T. B. L. WEBSTER
Professor of Greek in the University of London, at University College
Communication can be understood as embracing all the stages in the transmission of thought from its originator to its recipient. I could therefore logically include in a discussion of communication everything that has happened to Homer's words from the time when he uttered them to the time when Mr Rieu's translation of the Iliad arrived on my desk. I propose however to restrict myself to communication between the ancient Greek thinker and his ancient Greek audience and within that field to select a single problem: if the ancient Greeks in a remarkably short time and with remarkably little external aid moved from a primitive to a modern view of the world, how did they communicate this change to each other? I do not intend to define what I mean by a modern view of the world and a primitive view of the world. Classical Greece in the fifth and fourth century B.C. seems to me recognisably modern: realistic sculpture, three-dimensional painting, democratic government, the philosophy of Plato, the logic and biology of Aristotle are intelligible to us and make sense at any rate to the man in the street, whereas if we scratch below the surface of our earliest surviving Greek literature we find something extremely different.
Recent discoveries of archaeology and the very recent deciphering by Mr Ventris of clay tablets of the second millenium B.C. from Knossos, Pylos, and Mykenai have emphasised the likeness of the earliest Greek civilisation to the civilisations of the Near and Middle East, since they give a picture of elaborate religious ritual and a strongly centralised government keeping a detailed