Light wipes out Darknessby Rit Nosotro
Compare the rise of Greek Hellenism coming after the Mycenaean civilization, with the rise of Greek Renaissance coming after the Roman Empire. How did the death of each civilization cause a “dark age” from which “enlightenment” was born?
It is impossible to argue with the profound impact Greek culture has had on the rest of the world. In the Western world, Greek culture has shaped our concepts of learning, of high culture, of literature and science, all for both good and ill. The arrival of Greek culture in western society occurred during the renaissance, which interestingly enough means "re birth." If the re birth was of such great impact, what of the actual birth of Greek culture? What parallel can be seen between the rise of Hellenic culture from the ashes of the Mycenaean civilization in approximately 750 BC and the rebirth of Greek culture in the mid 1400's in Europe, from the ashes of the Roman Empire through the dark ages? Upon close inspection, the parallels are striking.
The Greek islands and the central body of Greek land, the Peloponnesus, was dominated by the Greek Mycenaean culture which arose out of the Minoan culture. The Minoan culture and empire was based in Crete. Archeological evidence from the Peloponnesus shows a non Greek culture living there pre Mycenaean invasion. This gives us our first parallel to dark ages Europe. Europe experienced the invasion of a much larger empire, the Roman, during its young years, in around 40 BC. Thus, both territories share a larger invading body which dominates them culturally and militarily for years.
The Mycenaean held sway over the Peloponnesus and the Greek isles for about 500 years (approximately 1600 BC to 1100 BC). However, the Mycenaean culture was declining for about 100 years and apparently ended around 1100 BC. The reasons for the decline and fall of the Mycenaean are fascinating, largely because of there parallel to the fall of the Roman Empire.
Some archaeologists speculate that some sort of natural disaster occurred around 1200 BC, resulting in many Mycenaean cities falling during that period. However, many Mycenaean cities survived for another hundred years. The explanation given is much less dramatic than a major natural disaster, but a direct parallel to the Roman fall. There was a northern barbarian tribe known as the Dorians who allied with a Greek tribe known as the Heracladae which invaded around 1200 BC but where defeated. In one hundred years, the invaders come again and finished off an empire plagued by an internal rot. As anyone knows who has studied the history of the Roman empire, this is eerily similar to the final years of Rome’s existence. The invading barbarians from the north took the form of Scandinavian tribes sweeping down in massive numbers and ultimately sacking Rome in 410 AD. While it must be understood that everything that happened to Europe and Rome was on a necessarily larger scale than what happened to the Greece and the Mycenaen’s, however the obvious parallel remain.
Europe and Greece are now left recovering from barbarian invasions and the fall of the dominant culture. Greece is left with migration as a result of the invasions and a cultural turn inward, with each community forced to rely on its own abilities to survive, with no larger political structure to keep them united. This shows the nucleus of the Greek city state. Because of the total loss of culture and learning, we have no record of writing or any vestige of culture for 350 years (1100 750 BC). Therefore, Greece had its own "dark ages" out of which a new culture had to rise. Europe’s parallel "dark age" was possibly not as dark as the Greek. The Roman culture had been ingrained into the Germanic tribes of Europe and we do not have the same period of cultural silence as we have with the Greeks. Indeed, we see a mix of Roman and Germanic culture producing the distinctly European culture. This notwithstanding, Europe did experience a loss of the culture and learning in the period between the fall of Rome and the rise of Carlemagne. Literacy and education where all but lost, with the few who could read being sequestered in monasteries, mostly in Ireland.
The rise of classical Greek culture can be directly linked with the defeat of the Persians by the united forces of Athens and Sparta. This victory of a massive Persian invasion during 480 479 BC allowed Greece to mature in peace and here we see the height of Greek accomplishments. Athens and Sparta maintained their dominance on Greece, with Athens forming the Athenian empire. It is this empire that allowed Athens to achieve its high cultural status, as a result of the heavy taxing of its people to maintain the empire. These taxes didn't need to go to a war effort and they where put into the city of Athens and its culture.
The Athens of this period was democratic and a place where art, philosophy, drama and literature where encouraged. In Europe, the renaissance, which spawned years of advancement in learning, was the result of discovering the works of this period. Yet the period following the European renaissance which is known as the enlightenment, led to some of the greatest philosophical follies in mankind’ history. Greek culture, driven by its philosophy was primarily interested in the discovery of knowledge and later with Plato, the effect was a condemnation of material or physically things with the glorification of the soul or mind as the highest good. This philosophy was a direct result of the monastic, ascetic movements of the medieval period and the later Hegalian idealism of the post enlightenment period. Hegel’s concepts of the dialectic greatly influenced Marx and Engels. How ever you look at it, the rebirth of Greek culture in Europe, which as we have seen is very similar to the rise of Greek culture from a historical standpoint, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the scientific advancements of the enlightenment, such as Galileo's and Newton's astronomical and mathematical advancements, brought light into a dark world. However, the philosophical worship of man as the paragon of animals has led to little but misguided souls and angry mobs. As Romans 1:21 says "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts where darkened" (NET).
A more telling comparison is that the excesses of Greek pleasures, as reflected in the adopted capricious pantheon of Roman gods, led to the internal collapse of Roman culture. This is similar to the current capricious situational ethics of western culture which glorifies man’s pleasure as the measure of morality. Given historical understanding, such a predictable path leads away from true light and into darkness.
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