Sunday, March 21, 2021

Troy, Mycenae, Homer - History

Is Homer’s Iliad a primary source for Mycenae?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters Latin & Greek, Lund University
Answered just now
First of all, I do not accept the Weibull school’s definition of “primary sources” as only contemporary. If I did, it would not be one, since Homer lived c. 300 - 400 years after the events he described.

I accept sources as more or less reliable, and I consider Homer if fairly reliable, but with some caveats:

  • not when he mixes later types of armour with those from Mycenaean times;
  • probably his introduction of Corinth in Ship Catalogue is satire;
  • probably some exploits are really not from Troy but from Kadesh, hence references to Egypt and to Ethiopia;
  • Hittites would have been either recently or not yet ended as an Empire, and they are not mentioned;
  • obviously, his theology is not the true one. But that is no criticism of his history as historic.

Now, you also said “for Mycenae”. In fact, the Iliad takes place mostly at Troy, but I do accept that Mycenae had a king called Agamemnon who led the armies before Troy. As his brother is king of Sparta, I take it Mycenaean Greece was more of one state and less of an accumulation of strictly independent city states. In fact, the idea in Ship Catalogue to rearrange men according to companies according to home origins may have been what started the trend towards the city states in Classic and Pre-Classic (Archaic) Greece.

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