Saturday, May 7, 2022

On Homer's Trojan War

On Homer's Trojan War · Homer's Heritage · Homer's "Illiad" as it was misspelled - a Quoran asked on accuracy · Homer's Hittite Background

The Trojan War Was Real?! | Debunking TikTok Ancient History Hot Takes
29th March 2022 | Lady of the Library

1:27 While I do not consider it possible that Achilles' mother was a goddess in the full sense of the Greek mythological theology (like, I presume it means she was immortal), I certainly do consider it possible she was a witch, and that Achilles up to that wound in the heel was de facto never wounded. Some people do have this kind of luck in battle, since guns are around it's surrounded by the superstition of "bullet proof" (I suppose it is called) ... Charles XII never was hit by any bullet until one in the leg near Poltava, and another one in the head at Halden (probably Frederikshald). So, when he was doing his stuff at Narva, he was supposed to be "bullet proof" in this superstitious sense. Muslims on the Rif of Morocco attributed this to Francisco Franco, while he fought there : he really never ever was hit by any bullet in all of his life, whether on the Rif or in the repression of the Reds in 34 (when he acted on the orders of president Gil Robles) or in the battles he fought in the Spanish war (when and where he fought personally, red civilians were a lot safer then than back in 34).

Ergo, the quality of Achilles to be "sword proof" or even "spear proof" and "arrow proof" (up to that final, fatal arrow) and the superstitious and mythological account of how his mother acquired this for him, all of this is not the least an argument against the historicity of the Trojan War as depicted by Homer.

2:12 A historical account doesn't become inherently totally garbled and inaccurate, just because some of the magic the historiographer believes in is false, and therefore some of his explanations for events are false.

Dito for Homer's account of what happened when this or that Olympian took on the shape of a warrior someone thought he could win over easily, and then turned around as a god and killed him. An atheist could conclude for a psychosis on the part of the warrior, and a Christian could conclude a demon did it. The real problem is, how do we know what the guy thought he was pursuing? Well, it's a clear option that he had shouted something like "I'm going for you ...NN" before his comrades or that he whimpered to them before dying, with words like "I thought it was NN, but it was a god"

So, no, not the least an indication that the Homeric account and other related ones were inherently unhistoric. Accessorily inaccurate in some detail, but that we find in accounts from World War II, too.

Homer was producing epic poetry, not history. Don't confuse him with Herodotus.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@TacticusPrime Epic poetry as well as Attic drama basically is history.

Herodotus differs mainly in giving more than one version, putting in his doubts on this or hedging on that, while Homer is a chronicler (or chronicle extracter plus adding vivid scenes) who gives one version.

Herodotus' reasons to doubt the action of the Iliad is, the Persians used it to pretend their invasion Westward was a payback for Greek invasion Eastward. He's at least as much into the Supernatural as Homer, he gives us the Ring of Gyges and how the Oracle of Delphi trapped Croesus in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thread continued on: Homer's Heritage

2:24 As a Christian, I don't feel able to exclude either demonic or even angelic actions taken around the sword of Excalibur. It could also be an element of fan fiction added to the original account.

There is a very clear indiciation in the Arthur legend of when it was, and it matches when we find an Artorius at Mons Badonicus in sources considered less legendary. This indication is, his wife queen Guinevere was getting executed for adultery and was saved by the adulterer, Sir Lancelot.

Why does this match c. 500 or 520 or whatever? Because it matches the Roman law between Constantine (who introduced death penalty for adultery, in imitation of passages in Exodus, perhaps having an example of St. John's Gospel lacking a very famous pericope in chapter 8) and Justinian (who replaced death penalty with enforced divorce and shutting up of the adulteress in a monastery, with the husband having a three year delay to forgive her and take her back).

2:32 Both Lady of the Lake and Merlin are within what a Christian considers possible.

Demonic explanations are possible for the Lady of the Lake, as for the wife of Numa Pomilius, a maiden of the lake near Nemi I presume, and for Merlin there is a rival one, namely, as for Gerbert, demonic activity was attributed to him by people who misunderstood his simply learned or geeky pursuits (I think some people who have seen me solve sudokus or make bags of macramé have thought I was doing subreptitiously magic rites).

I'm not sure why you are linking obvious Medieval fan fiction with "what a Christian considers possible". Medieval stories of Wizards, Knightly quests, and magic swords are not taken seriously by Christian scholars and clergy. They were not even taken seriously in Medieval times by educated scholars and clergy. The tradition of "faith and reason" runs very strong in Christian history and tradition.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@isoldam "Medieval stories of Wizards, Knightly quests, and magic swords are not taken seriously by Christian scholars and clergy."

Right now, at least.

And, by the way, I'd count the Grail Quest and arguably Green Knight as fan fic.

"They were not even taken seriously in Medieval times by educated scholars and clergy."

Because of your take? Or because of it's being outside BOTH Salvation history AND the history of any state in the Classic or High Middle Ages? Or some mix of both?

"The tradition of "faith and reason" runs very strong in Christian history and tradition."

In fact, faith is a quality OF reason. A slogan like "faith AND reason," or instead "faith OR reason" is so post 1700 and arguably a decade or two later than that even.

Faith is a content, reason is a container.

When you want to suggest that "because reason, no wizard" you are treating "reason" as a kind of content.

And Classic and Scholastic philosophy do not state that a demon or even angel staging "lady of the lake" is impossible or even highly improbable, depending of course on what type of power God was according the devil to work (if an angel, it would have been in response to demonic activity). A few centuries earlier, a huge, snake like monster had come from a Ceres temple near the end of paganism in Périgueux. A little less than a century after, Saxons were going to infest the places of the Lady of the Lake and of Morgana le Fay with a new paganism. Demonic activity in that era cannot be discounted as a possibility.

2:51 How do you know it "did not happen in the way mythology has memorialised it"?

Apart of course from your teacher telling you so, by now you are old enough to be beyond the "iurare in verba magistri". For specific arguments you already mentioned, see comments related to previous time signatures and you are welcome to answer me there on those.

Lady of the Library
Because there weren't magical gods interfering with the war or dipping heroes into sacred fires or underworld seas for immortality. Those things don't exist in reality but do in the mythology. That's how I know....

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Lady of the Library There are witches who would dip babies in sacred fires. And while I don't think for a single moment that Achilles and his mother went to the Netherworld (any more than Hercules could bring up Cerberus from there), it's perfectly possible she did go to some well in some cave and believed it to be Styx.

The bottom line is, for Exodus to be true even as to main story line, you need God to part the Red Sea for Moses. For the Iliad, you don't need Achilles' mother to be a real goddess.

"Those things don't exist in reality but do in the mythology."

Do you include or exlude the God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush?

Do you say it from the perspective of an Atheist or Christian world view?

4:33 I am not sure if you have read a book by I think Walter Leaf. (1930's or 40's)

He considered both Troy and Achaean Greece were Satrapies of the Hittite Empire.

Later discussions don't seem to support Trojan War being that kind of Civil war within the Hittite Empire.

I'd suggest two possibilities barring that : 1) Greeks and Trojans came together to sack Hattusa. Squabble over the loot led to Greeks sacking Troy, via, let's not forget these guys were religious and wanted a religiously impeccable excuse for going to war, the rapine of fair Helen. 2) Trojans sacked Hattusa. They briefly became independent (as in previous scenario, unlike Leaf's) and also so much weakened that Greeks could do away with them, for some other reason than squabbling over the loot, perhaps control over Dardanelles, but again, via indignation of Helen whisked away from Sparta to Troy.

Btw, like for Ilion having Wilusa, the word Troy also has Tarwusa in Hittite or Nesili.

5:49 Ah, wait ... Hittites and Ahhiayawa rival claimants over Arzawa ... OK, also makes sense, and also makes no argument against historicity of Homer's account, except that Homer was obviously incomplete (in any of above scenarios) on the causation leading up to the war.

According to Leaf, who considers the Trojan Ship catalogue historic, and the Greek one (taking up most or much of Iliad B) made up, because it includes Corinth, the Ship catalogue was an excuse for "bards" flattering audiences in diverse Greek cities where they performed.

I think there is more to it. I think Homer may have been more concerned with tracing the post-Trojan Greek world (of which he was a part) and the decision to break up transregional units and fight by the shiploads of soldiers fro diverse parts of Ahhiyawa / Achaean Greece, to my mind this decision could have sparked a fire of particularism, which, when Hittite and Trojan threats were gone, gave us the city states, usually in Homer's time still ruled by kings or possibly sometimes aristocrats, which we know as Classical Greece. He gave us the Trojan war as a gloss on "why do we speak the same language, but don't have the same king?" - "because back in the Trojan war, the soldiers didn't win until they each fought along with people from their ptolis" (Yes, Homer said ptolis, also ptoliethron, for polis) "and because the commanding kings quarrelled with a bad character who had chief command" (namely the guy described by Achilles as "Heavy with wine, with the face of a dog but the heart of a deer,").

I think he also had some reason to commemorate one specific no longer vassal to Mycenae or Argos principality - Ithaka. I find it very possible, the Odyssey was based on family memories.

6:41 This letter would have been about 100 years or more before the Trojan war (which took place, both archaeologically and in Greek tradition, 1179 BC or close on).

7:16 Given the size of Hittite Empire, the only Empires that could content with them for Troy would have been the one we presume by idenifying Ahhiyawa with Achaean Greece. Crete was small, Crete and Cyprus together could be an option, Egypt was too far off and arguably had some other known name in Hittite sources, and that is probable for Crete and Cyprus too. Hence, Ahhiyawa = Achaean Greece. The adressee of the letter would be, precisely, a predecessor of Agamemnon (but for chronological reasons, not Agamemnon himself).

Achaean Greece does not mean every later city state on South Balkan was part of the Achaean Greece, Walter Leaf presumes Athens was a Pelasgian and Thebes a Phoenician enclave.

7:37 Homer's Trojans were - not Hittites per se, but - Arzawa.

8:21 The letter says the Hittites were agressors towards the Ahhiyawans ...

There are actually stories in Greek "mythology" as you like to resume the heroic legend about earlier wars involving Greece and Troy.

You know, Hercules is presumed to have lived the generation before the Trojan war, he was supposed to have made an earlier, lesser sack on Troy, capturing Priam, who gets his name from "priamos" = hostage. B u t the agression was a reprisal for an earlier one. Which, therefore, the Trojans had perpetrated on Greeks, presumably with Hittite power in their back and as relative support. Or the letter could involve a both Greek and Hittite earlier aggression on Troy.

Either way, there is no reason to see this Hittite letter to Ahhiyawa as being a reference to the exact same stage of the same conflict, and therefore an alternative and better source than Homer (alternative to and better than, zeugma, I know). Therefore, nothing in this letter debunks the account of Homer.

This is so, even if the then Wilusa king had a name presumed with good reason to be the original behind "Priam" - the letter from Hattusa could have been talking about a Priam I, and Homer about a Priam II (or II and III), precisely like the son of Priam called "Parid" (let's recall, Pari-s is a nominative that has Parid-os for genitive, it has no connection known to the Parisii) would have been Alexander II (or III) if an Alexander I (or II) was mentioned in archaeologically known correspondences.

The idea that the names detected from historically "good sources" must be originals behind same names in "legendary sources" doesn't resonate with me. I have read that Brunehaut queen of Franks (wife of Sigebert, regent for sons and grandsons) was the "real model" for Brynhild / Brünhilde of the Niblung legend. What if it is the other way around? What if Brunehaut of Austrasia was named for the Brünhilde of Nibelungen fame, like two saints were named for the Sigurd / Siegfried of same legend? It is no one to one between individual people and individual names, especially in societies with only one name per person, some people are in fact named after other people.

And if the letter from Hattusa is not presumed to speak about individually the same Priam as Homer's (or if, about him when he was young, perhaps in Achaean captivity), then the letter is also not an argument against how Homer describes the outline of the war.

9:43 And yes, the treaty with Aleksandu of Wilusa would be featuring another Alexander than prince Paris (or if you prefer Parid). An earlier one. 13th C BC = 1300 - 1201 BC. Trojan war, 1189 - 1179 BC. ("Ab excidio Troiae, anno millesimo centesimo septuagesimo nono," as early versions of the "Christmas proclamation" feature, before the Council of Trent)

10:28 So much that, I consider Apollo was taken over from the Trojans by the Greeks at this war.

In earlier Greece, some kings are said to have consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi ... that might well be an anachronism as to the exact site and deity of the manteia concerned, but doesn't make Oedipus' fate or Orestes' unhistoric just for that.

The site of the Pythia was taken over by Apollo-worshipping pirates, and continued for well over a millennium until an earthquake in the AD Second Century turned off the halucinagenic gas, which turned off the Oracle, too.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Egilhelmson Possible.

But it is also possible that Apollo was taken over earlier than that.

Or if not, that the taking over of Apollo influenced the writing of the Iliad. However, Homer is not quite flattering to a deity he calls Apollyon.

The turning off of the oracle seems to be at another date: "The temple survived until AD 390, when the Roman emperor Theodosius I silenced the oracle by destroying the temple and most of the statues and works of art to remove all traces of paganism.[55]"

Source :

11:30 There have recently been excavations of some kind of military camp around Troy, around the right period, 1180 BC.

This means, all archaeological evidence are compatible for Homer's war, none is incompatible, and lack of direct Hittite source, well, Hattusa was already abandoned by then.

Quick check on wiki, yes : Abandoned, c. 1200 BC = before the Trojan war.

You don't get a new document archived in a library that is already abandoned for the following 3000 + years.

Pierre S.
Really? 🤨

@Hans-Georg Lundahl you can't even use wikipedia as a reference in a 5th grade report so there's where you took a wrong turn

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@drivethrupoet The proper objection on the free market of ideas is not "such and such an institution doesn't allow you to use wikipedia" but "I have a better source that says otherwise" - which I doubt you have.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Pierre S. My dear Pierre, why the scepticism against me and not against Lady of the Library?

She's beautiful, OK, but that doesn't mean she's right to use lack of Hittite sources against the Trojan war.

Pierre S.
@Hans-Georg Lundahl I wasn’t trying to be skeptical. I was merely intrigued.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Pierre S. OK. Happens.

@Hans-Georg Lundahl I'm not being hyperbolic, this is typical of the guidelines for education (at least in the US) they do not allow Wikipedia as a reference. They do provide students with lists of reputable sites with archived academic papers and online libraries. I was making a bit of a joke not trying to trigger you, but it is an accurate statement.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@drivethrupoet Yes, I believe you - and this is one of the things that's a huge problem with your education system.

As I am NOT in it, I am thank God free from that rigmarole, tactically put into place to get professors a few less heartattacks by being refuted from sources they hadn't heard of.

@drivethrupoet You STILL haven't provided a better sources that states that the fall of Hattusha was after the accepted date for the Trojan war.

@Hans-Georg Lundahl that's not at all my point 🙄

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@drivethrupoet That would have been the point actually adressing my initial one.

Your metapoint was also just refuted, or do you want to defend it?

12:09 The argument that Priamos is a Greek name and Alexandros is a Greek name is, as argument, not to the point.

Oral tradition between 1179 and 750 - or 800 - in a Greek surrounding would have tended to Hellenise any exact names from Anatolian origin - like Wilusa and Tarwusa to Ilion and Troy.

This precludes [there being] no actual memory of the event. Which on my hypothesis was capital to the then Greeks, because it broke up Ahhiyawa / Achaean Greece.

It's how Poles would remember WW-I - after which they were no longer a principality in Russia and another one in Austria and a third territory in Prussian Germany.

13:01 You just stopped a comment on how Homer was supportive of Greek colonisers ... Chesterton considered him supportive of Trojans, his most likeable and in the end lines buried hero being the Trojan prince Hector (whom Leaf considered an invention by Homer, to give a story line excuse for looking at only last year events, with back-looks to earlier ones).

Achilles helped disunify Greeks. But Hector is the defeated and nostalgically remembered hero.

Phrygians would have been the ethnicity of Wilusa, even if Hittite accounts paints their names in a Nesili manner - and Phrygian is like Lydian and ancient Anatolian language.

Alberto G-M
@Hans-Georg Lundahl Phrygians arrived in Asia Minor from Thrace only after 1180 BCE, the traditional date for the Late Bronze Age Collapse that coincides with the destruction of Troy VIIa, therefore Homeric Troy was not inhabited by Thracians or Lydians, but other indo-European speaking peoples that had already been in Anatolia since at least 2000-1800 BCE, at the same time the Hittites arrived in the Anatolian plateau and founded the Old Kingdom.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Alberto G-M "Phrygians arrived in Asia Minor from Thrace only after 1180 BCE"

O K ... source in either history or archaeology for this statement being?

I go to "Phrygians" on wiki and find: "After the collapse of the Hittite Empire at the beginning of the twelfth century BC, the political vacuum in central-western Anatolia was filled by a wave of Indo-European migrants and "Sea Peoples", including the Phrygians, who established their kingdom with a capital eventually at Gordium. It is presently unknown whether the Phrygians were actively involved in the collapse of the Hittite capital Hattusa or whether they simply moved into the vacuum left by the collapse of Hittite hegemony."

Sounds like an archaeological statement. As such subject to caution as to interpretation.

What if Phrygian was really spoken in Anatolia prior to this, but politically oppressed by Hittite?

I think I also mentioned Lydian. Both Lydian and Luwian are in fact Anatolian.

So, for Phrygian, please read instead Luwian or Lydian in above statements!

Alberto G-M
@Hans-Georg Lundahl Of course all these arguments are academic theories, as sadly we don’t have definitive evidence of the time.

My argument and interest in LBA History comes from linguistics, and in this case, the Phrygian language, even if found in Anatolia, does not share the defining features of the Anatolian Indo-European languages (Luwian, Hittite and other related languages). Also, the oldest Phrygian texts are only found later, and never in the 2nd Millennium BCE, where they should be found if they occupied historic Troy. This is another piece of information that suggests Phrygians moved into Anatolia later and only after the fall of the Hittite, but again, this is only a theory, but it has its evidences:

If the Phrygians were in Anatolia before the fall of the Hittite Kingdom, and, as you suggest, were actually even politically oppressed by them, first, their language should share a lot more characteristics with the Anatolian branch, which it doesn’t.

Also, the 300 year gap in written evidence does not suggest they had a hand in the downfall of the Hittites:

As soon as Hattusa fell, the oppression would’ve ended and they could have assumed local/regional power, but neither the archaeology or the linguistic evidence point to a cultural integration process in Western Anatolia (except cultural continuity in the Luwian-speaking areas) in the same way we find in Eastern Anatolia with the Syrio-Hittite city states that flourished after the fall of Hattusa until their integration into the new Assyrian Empire and that combined characteristics of the Hittite and Aramaic languages and culture.

The archaeological and linguistic evidence point instead to Phrygian speaking peoples moving into the power vacuum, bringing another Indo-European language with them that had evolved separate from those in Anatolia, and eventually starting to write in Phrygian only from the 9th Century BCE.

Are there older texts we have not found yet? Maybe, but this is why this can be a debate in which we propose theories based on the evidence we have from different academic fields.

Lastly, the position of Lydian within the Anatolian Branch of Indo-European languages is also a fascinating and debated topic.

We understand a lot more about the Luwian branch and its derivates Carian, Lycian, Mylian, Sidetic and Pisidian to understand they form a dialectal subgroup, but Lydian is relatively unknown in the 2nd Millenium BCE, even though we know it had to be there (because of mentions of a region called Lydia and some Lydian kings on tablets/inscriptions) and scholars to this day debate about whether the Lydian language was closer to Hittite or Luwian (as in, sharing a common ancestor with either of those branches) but the latest proposal I’ve heard is about an even earlier separation of Lydian from Common Anatolian before it split into separate branches and remaining mostly isolated until it may have been later influenced by both branches in the 1st Millenium BCE (I. Hajnal - “Lydian: Late Hittite or Neo-Luwian?”, 2001, Universität Innsbruck). However at this point we lack textual and epigraphic evidence to solve this mystery.

But definitely, the circumstances are very different for the Phrygian, who most scholars suggest moved into Anatolia in successive waves from the 12th Century BCE onwards, as I’ve explained.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Alberto G-M I think my suggestion of Phrygian was simply bad memory - plus the assumption, perhaps unwarranted, that Phrygians originated as a branch of Lydians.

I recall someone saying the Trojans spoke Luwian, and I think this is vastly more realistic.

Your correction stands, and our dialogue is now on the blog "Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere" + "On Homer's Trojan War" for the post.

Alberto G-M
@Hans-Georg Lundahl I do agree with the latest theories that suggest Troy was a Luwian-speaking kingdom, vassal to the Hittites until their downfall around the same time as the fall of Hattusa.

There’s a recent proposal by Dr Eberhard Zangger who has coined the term Luwian culture/civilisation as an umbrella term to help structure the political and cultural landscape of Western Anatolia in the 2nd Millenium BCE, as a separate entity from the Hittite culture/civilisation, even though they coexisted. The idea being that the Hittites were able to consolidate a dynastic union while the Luwians consisted of independent kingdoms, some times at odds with Hatti, some times vassals, but both forming part of a bigger Anatolian ethnolinguistic continuum, as Luwian was widely spoken in the Hittite kingdom, with a ruling class that spoke Hittite.

Whatever made possible the collapse of the Late Bronze Age civilisations in the region ended the cultural central position Anatolia had in the 2nd Millennium BCE until it gradually becomes the frontier of the Greek world with the Mesopotamian powers in all their different incarnations, from Assyrians to Babylonians to Medes to Persians to Achaemenids, etc.

This decline is what explains the extinction of the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages and its replacement first by Greek and later, a lot later, by Turkish.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
@Alberto G-M Very probable.

It's actually Eberhard Zangger I recall as saying Trojans spoke Luwian.

My own perspective is that if Lydian started getting attested soon after Homer*, and Luwian language ceased getting attested a bit after that**, the indigenous memory of the Trojan war would have been able to get fairly correctly transmitted to Homer.

You see, my most basic concern is not with epigraphic inscriptions, but with ancient texts. And Homer came after the Trojan war, while the library of Hattusa ceased before it.

As you have studied Zangger, is it still a viable theory, that first Luwians helped overthrow Hattusa, then were themselves overthrown by Greeks? Or did I misrecall him?

* 700 BC
** 600 BC

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