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THE BEGINNINGS OF GREEK CIVILIZATION
Lecture Notes by Eric V. Snow, for Western Civilization or Western Humanities classes
Cycladic culture: Islands north of Crete. Said to “cycle” around the sacred birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Different kind of fertility goddess statues: Here, thin, trim modern “model” type vs. conventional heavy set traditional type of female beauty. Not much known.
Minoan civilization (c. 1950 b.c.-1628 b.c.): Linear A script not deciphered, so can’t read its writing. Temple at Knossos—Arthur Evans began excavations in 1900, soon discovered it.
No traditional enemies—peaceful trade emphasis, lack of fortifications on Crete itself, highly unusual. Relative gender equality: Divorce could be gotten by either, married women still controlled dowry, default control of household when husbands away as sailors or traders/merchants. Worshiped earth goddess.
Murals: Wall paintings. Art: Toreador Fresco, c. 1500 b.c., exploding directional action, curving lines, sweep of upper line of bull Knossos. La Pariseinne, Knossos, part of Fresco, c. 1500 b.c. “Immediate life” attitude dif. in ancient world.
had inside plumbing!—baths, sewage drainage.
“Snake Goddess,” ask for description: stiff, but playful touch also (Panther? on head). Arms outside of “block” of Egypt’s sculpture.
Santorini island/Thera explosion: 1628 b.c., badly damaged Minoan civilization, worse than Krakatoa’s in Indonesia in 1883. Ash deposited over 100,000 sq. miles, up to 435 miles away. One spot in ocean 87 miles away ash 7 feet deep. 4X more powerful, “Tidal” (Tsunamis) started at 650 feet high. (Krakatoa heard 3000 miles away).
Atlantis legend of Plato’s—Continent sinks in one day, found in Critias and Timaeus.
Bull leaping Ceremony (put up Toreador fresco): Somersault over bull by grabbing horns. Minotaur legend—Theseus kills it.
Mycenaean Civilization: c. 1600-1110 b.c. Linear B script—Michael Ventris deciphered it, Greek language form.
Hellenes—Hel-uh-neez—fought Trojan war. Independent city states, but all kings owed allegiance. City states, like Sumeria, kings independent of each other, but owed allegiance to great king at Mycenae. Heinrich Schliemann (1822-90)—1871, discovered Troy in NW Turkey—Homer not a legend only after all (Illiad). Treasures found, elaborate tombs, gold jewelry and ornaments, cups, inlaid weapons.
Male dominated society (Minoan more equal): honor and courage leading values, seeking glory on battlefield. Cunning, crafty nature—Odysseus representative, will lie, good lying admired!
p. 61: Toreutics (To ru tics)—hammer metals into representational form. Funeral mask c. 1500 b.c.
Beehive tomb, Treasury of Artreus, 1600-1500 b.c., largest dome until Pantheon of 2nd century in Rome.
p. 62 Bronze daggers: How lively compared to Egyptian art (top one esp.)
Lion gate (p. 60), citadel at Mycenae, Greece, 9’6” relief’s height.
Mycenean culture: Dominance ended c. 1200-1000 b.c., Dorian invasions, had iron, vs. bronze of Myceneans. Dorians founders of Sparta.
Greek character: Why different? Individualistic, wish to investigate nature, not passively meditate on it, pro-reason, turn outward, not inward like Hindu mystics. More artisans and sailors and traders than farmers, highly unusual anciently. Sea trade brings in new ideas, difference from other cultures known to more Greeks by %. Larger middle class.
No priesthood with formal do’s and don’ts, govt. becomes more free than elsewhere, democratic reforms in Athens example. Balance: Strong mind and strong body ideal.
Loved IQ disputes, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers vs. Paul. Acts 17:19-21: “’May we know what they new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to known therefore what these things mean.’” Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”
Greek gods made in the image of man! Quarrelsome, not fully serious (unlike Jehovah). Xenophanes of Colophon (6th c. b.c.) said if oxen, horses, and lions had hands and could paint, would paint their gods as oxen, horses and lions.
More skeptical spirit: Herodotus: Egyptians gave food to god (statue), disappeared each day. H: “I saw no god, but I saw many rats around the base of the statue.” Ave. people inevitably dif, but ed. people otherwise.
Fertility symbol: Persephone, daughter of Demeter, moves between Olympus and Hades, causes the seasons. Eleusynian mysteries based on this myth.
Dionysus vs. Apollos: Ecstatic irrationalism vs. intellectual beauty. Dionysus: god of wine, scheduled seasonal orgies, helps also represent the seasonal vegetational cycle. Myth involved Dionysus being ripped apart and eaten by Titans since Hera was jealous of the child. His sister Athena kept his heart, gave it to Zeus, the father, who tortured the Titans to death, and grieved over his son’s death.
Mystery religion founded (compare to Masons): Torch lit procession, drunken revelry. Mostly women would rip apart at night a bull (preferably) or goats or fawns. By eating the god in the form of an animal they felt they achieved union with the god and were divine as a result also.
Orphism: Kept the above rite of Dionysus, but purified the ceremonies used to honor him otherwise. Based on legend of Orpheus, a Thracian singer who played the lyre and charmed the queen of Hades, Persephone. He married Eurydice, who died by viper bite. Goes to underworld, charms Queen of Hades into giving back Eurydice, but only so long as doesn’t look back. Does so a bit too soon, E. taken back. Goes into exile by own choice, into wilderness. Orpheus killed by Maenads, female worshippers of Dionysus in punishment, torn apart. Head tossed into Hebrus river, still called for Eurydice. Floated to Lesbos, buried by the Muses. Lyre becomes constellation Lyra.
Dionysus Zagreus: son of Zeus, Persephone. Titans kill him since Zeus wants to make him king of the universe. Athena rescues his heart from being devoured. Zeus eats it, gives birth to a new Dionysus. Zeus punishes Titans, destroys them, creates human race from the ashes. Dualism’s source in myth: body from Titans, soul from Dionysus.
Orphism an individualistic religion: brotherhoods organized, strong spirit/matter dualism, reincarnation: body prison-house of soul, corrupts soul. Try to improve status through cycle of reincarnations. Members try to rid selves of “Titanic” or evil element, preserve Dionysian, divine part of soul. Do by rites of purification, ascetism. Try to escape from reincarnation cycle/series of lives, by pure living, escape Titanic elements and unite with divinity (like Hinduism).
Background to conflicts that created Athenian democracy:
Hesiod: Works and Days, poem, Theogany, tries to systematize myths. Town of Boeotia: “Cold in winter, hot in summer, and pleasant at no time.” (Attitude reflected?) Advocated hard work, frugality, and prudence, including farming advice, times to do different tasks. Pandora’s box story.
Olive culture vs. grain: investment needed to switch from wheat to olive due to time factor, favors rich. Landed aristocracy wanted still more land, squeezes small farmers.
MAP: Colonizing done—lack of land encourages it.
Artisans: export trade—encourages urban middle class to exist. Division of labor: surplus of goods allows free time for philosophical discussions, education, art.
Athens: c. 100,000 people after Persian wars.
Reformers: Draco (“Dray/co”): “Draconian” for harsh laws. Since commoners known laws, have protection against abuses by judges who are rich landlords, single standard for all citizens. Like laws of Twelve Tables in Rome, so common people (Plebeians) could know laws (451-450 b.c. drawn up, 12 brass tables in forum).
Solon (“SO/lon”): Freed slaves. Kept upper class in higher offices, but allowed lower class to be jurors for trials. Juries large: 281 to 220 votes to judge Socrates guilty. Ten years: can’t change reforms, rule. Council of 400 broadened civic responsibilities. Lighter coinage—started switch in Athens from dependence on Ag. to dependence on Artisans’ crafts.
Pisistratos: Redistributed land, broadened political base, more in govt., standard ed. of Homer’s poems issued, promoted artistic life by bringing in Simonides and Anacreon (poet/musicians). Loyalty to city increases over loyalty to clan or family.
Cleisthenes: (CLI/sthe/neez). 10 demes replace 4 tribes, based on place of residence, not heredity. Council of 500 replaces 400, was tool of old 4 tribes. Each “tribe” would nominate many names, 50 drawn by lot from each deme.
Direct democracy end result: freedom learned, promoted creativity, productivity, and opportunity.
Persian Wars: Athens and Greeks win vs. Persia. Darius (“Da/RI/us”), Persian king, strikes vs. Athens for supporting Ionian revolt (Miletus). 20 ships send by Athens, at request of Aristogoras of Miletus’s request.
Marathon: Miltiades wins vs. Persians despite being outnumbered badly: dawn attack, pushes Persians into sea, kills 6400 vs. 192 Athenians, despite being outnumbered.
Phidippides’ 22+ mile run from Marathon to Athens with news of victory: Olympus long run event’s name’s origin.
Pride in own culture vs. Barbarians increased.
Xerxes: Round two—Themistocles, commander-in-chief—“wooden walls” would save Athens, according to Delphi Oracle. Navy built up (his interpretation).
Thermopylai—300 Spartans hold off tens of thousands of Persians, under king Leonides. Fought until all killed after being surrounded (compare Japanese in WWII). 20,000 Persians killed.
Salamis: Narrow channel denies Persians’ advantage in numbers. Athens & allies bet all after city burned, win!
Plataea (Pla/tee/a): 479 b.c., Hoplites win vs. Persian light infantry and cavalry. Persians lack armor, less skill than Spartans.
Ionian Philosophers: Early Greek Philosophical thought
Thales (of Miletus): Water, compressed or changed into gas, why “basic stuff” of the world.
Naturalism: Don’t use gods as explanations of nature, non-supernatural. Despite being wrong, significant dif. in approach.
Greeks thought systematically about outside real world. Different from “Maya” concept of Hinduism and Buddhism, “All is illusion,” anti-science.
Follower of Hippocrates (460-377 b.c.), on epilepsy: “It seems to me that the disease is no more divine than any other. It has a natural cause, just as other diseases have. Men think it divine merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.
Heraclitus (“Hume”, of Ephesus, c. 540-480 b.c.): No enduring substances, but all is “becoming” and flowing. Plato (“Kant”), influenced by him, responded by idea of Forms to preserve certainty in knowledge. Fire basic element: always changing. Logos: “Word”: Guiding force/intellect behind universe. Cause of its rational order and it knowing right forms to take. Why elm trees didn’t give birth to crocodiles.
Essence: A is A over time issue. Can’t step in river twice idea.
Pythagoras (c. 582-507 b.c.), of island of Samos: Numbers as essence of all things. Said earth went around “central fire,” anti-geocentric theory.
Ideas of math true even when undiscovered as of yet. Pythagorean theorem: 2, 2, 2T2 for right triangles.
Three major accomplishments: 1. Discovery of pure mathematics (proof builds upon proof). 2. Development of mathematical proofs (Geometry, Euclid). 3. Awareness that form and structure give objects individual identities.
Demonstration vs. dialectic as sources of knowledge.
Found relationship between math and harmonies in music: Vibrating strings—dif. sounds based on relative lengths. Nature predictable—planets and number (musical intervals between). “Harmony of the spheres.”
Religious/intellectual brotherhoods set up: women and men equal, common property. Transmigration of souls, purify life to escape cycle by IQ activity, salvation only then (like Plato).
Illiad summary: War between Trojans (Troy) and Greeks caused by Paris, son of Troy’s king Priam, winning the wife of king Menelaus of Sparta, Helen. Power to seduce her came from choosing in a beauty contest between Athena (wisdom), Hera (power), and Aphrodite (love). Paris chose last, since gained from her the power to have the most beautiful woman as his wife.
Expedition to Troy waylaid. Finally, when arrived besieged city for 10 years.
Conflicts in Greek camp: Achilles irked by his commander, Agamemnon, taking a woman, Briseis, from him. Achilles sulked in camp, Trojans attack it, Patroclus wears Achilles’ armor, killed by Hector. Achilles stirred up, kills Hector, drags body behind chariot (insulting dead). Priam, Hector’s father, king of Troy, begs for body, cremated. Paris kills Achilles, arrow to heel. Trojan horse stratagem of Odysseus—wooden horse full of Greeks lets in, city sacked and taken.
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