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Tarn. and Menander

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Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:07 pm

I have been reading "The Greeks in Bactria and India" by W.W. Tarn.
He offers a very plausible reconstruction of events with Demetrius considering himself having a claim to the Mauran Empire due to marriage connection and relying on Apollodotus and Menander as his subordiantes to mount a pincer movement on what had been the Mauran Empire. His thesis collapses, however, if the alternative dating of Meander that places Meander significantly later is accepted.
In 'Civil Wars and Alliances in Bactria and North-Western India after the Usurpation of King Eucratides' François Widemann considers Tarn's thesis as so discredited to be barely worth arguing against. I am reluctant to take Widemann's word for it as this rejection seems mainly negative. That is to say that the alternative to Tarn seems to be an incoherent list of possible dates of reigns with not even a hint of the motivations behind that.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:25 pm

daivid wrote:I have been reading "The Greeks in Bactria and India" by W.W. Tarn.
He offers a very plausible reconstruction of events with Demetrius considering himself having a claim to the Mauran Empire due to marriage connection and relying on Apollodotus and Menander as his subordiantes to mount a pincer movement on what had been the Mauran Empire. His thesis collapses, however, if the alternative dating of Meander that places Meander significantly later is accepted.
In 'Civil Wars and Alliances in Bactria and North-Western India after the Usurpation of King Eucratides' François Widemann considers Tarn's thesis as so discredited to be barely worth arguing against. I am reluctant to take Widemann's word for it as this rejection seems mainly negative. That is to say that the alternative to Tarn seems to be an incoherent list of possible dates of reigns with not even a hint of the motivations behind that.


I forgot to answer this. Just wanted to say, this all seems interesting but I can't remember much about it. This end of the Hellenistic world sorely, sorely, needs more work but the evidence is scarce and difficult (I think you'd need Greek, Sanskrit, some Prakrits and Aramaic. Wow) and for some reason not popular. All I remember of Tarn's work is his untenable positions on Alexander, the brotherhood of man and all that tosh.

If you search for Menandros as "Milinda" you can find a Buddhist dialogue purported to be, but unlikely obviously, by him regarding all sorts of philosophical principles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milinda_Panha

Have you read Narain's work on the same topic btw? Its of a similar age to Tarn I believe.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:13 pm

Scribo wrote:I forgot to answer this. Just wanted to say, this all seems interesting but I can't remember much about it. This end of the Hellenistic world sorely, sorely, needs more work but the evidence is scarce and difficult (I think you'd need Greek, Sanskrit, some Prakrits and Aramaic. Wow) and for some reason not popular. All I remember of Tarn's work is his untenable positions on Alexander, the brotherhood of man and all that tosh.

His Greeks as standard bearers of brotherhood of man is in evidence in this work to. I agree with you that it is tosh but with Alexander there are plenty of alternative interpretations. For the Greeks in India it is quite hard to find anyone willing to stick their necks out to construct a plausible interpretation of events and so I'm much more ready to forgive Tarn for that here even while taking it with a pinch of salt.
Scribo wrote:If you search for Menandros as "Milinda" you can find a Buddhist dialogue purported to be, but unlikely obviously, by him regarding all sorts of philosophical principles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milinda_Panha

I've seen that. The one thing it does show is that he was considered to be a great general to be emulated and hence he probably wasn't clueless when commanding troops - despite dying on the battlefield. (But which battlefield and against who - so many unknowns. :( )
Scribo wrote:Have you read Narain's work on the same topic btw? Its of a similar age to Tarn I believe.

I shall look out for that, thanks.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:06 am

daivid wrote:
Scribo wrote:Have you read Narain's work on the same topic btw? Its of a similar age to Tarn I believe.

I shall look out for that, thanks.


I have now seen Narain's book. It does have the problem that there is a lot of details on coins that he sort of throws at you raw so you quickly forget. He also indulges in some speculation that is as sweeping as Tarn. His theory that sometime in the millenium before Alexander arrived Greeks had already migrated to Baktria is pretty thin on concrete evidence.

He did write a bit later than Tarn and the strongest part of book is his critique of Tarn. Reading Tarn, however much one wants to believe given that he tells such a coherent story I really felt the need to see it tested by being subjected to the kind of critique that Narain attempts. This is also the most easy part of Narain to remember as the coherence of Tarn's thesis gives Narain's critique focus making it easier to remember what he is saying. (I might add that because Tarn is very specific in his speculation it is possible for Narain to pick holes in it. It is difficult to critique a theory that sometime over vast period of time Greeks might have arrived in Baktri under un specified circumstances,)

Hence, thanks very much for that pointer.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby mwh » Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:41 pm

Oh, that Menander. Tarn notoriously pronounced Menander “the dreariest desert in literature.” The Athenian dramatist, that is. Certainly this one is a much more interesting character. It’s a truly fascinating period – and region! – but way beyond my competence to assess. Time for a rehabilitation of Tarn, perhaps, or is the chronology damning?

Greek migration to central Asia in 2nd millennium? That sounds … interesting.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:51 pm

mwh wrote:Oh, that Menander. Tarn notoriously pronounced Menander “the dreariest desert in literature.” The Athenian dramatist, that is. Certainly this one is a much more interesting character. It’s a truly fascinating period – and region! – but way beyond my competence to assess. Time for a rehabilitation of Tarn, perhaps, or is the chronology damning?

Narain does land a few punches but not to my mind a knock out blow. But the chronology is Tarn's stongest card. He is surprisingly specific about dates.


mwh wrote:Greek migration to central Asia in 2nd millennium? That sounds … interesting.

I no longer have Narain's book to check what he wrote. However, vague as Narain was, he did seem to favor a date closer to Alexander than the the Trojan war.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:44 pm

Mwh: Have you read Davis Hanson's borderline retarded book "Who Killed Homer?" I do not use allusions to mental problems lightly, that book really deserves it. Anyway he says something similar about Menander (ho poietes)...

The time period and place IS fascinating and I once wanted to do something on it having a strong grasp of one of the necessary non Greek languages (Sanskrit) and a weakish grasp of another (Aramaic). However I've since learnt that the sources themselves are heavily spread across Sanskrit, Pali, several local prakrits, Aramaic and I think Elamite as well as Greek involve a lot of reconstruction of things like epigraphic habit. One of the most important Sanskrit documents, a really early purana, is so textually poor in areas its often unhelpful. That's our *best* literary text. So it's hopeless more or less. All coins.

Greeks in central asia 2000bc though would be insanely implausible on several levels though on a round about level people might try to use that to explain Indo-Iranian words in the Mycenaean corpus (e.g relating to archery). Which remain a mystery.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:56 pm

people might try to use that to explain Indo-Iranian words in the Mycenaean corpus (e.g relating to archery). Which remain a mystery.


I'm sure this explanation has been offered, and no doubt exploded, before, but what about Scythian contacts?
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Sat Jun 14, 2014 10:55 pm

Qimmik wrote:
people might try to use that to explain Indo-Iranian words in the Mycenaean corpus (e.g relating to archery). Which remain a mystery.


I'm sure this explanation has been offered, and no doubt exploded, before, but what about Scythian contacts?


Well, why not? I mean basically the problem with delineating a specific Indo-Iranian group is that we're dealing with prehistory and there's no real reason to put a Scythian ethnogenesis that far back. I think it's fair to say we can rule out the Indic side of Indo-Iranian simply because there's no reason, Mitanni aside, to put them that far west. Whereas we know the Iranians were wandering far and wide. If I had to pick a specific name I'd probably use "Danawoi" given that there is a similar reflex in Greek as well as it being a really common Indo-European tribal name. It might explain its constant occurrence in mythology. It's...tempting but there's no evidence so I tend to just use a generic Indo-Iranian/Iranian label.

Hmm I wonder if there are early Indo-Iranian words NOT related to archery in the corpus? I know the Iranian word for rose (rhodos) is already present but...not much else comes to mind. Anyway, sorry, the question was how did these words get there. I guess when you suggested Scythians you meant in terms of roaming and conquering? It's possible. The evidence is so thin anything is possible. Usually words transfer via trade but it seems really odd to trade only for bows especially since the arrowheads we find tend to use local stones. But, then again, the state of early Aegean studies is laughable.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Sat Jun 14, 2014 11:29 pm

Scribo wrote:Hmm I wonder if there are early Indo-Iranian words NOT related to archery in the corpus? I know the Iranian word for rose (rhodos) is already present but...not much else comes to mind. Anyway, sorry, the question was how did these words get there. I guess when you suggested Scythians you meant in terms of roaming and conquering? It's possible. The evidence is so thin anything is possible. Usually words transfer via trade but it seems really odd to trade only for bows especially since the arrowheads we find tend to use local stones.

Could not the hiring of Scythian archers as mercenaries explain the transfer of archery related words?
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jun 15, 2014 4:05 am

Could not the hiring of Scythian archers as mercenaries explain the transfer of archery related words?


The Mycenaean or pre-Mycenaean era seems a little early for that. It's possible that Iranic archery words entered the pre-Greek language before the Mycenaeans descended into Greece. Pre-Greek speaking populations might have come into contact with Iranic-speaking Eurasian nomads (i.e., Urskythen) skilled at archery (and what Eurasian nomads weren't skilled at archery?) in NE Greece/Macedonia/Bulgaria. Anyway, I would question whether the Scyths as a whole were actually a distinct group even in historical times, as opposed to a range of nomadic groups with different though mutually interacting Iranic languages or dialects. I don't think the breakup and dispersion of PIE-speaking populations in the second millenium is very well understood, and it probably never will be.


But who knows? Speculation is most fun when not constrained by facts.
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Iranic archery words was: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:10 am

Qimmik wrote:
Could not the hiring of Scythian archers as mercenaries explain the transfer of archery related words?


The Mycenaean or pre-Mycenaean era seems a little early for that.

As I understood it, the Linear B tablets are basic book keeping records. They record things like which peasant was given the use of which cow. It didn't record things like whether the king/ruling aristocrats took into his/their service a bunch of wandering nomads.

If it those records to record things like military service (and so make it possible to say whether mercenary service was practiced) then those records are more extensive than I had realized.

Is my current impression wrong and are the records more extensive?

Qimmik wrote: It's possible that Iranic archery words entered the pre-Greek language before the Mycenaeans descended into Greece. Pre-Greek speaking populations might have come into contact with Iranic-speaking Eurasian nomads (i.e., Urskythen) skilled at archery (and what Eurasian nomads weren't skilled at archery?) in NE Greece/Macedonia/Bulgaria. Anyway, I would question whether the Scyths as a whole were actually a distinct group even in historical times, as opposed to a range of nomadic groups with different though mutually interacting Iranic languages or dialects. I don't think the breakup and dispersion of PIE-speaking populations in the second millenium is very well understood, and it probably never will be.
.


I have always understood Scyths as very vague term that certainly doesn't imply any sort of political unity. But a group of peoples with very informal political relationships sounds like an ideal recruiting ground for external political entities.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:12 am

Qimmik wrote:
Could not the hiring of Scythian archers as mercenaries explain the transfer of archery related words?


The Mycenaean or pre-Mycenaean era seems a little early for that. It's possible that Iranic archery words entered the pre-Greek language before the Mycenaeans descended into Greece. Pre-Greek speaking populations might have come into contact with Iranic-speaking Eurasian nomads (i.e., Urskythen) skilled at archery (and what Eurasian nomads weren't skilled at archery?) in NE Greece/Macedonia/Bulgaria. Anyway, I would question whether the Scyths as a whole were actually a distinct group even in historical times, as opposed to a range of nomadic groups with different though mutually interacting Iranic languages or dialects. I don't think the breakup and dispersion of PIE-speaking populations in the second millenium is very well understood, and it probably never will be.


But who knows? Speculation is most fun when not constrained by facts.


Yes that's the important bit. Even now a lot of our conceptions of ethnogenesis derive from 19th century nationalistic models...wholly unsatisfactory. Bundle that together with the fact that we're reading from a Greek viewpoint and I'm sure the problem is rather self evident. Actually, when it comes to, say, tribal groupings I find it much better to largely abandon any work done by those actually researching early Greece and its contacts and just skip ahead to later Roman studies. Seriously, a lot of stuff on Scythians is insanely propagandic anyway (Russians etc) and the modelling Roman historians use is so much more sophisticated and in line with comparative evidence. Generally speaking when we give names like "Scythians", "Saka-Raukae", "Alanoi" etc we should understand them coming together of several distinct but related tribes for a handful of generations. Sometimes not even that. Hell even the ancestors of the French, the Franks, were a sort of federation of not just several Germanic tribes but also Iranic such as the Taifali and the Alans... It's not so much Atilla and the Huns as Atilla and the Huns and Pals...etc etc

Speaking of dialects breaking up I'd say we're understanding better and better as times goes on actually. In fact you may be interested in the work of Andrew Garrett which is pretty transformational. It's arguing that rather than a simple divergent tree model we should be postulating several stages of convergence as well throughout PIE's history. This stuff is certainly promising and certainly helps explain problems in e.g Mycenaean Greek > later Greek.

http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~garret ... rgence.pdf is a chapter on convergence specifically. Here's an example of a new model in action: https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j ... 1936,d.ZWU (via Google since it's a direct download).

I mean whenever the PIE stuff looks bleak just look at the insanely complicated situation Sino-Tibetan linguists find themselves in lol. Though, on the other hand, this is the area of Classics dying by far the fastest.

daivid wrote:
Qimmik wrote:
Could not the hiring of Scythian archers as mercenaries explain the transfer of archery related words?


The Mycenaean or pre-Mycenaean era seems a little early for that.

As I understood it, the Linear B tablets are basic book keeping records. They record things like which peasant was given the use of which cow. It didn't record things like whether the king/ruling aristocrats took into his/their service a bunch of wandering nomads.

If it those records to record things like military service (and so make it possible to say whether mercenary service was practiced) then those records are more extensive than I had realized.

Is my current impression wrong and are the records more extensive?


Yes and no. I mean the problem with the mercenary hypothesis for the Mycenaeans is a lack of evidence and it doesn't fit in with Mycenean social structure. The records are reasonably extensive in their own right. I mean take a list of slave girls from Pylos. On one hand it tells us nothing, they had slaves...so what? Yet the slaves are accompanied with a series of local toponyms plus -de/-then so we know the laves are being moved around. We can often link them to other craftsman and even children. More importantly many slave "names" are ethnonyms e.g the Korinthian woman, the Lykian woman, the Aigyptian woman and so on and forth which suggest wide scale raiding and trading. So...it's unlocking the data via analysis that counts.

From Pylos we have extensive geographical information. Thebes and Mycenae are more limited but there is some seriously good info on trade networks. There's a lot of religious content too. As for warriors and stuff, well, yes! The entire Mycenaean corpus gives us extensive details about weaponry and, possibly, weapon production. From Knossos we have the so called charioteer tablets (the B series if you're interested) which list the names of warriors and what they need to be given to use their chariots. So the evidence isn't as dry as one might think. I mean it's no Herodotus, but still.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:17 pm

Thanks for the links. This is very interesting material. It seems to be more in line with the way dialects separate and converge, and innovations spread through adjacent but distinct languages or dialects.

Maybe similar processes were at work in shaping the Homeric Kunstsprache out of elements of two adjacent but distinct dialects--processes that were possibly more complicated than successive phases.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:55 am

Scribo wrote:Yes and no. I mean the problem with the mercenary hypothesis for the Mycenaeans is a lack of evidence and it doesn't fit in with Mycenean social structure. The records are reasonably extensive in their own right. I mean take a list of slave girls from Pylos. On one hand it tells us nothing, they had slaves...so what? Yet the slaves are accompanied with a series of local toponyms plus -de/-then so we know the laves are being moved around. We can often link them to other craftsman and even children. More importantly many slave "names" are ethnonyms e.g the Korinthian woman, the Lykian woman, the Aigyptian woman and so on and forth which suggest wide scale raiding and trading. So...it's unlocking the data via analysis that counts.

From Pylos we have extensive geographical information. Thebes and Mycenae are more limited but there is some seriously good info on trade networks. There's a lot of religious content too. As for warriors and stuff, well, yes! The entire Mycenaean corpus gives us extensive details about weaponry and, possibly, weapon production. From Knossos we have the so called charioteer tablets (the B series if you're interested) which list the names of warriors and what they need to be given to use their chariots. So the evidence isn't as dry as one might think. I mean it's no Herodotus, but still.


Has anyone written an historical novel using these records? It would probably be closer to historical reality than much of Herodotos. :)
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Tue Jun 17, 2014 1:30 pm

Alas no. Historical novels and research rarely go together at the best of times and a lot of this stuff is difficult to access and sometimes even contradictory. I gave the example of the charioteers at Knossos...but when I was researching and comparing military terminology in the Eastern Aegean I came across an article which claimed that those present weren't military personnel at all. It's unlikely...but not exceeding the realms of possibility. Which is the thing for a LOT of the bronze age stuff. We're seldom able to conclusive.

I think it could work if the novel would be reasonably light on details. Just enough to give flavour. I actually tried to do so once (much to shame, creative writing is not my forte). I wanted to set something in the late middle Helladic period about a mannerbund having to interact with the Mycenaean state machinery. Details and even characterisation came relatively easy for me but, alas, I had no plot.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:28 pm

"a mannerbund having to interact with the Mycenaean state machinery."

Sounds Kafkaesque.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:31 pm

Scribo wrote:Alas no. Historical novels and research rarely go together at the best of times and a lot of this stuff is difficult to access and sometimes even contradictory. I gave the example of the charioteers at Knossos...but when I was researching and comparing military terminology in the Eastern Aegean I came across an article which claimed that those present weren't military personnel at all. It's unlikely...but not exceeding the realms of possibility. Which is the thing for a LOT of the bronze age stuff. We're seldom able to conclusive.

I think it could work if the novel would be reasonably light on details. Just enough to give flavour. I actually tried to do so once (much to shame, creative writing is not my forte). I wanted to set something in the late middle Helladic period about a mannerbund having to interact with the Mycenaean state machinery. Details and even characterisation came relatively easy for me but, alas, I had no plot.


In some ways the big gaps give the greater space for artistic license. I was going to add that it would be possible for a writer to read the entire corpus but a quick google search suggests that it is only recently that the corpus has been published and I saw no signs of a translation into English.

So maybe it's not so strange that no author has dared write such a novel.

I just love the way we know the names of some to the cows but not the Kings - so much the reverse of most historical records.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Wed Jun 18, 2014 12:02 am

Qimmik, if only I had the skill....

Yeah David I can see why that would be attractive. If I remember correctly Lindsay Clarke's retelling of the Trojan War tries to have some Mycenaean elements in it...don't quote me on that though. Incidentally I think we have the name of one King from Pylos. There's a tablet, PY Un 718 and the name e-ka-ra2-wo (so either Ekhelawos or Erkelawos e.g holding or urging the war host)which is thought to be the king because....he matches the profile of the guy listed explicitly as King in...PY Un 2 I think. The so called initiation tablet. Yeah it's the same sacrifice or something and OH MY GOD HOW DO I REMEMBER THIS POINTLESS STUFF?! I'm shaking my head. This is how badly this stuff was drilled into me, meanwhile I spent 20 minutes of awful dictionary work trying to get through a book of Ovid this morning despite the fact I've seen every one of those words a good dozen times...
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:57 am

I think we have the name of one King from Pylos. There's a tablet, PY Un 718 and the name e-ka-ra2-wo (so either Ekhelawos or Erkelawos e.g holding or urging the war host)which is thought to be the king because....he matches the profile of the guy listed explicitly as King in...PY Un 2 I think.


A real wanax, or just a basileus?
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:58 am

I think we have the name of one King from Pylos. There's a tablet, PY Un 718 and the name e-ka-ra2-wo (so either Ekhelawos or Erkelawos e.g holding or urging the war host)which is thought to be the king because....he matches the profile of the guy listed explicitly as King in...PY Un 2 I think.


A real wanax? Or a mere basileus?

Daivid, if you haven't already read Chadwick's Decipherment of Linear B, you owe it to yourself to read it. It's a classic--much better than any historical novel.

If you'd enjoy reading a historical novel in which a little-known ancient civilization is given life through the sheer imagination of a master of realistic fiction, you should read Flaubert's Salammbô, which is about a revolt of Greek mercenaries in Carthage and is based on a few sketchy chapters of Polybius.

You might also like Thomas Mann's Joseph cycle.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Scribo » Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:57 am

Yeah he's the wanax. The guy sacrificing to Poseidon and/or being sacrificed to (or it could be vicarious, or it could be scribal speak, or it could be....etc). The gwa-si-re-e are, as you guys most likely already know, more or less foremen at the head of groups of craftsman. It's generally supposed that they rose in status after the central bureaucracy crashed.

P.S I second Qimmik's recommendation of that book and would also add Chadwick's "The Mycenaeans" as the best introduction even today. Sure it's outdated in areas but it still is by far and away better than any other general introduction I've seen.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 18, 2014 12:03 pm

Just dropping by to say that I also think that Decipherment of Linear B is a must. Short book, easy and fun. It reads like a good detective story.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:53 am

Qimmik wrote:Daivid, if you haven't already read Chadwick's Decipherment of Linear B, you owe it to yourself to read it. It's a classic--much better than any historical novel.

I shall definately have a look at that.
Qimmik wrote:If you'd enjoy reading a historical novel in which a little-known ancient civilization is given life through the sheer imagination of a master of realistic fiction, you should read Flaubert's Salammbô, which is about a revolt of Greek mercenaries in Carthage and is based on a few sketchy chapters of Polybius.

I did have a brief look at that after reading Dexter Hoyos' Truceless war . I had the impression that Flaubert was going for a very sensationalist story potraying Carthage as wallowing in decadence which I didn't find credible. Was my impression wrong?
Qimmik wrote:You might also like Thomas Mann's Joseph cycle.
That does look interesting. The emergence of a monotheist religion (very) roughly around the time of an almost-monotheist pharaoh (Akhenaten) does seem at the distance of 3000 years to be too much of a coincidence to be unrelated. Didn't Freud write a book on this? Of course the lack of evidence which is a problem for historians is merely an opportunity for the novelist.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:56 pm

I had the impression that Flaubert was going for a very sensationalist story potraying Carthage as wallowing in decadence which I didn't find credible. Was my impression wrong?


The sensationalism comes in part from Polybius' account and in part from Flaubert's imagination.

Decadence? Wealthy, luxurious, greedy, cruel and indifferent to suffering--but those are normal human qualities.
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Re: Tarn. and Menander

Postby daivid » Sun Jul 06, 2014 9:41 pm

Qimmik wrote:Daivid, if you haven't already read Chadwick's Decipherment of Linear B, you owe it to yourself to read it. It's a classic--much better than any historical novel.


Having now read it I confirm that it is indeed a page turner. My sincere thanks for the recommendation.

Qimmik wrote:
I had the impression that Flaubert was going for a very sensationalist story potraying Carthage as wallowing in decadence which I didn't find credible. Was my impression wrong?


The sensationalism comes in part from Polybius' account and in part from Flaubert's imagination.

Decadence? Wealthy, luxurious, greedy, cruel and indifferent to suffering--but those are normal human qualities.

Though societies can degenerate into such, which is what Polybios aims to show, it is not the normal state. As you seem reluctant to deny that Flaubert portrays such a state as normal I think I'm right to avoid him.
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