By Sasan Samiei
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Additional resources for Ancient Persia in Western history : Hellenism and the representation of the Achaemenid Empire
Of course, developments in anthropology and linguistics did not take place in a vacuum. There were a number of contexts. This monograph, however, is solely preoccupied with one context in particular, or at last with one ever-changing context; a context of long pedigree and deep roots. The shift from Renaissance humanism to neo-classicism and thence to Hellenism deﬁnes one of the main strands of modern European intellectual development. This process can best be appreciated by considering the following three areas: classical education, classical ideas of governance and, crucially, (Germanic) Hellenism.
In order to establish aesthetic originality or otherwise, it was a conceptual necessity to enquire what had preceded the Greeks and what was contemporaneous with them. At the very outset of The History of Ancient Art (1759), Winckelmann distinguishes between ‘the origin of art and the causes of its difference among different nations’ in the following manner: The art of drawing among the Egyptians is to be compared to a tree which, though well cultivated, has been checked and arrested in its growth by worm, or other casualties; for it remained unchanged, precisely the same, yet without attaining its perfection until the period when Greek kings held sway over them; and the case appears to have been the same with Persian art.
25 Some seven years later, Renan summed up his analysis more succinctly in a lecture entitled ‘The Part Played by Semitic Peoples in the History of Civilization’: The future, gentlemen, is for Europe alone. Europe will conquer the world and spread its religion which is law, freedom and respect for mankind, the belief that there is something divine at the heart of humanity. 28 Here is a relevant and revealing extract: If the empire of Darius had, at the battle of Arbela, been able to ﬁll its ranks with Persians, that is to say with real Aryans; if the Romans of the late Empire had had a Senate and an army of the same stock as that which existed at the time of the Fabii, their dominion would never have come to an end.