Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Aren't Homer And The Pentateuch Mentioned More Often In The Same Breath?

They come from the same part of the world. Greece and the Western coast of Turkey aren't so far from Egypt and Israel. They each occupy a central, dominating place in a culture, first the Greek culture in the one case and through it the Graeco-Roman and its heirs; and in the other case the Jewish culture, and then through it Christendom and Islam and very many of the same cultural inheritors. The events portrayed by each of them occurred, if they occurred, in the 13th century BC or thereabout. They each existed as oral epic passed down for some time before they took written form. Each one took roughly the written form with which we're familiar no later than the 6th century BC.

In hindsight, we can see both Greece and Israel for the first time after what is called the Ancient Near East Dark Age or the Late Bronze Age Collapse: a period of chaos and destruction in Egypt and the Hittite and Canaanite civilisations in the 13th and 12th centuries, from which we have very few written documents. As with the European Dark Ages between AD 476 and 800, this period in the ancient Near East is sometimes called a Dark Age because very little contemporary writing sheds light on what happened, and also because what we do know about the era seems to have been very desolate and bleak and bloody. After this gap in the historical record, we can see Greece in what had been the territory of the Mycenaeans, and Israel in what had been Canaan. It's unclear to what extent the Greeks were descended from the Mycenaeans, and to what extent the Israelites were descended from the Canaanites. The Mycenaeans and the Canaanites had written with a syllabic script, and the Greek and Israelites both wrote with alphabets which both came from some original alphabet. We don't know exactly when or how the Greeks and the Israelites began to write.

Homer and the Pentateuch both describe events which may or may not have actually happened -- the Trojan War and its aftermath, and the Exodus -- but which if they did were no doubt significantly altered in the written versions. It's debatable whether there ever really was a Moses or Joshua, or an Achilles or Helen. Or a Homer. The parallels just don't stop.

Can it really be that these parallels are not often remarked upon and investigated?

Well, they should be mentioned in the same breath, for countless reasons, and if it's really the case that nobody before me has done so, then it's high time someone did and I'm someone and I'm mentioning them, so there!

No comments:

Post a Comment