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The Greek Vision of Prehistory

  • E. D. Phillips

The tradition of Greek thought with which we are concerned here is quite different from the mythology that preceded it, and, as it develops, has to contend with philosophical and literary traditions no less sophisticated than itself, but inspired by other interests than scientific curiosity. It treats occasionally of human physique in a manner which is scientifically interesting, but does not anywhere, in my opinion, present a theory of man's physical evolution from animal ancestors. It foreshadows much of the speculation about cultural progress which has been current during the last 150 years, touching also on the origins of religion and language, Its rather scanty remains represent a period of seven or eight centuries, the same during which medicine and some other branches of science were actively pursued or initiated by the Greeks.

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[1] 109–201.

[2] As most recently Baldry, H. C., ‘Who invented the Golden Age?’, Classical Quarterly, n. ser. 2 (1952), 8392 , and Hesiod’s Five Ages’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 17 (1956), 5534 , and Guthrie, W. K. C., In the Beginning (1957), ch. IV.

[3] See Gwyn Griffiths, J., ‘Archaeology and Hesiod’s Five Ages’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 17, 10919 , and ‘Did Hesiod invent the Golden Age?’, ibid., 18 (1958), 91–3, in controversy with Baldry.

[4] On primitivism see the texts and commentary in Lovejoy, A. O. and Bass, G., Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity (1935).

[5] Fragments of Anaximander and other cos- mologists are quoted from Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (D-K), the two volumes of text (fifth or later editions), where mentions in later writers are classified as A and direct quotations as B. Here, D-K, 1, Anaximander, A. 10, 11 and 30.

[6] For a full discussion see Loenen, J. H., ‘Was Anaximander an Evolutionist?’, Mnemosyne, ser. 4, (1954). 21432 .

[7] D-K, 11, Archelaus, A. 1 and 4.

[8] D-K, 1, Xenophanes, A. 191.

[9] See Uxkull-Gyllenband, W., Griechische Kulturentstehungslehren (1924), 6–7.

[10] D-K, 11, Anaxagoras, B. 21.

[11] Ibid., 102. A. On the hand in ancient thought see Spoerri, W., Späthellenistische Berichte über Welt, Kultur und Gutter (1959), 148–52.

[12] See D-K. 11, 253–71, Uxkull-Gyllenband, op. cit., ch. v, Nestlé, W., Platon, Protagoras (1931 ), introduction, and Guthrie, op. cit., 84–94.

[13] 320D-322D.

[14] 454–507-

[15] 332–64.

[16] 195–218.

[17] 1, 8.

[18] See Reinhardt, K., ‘Hekataios von Abdera und Demokrit’, Hermes, XLIV (1921), 49251 3, and Vlastos, G., ‘On the Prehistory in Diodorus’, American Journal of Philology, 67 (1946), 519. D-K print Diodorus, 1, in frag. B. 5 of Democritus, 11, 135–6.

[19] Printed by D-K in frag. B. 5 of Democritus, loc. cit.

[20] D-K, 11, Democritus, B. 154.

[21] Ibid., B. 144.

[22] Ibid., B. 38.

[23] Ch. III.

[24] In a passage of his book On Piety, reconstructed from Porphyry, On Abstinence, 11, 5–7. See Uxkull-Gyllenband, op. cit., 38–9.

[25] Quotations and summaries in Wehrle, F., Die Schule der Aristoteles, 1 (1944); frags. 47 and 49.

[26] See Reinhardt, K., Poseidonius (1921), 392–401 and 408–13, and his article ‘Poseidonius’ in Pauly- Wissowa’s Real-Encylopädie, XXII (cols. 558–826), cols. 719–25 and 805–14.

[27] E.g. Seneca, Moral Letter 90; Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, 11, 123 ff.; Vitruvius, On Architecture, 11, 1; Dio Chrysostom, Oration XII; Philo, On the Posterity of Cain, 162; Gregory of Nyssa, On the Human Frame, IX (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, 44. 139–51); Strabo, Geography, 1, 2, 34, VII, 3, 3.

[28] Here, Letter to Herodotus, 75–6; see Bailey, C., Epicurus (1926), 246–9, and Arrighetti, G., Epicuro, Opere (1960 ), both editions of the remains.

[29] Diogenes was a wealthy landowner who left inscribed monuments at Oenoanda in Lycia. Text in Arrighetti, op. cit., 473–75.

[30] Book v, 805–1360.

[31] E.g. Herodotus, 11, 4–5 and 10 on the Delta, and Xanthus of Lydia, as quoted in Strabo, 1, 3, 4, on Asia Minor and its rocks.

[32] History of Animals, 11, 8–9, 502 a-b.

[33] Ibid., 1. 16, 494 b.

[34] Thucydides, 1, 8.

[35] Diodorus, 1, 9 ff.

Mr Phillips is Lecturer in Greek in Queen's University, Belfast. In this article he traces the development in Greek thought of a certain tradition of enquiry into the origins of man and his culture which is ancestral to the modern study of prehistory.

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