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Old 06-19-2019, 11:24 AM   #40
gmw
cacoethes scribendi
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So I finished.

Fox's idea that Ventris "fled" from Myres and Kober ("a pattern of abdication he would repeat throughout his life"), because he felt cowed by the academics seemed to me to be - at best - an inappropriate assumption. And after reading of the later circumstances, close to his death, I get the strong impression Ventris suffered from major depressive episodes.

As others have observed, Fox goes too far in trying to champion Kober and belittle Ventris. Actually, I also think she goes to far in trying to champion Ventris, exaggerating how unique these two were. That they were both geniuses is not in doubt, nor is their obsessive natures. But very smart, obsessive problem solvers are not that rare, and once the volume of tablets was published, it seems pretty certain to me that someone would have been along in fairly short order to solve the riddle*. The advantage that Ventris (and Kober had she lived longer) had over others was the head start offered by their decades long obsession.

I think, now that I've finished the book and seen how Ventris did it, that Kober probably would have solved the problem, given time. We learn later in the book (Ch11) that despite criticising others for experimenting with associating sounds with symbols, Kober wasn't beyond doing that herself (had tried with Cypriot). This, it seems, turned out to be part of how Ventris began his conversion to thinking Greek might be the base.

As may be expected from the above, I found the concluding chapter of the book to be especially annoying and disappointing. However my opinion was somewhat raised by the epilogue and its discussion of how much worth there is in the plain facts of how a society lived. So I'd agree with others, a rating of around 3 to 3.5. Happy to have read it, but think it could have been better.


* The problem, while there were only 200 tablets, 700 words, available was especially hard, potentially impossible to get all the way out. But the problem with thousands of tablets, and knowing now that it had links to a known language (which need not have been the case, observe that Linear A is still unsolved), is quite a different proposition.
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