A clay tablet, found near the ruined Temple of Zeus in the ancient city of Olympia, Greece, could be the oldest written record of The Odyssey. The tablet was uncovered by archaeologists and tentatively dated to the Roman-era 200s CE.
It is engraved with 13 verses from the Odyssey’s fourteenth book,
in which Odysseus speaks to his lifelong friend Eumaeus, the first person he sees on his return from his decade away from home.
IN ’Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens’, Vic Kovacs provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. Though a long period of history is unaddressed in the volume, I nonetheless recommend the volume for public and private libraries.
Previously, I reviewed Vic Kovacs’ Ancient Cultures and Civilizations, The Culture of Sparta. In this volume, Kovacs shifts from Sparta to Athens: Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens. Divided into five chapters, the volume details various aspects of Athenian culture and history: a broad overview of ancient Athens, Athens as it is concerned with democracy, the military in Athens, daily life in Athens, and the downfall of Athens.
Overall, the book provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. With its simple language and clear communication, the book is oriented towards elementary school students and middle school students. As such, teachers would benefit from having this book in their private or classroom libraries, just as it would be an excellent addition to a school library.
This is a restored Minoan fresco, from the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotini on the Greek island of Santorini. The settlement was destroyed in the Theran eruption sometime in the 1500s BCE and buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes as well as many everyday objects.
TRADE was a fundamental aspect of the ancient Greek world and following territorial expansion, an increase in population movements, and innovations in transport, goods could be bought, sold, and exchanged in one part of the Mediterranean which had their origin in a completely different and far distant region. Food, raw materials, and manufactured goods were not only made available to Greeks for the first time but the export of such classics as wine, olives, and pottery helped to spread Greek culture to the wider world.
In Greece and the wider Aegean, local, regional, and international trade exchange existed from Minoan and Mycenaean times in the Bronze Age. The presence, in particular, of pottery and precious goods such as gold, copper, and ivory, found far from their place of production, attests to the exchange network which existed between Egypt, Asia Minor, the Greek mainland, and islands such as Crete, Cyprus, and the Cyclades. Trade lessened and perhaps almost disappeared when these civilizations declined, and during the so-called Dark Ages from the 11th to 8th centuries BCE international trade in the Mediterranean was principally carried out by the Phoenicians.
In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.
Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.
In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.
By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.
Although ancient Greek Society was dominated by the male citizen, with his full legal status, right to vote, hold public office, and own property, the social groups which made up the population of a typical Greek city-state or polis were remarkably diverse. Women, children, immigrants (both Greek and foreign), labourers, and slaves all had defined roles, but there was interaction (often illicit) between the classes and there was also some movement between social groups, particularly for second-generation offspring and during times of stress such as wars.
Although the male citizen had by far the best position in Greek society, there were different classes within this group. Top of the social tree were the ‘best people’, the aristoi. Possessing more money than everyone else, this class could provide themselves with armour, weapons, and a horse when on military campaign. The aristocrats were often split into powerful family factions or clans who controlled all of the important political positions in the polis. Their wealth came from having property and even more importantly, the best land, i.e.: the most fertile and the closest to the protection offered by the city walls.