The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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False starts and imperishable hardness

It’s Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon:

Though Greek in language, the civilization of Mycenaean Greece was in most other, basic respects a provincial outpost of a Middle Eastern culture whose epicentres lay in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. The imposing Lion Gate entrance to the citadel recalls Hattusas of the Hittites or even Babylon; and the beehive, corbelled, drystone tombs known as the Treasury of Atreus (Agamemnon’s father) and the Tomb of Aegisthus (lover of Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra) betray an almost Egyptian lust for imposing posthumous longevity.

Palace-frescoes suggest that the buildings rang to the chants of court-musicians, and so, conceivably, there may have been Mycenaean court-poets or at any rate court-lyricists. But the Linear B texts deciphered thus far at least (from Thebes, Tiryns, Ayios Vasilios, and Pylus as well as Mycenae on the mainland, and from Cnossos and Khania, ancient Cydonia, on Crete) contain not a shred of poetry nor any other kind of literature, and, given their documentary, bureaucratic function as temporary records of economic data mainly for tax-purposes, are hardly likely to yield such in the future.

(It is, not incidentally, by accident not design that the Linear B tablets were preserved: the fires that consumed the palaces at Mycenae and elsewhere in c. 1200 BCE baked them to an imperishable hardness).

In short, Mycenaean culture and society represented, in Hellenic retrospect, a false start.

January 8, 2010 / Uncategorized

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