Invasions, Ilion and Homeros Updated March 2017
Chariots bestow a high status in the Iliad, especially when over-powered with four-in-hand
As regards the year of the fall of Ilion, another name for Troy, a completely new attempt to assess this fatal date is needed if the Atlantic Stage hypothesis is found worthwhile enough to study. Cultures that extended over large areas in Europe often were in a different phase per region; the clue of this remark is discussed below. Actually the date of the fall of Troy seems to be suspended mainly from the Hissarlik case started by Schliemann, after indication of that location was made by a sceptic Englishman, and also on some vague and even sometimes contradictory statements, originating from mythical times, in antiquity.
Thucydides wrote that the “return of the Heraclidae”, a mythological phase of the invasions into the Aegean region of which the Dorian invasions are part, took place some eighty years after the fall of Troy. Since Schliemann, the said return was (up)dated as 1150 BC. Much scepticism fell to Thucydides since then. And there is more to revise in this story. The Dorians were traditionally reputed to have come afoot to Greece, from the Northern regions of the Balkan. I always wondered how these Dorians so easily switched from chariots and sandals to ships, in a few decades, and how it came they had so much succes in invading Crete and other islands. This is no small feat for landlubbers, even if they managed to slay the Myceneans at home. It seems time to reconsider the whole scenery, fitting in the more recent views, based not only on opinions of philologists on texts but primarily on archeological finds. And Thucydides might be interpreted in a different way. On other pages of this website I already indicated that a righteous doubt should be felt instead to assume, thoughtless, that Mycenaean and Homeric culture are identical.
At the time that the Mycenaean civilisation perished, there existed in Bronze Age Denmark a cluster of rich tribes. They had seagoing vessels probably, and had many settlements (“cities”) probably more than a hundred, and all with easy access to the sea (Lauring, 2009).
The period that bronze as well as iron was used in daily toil and strife came in Western Europe and the Atlantic zone quite some ages later than it came in the eastern Mediterranean zone. This is based on archeological data, not disputable, at least less than are many texts from Antiquity. It will have been around the 8th century BC that the western zone of Europe got access to iron for implements (this is from Wikipedia, not an official publication), such as Homeros is describing in his Odyssey. Andrew Lang (1906) already has discussed the description of Homeros of this use of iron and bronze at length and also with high practicality and (for me) credibility. Bronze at that time was slightly but still notably superior in strength and hardness to wrought iron as produced at the time (there is still a common misunderstanding with the public, that takes iron always for superior, confusing it with steel), and bronze certainly was a much more glorious metal for weapons and arms. Iron was probably cheaper and also easier to hammer into rough implements, needing no smelting once it was produced from ore. In the Iliad, Achilleus hands out iron staves as prizes during the athletics at Patroklos’ funeral. For non-aristocratic armies in later ages, iron made weapons were much cheaper, be it of somewhat lesser glory and quality. For a treatise on bronze swords, that helps to classify into cultural phases and dates the quite numerous finds of these weapons in the Atlantic zone, see Burgess and O’Connor 2012. That paper makes one think.
Fig 1. Scalloped axes, made by hammering an iron stave into a thin blade and in a quite efficient and logical way fixed to a handle. Scalloped axes, sometimes indicated as Egyptian broad axes, are usually shipwright’s and carpenter’s tools, not meant for felling trees or fighting. Egypt had quite lightly built variants with one large opening (two fixing points). Such light tools, meant to be swung with one hand, might have been the dozen or more iron axes in the chest that Penelope’s maids carried to the hall to be used in the competition with the bow. Such axes were also found in Carthago. The epitheton “long-edged” of an axe in Ilias XXIII 118 can now be understood, while Mehler’s dictionary (1908) deemed it to be wrong, as the usual idea of an axe was for Mehler the felling axe.
In the Odyssey, in the first book (Od. I 105) a certain Mentes, a friend of old of Odysseus visits the palace and finds Telemachos embarrassed by the presence and actions of over a hundred wooers. Mentes tells that he is on the way to Temesa to obtain bronze, and that he has “shiny iron” with him. That indicates he is not transporting iron ore, but wrought iron already hammered into staves. No money is mentioned ever in the epics, so it will have been bartering trade. He is a Taphian captain he says, not a Phoenician, but he may have been of the same guild. Taphians are named as pirates elsewhere in the Odyssey, while Phoenicians are criticized in the Odyssey and Odysseus was no friend of them. But we know that those we call Phoenicians nowadays, were organized in independent city states that often cooperated but even so often might be enemies. Anyhow, lots of long-range traffic.
One cannot but conclude that iron was quite common, and used as well as bronze, in Odyssey and Iliad, when reading these books. And while in the Aegean this aspect is placed at the end of the Mycenean culture, around the 12th century BC, as the iron producing Hittites were nearby, in Southern Spain it must be placed considerably later, maybe between 10th and 8th century BC. And the Phoenicians were around there, for some time past, while they stayed largely out of the region of the early Greeks and their colonies, apparently dividing with mutual consent the Mediterranean in a northern and southern coastal region. Ithaki in actual Greece would not have been on their round.
Fig.2. Homeros, in a classical portrait. Such an infilling of pupils in the face makes the portrait one of a pensive character, even felt to be visionary. Greek statues usually were painted, as also were the temples. Most marble faces, unpainted, nowadays give an appearance of blindness.
From all variations of the “life of Homeros” handed over to us from Antiquity, there are some that place Homeros around the 7th century BC. Herodotos places his birth “not before 850”. And some scientists consider the name Homeros to be of Phoenician origin. There is thus some choice, or call it diversity. The analysis of word use and dialects occurring in the texts indicates the 8th century, according to R. Janko (1996). Some scientists even detect Middle East influences in the themes and set up of the Odyssey, which then might be ascribed to Phoenician influences.
Homeros was the grandson of Odysseus, that is what the Pythia told Roman Emperor Hadrianus (76-138 AD, born in Italica, the ruins of which are near Sevilla). Take it or leave it.
Here we take it. The oracle at Delphi usually was very well informed. The story is most probably anecdotal and was never confirmed, but to me quite plausible. Homeros was indeed very gifted, intelligent and proficient in language(s), like his grandfather was. Assuming five generations previously (Telemachos, Odysseus, Laertes and Arcesios, additionally one of the three founding fathers mentioned for Ithaka, viz. Ithakos, Neritos, and Polyktor), then supposedly a century before Homeros, Ithaka may have been taken by some troops of the Achaioi, coming from more northern regions along the Atlantic coast. Ithaka at the time may have been in a stage that the settlement was not defendable yet, or even was just a hamlet in a well situated high place (in a playful approach might be assumed that may have been acclaimed: “here it is that we should settle”, which in actual Portuguese would have been: “está cá”). Believing Herodotos that Homeros was born not before 850 BC, the settling down in Ithaca may have been around early 9th century BC. The names Neritos and Ithakos in my opinion indicate real founders, as both dominant mountain and excellent settlement site were named after them. Polyktor’s name indicates a person that obtained much wealth or land. All three are considered heroes, of a past turbulent invasion period.
Ithaka may have been taken over by Phoenicians already during the life of Homeros, which would explain his uprooted existence in later life. Homeros probably travelled a lot and this may have caused his use of various expressions in Greek that are not “regular”; he was a polyglot. And his father and grandfather, when he was a youngster, could have told him very much about various cultures and above all about the Great War against Troy. This may be the reason why Homeros is so explicit and brilliant in his works: he probably had inside information. He was a nobleman, according to great scientists as e.g. Aristoteles. The heroes of Homeros may not have spoken (archaic) Greek, but some other, probably related, language. Both languages must have been mastered by Homeros. This relation grandfather-grandson also explains the mild judgment of the tricks of Odysseus, that by other writers were despised.
The idea developed above then may be completed as follows: Homeros grew up in an Achaian (in the sense of the epic tribes of Homeros, coming as invaders from the north in my opinion) settlement in Andalucia. He went, as a “displaced person”, to the “Achaian” societies (probably Ionian) in Greece where the famous Greek culture was already developing, and where he was accepted and in later times even welcomed for his epic songs. These were written down soon, maybe in his lifetime, and became very popular. Through the victories of Alexander the Great the epics arrived also in -then hellenistic- Egypt and were multiplied and kept there, finally also for us to have them, in libraries and in papyrus trash, conserved by the favourable dry climate.
The estimated earliest Bronze Age settlement date at Doña Blanca is nowadays given as around the 8th century BC, thus not a far cry from the above reasoning. The first settlers are assumed by the archaeologists to have been Phoenicians or Turdetans, from the beginning on. Of course all assumptions made by me in this regard are quite weak yet, and firstly induced by the remarkable likeness of the geography (see pages on Ithaka and Scheria) with that described by Homeros. In concert such assumptions may occasionally become firmer, but more work has to be done on this. That the period of time is quite different from that assumed for the traditional “Aegean Stage” in contrast to the “Atlantic Stage”, is clear in this version.
If by chance good evidence of regular use of local money by inhabitants is found in the lowest 800 BC stratum of Doña Blanca, then this will be evidence against it being a Homeric settlement, because that culture used no money yet, as is assumed by most specialists. The rulers exchanged gifts, not capital. Money, which is standardized units of value, has to be issued by a centralized authority in a widely established society, even when metal coins are used for money. Coins lost or buried in times of disaster are nearly as good as potsherds for dating, and can be found with modern detectors. A period of settlement of only one hundred years may however not yield a recognizable layer. And also a single coin might end up very deep via a mousehole. A Phoenician text giving some clue about the origin of their settlement at Doña Blanca would be great.
The date of ninth or eighth century BC would make many things to change in the discussion. Troy may have been destroyed and fully leveled, razed (“campos ubi Troja fuit”, Lucanus) in this period, and thus much later than the traditional estimates do suggest. These traditional estimates are largely dependent on (recent) assumptions that Hissarlik is the place of Troy, and on texts from Antiquity that should not be taken for true without some doubt. Before 1800 AD this information was not taken serious in Western Europe anyhow. The now traditional date seems conclusive but luckily quite some specialists have their objections. Scientists however seem to run in droves, and these do choose first for continuity of established theories. Maybe Cailleux (1879), the odd man out, was all right.
I still wonder about the hate the Achaioi displayed against the Trojans, a really bitter hate, leading to killing them all where possible and wiping out their settlements. Why? Because of the blocking of tin exports says Cailleux (1879), but who accepts that motive nowadays? Bronze was running at its end in the 9th century BC as a strategic material is the opinion actually. Or is there a parallel with the recent Irak war, which was about petroleum, doubtless so? Strategists say that most, or even all wars are about resources including territory. Machiavelli says you better kill a man’s father than take his property, because his father is not daily on his mind, unlike his loss of welfare. So be it. But just disgust may have been the strongest motive for the Achaioi. Down with that perfid gang!
Trojans and Achaioi could speak with each other, at least the warrior caste could, but culturally they differed according to their own opinions. Trojan culture was felt by the others as untrustworthy, even when facing the gods, and surely so in peace negotiations. They, although reputedly quite rich, did not keep their word, or simply, feeling safe, did not pay their due after work was delivered. One may feel this to be perfidy. For Heracles, according to a myth, this was a good reason to storm the city (with only a few thousand men as it is told) and take it, as Heracles was short-tempered, and even a bit mentally disordered, a “gift” from Hera. Trojan mutual manners are by Homeros seldom described as caustic. For instance, even when Hector calls his brother Paris from his wife’s bedroom because the fighting outside is fiercely going on, he remains relatively mild. And Paris nor Helena were extradited when the war became perilous for Ilion. Women were taken seriously in Troy. Herodotus assumes Helena was not in Ilion to be handed over, and says that the Trojans, if they indeed had her, would have handed her over, like the Achaioi would have done, a quite normal gesture for a Greek, as women were not worth all this trouble. So Herodotus.
My own impression of Trojan culture comes from reading Homeros. I feel the Trojans were already so long and so well established in their lands that they assumed this could not end ever. They just felt safe, until too late. Their polygamous king had so many sons and daughters as no king of the Achaioi would ever legitimatize, and their allies were a great variety of tribes with all sort of culture and language. He had no power over them, the great king Priamus of Holy Ilion, but they came to him and helped him. There is no indication in Odyssey nor Iliad that this strange king Priamus of Ilion had a super power empire near him, an aspect that again makes the Hissarlik Troy story a strange concoction, with the Hittite empire so near and so uninterested in that long war. Schliemann probably put archaeologists on a wrong track a hundred years ago. Or Homeros indeed was full of fantasies, exaggerating events very much, a most common view on the poet by his actual readers as I understand.
Achaioi were by their adversaries characterized as being heartless, cold of heart, often even towards their own wives, and as being superior warriors with usually better weaponry. Their pride, so predominant in the Iliad, was hurt when they found fortress Ilion impregnable and the Trojans quite arrogant, when they came to Troy for Helena, with a thousand ships. Sacrificing humans, like Agamemnon did with his daughter (according to the “Cyclic Poems”), and as also Achilles did with Trojan youngsters at the pyre of Patroklos, was something the Romans later said to be barbaric, and typical for Celtic and other Northern cultures. The Greeks in their classic period considered it not civilized. The Roman soldiers were trained expert killers, but Roman use of gladiators was juridically no human sacrifice, as a slave was regarded as a thing (“res”) in Rome, and moreover they died fighting, which was of course honorable. The Romans must have appreciated that the Trojans, which Virgilius suggested the Romans descended from, partly through Aeneas, were not recorded by Homeros to have made human sacrifices, at least not openly. The founding of Rome (by Trojan refugees?), was also in the mythic tradition set at about 750 BC, that is some 400 years after the fall of Hissarlik-Troy in the 12th century BC, which latter date does not fit with what Virgilius suggested. The merging of the myths into a coherent story later has confused the opinions. Maybe Virgilius made up his own story to please Augustus.
The fortresss Ilion, with its broad streets ( πολις ευρυάγυια, Ilias II 329; Od. IV 246) ) may in my opinion have been a spacious hill fort somewhere in the Atlantic zone of Europe, not far from the shore, with earthen ramparts, when indeed the date changes from 12th century BC to 850 BC, thus in the Urnfield Culture period. How it may have looked then is shown by e.g. the Maidun hill fortress in England, see Fig. 3. (Yes, I have read Wilkins’ book.) This assumes of course an Atlantic setting, with a landscape with deep, flat, or slightly undulating soils, with plenty of wood to burn and to build, and little stone available. The ubiquity of stone in the Turkish and Greek landscapes is, so to speak, asking for building in stone. These constructions are much more lasting than wooden constructions, and you still recognize these after millennia. Earthen ramparts can be dug out rapidly when need is close by, just by simple handwork of many men and women. The Achaioi did so. Motte castles could be set up in a few days in Medieval times, becoming quite threatening for the established rulers. Roman soldiers set up a castra every time after a daily march of 25 or even 40 km, and carried digging tools and two piles with them for the stockade. Such rapidly made ramparts can be leveled completetely, and leave little traces for our actual research methods when not filled with refuse from a long period of use.
In the story of Odysseus entering “broadway” Troy in disguise, as a slave, there is a word used for the sword which may give some link to a period, as the sword he uses is called ταναηκεί χαλκῳ͎ a bronze (weapon) with long stretched (slender, extended ) point (Od. IV 244 etc). This may be taken to characterize the well known -by specialists- carp’s tongue swords found along the Atlantic coast, in LBA3b, a code for a period in the late bronze age, from 900 to 800 BC. How Odysseus obtained this weapon is not clear, but he killed many Trojans with it before he left the town. A short dagger is not very handy for that. He will not have carried a spear, as it is too conspicuous in town, though spears were found standing ready in any rich man’s house. Swords were probably much more personal, and Helena had gained his confidence, we know. The weapon may have come from the collection of Paris, who loved to polish his weapons. The word is seldom used in the Odyssey, it is not the usual epitheton of swords and spearpoints. Traditional (Urnfield Culture) swords were rather short and broad, ending in a strong point. See for these slender points the photo of the Huelva swords in the website page on Ithaka, which swords are not the real type but very similar (Burgess & O’Connor 2012). They are quite ugly in my eyes, just good for efficient killing, like are bayonets.
Fig.3. Maidun fortress, a Hill fortress from the early Iron Age.
The description of Troy by Homeros is less extensive and precise than that of Scheria and Ithaka, and this has provided a lot of possibilities to make the scarce indications fit to the general and traditional idea. This even went so far that Mycenean burial rites were sometimes matched with Homeric rites of cremation, or the difference was massaged away, in order to place the kingdom of Agamemnon in great Mycene (in Greece), as Schliemann did. The critics given by Finley (2002) are indeed justified; there is little similarity between the Mycenians and the Homeric heroes. The first finds by Schliemann have made great impetus, but are they interpreted rightly? The distortion may have started already in Antiquity, and this may have finally led to the acceptation of one of the phases of Hissarlik as the real Troy with bypassing the tradition that Troy was large, great, with wide streets, able to take many refugees, and never was rebuilt. “Fuimus Troës, fuit Ilium et ingens gloria Teucrorum” (Virgilius). This may be translated as: “it is done with us Trojans, Ilion is past, together with the great glory of the Teucrians”. Quite an epitaph. “Exeunt all” would Shakespeare say.
Ilion was so strong, it needed many ten thousands of warriors and ten years of fighting (or just skirmishing, better said) before it could be taken -but only by devices- and destroyed. A real siege, with the forming of a ring around the fortress, has not been described by Homeros, rather a watching and skirmishing around, as storming the ramparts apparently was no option. The organisation of the Achaian forces was not strong enough for that, lacking the discipline and also the techniques of a siege. In the mean time heroes such as Achilles were wasting settlements wide around in the region as a pastime and to obtain supplies.
The Achaioi did not come to Ilium to extend their territory, they all went home after the fall. This makes me think they had better economies at home than had the “horse-taming” Trojans on their -mainly pasture- land, and that the Achaioi did not (yet) need new territories. We know that Greece quite soon after, or even in the Dark Ages, was looking around and fighting hard for colonies, such as Sicily, and this does not fit into the picture sketched by Homeros of his Achaioi.
Troy often is assumed to have had real (stone) walls, but reading Homeros closely this is not necessarily so. Firstly the word used by Homeros (τειχος, teichos) is also used for a rampart built of earth or sods, and the word has strong links with the German Deich, and Dutch dijk as well as English dike. For walls of houses etc. Homeros uses τειχιον (teichion), which is not used for city ramparts (“walls”). Confusing is that the old Anglosaxon word weal (said to be derived from the Latin word vallum, which is palisade) has become a vertical and usually stone structure in English (Latin: murus, German: Mauer). Originally it was firstly an earthen structure in e.g. German (Wall), Frisian, and Dutch. Walls of houses often were made of wattlework filled with loam plaster (wattle and daub, still in use e.g. in Brasil). Such walls can be called “loamy”. Spears could land in them when hurled haphazardly (Odyssey XXII 259). A stone wall hit would have been described differently in my opinion. But what later reader noticed this, when stone walls were the standard in thinking? Such wattle-and-daub walls when freestanding had to be protected with a “crown”, some sort of roof cover, against rain and were best with a stone basement (which remains conserved over time much better), all just as is done with wooden walls. As the “palace” of Odysseus had earthen floors, to be scraped by hoeing, there is no need to believe the walls were all stone and fitted together with mortar.
Also an epitheton of a wall/rampart as given by Homeros is αιπύ (aipu), which means steep. Now a stone wall is usually not steep but radically vertical. That some of the walls of the Troy of Hissarlik are steep walls of stone, not vertical, like the stone ramparts/walls of Japanese castles, is for some scientists a proof that walls can be steep and of stone. And indeed such steep walls might be stormed without a ladder. But ramparts always can be stormed without a ladder, even those of e.g. Old Sarum, and even more, these ramparts can be logically fortified with a wooden palisade on top, which can be torn down by strong action of several men together, as happened when the Trojans stormed the freshly built rampart of the Achaioi protecting the ships. Wooden stockades on a stone wall are not very plausible.
Fig.4. Rampart of a famous hill fortress
Invasions along the Atlantic coasts
Is there any archeological evidence of an invasion, be it a relatively small one, or a series in time of these, on the coast of Andalucia in the ninth or eighth century BC? And is there some indication of such invasions/ colonizations along the more northern coastal regions of Spain, Portugal and France? Or that a large war occurred around that time in the late Urnfield Culture period in Britain or any place where (maybe) Troy was situated? Just beliefs, questions or assumptions will not do, a search for such events has to be made. As it is a yet little explored field, with few researchers, not well overseen and analysed, there is still much open.
One indication is suggested here.The distribution of the tombstones found with engraved characters of the so-called Escrita do Sudoeste, as shown on the photograph of a map presented in the Museum of this Escrita in Almodovar, is quite peculiar. There are no such tombstones found in the coastal regions of the Algarve and the Baixo Alentejo provinces, and this notwithstanding the experience that especially the Algarve is a good place to live in. My conclusion is that the people that produced this Escrita was driven out or subdued by invaders from the sea. See Fig. 5, which was added to this page after a visit to the Algarve in april 2016. It is quite common practice to remove such monuments and even the graves when a territory is taken over. Remember that the Achaeans most probably did not write, and had a culture of learning by heart their epics and law texts.
Fig.5. Distribution in Southern Portugal of tombstones with inscriptions of the Escrita do Sudoeste.
What we know is that before and in the 8th century BC the climate had deteriorated in the North of Europe, more specific in well-populated and bronze-rich Denmark (Skane included), to such extent that the population decreased considerably, by mortality or by emigration ( Lauring 2009). Moreover we know the Celts some time later increased in power and territory, spreading their culture over much of Western Europe, cutting the Northerners from their trading partners in the south of Europe. The Celts did not however invade Denmark and Sweden. They became trading partners in their turn. And we now find through archaeology there were many contacts along the shores of the Atlantic, creating the idea of the so-called Atlantic Bronze Age. Those invasions would have been relatively small, maybe frequent, with some scores of ships and a few thousand warriors.
The much disputed “Sea Peoples” came in the Mediterranean in the 12th century BC, and as such are not in our picture, but they may have been the first big wave of a series. And word had possibly spread back home that it was not the paradise they had expected there in warm and pretty but poor and rocky Greece. Egypt, yes, thát seemed a good target, but difficult to grab, as they have indeed experienced. Then better make the best of it and invade Atlantic shores more nearby. Contact of the Mediterranean with the North was through the (proven) trade in amber. The North has a reputation since long of a region where many invaders came from. It is pardonable that the Antiques at first had no idea where all these invaders came from, as they had a restricted view on the world. In our own more recent history, the Dutch history as well as of the other Europeans, the Vikings are the first ones one thinks of when invaders from the North are mentioned. And with their technology, not much better than that of the Bronze Age, they came very far out into the World.
The Mediterranean also has lots to remember of the arrival of these Viking warriors. They e.g. took the power in Sicilia. The Romans had their bad encounters with the Cimbres and Teutons, and Marius, the roman general, barely could dispatch them. Julius Caesar had it quite easier with the Celts in Gallia later, a quarrelsome and divided bunch. In the early middle ages the West Roman empire succumbed to the pressure, mainly from the North. And what about the recent colonial history of Western Europe? In Suriname I heard the Amerindians indicate the Dutch as the “Pananakiri”, which means: those from the North (with as follow-up of this name: those who eat fire and sleep in the cold, that is who smoke cigarettes constantly and have no warming fire near their hammock at night). Strange guys indeed.
The Vikings during their expeditions went far upstream of European rivers, e.g. the Seine, up to Paris, and the Dordogne, up to the rich cave castles of the St Christophers Rock, with barely enough water under their keels. So I think the settlement of Achaioi in Cordoba is not too far from the sea. But the river must have always enough water to have your ships at hand there for a sea trip. And he had to pass through the land of the Epeioi, who are not explicitly characterized as Achaioi by Homeros. In this respect, the Alpheios as usually interpreted to flow on the Peloponnesus only, is a good brook to bathe in, but swimming is not a real option. This it was even not for the nymph Arethousa who was reputed by Ovidius (Metamorphoses) to have dived to swim into the river and then was dogged by the river god, who apparently did not often have naked visitors of such quality and intent. See also the page on Ithaka. And I presume Ovidius has never seen the Alpheios in the Peloponnesus.
Fig.6. Rowing all day for weeks was very tiring (Od. X 78). Here the “Havhingsten” (Sea Stallion) built in Denmark is at sea. This ship is reputed even to withstand bottom hits with ice packs during speedy sailing.
Fig.7. Longship under sail.
If indeed part of the Achaioi, with their various tribes, did invade Western Atlantic shores in the ninth century or about that time, seeking for good land, then they had to conquer the local tribes that at places might have been still in the neolithic (megalithic) state. This preceded settling in locations where they could keep dominating these locals. From what Homeros says about the citizens of Ithaka, it seems they were mainly Achaioi. I then assume that the common Cephallenians, the rural population and active as shepherds and little farmers, descended of subject tribes. Odysseus and his father Laertes had the best farms, being dominant nobles under the Achaioi.
Some archaeologists have the opinion that the Bronze Age was peaceful for most of the time, and only in the last stages became more violent. They base that idea on the type and state of the weapons found, mostly ritual, with not much wear and tear in earlier ages (Lauring 2009). But the times were changing, and war tactics would change also.
I suppose the sons of Atreus had a preference for wheat-bearing lands where lots of subjects (slaves?) could be maintained and kept busy with grain farming. That type of landscape is also good to have horses and to drive chariots, for comfortable transport and to intimidate the locals. I do not see much use for travelling in chariots in Greece in the days of old when few long distance roads existed, but as a status symbol it might have worked well. Telemachus would in my view have arrived in Sparta (Greece) much sooner when taking the ship from Pylos (in Greece). And, as the automobile tycoon said in our days: even when people cannot drive their cars, they will keep buying them. An example is given by the narcomafia in Colombia, with its notoriously bad state of public roads. In the Urnfield Culture period the horses were still in an early stage of domestication, and quite small and light (height of withers some 125 cm), not sturdy built like a pony, and not strong enough to carry a heavy and armoured warrior for several hours. Chariots were the solution. This reminds of Hrolf Ganger who, as told in the Viking stories, had to walk when armed, as his long legs slided over the ground when seated on a horse. The episode told by Homeros about the nightly expedition of Odysseus and Diomedes, who come back with (and riding on) prize horses, does not undermine this view on chariots.
Fig.8. Cuirass found near Marmesse, France)
The curass in Fig 8 is probably more realistic for the story of Homeros than are those of the classical warriors of the Greek vases (See for those fig. 3). Such cuirasses as in Fig. 8 have been found in numbers in France (e.g. Marmesse), dating from the period of transition from bronze to iron, given as 950- 780 BC. Long discussions have been held in the past on the authenticity of the cuirass (θωρηξ, thorax) in Homeric verse; it was deemed to be non-existent in his time. All certainty in this was derived from Mycenean evidence which end 19th century was freshy discovered. But in 900-800 BC it clearly was available as battledress for the rich in the nearby Atlantic Zone. Weapon systems do spread very rapidly, always, on pain of slavery. It is for me remarkable how much controversies disappear with elaborating the Atlantic Stage hypothesis.
The bronze of the shields of Homeros was probably just a thin and shining cover for a sturdy but still light hide construction, as (often) described by Homeros. Soft metal layers, even when very thin, when placed on or inbetween hide layers, do help increase the friction on metal penetrating points. The poet even speaks of “golden armor”, which gets more sense when you realize it was just a finishing coat. The greaves (κνημιδες) on the legs are a necessity when using a round shield, as sword slashes on the legs are quite effective for killing. Roman soldiers in later ages did not wear greaves (except for the centurio’s ) as they had very large shields and moreover often kneeled when fighting with their famous sword stabs from below. Untrained warriors tend to slash upon adversaries from above,( in fighting style thus copying chimpansees,) and Roman helmets and (later) lorica segmental (a form of cuirass) were designed for cope with this unprofessional slashing from above.
Superiority of warfare tackle, training and tactics is conditional for succesful invasions. Even the gorging wooers of Penelope did not forget to train their skills of spear throwing on the training field of Odysseus’ palace. This superiority is what the Achaioi felt to have, even what they were convinced of, when attacking Troy, and they would have had sufficient proof of it when my idea is true that they were of a group of tribes that invaded other peoples’ territories since quite some generations. I assume additionally that not all of the Achaioi had moved out of their original territories. A parallel can be drawn with the Allies in World War II. Emigrating, displacing the locals there, getting rich and strong, and then return to help, still speaking the same (more or less, as Churchill said) language, can contribute a lot to dominating the war scene.
History has its many parallels and replications. And, not to be forgotten, not only Menelaus but also Odysseus is called blond, various times. The word is even “yellow” (ξανθας τριχας, yellow hair), e.g in XIII 431, so the many pictures with a dark haired Odysseus are not correct. The Achaioi upperclass had not yet mixed in those few generations. And they still were attracted by the sea, one even can say they kept being attached to the sea, even when their economic base had become agriculture and cattle breeding.
Even in Cordoba, Menelaus may have kept quite some ships, probably with his family’s history in mind. So did Agamemnon. This king may have settled in Northern France, near the Seine river, as first suggested by Wilkins (2009), and then it comes to mind immediately that there was much gold of old in central Gallia, apart from the fact that the northern region with its loess soils is a granary of old, one of the best regions on earth for this. The Romans knew this wealth of gold well, and plundered many tons of gold from the holy fountains full of votive offerings in gold objects. The few tombs excavated in our time of Celtic princes and princesses in the region near Troyes in France show this opulence. In the Vix tombe a golden collar of about a pound’s weight has been found. Greece in antiquity had much silver from the mines of Laurion, but little gold of its own. The Druids in Gaul had special attention for gold, it was holy matter. And gold was only one of the riches of the Gauls in the time of the Romans, grain and good and cheap iron being other ones. And lots of slave-like subjects in the Celtic society. Homeros seems various times to use Pre-Celtic cultural elements, such as the number nine to indicate special importance, e.g in the story of Circe bewitching his men, changing them in nine year old swine. Nine is three times three, and three is a sacred number, indeed very much so for the (pre-)Celts. It expressed their view of life.
Fig.9. Golden torque from Gallia
Fig.10. This frieze of the Parthenon is meant as a group of three gods, but could be taken also for a picture of a man with his son and his wife in a peaceful setting, at home after many adventures. This could be Odysseus, finally home.
Back to Ithaka; order and peace restored
After some generations the disturbance by the invasion of new rulers with their folk settles down, and order and peace prevail again. There is time and the quiet to listen to the bards with their songs of glorious times. Homeros does not speak about fortifications of Ithaka; methinks in the early stages after their invasion, the Achaioi were like the wasps, who in their paper house do trust their formidable stings and tactics to ward off an enemy.
Order and peace does not necessarily mean justice (as we see it now) for the suppressed. The Achaioi preferred female slaves above freshly caught male slaves. Better to kill the men in war and not go for “cheap” labour difficult to discipline (just see what trouble the Spartans had with their helots). Dolios was a slave of Odysseus, but he had probably inherited this status from his forebears and he and his sons (at least seem to) see Odysseus as very welcome at his return. Dolios may not yet at that time have known the fate of his insurgent daughter Melantho, the one that betrayed Penelope at her loom, and that made the mistake to choose for the wrong side. She was killed for it by Telemachus, quite cold hearted, together with eleven others. Homeros gives (as I feel) no disapproving comment with this scene, it was probably common justice. The twelve female slaves are not led into Hades together with the wooers’ spirits, they were just not of the right (Achaiean) rank I suppose.
As for the Phoenician influences in Andalucia in the early ages of the first milennium BC, I think there is no reason to assume that the stories, the pre-stages of the epics of Homeros, when he indeed was the grandson of Odysseus, and thus in my idea linked to the Gadir region, were first noted down in Phoenician or Turdetan syllabes before the composed epics were written down in Greek. It might however have been so, in an international setting as existed in Ithaka, a yet early centre for commercial exchange.
This Ithaka was not a large settlement, nor was it great by agriculture or cattle rearing, or by mineral riches, but it was just a good place (for people of good rank) to come by, be the guest, and exchange goods, gifts, and stories and get advice from the most knowing man around. Polutropos, smart, with many options ready (πολύτροπος ) he was called, Odysseus, the man with many wiles, but also the herdsman of people, having knowledge of many human cultures (see the first verses of the Odyssey). He had many real friends and relations in the highest ranks, such as was Menelaus, and was not easily forgotten, not even after twenty years, by old friends such as Mentes.