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Kingship in the Mycenaean World and its Reflections in the Oral Tradition [Review]
American Journal of Archaeology
  • Erwin F Cook, Trinity University
Document Type
Book Review
Publication Date
Shear undertakes a detailed comparison of archaeological evidence from Mycenaean Greece, the surviving Linear B tablets, and the Homeric epics with the aim of showing that, contrary to the reigning scholarly consensus, Homer preserves a detailed and accurate portrait of the age he purports to describe. Indeed, Shear believes that both epics and much of Greek myth took shape during this period and reflect actual historical events (hence the reference to "oral tradition" rather than "Homer" in the title). Thus, because Pelops is the eponym of the Pcloponnesos, "he should logically belong to the early tradition that evolved soon after the arrival of ... the Greeks" (70). And, since Pelops is grandfather to Agamemnon, Shear infers the loss of numerous intervening kings from the genealogical tradition. (A more direct inference, however, would be that myth has failed to preserve any sense of the chronological depth of Bronze Age civilization.) Belief in a historical kernel to myth also leads Shear to combine references from various sources in ways that most students of traditional narrative will find equally problematic (e.g., 71, 74).
Citation Information
Cook, E. (2006). [Review of the book Kingship in the Mycenaean World and its Reflections in the Oral Tradition, by I.M. Shear]. American Journal of Archaeology, 110(4), 666-667.