The Ship that Held the Antikythera Mechanism Was Greek, Not Roman

(p. A12) A bronze statue’s orphaned arm. A corroded disc adorned with a bull. Preserved wooden planks. These are among the latest treasures that date back to the dawn of the Roman Empire, discovered amid the ruins of the Antikythera shipwreck, a sunken bounty off the coast of a tiny island in Greece.
. . .
For decades people referred to it as a Roman shipwreck, like in Jacques Cousteau’s documentary “Diving for Roman Plunder,” but the team’s findings since 2012 — such as a chemical analysis of lead on the ship’s equipment that trace it back to northern Greece and the personal possessions they found with Greek names etched on them — are changing that narrative, Dr. Foley said. “It’s starting to look an awful lot like a Greek-built, Greek-crewed ship, not a Roman-Italian vessel.”

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR. “A Bronze Arm Points to More Treasure Below.” The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 7, 2017): A12.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 5, 2017, and has the title “Bronze Arm Found in Famous Shipwreck Points to More Treasure Below.”)

Greek Corruption, Fraud, Evasion and Public Worker Job Security

(p. A11) Mr. Angelos, a former Journal correspondent, travels through Greece as a journalist first, and a native son second, to conduct a mostly unpleasant archaeology. By way of background, however, he first tackles the pervasive issues of disability and pension fraud, rampant tax evasion, and public worker job protections. These are the very problems that Greece’s European lenders sought to remedy through a series of supposedly helpful but also punitive and ineptly administered reforms. Mr. Angelos dismantles the facile narrative accepted by many in the eurozone, in which hardworking Germans must clean up a mess made by their lazy and “Oriental” southern neighbors. But he is equally tenacious when it comes to exposing the misconduct of Greek politicians, not to mention the country’s corrupt system of career tenure and its, well, truly Byzantine bureaucracy.
Mr. Angelos’s book allows us to see how these problems play out, sometimes farcically, in the lives of actual people. There’s a cranky grandmother on the island of Zakynthos who receives generous blindness benefits even though she can see perfectly well. There’s the arrogant former prime minister who accepted millions of euros in bribes to buy useless submarines on behalf of the Greek government.
. . .
. . . the book’s single most flattering portrait is of Yiannis Boutaris, the tattooed, wine-making, freethinking mayor of Thessaloniki, who courts Turkish tourism, refuses to kowtow to the church and publicly acknowledges the crucial role of Jews in the city’s history.

For the full review, see:

CHRISTOPHER BAKKEN. “BOOKSHELF; How Greece Got to ‘No’; On the island of Zakynthos, a grandmother receives generous blindness benefits–even though she can see perfectly well.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 7, 2015): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 6, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Angelos, James. The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015.

Entrepreneurs Who Pay Taxes “Expect Services–Like Justice”

(p. B3) ATHENS — Demetri Politopoulos, the founder of a midsize beer producer in northern Greece, says he nearly fainted when he heard the news late one night in October.
The Greek Parliament was planning to pass a law that would increase the tax he paid for each hectoliter of beer he sold by 50 percent.
Just like that, the microbrewery he started 17 years ago would go under, as his new tax bill of 1.6 million euros would wipe out his expected 1.45 million euros in profit for the year.
. . .
He started his business in 1998, but even as demand for his Vergina beer grew, his share of the market stayed in the low single-digits as the market leader did all in its power to prevent shops and restaurants from selling his product.
. . .
In 2005, Mr. Politopoulos took his case to the Hellenic Republic Competition Commission, citing numerous examples of what he said were unfair business practices by Heineken, from persuading retailers to not stock Vergina to more serious examples of bullying and intimidation.
But as is often the case in Greece, his petition went nowhere.
With Greece under unremitting pressure to find new revenue sources, the idea to close the gap between the way small and large brewers are taxed may have seemed a good idea.
That is, until Mr. Politopoulos took the floor in Parliament on Nov. 2.
“We are proud to pay taxes in Greece, but this is going to put us out of business,” he said. “And when we do pay our taxes, we expect services — like justice. Without justice in a society, there is nothing.”
His 10-minute declamation hit a cord. A video of the speech went viral and parliamentary members rallied to his cause.
Indeed, concerns are growing here that in a rush to raise much-needed revenue, Greece and its creditors are placing an unfair burden on an already decimated private sector.

For the full story, see:
LANDON THOMAS Jr. “A Greek Dvid Lands Some Big Punches.” The New York Times (Sat., DEC. 12, 2015): B3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 11, 2015, and has the title “In Greece, Brewer’s Woes Reflect Struggle of Business Owners.”)

Greek Grave Found from Start of Age of Homer

(p. D1) Archaeologists digging at Pylos, an ancient city on the southwest coast of Greece, have discovered the rich grave of a warrior who was buried at the dawn of European civilization.
He lies with a yardlong bronze sword and a remarkable collection of gold rings, precious jewels and beautifully carved seals. Archaeologists expressed astonishment at the richness of the find and its potential for shedding light on the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization, the lost world of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homer.
. . .
(p. D5) An ivory plaque carved with a griffin, a mythical animal that protected goddesses and kings, lay between the warrior’s legs. The grave contained gold, silver and bronze cups.
. . .
The Minoan culture on Crete exerted a strong influence on the people of southern Greece. Copying and adapting Minoan technologies, they developed the palace cultures such as those of Pylos and Mycene. But as the Mycenaeans grew in strength and confidence, they were eventually able to invade the land of their tutors. Notably, they then adapted Linear A, the script in which the Cretans wrote their own language, into Linear B, a script for writing Greek.
Linear B tablets were preserved in the fiery destruction of palaces when the soft clay on which they were written was baked into permanent form. Caches of tablets have been found in Knossos, the main palace of Crete, and in Pylos and other mainland palaces. Linear B, a script in which each symbol stands for a syllable, was later succeeded by the familiar Greek alphabet in which each symbol represents a single vowel or consonant.
The griffin warrior, whose grave objects are culturally Minoan but whose place of burial is Mycenaean, lies at the center of this cultural transfer. The palace of Pylos had yet to arise, and he could have been part of the cultural transition that made it possible. The transfer was not entirely peaceful: At some point, the Mycenaeans invaded Crete, and in 1450 B.C., the palace of Knossos was burned, perhaps by Mycenaeans. It is not yet clear whether the objects in the griffin warrior’s tomb were significant in his own culture or just plunder.
“I think these objects were not just loot but had a meaning already for the guy buried in this grave,” Dr. Davis said. “This is the critical period when religious ideas were being transferred from Crete to the mainland.”

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS WADE. “A Grave, and a Gateway.” The New York Times (Tues., OCT. 27, 2015): D1 & D5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 26, 2015, and has the title “Grave of ‘Griffin Warrior’ at Pylos Could Be a Gateway to Civilizations.”)

Competition between Greek City-States “Led to Specialization and Innovation”

(p. C8) Mr. Ober’s approach is theoretical, not narrative-driven. When he does discuss the specifics of classical history, in the second half of the book, he does so largely to support the theses he has developed in the first half about the key causes of Greece’s rise.
These causes, in Mr. Ober’s view, derived from the competitive world of small, self-governing city-states that emerged in Greece starting around 800 B.C. Competition between states led to specialization and innovation, as exemplified by the high-grade ceramics industry at Athens, and to a spirit of “rational cooperation” among the members of each polity (think of those ants). Within each state, self-governance created what Mr. Ober terms “rule egalitarianism”: a sense of fairness and security that “encouraged investment in human capital and lowered transaction costs.” The result was a rise not only in standards of living but also in civic pride, technological progress and refinement of artisanship.
. . .
It’s no accident that Mr. Ober’s terminology overlaps with the language of modern economics–“creative destruction” is a phrase he uses frequently. He wants to encourage comparisons between ancient Greece and the modern West. They offer two examples of “political and economic exceptionalism,” featuring both pluralistic government and the rapid growth of wealth.

For the full review, see:
James Romm. “Greeks and Their Gifts; Competition among self-governing city-states led to specialization, innovation and cooperation.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 23, 2015): C8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 22, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Ober, Josiah. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

New Evidence on the Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism was recovered in about 1901 and is believed to date from about 200 BC. Its complicated gear mechanism is believed to have been used to generate calendars or predict astronomical events. The technology never spread to benefit ordinary people. It was forgotten and mechanical gears had to be re-invented.
The Antikythera Mechanism raises a question: how is it that technologies with the potential to benefit humankind can fail to be adopted? This issue of the causes of technology adoption is an important issue for economic growth.

(p. D3) A riddle for the ages may be a small step closer to a solution: Who made the famed Antikythera Mechanism, the astronomical calculator that was raised from an ancient shipwreck near Crete in 1901?
. . .
. . . a new analysis of the dial used to predict eclipses, which is set on the back of the mechanism, provides . . . another clue to one of history’s most intriguing puzzles. Christi├ín C. Carman, a science historian at the National University of Quilmes in Argentina, and James Evans, a physicist at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, suggest that the calendar of the mysterious device began in 205 B.C., just seven years after Archimedes died.
. . .
Starting with the ways the device’s eclipse patterns fit Babylonian eclipse records, the two scientists used a process of elimination to reach a conclusion that the “epoch date,” or starting point, of the Antikythera Mechanism’s calendar was 50 years to a century earlier than had been generally believed.
. . .
. . . Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier in 212 B.C., while the commercial grain ship carrying the mechanism is believed to have sunk sometime between 85 and 60 B.C. The new finding suggests the device may have been old at the time of the shipwreck, but the connection to Archimedes now seems even less likely.
An inscription on a small dial used to date the Olympic Games refers to an athletic competition that was held in Rhodes, according to research by Paul Iversen, a Greek scholar at Case Western Reserve University.
“If we were all taking bets about where it was made, I think I would bet what most people would bet, in Rhodes,” said Alexander Jones, a specialist in the history of ancient mathematical sciences at New York University.

For the full story, see:
JOHN MARKOFF. “On the Trail of an Ancient Mystery.” The New York Times (Tues., NOV. 25, 2014): D3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 24, 2014.)

The Unintended Consequences of Requiring Monks to Read

(p. 28) The high walls that hedged about the mental life of the monks–the imposition of silence, the prohibition of questioning, the punishing of debate with slaps or blows of the whip–were all meant to affirm unambiguously that these pious communities were the opposite of the philosophical academies of Greece or Rome, places that had thrived upon the spirit of contradiction and cultivated a restless, wide-ranging curiosity.
All the same, monastic rules did require reading, and that was enough to set in motion an extraordinary chain of consequences. Reading was not optional or desirable or recommended; in a community that took its obligations with deadly seriousness, reading was obligatory. And reading required books. Books that were opened again and again eventually fell apart, however carefully they were handled. Therefore, almost inadvertently , monastic rules necessitated that monks repeatedly purchase or acquire books. In the course of the vicious Gothic Wars of the mid-sixth century and their still more miserable aftermath, the last commercial workshops of book production folded, and the vestiges of the book market fell apart. Therefore, again almost inadvertently, monastic rules necessitated that monks carefully preserve and copy those books that they already possessed.

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.