As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Minoans of ancient Crete did have a written language entitled Linear A by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who is attributed for much of his work with the Linear A script. Now, the artifacts that contain this writing are few and have yet to be fully translated. However, the script of Linear B, which existed later with the Mycenaeans on Crete, has been translated through the use of ancient Greek and can be used to decipher some Linear A characters.
LINEAR A (1800 BCE to 1400 BCE)
The Linear A script is a graphic script with about 90 symbols, 80% of which are shared with Linear B. In my interview with Professor Brockliss a few weeks ago, he said that Linear A was mostly used for economic purposes, with literacy only in the hands of the very wealthy or the servants of the very wealthy. It was not used for storytelling, in contrast to our oral unit, which relates back to our discussion in class on Thursday, where we discussed that writing’s first uses were related to numbers and accounting. The new convention of writing brought about a change in their preservation of knowledge. Instead of preserving stories and history, they were inscribing the necessities of economy. Evidence can be found in this inscription:
During the time of the Myceaneans after the Minoans, Linear B became more widely used and there have been more records found in this similar hieroglyphic script. Through the language of ancient Greek, Linear B has been able to be translated, but the purpose of Linear B did not change from Linear A. It was only later on when the Greeks had more of an influence on Crete that ancient Greek started to form out of Linear B script. (If you want to read more about this transition into the standardized ancient Greek, look at Misa’s blog post from group 6) As Professor Burton was saying in class, having things written down enabled them to be referenced, catalogued, and standardized. This encouraged institutionalized knowledge and the proliferation of education.
ANCIENT GREEK SCHOOLING
Ancient Greece is rich and vast in its history of education, so I will focus on an aspect I found intriguing. In the book Nobility, Tragedy, and Naturalism, J.J. Chambliss discusses the argument of Plato that Homer was the educator of Greece. The “poetic wisdom” of Homer leads to a growth in “philosophical wisdom” in which “poetic wisdom” as expressed by Homer predates philosophy but is not less associated with wisdom. In fact, Chambliss points out that these are different types of wisdom, but that the former led to the latter. And why is this important? Because this “poetic wisdom” was so deeply engrained in the Greek people from such a rich history of communal and oral traditions, “[Homer’s] influence was such that no serious writers on education in Greek antiquity could entirely escape his influence” (Chambliss 17). This proves that even though the Greeks had the new convention of writing, the ideas from an oral culture persisted.
To end, I wanted to include this video I found which relates back to our own education in this class this semester. Plato, one of the great philosophers and teachers of ancient Greece, also had many other views on education as expressed in his work The Republic. I found this great video on YouTube where Professor Stephen Hicks goes through Plato’s Cave Analogy to explain the process of education.
(start at 1:23, end at 7:25)
I found this interesting because it relates to Professor Burton’s admonition to seek self-directed learning. Is it unnatural in human nature like Plato said to not have a teacher force us to see the light, or is it unnatural because society has taught us we need a teacher with a strict syllabus and curriculum to learn and be edified?