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Ask me about Ancient Greece

Discussion in 'Research' started by Chilari, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    In light of the "ask me about swords" thread, I thought it might be a good idea to volunteer to share my own expertise, in case anyone was interested or wanted to know more.

    My credentials: I've got a BA in Ancient History and Archaeology and an MA in the archaeology of the Classical Mediterranean. So in fact my knowledge spans more widely than simply ancient Greece, but also covers, in a less detailed manner, Iron Age and Roman Britain, the Roman Empire in the 1st centuries BC and AD, and changes in archaeological practice in the last century and a half or so.

    My areas of particular expertise are thus:
    *Beekeeping in the economies of the ancient world, including 10th century BC Levant, 2nd millennium BC Egypt, classical Greece and 1st century AD Roman Empire.
    *Bees in the mythologies of Greece and Rome (I did my MA dissertation on Bees and Beekeeping in the Ancient Mediterranean)
    *The Greek city of Corinth (my current research, building on an assignment I did while at uni)
    *The link between writing and magic in archaic and classical Greece (a chapter of my BA dissertation examined this, and I have more recently written an article on this topic based on that research)
    *The Roman legionary fortresses at Wroxeter and Chester, in the West Midlands in England (on which I wrote an essay for uni, and mroe recently adapted that essay to publish as an article online)
    *Making pottery the ancient way (I did a module on ceramic technology, and know about things like firing techniques, what to add to the clay to stop it cracking during firing, etc)
    *The politics of the design of the classical Greek house (again, uni assignment turned article)

    I know also about the general chronology of the classical period, the different forms of government and the politics of various city states, the technological level, stuff to do with literacy and the probable reasons behind the different levels of literacy from city to city, the Greek gods and their place in classical art and plays, and also a little about the economies of Greece and Rome - what commodoties were most valued, easiest to produce, easiest to ship, where they were produced, etc.

    I'm not sure how useful any of this will be to anyone here, to be honest - more suited to historical fic people, who in any case either ignore the classical Greek period or else have a background similar to mine. But the stuff about the bees and the pottery is fairly transferable to lots of different types of societies, and the stuff about magic and writing might work too with fantasy worlds. So whatever anyone wants to know about, if I know the answers or know where to find them, I'll do my best.
     
  2. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    I have a terrible pun question:

    How much does a Grecian earn?
     
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I believe the pun you were looking for is "What's a Grecian urn?" to which the answer is "About one drachma a day".
     
  4. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    Crap, I thought I was being original.
     
  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I'm sorry to say it's one of the most frequent questions I get asked when telling new acquaintances I have studied ancient Greece. "Do you want to be an archaeologist then?" is the second most frequent question, though the vague statement "That sounds interesting" beats both.

    For the record, the answer to the other question is "no, I dislike digging, and prefer being surrounded by stacks of books and articles doing research that way instead." Excavation is mostly carrying heavy buckets, sifting dirt, and having back pain and/or sunstroke, from my experience.
     
  6. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    But you're forgetting that time you outran that rolling boulder, or recovered the ark of the covenant. I mean, those things happen to all archaeologists, right?

    Er..
     
  7. Alright, I'll give this a shot. My question is: Was there a religious aspect to the Minoan palace economy, and if so, to what degree?

    I'm not even sure I remember this correctly (because my brain tends to overwrite information that doesn't concern swords) but a while back I saw this documentary that seemed to suggest that the palaces on Crete were not some big houses where the royals lived, but the center of the economic system where wealth and resources were collected and redistributed. So far, so good. But I think they also claimed the operation was run by the clergy and that the "palaces" were actually more like temples.

    I found the idea of a "temple economy" very interesting: A society built around a religious center responcible for the economic wellfare. It's a concept I'd like to explore in my writing at some point. Trouble is, I haven't been able to find any information on the matter, and I'm not even sure if this was a real theory, or just the documentary makers talking out of their bums, or me making all of this up in my head by misunderstanding what they were saying. (Because, again, my brain's way of processing information can be... unreliable.)
     
  8. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    And I fall at the first hurdle. I don't really know much about the Minoans, besides where they were and the name of one site - Knossos. The civilization was dead long before anything I know much about emerged. My interests lie in the archaic and classical periods - several centuries after the Minoan civilization declined. Sorry I can't help.
     
  9. San Cidolfus

    San Cidolfus Troubadour

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    Okay, let's toss this one out there. This is less about historical fact and more about suppositions between the pages of history, but why not?

    Who do you believe is responsible for orchestrating the assassination of Philip II of Macedon?
     
  10. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I don't consider myself an expert in any ancient civilization, but I've read quite a bit about Egyptian, Nubian, and to a lesser extent sub-Saharan African cultures. One of my special interests is the argument over the Egyptians' ethnic/racial identity (i.e. whether they were primarily Black African, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, or a mixture of the two); if anyone is curious about that, ask me.
     
  11. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Um...

    Don't really know a huge amount about that, either, to be honest. My studies have focussed more on life and lifestyle than wars and politicians.
     
  12. San Cidolfus

    San Cidolfus Troubadour

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    Aw, too bad. I was hoping to g(r)eek out a bit.

    ...I think I hate myself for that pun.
     
  13. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    I love it!

    What do you can an exercising nun?

    A firm believer!
     
  14. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Chilari, my question is a little strange: What do you know about the mysterious outbreak known today as the Plague of Athens?? What exatly was it? Some say that it could have been a Filovirus similar to Marburg, but I believe that it was something else and it's still hiding somewhere out there =P

    What would have happened in the war if the mysterious disease had never appeared??
     
  15. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I can't comment about the medical aspect of the plague, having no medical knowledge myself, and nor have I read extensively on the topic, but I am familiar with the Thucydides passage. From a purely Atheno-centric viewpoint, he claims that Athens felt the plague far more seriously than other places, and the Peloponnesian towns barely at all. It's difficult to verify the accuracy of this, since he was far more likely to hear from victims of the plague, and see its effects himself, in Athens, whereas stories of plague elsewhere would be far less detailed; and in any case people are prone to assume themselves most harshly hit in situations like that. But if the Spartan army was free to attack Athens' primary silver mines with minimal resistance and little harm to themselves, as Thucydides claims, there must have been a different; most likely, the Spartans never came into contact with those suffering from the plague, who were mostly within the city or larger towns, because their goal was not to attack towns but to damage Athenian resources.

    Given that it appears the Spartans basically had free rein over Attica because most of the Athenian populace were ill or looking after the sick, it seems that the plague had a huge effect on this early stage of the war - had they been able to counter the Spartans, or at least to defend the mines, even had they lost such battles they probably would have been better off, since the rest of the economic and agricultural framework of Athens and Attica would have remained largely intact, and while many soldiers might have died in a battle against Sparta, back in Athens, the women and children, and the craftsmen and boat builder and sword smiths and so on would not have, enabling continuing economic activity and producing higher numbers of future-soldiers than under the plague, where I can only assume children were particularly vulnerable (they generally are).

    Thus had Athens not been hit by plague in the early years of the Peloponnesian War, I think it likely that they would have had a stronger economic and military position in the later stages of the war. That does not necessarily translate to ultimate victory; it depends - might the Spartans have reacted in a bigger way if Athens was percieved as a greater threat, for example? But I will say this: I would conclude, ignoring the possibility that Sparta's strategy and approach might change in response to a stronger Athens, that either Athens would have eventually won, or, if not, that it would have delayed Sparta's victory and made it harder to win. Given that Sparta's victory was somewhat Phyrric - with the Spartan side and in particular its main ally Corinth being worst hit economically - I would expect a plague-free and thus stronger Athens to have ultimately won.
     
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  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I don't have a specific question. But those two topics sound fascinating to me, and I know nothing about them. They sound like the kind of topics that could easily inspire ideas for my worlds. But they could also disappoint, and I wouldn't want you to take up too much of your time when I don't know what to ask or if I'd find it useful.
     
  17. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Ah, well on those two topics, you need not worry about whether you're wasting my time or not, because I have already written about them in articles I posted on Suite 101. The first was based on the most interesting conclusion from my undergraduate dissertation, on the graffiti of the Athenian Agora, and the second was based on research I did for a presentation I gave to my classmates while standing in the theatre at Thorikos in Attica. Here are the links if you're interested: writing is magic; the classical greek house.

    Now because of Suite 101's wordcount limit, those are both somewhat shorter than they could be, but if you have any more questions about either topic I would be very happy to answer them. Also I couldn't get hold of pictures I wanted with the right to commercial re-use, so you might want to do a google image search for "olynthus house plan" and look at the third pic when reading the classical greek house one. There aren't any plans online for Thorikos houses.
     
  18. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Ok...the Oracle at Delphi was supposed to be pretty good, as oracles go. The usual 'proof' I see of this is how they correctly predicted the one King to be boiling a turtle or some such. But...is there a good collection of other Delphi Oracle prophecies?

    And, somewhat related, the Sybaline (Sp?) books at Rome were taken seriously for a long while there. I believe they fall into the 'long lost' category, but I suspect that at least some genuine quotations survive.

    I say 'genuine' because the early christian church was fond of burning books they didn't care for, and had no real problem with faking others.
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Thanks, I'll be sure to look those over and see if I have any questions. I'll be sure to let you know if I find anything that helps with my writing.
     
  20. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Not that I am aware of. You might try Sarah Johnston's Ancient Greek Divination (2008) - I've not read it, but it's what came up that's relevant when I did a search through my old uni's library catalogue. If you are a current student or member or staff at a university, you should be able to access the online e-book, but I no longer can :(

    I believe Herodotus and Thucydides record a handful in the context of certain events, but the indexes in the version I have don't point them out, so you're probably better off using an online version and just using ctrl-F.
     
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