Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reasoning: Greek History Review #2

, I finished the next the chapters of Early Greece, which consider the aristocracy and the community in the Dark Age and "Euboan Society and Trade." These chapters are not on the afore-mentioned Greek History Syllabus. However, I decided that I would finish the book as well as reading through the entirety of A Brief History of Ancient Greece alongside the secondary sources from the syllabus. The idea is to provide a broad base for further study. This I am sure would offend the sensibilities of my Greek History professor, given that A Brief History of Ancient Greece is written in part by one of her greatest rivals. Amusingly, I have to thank this same professor's rant against this rival which demonstrated the proper way to criticize a historical argument and served as a model for me to scrutinize the arguments of others (specifically some of the arguments in "Male Lament in Greek Tragedy") and my own arguments in my thesis.

Although most of what I'm reading is not new to me, there are a couple of things that came as a surprise to me. The first was that there was a period of pottery between the Geometric Period and the Black figure period. This was the Proto-Corninthian period of pottery, which flourished during the Orientalizing period 725-600 BCE [1]. Most of the pottery was miniature [1].
This owl is only 5cm long. It is my favorite Proto-Corinthian piece of which I have found a picture [2]. These pieces tend to employ the black, white, and terra cotta color scheme. The pieces have the influence of the eastern trading partners (Murray 32-33).

The pieces seem to me, from my mostly untrained eye, to be a mix of geometric period influences (although this vase shows the orientalist influence of the flowing curves in the painting and the pictures of animals (Murray 84-85), the animals are arranged in seemingly geometric patterns)
and the Athenian black figure that replaced it (this reminds me of the composition of the Athenian black figure, but the colors are quite obviously from the proto-Corinthian period).

Another, although slightly less vital, piece of information that I missed in my classical education was the origins of the Phoenicians. Murray says:
"the earliest Greek contacts were with the Canaanites of the Levantine coast, a people known to the Greeks as the Phoenicians, probably because of their monopoly of the only colour-fast dye in antiquity, the purple (phoinix) extract from the murex shellfish" (70).
I had no idea how the Phoenicians were named by the Greeks, and I thought that was pretty cool. I also thought they were island people, and had no ideas that they controlled the forests of Lebanon which provided timber to Egypt (Murray 70).

As a Note: Project Gutenberg is now posting texts in their original language. They may have done this before, and I just did not notice. It's a fabulous resource. Although I would traditionally turn to the Perseus Project for Greek texts. However, I might put these on my kindle in order to translate without the crutch of a built in dictionary.
  1. This comes from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  2. All of the pictures come from Wikimedia.

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