Greek Art and Literature, 700-530 B.C

Greek Art and Literature, 700-530 B.C

Greek Art and Literature, 700-530 B.C

Greek Art and Literature, 700-530 B.C

Excerpt

MICHAEL VENTRIS's discovery that Linear B was used for recording Greek has thrown a flood of light on the Greek world in the second millennium . Many of the details are obscure but it is at least clear that Homer preserved the memory of a complex Greek civilization which flourished upwards of five hundred years before the date of our Iliad and Odyssey , and that the Greek gods and heroes were in the main already established at that time. When I call the civilization of the second millennium complex, I mean that it consisted of a number of palaces, of which Knossos, Mycenae, and Pylos are the best known, each ruled by a King who was treated as divine and had the goddess who protected him living with him in his palace. The palaces were linked together in some sort of feudal system under the great King of Mycenae, and were in contact with the civilizations of the East, Egypt, Babylon, Troy, the Hittites, the various Semitic kingdoms on the Syrian coast, and, perhaps most important of all, the older Minoan civilization of Crete, which seems to have been itself Asiatic in origin. Mycenaean settlements were founded on the coast of Asia Minor and Syria. Warriors, poets, and artists voyaged from court to court within and without the Mycenaean world and their commerce consisted of stories, ideas, and art forms; so that already in the second millennium Greek poetry absorbed some of the great Eastern stories, the Gilgamesh epic, the Creation Myth, and Keret's siege of Udum, and Greek poets retold them of their own gods and heroes. Nothing could be less modern (in the sense defined above) than the picture which can now be drawn of the divine Mycenaean King 'tippling like an immortal' out of his golden cup as he sat on his throne flanked by griffins and lionesses, which symbolized divine protection and his own power. But he left to his successors a fund of great stories, a memory of a rich civilization in Greece, a memory of the East as a good place for settlement and a source of riches not only material, and finally, I think we must add, a respect for craftsmanship in poetry and art.

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