The Greek myth of the Rape (Abduction) of Europa tells of a Phoenician princess stolen across the sea from Tyre to Crete and of her five brothers sent to find her. None did. One brother, Cadmus, however, founded Greek Thebes, married a local girl, Harmonia, and is credited with giving Greece agriculture, the alphabet, and metalworking: the pillars of civilization. The names tell the story: Europa meant “west,” Cadmus derived from the word for “east,” and Harmonia (harmony) was how Greeks defined beauty. That is, in the middle of the first millennium BCE, ideas, art, stories, and technical skills from the Near East arrived in Europe, as the sophisticated East joined hands with the naive West and learning married beauty. It was a seed-time that fertilized rocky, resource-poor, illiterate Greece, and Western Civilization was born. This lecture tells the history that this richly-layered myth evokes, both as it once was told and as it is told now, all with beautiful images taken from art.
Douglas Kenning received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has lived and taught at universities in Tunisia, Japan, and Italy. Besides being a professor of history and literature, he also has been a professional biologist, actor, army officer, Manhattan taxi driver, academic administrator, and writer of books, articles, and stage plays. He lives half the year in Petaluma, giving lecture series on subjects related to the histories and cultures of the Mediterranean area, and half the year in Sicily, where he runs Sicily Tour.
Commonwealth Club, 110 The Embarcadero, San Francisco. www.Commonwealthclub.org or 415 597 6700.