The Emergence of European Civilisation

The Emergence of European Civilisation

Where does one begin? Since History is process, being ‘made up’ as societies move through time, there is no real point at which anything ‘began’. But to know about the past, we need documents. Archeological remains leave us guessing, while the ability to leave documents is a primary indicator of ‘Civilisation’. This series is based on the observation of culture, as the way a society thinks. Therefore we privilege those phases of emergent ‘Europe’ which have left us evidence of how people thought and felt about their experience.

Contents of the video (59 mins.)

  • An appreciation of the problem of the pre-historic centuries of European life.
  • We begin with the briefest of surveys of primordial societies, from the deepest recesses of the past, and of the already civilised societies of the Near East.
  • Something of the atmosphere of primordial religion; religion being the crucial expression of the cultural ‘glue’ that binds a society together and animates it.
  • Brief mention of the cultural shift in the 19th century, for the first time disvaluing civilisation as such, in favour of the primitive. The Celtic culture of central Europe as an example of a primordial culture
  • An account of how Heinrich Schliemann ignited the study of Mycenaean culture by his amateur archaeology at Troy and Mycenae.
  • A detailed account of the character of Mycenaean society and its position in historical time.
  • The Greek Dark Age 1200-900 BC and what we don’t know.
  • The first glimmer of a new society in Archaic Greece.
  • The re-learning of writing and the oral poetic tradition: false memories of the Mycenaean world. The legendary figure of Homer and the foundation of the European literary tradition.
  • Homer as a religious reformer: the imagining of a benign super-human – and yet still human – world of the gods.
  • The peculiar quality of the Archaic Greek person vis-à-vis the Homeric gods – a religious sensibility that is now foreign to us.
  • The Homeric gods stand at the fountain-head of all ancient Mediterranean civilisation, and are still a tap root for our way of being in the world.

The audio-only version is included in this download
The full text of the narrative is also included in this download

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