Studia IV

DECONSTRUCTION AND RECOVERY: THE MIRACULOUS NEXUS OF THE GENESIS OF THE EUROPEAN CIVILISATION

When, in December 1988, I was visiting Professor Snodgrass in Cambridge to ask his permission to translate into Romanian his already classic book The Dark Age of Greece, I never imagined that this basic work for the understanding of those remote times would become so immediately relevant in only one short year. The unusually sunny and warm British winter seemed to anticipate the end of the long year of our discontent. Because the manuscript of the Romanian version was to wait several years before being published, I think it is now time I discussed the scientific importance of the book, and its value as a treatise on the anatomy of disaster, from the standpoint of what may be called, if it does not sound too presumptious and anachronical, the morphology of culture.

 

A New Archaeology

The book of A.M. Snodgrass has a singular position in the context of more than twenty years of literature in English on the history of Greece before the ancient age, both because of the method and because of the most cordial kind in the attitude towards the scholars of different or opposing opinions on important and controversial issues. Only one year after the publication of his book (Edinburgh, 1971), a book by V.R. d'A.Desborough was published, with an almost identical title: The Greek Dark Ages (London, 1972). It is a famous scientific essay (with almost no references, because its second and third sections are based on the previous books of Desborough, i.e. The Last Mycaeneans, 1964, and Protogeometric Pottery, 1952), which resulted, for the most part, from the numerous discussions of the two, just as Snodgrass's book did. But Snodgrass states from the very beginning the similarities and the differences between their standpoints, either with regard to the pottery series, or to the existence of immigrants which could have brought about the apparition of the protogeometric pattern in Greece.

Even if Snodgrass can no longer accept today the structure of his own work, the opinion of some readers, including my own, is that the scientific relevance resides not only in the immovable and perfectly proved conviction of the author that there was no immigration in the Greece of the Dark Ages, but also in the fact that he prefers correlative induction rather than deduction, which implies an extensive classification of archaeological facts and objects, the only things that can validate glottological, mythological or oral tradition conclusions, and that can invalidate those of the 'logic' speculative constructions generated by the necessity to integrate the facts in a pertinent sequence.

Far from being the practitioner of an obsolete manner of regarding archaeology and using its data, because, as it were, his work had been written, for the most part, at a time when science had begun to lose its 'innocence', A.M. Snodgrass shows an excess of modesty (self-ironical maybe, as it had always been throughout a writing that gracefully rejects emotion in favour of logic, a writing of excellent quality, just like Desborough's) when he affirms that he has reached the standards of modern archaeological thinking.

A new archaeology, said Philippe Bruneau (Quatre propos sur l'archéologie nouvelle, in „BCH", 100, 1, 1976, pp. 103-115), means not only, a new method of investigating the ground, but also a new angle in the research of the material results of this investigation, of the artifacts first of all, as being the things most loaded with meaning, the most significant relics of a bygone age. It has been seldom mentioned, remarks another Cambridge scientist, Colin Renfrew (The Emergence of Civilisation.The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C., London, 1972, p. 13) that the horizon, as part of the geographical environment, is an external coordinate of a culture, which is in turn defined by the response of man to his environment, by the multitude of artifacts that he created, thus weaving the web of civilisation, more and more complex and dense, which isolates and protects him from the natural world. During the celebration of the hundreth anniversary of the American Institute of Archaeology, the same Colin Renfrew was the one who, almost a decade after the mentioned quotations, would warn against the opposition between „the great tradition" and „the great division", i.e. the hyperspecialisation in archaeology, „Like Stephen Dyson and James Wiseman, I think that classical archaeology could learn essential lessons from the writings and activities of the new archaeology", A.M. Snodgrass remarks in a theoretical article published around the middle of the last decade (The New Archaeology and the Classical Archaeologist, in AJA, 89, 1, 1985, pp. 31-37), adding that to the new archaeologists classical archaeology seems to be at most a limited application of their subject, and at worst not even archaeology at all.

The wisest position, he said, is the one based on the status (or the fundamental character) of the subject, the bulk of the purely archaeological data being associated with the other non-archaeological fields, which have reached a high level of complexity.

Snodgrass's book is the book of a „new archaeologist", because it makes use of non-archaeological disciplines in the treatment of the subject such as historic dialectology and geographical dialectology, mythology, oral and written tradition. Precisely because Snodgrass knows the importance of the balance between these auxiliary disciplines, as well as their seldom achieved complementarity, he warns against the exclusivity often claimed by these disciplines. Linguists seem to be totally irredeemable. Here is an eloquent example of how interdisciplinarity is transformed by some into a dialogue of the deaf. John Chadwick, the Hellenist who had deciphered the Linear B together with the much too soon departed Michael Ventris, totally ignores this book of Snodgrass, which was published five years before the one (The Mycenaean World, Cambridge, 1976) in which he declared he was going to discover America: „The events at the end of the Mycenaean age are problematic. Greek tradition suggests that during this period a new branch of the Greeks, the Dorians, moved to the Peloponesus. Of course, the population that had occupied everything but the centre of the Peloponesus called themselves Dorians in the Classical Age. But it proved impossible to find unambiguous archaeological traces of this movement (but none other than Snodgrass had proved that), and if they were coming from Northern Greece, it is impossible to have come from Thessaly, which seemed to have participated in the Mycenaean civilisation. The only region from which they might have set out is the north-west, according to the scant information the Classical Greece could remember". Snodgrass is either ignored or unread. On pp. 192-193 he writes: „I do not think that the Dark Ages will remain totally obscure, and I am beginning to find that some features are emerging from the darkness", (but they were revealed by Snodgrass). „Mycenaean settlements are ruined and burned everywhere. The stable order that had endured for three centuries was destroyed. Depopulation followed, either as a result of wars, or of disease and famine...

Where were the Dorians during that time, and why did they wait for so long before asserting themselves?" This is precisely what A.M. Snodgrass deals with, based on archaeological and non-archaeological evidence, following the complex process throughout the 11th and the 8th centuries B.C.

 

The Philological and Archaeological Approach

The importance and novelty of his book lies in the fact that it convincingly demostrates the local character of the reconstruction and recovery of civilisation in continental Greece and the Aegean world, without any allogenous ethnic intervention in the form of an immigrant population.

The mainly philological approach of the subject discussed by Snodgrass is represented by several books published before his own, and which made its publication necessary. It is true that philological works are useful when referring to long periods of time (but not always!), and not when they are about simultaneous or immediately successive events, about shorts periods of time. At the end of the last century, Austrian linguist Paul Kretschmer put forth the theory that the Greeks imigrated from the Balkans towards the Aegean space in three successive waves: Ionians, Achaeans and Dorians (following the classical division of the Greek dialects). Ionians were said to have reached Greece in the 20th century B.C., Achaeans in the 16th century, and the Dorians four centuries later. Kretschmer could not, however, philologically explain how they could have preserved their language with only minimal dialectal differences over such a long period of time. The long periods of time offer a better basis of discussion when the linguistic phenomena may be corelated with archaeological realities. This is the kind of argument used by A.J.B. Wace when claiming that the population that brought the Middle Helladic culture should be identified with the Indo-European Greek invaders, for at the beginning of the middle Bronze Age, in the 19th century B.C. there appears a new element. At the beginning of the 2nd millenium a population speaking a Greek dialect settled around Troy and remained there for six centuries. From this ancient region of Ionia the invasion of Greece is claimed to have begun. The makers of the so-called Minyan pottery (named by Schliemann after the legendary king Minyan, the founder of the Orkhomenos settlement, in Beotia) spoke Greek, for A.J.B. Wace had found no cultural disruption between the Greek-speaking Mycenaean population of the late Bronze Age and the preceding one of the Middle Helladic.

But Leonard R. Palmer (Mycenaeans and Minoans, London, 1965, p.323) reminds us that in Anatolia there is no toponym around Troy that would prove the hypothesis of the Greeks' inhabiting there for 600 years. The Indo-European character of the Hittite, which was deciphered by Hrozny during the first world war, and the discovery by E. Forrer, in 1919, in the Bogazköy archives (Hattusa) of eight different languages, of which two Indo-European (Luvian and Palaic), are important for the Aegean archaeology. Luvian was a language spoken in South-Western Anatolia even before the formation of the Hittite kigdom. While the region from where Indo-European Greeks spread to the Aegean is still unclear, it seems that the settlement of Crete was done by the Anatolian speakers of Luvian, who crossed the sea and settled in the eastern part of the island. Contemporary archaeology has proved that the settlement of this great and fertile island advanced from East to West.

When the syllabic writing of Linear A became somewhat commonplace, it attests, again in the east of the island, the dedication of an altar to the great Mother, in Luvian, in the cave of Mount Dikte.

 

Minoans and Mycenaeans

The joint penetration of Minoans and Mycenaeans took place slowly, probably stimulated by the frequent earthquakes and volcanic phenomena which perturbed the Aegean around the mid-15th century B.C. In the artistic field it was shown that either the Minoan craftsmen worked for their new masters, or that the Mycenaeans learned the craft in various degrees in the remaining Minoan centres. In the same tomb 4 in Mycenae there may be found the golden artifact no. 273 as well as the much more refined artifact no. 384 (both on display at the National Museum in Athens), which mark the extreme limits (and maybe the chronological ones also) of the rich inventory, that leaves the impression that the tomb belongs to a Mycenaean pirate who profitably plundered the Minoan world.

The western part of Anatolia remains, however, a possible starting point of Indo-European Greeks, in spite of the philological arguments against it. It is enough to look at the fortifications of Mycenae and Tyrint (Minoan settlements were not fortified, or had reasonably thick walls), to be reminded of those of Bogazköy and Troy VI. It is possible that these similarities are like the linguistic similarities between Greek and other Oriental languages, which are almost all part of the borrowed vocabulary. Cyclopean stone courts in Mycenae and tyrint are no more different from those of Hattusa than the fortifications of dried clay of Smyrna (9th century B.C.) from the massive walls of the Middle East built in the same technique. In Mycenae I have seen a detail, perhaps not without importance: the huge slabs that flank the corridor of access immediately beyond the 'Lion Gate' seem to come, in spite of their orthostatic shape, already molded by tectonic processes, from a remote geological era, brought to the surface by movements of the Earth's crust and used by the Mycenaean builders of the court. Unlike the other Cyclopean blocks, which are much smaller and of a much softer rock, these seem to be a reddish conglomerate so hard that it was impossible to cleave, because on their surface there can be seen veins of crystalline rock even older than the moment of their compaction. Such reddish monoliths can be seen along the mountain road from Tripoli to Argos, nearer the former locality, together with slate rock, and they are remarkable for their Orthostatism. The Homeric poems contain not only memories of the Mycenaean realities, but also echoes of the Greek knowledge of Troy VI, in the 14th century, when the city was at is height, having an Acropolis full of sacred and public buildings of a particular architectural splendour. The treasures of Troy VI, whose Acropolis was believed to be the one destroyed by the Achaeans (that was, in fact, the Acropolis of Troy VII A, the Troy of Priam) were mentioned in a local saga, as a part of a poem about the siege of Troy from the sea ('the people of the sea'?). How such a poem came into Greek, or whether it was composed in Greek from the very beginning, we cannot know. But its theme is adopted by the Mycenaean art.

The partial silver ryton found in the same tomb 4 (when he discovered this tomb, Schliemann cabled the King of Greece that he was beholding the face of Agamemnon, but the artifacts could not be traced back to the 15th-13th centuries), now artifact 481 in the National Museum of Athens represents a siege, with archers and slingers fighting before walls beyond which towering buildings may be seen.

Perhaps the work of a Cretan craftsman, the artifact represents anyway the first known historic representation in art of Europe. The siege scenes of Mycenae and Pylos were painted before the final episode of Troy. The epic of the Trojan war became the last version of the artist's theme, because it was indeed the last successful siege against a city defended by strong walls. After that conquest, the Mycenaean world became too fragmented to be able to mount a pan-Hellenic expedition of such scope (Emily Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age, Chicago, 1964, pp. 277 & fol.). In the opinion of the mentioned author, some details of the Homeric poems roughly correspond to the international situation of the 13th century, i.e. the raids of the 'sea people', mentioned by the written Hittite and Egyptian sources and the poem about the destruction of Troy VI. It is also possible, says Emily Vermeule, that Paris and his friends were considered in Continental Greece the allies or friends of the 'sea people' and that, as associate pirates, they abducted the wife and plundered the riches of the ánax (the chief) of Amyklai, who might have been in Crete with business at that time; on that occasion the Trojans went as far as Egypt before returning to north-western Anatolia.

 

Between the Trojan War and the Disappearance of the Mycenaean Civilisation

After the destruction of Troy VII a by the Achaeans the situation seems to have become critical in Greece. In his Archaeology, Thucydides (I,12) mentions some facts that Snodgrass interprets taking into account the archaeological evidence: „...After the Trojan war there still were population migrations and city settlements, so that the population could not increase unhindered. Indeed, the retreat of the Greeks from Ilion brought about many changes, as it lasted a long time. Most of the cities had revolts, and the people that were chased away because of them founded new cities. Today's Beotians were chased away from Athens by the Thessalians in the sixtieth year after the conquest of Ilion and settled in what was then called Cadmea and today Beotia; a branch of the Beotians had existed there before, and some of them had gone to llion. And eighty years later the Dorians occupied the Peloponesus, together with the Heraclidae. Only with great effort and after a long time did Greece send forth people to found new colonies; the Athenians sent Ionians and many of the islanders to settle new colonies, and Peloponesians settled in Italy, Sicily, and parts of Greece. All these settlements were founded after the Trojan events. Here is, then, the condensed period with which Snodgrass's work deales. The Homeric epic and other legends are thus historically attested. The killing of Agamemnon, the wandering of Ulysses, the suitors of Penelope, the Telemachia, the Seven against Thebes are, on the other hand, an emotional testimony of a deconstruction process one of whose causes was the Trojan war itself.

While in the case of the metamorphosis of the Minoan civilisation into the Mycenaean one we could speak of a recovery in the sense of a creative imitation and we must accept, because of the evidence at Thera [Thíra, Santorini], the existence of repeated earthquakes that culminated with the eruption of the island's volcano, the collapse of its central part and the formation of a 30 m high seismic wave that swept all the surrounding coasts, the disappearance of the Mycenaean civilisation cannot be explained by natural catastrophies. Anyway, we may find that such disasters may hinder one of the historic factors and favour another. The Cretan naval force once destroyed, the small fleets of continental Mycenaeans destroyed by the gigantic wave could be rebuilt more easily and, according to the list of ships in the Iliad, they could be a naval force only for a limited time and by association. When the Trojans tried to set fire to the enemy ships, they knew very well that the Achaeans had nothing else left in their home ports. The theory of Rhys Carpenter (Discontinuity in Greek Civilisation, Cambridge, 1966), according to which a change of climate brought about the decline of the Mycenaean civilisation is pure speculation. Snodgrass proves that the alleged drastic changes of climate cannot be considered an argument even for the use of a bigger fibulae instead of an earlier smaller one, supposedly to hold heavier wool garments.

Neither can Desborough's theory of immigrants be accepted as the cause of the decline of the Mycenaean world. The reviewers of his book are unanimous in rejecting it, and some of them are: Snodgrass himself (Ant. J, 53, 1973, pp. 99-100), G. Huxley (JHS, 93, 1973, pp. 252-253), Chester G. Starr (AJP, 95, 1974, pp. 414-416), Per A. Alin (AJA, 78, 1974, p. 198) and J.N.Coldstream (Classical Review, 25, 1975, pp. 84-87).

Chester G. Starr thinks that, compared with the book of Snodgrass, Desborough's essay is marred by the lack of a true historic thinking, in spite of its merits, even though it does rest on a true historic basis. To use the term sub-Mycenaean for an immigrant population, a pottery style and a span of time, and to assign to these immigrants the explosive creation of the Attic genius, the protogeometric style, looks more like a fiction than an overstatement.

But how could the Mycenaean civilisation, a relatively young and vigorous one, disappear without archaeologically identifiable major causes?

 

The Concept of Dark Age

To the people who lived in Eastern Europe, the long deconstructive process forced by the communist totalitarian imperialism, as well as the regeneration one that is now beginning are the closest experience to that of the decline of the Mycenaean civilisation, the beginning of the Dark Age, the overwhelming un-historic interval, the sky and extremely difficult beginnings of the recovery. The special position and tónos of Crete are, in turn, somewhat comparable to certain zones of the former communist bloc, where deconstruction was not total. But in Romania the Dark Age was total. This is why Snodgrass's book is so significant as an anatomy of disaster to us, who have known and suffered more than one can imagine. No catastrophy, no war, no drought, no glacial age, no fire, flood, earthquake or plague, no revolt, repression or pogrom could have caused more destruction than the 'peaceful' cruelty that followed the war.

It was not deconstruction in the material world, it was constructivist megalomania, exhaustion through waste, famine through abundance and the poisoning of nature as a result of mindless industrialisation. What happened here, in the 'light age', and what happened there, thousands of years ago, in the Greece of the Dark Ages? Here, in Romania, the almost complete destruction of the human spirit took place, achieved in almost fifty years, and in seventy in Russia. Nazism, which had intended the creation of another kind of 'new man', had a much shorter career in the West (just as death was faster in Hitler's gas chambers than in the cold houses of the local criminal; the destruction of the spirit ended with the freezing to death of the superior brains). And in the West the recovery was infinitely faster, and total. The almost three decades of fascism in Italy have left traces that are still visible.

In the Greece of the Dark Age, the human element was preserved entirely. If we accept that the Mycenaean civilisation was a creative imitation of the Minoan one, we may say that the individual self was reinforced by the collective spirit before that civilisation gradually disappeared leaving enduring traces in the collective spirit and easing the passage through the Dark Age from an individual point of view. The deconstruction process was therefore limited to the decay of the social order, to poverty, underproduction, and Snodgrass demonstrated with archaeological and other arguments that such a deconstruction was not forced by some immigrating force from outside the Aegean and Greek world.

 

The Absence of the Threat of the Asian East

Happily for the Greece of the 11th and 8th centuries B.C. such a penetration did not take place, and the only force in the East that could have threatened Ionia, the Aegean and Greece, like the Achaemenide Persians did in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., were the Assyrians. Under Tiglatpalassar I, Assyria extends between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, being the most powerful state of the Near East. Under these circumstances such a force could have been a great danger for the state of internal decay of the Aegean World. But the pressure of the Aramaic tribes reduces Assyria to the frontiers of its beginnings (around the sources of the Tigris) precisely in the 9th century B.C. After 900 B.C., the New Assyrian Kingdom begins to reconquer its former territories by campaigns of extreme violence, attested by the reliefs in the Berlin Museum, the Louvre and the British Museum, as well as the decoration of the Balawat gates in bronze repoussé (at the British Museum). Salmanassar III (858-824) consolidates the Assyrian authority over Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, and plunders the state of Urartu, which is thus attested for the first time in history. In the time of Sargon II (722-705), the founder of the last Assyrian dynasty) take place the first contacts of the Assyrian with the Greek world.

The Assyrian Empire was again engaged in a series of conquests that determined waves of Eastern craftsmen to take refuge in Cyprus, Rhodos and Crete. After one century, the series of Asiatic invasions destroys Assyria and determines new waves of craftsmen to flee to the West, in Greece. The continental Assyrian empire extended at one time as far as Egypt, but its ambition never was to establish a maritime power in the Aegean. This was the great chance of the Greek recovery.

The Driving Force of the

Transition

What was the driving force behind the slow, irreversible and sometimes asynchronous evolution from decay to progressive recovery? The framework of this force was the absence of political or ethnic coercion (religious pressure was excluded) of the individual, who continued to live in a homogenous ethnic environment. The internal armed conflicts were, during the stage of deconstruction, a selective factor that determined the absorbtion of the leading families in the mass of the respective ethnic group, and during the recovery stage the emergence of new leaders from the diminished masses, but which were beginning to expand again, as attested by those very conflicts. The conflicts of the deconstruction stage were a side effect of depopulation and impoverishment, while those of the recovery stage were the natural consequence of the emergence of a new class of leaders. Snodgrass and other researchers have clearly pointed out that the Greek society of the Dark Age was impoverished but not egalitarian, and one of its essential points was the emergence of another category of leaders from among the same ethnic group (which determined internal strife, abandonment and settlement of new cities, etc.). Which is one more proof that the individual as the basis of society was preserved.

The 'Greek miracle' has been often mentioned in the romantic essay mode of thinking, meaning the peak of the classical Greek civilisation. If there was any miracle, it did not happen in the century of Pericles, but during the Dark Age. Snodgrass is the first to describe the anatomy of this miracle based on archaeological evidence that highlight the interpretations and influences.

We have to dwell here upon the nuances of creative imitation and pseudomorphism in the theory of culture. The law of imitation and synchronism of Gabriel de Tarde is far from being merely a modern speculation. Pseudomorphism is, in a few words, the existence of form without essence. Snodgrass proves, based on the contents of tombs, that the emergence of the proptogeometric style in Athens is immediately adopted and imitated in other places in continental Greece and the Peloponesus. No imitation is exact, all of them are interpretative, which has permitted the identification of the local pottery styles. The phenomenon of creative imitation and interpretative creation is universal. In a conference held in Bucharest in the early sixties, which was later included in one of his numerous books, Radakrishnan said that the moments when the ideas appeared could not be established, but only the moments of their transformation. In other words, the continuity within a civilisation is given by transformations, and only seldom punctuated by original ex nihilo creations. But these are not excluded, and the apparition of the metallurgy of iron, although preceded by the mettalurgy of bronze, may be quoted as an example of those turning points that increase the polymorphism of the Aegean civilisation, in the sense that, in the short run, the alternance of bronze and iron processing or their coincidence evince in the most concrete manner the balance between tradition and innovation (iron hairpins decorated at one end with bronze spheres). Snodgrass has deliberately underlined such phenomena to suggest not only the problems of the acceptance of new ideas, but also the selectivity and the natural creativity evinced in the metallic artifacts from the beginning of the Iron Age.

To the modern archaeological research it is extremely important to use, for the reconstruction of ancient mentalities, some documents from the end of the Hellenistic epoch, even if they are incomplete and limited in their late wording. These are the fragments from the treatise of Dionysios Halicarnassus (1st cent. B.C. - 1st cent. A.C.) entitled On Imitation, of which the third and last book, which was perhaps never finished, is now almost entirely lost. The quotations found in other authors have been collected and commented by Mihai Nasta in a PhD thesis presented at the University of Bucharest: Imitaţie şi stil în doctrina lui Dionis din Halicarnas (Imitation and Style in the Doctrine of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Bucharest, 1978).

Although dealing mainly with rhetoric, it is not impossible that the ideas of Dionysius should have referred to the whole culture, as in the second part there may be found the axiom that Mihai Nasta considers fundamental to the doctrine of Dyonisius: „art becomes a second nature". The proof that this is true in a certain civilisation (in this respect see the opinion quoted from Colin Renfrew) is the intermeshing influences and creative imitations. The emergence of the local protogeometric styles attests on the one hand to the existence of the second nature, and on the other hand to the continuity of the civilisation substratum even in the most deconstructed stages. Snodgrass has managed to prove, on the basis of pottery evidence, of metallic artifacts and of the reapparition of the cist burial rite, the continuity of the (Mycenaean) substratum, confirmed on the social level by the tradition of social strata even at the times of the worst poverty of the Dark Age. The Dark Age is not a caesura, a drastic change of style of the civilisation, it is merely a renewal of the same style. The Romantic idea about the fragility of civilisation is completed by Snodgrass, under the circumstances of the Greek Dark Age, with that of the „wish for art", which may be diminished, but never abolished. In this respect there may be mentioned the pair of earrings discovered in a woman's tomb in Athens in 1967, and the gold neckllace of Kaniale Tekke, near Knossos, dating back to the middle and the end of the 9th century B.C.

As it did not affect the creativity of the human psyche, the deconstruction in the Greek Dark Age left the way open for recovery, for interpretative creation, it was maybe then that the filter of the recovery was formed, a filter which, unlike the Minoan-Mycenaean acculturation relationship, was going to fundamentaly Hellenise every external influence. The recovery did not start from scratch, but anyway with a new tónos of civilisation, an aim for pseudomorphism, and therefore having a strong mimetic and paideatic drive. Snodgrass shows that in such cases both the pace of the deconstruction and of the recovery evolves from an arithmetic to a geometric progression. We have therefore every reason to hope that, in the case of the East European recovery from the communist disaster, too, the change of pace will bring us faster to that enchanted shore of Western democracy.

But let us not forget that the Greece of the Dark Age did not have such a shore to aspire to. There the civilisation was recreated from memory, based on ethnic unity (and stimulated by its internal diversity) and on the integrity of the individual psyche (which evolved into the Greek individualism and democracy, within the city-state which appeared exactly at the end of the Dark Age). Of course, the civilisations of the Near East have played an important role in the new Greek morphosis, but the specific Greek filter operated perfectly in point of artistic authentication.

The Oriental style is only one stage in the evolution of the Corinthian pottery, and not a permanent transformation, and the representations of the land and sea battle scenes in the Greek geometric art is equally typically Greek, although it has been reasonably proved (Gudrun Ahlberg, Fighting on Land and Sea in Greek Geometric Art, Stockholm, 1971, p. 105 & fol.) that the models of these scenes were those in the Assyrian stone reliefs and the bronze ones of the Balawat gates, or maybe the images that inspired those reliefs.

The miraculous nexus of the European civilisation was, beside everything that we have mentioned, the absence of a model to which we, modern East Europeans, may aspire, like rari nantes in gurgite vasto [Vergilius, The Aeneid, I, 118]. That is why this nexus seemed to Snodgrass extremely important for the period of time elapsed between then and now. It appeared in a rather serious and troublesome context, when everything could have been different, much worse than what searched had happened if Greece had lost the battle of Salamis. Snodgrass has searched the abyss, and therefore dedicated his book to the Greek people, adding Homer's verse: „for something more dreadful you have never suffered".

Shortly before passing away, Constantin Noica published, in two successive issues of România literară, an intriguing essay. The author was trying to prove the lack of style (our phrasing is approximative) of the European civilisation. Maybe he was right in a way, and this characteristic absence was only for the best.

Univocal civilisations, having an infrangible cultural style, however strong and sophisticated they might have been, became extinct for the most part within the same time period in which the Mediterranean, and later the European civilisation was and still is in a continuing process of creative diversification and world proliferation. Speaking about cultural style in relation to individualism and individual freedom we uttered a contradiction not only in terms, but also in substance. The style (in its canonical sense) of the European civilisation is its lack of style, in the sense and mental form validated by almost four millennia of written history, in case Linear A transcribes a non-Greek Indo-European language. It is anyway significant that, once the recovery was over, writing appears again, after it had been abandoned in the stage of syllabic Linear B and rediscovered in the form of the Phoenician writing. Athens was born armed from the skull of Zeus!

Abreviations:

AJA = American Journal of Archaeology;

AJP = American Journal of Philosophy;

Ant. J = Antiquary Journal;

BCH = Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique;

JHS = Journal of Hellenic Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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