Lecture 2 - Background and Context

4 Pages

Classical Studies
Course Code
Classical Studies 2301A/B
Randall Pogorzelski

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LECTURE 2: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT “We are much less Greeks than we believe” • Said by Michel Foucault, in Discipline and Punish, page 217 • Michel Foucault was a French historian in the late twentieth century, and one of his most significant books is called Discipline and Punish: the Birth of Prison • Some believe that in some sense, we are still Greek, as we live in a nation still governed by democracy • Foucault, however, argues that we are not – democracy today is not at all the same as it was in classical Athens o Classical Athenian democracy only gave the right of political participation to a small class of wealthy, adult men and it relied on a large number of unpaid women and slaves o Moreover, citizenship/membership in a city state is different from citizenship/membership of a territorial state • Foucault argues crime and punishment was also different from that of classical Athens o Ancient crime and punishment are concepts involving spectacle, while modern crime and punishment are involved surveillance o In ancient times, the social context of crime and punishment was centered on public spectacles – take for example, the arenas in Rome where criminals were executed in a spectacular fashion o In the modern world, however, punishment does not occur in public venues but is hidden; instead, we use surveillance to watch potential criminals o In the ancient world, individual = object and community as a whole = subject, whereas in the modern world, individual = subject and community as a whole = object o Ancient ideas of criminality focus on effects on the community whereas modern ideas of criminality focus on the psychology and agency of the individual in the society • ‘To render accessible to a multitude of men the inspection of a small number of objects’: this was the problem to which the architecture of temples, theatres and circuses responded. With spectacle, there was a predominance of public life, the intensity of festivals, sensual proximity. In these rituals in which blood flowed, society found a new vigor and formed for a moment a single great body. The modern age poses the opposite problem: ‘To procure for a small number, or even for a single individual, the instantaneous view of a great multitude.’ - Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 216 • A few notes about dates: o BC = Before Christ o AD = Anno Domini (in the year of the Lord) o BCE = Before the Common Era o CE = Common Era o Years BCE count down (323 BCE is the year before 322 BCE) o There is no year zero, so 1 CE comes right after 1 BCE o 323 BCE is in the fourth century BCE o BCE, CE, and BC all go after the year, but AD goes before the year (e.g. 2012 CE or AD 2012) • The Franchthi Cave in the Peloponnesus was inhabited continuously from about 20,000 to 3000 BCE • The first evidence of agriculture and the domestication of animals at the cave dates to about 6000 BCE • Archaeological evidence suggests that agriculture and the domestication of animals arrived as a “package” from the Middle East • The Early and Middle Bronze Age was dominated by a civilization that we call Minoan – we call it Minoan because it was centered on Crete and Greek myth tells us that the legend king of Crete was Minos • Minoan civilization was remarkably advanced, but we know little about it. The language of Crete during the Early and Middle Bronze Age was not Greek, and their gods were not Greek either. • They also developed a writing system called Linear A around 1900 BCE – looks mostly like administrative record-keeping • Around 2000 BCE, there is evidence of widespread destruction in mainland Greece followed by the emergence of a new culture. Archaeologists theorize an incursion of Indo-European peoples. • During the Middle Bronze Age (2000 – 1600 BCE), the dominant Minoan civilization on Crete greatly influenced the emerging Mycenaean civilization (named after Mycenae) of the mainland. It was during this time that Greek mythology as we know it, developed. • In the 15 and 14 centuries BCE, almost all Minoan centers were destroyed by fire. When the palace at Cnossus was rebuilt, the language changed from a language we don’t know written in Linear A to a kind of Mycenaean Greek written in Linear B. Art and architecture also changed dramatically in the 15 century BCE as Mycenaean culture absorbed and superseded Minoan culture. • The domination of Mycenaean civilization in the Aegean lasted from about 1400 BCE to about 1100 BCE. It was during this time that the historical Trojan War happened. Frank Calvert (1863 – 1868) Heinrich Schliemann and Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1870 – 1873 and 1879 – 1890), and Carl Blegen (1932 – 1938) excavated at Hissarlik and proved that it was the site of Troy. • There are nine levels of Troy. Troy VI was particularly impressive but was destroyed by an earthquake around 1250 BCE. Troy Vlla was destroyed by an invasion around 1150 BCE. Blegen argued convincingly that Troy Vlla was the Troy of Homer. • Around the time of the Trojan War, Mycenaean civilization collapsed for mysterious reasons. Starting in about 1200 BCE, the great cities were destroyed by fire one by one over the course of about two generations. Similar destruction occurred all over the eastern Mediterranean from the Hittite Empire in the east to Sicily in the west. Egyptian inscriptions describe a powerful invasion of “northern peoples,” or “sea peoples.” • Between 1100 BCE and 900 BCE (the Early Dark Age) communities were small and simply organized, but around 900 BCE they started to get larger and more complex. It was during the Late Dark Age (900 – 750 BCE) that the legends surrounding the Trojan War took shape. o Called the ‘dark’ age cause we have so little evidence about the period, especially written evidence • The legends of the Trojan War were a new kind of myth. No longer was myth based on entirely religious ritual, but now it was also based on literary narratives with a discernible relationship to history. • The 8 century BCE was a time of great change in Greece (end of the Dark Age and the start of the Archaic period). The traditional date of the first Olympic games was 776 Bth, and this is probably not far from the truth. The Homeric epics were written down during the 8 century. The formation of the polis (pl. poleis) occurred around this time as well. o Polis – kind of city state that formed the basis of Greek political life (we get the word ‘political’ from the word) th • The Greeks also sent ou
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