The Iliad: How Much Fact - How Much Fiction

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

Moderators: MichelleH, Minimalist

Post Reply
Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

The Iliad: How Much Fact - How Much Fiction

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:59 am

I'll repeat my comment from the other thread.

Not much beyond the existence of a city at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Beagle
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:39 am
Location: Tennessee

Post by Beagle » Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:11 am

Thanks Minimalist, this should be interesting. I was saying in another thread that I have always had a healthy regard for oral history and how we often find historical fact behind a myth.

And I used the Iliad as an example. We should include the Odyssey as well. Homer has directed archaeologists to Mycenae, Ithaca, and the island home of Ajax. Probably more than that.

Once considered entirely a myth, his geography and cultural descriptions are now taken pretty seriously by most scholars.

Many ancient myths were finally written down - greatly embellished of course. There is even interesting similarity between Beowulf and the Epic of Gilgamesh. We better stick with Homer though.

Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:37 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy
Status of the Iliad
The dispute over the historicity of the Iliad was very heated at times. The more we know about Bronze Age history, the clearer it becomes that it is not a yes-or-no question but one of educated assessment of how much historical knowledge is present in Homer. The story of the Iliad is not an account of the war, but a tale of the psychology, wrath, vengeance and death of individual heroes that assumes common knowledge of the Trojan War to create a backdrop. No scholars assume that the individual events in the tale (many of which centrally involve divine intervention) are historical fact; on the other hand, few scholars claim that the scenery is entirely devoid of memories of Mycenaean times: it is rather a subjective question of whether the factual content is rather more or rather less than one would have expected.

The ostensible historicity of Homer's Troy faces the same hurdles as with Plato's Atlantis. In both cases, an ancient writer's story is now seen by some to be true, by others to be mythology or fiction. It may be possible to establish connections between either story and real places and events, but these connections may be subject to selection bias.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Frank Harrist

Post by Frank Harrist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 12:52 pm

Off topic I know, but did Plato mention a volcanic eruption or anything alluding to such in his account of Atlantis' demise? People are claiming the eruption on Santorini was the catylist for the fall of Atlantis. Just wondering how well that actually fits with the story. Maybe we should just have a thread for junk like this.

Beagle
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:39 am
Location: Tennessee

Post by Beagle » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:13 pm

Frank, I don't think it's off topic. That's a perfect example of oral tradition that eventually gets written down and survives to make it into modern history.

And I've seen the comparison to Santorini. Aside from some folks arguing about where the "pillars of Hercules" are at, Santorini makes all the sense in the world to me. It seems to have destroyed the entire Minoan civilization. That's the sort of thing that gets related over and over.

Frank Harrist

Post by Frank Harrist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:17 pm

Right, but I don't remember Plato mentioning any ash clouds or huge explosions or thunder rumbling from afar. Maybe that part got left out after a few hundred tellings. Or, maybe I'm not very familiar with Plato's original story. Anybody else know? I guess I could look it up, huh? :D

Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:25 pm

I think Plato said "earthquake."

Aside from Thera, are there any active volcanos in the area?
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Beagle
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:39 am
Location: Tennessee

Post by Beagle » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:32 pm

I'm not that sure, Min., about the number of active volcanos, but you've got the African continent smashing into Europe - that is going to create a lot of geological destruction.

In addition to the earhquake, I believe Plato said "in one horrible day and night, Atlantis sank beneath the waves". (paraphrase)

Sounds kinda' big to me. :lol:

Frank Harrist

Post by Frank Harrist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:32 pm

Ok is it Thera or Santorini? Are they the same place?

Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:39 pm

Same place.

There is Etna, on Sicily and Vesuvius outside of Naples. The Romans did not seem to know that Vesuvius was a volcano.

I know of no active volcanos on the Greek mainland or in Turkey. Certainly there are none in the Levant, Egypt or Libya. What's left?

The Romans gained control of eastern Sicily during the first Punic War. I wonder if Etna erupted between 264 BC and 79 AD? Etna seems like a very active mountain. It can't have gone over 300 years without an eruption.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Beagle
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:39 am
Location: Tennessee

Post by Beagle » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:42 pm

For this discussion they actually are, I think. There is also an extensive excavation going on there at a dig call Aquiterri (many spellings, best to read water+land). Very interesting.

Frank Harrist

Post by Frank Harrist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:43 pm

The ash cloud and the sound of the explosion would been visible and audible for thousands of miles, I imagine. At least for hundreds of miles. Seems to me that would have been a large important part of the description of the event. "The sky darkened", "an earsplitting roar", or words to that effect should have been in the story somewhere. Earthquake seems like a rather modest description of such an event....IMO.

Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:45 pm

Plato was writing 1300 years after the event.

My point was that the Greeks doubtlessly had experience with earthquakes but they may not have known about volcanos.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Beagle
Posts: 4746
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:39 am
Location: Tennessee

Post by Beagle » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:50 pm

I don't have any reference in front of me but I'm pretty sure that Plato describes the sky turning to blackness ( or night).

I guess if it's important I better look something up.

Minimalist
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15687
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:09 pm
Location: Arizona

Post by Minimalist » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:51 pm

Plato describes the sky turning to blackness ( or night).

Doesn't that happen every evening?

:wink:
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Post Reply