ChronologyJuly 30, 2017
The results as described on various pages in this website about research on the Atlantic Stage Hypothesis, lead me into a brief recalculation of points in time, as given below. Here indeed big and daring steps are made in my research on Homeros, and these may be called speculative rightly. The reader should see this as steps made in a new outlook, steps to be confirmed by further research.
A fixed point in time is the date of renewed settling at the Doña Blanca site, which I take for Ithaka, and which settling was determined to have been around 800 BC, after the Chalcolithic village had been abandoned in about 1800 BC. See Fig 20 in the Ithaka page. The culture found is indicated as Phoenician-Tartessic, and a change of culture, maybe only slighty noticeable, after a hundred years, is not in the picture. But such a change is a possibility, within a single determination of period. This then was the founding epoch of Ithaka. It is not a historical date but an archeological assessment of a point in time, which is often less exact.
The other point in time is the birth year of Homeros, nowadays by many thought to be somewhere between 750 and 700 BC. I also assume that the Pythia was right in informing Emperor Hadrianus that Homeros was from Ithaka and was the son of Telemachos.
In the Odyssey three heroes are named, to wit Neritos, Ithakos and Polyktoor, which I think were the founders of the settlement Ithaka. The first name is linked to a mountain range dominating the landscape, the second has given his name to the settlement, and the third has made a successful grab at great riches in this early unstable period. These three founding fathers have built the construction around the big source, a strong (tuktoon) wall to retain the unstable and sliding waterlogged soil on the travertin calcareous formation from which flows the rich water source. This construction will have happened shortly after settling in Ithaka, as no good reason exists to extend this over more generations.
Laertes, son of Arkeisios and father of Odysseus, had gone to a lot of trouble to obtain his estate near to the town, at a good site, and moreover he had been a good fighter in his heyday, capturing the fortress Nerikos on the main land opposite Ithaka. He is still called a heros (Od. XXII 185), this indicating he is from early and decisive times in the settlement history of the tribe.
I start rough calculations from this base, assuming a generation to be 20 years. Points in time are on an archaeological footing, and this makes a tolerance necessary, which I set at about a quarter of a century here. The birth of Ithakos will have been at about 820 BC, as he was born before arriving at the site of future Ithaka, Arkeisios then was born in 800, Laertes in 780 and Odysseus in 760 BC. Telemachos was born in 740 and Homeros in 720 BC. The whole line spans an age.
Troy was destroyed when Odysseus was 30 years of age, thus in about 730 BC (but ± 25 years). I think Ithaka was deserted by the Ithakan Achaioi families during the life of Homeros, about 700 BC, because the Phoenicians advanced towards Ithaka, as it was quite near to their commercial port Cadiz and had this excellent fresh water source near to the sea shore. Homeros had to flee, became a displaced person of noble descent, and went to (distant) family, members of the Achaioi tribe that had settled in Ionia, where quite a number of displaced persons had arrived in that era. He did not tell about his own past, which is a common trait of traumatized people, but his poetry displays a strong inside information aspect, and it moved from being quite aloof in the Ilias to being more intimate in the Odyssey. This last work I see as something of a family epic, to do justice to his parents and grandparents. Maybe text analysis methods, made to work for this ancient greek texts, could once in near future indicate such trends.
Indeed, the Ithaka so longed for by Odysseus to see it again, was an intermezzo of only a hundred years duration. The ‘sta-cá (here it is!) of Neritos, Ithakos and Polyktoor is gone, engulfed by the Phoenician conquists, run down by those rascals which Homeros often describes with some condescension. Such was the fate of many a settlement in that era.
Some deliberations on the settlements involved in this discourse
The foundation of Rome was, in its myths, placed around 780 or 750 BC, and in antiquity this was thought by many to have been after the fall of Troy, with founder Aeneas as the strong mythical link. Many tribes or even smaller groups were on the move at the time. Carthago was already founded in 810 BC, in a wave of occupation and fortification by Phoenicians in which also their trading post Gades/Cadiz participated later on, Gades being a settlement tolerated by the Tartessians for commercial reasons. After the fall of Tartessos the Phoenicians claimed the entire island. The Doña Blanca ruin (town) was not yet fortified at the time of Odysseus (Homeros does not mention walls and gates), and the place was less fit for a stronghold than was Gades. The mansion (better not call it palace) of Odysseus just lies in the open, though it has a court wall and strong doors. The excellent water source nearby the sea shore in the bay made this (Doña Blanca) Ithaka a desirable place, and the settlement had to be walled in later times to prevent plunder by pirates.
Gades had little fresh water sources, and much drinking water was until recently fetched from the mainland (Caleta de agua, see page on Ithaka), but that water had to be transported by wheel in the first leg of the haul. The Phoenicians preferred small rocky islands for their fortresses, which were usually impregnable as long as their ships had free access to bring supplies.
The place of Ithaka at the end of the bay made it possible to spot pirates early when arriving by ship. This is a common aspect of older commercial cities when not yet well fortified, such as rich Roskilde (Denmark) or Amsterdam, that did not have a natural height to locate a stronghold in the terrain. For pirates coming afoot from a distance was not such a good option, as the ships were very vulnerable for arson and had to be strongly guarded. Arson could be done even by a single brave and seducing woman, using household appliances.
The above calculation might deviate easily some quarter of a century, and thus the foundation of Rome might, without more ado, fit the epoch of the fall of Troy in 755 BC. The mythic infilling of forefathers of the first Roman king can have been made up easily to bridge the gap between the arrival of Aeneas and the founding twins Romulus and Remus, fed by the wolf.
By the way, the word lupa (she-wolf) was and is still used for prostitutes. The Romans always have been quite direct in their information and words. Dante uses the word in his Divina Commedia for a horrible encounter the poet has in his mid life crisis, in a “savage forest”. She was skinny and very hungry says the highly intellectual and sensitive poet. This lady was very obtrusive, and had already done much damage to many people. Moreover, the she-wolf fed twins were, according to the Roman story, not brought up with a good sense of self-control by their foster mother, as shown by their fatal quarrel.
Additional information from other sources
A more recent knowledge about the commercial contacts of the Greeks in their period of colonization is that they corresponded with the kings of Tartessos, of which a certain Arganthonios was highly interested in cooperation with them. Arganthonios had a lot of bronze and silver available, to be used for support of his possible allies, such as the Greeks, against the advancing Phoenicians. The Greeks however had their own problems with the Persians in Ionia, and later on they did find much silver in their Laurion mines during the Persian wars. Thus finally the Phoenicians took over in Tartessos region after the death of Arganthonios (plm 550 BC). Maybe a natural disaster had weakened or even destroyed the Tartessos capital, the location of which never has been found again yet. The place might correspond with the Chalkis mentioned in the Telemachos journal. The Phoenicians had already taken over many towns on the southern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, and their expansion finally brought them into conflict with the Roman Republic.
The riches in silver of Tartessos makes one wonder about the provenance of the heavy silver krater (wine mixing bowl often as large as a bucket) which Menelaos gives to Telemachos as a present, worth the value of a chariot with horses and some more golden presents added. His strong young son Megapenthes has to carry it, so it must have been more than twenty or thirty kilograms. There also might be a link in Homeros with one of the Tartessos kings, named Geryon. Greek mythology describes Geryon as a monstrous man and tells us about the large cattle herds stolen from Geryon by Heracles, after a Ocean-crossing journey in a large magic golden cup, sailing outside the Strait of Gibraltar. Nestor is named a Gerenic horseman in the songs of Homeros, and also he, like Geryon, had large cattle herds, for which the Messenian landscape around traditional Pylos is not so very fitting, but the land around Huelva is indeed.
Arganthonios was very generous with his wealth, somehow like Homeros sketches the Phaeacians who had moved out of Hyperia because of the Cyclopean agression. Megalithic constructions are “cyclopean” reportedly, it might be a link to pre-bronze age cultures as found in Western Europe. The autochthone megalithic peoples might not have been enthusiastic about the invaders.
In my website page on Thucydides, I discuss a statement of this historian that the colonization of Syracuse was after the fall of Troy. Syracuse was founded in 734 BC, which is a fairly certain date. Thucydides appears to place the fall of Troy some decades before 800 BC, mentioning that the Dorians (whatever they may have been and whenever they have existed), some 80 years after Troy fell, did occupy the Peloponnesus, whilst the Boeotians had been driven from their homesteads some sixty years after the fall of Troy and settled in what since then was called Boeotia, formerly Cadmeis. These events are seen by Thucydides as the prelude to the period of colonizing, e.g the Ionian colonies established by the Athenians, whilst the Peloponnesians took Sicily and parts of Italy. “And all these colonies were planted after the Trojan war” he says. Should that “after” (ύστερον) really have referred to events some four ages earlier?
The context of the large scale migrations at the end of the Bronze Age
After the fall of the Mycenaean civilization the usual rich customers in Greece were gone , and thus the copper production of the mines in Central Europe probably became fully available for the tribes of the Urnfield culture (Clark 1961). This must have increased their military power considerably. Bronze swords and spears became common weapons amongst them, as well as other bronze utensils. In first ages these were not much used for fighting, as peace still prevailed, but towards the end of the Bronze Age the situation became more warlike. Possibly this was caused by increased territorial conflicts (already supposed by Childe 1930). Swords then often became damaged in fights, and were resharpened over and over, and also the sword evolved towards forms more effective against armor (e.g. carp’s tongue swords).
Recent results in archeological research (Haak, W. et al. 2015; Unterländer W. et al. 2017) make it plausible that the Indo-European nomadic Yamnaya tribes, using horses and chariots, migrated some three milennia BC into the largely depopulated regions of Central and Western Europe. Here an epidemic disease, probably the Black Death, (bubonic plague, Rasmussen S. et al. 2015)), had strongly reduced the number of Neolithic farmers, leaving large deforested areas as rich pastures. The Yamnaya eventually settled in many regions of Western and Central Europe, but certainly did so on areas with rich soils, such as Denmark and Northern France with their good agricultural lands. One of their more recent cultures is known since long as Urnfield. Cremation was their main method of disposal of the (important) dead. These nomads later on learned to build ships with their good bronze tools (long saws, adzes, shipbuilder’s broad axes) and learned to navigate the seas bordering the continent. Going further and further with their wanderings they went south over the mountains to the Mediterranean, but also southwards along the Atlantic coast, subdueing Neolithic peoples where they encountered them. Present Algarve and Andalucia must have been especially attractive regions. These invaders were not part of a large organized state and could have selected their little “kingdoms” in far apart regions, trusting their superior training in arms when living in a matrix of neolithic peoples that had no lust for overall war. Or else one could compare it to the colonisation of Northern America, where settlers with fire arms could keep the Amerindians at bay. USA came only much later.
One aspect of classicist and archeologist theories of the 19th and 20th centuries is their reluctance to see or even suspect such large scale movement, in the absence of clear evidence for it. It might be taken as modesty in hypothesis formulation. There was little knowledge of the various events in the Bronze Age then, and the disastrous developments at the ending of this period were not yet perceived. Hypotheses are, in my opinion, a scientifically desirable form of speculation, opening new ways of thought, at the same time being open to verification. Testing hypotheses has to be thorough, not depending on existing opinions or, even worse, on defending the commonly accepted mindset. It is good to avoid stagnation in the all too often quite conservative groups of scientists that move in droves, working on already established ideas, which they do for safety reasons and because of traditions they have been educated in.
Consequences for my ideas
Most probably the Homeric society, (in my opinion to be placed in the Atlantic Bronze Age regions), should be seen as one of the late results of the end phase of Yamnaya conquest. A bipartite society, with dominant Yamnaya/Urnfield elite and subdued Neolithic local farmers had been created, living in small territories, not in an organized state yet. Could these Neolithical farmers be the ancient Pelasgians already named by Homeros? A racial difference can be assumed, of which the easiest is to suppose a dark blonde or even light blonde top layer, and a black haired serf layer before mixing by marriage set in, later on, an inevitable process. Odysseus e.g. is described as having yellow hair (but a darker beard), while Menelaos or Achilles is just called blonde, which is seen by me als very light, even near white, blonde. Many of the Achaian warriors would have been like that, while the serfs, when mentioned, such as Melanthius are usually black haired. His name gives his description. His father Dolius was a serf, who shows (genuine?) loyalty to Odysseus on his return, but Dolios’ daughter Melantho again is dark haired, and not loyal to Penelope. Penelope scolds her in very strong wordings, but cannot punish her or even send her away because Melantho beds Eurumachos, a mighty person amongst the suitors. Melantho as well as Melanthius are finished off after the murder on the suitors is done, and of course not in an honourable way. This is the era of blood revenge, still. To be fair to Odysseus, he is portrayed as a very benevolent master to his subjects, in Iliad (“a ram patrolling amidst his sheep” says Priamos) as well as in Odyssey. There existed no constitutional state yet with independent justice, as that is a later development of largely Roman origin.
Childe, V.G., 1930. The Bronze Age. Reprinted 1969, Biblo and Tannen, New York.
Clark, G. 1961. World prehistory, Cambridge University Press, London.
Haak, W. et al, 2015 Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature 522, p 207-211,
Unterländer W. et al, 2017. Ancestry and demography and descendants of Iron Age nomads of the Eurasian Steppe. Nature Communications 8, 14615
Rasmussen S. et al, 2015 Early divergent strains of Yersinia pestis in Eurasia 5000 years ago. Cell.com (online journal)