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  • Ancient Greek Science › Origins
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Ancient Greek Sculpture › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Mark Cartwright

Greek sculpture from 800 to 300 BCE took early inspiration from Egyptian and Near Eastern monumental art, and over centuries evolved into a uniquely Greek vision of the art form. Greek artists would reach a peak of artistic excellence which captured the human form in a way never before seen and which was much copied. Greek sculptors were particularly concerned with proportion, poise, and the idealised perfection of the human body, and their figures in stone and bronze have become some of the most recognisable pieces of art ever produced by any civilization.


From the 8th century BCE, Archaic Greece saw a rise in the production of small solid figures in clay, ivory, and bronze. No doubt, wood too was a commonly used medium but its susceptibility to erosion has meant few examples have survived.Bronze figures, human heads and, in particular, griffins were used as attachments to bronze vessels such as cauldrons. In style, the human figures resemble those in contemporary Geometric pottery designs, having elongated limbs and a triangular torso. Animal figures were also produced in large numbers, especially the horse, and many have been found across Greece at sanctuary sites such as Olympia and Delphi, indicating their common function as votive offerings.
The oldest Greek stone sculptures (of limestone) date from the mid-7th century BCE and were found at Thera. In this period, bronze free-standing figures with their own base became more common, and more ambitious subjects were attempted such as warriors, charioteers, and musicians. Marble sculpture appears from the early 6th century BCE and the first monumental, life-size statues began to be produced. These had a commemorative function, either offered at sanctuaries in symbolic service to the gods or used as grave markers.

Kouroi of Argos

The earliest large stone figures ( kouroi - nude male youths and kore - clothed female figures) were rigid as in Egyptian monumental statues with the arms held straight at the sides, the feet are almost together and the eyes stare blankly ahead without any particular facial expression. These rather static figures slowly evolved though and with ever greater details added to hair and muscles, the figures began to come to life. Slowly, arms become slightly bent giving them muscular tension and one leg (usually the right) is placed slightly more forward, giving a sense of dynamic movement to the statue. Excellent examples of this style of figure are the kouroi of Argos, dedicated at Delphi (c. 580 BCE). Around 480 BCE, the last kouroibecome ever more life-like, the weight is carried on the left leg, the right hip is lower, the buttocks and shoulders more relaxed, the head is not quite so rigid, and there is a hint of a smile. Female kore followed a similar evolution, particularly in the sculpting of their clothes which were rendered in an ever-more realistic and complex way. A more natural proportion of the figure was also established where the head became 1:7 with the body, irrespective of the actual size of the statue. By 500 BCE Greek sculptors were finally breaking away from the rigid rules of Archaic conceptual art and beginning to re-produce what they actually observed in real life.
In the Classical period, Greek sculptors would break off the shackles of convention and achieve what no-one else had ever before attempted. They created life-size and life-like sculpture which glorified the human and especially nude male form. Even more was achieved than this though. Marble turned out to be a wonderful medium for rendering what all sculptors strive for: that is to make the piece seem carved from the inside rather than chiselled from the outside. Figures become sensuous and appear frozen in action; it seems that only a second ago they were actually alive. Faces are given more expression and whole figures strike a particular mood. Clothes too become more subtle in their rendering and cling to the contours of the body in what has been described as 'wind-blown' or the 'wet-look'. Quite simply, the sculptures no longer seemed to be sculptures but were figures instilled with life and verve.


To see how such realism was achieved we must return again to the beginning and examine more closely the materials and tools at the disposal of the artist and the techniques employed to transform raw materials into art.
Early Greek sculpture was most often in bronze and porous limestone, but whilst bronze seems never to have gone out of fashion, the stone of choice would become marble. The best was from Naxos - close-grained and sparkling, Parian (from Paros ) - with a rougher grain and more translucent, and Pentelic (near Athens ) - more opaque and which turned a soft honey colour with age (due to its iron content). However, stone was chosen for its workability rather than its decoration as the majority of Greek sculpture was not polished but painted, often rather garishly for modern tastes.

Gigantomachy of Delphi

Marble was quarried using bow drills and wooden wedges soaked in water to break away workable blocks. Generally, larger figures were not produced from a single piece of marble, but important additions such as arms were sculpted separately and fixed to the main body with dowels. Using iron tools, the sculptor would work the block from all directions (perhaps with an eye on a small-scale model to guide proportions), first using a pointed tool to remove more substantial pieces of marble. Next, a combination of a five-claw chisel, flat chisels of various sizes, and small hand drills were used to sculpt the fine details. The surface of the stone was then finished off with an abrasive powder (usually emery from Naxos) but rarely polished. The statue was then attached to a plinth using a lead fixture or sometimes placed on a single column (eg the Naxian sphinx at Delphi, c. 560 BCE). The finishing touches to statues were added using paint. Skin, hair, eyebrows, lips, and patterns on clothing were added in bright colours. Eyes were often inlaid using bone, crystal, or glass. Finally, additions in bronze might be added such as spears, swords, helmets, jewellery, and diadems, and some statues even had a small bronze disc ( meniskoi ) suspended over the head to prevent birds from defacing the figure.
The other favoured material in Greek sculpture was bronze. Unfortunately, this material was always in demand for re-use in later periods, whereas broken marble is not much use to anyone, and so marble sculpture has better survived for posterity.Consequently, the quantity of surviving examples of bronze sculpture (no more than twelve) is not perhaps indicative of the fact that more bronze sculpture may well have been produced than in marble and the quality of the few surviving bronzes demonstrates the excellence we have lost. Very often at archaeological sites we may see rows of bare stone plinths, silent witnesses to art's loss.

The Antikythera Youth

The early solid bronze sculptures made way for larger pieces with a non-bronze core which was sometimes removed to leave a hollow figure. The most common production of bronze statues used the lost-wax technique. This involved making a core almost the size of the desired figure (or body part if not creating a whole figure) which was then coated in wax and the details sculpted. The whole was then covered in clay fixed to the core at certain points using rods. The wax was then melted out and molten bronze poured into the space once occupied by the wax. When set, the clay was removed and the surface finished off by scraping, fine engraving and polishing. Sometimes copper or silver additions were used for lips, nipples and teeth. Eyes were inlaid as in marble sculpture.


Many statues are signed so that we know the names of the most successful artists who became famous in their own lifetimes.Naming a few, we may start with the most famous of all, Phidias, the artist who created the gigantic chryselephantine statues of Athena (c. 438 BCE) and Zeus (c. 456 BCE) which resided, respectively, in the Parthenon of Athens and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The latter sculpture was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Polykleitos, who besides creating great sculpture such as the Doryphoros (Spearbearer), also wrote a treatise, the Kanon, on techniques of sculpture where he emphasised the importance of correct proportion. Other important sculptors were Kresilas, who made the much copied portrait of Pericles (c. 425 BCE), Praxiteles, whose Aphrodite (c. 340 BCE) was the first full female nude, and Kallimachos, who is credited with creating the Corinthian capital and whose distinctive dancing figures were much copied in Roman times.
Sculptors often found permanent employment in the great sanctuary sites and archaeology has revealed the workshop of Phidias at Olympia. Various broken clay moulds were found in the workshop and also the master's own personal clay mug, inscribed 'I belong to Phidias'. Another feature of sanctuary sites was the cleaners and polishers who maintained the shiny reddish-brass colour of bronze figures as the Greeks did not appreciate the dark-green patina which occurs from weathering (and which surviving statues have gained).

Dying Niobid


Greek sculpture is, however, not limited to standing figures. Portrait busts, relief panels, grave monuments, and objects in stone such as perirrhanteria (basins supported by three or four standing female figures) also tested the skills of the Greek sculptor. Another important branch of the art form was architectural sculpture, prevalent from the late 6th century BCE on the pediments, friezes, and metopes of temples and treasury buildings. However, it is in figure sculpture that one may find some of the great masterpieces of Classical antiquity, and testimony to their class and popularity is that copies were very often made, particularly in the Roman period. Indeed, it is fortunate that the Romans loved Greek sculpture and copied it so widely because it is often these copies which survive rather than the Greek originals. The copies, however, present their own problems as they obviously lack the original master's touch, may swap medium from bronze to marble, and even mix body parts, particularly heads.
Although words will rarely ever do justice to the visual arts, we may list here a few examples of some of the most celebrated pieces of Greek sculpture. In bronze, three pieces stand out, all saved from the sea (a better custodian of fine bronzes than people have been): the Zeus or Poseidon of Artemesium and the two warriors of Riace (all three: 460-450 BCE). The former could be Zeus (the posture is more common for that deity) or Poseidon and is a transitional piece between Archaic and Classical art as the figure is extremely life-like, but in fact the proportions are not exact (eg the limbs are extended). However, as Boardman eloquently describes, '(it) manages to be both vigorously threatening and static in its perfect balance'; the onlooker is left in no doubt at all that this is a great god. The Riace warriors are also magnificent with the added detail of finely sculpted hair and beards. More Classical in style, they are perfectly proportioned and their poise is rendered in such a way as to suggest that they may well step off of the plinth at any moment.

Dionysos from the Parthenon.

In marble, two standout pieces are the Diskobolos or discus thrower attributed to Myron (c. 450 BCE) and the Nike of Paionios at Olympia (c. 420 BCE). The discus thrower is one of the most copied statues from antiquity and it suggests powerful muscular motion caught for a split second, as in a photo. The piece is also interesting because it is carved in such a way (in a single plain) as to be seen from one viewpoint (like a relief carving with its background removed). The Nike is an excellent example of the 'wet-look' where the light material of the clothing is pressed against the contours of the body, and the figure seems semi-suspended in the air and only just to have landed her toes on the plinth.


Greek sculpture then, broke free from the artistic conventions which had held sway for centuries across many civilizations, and instead of reproducing figures according to a prescribed formula, they were free to pursue the idealised form of the human body. Hard, lifeless material was somehow magically transformed into such intangible qualities as poise, mood, and grace to create some of the great masterpieces of world art and inspire and influence the artists who were to follow in Hellenistic and Roman times who would go on to produce more masterpieces such as the Venus de Milo. Further, the perfection in proportions of the human body achieved by Greek sculptors continues to inspire artists even today. The great Greek works are even consulted by 3D artists to create accurate virtual images and by sporting governing bodies who have compared athletes bodies with Greek sculpture to check abnormal muscle development achieved through the use of banned substances such as steroids.

Ancient Greek Science › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Cristian Violatti

Author: careful thinking based upon observation, some ancient Greeks realized that it was possible to find regularities and patterns hidden in nature and that those regularities were the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. It became evident that even nature had to obey certain rules and by knowing those rules one could predict the behaviour of nature.

Observation was eventually undervalued by the Greeks in favour of the deductive process, where knowledge is built by means of pure thought. This method is key in mathematics and the Greeks put such an emphasis on it that they falsely believed that deduction was the way to obtain the highest knowledge.


During the 26th Dynasty of Egypt (c. 685–525 BCE), the ports of the Nile were opened for the first time to Greek trade.Important Greek figures such as Thales and Pythagoras visited Egypt, and brought with them new skills and knowledge. Ionia, in addition to Egyptian influence, was exposed to the culture and ideas of Mesopotamia through its neighbour, the kingdom of Lydia.
According to Greek tradition, the process of replacing the notion of supernatural explanation with the concept of a universe that is governed by laws of nature begins in Ionia. Thales of Miletus, about 600 BCE first developed the idea that the world can be explained without resorting to supernatural explanations. It is high likely that the astronomical knowledge that Thales got from Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy allowed him to predict a solar eclipse which took place in May 28th 585 BCE.
Anaximander, another Ionian, argued that since human infants are helpless at birth, if the first human had somehow appeared on earth as an infant, it would not have survived. Anaximander reasoned that people must, therefore, have evolved from other animals whose young are hardier. It was Empedocles who first taught an early form of evolution and survival of the fittest. He believed that originally “countless tribes of mortal creatures were scattered abroad endowed with all manner of forms, a wonder to behold”, but in the end, only certain forms were able to survive.


The Greek achievements in mathematics and astronomy were one of the finest in antiquity. Mathematics developed first, aided by the influence of Egyptian mathematics; astronomy flourished later during the Hellenistic age, after Alexander the Greatconquered the East, aided by the influence of Babylon.
A powerful aspect of science is that it aims to detach itself from notions with specific use and looks for general principles with broad applications. The more general science becomes the more abstract it is and has more applications. What the Greeks derived from Egyptian mathematics were mainly rules of thumbs with specific applications. Egyptians knew, for example, that a triangle whose sides are in a 3:4:5 ratio is a right triangle. Pythagoras took this concept and stretched it to its limit by deducting a mathematical theorem that bears his name: that, in a right triangle, the square on the opposite side of the right angle (the hypotenuse) is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. This was true not only for the 3:4:5 triangle, but it was a principle applicable to any other right triangle, regardless of its dimensions.
Pythagoras was the founder and leader of a sect where philosophy, religion, art and mysticism were all fused together. In ancient times, Greeks did not make a clear distinction between science and non-scientific disciplines. There is a widespread argument which states that the coexistence of philosophy, art, mysticism, and other non-scientific disciplines interacting together with science has interfered with the development of scientific ideas. This seems to show a misconception of how the human spirit works. It is true that in the past moral and mystic bias has either delayed or led some knowledge up a blind alley and that the sharp limits of scientific knowledge were not clear. However, it is equally true that non-scientific disciplines have enhanced the imagination of the human mind, provided inspiration to approach problems that seemed impossible to solve and triggered human creativity to consider counter-intuitive possibilities (such as a spherical earth in motion) that time proved to be true. The human spirit has found plenty of motivation for scientific progress in non-scientific disciplines and it is likely that without the driving force of art, mysticism and philosophy, scientific progress would have lacked much of its impetus.

Bust of Pythagoras


By discovering mathematical theorems, the Greeks came across the art of deductive reasoning. In order to build their mathematical knowledge they came to conclusions by reasoning deductively from what appeared to be self-evident. This approach proved to be powerful and its success in mathematics encouraged its application in many other disciplines. The Greeks eventually came to believe that the only acceptable way of obtaining knowledge was the use of deduction.
However, this way of doing science had serious limitations when it was applied to other areas of knowledge, but from the standpoint of the Greeks it was hard to notice. In antiquity, the starting point to discover principles was always an idea in the mind of the philosopher: sometimes observations were undervalued and some other times the Greeks were not able to make a sharp distinction between empirical observations and logical arguments. Modern scientific method no longer relies on this technique; today science seeks to discover principles based on observations as a starting point. Likewise, the logical method of science today favours induction over deduction: instead of building conclusions on an assumed set of self-evident generalizations, induction starts with observations of particular facts and derives generalizations from them.
Deduction did not work for some kind of knowledge. “What is the distance from Athens to Chios?” In this case, the answer cannot be derived from abstract principles; we have to actually measure it. The Greeks, when necessary, looked at nature to get the answers they were looking for, but they still considered that the highest type of knowledge was the one derived directly from the intellect. It is interesting to note that when observations were taken in consideration, it tended to be subordinated to the theoretical knowledge. An example of this could be one of the surviving works of Archimedes, The Method, which explains how mechanical experiments can help the understanding of geometry. In general, ancient science used experimentation to help theoretical understanding while modern science uses theory to pursue practical results.
The undervaluing of empirical observation and the emphasis on pure thought as a reliable starting point for building knowledge can also be reflected in the famous account (in all probability apocryphal) of the Greek philosopher Democritus who removed his own eyes so the sight would not distract him from his speculations. There is also a story about a student of Plato who asked with irritation during a mathematics class “But what is the use of all this?” Plato called a slave, ordered him to give the student a coin, and said, “Now you need not feel your instruction has been entirely to no purpose” With these words, the student was expelled.



Aristotle was the first philosopher who developed a systematic study of logic. His framework would become an authority in deductive reasoning for over two thousand years. Although he repeatedly admitted the importance of induction, he prioritized the use of deduction to build knowledge. It eventually turned out that his influence strengthened the over-estimation of deduction in science and of syllogisms in logic.
The doctrine of syllogism is his most influential contribution to logic. He defined the syllogism as a “discourse in which certain things having been stated, something else follows of necesity from their being so”. A well known example is:
All men are mortal. (major premise)
Socrates is a man. (minor premise)
Socrates is mortal. (conclusion)
This argument cannot be logically challenged, nor can we challenge its conclusion. However, this way of doing science has, at least, two failures. In the first place, the way the major premise works. Why should we accept the major premise without question? The only way that a major premise can be accepted is to present an obvious statement, such as “all men are mortal”, which is considered self-evident. This means that the conclusion of this argument is not a new insight but rather, something that was already implied either directly or indirectly within the major premise. Secondly, it does not seem to be an actual need to go through all this argumentation in order to prove logically that Socrates is mortal.
Another problem of this way of building knowledge is that if we want to deal with areas of knowledge beyond the ordinary everyday life, there is a great risk of choosing wrong self-evident generalizations as a starting point of reasoning. An example could be two of the axioms upon which all Greek astronomy was built:
(1) The earth is resting motionless at the centre of the universe.
(2) The earth is corrupt and imperfect, while the heavens are eternal, changeless, and perfect.
These two axioms appear to be self-evident and they are supported by our intuitive experience. However, scientific ideas can be counter-intuitive. Today we know that intuition alone should never be the guide for knowledge and that all intuition should be sceptically tested. The errors in the way of reasoning are sometimes hard to detect and the Greeks were not able to notice anything wrong with their way of doing science. There is a very lucid example of this by Isaac Asimov:
...if brandy and water, whiskey and water, vodka and water, and rum and water are all intoxicating beverages, one may jump to the conclusion that the intoxicating factor must be the ingredient these drinks hold in common-namely, water. There is something wrong with this reasoning, but the fault in the logic is not immediately obvious;and in more subtle cases, the error may be hard indeed to discover. (Asimov, 7)
Aristotle's logic system was recorded in five treatises known as the Organon, and although it does not exhaust all logic, it was a pioneering one, revered for centuries and regarded as the ultimate solution to logic and reference for science.


Aristotle's contribution in logic and science became an authority and remained unchallenged as late as the modern age. It took many centuries to notice the flaws of Aristotle's approach to science. Platonic influence also contributed to undervalue inference and experimentation: Plato's philosophy considered the world to be only an imperfect representation of the ideal truth sitting in the world of ideas.
Another obstacle for Greek science was the notion of an “ultimate truth”. After the Greeks worked out all the implications of their axioms, further progress seemed impossible. Some aspects of knowledge seemed to them “complete” and some of their notions were turned into dogmas not open to further analysis. Today we understand that there are never enough observations that could turn a notion into “ultimate”. No amount of inductive testing can tell us that a generalization is completely and absolutely valid. A single observation that contradicts a theory forces the theory to be reviewed.
Many important scholars have blamed Plato and Aristotle for delaying scientific progress, since their ideas were turned into dogmas and, especially during medieval times, nobody could challenge their work while keeping their reputation intact. It is highly likely that science would have reached its modern state a lot earlier if these ideas had been open to review, but this by no means questions the genius of these two talented Greeks. The mistakes of a gifted mind can appear to be legitimate and remain accepted for centuries. The errors of a fool become evident sooner rather than later.

The First Labor Strike in History › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Joshua J. Mark

The most important cultural value in ancient Egypt was harmony; known to the Egyptians as ma'at. Ma'at was the concept of universal, communal, and personal balance which allowed for the world to function as it should according to the will of the gods. Throughout most of Egypt's history this belief served the culture well. The king's primary duty was to uphold ma'at and maintain balance between the people and their gods. In doing so, he needed to make sure that all of those below him were well cared for, that the borders were secure, and that rites and rituals were performed according to the accepted tradition. All of these considerations provided for the good of the people and the land as the king's mandate meant that everyone had a job and knew their place in the hierarchy of society.
At certain times, however, the king found it difficult to maintain this harmony due to the press of circumstance and a lack of resources. This situation is clearly apparent toward the end of each of the three periods known as “kingdoms” and sometimes during but an especially interesting incident during the New Kingdom (c. 1570- c.1069 BCE) stands out because it occurred before the actual decline of New Kingdom power and, according to some scholars, marks the beginning of the end: the first labor strike in recorded history.

Ramesses III


Ramesses III (1186-1155 BCE) is considered the last good pharaoh of the New Kingdom. He defended Egypt's borders, navigated the uncertainty of changing relations with foreign powers, and had the temples and monuments of the country restored and refurbished. He wanted to be remembered in the same way that Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE) had been - as a great king and father to his people – and early in his reign he succeeded in this. Egypt was not the supreme power it had been under Ramesses II, however, and the country Ramesses III ruled over had suffered a loss in status with attendant diminishing resources from tribute and trade.
In 1178 BCE the confederation known as the Sea Peoples mounted a massive invasion of Egypt which further strained the country's resources. The Sea Peoples had tried to conquer Egypt twice before, during the reigns of Ramesses II and his immediate successor Merenptah (1213-1203 BCE). Both of these kings had successfully defeated them but the army advancing on Ramesses III was much larger and his resources fewer.
Still, he mounted a strong defense of the country, fortifying strongholds along the borders and throughout the interior and launching his navy against the invading ships. He initiated a nationwide conscription from every district in the land to build up the military and conferred with his generals on the best way to defeat the enemy at sea: by drawing them close enough to shore at the mouth of the Nile so they would be within range of Egyptian archers but keeping them far enough away to prevent a landing.

Bronze Age Mediterranean Invasions & Migrations

His plan worked and the Sea Peoples were defeated in the sea battle, many of them slaughtered under the hail of arrows from the shore or drowned when their ships were capsized, but the Egyptian losses in the land engagement seem to have been quite high. Ramesses III's inscriptions regarding the event only focus on the brilliant sea victory at the mouth of the Nile and are silent on the land battle. There may have been many more Egyptian lives lost than the official records cared to admit and this resulted in a loss of labor on the country's farms and a slimmer harvest, fewer merchants to trade goods, and a loss of those in other occupations which kept the economy strong.
Ramesses III had won a stunning victory, however, on par with the reports of Ramesses II's triumph at Kadesh in 1274 BCE.He followed this up, in keeping with the principle of ma'at, by refurbishing the temples and monuments of the land through a grand tour from the south to the north. During this time he oversaw adjustments in taxes, made sure that officials were performing their jobs competently, and corrected the performance of rituals which were not in line with tradition. In all of this, the pharaoh was attempting to elevate Egypt to the status it had known at the height of the New Kingdom but even he must have known it was not enough. The cost of the king's entourage as it toured Egypt would have been an incredible expense and drain on an already strained treasury and the improvements and renovations he ordered placed even greater demands on resources.
He, therefore, ordered a number of expeditions to foreign lands in trade and military conquest, all of which were quite successful. His greatest feat in this regard was the two-month expedition to the Land of Punt – a country rich in resources which had not been visited by the Egyptians since the time of Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE).Deze inspanningen moeten de schatkist vervulden, maar een of andere manier niet. Geleerden bieden uiteenlopende theorieën over de vraag waarom dit is gebeurd, maar de meeste het erover eens het centrale probleem was drieledig: een verlies van arbeidskrachten uit slachtoffers in de oorlog en de ongelooflijke kosten in het afweren van de Zeevolken, corrupte ambtenaren die middelen omgeleid naar hun eigen accounts, en misoogsten door weersomstandigheden.


Al meer dan 20 jaar had Ramses III zijn beste voor de mensen gedaan en, zoals hij zijn 30ste jaar naderde, werden er plannen in gang gezet voor een groots jubileum festival om hem te eren. Egyptoloog Toby Wilkinson merkt op:
De rechtbank nu keek uit naar de koning dertig-jarig jubileum, vastbesloten om een viering waardig zo glorieus een monarch te organiseren. Er zou geen stinting zijn, geen beknibbelen. Alleen de meest uitbundige ceremonies zou doen. Het was een fatale beslissing. Onder de pracht en praal, had de Egyptische staat ernstig verzwakt door zijn inspanningen. De militaire verliezen van 1178 waren nog steeds voelbaar. Buitenlandse handel met het Nabije Oosten had nooit volledig hersteld van de Sea People 's orgie van vernietiging. Schatkist De tempels zou vol zijn van koper en mirre, maar hun voorraden graan - het hoofdbestanddeel van de Egyptische economie - werden ernstig uitgeput. Tegen deze achtergrond, zou het jubileum voorbereidingen een ernstige aanslag op de middelen te bewijzen. (334)
De problemen begonnen in 1159 BCE, drie jaar voor het festival, wanneer de maandelijkse loon van de tombe -Bouwers en ambachtslieden bij Set-Ma'at ( “The Place of Truth”, beter bekend als Deir el-Medina ) kwam bijna een maand laat. De schrijver Amennakht, die ook lijkt te hebben gediend als een soort winkel steward, onderhandeld met lokale ambtenaren voor de distributie van maïs aan de werknemers, maar dit was slechts een tijdelijke oplossing voor een acuut probleem; de onderliggende oorzaak van de storing in de betaling was nooit aangepakt.
In plaats van te kijken naar wat er mis was gegaan en probeert te voorkomen dat dit opnieuw gebeurt, ambtenaren wijdden zich aan de voorbereiding voor de grote festival. De betaling aan de arbeiders in Deir el-Medina was weer te laat en dan weer laat pas, als Wilkinson schrijft: “het systeem van het betalen van de necropolis werknemers brak helemaal, wordt gevraagd de vroegste stakingen in de geschiedenis” (335). De arbeiders hadden gewacht voor 18 dagen buiten hun payday en weigerden om nog langer te wachten. Ze leggen hun gereedschap en marcheerden in de richting van de stad schreeuwen “We hebben honger!” Ze voor het eerst gedemonstreerd op Ramses III's mortuarium tempel en vervolgens een sit-in in de buurt van de tempel van Thoetmosis III.
AMBTENAREN VEROORDEELD PASTRIES LEVEREN AAN DE stakende arbeiders en hoopte dat ze tevreden zou & GO HOME BE.
De lokale ambtenaren had geen idee hoe om te gaan met de situatie; niets als dit ooit gebeurd in de geschiedenis van het land. Ma'at toegepast op iedereen, van de koning voor de boer, en iedereen werd verwacht dat zijn of haar plaats in het systeem van het universum te herkennen en dienovereenkomstig te handelen. Werknemers opstaan en eisen hun loon was simpelweg een onmogelijkheid, omdat het het principe van de geschonden ma'at. Zonder inzicht in hoe om te gaan met het probleem, ambtenaren bevolen gebak geleverd aan de stakende arbeiders en hoopte dat ze tevreden zou zijn en naar huis gaan.
De broodjes waren echter niet voldoende, en de volgende dag de mannen nam de zuidelijke poort van het Ramesseum, de centrale opslagplaats van graan in Thebe. Sommige brak in de binnenste kamers van hun loon te eisen en de tempel ambtenaren noemde het hoofd van de politie, een man genaamd Montumes. Montumes vertelde de stakers naar de tempel te verlaten en terug te keren naar hun werk, maar ze weigerden. Hulpeloos, Montumes zich terugtrok en het probleem voor de ambtenaren op te lossen. Het achterstallig loon werd uiteindelijk overhandigd nadat de onderhandelingen tussen de priester-ambtenaren en de stakers, maar niet eerder had de mannen terug naar hun dorp dan ontdekten ze hun volgende betaling zou niet komen.


Opnieuw gingen de arbeiders in staking, dit keer over te nemen en het blokkeren van alle toegang tot de Vallei der Koningen. De betekenis van deze daad was dat er geen priesters of familieleden van de overledene in staat waren om met voedsel en drank aanbod aan te gaan voor de doden en dit werd beschouwd als een ernstige belediging voor de herinnering aan hen die was overleden aan het hiernamaals. Wanneer ambtenaren verscheen met gewapende bewakers en dreigde de mannen met geweld te verwijderen, een spits antwoordde dat hij de koninklijke graven zouden beschadigen voordat zij tegen hem kon bewegen en dus de twee kanten werden pat.
Tegen die tijd waren de mannen niet langer alleen het slaan over de late betalingen, maar wat zij zagen als een ernstige schending van ma'at. De koning moest zorgen voor zijn volk en dat betekende ervoor te zorgen dat ambtenaren die betalingen toezicht hield deed zo correct en tijdig. Het ging nu over drie jaar geleden dat de stakingen voor het eerst begonnen en was de situatie niet veranderd: de arbeiders zouden hun loon niet ontvangen, zouden ze dan gaan staken, de ambtenaren zou vinden van de middelen om hen te betalen, en hetzelfde scenario zou zijn herhaald de volgende maand. Het graf-arbeiders en ambachtslieden beweerde dat het onrecht van de hoogste orde werd gepleegd en ze wilden die situatie aangepakt.
De lokale overheid had echter nog steeds geen begrip van hoe het probleem aan te pakken. Het was hun verantwoordelijkheid om de orde te handhaven en, vooral met het jubileum komen, de vrede te bewaren en verdedigen de waardigheid van de farao. Ze konden officiële woord niet naar de hoofdstad dat de arbeiders van Thebe weigerden om hun werk te doen of ze zou kunnen worden geconfronteerd executie niet aan hun plicht te doen; zodat ze deden niets. In overeenstemming met de tradities van de cultuur, moeten ze woord hebben gestuurd naar het vizier, die vervolgens zouden hebben onderzocht en gecorrigeerd het probleem. Het vizier heeft, in feite, kom dan naar Thebe rond deze tijd om beelden te verzamelen voor de jubileumviering, maar er is geen aanwijzing dat hij niets over de stakende arbeiders werd verteld.
Het jubileum in 1156 BCE was een groot succes en, zoals bij alle festivals, de deelnemers vergat over hun dagelijkse problemen met dansen en drinken. Het probleem ging niet weg, echter, en de arbeiders zetten hun stakingen en hun strijd voor een eerlijke betaling in de volgende maanden. Eindelijk een soort van oplossing lijkt te zijn bereikt waarbij ambtenaren waren in staat om betalingen aan de werknemers op tijd te maken, maar de dynamiek van de relatie tussen de tempel ambtenaren en werknemers was veranderd - zoals de praktische toepassing van het begrip had ma'at - en deze zou nooit echt terugkeren weer naar hun vroegere afspraken. Ma'atwas de verantwoordelijkheid van de farao om toezicht te houden en te onderhouden, niet de werknemers; en toch de mannen van Deir el-Medina had het op zich genomen om te corrigeren wat zij zagen als een breuk in het beleid die hielpen om essentiële harmonie en evenwicht te behouden. De gewone mensen waren gedwongen om de verantwoordelijkheden van de koning te nemen.


De stakingen van het graf-arbeiders en ambachtslieden waren vooral invloedrijk, omdat deze mannen behoorden tot de best betaalde en meest gerespecteerde van het land. Als zij dit slecht behandeld konden worden, de redenering ging en vervolgens de anderen moeten nog erger verwachten. De invloed van de staking was ook zo groot, omdat deze werknemers hadden het meest te verliezen, waren allemaal erg bewust van het beginsel van ma'at en hun plicht om het, en toch koos om op te staan tegen een gouvernementele praktijk die zij voelden was onrechtvaardig. Wat begon als een klacht dan late lonen omgezet in een actie protesteren tegen corruptie en onrechtvaardigheid. Tegen het einde van hun stakingen werden de arbeiders niet langer zingen over hun honger, maar over de grotere kwestie:
We zijn gegaan in staking niet van de honger, maar omdat we een serieuze beschuldiging te maken: verkeerde dingen hebben gedaan in deze plaats van de farao. (Wilkinson, 337)
Het succes van het graf-werker / ambachtelijke stakingen anderen geïnspireerd om hetzelfde te doen. Net zoals de processen-verbaal van de strijd met de Zeevolken nooit de Egyptische verliezen in het land strijd opgenomen, noch hebben zij enige vermelding van de stakingen op te nemen. Het verslag van de staking is afkomstig van een papyrusrol ontdekt in Deir el-Medina en zeer waarschijnlijk geschreven door de schrijver Amennakht. Het precedent van de werknemers lopen weg van hun werk werd door deze gebeurtenissen te stellen en, hoewel er geen bestaande officiële verslagen van andere soortgelijke evenementen, werknemers nu begrepen zij hadden meer macht dan eerder gedacht. Stakingen zijn vermeld in het laatste deel van het Nieuwe Rijk en Late Periode en er is geen twijfel de praktijk begon met de arbeiders in Deir el-Medina in de tijd van Ramses III.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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