Cultural Studies I Lecture 10 September 27, 2010
Bronze Age Culture in the Aegean World -in about 3000 BCE, seafaring cultures emerged in island Greece, in a cluster of islands known as the Cyclades, as well as Mycenae on the mainland, and the island of Crete – ancient Greeks believed their culture spring from these earlier Bronze Age cultures -trade extended to Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, Arabian peninsula, England
The Cyclades The Cyclades are a group of over 100 islands between Crete and mainland Greece No written records from the Cyclades, but artifacts have been found in burial chambers and homes covered during a volcanic eruption and excavated. The most famous artifact from the Cyclades are marble figurines of women. Highly simplified, abstract – look like modern art The function of these artifacts is unknown
Cyclades – 2200 BCE • The Cyclades are in closer contact with the island of Crete to the south – ushered in a period of mutual exchange • Akrotiri, a town on the island of Thera (now called Santorini) in the Cyclades, was buried by volcanic ash in ancient times - it has provided the most information about culture in the Cyclades • Scientists date the eruption to 1623 BCE – Thera is possibly what Plato was referring to when he wrote of the lost civilization of Atlantis • People on Thera lived luxuriously and comfortably • nice homes, decorated with frescoes (water-based pigment painted on to wet plaster) • Plumbing using clay pipes, interior toilets, public baths, sewers, paved streets
Minoan Culture in Crete • Culture called Minoan from the legendary King Minos who was said to rule the island’s ancient capital of Knossus • Many motifs in the Cyclades are found in ancient Crete, indicating cultural contact and exchange
King Minos is facing challenges to his leadership from his brothers. He asks Poseidon, God of the Sea, for a mythical sea bull he might sacrifice to him. Poseidon provides a white bull, but King Minos keeps it and sacrifices another.
Bull leaping, from palace complex at Knossos, Crete (1450-1375 BCE) Bulls are a common motif in Bronze Age Greece culture due to this myth
Poseidon is furious that King Minos did not sacrifice the White Bull and casts a spell on his wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. She commissions a fake bull to be constructed with which she will seduce the White Bull. <- Pasiphae, wife of King Minos, gets her fake cow delivered with which she will seduce the White Bull.
The minotaur, child of Pasiphae and the White Bull – head of a bull and body of a man -eats humans, lives in a labyrinth -King Minos orders humans to be sent from Athens for the Minotaur -King Aegeus’s son, Theseus, decides to sail to Crete to kill the Minotaur.
Theseus seduces King Minos’s daughter, who helps him slay the minotaur by providing a sword and thread to find his way out of the labyrinth Sails back to Crete with blacks sails
Labyrinth is the Greek word for palace - means ‘double axes’, came to refer to a complex layout or maze
The labyrinth, ‘discovered’ by Sir Evans in 1900 – proof of Knossos
What are some of the inherent problems with older archaeology? • What did Sir Arthur Evans do that current archaeologists would frown upon? • How does this change what we know about cultures?
Bronze Age Culture in the Aegean World – part 2 • Last class: • Three major regions of Bronze Age Greece: Mycenae, the Cyclades and Crete • Figurines of abstracted women found in burial sites • Myth of the minotaur and the labyrith • Sir Evans ‘confirms’ the legend of the minotaur through his discovery of the Palace of Minos in Knossos on the island of Crete – no actual minotaur but a city that was a labyrinth • The snake goddess and the problems with archaeology
The Cyclades Mycenae Crete
Mycenaean culture • Minoan Crete’s complex civilization interacted with Mycenae, as evidenced by the exchange of goods and symbols • Minoans abandoned the palace in Knossos on the island of Crete in 1450 BCE – it was quickly taken over my Mycenaeans from the mainland • Why did Minoans abandon Knossos?
Mycenaean culture • Why did Minoans abandon Knossos? • Deforestation of the island? • Minoan culture severely weakened by the volcano on the island of Thera (Santorini today) – leaving it susceptible to invasion? • Mycenaean culture has much in common with Minoan culture, since Crete (home to King Minos, hence the name ‘Minoans’) was controlled for several hundred years by Mycenae • Mycenaeans were warlike, unlike Minoans who were peaceful • Forerunner of ancient Greek culture • Feudal (system of political organization in which a king controlled the city and countryside, peasants paid high tax in exchange for protection) • Traded for copper and tin to make bronze
-the ‘Vaphio cup’, made using the repoussé technique – the artist hammers out the design from the inside -the motif on the cup features a bull, which is typically Minoan – what does the bull represent? -Mycenaean invaders in Crete probably took the cup to the mainland, as it is typical Minoan craftsmanship Vaphio Cup, from a tomb south of Sparta, Greece (1650-1450 BCE), gold
The ancient city of Mycenae • How is Mycenae different from Minoan cities? King Minos’s palace, Knossos, Crete Mycenae
The ancient city of Mycenae • How is it different from Minoan cities? • Walled city • Massive gates • Clear indication of the military nature of Mycenae • Built on a peak for defense purposes, whereas Minoan cities are built on flat land with no fortifications • Walls built from rough-hewn stone – cyclopean masonry • Later Greeks believed that only the race of monsters known as Cyclopes could have built them • Visitors entered through the Lion Gate at the top of a steep path
Funerary mask, Mycenae, Greece (1600-1550 BCE) What do such riches and imported items such as carved ivory reveal about Mycenaean culture?
Treasury of Atreus, 1250 BCE, Mycenae, Greece – architectural form of the tholos, the largest uninterrupted interior space in Europe until the Pantheon was built in Rome 1,000 years later -relieving triangle is a key architectural feature of tholos – triangular-shaped opening above the lintel designed to relieve some of he weight the lintel has to bear -the tholos featured engaged columns – served no structural purpose
Aegean alphabets and the Phoenician alphabet • Phoenecians developed and spread a written language • Two distinct writing systems, referred to as Linear A and Linear B – both written left to right on horizontal lines • Linear B has been deciphered, but not Linear A • over 4,000 tablets of Linear B were found in Knossos, Crete • Linear B was extremely cumbersome – a different symbol for each syllable • Phoenicians introduced an alphabet to the Greeks
Who were the Phoenicians? • Semitic people from what is now Syria and Lebanon • Excellent sea-faring traders who controlled much of Mediterranean sea trade • Traded across vast distances, as evidenced by a recovered shipwreck from 1400 BCE which carried: copper ingots to make bronze, bronze weapons and tools, resin for making incense and perfume, African ebony, ivory tusks, ostrich eggs, raw blocks of blue glass, jewelry and beads, gold, and Egyptian scarab • Phoenicians were often attacked by pirates, aka early Greeks
How did the Greeks benefit from adopting the Phoenician alphabet? • Could keep records more easily • Easier to teach, which facilitated communication in distant trade ports • Could be written on papyrus, rather than clay tablets used in Mesopotamia
The Phoenician alphabet goes Greek • The Phoenician alphabet had only consonants, like Hebrew • Greeks developed vowels between 800 BCE and the 5th century BCE: • A – Alpha • E – Epsilon • O – omicron • Y – upsilon • I - iota • The result: 24 letters, 7 of which were vowels • Greeks developed capital letters and lowercase letters • Through its Phoenician roots, the Greek alphabet is the source of the Latin alphabet we use today
Warrior Vase, Mycenae, Greece 1300-1100 BCE -dates from the time of the Trojan War -depicts a woman waving good-bye to departing troops -it’s rather crude drawings of people demonstrates the relative unimportance of the arts in the militaristic Mycenaean culture
Homer and his epics Ancient Greeks believed Homer was an ancient poet, although most scholars believe he was an invested character and that the stories he supposedly wrote were oral tales told over the centuries. The epic poems attributed to Homer include the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greeks disputed when he lived: some believed he lived around 850 BCE, other believed he was alive during the Trojan War (1194-1184 BCE). The stories of Bronze Age Greece were written down once the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet.
The Iliad and Odyssey • Narrates the 10 year war between the Greeks and Trojans • The war began when the Greeks launched a fleet of ships under King Agamemnon of Mycenae to bring back Helen, the wife of his brother, who had eloped with Paris, son of the King of Troy • The Odyssey narrates the adventures of one of the principle Greek leaders, Odysseas, on his return from fighting The Trojan Horse, Mykonos, 650 BCE -the hollow ‘gift’ that the supposedly departing Greeks left to King Priam and his followers -Greeks are depicted hiding inside -earliest known depiction of the Trojan Horse -scholars believed the Homeric epics were fiction until 1870s until Troy was discovered
Dying Warrior, from the Temple of Aphaia, 480 BCE – a statue that celebrates the military -was created when iron was in common use, yet the armor and weaponry were made of bronze, which was anachronistic -meant as a celebration of the ‘glory days’ of the Homeric past
The Mycenaean decline was swift – what happened?What was the role of trade in the spread of culture in the Aegean islands and beyond?What are the major cultural differences between the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures?How did later Greeks relate to the early Aegean cultures?How do the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, differ from each other in their depictions of Greek culture and values?