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Contents

  1. What is ancient Greek medicine?
  2. This is what the ancient Greeks had to say about robotics and AI
  3. Approaching the Ancient World - Routledge
  4. First-year students only
  5. My Shopping Bag

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What is ancient Greek medicine?

Synopsis In an innovative sequence of topics, Ken Dowden explores the uses Greeks made of myth and the uses to which we can put myth in recovering the richness of their culture. Most aspects of Greek life and history - including war, religion and sexuality - which are discernable through myth, as well as most modern approaches, are given a context in a book which is designed to be useful, accessible and stimulating. Excerpt I make no apologies for this book: it has been enjoyable to write, I think it will be interesting to read, and it is rather different from previous books on the subject.

We use cookies to deliver a better user experience and to show you ads based on your interests. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy. She recalls European and American colleagues' shock that Cairo even had a classics department; in fact, it was established in To her surprise, she found a cadre of eager, revolutionary students hungry to engage with classics and to find a way of thinking about Egypt's classical past it was drawn into Alexander the Great's empire and then became part of the Roman empire that might help them develop ideas about their present.

Graziosi also points out the diffusion of classical texts into the medieval Islamic world. With the emphasis on Greece and Rome as "the foundation of western civilisation", it is easy to forget how important the classical world has been in the east, she argues: we owe the survival of many classical scientific and medical texts, for example, to their translation into Arabic during the golden age of Islam in Baghdad in the eighth and ninth centuries. Indeed, argues Whitmarsh, the Roman empire was "the facilitating grid that produced Islam, in dialogue with Persia".

Woolf talks too of Latin translations of the Qu'ran circulating in 12th-century Europe. In this story of interconnectedness and hybridity, rather than isolation and exceptionalism, there lie enormous intellectual and humanist opportunities, Whitmarsh says. There are three million Muslims in Britain, many of them learning an ancient language already.


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There's no reason why, in 50 years' time, undergraduate courses shouldn't be packed with people studying Arabic and Greek culture side by side. Of course, this already exists in a limited way, but it's not a cultural phenomenon at the moment and these worlds mostly exist entirely separately, but it seems to me there's nothing natural in that. How does this new approach to the classical world manifest itself? For a start, it means looking at already familiar texts with fresh eyes. Take, for example, approaches to Herodotus , the "father of history" who provided The Histories , the great account of the causes and events of the Persian wars of the s BC.

This is what the ancient Greeks had to say about robotics and AI

A decade or so ago, a postcolonial approach to his work might have looked at the way he wrote about non-Greeks — Egyptians, Persians, Scythians and others — and concluded that his responses to the "other" tell us more about his own projections than what his, say, Persian characters actually thought or did. Recent scholarship, though, might emphasise Herodotus's own culturally hybrid origins in Asia Minor: he was raised in Halicarnassus , on the Carian coast of modern Turkey — a city that during the Persian wars was part of the Persian Achaemenid empire, ruled by Queen Artemisia , herself half Halicarnassian and half Cretan.

Whitmarsh says: "Halicarnassus was a bilingual Greek and Carian city that had been under Persian occupation. It's not inherently implausible that he had a much more informed sense of the world than we have previously given him credit for. It comes down to networks. If you see Herodotus as occupying a single point from which Greek culture is 'beamed out', that's a less interesting way of thinking of him than as a kind of nodal point between multiple different traditions and cultures.

Herodotus's The Histories is a predominantly Greek-voiced text, but that doesn't mean that we should quieten all the other voices that can be detected within it. Into this story of cultural cross-currents also falls the study of the Greek-language novel — a Roman-empire era prose fiction genre originating in Asia Minor and revived in medieval Byzantium in Persia. Iambilichus , author of the fragmentary work Babylonian Affairs, was writing in his second language, after that of Syriac , and he may have known Akkadian too.

Approaching the Ancient World - Routledge

Another culturally hybrid work is the Alexander Romance, a story that recasts the Macedonian conqueror as secretly Egyptian, so the story of his annexation of Egypt becomes one not of conquest but of the return of pharaonic rule. Whitmarsh says the story reflects a Demotic Egyptian literary forebear.

And it tells the story of Alexander the Great in Egyptian-friendly terms. The interesting thing about this text is that, other than the Bible, it's the biggest seller in antiquity — it goes into 26 languages in antiquity alone, and eventually into [the ancient Iranian language of] Pahlavi , French, Armenian, Bulgarian, Old English.

Whitmarsh adds: "It is a world away from the model of Greek culture as continuous, organic, hermetically sealed from outside influence.


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The other corollary of this approach is, Graziosi says, to "learn other languages — which is of course hard work, but often the only way". Whitmarsh's ventures into Semitic languages have enabled him to read works by, for example, Bardaisan , the second-century AD scholar who inhabited the fringes of the Roman empire and whose works fuse Hellenic, Babylonian and Christian influences.

First-year students only

There is, says Graziosi, "an inequality of availability in source texts: cuneiform [the script in which most Mesopotamian texts are written] was not even deciphered until the s. The first fully scholarly edition of even a text as central as Gilgamesh is only 10 years old. New texts are continually being found — and indeed destroyed — in Iraq and elsewhere. She adds: "We need to have a sense of shared ownership and care for these traditions: it's crucial both in terms of scholarship and politics.

My Shopping Bag

Although there may be far-reaching implications for this fresh angle of scholarship, Whitmarsh says that the approach is squarely in the tradition of a supple discipline which has always had "expansiveness and courage and ranginess … Everything we are talking about comes out of an intellectual tradition that has been devoted to self-analysis. You analyse the thing you are looking at, but you also analyse your own motivations for looking at it in that particular way.

That's our version of scientific empiricism. Classics is a progressive discipline, constantly confronting its own demons, and coming out better and fresher for it. One multiculturalist tactic for diminishing the Greeks is to deny their originality, asserting that they begged, borrowed or stole their ideas from other cultures. We need not dwell on Afrocentrism, the idea that the Greeks stole everything good they knew from black Egyptians; the incoherence and historical ignorance of this theory have been amply and repeatedly demonstrated.

But even scholars who should know better indulge the current fashion for Greek-bashing by attributing their achievements to a vaguely defined East That the Greeks borrowed from their Mediterranean neighbours is obvious: no human society lives in a vacuum, untouched by the customs of other peoples More important, however, is what the Greeks made of their borrowings. Consider the Greek alphabet, the elements of which were adapted from the Phoenician around the 9th century.