I many times heard a version that the advances of the Ancient Greek culture were in fact borrowed from Egypt or the Middle East. I will not buy this. Classical Antiquity civilization had a lot of features which put it apart from any Asian or African civilization and which thus could not be borrowed. Such features include

  • extensive and realistic fine arts, especially sculpture

  • narrative literature of non-religious character

  • philosophical research based on logic, experiment and cross-references between authors

  • extensive deductive legal system and idea of the people as the source of power, idea of counter-balances and checks on the supreme power

and others.

Another idea, that these features were inherited from Proto-Indo-Europeans does not explain why other IE peoples did not exhibit similar culture.

It seems that proto-Classic civilization originated in the Balkans and encompassed several diverse peoples of IE origin (Proto-Greeks, Thracians (including Dacians), Illirians, Macedonians, Liburgians, Messapians, Paeonians, Bryges (later known as Phrygians), possibly also proto-Italians).

So my question is

  • What are the arguments pro and contra of proto-Classical civilization in the Balkans?

  • Are there any remains that point that such civilization existed?

  • Whether there are other theories of the origins of the Classical culture?

  • If proto-Classical culture existed, whether it played any prominent role in Europe such as playing a role of a cultural center?

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    "I many times heard a version that the advances of the Ancient Greek culture were in fact borrowed from Egypt or the Middle East. " - can you please provide a reference to specific work stating that? Without an example of what was considered to be borrowed it's very hard to impossible to either confirm or disprove what did and didn't happen.
    – DVK
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:09
  • 1
    So Classical Antiquity is really meant to be Greco-Roman? I'm slightly confused on that.
    – MichaelF
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:48
  • Not only Greco-Roman but also including a range of natons that became less prominent in history. For example, Thracians who created things like these static.atlasobscura.netdna-cdn.com/images/place/… upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6e/… philipharland.com/Blog/uploaded_images/BendisPiraeus.jpg en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reproduction_of_Thracian_tomb_2.jpg
    – Anixx
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:25
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    What is the time and place in history that you see Classical Antiquity as taking this theoretical quantum leap forward? The Mycenaean civilization, for example, seems fairly similar to the other Mediterranean peoples of that time, like the Phoenicians. So sometime between then and the golden era of Greek Philosophy?
    – user4139
    Dec 5, 2014 at 14:31
  • Have you considered the option that during the thousand years those millions of people came up something new, so part of their culture is original or significantly departed from their source?
    – Greg
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:46

2 Answers 2

  1. Greeks came not into the empty space. There were older, Minoan and even more old civilizations on this place before.
  2. I think, the very important influence was from the Crete civilization, that was very original. Look at their pictures.
  3. Of course, there was also influence from barbarians. All waves of Greek population were barbarians themselves sometimes.
  4. Influence from the cultures and civilizations of smaller islands in Egeian sea could be important, too. Lesbos, for example.
  5. They sailed Mediterranean and surely, knew Etruscan civilization and Tartess, too.
  6. Herodotes starts his history with tales on Lidian state and other Asia Minor states. The first coins, Creusus and so on. Before Persians came they were with Greeks the parts of one greater cultural entity. For example, they used the same Oracul.
    1. The states around Greece, as Macedonia and Epir, were considered non-Greek, but they always belonged to the common culture and made their investments in it, too.

All of these external influences and Greek own work within made what we know as classic Greek Civilization.

Protoclassical civilization - it was Greek civilization before 500BC, apparently? They built their culture for centuries. Classical period - it is only 5th and 4th centuries. The term proto(-)classical is not commonly accepted. 8-6 centuries in Greece history are called Archaic Greece.

  • 1
    Etruscans borrowed Greek religion, gods and writing. They cannot be the source of the Greek culture.
    – Anixx
    Nov 5, 2013 at 8:44
  • @Anixx. Please, reread the question. We are talking on the CLASSIC Greek culture. It is younger than the Etruscian one.
    – Gangnus
    Nov 5, 2013 at 14:43

There were many civilizations during, "classical antiquity". Should we focus primarily on the Greeks? If so, why then should we exclude their counterparts, such as, the Romans, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, as well as many others?

If one wants to solely focus on the origins of Classical Greek Antiquity, then that is another question altogether.

The earliest evidence of Greek civilization dates back to the town of Mycenae in the Northeastern Peloponnese-(about 100 miles West of Athens). Around 1600 BC/ BCE-(in the wake of the massive volcanic explosion on the island of Santorini, as well as the gargantuan Tsunami which followed and subsequently, destroyed the Minoan civilization on Knossos in Crete), Mycenae emerged as a major power. The Greco-Mycenaeans sailed to a devastatingly beleaguered Crete and essentially, Hellenized the island and much of its surviving population-(assuming, that the Minoan Cretans were not originally of Hellenic descent). However, the Greco-Mycenaeans also absorbed some elements of Minoan Cretan culture as well.

Mycenae, was the first Greek city-(1000 years before the rise of Athens and many other Greek city-states). It is the oldest city in Greece and is perhaps the 2nd oldest city in Europe-(or Urban settlement) behind Knossos. Today of course, Mycenae, like Knossos, are archaeological sites and are currently, very distant from their urban heyday.

The proliferation of Greco-Mycenaean culture can be found throughout Greece-(primarily in the Peloponnese, the Ionian islands of Western Greece, the aforementioned Crete and yes, their influence can be found in Athens). About 1000 years before the construction of The Parthenon, the Mycenaeans built a fort and when touring the Parthenon, as well as examined very closely, one can find scattered remnants of the Mycenaean fort.

Homer's famed, "Iliad", is, to a great extent, a Mycenaean historical narrative. When we study "The Iliad", it is usually read from a poetic or literary context. However, if read and studied from a historical and archaeological context, the central Greek characters include, Mycenaeans, specifically, the King of Mycenae, Agamemnon. The Greek soldiers and Officers fighting in the REAL-(and not mythologized) Trojan War during the 1190's BC/BCE, were primarily comprised of Mycenaeans-(along with Spartans, as well as Greeks from other regions).

Mycenaean Greece was born around 1600 BC/BCE and flourished for about 500 years. However, due to various invasions from other parts of Europe and Asia, as well as perhaps for other (presently unknown) reasons, Mycenae vanished almost overnight. From 1100 BC/BCE-800 BC/BCE, a so-called, "Dark Ages" followed and was widespread throughout Greece. By 800 BC/BCE, the Poet Homer enters and "The Iliad" was born on the Aegean island of Chios.

If one looks at Greco-Mycenaean culture, one can find an impressively well preserved ancient city, followed by a collection of jewelry and pottery throughout the ancient site-(though most of its collection is in the National Museum in Athens). The city's architecture appears to have little outside influence and looks to be quite original. Admittedly, it may not be as impressive looking as other ancient cities, such as, Pompeii, Ostia, the Forum in Rome or The Agora in Athens. However, Mycenae's impressiveness is not necessarily related to its aesthetics, rather, Mycenae's impressiveness is rooted in its longevity and fine preservation.

  • 1
    "(in the wake of the massive volcanic explosion on the island of Santorini, as well as the gargantuan Tsunami which followed and subsequently, destroyed the Minoan civilization on Knossos in Crete)" - this is disputed. Although there is little doubt there was a natural disaster, the evidence suggests (but it is not conclusive) that invaders and over-exploitation of the land were key factors in the collapse of Minoan civilization. Sep 14, 2017 at 5:50
  • 1
    'were primarily comprised of Mycenaeans-(along with Spartans, as well as Greeks from other regions)' - do you have a reference for this? History and mythology seem to be getting mixed up here. Sep 14, 2017 at 5:58
  • 1
    "the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, as well as many others?" - already explained in the question.
    – Anixx
    Sep 14, 2017 at 7:46
  • Thanks for your responses.. Yes, when reading "The Iliad" closely, one can find specific references to the Mycenaeans, Spartans and "Acheans"-(an earlier alternative word for, "Hellenes" or "Greeks") as the primary fighters in the very real and historic Trojan War.
    – user26763
    Sep 14, 2017 at 14:39
  • With regard to the collapse of the Minoans, yes, I stated that the Greco- Mycenaeans did invade the island. Wen I refer to the Mycenaeans "hellenizing" the island and its much of its surviving population". I was talking about their invasion through the capture, conquest and conversion of the Cretan population to a very early form of Hellenism. However, such an invasion would have been very unlikely unless there was a severely weakened Crete. Remember, the Minoan Cretans were a very powerful civilization whereas the Greco-Myceneans were living in near obscurity-(comparatively speaking).
    – user26763
    Sep 14, 2017 at 14:49

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