What does Homer’s Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships” have to do with Linear B? Why bother translating just it, and not the rest of the Iliad?

What does Homer’s Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships” have to do with Linear B? Why bother translating just it, and not the rest of the Iliad?

Click to ENLARGE my translation of Homer. Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships” lines 511-545:

Iliad 2 511-545
The Catalogue of Ships (lines 459-815) in Book II of the Iliad is the most reliable source for regressive extrapolation and derivation of archaic Greek vocabulary progressively extrapolated into equivalent Attested (A) or Derived (D) Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, next to the archaic Arcado-Cypriot dialect, in which several documents were written in the Linear C syllabary, the close cousin of Linear B. These include the famous “Idalion Tablet”, a decree from Stasicypros, king of Idalion in Cyprus, on behalf of a physician, Onesilos, and his brothers, whom the king and the city promises to pay medical fees for the treatment of the wounded after the siege of Idalion by the Medes (478 and 470 BC). (Bronze plaque engraved on both faces with a Cyprian inscription at the Cabinet des médailles, Paris, France.)

But it isn’t just the Linear B and Linear C scripts which stand hand in hand. The Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Greek dialects, both very ancient, are even more closely allied than Ionic is to Attic Greek. The implications are clear. Any time we, as linguists specializing in the translation of Linear B tablets and sources, wish to verify the authenticity of our translations, the best source for such verification lies in tablets and documents in Arcado-Cypriot, whether these are written in Linear C or in the Arcado-Cypriot Greek alphabet itself (which is not quite identical to the Classical Greek alphabet).

Following hard on the heels of Arcado-Cypriot is the archaic Greek of Homer’s Iliad, and above all, that of “The Catalogue of Ships” itself in Book II. It is precisely in this passage alone that we find the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad. So we, as translators, should rely on “The Catalogue of Ships” more than the rest of the Iliad as the second choice after Arcado-Cypriot for the regressive-progressive extrapolation of Mycenaean Greek words, Attested (A) or Derived (D).

Since a great many Attested (A) words in Mycenaean Greek often call for or even require some reliable source(s) for Derived (D) variations, the significance of Derived (D) Mycenaean Greek vocabulary in the Linear B script should not be underestimated. Conjugational forms of verbs and declensional of nouns missing from Linear B tablets cannot be reliably extrapolated unless we can find some dependable source to do just that. This is precisely the reason why I intend to resort to both Arcado-Cypriot sources in Linear C and in alphabetic Greek, and to “The Catalogue of Ships” in particular in Book I of the Iliad for the purpose of reconstructing “missing” Derived (D) vocabulary, for which certain forms are Attested (A). Why would I want to do that? With the assistance of my research colleague, Rita Roberts, who lives near Heraklion, Crete, I intend to publish a Topical English – Mycenaean Greek Linear B Lexicon sometime between 2016 and 2018, which will account not only for all of the currently Attested (A) vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek, but which will also include a great deal of Derived (D) vocabulary based on the principles I have just mentioned. And more besides. I have in mind the goal of at least doubling the currently Attested (A) Mycenaean vocabulary of some 2,500 words to at least 5,000.

And that is why it is imperative for me to translate in its entirety “The Catalogue of Ships” itself in Book II of Homers Iliad.

NOTE: to read my previous translations of Homers Iliad on our blog, scroll to the top of the page, and click on “ILIAD: Book II”.   



Published by


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

3 thoughts on “What does Homer’s Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships” have to do with Linear B? Why bother translating just it, and not the rest of the Iliad?”

  1. Hi Richard, I’m just taking your translations one at a time and looking over them.

    First your comment on “in close array”. I am not sure whether the Greek implies it but it is certainly one of the battle formations that the Greeks and Trojans used. Take these lines from Iliad 13.130 and there are other similar examples of close formation.

    φράξαντες δόρυ δουρί, σάκος σάκεϊ προθελύμνῳ:
    ἀσπὶς ἄρ᾽ ἀσπίδ᾽ ἔρειδε, κόρυς κόρυν, ἀνέρα δ᾽ ἀνήρ:
    ψαῦον δ᾽ ἱππόκομοι κόρυθες λαμπροῖσι φάλοισι
    νευόντων, ὡς πυκνοὶ ἐφέστασαν ἀλλήλοισιν:
    ἔγχεα δ᾽ ἐπτύσσοντο θρασειάων ἀπὸ χειρῶν
    σειόμεν᾽: οἳ δ᾽ ἰθὺς φρόνεον, μέμασαν δὲ μάχεσθαι.

    Making a fence of spear with spear, shield with with overlapping (or made layer on layer – the meaning is disputed) shield; shield pressed on shield, helmet on helmet. The horse hair plumes on the bright ridges of their helmets touched as they moved (to peer through the gaps in the upper parts of the shields), so close did they stand together. The spears were folded across each other in their strong hands as they were shaken. Their purpose did not falter and they were keen to fight.

    There are a couple of things in your translation which I noticed.

    On line 516 you have 32 hollow ships; it should be 30.
    On line 543 you have black lances; it should be “made of ash”. It is not from melas – black – but melie – ash tree or lance made from the ash tree.

    The Abantes hair style is quite interesting in that the other Greeks had their hair long all over but the Abantes just grew the hair on the back of their head long and maybe shaved the rest.


    1. Thanks so much! I truly appreciate all you are doing for me, mon ami. What is your real name?

      Yes, re – in close array – that was in fact one of several options I had to consider, and it is the one I like the most, so that is why I used it. One has to make choices. 🙂 🙂 See also my translation of Zeus as – a blowhard – just about as weird, but I think the old bugger, Agamemnon, was really mad at his BOSS when he spoke like that. Who could blame him? – damn gods, so capricious – as if Agamemnon should talk! Ahem!

      I shall fix the errors on lines 516 & 543. I am fully aware that your knowledge of Homeric Greek outclasses my own. I am self-taught re. classical Greek. I taught it to myself from 1999-2003, translating the entire Book I of the Iliad in that period. Then, when I came around to building this blog, I knew I had to translate The Catalogue of Ships as the source of the most archaic Greek in the Iliad, hence, the most reliable source for regressive extrapolation of so-called Homeric grammar back to Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, which I am sure you must have noticed in my extensive notes on the influences of both Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Cypriot on lines 581-614 of The Catalogue of Ships. Here is where my real strength lies. While almost all scholars are very familiar with the Iliad itself, none have any idea of the real impact of BOTH Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Cypriot on the Iliad… none, that is to say, except myself. I have taken enormous pains to learn both Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, as well as the Arcado-Cypriot alphabet, which predates the Ionic and Attic by several centuries, being itself archaic, hence of enormous import in my work with Mycenaean Greek etc etc.

      I am in the process of compiling a very thorough English-Mycenaean Greek – archaic Greek – modern Greek Lexicon of Military Affairs for The Association of Historical Studies, KORYVANTES, in Greece. This is to be the first of several sections of the largest English-Mycenaean Greek – archaic Greek – modern Greek Lexicon ever to be published, which Rita Roberts and I intend to publish by ca. 2018. It should effectively double the extant Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary from ca. 2,500 words to at least 5,000, if not as many as 6,000 or 7,000. It will be partially modelled on Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (1986). I would be honoured if you were to participate actively in the compilation of this extremely valuable resource! You would be fully credited as an Assistant Editor, along with other people who are involved, such as Rita Roberts and scholars at KORYVANTES.

      I wish to invite you to become an EDITOR on this blog, so that you may leave your critical comments on my translation of The Catalogue of Ships, and any other comments & criticisms of direct relevance.

      So I need your e-mail address.




Comments are closed.