Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview
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14

BASILEIS AT SEA: ELITES AND EXTERNAL
CONTACTS IN THE EUBOEAN GULF REGION
FROM THE END OF THE BRONZE AGE TO
THE BEGINNING OF THE IRON AGE

Jan Paul Crielaard


1. INTRODUCTION

This paper deals with elites and elite behaviour during the transition from the LBA to the EIA. The focus is on whether external communications played a role in the process of elite self-fashioning and self-representation. An important question that needs to be answered in this connection is to what extent we can speak of continuity in the preservation of power and authority and the maintenance of overseas contacts during the transition from Bronze to Iron. This question is directly related to the validity of what may be called the 'wanax to basileus model'. This model presupposes the preservation of certain social structures. It is based on the hypothesis that at the end of the Mycenaean period a shift took place from the wanax' centralised power to the local authority of the qa-si-re-u. The qa-si-reu managed to survive during the 'Dark Ages' as a local official or chief, to reemerge at the beginning of the historical period in the poetry of Homer and Hesiod as one of several basileis who rule over local communities.1

The terms 'model' and 'hypothesis' are used here deliberately, since it needs to be emphasised that the etymological or semantic relationship between Mycenaean qa-si-re-u and Homeric basileus in itself does not provide sufficient evidence to postulate the continuity of offices or social-political institutions. In theory it is not impossible that the term survived while the offices and authority disappeared. For a modern example of something similar we may turn to the United States of America. Although the United States are a nation founded upon a constitution

I am grateful to Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy and Irene Lemos for the kind hospitality received at
Edinburgh, and for their comments on the present paper. I also wish to thank Bert Brouwenstijn
and Jaap Fokkema for their contribution in producing Figures 14.2–4.

1 Qa-si-re-u: Carlier 1995; Deger-Jalkotzy 1998–1999. Basileis van Wees, Status Warriors: 31–6.
Model: e.g. Mazarakis-Ainian, Dwellings: 360–1, 375; Morris 1999: 60–5; Antonaccio 2002: 15.
For authors questioning this model, see Tandy 1997: 91, with refs.

-271-

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