Ancient Greek culture is often described as a miracle, owing little to its neighbors. Walter Burkert argues against a distorted view, toward a more balanced picture. “Under the influence of the Semitic East―from writers, craftsmen, merchants, healers―Greek culture began its unique flowering, soon to assume cultural hegemony in the Mediterranean.”
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The rich and splendid culture of the ancient Greeks has often been described as emerging like a miracle from a genius of its own, owing practically nothing to its neighbors. Walter Burkert offers a decisive argument against that distorted view, replacing it with a balanced picture of the archaic period "in which, under the influence of the Semitic East, Greek culture began its unique flowering, soon to assume cultural hegemony in the Mediterranean". Burkert focuses on the "orientalizing" century 750-650 B.C., the period of Assyrian conquest, Phoenician commerce, and Greek exploration of both East and West, when not only eastern skills and images but also the Semitic art of writing were transmitted to Greece. He tracks the migrant craftsmen who brought the Greeks new techniques and designs, the wandering seers and healers teaching magic and medicine, and the important Greek borrowings from Near Eastern poetry and myth. Drawing widely on archaeological, textual, and historical evidence, he demonstrates that eastern models significantly affected Greek literature and religion in the Homeric age.About the Author:
Walter Burkert was Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Zurich.
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