EarlyGreece

EarlyGreece - EARLY GREECE The Bronze and Archaic Ages...

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Unformatted text preview: EARLY GREECE The Bronze and Archaic Ages Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Finley, M. I. (Moses 1.), 1912- Early Greece. M. I. F IN LEY Bibliography: p_ Includes index. 1. Greece—History—Geometric period, ca. Master of Bandit College and Professor Emeritus 900—700 B.C. 2. Greece—History—Age of Tyrants, ofAndm Hing” in the Universit} ofcambridgg 7th—6th centuries B.C. 3. Bronze Age—Greece. 4. Civilization, Homeric. 5. Greece—Antiquities. I. Title. ' DF221.5.F56 I982 938’.01 82-12407 New and Revised Edition Copyright © 1981, 1970 by M. I. Finley All rights reserved. Primed in the United States of America. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY. 10110 W. W Norton & Company Ltd., 37 Great Russell Street. London WC1B 3NU ISBN U-BH‘B-ULSL‘l-‘b. ISBN 0-333—30051-X {PBK} 7890 W - W - NORTON 8c COMPANY New York - London .. -W--m.~ -._ .__ .V. » . y - v » ...-......_._.._.. ..— ...... ‘ ...‘-A..-.-.- M...‘ ¥ H-..» ’uomruu ‘i ‘8 T H E S S A L Y o I Pherae. ... ‘ . 'e P °“'""’°°" “0’6. m§§ 4 ‘ ‘ r ’u . S “was magnum Q 8 a 6 % . — Hm > A E T o LIA 69 h . v a . a Q“ tom . - w . . . - k as oThebes Chm: ACHAEA ""20 ' z’ ‘. . s. I 1 o ’ . E can: - % oElis 'g- a: ns m o a fl.AI~ A An” ' ‘ o a 9‘. "~ .v ' . : LAcoum s J’ 030M“ % n f . 9 - a os - ’ b a . . o ’9 ° ‘° '0 :20 was 1 From: Early Greece, The Bronze and Archaic Ages. M. I. Finley. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981. I I The Culture of Archaic Greece h ir eo a hical dispersion and their political Egggniagong, thg: Greeks retained a deep-rooted con- sciousness of belonging to a Single and unique culture.—h ‘being of the same stock and the same speech, wit common shrines of the gods and rituals, .Wlth Slml ar customs’, as Herodotus (VIII 1.4.4.) phrased it. They wefie right—and the phenomenon is remarkable, given the absence of a central political or ecclesiastical authonty, t s predominantly oral character of their culture even beyon the end of the Archaic period, and the inventiveness With which one community or another solved problem after problem in politics and culture..Perhaps nothing lS sfo revealing as the rapidity with which a new idea washdi - fused. The Phoenician alphabet is an early example, ot ers are the council-magistrate-asseinbly machinery of govem- ment, the ‘Doric’ temple and corned mpney. It seems not to have mattered whether an ‘invention. was Greek to begii} -with orborrowed from outSide. If it proved furictional within Greek society in general and compatible with loca conditions, then its value YES quickly recognized in prac- ' ' r the Greek wor . “298011: bitiding element was myth. The Greeks had a large stoCk of mythical tales. There was a myth behind every fits and every cult-centre, behind new City-foundations, at;l for more or less everything in nature, the movement of t (c; sun, the stars, rivers and springs, earthquakes an plagues. Myth performed a number of functions: it was explanatory, didactic and prescriptive. It gave the archaic Greeks their sense of, and knowledge of, their past, the?“ history in other words; it sanctioned cults, festivals, belie s, the authority of individual noble families (With their lelng genealogies), and so on through a range of practices a: ideas. On the other hand, myth was not all-controlling. s we saw in discussing thelawgivers in Chapter 8, there was. , 126 THE CULTURE OF ARCHAIC GREECE also much human self-reliance behind the evolution of institutions and ideas, a readiness to change and innovate without direct divine authority or revelation. Increas- ingly, the Greeks found themselves with separate, some- times irreconcilable, mythical and non-mythical ex- planations and justifications, co-existing happily. The myths were believed to be true, though there was neither a sanctified priesthood nor any other pre-ordained auth- ority with the prerogative to develop new myths or to certify old ones. From the sixth century B.C. on, an oc- casional voice was raised in doubt or scepticism; not many, however, for most people did not study the myths, they merely retold them or they performed the appropriate rites and that was sufficient. The mythmaking process continued. Thus, as the Greeks dispersed east and west, Apollo, Demeter, Hera- cles and the other gods and demi-gods had to travel with them, and' the myths were adjusted and enlarged accord- ingly. The Greeks in Sicily challenged the claim of Eleusis to be the place where Demeter, goddess of the fertility of the earth, first gave man the gift of corn. Heracles swam the Straits of Messina and then took a grand tour of Sicily which brought him as far as Eryx in the northwest, thereby sanctioning Greek claims to that part of the island. Aphrodite followed later, and it was from Eryx that her cult spread to Carthage and to Rome. In Old Greece, too, myths had to support shifting political relations and alliances, ideas of ‘ethnic’ cohesion (as with the Ionians), or the conflicting claims of certain shrines to higher status than others. The longest of the so-called ‘Homeric Hymns’ is about Apollo, and it has two distinct parts which are incoherent, if not downright inconsistent, one linking the god with Delphi, the other with Delos, his two most im- portant centres- This example can be multiplied many times, as any modern handbook of Greek mythology reveals. The result was a considerable untidiness, to which another aspect of Greek religion contributed. Although all Greeks recognized and honoured the whole pantheon, no individual or community could conceivably» perform all the rites to all of them. Each city had its patron deity and its 127 EARLY GREECE: THE ARCHAIC AGE special affinities with certain. other gods and goddesses, who were accordingly celebrated even beyond Zeus himself, the unchallenged head of the pantheon, though no one denied Zeus’s supremacy. Again there was the oc- casional sceptic, and again the people as a whole saw no difficulty. . Greek religion of the Archaic period was essentially a de- velopment from the basis already evident in the Homeric poems. By a variety of formalized actions, men sought to establish the most favourable possible relationships with the supernatural powers. That is to say, they tried to dis- cover the will of the gods, and to placate and please them. The former required specialists, such as soothsayers, diviners and seers, but the rest of the activity was carried on by ordinary people, both privately, in their homes or through private associations, and publicly, by officials of the state. There were many officials called hiem's, a word which we translate as ‘priests’ despite the fact that they were normally laymen carrying on one particular public function exactly like all the other officials, civil and mili- tary. While kings still existed, they performed the state rites; now they were replaced by members of the aristoc- racy (and later by democratically chosen magistrates). And the rules were laid down without the intervention of a sanctified caste, backed only by tradition and myth. It was Homer and Hesiod, according to Herodotus (II 53), who ‘first fixed for the Greeks the genealogy of the gods, gave the gods their titles, divided among them their honours and functions, and defined their images’. This maynot be literally accurate but it points to the essential truth that in so far as the Greeks had an authority in these matters, it was largely the authority of poets, who may have claimed (and even believed) to be ‘inspired by the Muses’ but who cannot by any recognizable standard be equated with prophets or priests. Poetic inspiration is not prophetic rev- elation. _ The activities through which the gods were honoured andsupplicated included table fellowship (sharing food and drink with them), singing, dancing and processions, allowing oneself to bepossessed (maenadism and other 128 temples were of wood and rubble' or sun are known to us only from a few terracott one-roomed buildings with a simple framed- by two columns s stone temples were built came the great lea to th after the hallmark3 of a oblong room (or rooms) ringed by rows of columns column capitals and the roof The earliest surviving rem ' THE CULTURE OF ARCHAIC GREECE f0 ‘ . . , . ms of orgiastic behavrour), and games featuring feats of prowess (for physical excellence was as much the gift of ‘ . he activity was n o I evertheles still restricted to formalized words, rites and spectacles. 3 Of all the rites sacrifice both I , . I , vegetable and ’ the. most universal—1t is hard to think of anyagigriliific‘aifii ?Cfl0!}ll which was not preceded by a sacrifice—and there- ore t e altar was the basic piece of equipment, with the the temple made, its dications from grateful mortals. The earliest -dried brick and a models, narrow . porch at one end upportmg the gable. The—first- about,60on.,c., and with them e large structures that were ever nc1ent Greek architecture, the , covered by a pitched roof and , With the spaces between the EARLY GREECE: THE ARCHAIC AGE widely scattered as Argos, Olympia, Delphi, Corcyra (Corfu) and Sicily; none of these is later than 5 50 3.0. In the course of the Archaic period certain religious centres acquired pan-Hellenic status because they had something extraordinary to offer. One group consisted of shrines where particularly effective oracles could be con- sulted. The ability to foretell the future was a very‘ special- ized and valuable skill. Diviners who ‘read’ the flight of birds, dream interpreters, seers who had visions, Were usually private persons able to persuade clients that their powers were real and legitimate. However, nothing in this field could rival the direct voice of a god, especially ‘Apollo, who had} special shrines for this purpose in various places in Hellas, with Delphi unchallenged in pre-eminence. In all but one respect Delphi was just another small Greek community, whose religious life was administered in the normal ways. When the shrine of Apollo became oracular is unknown, nor is the procedure clear to us. On stated days, inquirers who had performed the required sacrifices and rites of purification (and paid a considerable fee) were permitted to address themselves to the god, either on their own behalf or as agents of their communities. ‘Apollo replied through a female medium. called the Pythia or Pythoness, her utterances were transcribed into often ambiguous verses by the chief priest, a lay official, and the inquirer then had to put the best interpretation on them he could. There was thus a mystical element at Delphi setting it apart from the usual rituals, though not from those at other oracle-shrines, each of which had its own particular method of operation. Most puzzling is the role of a woman as the god’s mouthpiece, an uncommon practice among oracles, the singularity of which is further highlighted by , the fact that all other women were denied admission to the temple. The triumph of Delphi is evident not only from the many oracles mentiOned or quoted by Greek writers and from the vast complex of ‘treasure-houses’, temples and statuary that grew up in the sacred precinct, but also from the way Delphic activity was retrospectively backdated to a time when the shrine was certainly still only local in its import- » 130 ...
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EarlyGreece - EARLY GREECE The Bronze and Archaic Ages...

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