The Greeks and The Hebrews

The Greeks and The Hebrews

THE RELATION BETWEEN THESE TWO PEOPLES (Greeks and Hebrews) of the ancient Mediterranean is seldom mentioned. Evidence that the oldest language of Crete is Semitic, however, suggests that the two cultures have common roots.

The classical civilizations of Greece and Judea have traditionally been regarded as entirely distinct cultures, yet today two lines of evidence are combining to support the hypothe­sis that they have a common back­ground. One line of evidence falls within the realm of historical and literary scholarship; the strength of its case lies in vivid parallels between early Greek and early Hebrew literature.

The other is essentially archaeological and linguis­tic: in the past few years it has become increasingly apparent that the oldest inscriptions found on the island of Crete are written in a Semitic tongue. My own familiarity with both kinds of evidence arises from the study of the ancient texts, monuments and history of the Mediterranean; it is coincidence rather than intention that has brought me to this dual examination. poles apart in Western thought, as though the ancient Greeks had never known re­ligious inspiration and their Semitic neighbours had been devoid of reason.

The rise of skepticism undoubtedly played an invaluable role in freeing men’s minds from the fetters of super­stition. It is significant, however, that it required an almost childlike faith in the validity of ancient literature to open the modern era of archaeological discovery. The great 19th-century ar­chaeologist Heinrich Schliemann loved and believed in Homer.