Classical History: a Sketch, with Three Artifacts


in Understanding the History of Ancient Israel

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264010
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734946 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Classical History: a Sketch, with Three Artifacts

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This chapter examines the chronological range of Greco-Roman history and the nature of the main narrative sources. The discussion begins about 1200 BCE, with the end of the Bronze Age palace culture, conventionally called Mycenaean. The destruction of the palace centres – at Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos, and Thebes – was responsible for preserving the ‘Linear B’ tablets, which form the earliest evidence for the Greek language. By the sixth century, Greek city-states were established widely round the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This is the time of what is sometimes called ‘the Greek miracle’, the origin of philosophy and science as well as historiography. The chapter draws attention to three archaeological discoveries and the way their evidential value has been assessed: a gold mask, discovered in 1876 in the first of the ‘shaft graves’ at Mycenae, the so-called tomb of Agamemnon; an artefact discovered in 1977 by the Dutch archaeological team excavating the temple of Matuta at the Latin town of Satricum; and a gold bulb, or locket, discovered in 1794.

Keywords: Greco-Roman history; narrative sources; Mycenaean; Linear B tablets; Greek language; historiography; gold mask; temple; gold bulb; tomb of Agamemnon

Chapter.  7189 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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