Negotiated Peripherality in Iron Age Greece: Accepting and Resisting the East

Ian Morris

Abstract


Most archaeologists argue that the Aegean was cut off from the Near East in the tenth century B.C., but a new position is winning favor, seeing Iron Age Greece as a periphery to a Lcvantinc core. In this paper, I argue for a more complex model of negotiated peripherality. I try to understand how Greeks made sense of the East. For this, variations in local leadership were crucial Political changes in the Near East c. 1050 B.C. reduced contacts, and in the central Aegean, a new mythology emerged, stressing isolation in time and space and making sense of these shrinking horizons. People deliberately emphasized isolation in ritual, with one exception, a remarkable burial at Lefkandi c. 975 B.C. This inverted normal symbolic practices, using Orientalizing antiques and burial customs which throughout the first millennium were linked to the idea of a vanished race of semidivine heroes. This opposition between an inward-turned present and an expansionist past remained central to ancient Greek social structure..The tenth-century world-view explained isolation and decline; but I concentrate on the ninth century, in which contacts revived. I argue that some leaders struggled to preserve the model of isolation, while others embraced the East, or sought compromise. I trace these style wars at five sites, showing how the use of orientalia generally declined after 850 B.C., although Greek contact with Syria intensified. By 800 B.C. Greeks had negotiated among themselves a new relationship to the Near East, making it less threatening to the traditional order.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.1996.92

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Copyright (c) 2015 Ian Morris

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