Discussion History What are the thesis and main points of Eric Cline’s argument? What evidence does he use to support his thesis? Which author — Aristop

Discussion History What are the thesis and main points of Eric Cline’s argument? What evidence does he use to support his thesis?
Which author — Aristophanes or Sophocles — has a more positive view of women? Give specific examples form the Lysistrata and Antigone to support your answer.
What does Herodotus see as the strengths and weaknesses of the three forms of government that he describes? Reading between the lines, which one does he think is best? Which one does he think is the worst?
How are Athenian direct democracy and American representative democracy similar or different? Athens built an empire from the Delian League in the fifth century BCE. What does this tell us about the nature of Athens’ direct democracy and who was allowed to participate in it?

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Formatting: See requirements handout for details on what you need to do if you are cutting and pasting your replies from another file into Blackboard. Eric H. Cline

THE TROJAN

WAR
A Very Short Introduction

OXFORD
UNIVERSITY PRESS

OXFORD
UNIVERSITY PRESS

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Published in the United States of America by
Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

@ Eric H. Cline 2013

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

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without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as

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Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above.

You must not circulate this work in any other form, and you must

impose the same condition on any acquirer.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cline, Eric H.
The Trojan War : a very short introduction / Eric H. Cline.

p. cm.—(Very short introductions)
Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-19-976027-5 calk. paper)
1. Troy (Extinct city) 2. Trojan War. 3. Turkey—Antiquities.

4. Excavations (Extinct city) – Turkey – Troy (Extinct city)
5. Greece—Civilization—To 146 B.C. I. Title.

DF221.T8C54 2013
939′.m—dc23 2012036331

3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

Printed in Great Britain
by Ashford Colour Press Ltd., Gosport, Hants.

on acid-free paper

Dedicated to the memory of my mother,
for introducing me to the wonders of the Trojan

War when I was seven years old.

Chapter 3

Homeric questions: Did

Homer exist and is the Iliad

accurate?

Modern scholars studying the Greek literary evidence for the

Trojan War are generally concerned with what is known as the

“Homeric question.” This actually consists of a multitude of smaller

questions, of which the most relevant are: “Did Homer exist?” and

“Does the information in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey reflect the

Bronze Age (when the Trojan War took place), the Iron Age (when

Homer lived), or something in between?” Although both questions

are important, the latter has the more important implications for

scholars studying the Trojan War, or excavating for the remains

of Troy, or trying to re-create the world of the Bronze Age in the

Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

Homer

Not much is actually known about Homer or his life. The ancients

held him in the highest regard as a bard—a traveling minstrel who

sang of the heroic deeds of an age gone by—and he is still regarded

as the first, and possibly the greatest, of the Greek epic poets. His

genius reportedly lay in compiling, combining, and perhaps even

41

ultimately writing down the story (or stories) of the Trojan War.

One scholar, Barry Powell, has made the rather unusual suggestion

that the Greek alphabet was invented so that the epics could be

written down—that it was “invented by a single human being . . .

to record the Greek hexameters of the poet we call Homer.” Others

have suggested that Homer may have created the epic poems but

meant them to be passed along by an oral tradition, as had the

earlier epics, until what we now know as the Iliad and the Odyssey

were ultimately written down, perhaps as late as, or even later

than, the sixth century BCE.

Assuming that Homer is a real person and the author of the epic

poems, both of which are open to question, when and where did he

live? Herodotus thought that Homer had lived approximately four

hundred years before his own era, stating: “Homer and Hesiod . . .

lived but four hundred years before my time, as I believe” (Histories

II.53). Since Herodotus lived ca. 450 BCE, that would place

Homer in the middle of the ninth century, ca. 850 BCE. However,

after decades of discussion, scholars now generally place Homer

about a century later, ca. 750 BCE, in part because one of his

students, Arctinus of Miletus (composer of the Aethiopis and the

Iliupersis) is said to have been born in 744 BCE (see Clement of

Alexandria, Stromata 1.131.6).

Ancient Greek scholars, writers, and poets, among them Aristotle

and Pindar, argued about Homer’s origins. Some thought that

Homer came from the city of Smyrna on the western coast of

Anatolia (now Izmir in modern Turkey) and had worked for years

on the island of Chios; others said that he had been born on Chios

or on the island of Ios. In short, there has never been general

agreement as to his origins. Indeed, there are many scholars who

have insisted that he never existed, at least not as he is generally

portrayed.

On the other hand, it has been suggested that Homer was not

a single individual but was at least two people, Indeed, it was

42

long thought, by German scholars in particular (among them

Friedrich August Wolf in 1795), that the Iliad and the Odyssey

were written by different people. At one point, a stylistic analysis

of the texts by computer seemed to confirm this conclusion, but

no general consensus has ever been reached. It has also been

suggested that Homer was not a man, but a woman. Although the

case for this hypothesis has recently been explored, the original

suggestion goes back more than a century, to Samuel Butler,

writing in 1897.

Perhaps most intriguing, and eminently plausible, is the

suggestion that Homer was not a specific individual but was,

instead, a profession. That is to say, there was no person named

“Homer,” but rather that one was a “Homer,” a traveling bard

who sang the epics of the Trojan War for his living. If so, then

one or more of these professional bards may have written

down the oral version of the story when a new writing system

became generally available in the eighth century BCE. Overall,

there is no shortage of suggestions, and books, about Homer.

The simple answer, however, is that we actually know almost

nothing about him, most importantly whether he actually wrote

the two works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are generally

attributed to him.

Bronze Age or Iron Age?

As for the second part of the Homeric question, we may well ask

whether the information in the Iliad and Odyssey reflects events

that occurred in the Bronze Age (1700—1200 BCE), the Iron

Age (1200-800 BCE), or sometime in between. In order to

answer this question, we must use information gleaned from the

texts and compare it to information gained from archaeology.

We begin by testing the premise that the descriptions in the Iliad, the

Odyssey, and elsewhere in the Epic Cycle are accurate

representations of Bronze Age Greek society, and that they were

43

handed down verbatim and without dilution by bards during

the five hundred years between 1250 and 750 BCE. Could a

single poet, or many poets, have accurately remembered, and

transmitted, tens of thousands of lines of information over five

centuries? What evidence, or examples, do we have that this might

be the case?

Modern scholars using ethnographic analogies, such as Milman

Parry in the 1920s, have documented that bards could indeed have

accurately transmitted orally thousands of lines of epic poetry,

for they recorded examples of modern poets and bards reciting

and singing epics in Yugoslavia, Turkey, and Ireland. Clearly, it

would have been no problem to accurately transmit such poems,

especially if many of the lines or descriptions are stock, formulaic,

and repetitive, such as “grey-eyed Athena,” “swift-footed Achilles,”

and “rosy-fingered dawn.”

The Catalogue of Ships from the Iliad (11.494—759), which

mentions 1,186 ships in all, is considered by many scholars

to be a reasonably accurate remnant from the Bronze Age,

orally transmitted by generations of bards over the course of

five centuries. Archaeological investigations have shown that

many of the cities and towns listed in the catalogue as having

sent men and ships were inhabited only in the Bronze Age and

had long been abandoned by the time of Homer. Only ruins,

if anything, would have been visible at these once-vital places

during Homer’s lifetime. Legends and stories could account

for memories of some, but not for all; the only way for such

a catalogue to be so accurate is if it had been composed at a time

when the cities were flourishing, during the Late Bronze

Age, and had then been handed down from bard to bard until

finally inserted and written down as part of Book Il of the Iliad.

However, it is not a completely unblemished remnant from the

Bronze Age, for there are cities present that should be absent and

cities absent that should be present, if everything were strictly

Bronze Age. Instead, it seems to be an amalgamation, with

44

changes made over the centuries as the story was handed down

orally by the bards.

Overall, the Iliad seems to be a compilation of details and data

spanning the full range of time from the Bronze Age to the

Iron Age. This may be expected, if changes and updates were

constantly being made to the poem as it was handed down over

the centuries, in order to keep it fresh and relevant. For instance,

both Patroclus and Hector are said to have been cremated on

funeral pyres following their deaths in battle (Il. XVIII.138—257

and XXIV.784-804, respectively): “they carried out bold Hector,

weeping, and set the body aloft a towering pyre for burning. And

set fire to it.” Although the practice of cremation, rather than burial

by inhumation, is much more typical of Iron Age Greece than

of Bronze Age Greece, a cremation cemetery dating to the late

fourteenth century BCE, in which the remains were buried in urns,

was uncovered in level Vlh at the site of Troy/Hisarlik.

In addition, the boars’-tusk helmets described in detail by Homer

had gone out of use by the end of the Bronze Age. Boars’ tusks

from such helmets, and depictions of warriors wearing them, have

been found at sites such as Tiryns on the Greek mainland, Knossos

on Crete, and on the island of Delos, but they would no longer

have been seen by the time of Homer, despite the knowledgeable

description found in the Iliad (X.260-65):

Meriones gave Odysseus a bow and a quiver and a sword; and he

too put over his head a helmet fashioned of leather; on the inside the

cap was cross-strung firmly with thongs of leather, and on the outer

side the white teeth of a tusk-shining boar were close sewn one after

another with craftsmanship and skill; and a felt was set in the center.

Similarly, the description that Homer gave of Ajax, and the large

“Tower Shield” that he used is thought to be not only from the

Bronze Age but from a period in the Bronze Age even earlier than

the Trojan War:

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Now Ajax came near him, carrying like a wall his shield of bronze

and sevenfold ox-hide which Tyhios wrought him with much toil;

at home in Hylde, far the best of all workers in leather who

had made him the great gleaming shield of sevenfold ox-hide from

strong bulls, and hammered an eighth fold of bronze upon it. (Il.

V11.219-23)

Such shields, and boars’-tusk helmets as well, can be seen in the

so-called Miniature Fresco painted in a house at Acrotiri on the

Greek island of Santorini, dating most likely to the seventeenth

century BCE, four hundred years before the Trojan War is said to

have been fought. Some scholars think that Ajax was a hero from

an earlier time, who was originally featured in another epic, now

lost, and was introduced into the Iliad as a character who would

already have been well known to the audience.

The Trojan hero Hector also a Tower Shield in one scene,

where his shield knocks against both his ankles and his neck ( Il.

VI.117-18). Hector is also described as “complete in bronze armor”

(Il. XI.65). This, like similar descriptions elsewhere in the book,

is now thought to be validated by a discovery made at the site of

Dendra near Mycenae, which produced a full suit (panoply) of

armor reminiscent of Homer’s description but dating to about

1450 BCE. This would make Homer’s reference another example

of Bronze Age knowledge.

The more usual pieces of armor, including the leg greaves used by

the “well-greaved Achaeans” to protect their shins, are described

numerous times in the Iliad (e.g., III.328—39; IV.132-38; XI.15-45;

XVI.130—42; XIX.364—91) and also reflect Bronze Age items

rather than those of Homer’s own time. The equipment is always

donned in the same order: greaves, corselet, sword, shield, helmet,

and then spears:

Patroclus was helming himself in bronze that glittered. First he

placed along his legs the beautiful greaves, linked with silver

46

fastenings to hold the greaves at the ankles. Afterwards he girt on

about his chest the corselet starry and elaborate of swift-footed

Aiakides. Across his shoulders he slung the sword with the nails of

silver, a bronze sword, and above it the great shield, huge and heavy.

Over his mighty head he set the well-fashioned helmet with the

horse-hair crest, and the plumes nodded terribly above it. He took

up two powerful spears that fitted his hand’s grip. (Il. XVI.13—140)

Patroclus is also described in the Iliad as climbing the walls of

Troy three times, only to be knocked back by Apollo each time.

Homer’s precise words are: “Three times Patroclus tried to mount

the angle of the towering wall, and three times Phoibos Apollo

battered him backward with the immortal hands beating back the

bright shield” (Il. XVI.702—3). The implication is that the walls

were climbable and, indeed, when archaeologists such as Heinrich

Schliemann, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, and Carl Blegen excavated the

remains of Hisarlik/Troy, they found that the walls of the citadel

of Troy VI were at such an angle and with enough spacing between

the stones that they could be readily climbed in at least one place.

At the time that Homer was writing, these walls may well have

lain buried deep under the surface, unseen for hundreds of years.

It seems likely, therefore, that Homer’s description is an accurate

recollection of a Bronze Age fortification wall that had been

covered over long before Homer ever lived. And yet, Homer seems

to be describing the outer walls ofTroy, rather than the walls of the

inner citadel, so there is some degree of confusion present in his

account.

Perhaps most telling is that Homer’s warriors almost always use

bronze weapons, despite the fact that during his own age the

weapons were all made of iron. In the Iliad, few objects of iron are

mentioned, which is consistent with the fact that iron was known

but rare and valuable during the Bronze Age. In fact, one of the

few iron weapons known from the Bronze Age is a dagger found by

Howard Carter in the tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt, dating

to the fourteenth century BCE, which presents a possible parallel

47

for the iron knife held by Achilles as he mourned Patroclus

(Il. XV111.32-34).

Other details given by Homer confuse Bronze Age items and

practices with those from the Iron Age. These are primarily

minutiae, such as the number of spokes used in the wheels of the

chariots used by Homer’s warriors and the number of horses that

drew those chariots. Bronze Age depictions, seen, for example, on

grave markers found in the Shaft Graves at Mycenae and on gold

rings found in other tombs at Mycenae and elsewhere, indicate

that chariots at the time of the “Trojan War had four spokes in

their wheels, were pulled by two horses, and were used as moving

platforms from which to fight. Homer’s descriptions, however,

indicate that his chariots had eight spokes in their wheels (Il. V.720-

23), were frequently pulled by four horses, and were used

as “battle taxis” to bring the warriors to the front lines, after

which they dismounted to fight on foot—all of these are known

characteristics of Iron Age chariots and fighting tactics, dating to

long after the Trojan War.

Similarly, Homer’s warriors usually carry two spears, which

they used for throwing (Il. 111.16-20, VII.244-48). This was a

common Iron Age tactic, whereas warriors in the Bronze Age

more often are shown with a long single spear, used for thrusting

close-range at an opponent rather than throwing long distances.

Such long spears are only infrequently described by Homer.

However, he does mention an eleven-cubit-long spear wielded

by Hector (Il. VI.318-20) and a single long spear belonging to

Achilles (Il. XXII.273). Homer also frequently describes one-

on-one fights or duels between major opposing heroes, designed

to enhance the glory of the individual warriors; for example,

Ajax and Hector (Il. VII.224—32) and Achilles and Hector (Il.

XX). He also describes infantry marching in close formation (Il.

111.1-9). Both the individual duel and the method of marching

appear to be Iron Age methods of fighting, rather than those of

the Bronze Age.

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Additionally, Homer speaks frequently of weapons and other

objects that are characteristic of the Mycenaean period as well as

those that occur in the later Iron Age. He describes Mycenaean

weapons like “silver-studded swords” (Il. XI.29—31)—that is

swords with hilts riveted with silver or gold studs, such as have

been found in the sixteenth to fifteenth century BCE Shaft Graves

at Mycenae—as well as a scepter studded with golden nails (Il.

I.245—46). He also describes Achilles’s new shield (Il. XVIII.474—

607) as made in a manner similar to the inlaid daggers that have

been found in the Shaft Graves at Mycenae and elsewhere (using

gold, silver, and a black gummy substance known as niello, inset

into a base surface of bronze). All of these are proper Bronze

Age artifacts. But Homer also describes Achilles’s original shield

(which was lost when Patroclus was killed in battle) as having a

Gorgon face on it: “And he took up the man-enclosing elaborate

stark shield, a thing of splendor. . . . And circled in the midst of all

was the blank-eyed face of the Gorgon with her stare of horror, and

Fear was inscribed upon it, and Terror” (Il. XI.32-37). Shields with

such blazons, as they are called, did not come into general use until

the Iron Age, reaching their peak usage during the Greek Hoplite

phalanx warfare of the seventh century BCE.

In sum, Homer’s recitation of the Trojan War and the minute

details of the warriors, equipment, and fighting, as depicted in

our version of the Iliad, contains a combination of Bronze Age

and Iron Age practices. This amalgamation probably reflects the

changes that were introduced into the original story as it was

handed down over five centuries. Scholars, both archaeologists

and ancient historians, are therefore very cautious about using

the details provided by Homer when trying to reconstruct the

Bronze Age in the Aegean. Indeed, it is partially this temporal

combination, mixing different periods, that led earlier classicists to

doubt that the Trojan War had actually happened.

However, one can obviously make the opposite argument. Homer’s

discussion contains much detail about the many objects and places

49

that were only in use during the Bronze Age and that were not

rediscovered until modern archaeologists began their excavations

in the early twentieth century. It would not be surprising,

therefore, if Homer’s epic poems did reflect an authentic event that

took place at the end of the Bronze Age, even if his account also

includes some inaccuracies or details that were introduced during

the centuries of oral transmission from one bard to another.

Neoanalysis

There is, however, one other point to consider, and that is the

assessment by a number of scholars who argue that within the

Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic Cycle are not only items from later

in the Iron Age, but also people, places, and events that can b e

dated to earlier in the Bronze Age, that is, to before the thirteenth

century BCE when the Trojan War is thought to have taken place.

These scholars, who together comprise an informal grouping

known as the German Neoanalysis School, argue that one can find

bits and pieces of earlier epics that have been inserted into the

Homeric epics.

For example, the first, ill-fated, Achaean expedition sent to

rescue Helen at Troy, as recounted in the Cypria, reportedly

resulted in Achilles and other Achaean warriors fighting in

Teuthrania, an area in northwest Anatolia south of Troy, at some

time immediately prior to the actual Trojan war. (Ancient and

modern estimates for the elapsed time between the expeditions

usually range from a few weeks to nine years.) The account of this

expedition is seen by Neoanalysts as an excellent example of a pre-

Homeric episode, most likely referring to an earlier “Trojan War.”

They also see the figure of Ajax, with his Tower Shield, as coming

from a previous time and an earlier epic. The same might apply to

the figures of Idomeneus, Meriones, and even Odysseus.

Neoanalysts and other scholars also point out that the Iliad itself

mentions that the Greek hero Heracles sacked Troy in the time

50

of Priam’s father, Laomedon, using only six ships (Il. V.638-42):

“Of other sort, men say, was mighty Heracles, my father, staunch

in fight, the lion-hearted, who on a time came hither [to Troy]

by reason of the mares of Laomedon with but six ships and a

scantier host, yet sacked the city of Ilios and made waste her

streets.” (This previous expedition against Troy is depicted on

the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on the island of

Aegina, off the coast of Attica not too far from Athens.) At fifty

men per ship, that would have been only three hundred men,

which would have been a fairly small fighting force. However,

an alternative tradition, mentioned by the later Greek authors

Apollodorus and Diodorus, said that Heracles had eighteen,

rather than six, ships under his command when he raided Troy,

which would have meant that he had nine hundred men, a much

more formidable army.

Clearly, there was a tradition in Greece, reflected even in the Iliad

and the Epic Cycle, that Mycenaean warriors had been fighting

and adventuring on the western coast of Anatolia for decades, and

perhaps centuries, before the actual Trojan War, and that Troy

itself may have been attacked by Mycenaeans almost a century

before Agamemnon took on Priam. The ancient historian Moses

Finley, in his book The World of Odysseus (1956), suggested that

there were many “Trojan wars” during the Bronze Age.

The verdict

We are left with some fundamental, commonsense questions.

Were the events and plot of the Iliad and Epic Cycle believable?

Is it plausible that what Homer and the other epic poets describe

actually took place and in the way that they say it did? Would an

entire nation (or its ancient equivalent) really have gone to war

over one person? Could Agamemnon really have been a “king

of kings” who mustered so many men to retrieve his brother’s

wife? Was Mycenaean society of the Late Bronze Age really

organized in that manner? And, what about the Trojan Horse—is
51

it conceivable that such a machine was built and used successfully

to end the war?

The answer to all of the above questions is yes. For instance,

Homer’s descriptions of the action, travels, battles, and other

minutiae all ring true and the events depicted in the Iliad are

believable, even if the arms, weaponry, and tactics come from a

broad span of time, reflecting the oral transmission of the story

over centuries. Furthermore, Bronze Age Greece was indeed split

into a large number of what were essentially city-states, with each

king ruling over a major city, such as Tiryns, Pylos, and Mycenae,

and its surrounding region. And Mycenae certainly seems to have

been more powerful and interconnected than the other cities of

the time, especially if the foreign goods imported into the city and

found by archaeologists are an indication of its international status.

It is unlikely that the war was actually fought because of Helen’s

kidnapping, even though that may have provided a convenient

excuse. “The real motivations were probably political and

commercial, the acquisition of land and control of lucrative trade

routes, as were most such wars in the ancient world. There are later

historical examples, however, in which an action involving a single

person was used as an excuse and catalyst to begin a war. The prime

example is, of course, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

that set off World War I. The war was probably destined to take

place anyway, but the assassination served as the spark. A second

example comes from the world of the Hittites, when the royal prince

Zannanza, the son of king Suppiluliuma I, was killed by unknown

attackers while on his way to marry an unnamed Egyptian queen

in the fourteenth century BCE. His father used the death as an

excuse to begin a war between the Hittites and Egyptians—a war

that probably would have been fought eventually anyway, again for

territorial reasons, which had nothing to do with the death of his son.

The Trojan Horse is among the least believable elements in the

story, but even its presence can be explained. It is, frankly, unlikely

52

that the Greeks would have built such a horse and hidden men in

it; and it is even more unlikely that the Trojans would have been

foolish enough to bring it inside their city. However, Homer and

the other bards were poets, and as such, may be presumed to have

taken some poetic license. It is not out of the question that the

Trojan Horse represents some sort of siege engine, whether a huge

battering ram, such as the Romans used in 74 CE to destroy the

wall surrounding Masada in what is now modern-day Israel, or a

tower from which the warriors could fight, like those depicted by

Sennacherib in panels at his palace at Nineveh sh01Åing the siege

of Lachish, just south of Jerusalem, in 701 BCE. It has also been

suggested that the Trojan Horse is a metaphor for an earthquake

that destroyed the city, for Poseidon was the Greek god of

earthquakes and his symbol was a horse.

A final question relates to whether Homer was describing one

Trojan war or several. The Greek epic tales document at least

three Mycenaean attacks upon Troy and the region of the Troad

during the Late Bronze Age; first, from the time of Heracles and

Laomedon when Troy was sacked; then the mistaken attack on

Teuthrania by Agamemnon and his men; and finally the battle

for Troy as depicted in the Iliad. Which of these is Homer’s

Trojan War? Or are they all? Could Homer have telescoped

these actions into a single great epic, a symbolic and poetic

representation of numerous smaller conflicts that took place

over several hundred years on the coast of western Anatolia?

Indeed, there are additional indications, both archaeological and

textual, that Greek warriors were fighting on the northwestern

coast of Anatolia, and perhaps specifically at Troy, long before the

thirteenth century BCE.

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