Grumpage wrote:Also, while I am aware that folk/Bardic memories can be good I would question that they are so reliable in the detail. In any event, this is a moot point.
I would tend to agree with this statement, but over the last year or so, I have seen many cases where details have seemingly been preserved some way some how. Now, I will give you the evidence is somewhart circumstantial. But let's look at the detail in this tale and then make a judgment; is it really possible the details could not survive 2-300 years of retelling.
Now there are two important things, in my view, we most keep in mind. First, there is no knowledge one way or the other, when the tales were written but it is possible some of them were written by the time "Homer" compiled them. Secondly, remember they were poems and poems are inherently robust in surviving retelling. For example, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" has survived around 150 years already, Many of the Mother Goose tales are over 230 years old and some may be much older.
Hermes goes to Ogygia then back again.
Depending on the origin of this verse, the poem could very clearly indicate that Mercury moved toward a given place in the sky and did a retrograde loop.
Many ancient and modern interpreters believe that Ogygia was located in the Ionian Sea or in the Mediterranean Sea. Later interpretations sometimes identify Ogygia and Phaeacia with sunken Atlantis. A long standing tradition begun by Euhemerus in the late Fourth Century B.C.E and supported by Callimachus, also endorsed by some Maltese patriots, identifies Ogygia with the island of Gozo, the second largest island in the archipelago.
Some scholars, having examined the work and the geography of Homer, have suggested that Ogygia and Scheria were located in the Atlantic Ocean. Among them were Strabo and Plutarch
It would seem that no matter where you are in greece, Ogygia would be west of you. Actually Mercury will never move across the sky from east to west since it is usually too close to the sun. It would appear in the west after twilight and then in the east prior to dawn. Observing a retrograde movement of Mercury in the western sky is not very common.
Odysseus sets sail from Ogygia, sees Pleiades, Bootes and the Bear is to his left.
This is confirmation Ogygia is to the west, as Odysseus moves east, since the north (Ursa Major) is to his left. Though there may be a narrow time range when Bootes and Pleiades are both visible, it is an annual event.
Athena travels to Sparta
Assuming the reference point is Odysseus' home of Ithaca, Sparta would be in the east. So a reference to Venus in the east.
Poseidon returns from Ethiopia and sinks Odysseus
Ethiopia is south and so this is a supposed reference to the sun crossing the ecliptic from the south which only occurs on the Equinox. Ok, this is obscure for me so I will defer to the authors on this one.
The New Moon.
We probably do not need to discuss this point as a new moon is very common no remarkable allegory would be required to remember it since it is also required for an eclipse.
Now, add to this the eclipse (which the authors did not do) and you have six generalized astronomical events which can potentially occur on a very specific dates. Hence the authors table of correlations.
I agree with you that the various events are interpretations. Perhaps Hermes movements were never intended to convey a real astronomical observation of Mercury. I find it very interesting, they were able to find a real Mercury event (apparent retrograde motion) which correlates with the other events. What are the odds of that?
Obviously the above events are very general in nature. Venus is in the east, mercury is in the west, it is a new moon, mercury does the dipsy-doodle, it is near the equinox. No high level of astronomical skill required as you agree.
Thanks for posting the article Grumpage. It is a very intersting study.