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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reasoning: Greek History Review #1

History is the groundwork for classics. Understanding a work in its context is vitally important for understanding the work itself, because all of that work is situated within a culture that may only be gleaned from such study of the archaeological and textual evidence that remains.

I took a really fabulous Greek History class back in my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I did not give the class my full attention. That year was trouble in general and I was not on my game. As a consequence, writing both my qualifying paper and my thesis, had to do a lot of extra research to raise my knowledge on the eras and authors I was studying to a decent level.

For about two years I have been entertaining the idea of reviewing my Greek History intensively. A conversation with Cerinthus provided the impetus to make me start immediately. Before he goes to Italy, the school running his semester abroad provides an optional trip through Greece and Italy, based on a series of sites and texts. Each student does a presentation on one of the sites and texts, and Cerinthus picked to do Rome, which was paired with the latter half of the Aeneid. He and I were discussing the relationship between the Aeneid and Augustus. I realized that from my Roman History class and my reading of Virgil in second year Latin I could provide him with ample information about the period, I could not put a solid date on anything I was talking about. This in turn reminded me that my Greek historical knowledge was in even shabbier condition than that. So I decided to attempt to fill in the gaps in my history background, starting with the Greeks and moving to the Romans.

I took the syllabus from the Greek History class that I took. Although the pride of my wonderful professors teaching was the primary sources, but I'm going to start by reading through the secondary sources in order. I am sure that she would be unhappy with me for this. However, I have to finish up the last of the Plato dialogues I have not yet read (although I read 18 of the dialogues last summer).

This morning, I started reading Oswyn Murray's Early Greece, it being the first on the list. My professor assigned the first two chapters, "Myth, History, and Archaeology" and "Sources" in order to provide a basis for further study. Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Appetitive/Reasoning: Book Curses

Appetitive and Reasoning? What would Plato say? O Zeu!

Despite any qualms Plato might have had, I thought I should share this. A friend on twitter lead me to this wonderful piece about Medieval book curses. I'm thinking of having some bookplates made with some curses in Latin and Greek. I found this one especially hostile and amusing:

"Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this book from this place may his soul suffer, in retribution for what he has done, and may his name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed."
--attributed to a 16th-century French missal belonging to a man named Robert

To read more, visit this blog on Medieval Copy Protection.