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LILIAN HAMILTON JEFFERY

1915-1986


9. Archaic Greece

Chronological order now becomes unrealistic. It will be convenient to defer one major specialized project of these years, and to concentrate on her general historical thinking. Although Archaic Greece did not appear until 1976, it had its roots in her tutorial work and, still more, in the lectures with which she fulfilled the greater part of her university teaching requirement. For many years these ran in parallel with a very different course which aimed to steer beginners in Greek History through the confusion of the earliest period by playing down difficulties and drawing firm lines. This was not Anne's way. She tended more to work out into the chaos from points of relative certainty, and it was a nice problem for a tutor to determine which course would suit a pupil best. It would require the collation of lecture-notes from several generations to determine how far her mind changed, and I do not attempt the task.

Archaic Greece is presented as a contribution to understanding the variety of the cultures of the period as opposed to their unity, a natural result, she thought, of having paid so much attention to local dialects and scripts and of having a preference for local, rather than Panhellenic, Greek art. After an introduction on background, sources, the form of the city-state, and colonization, it is therefore organized topographically, which involves some awkward cross-referencing. In an awesome feat of compression, virtually every available piece of factual evidence finds its place, is given what she considered its most probable interpretation, illuminated with a feel for the geography, and illustrated with a totally individual selection of plates. Since she seldom felt tempted to press her own ideas, attentive reading is needed to discover the wide range of her personal contributions. The sharpness of her observation and the economy of her writing are more apparent, unified, for example, in two golden pages on Spartan art.

Though the European Dark Ages are raided for comparisons, it is essentially a modernist work, in which Greeks behave for currently recognizable motives. Passages on social organization and behaviour are largely descriptive. Cult only gets much of a show when political considerations are involved. There is a great deal about trade which might now not be thought subtle enough; pottery dominates, because it has survived. That might stand as symbolic for the book as a whole. The best possible guide to the surviving evidence, it has little space to give to what might have been lost.


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