The Influence of the Mediterranean on Western Culture
This blog post explores the ways in which the Mediterranean influenced Western culture, specifically examining the technological innovations, artistic influences, and literary legacies that the Etruscans and Greeks left on the West. It also delves into the communal identities and nationalist purposes of ancient Greeks and how their sense of community developed amidst the emergence of new athletic festivals and the Persian threat.
Table of Contents
- The Etruscans and Their Greek Influences
- Derek Walcott’s “Omeros”: A Homeric Reimagining
- The Evolution of the Iliad and Odyssey
- Communal Identities and Nationalist Purposes in Ancient Greece
- The Emergence of International Athletics and Persian Threat
Q: How did the Etruscans utilize the material culture gained from the Greeks while retaining their distinct urban culture?
A: The Etruscans creatively and innovatively utilized technology and wealth gained from the Greeks while retaining their distinct urban culture. They quickly adopted the Graeco-Phoenician alphabet for their own language and had access to luxury Egyptian imports. By the 6th century BC, the Etruscans experienced an urban renaissance with fortress walls, temples, water distribution systems, and a trading post in Gravisca, allowing for an influx in Greek pottery imports. Even though Etruscan pottery discovered in the 18th century, thought to be produced in Etruria, was discovered to be Athenian, the 18th-century view of their artistic value remains, with the most expensive selling for over £2 million in 1993.
Q: What is the significance of Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros”?
A: Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros” reimagines Homeric characters living out their stories among the fishing boats and cafes of St Lucia. He draws on Homer’s poetry for names, attributes, and actions of characters, but also refuses to simply pay homage to his Homeric model by offering different interpretations and adding layers of meaning. Through his reimagining of the Homeric stories and characters, Walcott explores themes of colonialism, displacement, and cultural misappropriation, making the poem a powerful critique of the damage colonialism inflicted on the people and cultures of the Caribbean.
Q: How did the Iliad and Odyssey evolve over time?
A: The Iliad and Odyssey are the products of many centuries of oral poetry, gradually expanded and reworked by successive generations of oral poets. The question of authorship became a matter of intense interest in the late sixth century BC, with the Homeridae claiming to be descendants of a blind Chiot poet called “Homer”, author of both poems and several shorter hymns to Greek deities. Recent scholarship has showed that there were likely multiple authors and contributors to the Iliad and Odyssey over time.
Q: How did the ancient Greeks identify themselves?
A: The ancient Greeks identified themselves in multiple ways, including by their territorial, ethnic, and communal identities. The Spartans, for example, identified both as inhabitants of Sparta, heirs to the Pelopid kings of the past, and as part of a wider Dorian community. However, they did not identify as Hellenes or Greeks until the early 6th century BC, around the same time as the development of international athletics.
Q: What led to the emergence of communal identities in ancient Greece?
A: The emergence of communal identities in ancient Greece was influenced by the development of international athletics, such as the Olympic games, which had been played since the 8th century BC and had become international. In the early 6th century, three new international athletic festivals were introduced, and monumental architecture was introduced at Olympia, reflecting the cities’ increasing sense of a wider Greek community and their investment in it. At the same time, a new and threatening power, the Persians, emerged on the eastern horizon of the Greek world, eventually conquering much of the Greek states of western Asia Minor.
The Mediterranean has had a profound influence on the development of Western culture, from the technological innovations and artistic influences of the Etruscans and Greeks to the literary legacies of the Iliad and Odyssey and Derek Walcott’s “Omeros”. The emergence of communal identities and nationalist purposes in ancient Greece also marked an important moment in the development of Western culture, which was influenced by the development of international athletics and the Persian threat. The legacy of the Mediterranean continues to reverberate throughout Western culture, reminding us of the enduring power of this important region.