Ancient Greece: A Sketch of Its Art, Literature & Philosophy Viewed in Connexion with Its External History from Earliest Times to the Age of Alexander the Great

By H. B. Cotterill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE AEGAEAN CIVILIZATION: THE ACHAEAN SUPREMACY (DOWN TO c. 1100)

SECTIONS: LANGUAGE AND WRITING: THE OLD RELIGION: THE 'HOMERIC AGE' AND HOMER: CHRONOLOGY OF AEGAEAN AND CONTEMPORARY CIVILIZATIONS

NOT very long ago the history of Greece (such history as is founded on the evidence of contemporary inscriptions and similar relics) was held to begin about the traditional date of the first Olympiad--namely, 776. It is true that for some two thousand years a chronology of the 'prehistoric' or 'mythical' age of Greece was accepted with more or less diffidence, and has been handed down to our times. This chronology, based on the calculations of ancient writers1 and drawn up finally (c. 220) by the keeper of the great Alexandrian library, Eratosthenes, takes us back to the foundation of Thebes by Cadmus in 1313, a date of modest pretensions compared with those given by some old writers, who by calculating the generations of ancient dynasties and hero- families lead us back beyond Deucalion, the Greek Noah and father of all Hellenes, to Pelasgus, the ancestor of all Pelasgians, and his ancestor Inachus, the first king of Argos, who is said to have lived about 1986.

All this chronology and all the traditions of the so-called mythical age were until quite lately rejected as of no historical value by almost every modern writer on Greece--as valueless

____________________
1
See Hdt. vii.204, where, according to the accepted genealogy of the Spartan kings, Leonidas is shown to have been the twenty-first from Heracles, whose traditional date is 1261-1209. Cf. Hdt. viii.131. Some assert that Eratosthenes went back only to the Fall of Troy ( 1184). Thucydides fixes the Dorian invasion (return of Heracleidae) at eighty years after the Fall of Troy. Some of these dates come curiously near to those accepted by modern archaeology.

-1-

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