06 March 2012

Greek religion and science (again)

In lecture 8 I argued that if Greek religion played a decisive role in the rise of Greek science the first nature philosophers should have appeared much earlier than 600 BC. I pointed out that Homer, whose descriptions of the interaction between mortals and gods gives a vivid demonstration of Greek religion, is thought to have lived some three centuries before that, showing that Greek religion did not produce a new attitude to nature for several centuries.

Whether Homer ever lived and whether the works ascribed to him were written by a singel author has been a matter of doubt for quite a while. I now learnt that the origins of the Iliad go back much further, to the Mycenaean civilization around 15oo BC. this strengthens my argument considerably: The behaviour of Greek gods and goddesses was known for at least a millennium but did not spark an urge for scientific study of nature. That urge arose out of changes of the structure of Greek society.

Reference: E. Luttwak: Homer Inc. London Review of Books 34 (4), 23 February 2012.

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