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  • ISBN: 9780226067155
  • ISBN10: 0226067157

Ancestor of the West Writing, Reasoning, and Religion in Mesopotamia, Elam, and Greece

by Jean Bottero

  • List Price: $38.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 04/01/2000
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Description: In this highly accessible introduction to the ancient world, three leading French historians explore the emergence of rationality and writing: how it developed and how it is remarkably similar to our own tradition. We learn that the supposed twin pillars of Western civilization, Greece and the Bible, were hardly freestanding: they elaborated logical and religious structures that had developed much earlier in Mesopotamia. At the same time Ancestor of the West reminds us that these cultures were precursors to our own precisely because they possessed an intelligence that we still recognize. The ancients, even in their earliest writings, thought like us.

Jean Bottero focuses on writing and religion in ancient Mesopotamia, Clarisse Herrenschmidt considers a broader history of ancient writing, and Jean-Pierre Vernant examines classical Greek civilization in the context of Near Eastern history. In these essays we learn how Sumer and Akkad evolved writing, which enabled trade, deductive reasoning, and the coordination of a universal religion. We discover how the invention of the alphabet, and the rise of Aramaic as a common language, helped Elamites, Jews, Achaemenidians, and Greeks to develop correlated, and increasingly sophisticated, ideas about the invisible world beyond appearances. And we see how the Greeks, inspired in part by Babylonian institutions, went further to construct politics and a civic religion.

This general-interest study locates the origins of today's civilization not in a particular time or people, but in the gradual articulation of writing and religious belief among interconnected ancient cultures.

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