The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History

The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History

The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History

The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History

Synopsis

The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History reveals the role of the complex interaction of Mediterranean seafaring and maritime connections in the development of the ancient Greek city-states.
  • Offers fascinating insights into the origins of urbanization in the ancient Mediterranean, including the Greek city-state
  • Based on the most recent research on the ancient Mediterranean
  • Features a novel approach to theories of civilization change - foregoing the traditional isolationists model of development in favor of a maritime based network
  • Argues for cultural interactions set in motion by exchange and trade by sea

Excerpt

Odysseus vs. Hesiod?

In Greek culture, Odysseus personifies the seafaring life of adventure and peril, while Hesiod represents the life of the stolid farmer. But both also show the interconnectedness of these lives - Odysseus in the end goes off in search of a land that does not know the sea, presumably to settle down, while Hesiod acknowledges that it is sometimes necessary for the farmer to take to the sea - for the funeral of a king, and, more often, to exchange excess crops for necessities lacking at home - even giving advice about sailing seasons and the type of boat to use. But in the analysis of the early Greek polis, it has been the Hesiodic life of the farmer that has been preferred as a model. The origin of the polisis seen in the agricultural village, and the spread of Greek settlement over the landscape in what is anachronistically called “colonization” has been linked to excessive population growth and a “homestead model,” rather than to the spread of trading bases - the latter an interest attributed to the Phoenicians, seen by this time, not as partners, but as wily and untrustworthy predators.

Yet perhaps the most fruitful period in Greek history arose out of the essential partnership of the Phoenicians and the Greeks in creating settlements in the west in the so-called Dark Age, as they moved westward, essentially in cooperation, in a dynamic and enterprising network of maritime connections that has been called “a fantastic cauldron of expanding cultures and commerces” (Morel 1984: 150). In this melange, the two peoples often interacted at a level at which ideas as well as objects and motifs were exchanged. From the start, the fact that they moved westward more or less in tandem, sometimes perhaps even sailing in the same expedition, would have required some sharing of ideas: potential settlement sites, hopes of profits to be gained, sailing strategies. Once they had arrived at a site, it is likely that the exchange of ideas extended to practical ways of establishing and organizing the new settlement. Questions arose about how land was to be distributed and by whom; ongoing decisions affecting the whole community were to be made. For the Greeks in . . .

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