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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.05.08 M. L. West, The East Face of Helicon.

West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Pp. 662. ISBN 0-19-815221-3 (pb). $55.00.

Reviewed by Barry Powell, University of Wisconsin-Madison (
Word count: 5203 words

In M. L. West's exemplary edition of Hesiod's Theogony, published in 1966, W. claimed that "Greece is part of Asia; Greek literature is a Near Eastern literature" (p. 31), a remarkable claim when everyone knew that Greece is part of Europe and its literature unlike anything that appeared in the Near East. Yet in the last thirty years others have made similar claims. W. Burkert, especially, argued that "Akkadian cuneiform side by side with Aramaic, Phoenician, and Greek alphabetic script produces a continuum of written culture in the eighth century which stretches from the Euphrates to Italy" (The Orientalizing Revolution, Cambridge, Mass., 1992, p. 31). Here W. sets out to prove his thesis, now a generation old, and we might be disturbed that he has succeeded so well. There are twelve chapters, which I will briefly review in order. In the first chapter, "Aegean and Orient," W. takes a bird's-eye view of salient features of Near Eastern and Aegean cultures that for explanation cry out for direct transmission or a common origin. He does not say this, but if one were to compare Bronze Age Greece with Bronze Age China or the Hopi Indians of Arizona one would not expect to find such common elements, here traceable to ancient routes of trade and communication over north Syria, through Cyprus and Rhodes, to Crete and the Aegean. These are cultural artifacts and not the result of parallel evolution. Such common elements include a substantial list of loan words, often designating commodities, but also social institutions such as kingship with its complex functions and trappings of ritual. The treaties cast by Aegean and Near Eastern kings contain similar formulas. Means of accounting, counting, and weighing are similar or identical. No one disputes the Near Eastern origin of writing on clay tablets or of the Greek alphabet. Musical instruments, and no doubt how they were played and for what reasons, are the same in East and West, as are styles of luxurious behavior. Zeus is a god of storm and high places, and so was Baal of the Levant; each received the same kinds of sacrifices performed in the same way. Finally, W. emphasizes how the transmission of cultural artifacts did not take place at one time but was an ongoing process demonstrable from the Early Mycenaean period down to the sixth century

but raw imports from the East. also describes Sumero-Akkadian wisdom literature. so-called Ugaritic cuneiform is the earliest clear historical attestation to this family of scripts. a topic of gargantuan proportions that W. Chapter 1 is an overview of the whole argument. developed in the rest of the book. Ugarit therefore offers hope for a tradition in which Homer appears in a direct line of descent. Finally. First. Hurrians. disputations. whence sprang the Greek alphabet. copied by Akkadians. The organization of heaven. especially the storm-god Baal's war against Yammu. "Sea. Extant Ugaritic poetry preserves accounts of war among the gods. or was even himself a Phoenician. "Death. the north Syrian port and virtual gateway to the West. prophets. "Ancient Literatures of Western Asia. because the inventor of the Greek alphabet knew this form of the West Semitic writing. W. West Semites. wisdom. of course. proceeds he illuminates with consistent clarity the meaning of his terms. As W. Chapter 3. From this tradition must come the Hurro-Hittite stories about the storm god Teshub's conflict with the older god Kumarbi. turns next to the extremely important Bronze Age literature from Ugarit. who occupied the lands of Mitanni in the ninth to seventh centuries B. the Song of Songs. and finally the Greeks. and in his bibliography alerts the reader to the major publications. Remarkably. hymns. called the Mitanni. Our most regretted loss is the closely related Phoenician literature. It is hard to restrain enthusiasm. for Chapter 2. and royal inscriptions. about a hero Gilgamesh who killed a great monster and sought to escape mortality. prominent internationally in the Late Bronze Age. by which is meant. Ugaritic literature was written in a writing structurally identical to the later West Semitic Phoenician. there is no epic in Hebrew literature. the ill-defended Hurrians of north Syria. Hittites. the relations of language to language and script to script. arguing that the features of divine apparatus so familiar to us from Greek poetry are not Greek at all. the Bible. Hebrew literature. W. "Of Heaven and Earth. a bilingual cultural continuum of the Sumero-Akkadians beginning in the third millennium has left mythical narrative poems about a man who escaped the flood. Aramaic. and Hebrew scripts." explores the world of the gods. presided over by a company of gods at which stands a powerful patriarch. and about the emergence of the world order through the agency of watery beings. and we have some hymns. took over Sumero-Akkadian traditions and handed them to the Indo-European Hittites of Anatolia." which tells us in short compass the things we want to know about these opaque literatures but could not find the time to discover. From time to time they appear among mortals. which tell of the exploits of gods. their presence .C." Some poems are about men. however.B. These myths. or measure praise. history." narratives flattering the conquests of kings. somehow summarizes in eight pages: songs. In both East and West the world is divided into provinces over which certain gods exercise priority. are now fairly well known among classicists. but little known is the evidence for "historical epic. evidently the model for Hesiod's Theogony. on the lack of a tradition of writing on clay. Next.C. psalms. appears to be Sumerian in origin." and Mot. Its nearly complete loss must depend on its having been preserved on papyrus or leather.

their deliberation. his office. "Ars Poetica. or smacking one's thighs. like heaven. Such very odd expressions as "the navel of the earth" turn out to have Semitic models. earth. and human kings can even become gods. men. long or short. recurring phrases and otiose means of expression are as common there as they are in Homeric epic. only to discover they all wanted to go home. A plea for mercy is refused. Genre scenes that punctuate the narrative are similar in Greece and in the East: scenes of feasting where singers entertain and visitors arrive. and such themes as the loss of perpetual youth. bloodless and weak. children. We get a catalogue of forces. In Chapter 4. first comes a kill. as is the notion that a gate opens into heaven and that water bounds the cosmos. Gods lead armies in battle. and the necessity for toil to survive in a fallen world that is distant from a heaven to which men once had admittance. like Agamemnon. but never return. epithets. Threats are made. In just this way Homer initiates the action of the Iliad. and such specific myths as the destruction of mankind. does human suffering come from the gods' anger. and forms of behavior are taken from Eastern literary archetypes. the knowledge of good and evil. women. Kingship comes from heaven. Single combat is waged. ruled over by a king or queen. then a breaking-up into individual encounters." West examines specific forms of style and expression. is entered through gates. City-sackers kill everything in sight. in Homer he was . Narrative strategies are strikingly similar. Gideon. for example that the enemy will be eaten by dogs. There the strengthless dead abide. too behave in similar ways in Greece and the ancient East: they "go down" to their abode. focus falls on the last year or the final stages of the war. a place of gloom and filth. and underworld is Eastern. Although Zeus is Indo-European in origin. Similes. as do human blessings and divine favor granted to certain individuals. Even so. too. The king addresses his army. In descriptions of war. Water separates this world from the next. things we ordinarily take to be culturally specific. In battle. either as message or symbol. The land of no return is also a house. and it recurs repeatedly in Near Eastern narrative. but often too with dissension of certain gods against the chief god. Ghosts. enhance vividness. the dream. Dust envelops the warriors. which. the gods' intervention on earth among the affairs of men. they could not have been notated in prealphabetic writings).revealed by an aura of brilliance. in East as in West. the use of direct speech introduced by stereotyped formulas and such responses a speech can elicit as downcast eyes. The division of the universe into heaven. Whereas verse forms so complex as the hexameter cannot be found in the East (on the other hand. sometimes refusing to take their seats. A great man goes berserk and kills many. Even so are the relations of humans to the divine realm similar in the East and West. often on a mountain top. and finally measures taken. The "Divine Comedy" of gods familiar from Greek archaic poetry can be paralleled in most particulars: the assembly to determine action. In Ugaritic "he was groaning like a lion". sea. They smash the weapons of heroes. for example the initiation of action by describing an unsatisfactory situation followed by complaint to the gods. or has its blessing. biting one's lip. the messenger as agent of narrative action. as between Hector and Ajax or David and Goliath. "tested" his troops. and scenes of dressing and journeys by chariot.

" the slain "bite the dust. Chapter 6." The hands of God or the gods lie upon the people. A story may begin. appears to have originated in the Near East." looks more closely at resemblances between actual verbal formulations." Missiles "rain from the sky. He does the same with the Babylonian Enuma elish and the so-called Phoenician History of Sanchuniathion. So the earth is "broad" and "dark" in both traditions. Soil is "fat." Numerals in the first class are increased by one in the second ("seven years were completed." and the same word designates "grain" and "life. even so do Eastern scribes receive messages in dreams. Collections of deities are "sons of gods. Thoughts are formed "in the heart" or come from outside." Cloth "shines like a star. admits. The power of divinities is cosmic in extent." Battles are "mixed.. "A Form of Words. "There is a city called. The god is asked to come to the suppliant's side." Kings are "bulls." Prayers begin with the god's name in the vocative. Hesiod receives his gift of song from the Muses. looks like the Phoenician Astarte. Past benefits are recorded. called Queen . can be said to be the world's leading expert (although he still insists that Hesiod is older than Homer). Henceforth W." So pervasive and detailed are the similarities between such elements in Near Eastern poetry and Greek poetry that we cannot doubt a historical connection." Hearts are "of stone. W."groaning like a bearded lion. Iapetos looks like Japheth. and rhetorical questions." Battalions advance "like stormclouds." Important structures gleam "like the sun or the moon. Kings are "servants " of gods." Iniquity "reaches to heaven" and warriors "trust in their strength. goes through the Theogony systematically." Hymns and prayers present similar imagery." takes up an author about which W." Tears are common in moments of tension.. Peoples say "Ooh" and "Ah. a Hadrianic work that preserves genuine Phoenician tradition. eight revolutions of time"). Requests of certain kinds follow a certain order. Eastern Ea and Greek Kronos each take the initiative when the other gods cower in fear. The king of the gods assigns powers to lesser gods." In speeches words flow "like honey" and if false are "twisted. sprung from the genitals of Ouranos. For Hesiod. The gods "hear the voice" of suppliants. epanalepsis." "Forever" is "all days. but this nearly universal motif could come from anywhere. Chapter 5. then those of the HurroHittite story of Kumarbi and draws astute points of comparison. About the Eastern background to Hesiod there has been long agreement. summarizes Hesiod's account. W." The bird of prey destroying the weak is a common image. The fearful enemy flee "like deer." Beautiful women are "equal to a goddess. A god increases or decreases "as he wishes. The Succession Myth of the Theogony. for anything desirable. Some prayers issue blank checks. Aphrodite. whereby one generation of gods replaces another." Warriors pour forth like "wasps from a nest. Sky mates with Earth." Heroes are "lions" or "wolves. Decisions are made "by the will of the gods" and the outcome "lies on the knees of the gods. making use of anaphora. but there the similarity ends. "Hesiod." Heroes groan for fallen comrades like "a lion whose cubs are stolen." Speech is figured in similar ways." as numberless "as sand" or "as the stars." words are "windy.. the castration of Ouranos is the separation of heaven and earth. but castration in the Hurro-Hittite myth of Kumarbi does not seem to have the same meaning. falling upon one." The wounded groan "like women in childbirth.

advice to yield . with Gilgamesh. and in Hesiod. god of Mount Casius north of Ugarit.of Heaven. followed by an acceptance of it. for example the admonishment to labor and the need to avoid idleness. Atlas bears resemblance to the HurroHittite monster Ubelluri and to Ullikummi. The odd Greek god Oath has a close Assyrian parallel. a stone monster that grows from Ubelluri's shoulder. Priam's meeting with Achilles is in some ways similar to Gilgamesh's meeting with Utnapishtim. the kinds of lamentations held over Patroclus' body. work to make a creature. Typhoeus was the monster with the hundred heads. The rest of the long chapter is devoted to a detailed and manifold catalogue of incidents. with a comparison between the Greek hero Achilles. just as in Eastern parallels. The Prometheus myth's explanation of sacrificial practice has Eastern precedents. Pandora. or a relative. but an early story may have told how Baal imprisoned Sapon in the mountain. sometimes. Each has a divine mother important to the action. as well as Hesiod's hemerology and bird-omens. begins Chapter 7. her jar may reflect Hittite incantation ritual. and a single language for the Golden Age. as does Zeus's gleeful prediction of disaster when deceived. help mankind against a persecuting senior god. including the image of a horde of weapons blocking the sky. each has a close friend who dies. including specific features: longlife. In the Ugaritic Baal epic. For example. The folktale of the hawk and nightingale is not attested specifically in the East. then gathers interesting detailed comparanda between Ninsun (Gilgamesh' divine mother) and Thetis. and expressions in the Iliad that appear to have Near Eastern antecedents. and especially details of the ghostly appearance to Patroclus. Many deities. Hesiod's hymn to Hecate has close parallels in Babylonian hymns. crafty gods each. similarities to Patroclus' sortie. prompting a railing against mortality. as often in the East. so like that of Enkidu to Gilgamesh. W. Titans are like the Hittite "Former Gods. each hero is impulsive and emotional. After his victory Zeus assigned the gods their offices. Many of Hesiod's apothegms have strong Eastern parallels. whom in one version Zeus defeated on Mount Casius. twelve in number. good weather. At Delphi could be seen the stone that Kronos swallowed. motifs. "The Iliad". who intercedes with the other gods on her son's behalf. it was called baidylos. Prometheus and Ea. Sapon was equivalent to the storm god Baal. W. from the Semitic "house of God" like the stone on which Jacob slept. like the Titans. Certainly an ancient Eastern story told of a god's war against a many-headed serpent. as are similar Hesiodic moral precepts by other Eastern sources. Parallels to the certainly non-Greek myths of the five races have long been noticed in Iran and Judea. The promise of good times to follow on righteous behavior is paralleled closely by Yahweh's instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai. but animal fable is part of the genre of wisdom literature from the earliest times. In the Greek theomachy. followed by short-life and a breakdown of family and virtue in the last age. anomalous in many ways. a divine craftsman makes weapons for the storm god. the gods leaping to their feet at an assembly. descriptions of battle parallel Eastern ones. Of course Works and Days belongs to the ancient Eastern genre of wisdom literature wherein a wise or prophetic teacher admonishes errant rulers." who too were imprisoned in the underworld. Typhon seems to be derived from the Ugaritic Sapon.

" reminds us that Siduri too is veiled. The never-never land of the Phaeacians has much in common with the land of Utnapishtim. wife of the sun-god and goddess of sexual love. Circe otherwise resembles Ishtar. animals that prophesy. armor hung in a temple as booty. "The Odyssey. The theme of the naked unkempt man who is clothed and taken to the city. as Odysseus' savage appearance before Nausicaa echoes Gilgamesh's appearance before Siduri. a god's imprisonment in a jar. Each goddess gives advice about crossing the dangerous waters of death to consult with a prophet. the four streams of water on Calypso's island." may be connected with the hawk-headed sun-god of Egypt. are like the ale-wife Siduri who meets Gilgamesh at the edge of the waters. just as Gilgamesh cannot remain awake outside the house of Utnapishtim. Nausicaa compared to a date palm. Calypso. drops of blood from the sky. the breaking of a truce. Calypso's list of men punished through a goddess's love sounds like Ishtar's complaint when Gilgamesh spurns her. presents a catalogue of incidents and passages with possible Near Eastern antecedents: Menelaus' fathering of a child on a concubine. the simile of the wind and the chaff. a magic staff. the houses and sleep of the gods. friendly goddesses in remote parts. Returning from Aeolus' island. wise never to have been born. and in both cases a god threatens to invert the upper and lower worlds unless the god's will prevails. sought just that. Calypso's special food of ambrosia and nectar. "hawk. speech that is sweeter than honey. the name of . the splendor of Alcinous' palace. images of cows protecting calves. the portent of a snake turned to stone. the disappearance of the island of the Phaeacians. Menelaus' transportation to a paradise at the ends of the earth. making love to one's father's concubine. picturesque personifications. The strange Circe and Calypso. humans who come and go like leaves on the trees. Odysseus. the use of messengers for transmitting instructions. gods who give mighty war shouts. the use of protective plants (moly). including the man who died by falling off a roof. the weak isolated hero who kills a giant. a wall destroyed by the storm god when he is angry. peace between lions and men. Her offer of immortality to Odysseus reminds us that Gilgamesh. in his journey across the waters. with her competence over transforming drugs and wild animals. seduction by the sex goddess. flies gathering around milk pails. parallels the harlot's taming of Enkidu by the waterhole. is no Gilgamesh but in his adventures sometimes has similar experiences. who prefers cunning to brute face-off. The Mesopotamian poem about Nergal and Ereshkigal show Nergal bullying Ereshkigal as Odysseus does Circe. is evidently traceable to the Babylonian goddess Aya. and both goddesses send heroes into the woods to cut timber for a sea journey. the false dream before a battle. a hero-sized cup. as Nausicaa takes Odysseus to town. and the Underworld. Enkidu. so does Enkidu die after he and Gilgamesh kill the bull of heaven. the Chimaera. where Circe daughter of Helios lives. with similar results. Odysseus falls asleep and loses Ithaca. The Greek island of Aiaia. exported to Phoenicia. a god who grows sky-high. the metal dogs before the palace of Alcinous. "the veiled one. Chapter 8. and many more. Penelope's refusal to eat. In the remainder of the chapter W." follows the same method. Both heroes are said in a prologue to have traveled widely and to have gained knowledge thereby. Odysseus' necromancy on the shores of Ocean. the spurned sacrifice. the scale of fate. Circe's very name. As Odysseus' men perish when they kill the cattle of the sun. Numerous similarities tie the Odyssean Nekuia with the poem Gilgamesh.

the suitors' reluctance to kill one of royal stock. birth "from oak or stone". is in the cultural sphere of the Hittites of central Anatolia. the archery contest. and Libya have obvious Eastern origins. son of Io and Zeus. the man who is thrown from a ship and rescued by a fish." the Kadmeia. is evidently the Egyptian bull-god Apis. the golden apples of the Hesperides). discusses Near Eastern elements in Greek literature of the archaic period. Turning to the myths of Thebes. reminiscent of the eleven labors of the hero Ninurta. Penelope's bed. and Ugaritic myth." an iron-age description of the inhabitants of the Theban acropolis. the bow that only the hero can draw. W. illustrated on Eastern seals. Some such features are folktale motifs. Arabos. Laertes' fainting at reunion with Odysseus. notes how twice as many Eastern poetic motifs are found in the Iliad as in the Odyssey. seems to be a Semitic word. so that the story of their marriage may derive from a sacred union of bull and cow.the Sirens. covered with tears. W. the male form. attested in Akkadian. a suitor's hurling of a leg of beef at Odysseus. the seven-headed hydra. the radiance surrounding a divinity. kibisis. the punishment by amputation of ears and nose. and the hasty oath. and that those parallels to the Iliad belong to the early parts of the Gilgamesh story. so like Egyptian propaganda for the birth of pharaoh in the New Kingdom. his being cheated of his birthright. and he builds a cogent model for the name Kadmeioi (whence Kadmos) as coming from the Semitic "men of eld. like the one Jephthah made to Yahweh. sometimes very close (the lion combat. The very notion of a cycle of labors is Eastern too. The name of Myrtilus. From the story of Io we find such familiar Eastern themes as the celestial god's love for a heifer. Nilos. while Belos. the magic hair that ensures power or security. Hurro-Hittite. Most of the exploits find Eastern parallels. appropriate because Lydia. The backwards course of the sun in the struggle between Atreus and Thyestes for the throne of Mycenae is easily . in which seven demons are expelled. In conclusion. W. his strangling of serpents. In Chapter 9.'s discussion of the Kadmos myth is especially strong. the odd leprosy that strikes the Proetids is common in the Near East. sounds like Mursili. Epaphos. the twin brothers who fight in the womb. The strange story of the fifty sons of Aegyptos and the fifty sons of Danaos has a near parallel in a Hittite myth. as was Esau by Jacob. The Gorgo's head has long been connected with representations of Humbaba. Perseus' pouch. "Myths and Legends of Heroes. who like Heracles killed a lion with his bare hands and was undone by a woman. and Tantalus' name too may be Hittite. whose glance too could bring death. the person who escapes pursuit by praying to a god and being changed into something else. whence came Pelops." W. picks up W. Asterios. Pelops' charioteer. Among Argive myths. The myths of Heracles seem almost entirely Eastern in origin: the story of his birth. he derives from Semitic Astarte. for example the foundling. and even the name of Harmonia may derive from Semitic for "fortress. who married Europa. as those parallel to the Odyssey are modeled on wanderings after the death of Enkidu. name of three Hittite kings. Stories of the Tantalids show tantalizing similarities with Hittite myths. and are especially reminiscent of the adventures of Samson. Burkert's speculative attachment of the myth of the seven to an Eastern rite of exorcism.

sentiments. The theft of the Palladion is like that of the statue of Marduk. later spared. where a prostitute. devoted to the The Lyric Poets. reviews elements of all kinds in the poets of the Archaic period. In the Melic poets. Odysseus' feigned madness to avoid the draft looks like the madness of David on the run from Saul. Pindar.paralleled from the reign of Hezekiah. and the motif of the wedding which the gods attended appears also in the Ugaritic Keret epic. into the classical period: transmission did not take place all at one time. compared to sucking beer through a tube. "dream-like" to mean "fine" is Eastern. Enlil's statue flashes and moves of its own accord. Antiphony in Sappho appears to be Eastern. and she is our oldest testimony to the Eastern cult of Adonis. as an eagle cared Mesopotamian Etana there. The mission of Menelaus and Odysseus to Troy. and narrative role. as are animal fables and their morals." very like a Semitic idiom. Chapter 10. at least. both in general theme and in specific detail. Zeus' desire to alleviate an overpopulated earth appears in the Mesopotamian story of Atrahasis. where Antenor. From the Trojan cycle. If it does come to Greece only in the archaic age. The Golden Fleece of the Argonautica looks like the holy fleece common in Hittite rite. found in Mesopotamia as well as on Paros. probably in origin a river spirit. He finds arresting parallels in the East for the licentious women important to the poetry of Archilochus. and the fear of the rising lower class. except in disguised form. protects them. as well as fellatio. the motif of the royal person worried by a dream. looks like that of Joshua's spies into Jericho. is closely paralleled by older Semitic models. W. He finds verbal echoes in Callinus and Mimnermus of Eastern poetry. or rhetorical postures common also in Eastern literatures. as does the Palladion. Simonides. Peleus' struggle with Thetis looks like Jacob's struggle with an angel. The wooden horse looks like an Assyrian siege engine. as Philoctetes' special bow. there is clear evidence for the continuation of the transmission of culture from the late Iron Age.C. and there can be no question of its origin. fixes on social institutions such as that of the scurrilous commentator. The extraordinary self-immolation of Ajax is paralleled by Saul's falling on his sword. to find various phrases. Ibycus. W. also appear in the East. stolen and restolen over a period of 800 years. both in design and function. protects them. have long been noticed. and Solon's moral maxims belong to Eastern wisdom literature. to Homer. telling of the Flood. Even the social tension in Theognis. and certain features of Assyrian cult practice. and the series of rhetorical . but comes to Greece perhaps in the sixth century B. performed against a temple wall. later spared. Its similarities to Eastern versions. From the Persai he notices an odd use of "lord. Phaethon looks a lot like Eastern gods who fell from heaven (including Lucifer). he shows how Sappho consistently takes imagery generated in an Eastern religious context then secularizes it and applies it to love. The flood story is unknown to Hesiod and. notes other similarities in Stesichorus. Such proverbial statements as "nothing surprises me any more" are Eastern in origin too. In an interesting discussion. Anacreon. goes through each play systematically. W. Chapter 11 is given to Aeschylus. and Bacchylides. The raising of the ghost of Darius looks like the witch of Endor. A bird carried Ganymede to heaven.

in general. At the hands of the immigrant bilingual poet we must place responsibility for the transmission of culture from East to West. The ethnically mixed populations of north Syria. Sometimes colophons indicate that an Eastern text is to be accompanied by this or that musical instrument. From hints here and there we can conclude that Eastern singers were not. we cannot expect transmission of the cultural artifacts described in this book to have taken place through written means. evidently something like the Greek aoidos. The traditions that W.C." So are scepter and throne coupled. Cyprus. and into various Greek lands. wish to turn into smoke and escape. Sicily. Still.questions meaning. "The Question of Transmission. Eastern scribes were always biliterate or bilingual. as in Akkadian prayers. From other plays he gathers such parallels as calling the sun "the lamp of the gods. The relation between oral performance and transmission is especially tangled. Also here we find the Eastern metaphor the "tablets of the heart. Victories are awarded by divine judgment. whereas in Greece they never were. and colonization. but far more likely for the West Semitic one. The scribe of the Baal epic even signed his work. identifies two historical periods in which such transmission was likely to have taken place. The style of Eastern literary texts leaves no doubt that they were sometimes intended to be heard as song. does not regard the Prometheus as composed by Aeschylus. and southern Italy must have produced many bilingual speakers of Semitic and Greek. . Certainly the Ugaritic poems were meant to support oral performance in some way. but perhaps by his son. The Supplices offers a clear imitation of divine titles and epithets for Zeus earlier applied to Baal. has been tracing appear to dry up after Aeschylus. Dictation of poetic texts does not seem likely for the cuneiform tradition." addresses the extremely complex question of just how Eastern traditions might have passed to Greece. mercenary service. however. surely drove the Phoenician expansion in the Western Mediterranean. whence the Greek descended directly. whereas in Greece amateurs could write. have good Eastern parallels. In the East. literate. deep. including the notion that humans once lived in primitive conditions and the cosmic cataclysm that closes the play. read aloud by scribes. and the Danaids. The question of transmission is of course intimately bound up with writing and how writing was used and by whom. Crete. in the Late Bronze Age and in the eighth and seventh centuries B. Chapter 12. W. Various phrases and images of divine power in the Agamemnon." where a potentate is praised by a list of bold metaphors. when Greek writers grow away from habits of their Eastern forebears to fashion new styles of expression. which he may have taken down by dictation (just as the Homeric poems were recorded). the enormously repetitive style only makes sense on this assumption. writing was in the hands of a scribal class." W. but learned their songs from written texts. including the net. Assyrian aggression beginning in the ninth century B. and much other intermingling was brought about through war. "Where are they now?" reflect Eastern convention. We hear of a professional singer called naru. Its debt to Eastern models is. So do "panegyric metaphor-strings.C. and some of these must have been singers. We know of the presence of interpreters at all times to serve the international community of traders and travelers.

and pellucid argument to support a radical thesis. makes his argument. astute insight. Every classicist should read this book. Friday. one of the most important in the last generation. Read Latest Index for 2000 Change Greek Display Books Available for Review BMCR Home Archives HTML generated at 13:26:48. rich in deep learning. because I have long felt that something like this must have happened.This is an extraordinary book. I was happy to be persuaded. 03 April 2009 . but we can only admire the thoroughness and sobriety by which W.