Mycenaean Linear B Ideograms: Level 5.1 (Advanced) Military, with newly assigned values for B232, B233, B236 & B245 and for the Logogram WE

Mycenaean Linear B Ideograms: Level 5.1 (Advanced) Military, with newly assigned values for B232, B233, B236 & B245 and for the Logogram WE. Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B Ideograms Military B230 to B259 Level 5.1

Oddly enough, although the Linear B ideograms for military affairs seem by and large to be relatively straightforward, there are a few kinks in the array. These are as follows:

1. It is absolutely de rigueur to understand right from the outset that, when the Mycenaeans & Minoans refer to an “axe”= Ideogram B232, they do not mean any old axe, but specifically the “labrys” or the famous “double-axe” unique to their own civilization, and loaded with religious and military symbolism.

2. Ideograms B233 and B236 both designate “swords”. Nothing could be more obvious. Frankly, I am at a loss as to why none of the Linear B ideogrammatic charts assign a value for “sword” to B236. But there is a reason, and it is a very good one. The ancient Mycenaeans, and indeed, the Homeric warriors who followed them some 400 years later used more than one kind of sword.

METHOD 1: The most important one by far was the long sword, in other words, the heavy fighting sword, which in ancient Greek is rendered by the word “kisipo” in Mycenaean Linear B. The “kisipo” was a very large double-edged sword, and was the weapon of choice of both the Mycenaean and the Homeric warrior. This is probably what Ideogram B233 represents. On the other hand, there was also a short sword or dagger, “makaira” in Mycenaean Greek. This is probably what Ideogram B236 represents. But how can we be sure which one is which? On the surface, this looks like a bit of a dilemma, but there are 2 ways to extricate ourselves from it. The first, and the easiest, is simply to look at each of the ideograms. B233 shows a raised sword. To my mind at least, that is surely the nasty old “kisipo”. On the other hand, B236 illustrates the sword pointing down, just as we would expect a small sword or dagger to be worn inside the belt. So as far as I am concerned, we can safely assign the value “kisipo” to B233 and “makaira” to B236, even though no-one to date has ever bothered to figure this out.

METHOD 2: The second, and slightly more complex, way of determining which one is which is to count the occurrences of each of these ideograms on all extant Linear B Tablets. Why so, you ask me? Again, it is fairly simple, when you think of it. Since both the Mycenaeans and Homeric warriors were hugely attached to their BIG SWORDS, i.e. “kisipo”, we should expect Ideogram B233 to appear (a lot) more often on Linear B tablets than B236 “makaira” (if that indeed is what each ideogram represents). I am fairly confident that my hypothesis will be verified by a thorough statistical analysis of the frequency of both B233 and B236 on extant Linear B tablets. But it is going to take a very long time to compile these statistics, and I for one may never have the time to do so. But someone will, and that someone could be you.

At any rate, if the results of Method 2 verify beyond a reasonable doubt that in fact B233 is found much more frequently on the extant Linear B tablets, then I think we can safely conclude that B233 is the BIG sword, and B233 the LITTLE one.

3. Again, no-one to date has even ventured to try to assign a meaning to ideogram B234, but it sure looks like a shield to me, and by shield, I mean the enormous Mycenaean body shield which practically covered the warrior from foot to shoulder. Notice the “side-strap” on this ideogram, if that is indeed what it is, which is what I think it is!    

4. Once again, no-one so far has ventured to assign a meaning to ideogram B245, but I'll be damned if it is not a “military standard or ensign”, à la latine, SPQR = Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and the People of Rome). So of course that is the value I assign it. Why not? Unless and until someone can come up with something better for this ideogram, I stand my ground on this one (pardon the obvious pun on the standard-bearer standing his ground!)

5 The only ideogram which completely stumps me is B259, which looks for all the world like the syllabogram RE upside down in a bowl. God knows what that is supposed to mean!




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Historical linguist, Linear B, Mycenaean Greek, Minoan Linear A, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, ancient Greek, Homer, Iliad, only Blog ENTIRELY devoted to Linear B on Internet; bilingual English- French, read Latin fluently, read Italian & ancient Greek including Linear B well, Antikythera Mechanism

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