Don’t forget the primitive

Mary Beard

  • Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love and War by Dudley Young
    Little, Brown, 379 pp, £16.99, May 1992, ISBN 0 356 20628 9

The ‘Glory that was Greece’ has had a hard time recently. Big guns have been drawn up against our accustomed admiration of the Greek genius, our collusive Philhellenism. It is very heavy artillery indeed. First, Martin Bernal’s enormous Black Athena (two volumes already, with two more to come) – a brave piece of iconoclasm that questions not only the primacy of the Greek cultural achievement over its Near-Eastern, Semitic and African neighbours, but also the bigotry and racism sheltering under the authority of ‘traditional’ Classical scholarship. Now Dudley Young (in a more modest 350 pages) joins in the campaign – with a differently aimed, but equally impassioned, attack on ‘the Greeks’ as we think we know them.

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