“What land, what people is this?” asks Odysseus when awakening on the sandy shore of his own land after been brought home by the Phaeacians. He does not recognize his land. And the goddess Athena, disguised as a young herdsman answers: “A fool art thou, stranger, or art come from far, if indeed thou askest of this land…. full many know it….the name of Ithaka has reached even to the land of Troy….”
How strange that, still, after 25 centuries we Westerners are uncertain about where Ithaka was.
The explorations described here have two pillars, found during fieldwork, and these are firstly Scheria, found on Lanzarote, and secondly, Ithaka, found near and under the ruins of a Phoenician city, located at the former Sinus Tartessos (the now silted-up part of the bay of Cadiz). First field visits here were in 2009 and 2010.
The field study method I use is, briefly described, that after having read and interpreted the text by Homeros, I visit places where it was supposed by certain authors that e.g Ithaka and Scheria should lie. Inspecting the landscape characteristics, Google earth images, maps, recent and old, and searching for possible changes in the landscape as documented, I gather the visible evidence as I perceive it. This is not something to be done by armchair scholars, and you need to know about e.g. geology, ecology, and topographic aspects. But it is open to anyone who is educated to the required level. What I found up to now is an astonishing amount of congruence between Homeros’ descriptions and the terrain characteristics in both locations selected. Go and have a look.
Building around these two pillars found, I have written a number of essays, the titles of which are on the list at the left of this page. These essays are providing more context than found in the “pillars”, and also are often quite speculative, because I could not resist the temptation to elaborate on the subjects encountered. Not many years left for me to wait for more impartial work from brothers-in-arms. Final proof for my ideas will have to come from archeological finds, as classicists and historians so far could not provide any texts helping me.
Homeros did not sing about Mycenean culture. No, he sang about the culture of the Atlantic Zone of Europe, where the Bronze Age ended some four ages later than in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Atlantic zone at that time, bronze was still used for glorious weaponry, while wrought iron was an import product from the East, used for tools. Homeros talks about such trade with bronze production centers in the first book of the Odyssey.
Since the days of doctor Wolff, with his Prolegomena ad Homerum (1795), a host of grievance mongers has tried to explain away the differences between what Homeros said and what they thought he should be fitted into. After Mycenean culture had been discovered this was a rich field to plow. The mongers took too much, or even all, of the Greek lore additional to his poems to be true. They slashed his work of great art into a mass of second-class pieces of supposedly age-old handicraft, squabbling amongst each other, all for the sake of scoring some points for “science”. This work, however, was done in a scholastic way, using opinions and talking. Later, real, research work tried to prove that the culture of Homeros was fitting into the Mycenean culture, using the sparse archaeological items that did not manifestly differ from his descriptions.
There seemed to be no other choice indeed. Names sometimes appeared to fit well, but the many exceptions in the list were never identified, and Ithaka was never found, whatever was asserted by the scouts going around the islands. Eerie it was. A certain Porphyry (at the time of Constantine the Great) felt compelled to give a supernatural explanation of the cave of the nymphs, as it was nowhere to be found.
The communis opinio in our time finally took refuge in declaring Homeros a fancy poet. This was the easiest solution (but “the most unkindest cut of all”) and quite final for reasonable discussions. Mythic, that’s how the poet should be, according to many.
This collection of papers is not yet fitted together like a book usually is – and should be – and this is because many aspects of the work of Homeros still are unclear and even sometimes look contradictory to us. I would like to bring more coherence to my results in coming years, filling important gaps. Probably it is good to state here that I use only the content of the two epics ascribed to Homeros, and not the Cyclic Epics that admittedly are much related to the Iliad and Odyssey, but appear to be of another, lower, quality and even seem to come from a different culture. So I do follow the motto that it is best to “explain Homeros from Homeros”. No gap filling from other sources.
With all this, I hope to rehabilitate Homeros as a poet that was correct, not only in his tales of human psychology and behavior, for sure, but also in several of his descriptions of the landscape and locations he sang about.
I must admit now, in 2018, that I have underrated the might of tradition as against new evidence. Old age and ages of repetition appear to lend a sort of truth to words. Written texts whatever are even truer -it seems- than are physical characteristics found in the field. Scholasticism still lives. Names are taken as evidence, a grave error. The island that since long was called Kaftor by its civilized neighbors was bluntly called Crete by the invading Hellenes, using Homeros as a source, and we joined them respectfully. The “island Syria” mentioned by Homeros was simply assumed to be the Middle East country called the same now. The Homeric river Aiguptios became the country we in Europe know under that name, although its own inhabitants know better and call it Masr since millennia. The actual river Nile was called Neilus only in more recent classical texts, not by Homeros. What’s in a name? Check it!
And why am I studying this subject?
My daughter-in-law, more up to date than I am, advised me to show more of myself on this website; certainly more than a stern passport photograph. So do I.
When a young man of 17, at Grammar School I did read Homeros, with an open-minded teacher preferring present-day language in translations. We enjoyed Homeros and the enchantment stayed lifelong. Since that time, during my study Forestry at the Wageningen University, and during my career as a research worker in the Neotropical forests, followed by the job of assistant professor in silviculture in the Netherlands, I kept Homeros’ verses as a treasure in my heart. Now I am retired and have the time to let my trained sleuth off the lead. I have none or only a few preconceptions such as derived from traditional opinions about Homeros, and this leads me to unexpected places.
I may be contacted via my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Revised April 2018