Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.08.39

Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy, Irene S. Lemos, Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer. Edinburgh Leventis Studies 3.   Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2006.  Pp. 695.  ISBN 0-7486-1889-9.  £90.00.  



Reviewed by Silke Knippschild, University of Bristol (clzsk@bristol.ac.uk)
Word count: 2779 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The above volume contains the proceedings of the third A. G. Leventis Conference, held in January 2005 in Edinburgh: the speed of publication is rather impressive. The papers contrast the Mycenaean palace culture to the civilisation of the period formerly designated as Dark Ages, drawing on archaeological and linguistic evidence. The underlying structure of the book revolves around six areas: political and social structures; continuity, discontinuity and transformation; international and inter-regional relations; religion and hero cult; Homeric epics and heroic poetry; and the archaeology of Greek regions. The aims are, in the editors' own words, to produce an "essential and fundamental source of reference on the later phases of the Mycenaean and the Early Iron Ages of Greece for many years" (p.3). This is doubtless both a tall order and a desideratum.

Some of the common threads running through the papers are the nature of political power and rulership, the role of international connections, and the importance of resources, especially of metal. Contributions dealing with visual and material culture contain a wide range of high quality pictures, drawings, tables, plans, and maps, illustrating the relevant arguments beautifully. Most contributions supply extensive references. A welcome index facilitates access to both text and images.

The contributions present cutting-edge research as well as summaries of the history of scholarship and the current communis opinio. Equally, profitable approaches for future investigation are clearly marked out. All told, this book is very welcome and should prove immensely useful to scholars and students interested in LBA and EIA Greece.

Part I Political and Social Structures

In "The Formation of the Mycenaean Palace", James C. Wright looks at the development of the palaces and their architecture, referring back to MH and LH I. Wright focuses on the social implications of monumental architecture, mortuary architecture, and the evolution of local styles as well as standardisation. His views on the architectural koine in LH IIIA2 and LH IIIB are illuminating. The chapter ends with a reflection on the palace as product of the social and political formation of the Mycenaean society.

Thomas G. Palaima deals with the language of power in Hittite as well as Mycenaean and Homeric Greek in "Wanaks and Related Power Terms in Mycenaean and Later Greek". He focuses on the Hittite meaning of wanaks as in birth, begetting, and fertility as well as lineage. His drawing on Hittite culture as a source for Mycenaean culture is indeed welcome, considering that the role of interaction and mutual influence among Mediterranean societies before the officially acknowledged emergence of the koine continues to be underestimated. Although various officials make an appearance, Palaima's main focus is the wanaks and his position in the different areas of religion and ritual, economy, the military sphere, and the socio-political hierarchy.

In "Mycenaean Palatial Administration", Cynthia W. Shelmerdine treats the bureaucracy that supported Mycenaean industry and economy. She focuses on resources, processes, and people, dealing with collecting and distributing, manufacture and repair, as well as assignments, maintenance, and reimbursement of work. Shelmerdine highlights sections of interlinked subject matter, focusing on the control of land, the requisitioning of goods, the imposition of service obligations, the control of industrial production (especially textiles), and the distribution of the finished products.

"The subjects of the Wanaks: Aspects of Mycenaean Social Structure", by John T. Killen, revisits scholarly discussions of the last thirty years on the status of specialised workers who receive rations, considering whether they are free land-holders, slaves, or technically free but entirely dependent on the palace for their subsistence. Killen draws particularly on the Pylos tablets, comparing them to Mesopotamian sources on work groups living in similar circumstances, albeit in very different periods, a fact that one should perhaps briefly draw attention to.

In "ἄναξ and βασιλεύς in the Homeric Poems", Pierre Carlier explains Homer by Homer, going very briefly into Mycenaean times, and tackling differences between the epics in a few words. He himself presents his viewpoint in a nutshell: "the damos listens, the elders speak, the king decides" (p 106).

Walter Donlan's contribution, "Kin-Groups in the Homeric Epics", consists of a half page summary to which some bibliography by Donlan has been added.

Part II Continuity-Discontinuity-Transformation

In "The Mycenaean Heritage of Early Iron Age Greece", Oliver Dickinson questions to a certain extent the existence of continuity, emphasising the significant gaps in our knowledge and warning against speculation on the basis of insufficient evidence. He considers Mycenaean elements in Iron Age Greek rather like Bronze Age relics in Homer.

Joseph Maran ("Coming to Terms with the Past: Ideology and Power in Late Helladic IIIC") focuses on the Argolid in the 12th century BC. As far as this reviewer is concerned, the paper is quite outstanding and a particular pleasure to read. After some introductory observations on continuity and discontinuity, he concentrates on the so-called Tiryns Treasure and the circumstances of its discovery and documentation in 1915, linking it to Homeric keimelia. This forms the basis of a convincing argument for the existence of noble families monopolising power, albeit in ways distinct from the practices of the Mycenaean period. Further, Maran connects the emergence of the temple to the shift in power structures visible in the Argolid.

"Late Mycenaean Warrior Tombs", by Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy, deals with warrior tombs in relation to the chronological subdivisions of LH IIIC and to the social structures of the societies that created the burials. She employs both recently excavated tombs and those of earlier excavations, either fitting the latter into the refined chronology or proposing new datings. In the eyes of this reviewer, the chapter is a distinctive highlight of this book.

Alexander Mazarakis Ainian ("The Archaeology of Basileis") deals with evidence for kingship in a chronological sequence, focusing in large part on Euboia. He highlights the ruler's ability to maintain trade and with it the supply of metal and luxury objects and of offering banquets, arguing that these are just as important as military prowess for basileis in the EIA.

"From Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age Copper Metallurgy in Mainland Greece and Offshore Aegean Islands", by Maria Kayafa, ties in neatly with the previous contribution in terms of the functions and uses of metal. Kayafa analyses the chemical composition of metal alloys, focusing also on the changing roles of objects made of specific metals. Nichoria, Thasos, and Lefkandi feature prominently.

In "Ethne in the Peloponnese and Central Greece", Catherine Morgan analyses the self-definition of communities and the ways they constitute themselves, focusing on the identification and function of ethne in EIA Greece and beyond. Highlights are the role of specialists like potters or smiths and the functions of sanctuaries.

Part III International and Inter-Regional Relations

In "Gift Exchange: Modern Theories and Ancient Attitudes", Beate Wagner-Hasel revisits the predominantly German scholarship of the19th and 20th centuries on gift giving. In the second half of her paper, she looks at terms for gifts with a special emphasis on dotine, which she equates with pompe. Her usage of German terms, English translations of these, and English terminology appears to be slightly eclectic.

"Basileis at Sea: Elites and External Contacts in The Euboean Gulf Region from the End of the Bronze Age to the Beginning of the Iron Age", a contribution by Jan Paul Crielaard, treats elites and their overseas connections from the Late Bronze to the Early Iron Age in connection with the qa-si-re-u/basileus question. The focal regions of the paper are the Gulf of Euboia and environs. The author emphasises the importance of access to and means for sea travel as key elements of elite formation and highlights the self-reinvention of local leaders after the break between SM and EPG.

In "Aspects of the 'Italian Connection'", David Ridgway highlights the continuity of a Greek presence in Italy from the late 14th to the middle of the 8th century BC. He focuses especially on Sardinia and Etruria and emphasises the importance of metal.

"From the Mycenaean qa-si-re-u to the Cypriote pa-si-le-wo-se: The Basileis in the Kingdoms of Cyprus", by Maria Iacovou, starts out in a rather refreshing way with Arrian. From the last basileis she traces the term back through Archaic Cyprus and Assyrian sources to the Late Bronze Age, including questions of ethnicity and migrations in her discourse.

Nicholaos Chr. Stampolidis and Antonios Kotsonas ("Phoenicians in Crete") deal with new evidence concerning the interaction between Phoenicians and Cretans from the tenth to the seventh century BC, highlighting the continuity of close ties to the end of this period and their cessation thereafter. Their focus lies on material culture and religion.

Part IV Religion and Hero Cult

In "From Kings to Demigods: Epic Heroes and Social Change c. 750-600 BC", Hans van Wees clarifies the differences between demi-gods and heroes on the basis of, amongst other sources, the Homeric epics and Hesiod. He argues that shifts in social structures and newly formed elites were at the base of the elevation of epic kings to superhuman beings starting around ca 750 BC.

Carla Antonaccio ("Religion, Basileis, and Heroes") focuses on archaeology as a source for hero cult in the Early Iron Age and its relation to structures of power. The tumulus of Toumba features as one of the centrepieces of her argument.

In "Cult Activity in Crete in the Early Dark Age: Changes, Continuities and the Development of a 'Greek' Cult System", Anna Lucia D'Agata traces the development of cult in Crete from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Archaic period on the basis of archaeological evidence, focusing on the uses of cult as legitimisation of emerging elites.

Part V The Homeric epics and Heroic Poetry

In "The Rise and Descent of the Language of the Homeric Poems", Michael Meier Brügger employs linguistic evidence in order to contribute to the longstanding debate on the actual age (BA or EIA) of the "epic dialect".

"Homer and Oral Poetry", by Edzard Visser, presents definitions and background on the state of research on Homer as oral poet and the question "whether he really was one" (427), explicitly not presenting new evidence. The chapter works well as a concise introduction to the various Homeric questions.

In "Some Remarks on the Semantics of ἄναξ in Homer", Martin Schmidt starts out with relevant terms on the basis of the Lexikon des frühgriechischen Epos before presenting the use of anax in examples, looking at three specific scenes involving Eumaios, Eurykleia, and Argos, and emphasising the character of the word as part of a Kunstsprache.

Kurt Raaflaub ("Historical Approaches to Homer") undertakes the daunting task of surveying the uses of Homer as a source for historical study, including Near Eastern linguistic and archaeological evidence as well as epic traditions across time and space. He points out frontier lines in scholarly research and warns of the pitfalls awaiting the unwary or over-optimistic. Further, Raaflaub highlights promising areas of future research.

Part VI The Archaeology of Greek Regions and Beyond

"The Palace of Iolkos and Its End", by Vassiliki Adrimi-Sismani, focuses on excavations of the LH IIIB and LH IIIC Early levels at Dimini. She lays special emphasis on the renewed discussion about the origins of pseudo-Minyan and hand-made burnished wares.

In "Early Iron Age Elite Burials in East Lokris", Fanouria Dakoronia reviews tombs, grave goods, and their interpretation by scholars up to this point. She argues against the definition of all but three burials of the region as elite.

Irene S. Lemos ("Athens and Lefkandi: A Tale of Two Sites") compares the two locations in their development from LH IIB to LG, looking especially at burials. She emphasises continuity of settlement in both places, but contrasts the urban centre of Lefkandi with a conglomerate of small villages at Athens, reflecting on the differing socio-political developments and their consequences for the settlements.

In "The Early Iron Age in the Argolid: Some New Aspects", Alkestis Papadimitriou looks at the visual culture of the region from the time of the palatial collapses to LPG, focusing particularly on pottery and burials, emphasising continuity, and linking the evidence to polis formation.

Brigitta Eder ("The World of Telemachus: Western Greece 1200-700 BC") discusses material culture in a structural framework of time and region with a view to gleaning information on elites and systems of power.

"Knossos in Early Greek Times," by J. N. Coldstream, deals with continuity, focusing on burial and cemeteries, cult, and settlement formation. Coldstream further highlights, as he himself puts it, "ripples on the surface" (581), that is instances of discontinuity which did not seriously disrupt existing structures.

In "Praisos: Political Evolution and Ethnic Identity in Eastern Crete c. 1400-300 BC", James Whitley presents results from a field survey of the site and the environs of Praisos. One of the key issues is the question of the creation of a distinct ethnic identity after 1200 and its expression in specific areas of material culture.

"The Gilded Cage? Settlement and Socioeconomic Change after 1200 BC: A Comparison of Crete and Other Aegean Regions", by Saro Wallace, focuses on both subsistence and value goods in Crete and Central Greece between the twelfth and ninth centuries BC. She highlights the importance of settlement and settlement change in relation to society.

In "Homeric Cyprus", Vassos Karageorghis sets out to re-evaluate the last four decades of archaeological research on Cyprus in light of its connection to the epics and the title "Homeric Cyprus" coined in the 1960s. The author sticks to this name, shifting its meaning from the Cypriotes imitating Homer to Homer describing a form of koine elite culture to be found, amongst other places, on Cyprus.

The editors and contributors to this book set themselves a highly complex and rather daunting task, to create a long-standing reference volume for LBA and EIA Greece. The large number of papers in this collection could easily have produced a rather disjointed picture. However, common threads link individual arguments and sections nicely. While a synthesis of the period accessible to the non-specialist reader remains a desideratum, this volume makes an excellent port of call for scholars and advanced students working in the area. In short: this reviewer considers "Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer" definitely a success.

Table of Contents

Part I Political and Social Structures

James C. Wright. The Formation of the Mycenaean Palace

Thomas G. Palaima. Wanaks and Related Power Terms in Mycenaean and Later Greek

Cynthia W. Shelmerdine. Mycenaean Palatial Administration

John T. Killen. The subjects of the Wanaks: Aspects of Mycenaean Social Structure

Pierre Carlier. ἄναξ and βασιλεύς in the Homeric Poems

Walter Donlan. Kin-Groups in the Homeric Epics (Summary)

Part II Continuity-Discontinuity-Transformation

Oliver Dickinson. The Mycenaean Heritage of Early Iron Age Greece

Joseph Maran. Coming to Terms with the Past: Ideology and Power in Late Helladic IIIC

Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy. Late Mycenaean Warrior Tombs

Alexander Mazarakis Ainian. The Archaeology of Basileis

Maria Kayafa. From Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age Copper Metallurgy in Mainland Greece and Offshore Aegean Islands

Catherine Morgan. Ethne in the Peloponnese and Central Greece

Part III International and Inter-Regional Relations

Beate Wagner-Hasel. Gift Exchange: Modern Theories and Ancient Attitudes

Jan Paul Crielaard. Basileis at Sea: Elites and External Contacts in The Euboean Gulf Region from the End of the Bronze Age to the Beginning of the Iron Age

David Ridgway. Aspects of the 'Italian Connection'

Maria Iacovou. From the Mycenaean qa-si-re-u to the Cypriote pa-si-le-wo-se: The Basileis in the Kingdoms of Cyprus

Nicholaos Chr. Stampolidis and Antonios Kotsonas. Phoenicians in Crete

Part IV Religion and Hero cult

Hans van Wees. From Kings to Demigods: Epic Heroes and Social Change c. 750-600 BC

Carla Antonaccio. Religion, Basileis, and Heroes

Anna Lucia D'Agata. Cult Activity in Crete in the Early Dark Age: Changes, Continuities and the Development of a 'Greek' Cult System

Part V The Homeric epics and Heroic Poetry

Michael Meier Brügger. The Rise and Descent of the Language of the Homeric Poems

Edzard Visser. Homer and Oral Poetry

Martin Schmidt. Some Remarks on the Semantics of ἄναξ in Homer

Kurt Raaflaub. Historical Approaches to Homer

Part VI The Archaeology of Greek Regions and Beyond

Vassiliki Adrimi-Sismani. The Palace of Iolkos and Its End

Fanouria Dakoronia. Early Iron Age Elite Burials in East Lokris

Irene S. Lemos. Athens and Lefkandi: A Tale of Two Sites

Alkestis Papadimitriou. The Early Iron Age in the Argolid: Some New Aspects

Brigitta Eder. The World of Telemachus: Western Greece 1200-700 BC

J. N. Coldstream. Knossos in Early Greek Times

James Whitley. Praisos: Political Evolution and Ethnic Identity in Eastern Crete c. 1400-300 BC

Saro Wallace. The Gilded Cage? Settlement and Socioeconomic Change after 1200 BC: A Comparison of Crete and Other Aegean Regions

Vassos Karageorghis. Homeric Cyprus

Index.

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