who Charlotte interviewed) but the book is by Haubold who the article says speaks of "intertwining". Certainly we 'intertwine' with our neighbours; the Mycenaeans did 'intertwined' with the Trojans, Helen in one manner and her Husband and other Greeks in quite a different manner. Most likely the 'Trojan War' was the start of the Ionian Greek expansion and the trade lanes into the Black Sea. Adversaries also learn from each other and 'intertwine' in war; although the British developed the tank the Germans learned from it after WW1 and in WW2 the Allies needed some time to 'catch up'. Intertwining as I believe Haubold means it normally happens from trade or conquest. The Greeks traded widely and founded colonies from the Crimea to Marseille in modern day France. Certainly these colonies later mingled more with the locals so to speak but the Syracusans were not 'Sicels' who are said to be the original inhabitants of modern Sicily. The Spartans would not send an Officer to the Sicels if the Athenians attacked them but would to their Dorian 'cousins' in Syracuse. They would also ally with various non Hellenes naturally (Hannibal had an alliance with Philip V of Macedon) but this again is post Alexandrian conquests and the 'Hellenecisation' of the East.

        I also think that post Alexander you have to regard the different Greco cultures of the east as mingling but distinct - and most of the mingling was armed mingling. For example Greece (as we know it today) was distinct from say the Levantine cities in the time of Octavian/Augustus. For sure the Alexandrian merchant, the Damascene merchant and the Athenian merchant could share common 'lingua Franca' although probably with dialects at the time of Augustus and more so before but fragmentation is bound to occur long term... The Normans were Scandinavians and learned first French and later mingled with the English.

        To assume that pre Alexandrian/Diodochi Hellenic culture was as influenced as post Alexandrian is wrong in my humble view. We have many valued Indian wabbits who speak English and understand the same concepts as I, we have Germans and Romanians and all sorts who understand the same precepts. Should I therefore assume that the ancestors of the English Indian or something? They were proto Vikings of Saxon and Jutish descent as we know and as the language roots testify. Should I even assume that 1000 years ago old King Edward the Confessor was reading sankscrict texts or even Romanian or Russian ones and that this has always influenced English culture? I think not. Certainly India did and continues to influence British culture and the British influenced theirs - they 'intertwined' as Haubold calls it but you can almost put a time on the intertwining and likewise with ancient Greece.

        As for trade: If you go to any household today the chances are you will find something made in China... does this mean we all have extensive knowledge of how Chinese people in every region are?

        Anyway thank you for bringing my attention to the book 1980s, will order a copy.
        Last edited by snapper; 22 Jul 13,, 11:40.


        • #5
          The point is not the existence or lack of interaction.But the motivations behind the their stances.
          Those who know don't speak
          He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36


          • #6
            It's interesting to note from a Hittite source known as the 'Tawagalawa letter' Information about the Hittites - Text Translations that Greeks appear to have been in Asia Minor/Ionia long before the generally recognised 'colonial period'. The 'Aḫḫiyawa' in the Kings letter are presumed to be Greeks and as Hattusili III accepts their King as an equal and he dates to around 1267–1237 BC this is contemporary to Troy Vll in the archeological jargon (Troy seemingly fell over or was destroyed many times). What is clear from 'Tawagalawa letter' is that some regions of the coast were not under Hittite control at the time yet who's King, who was an equal to the Hittite King, didn't live in the coastal areas either. Other Hittite tablets refer to 'Wilusa' etc which is said to be a name for Troy derived from it other Greek name Ilion (hence the Iliad etc). Paris - the abductor of Helen is said to be identified as Alaksandu in a Treaty signed with Muwatalli II - an earlier Hittite King, 'Alexandros' being Paris' real name. The name Alaksandu, some have argued has to be a transliteration of a Greek name, though an equally good argument can be against. For those more interested it gets complicated and a basic understanding of ancient Greek is required; see from which I quote the conclusion:

            "The following conclusion can be drawn from these data: The linguistic interferences between Mycenaean Greek and the Anatolian languages of the late Bronze Age are scarce. They point to a moderate borrowing scenario, according to the typology given in 2. There is no evidence for the existence of a virtual „Sprachbundı–as suggested, e.g., by Watkins 2000b, 1143ff. These results are not unexpected if one looks at the historical sources: In the Ta∑agala∑a- letter attuˇsili III (1264 - 1240 BC) addresses the sovereign of Aia∑a as equal high king. In the earlier and the later sources, however, no sign of an equal rank of the ruler of Aia∑a can be found. Thus, at least diplomatic contacts seem to be limited to a very short period of time. As pointed out in 1, the Mycenaean sphere of influence in Asia Minor is also relatively restricted geographically: In tense Mycenaean settlement is to be found in the archaeological records only for the region between the Peninsula of Halicarnassus in the south and Milet in the north (and in the islands off this coastline, between Rhodes in the south and Kos–possibly also Samos–in the north) 55. In this sense, an intense Mycenaean-Anatolian contact can only be assumed for a limited period of time and for a limited geographical region. This is not sufficient for having an impact on Mycenaean Greek on the Greek mainland as well as in the Aegaean islands. The presence of workers from Asia Minor and/or prisoners of war (cf. 1c) in the Mycenaean empires is not sufficient either to leave traces in Mycenaean Greek."


            • #7
              Not trying to necro whatever but as a P.S as I am holiday (kinda) at present I started re-reading Aeschylus and it reminded me of the myth of Io (the moon) in Greek myth. Io, originally a Priestess of Hera and daughter of the first King of Argos (Inachos), ended up in Egypt and her great great granddaughters (Danaus in Aeschylus) fled back to Greece (fortunately landing near Argos) to avoid being married to their cousins; Aegyptus/Egypt is also a descendant of Io.

              Io visits Prometheus, while he is being prophetic (Prometheus meaning forethought in one interpretation) , in the Aeschylus play Prometheus Bound and her great granddaughters supplication to the later King of Argos are in the Aeschylus play The Suppliants. In Prometheus Bound Prometheus foretells that the male cousins will catch up with the daughter of Danaus (which they do in the The Suppliants) and that the daughter will murder their husbands on the wedding night to escape their fate. That is all all except one daughter who will have pity. Her son will be the person that frees Prometheus. In The Suppliants Aeschylus calls the King of Argos 'Pelasgus' in a clear reference to the pre Hellenic 'natives' of Greeces prior to the Mycenaean period.

              Other versions of the Danaus tradition say he had three daughters; Ialysos, Kamiros and Lindos and that he founded cities on his journey from Egypt where his daughters were worshiped. Lindos is in Rhodes and Herodotus mentions it being founded by a daughter of Danaus. Danaus is Aegyptus brother and Aegyptus only has sons etc... Both could be said be 'Egyptian' as could Danaus fleeing daughters.

              While no 'myth' should ever be interpreted literally the clear inference from the story of the daughters of Danaus is that some population movement between Egypt and pre or early Mycenaean Greece did take place. It would be natural for the 'Greeks' to justify their right to harbour refugees or perhaps even captives by invoking some lineal descent and therefore kinship with the newly arrived population. Of course it may not even have been people, the whole Danaus story may even refer to a single person of high rank or even goods that the Greeks kept.
              Last edited by snapper; 18 Sep 13,, 16:42.