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A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World. Vol. 2

July 2012 (116.3)

Book Review

A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World. Vol. 2

Edited by Yves Duhoux and Anna Morpurgo Davies (Bibliothèque de Cahiers de l’Institute de Linguistique de Louvain 127). Pp. viii + 343, figs. 55. Peeters, Leuven 2011. €55. ISBN 978-90-429-2403-1 (paper).

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This is the second volume in this series of essays on aspects of Mycenaean Linear B. Volume 1 treated large issues (see J. Younger, rev. of A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World. Vol. 1, edited by Y. Duhoux and A. Morpurgo Davies, AJA 113 [2009] and so does this second volume, with six additional chapters (numbered from those of vol. 1). A third volume will appear soon.

Chapter 11 (1–32), “Interpreting the Linear B Records: Some Guidelines,” by Duhoux, lists caveats. Interpreting short words needs caution (pa-te = πατήρ, Pylos [PY] An 607, or πάντες, Knossos [KN] B 1055); “A good interpretation makes sense of such an impressive amount of mutually corroborating data that coincidence must be excluded” (2); “Religious explanations should only be accepted when all else fails” (quoting Michael Ventris [24]); and “Use the best and/or latest edition” (3)—this is common sense, but a new edition of the PY tablets has not appeared, and constant new joins make the KN tablets difficult to update.

Chapter 12 (33–136), “Scribes, Scribal Hands and Palaeography,” by Palaima, treats Linear B paleography and scribes, discussing the work of Alice Kober, Emmett Bennett, Jean-Pierre Olivier, and himself.

We now have a succession of early documents: the tablets from the KN Room of the Chariot Tablets (RCT) (Late Minoan [LM] IIIA1), the new fragment from Iklaina (Late Helladic [LH] IIIA1?), and the PY tablets written by Hand 91/Class iv and the Mycenae (MY) tablets from Petsas House (both sets LH IIIA2). Who developed Linear B from Linear A?: “ethnic Minoans” (LM II–IIIA1). If knowledge of writing was transmitted from father to son, then, according to Palaima, “the professional skill of writing [may] always [have] stayed within extended families of Minoan ‘ethnicity’” (124). Since the Linear B documents do not tell us much about the scribes, Palaima cites Near Eastern texts that treat their education, their specialties and distribution of effort, longevity of service, and the existence of women scribes.

Chapter 13 (137–68), “The Geography of the Mycenaean Kingdoms,” by Bennet, envisions cognitive maps. The KN place names (PNs) extend from the far west (Khania) through the center (Knossos, Phaistos) to Lasithi (ra-su-to, Lasunthos) but not farther east. Since sites in the Amari Valley and in east-central Crete do not appear in the RCT, the expansion into those areas may have been later. Later still, the 13th-century Khania (KH) archive must reflect an independent settlement after the fall of Knossos. Thus, Bennet argues, “there is little evidence that KN was in total control of a large, continuous territory” (151). The boundaries of the PY state run from at least the Kyparissia Valley in the north to the River Nedon in the east. The kingdom probably expanded west to east in LH IIIA2: the nine towns in the “Catalogue of Ships” (Hom. Il. 2.591–94) are in western Messenia; the seven towns offered to Achilles (Hom. Il. 9.150–55) seem to be in eastern Messenia. Linear B mentions people from places outside the Aegean (García Ramón [ch. 15]): a3-ku-pi-ti-jo, an Egyptian; mi-sa-ra-jo, referring to Mis.r, a Semitic word for Egypt (KN F 841.4); and ku-pi-ri-jo, a Cyprian (PY Un 443). References to the Aegean from outside includes the Keftiu paintings in early 18th-Dynasty tombs, the Kom el-Hetan “embassy,” and the localization of the Ahhiyawa (“any place where Achaeans settled” [162]). Finally, Bennet suggests that if “Kaptara and Keftiu” derive from *kftr, then Greek Κρήτη may be a “Hellenisation of an indigenous word for the island going back at least to the 18th century” (161).

Chapter 14 (169–212), “Mycenaean Religion and Cult,” by Hiller, begins by stating that Linear B documents relay only economic transactions concerning state religion and deities. The religious sector had its own economy: Potnia owns sheep (KN Dl[1]), bronze smiths (PY Jn), and an unguent boiler (PY Un 249). According to Hiller, state banquets were “festivals organized by the ruler and/or high officials ... [for] political purpose[s]” (178). Thebes (TH) Wu sealings and PY Un 138 list similar, conventional numbers of sheep, goats, pigs, and bovines. We know the occasions for these festivals (eight months at KN, three at PY), ensuring that “offerings were given at the right time” (199). And we know festival names: to-no-e-ke-te-ri-jo, “/thornoenkheterion/” (PY Fr 1222), “the [festivity of the] libation at the throne” (199) (using the channel to the side of the PY throne?). Hiller goes on to argue that the palace “functioned as the (or a) main cult centre” (195). Thus, divinities such as pa-de and Diktaian Zeus were worshiped in the KN palace (first part of KN Fp 1), since the second part of that document mentions sanctuaries outside Knossos. The major PY cult center was at pa-ki-ja-ne, a “‘temple estate’ belonging to the Potnia,” with land holdings, cult personnel, and many servants (do-e-ro/a) of deities. PY Ae 303 lists 14 such women servants “in charge of the gold of the sanctuary”; Hiller compares them to the porena on PY Tn 316. The identification of seven divinities is secure (Ares, Artemis, Dionysos, Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, and Zeus), but not Demeter, Aphrodite, or Apollo. Athena may occur in a PN (KN V 52) and Hephaistos in a man’s name (KN L 588). Hiller unconvincingly explains these lapses (“Athens was an important Mycenaean centre, but ... not one of the most powerful” [184]). These may instead be due to accidents of excavations: Dionysos was an unexpected addition to the pantheon when he first appeared on KH Gq 5 (E. Hallager, M. Vlasakis, and B.P. Hallager, “New Linear B Tablets from Khania,” Kadmos 31 [1992] 61–87). After discussing PY Tn 316, Hiller wonders if Potnia was mortal and divine. The pairing of wanax and Potnia (PY F series) implies they functioned as “human substitutes for some kind of divine pair,” therefore a “theocratic system” (207–8). There are other divine pairs: notably di-u-ja (Dia) and Zeus as well as Hera and Zeus, both pairs on PY Tn 316 (189–90). Toward the end of his essay, Hiller contrasts texts with art: “the iconography of the Late Bronze Age is an ... unreliable guide to religious ideas” (205). But since he began this essay by saying that the tablets record only economic transactions (“no prayers, hymns, manuals of religious instruction” [170]), one wonders how sophisticated are the religious ideas that we do tease from such texts.

Chapter 15 (213–51), “Mycenaean Onomastics,” by García Ramón, reveals that Linear B is mostly names, some 2,000 anthroponyms, 50 theonyms, and 400 toponyms and ethnics. Names of people are recognized by context and by their reconstruction as Indo-European. Several non-Indo-European names in Crete “point to non-Greek populations” (219). Following Nilsson, García Ramón sees Mycenaean religion as syncretistic with Minoan and Helladic components. Potniai “may refer to goddesses of pre-Greek origin” (232), though the word is Indo-European (Ruijgh [ch. 16]). Pre-Greek divinities include names ending in -u-na (e.g., pi-pi-tu-na) and -a-sa (e.g., wa-na-so-i: dative dual of wanassa, “to the two Queens” [e.g., Demeter and Kore]) (236). The mentions of PNs outside their kingdom reveal the close relations Mycenaeans had with one another and with other nations. We recognize (in addition to Bennet, above), a Lacedaimonian (ra-ke-da-mi-ni-jo, TH Fq 229), Cretan men (ke-re-te, PY An 128), and Knidian and Milesian women (ki-ni-di-ja and mi-ra-ti-ja, PY Aa 792, 798).

Chapter 16 (252–98), “Mycenaean and Homeric Language,” by Ruijgh, argues that epic originated in the Mycenaean (“Proto-Achaean”) age and developed until the poems were codified (ninth century). According to Meillet (Les origines indo-européennes des mètres grecs [Paris 1923]), Indo-European verse is based on isosyllabicity (fixed number of syllables [Sappho’s hendecasyllabics]), but dactylic hexameter is based on isochrony (“a sequence of feet of equal duration”). Ruijgh writes, “it is tempting to suppose ... the dactylic hexameter was taken over from the Minoans” (257).

Ruijgh examines the fossilized formulas embedded in Homer and other linguistic evidence to sketch out how these proto-epics developed through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. “The Homeric dialect is an artificial language” based on contemporary East Ionic with elements of “the Aeolic dialect” and “Arcadian and/or Cyprian” (255). Since Arcadian and Cypriote both derive from Proto-Achaean, then early traits derive from Mycenaean. The Homeric poems therefore went through three phases: Proto-Achaean/Mycenaean, Aeolic, and East Ionic. The “Ionic poet Homer” inherited “Aeolic and Mycenaean” formulas and “prefabricated word groups” (256): πολυμήτις Ὀδυσσεύς, 83 times, is never replaced by πολύβουλος, same meter.

“Homeric formulae contain irregularities [that] disappear when they are transposed” into Linear B (257). For instance, the spondaic line Μηριόνης ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ appears seven times (e.g., Hom. Il. 2.651), but -ῳ ἀν- must be scanned as one syllable, and ἀνδρει- is unique (cf. ἀνδρο-φόνος). When we “transpose this verse into Proto-Mycenaean,” it becomes a “perfect holodactylic hexameter”: Μηριόνāς hατάλαντος Ἐνυαλίωy ἀνṛχwόντāy (287).

Ruijgh explains how the Mycenaeans adapted an Indo-European term for an imported powerful female: “The noun potnia may be the Greek translation of Pre-Greek /hēra/, the feminine corresponding to the Pre-Greek title /hērōs/ ‘lord’” (cf. LSJ, s.v. “Ἥρα”; Linear B ti-ri-se-ro-e, “Thrice-Lord,” PY Tb 316) (279). He concludes: “The poets and their audiences appreciated this highly artificial dialect as the most elevated form of the Greek language: for Homer’s audience it was the language of Greek heroes and of the glorious past” (259).

There is much good information in this volume, and, like the first volume in the series, it belongs in every Aegeanist’s library.

John G. Younger
Department of Classics
1445 Jayhawk Boulevard, 1032 Wescoe
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7973

Book Review of A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World. Vol. 2, edited by Yves Duhoux and Anna Morpurgo Davies

Reviewed by John G. Younger

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 116, No. 3 (July 2012)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1163.Younger

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