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Bridging East and West

September 20, 2008

A few months back, Alan Lenzi mentioned several books on the interaction of Mesopotamia and Classical Greece. Among the books he mentioned was Walter Burkert’s The Orientalizing Revolution.

I just ran across another good book by Walter Burkert, Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis. It’s written in a popular style with the layperson in mind. The sixteen-page introduction provides a wonderful summary of the interaction of Mesopotamian and Greek culture from the Middle Bronze Age clear past the ascendancy of Greek dominance in the Mediterranean.

I plan on making my students read at least the introduction before they read the Iliad. Having already read Gilgamesh, this short intro will open their mind to the possible connections between these two texts.

  1. September 20, 2008 4:45 pm

    Yeah, that’s another really good one, Jim.

  2. September 30, 2008 12:54 am

    A West Semitic influence on the Aegean was the Byblos syllabary providing a model for two scripts in Crete (at Knossos and Phaistos). This is my response to your earlier post on the Phaistos Disc as a forgery.

    I am putting my response to Eisenberg on my website

    Articles: Phaistos Disc: not a forgery, Phaistos Script
    My main point is that among the small administrative tablets also found in the Phaistos palace there are examples using the syllabary found on the Phaistos Disc. These are mixed up with tablets inscribed with the characters of the Linear A syllabary. This has not been noticed till now, but editors of the texts have had difficulty fitting the Phaistos signs into the Linear A system. But the decisive detail is the presence of a fish-sign (apparently a tunny) on the disc ond on Phaistos tablet 13c; there is no sign of one in Linear A and B, the descendants of the original pictographic script of Knossos.

    Sceptics may not have noticed all this. (Steven Fischer lives here in New Zealand and I know him personally, and I am very favourable to the approach he has taken to deciphering the Disc).

    You could say that Pernier saw these clay tablets and constructed his artificial system on the basis of the characters on them. Not an easy task. No, Pernier was fortunate; sooner or later an inscribed object was going to be found at Phaistos, and this was a beauty!

    So, there were two scripts in use at Phaistos: its own Phaistos syllabary (as on the disc, and on the tablets, and on the Arkalokhori ax from the Knossos region) and the Linear A syllabary, a stylized form of the Knossos pictographic syllabary (the largest collection of Linear A tablets comes from Hagia Triada, the administrative centre of the kingdom of Phaistos).

    The idea of constructing such syllabaries came from Gubla/Byblos. You can find information on that system at my website. The alphabet grew out of the Byblos syllabary, and I have a lot to say on that on another site>

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