CRITICAL Links to KEY PERSEUS/Tufts ancient Greek pages for persons knowledgeable in ancient Greek: 1. Homer, Iliad, Book II, The Catalogue of Ships: If you are wondering why I have deliberately zeroed in on Book II, the Catalogue of Ships of Homer’s Iliad, as I am sure you are, wonder no more. Only Book II alone, the Catalogue of Ships of Homer’s Iliad, can provide us with sufficient examples of Homeric grammar with distinctly Mycenaean characteristics, from which we can thereby retrogressively extrapolate numerous examples of grammatical forms in many of the major categories of Homeric Greek to their putative, and in fact, actual, Mycenaean ancestral roots. 2. Jeffrey A. Rydberg-Cox, Overview of Greek Syntax: is a superb source for the study of ancient Greek grammar. The link is parsed into the major sub-categories of ancient Greek grammar, i.e. nouns, verbs, participles etc. etc., and is thus an extremely valuable and highly practical source for ancient Greek grammar, all but eliminating the necessity of having to buy a hard-copy or e-book publication on ancient Greek grammar. In short, it is a perfectly sound source for ancient Greek grammar aficionados.
Category: ILIAD: Book II
Happy Third Anniversary to Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae!
Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae was founded in March 2013, and since then it has grown to become the premier Linear B blog on the entire Internet. Our blog covers every conceivable aspect of research into Mycenaean Linear B, including, but not exclusively, decipherment of hundreds of tablets from every single sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (agriculture, military, textiles, spices & condiments, vessels and pottery and the religious sector); the translation of the introduction to Book II of the Iliad, plus the entire Catalogue of Ships in Book II, with particular emphasis on the extensive influence of Mycenaean Linear B and of he Mycenaean world on the Catalogue of Ships; extensive vocabulary, lexicons and glossaries of Linear B; lessons in Linear B; progressive grammar of Linear B; extensive research into the 3,500 Scripta Minoa tablets from Knossos; and above all other considerations, the isolation, classification and decipherment of all 35+ supersyllabograms in every sector of the Minoan/Mycenaen economy (see above). Supersyllabograms were previously and erroneously referred to as “adjuncts” in Mycenaean Linear B. The decipherment of supersyllabograms is the major development of the further decipherment of Linear B since the genius, Michael Ventris, first deciphered it in 1952.
But that is not all. Our blog also zeroes in on Minoan Linear A, with at least one successful attempt at deciphering at least one word on a major Linear A tablet, and that is the Linear A word for “tripod”, a truly serendipitous development, given that the same word was the first word ever translated in Mycenaean Linear B. Our blog also focuses on Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, with a few translations of tablets in that script. In short, no other blog on the Internet deals as extensively with all three of these scripts, Linear A, Linear B and Linear C together.
It is also remarkable that we have had in excess of 80,000 visitors since our blog’s inception in March 2013. While this figure may seem rather smallish to many visitors, may I remind you that Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C are extremely esoteric in the field of ancient linguistics. To put it another way, how many people in the entire world do you imagine can read Mycenaean Linear B, and even fewer who can read Arcado-Cypriot Linear C? Scarcely more than a very few thousand out of a population of 7+ billion. So I believe that we have made great strides in the past three years, and I fully expect that we shall top 100,000 visitors by the end of this year, 2016.
Just uploaded to academia.edu - Annotated Translation of the Introduction to Book II of the Iliad and of lines 484 to 652 of The Catalogue of Ships Just uploaded to academia.edu - Annotated Translation of the Introduction to Book II of the Iliad and of lines 484 to 652 of The Catalogue of Ships into fluent twenty-first century English, with reference to the significant impact of Mycenaean Greek on its archaic Greek. This is followed by a “modern” poem, Ode to the Archangel Michael in Mycenaean Linear B, English & French. Click on this banner to download the translation: This is my revised translation of the Introduction to Book II of the Iliad and of lines 484 to 652 of The Catalogue of Ships, which replaces the former one which I had uploaded to academia.edu. The former translation, which was incomplete, omitting a continuum of lines appearing in the revised translation, has been deleted from academia.edu and from this blog. So if you wish to read my revised translation, you will need to download the one referred to in this post. Thank you Richard
Just added to my academia.edu page, Translation of the Introduction to Book II of the Iliad, and its Profound Implications in the Regressive-Progressive Reconstruction of Unattested, Derived (D) Mycenaean Greek Vocabulary and Grammar, here: This is the first of a series of several papers I shall be publishing this year and next (2016) on my hypothesis underpinning the theoretical and proposed actual links between the archaic Greek of Book II of the Iliad by Homer, and in particular of the Catalogue of Ships (lines 459-815). These papers are of extreme significance to the methodology, process and procedure of regressive extrapolation of Mycenaean Greek vocabulary or grammatical constructs derived from the most archaic Greek in the Iliad, considered by many researchers to be an in)direct offshoot of Mycenaean Greek itself. Vocabulary or grammatical constructs thus derived are then progressively applied to reconstruct parallel elements missing from any attested Linear B sources regardless. I cannot stress too much the extreme significance of this particular line of research I am pursuing in the reconstruction of numerous elements (possibly even into the hundreds) of Mycenaean Greek derived from these sections alone of the Iliad. Richard
Table of Athematic Third Declension Nouns & Adjectives in “eu” in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE NOTE: this table took me 12 hours (!) to compile. I sincerely hope that some of our visitors will acknowledge this in some way or other, by tagging the post with LIKE, assigning it the numbers of STARS they believe it merits, by re-blogging it, posting it on Facebook, tweeting it, posting it on Scoopit, whatever... Based on the template declension of the noun qasireu = “viceroy” in Mycenaean Linear B, itself derived in large part from extant archaic forms in The Catalogue of Ships of Book II of the Iliad by Homer, we have here all of the nouns, including proper, and adjectives I have been able to cull from various sources, all of which are referenced in the KEY at the top of the table. There are a few items in particular we need to take into consideration: (a) Apart from proper nouns, there are very few extant or derived nouns or adjectives in “eu” in Mycenaean Linear B; (b) The astonishing thing about the extant proper nouns is that a considerable number of them are also found in The Catalogue of Ships of Book II of the Iliad, in the most archaic Greek, hence, the most reliable source for derived Mycenaean proper names. While some proper names which are found in the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis are not found in The Catalogue of Ships, they are nevertheless Homeric. When I say “Homeric”, I refer specifically to proper names solely from The Catalogue of Ships, as those which are found elsewhere in the Iliad or the Odyssey may not be authentic Mycenaean eponymns or names, unless of course they are replicated in The Catalogue of Ships. I am, in short, extremely reticent to accept proper names as Mycenaean, unless they occur in The Catalogue of Ships. (c) On the other hand, the rest of the proper names found in this table may very well be, and some of them must be authentic Mycenaean proper names. Given this, it is quite probable that at least some of these names not to be found anywhere in Homer are nevertheless the names of original Mycenaean heroes and warriors, which might have been mentioned in an original Mycenaean epic of the Trojan War, almost certainly oral. It is absolutely critical in this scenario to underscore one point in particular: that if there ever did exist a Mycenaean epic upon which the Iliad was based, such a (stripped-down) epic could only have seeded The Catalogue of Ships, and no other part of the Iliad or Odyssey, since it is in The Catalogue of Ships alone that we find far and away the greatest number of occurrences of archaic Greek, and not in the remainder of the Iliad or the Odyssey. Some will of course argue that some archaic remnants still pop up here and there in the the remainder of the Iliad and Odyssey, but it is important to realize in this particular that Homer most likely – indeed, almost certainly – (unconsciously) carried over the habit of using bits and pieces of archaic Greek, much more common in The Catalogue of Ships, to the rest of the epic cycle. In fact, there is real doubt that he ever did compose outright The Catalogue of Ships. Rather, it appears, he may very well have had access to an earlier, archaic epic, which had indeed been copied from its original Mycenaean template. He then in turn copied the whole thing lock-stock-and-barrel, embellishing it with his own peculiar style in so-called Epic Greek, as he went along. That seems the more likely scenario to me. At any rate, the more simplistic structure, and above all other considerations, the characteristically Mycenaean inventory have stamped themselves prominently on The Catalogue of Ships alone. If nothing else, there can be little or no doubt that the entire Catalogue of Ships (exclusive of the rest of Book II of the Iliad, which was a later addition) was composed well before the rest of the Iliad, and long before the Odyssey. So the question remains, Who were all those Mycenaean warriors? Which ones had Homer forgotten, or conveniently omitted from The Catalogue of Ships? One thing appears almost undeniable. The proper names we see in this table, which are not in The Catalogue of Ships, are very likely those of Mycenaean wanaka or kings, qasirewe or viceroys, heroes and other assorted warriors. Why they do not appear anywhere in the Iliad is beyond our reckoning. But they do appear on extant Mycenaean Linear B tablets, and this constitutes enough evidence for me that they were important figures to the Mycenaeans. Richard
Our own Page in PARTNERSHIP on Koryvantes, The Association of Historical Studies (Greece) Click here to visit our own page in our professional partnership with Koryvantes, Koryvantes, The Association of Historical Studies: Koryvantes has done an extremely professional job of designing our page on his magnificent site, and we hope we have done the same for his Association on ours, here: We URGE all of our visitors to visit Koryvantes, The Association of Historical Studies, in Greece, as often as possible, since their research into ancient Greek warfare and weaponry is of the very highest order. Koryvantes discusses Greek warfare and weaponry from all historical eras, right down from the Mycenaean to the Byzantine, accompanied b magnificent illustrations of Greek warriors and weapons. His site is a must see! Koryvantes is a MAJOR contributor and attendee at numerous International Conferences and Meetings all over Europe! Richard
The Famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos on Papyrus! Minoan Literature? Did any Exist? Click to ENLARGE Here you see a magnificent reproduction of the famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos reprinted on Papyrus, which I purchased for the astonishing price of 10 euros while I was visiting the site on May 2, 2012. The colours on this papyrus version are so vibrant no photograph can fully do justice to them. Nevertheless, the photo turned out wonderfully, and if you would like to use it yourself, please feel free to do so. I even framed it to enhance it. Papyrus in Minoan/Mycenaean Crete? The very idea of reprinting one of the amazing Knossos frescoes onto papyrus may seem blasphemous to some, but certainly not to me. It raises the very astute question: did the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, ever produce any literature as such? Consent is almost unanimous on the Internet and in print – No! They did not write any literature. But not so fast! It strikes me as peculiar - indeed very peculiar – that a civilization as advanced and sophisticated as that of Knossos, in both the Minoan Linear A eras (Middle Minoan – early Late Minoan) and in the Mycenaean Linear B era (Late Minoan), may very well have had a literature of its own, for these reasons, if none other: (a) Creation Myths: Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, the Hittites and other proto-literate civilizations, at least had a religious literature, whether or not it was composed on papyrus (as with Egypt), here at Wikipedia: The sun rises over the circular mound of creation as goddesses pour out the primeval waters around it or on baked clay tablets, as with the Babylonians, here: The Enûma_Eliš Epic (Creation Myth) ca. 1,000 lines long on 7 tablets: Proemium: When on high the heaven had not been named, Firm ground below had not been called by name, When primordial Apsu, their begetter, And Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all, Their waters mingled as a single body, No reed hut had sprung forth, no marshland had appeared, None of the gods had been brought into being, And none bore a name, and no destinies determined-- Then it was that the gods were formed in the midst of heaven. Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called. the famous Sumerian Myth of Gilgamesh on 7 Tablets here: and the Sumerian & Akkadian Myths, including that of Gilgamesh, here: Akkadian Gilgamesh: (b) The implications of the astounding achievements of the highly advanced Minoan Civilization for a putative literature of their own: Just because the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, left behind no literature as such on their administrative inventory tablets, does not necessarily mean that they never wrote any literature at all. That strikes me as bordering on nonsensical, since Knossos always had the closest economic and cultural ties with Egypt and with all of the other great civilizations contemporaneous with her. Egypt, above all, set great store on the inestimable value of Knossian, Minoan and Mycenaean artifacts such as gold, in which the Mycenaean artisans were especially gifted, lapis lazuli, of which the finest quality in the entire known world issued from Knossos; Minoan & Mycenaean pottery and wares, which again were of the most splendid designs; Minoan textiles and dyes, again the finest to be found, and on and on. In fact, the Minoans were rightly renowned as the among the very best dyers in the entire known world. But why stop there? Why should such an obviously advanced civilization as the Minoan, with its understanding of the basic principles of hydraulics, quite beyond the ken of any other contemporary civilization, and with its utterly unique airy architecture, based on the the most elegant geometric principles, again quite unlike anything else to found in the then-known world, not have a literature of its own? To me, the idea seems almost preposterous. (c) If the Minoans & Mycenaeans did write any literature, what medium would they most likely have used for it? The question remains, if they did have a literature of their own, it too was most likely religious in nature. But on what medium would they have written it down? - certainly not on their minuscule tablets, as these were so tiny as to virtually exclude the composition of any religious literature such as that of the origin of mankind (very much in currency at that era in the other civilizations mentioned above). Again, the Minoan scribes writing in Linear B used their tiny tablets solely for ephemeral annual accounting and inventories. Still, I can hear some of you objecting, “But the Babylonians and other civilizations wrote down their creation myths on tablets!” Fair enough. Yet those tablets were larger, and they were deliberately baked to last as long as possible (and they have!), quite unlike the Minoan & Mycenaean ephemeral administrative tablets, which were never baked. And, as if it isn’t obvious, one civilization is not necessary like another, not even in the same historical era. This is especially so when it comes to the Minoan civilization – and to a very large extent to its cousin, the Mycenaean, versus all others at the time, since clearly the socio-cultural, architectural and artistic defining characteristics of the former (Minoan/Mycenaean) were largely very much at odds with those of the latter, (Egypt, Babylon, Assyria etc.), much more ostentatious than the Minoans... except for one thing... We are still left with the question of medium. If the Minoans, writing in Linear A and later in Linear B, did have a literature, and let us assume for the sake of argument that they did, which medium would they have used? Before I get right down to that, allow me to point out the Knossos was, as it were, the New York City of the Bronze Age, the metropolis at the very hub of all international trade and commerce on the Mediterranean Sea. All you need to do is look at any map of the Mediterranean, and you can see at a glance that Knossos was located smack dab in the centre of all trade routes to all other great civilizations of her day and age, as we quite clearly see on this composite map: Click to ENLARGE Is it any wonder that no-one was particularly bent on attacking her, or any other city on the island of Crete, such as Phaistos, since after all everyone everywhere strictly depended on Knossos as the very nexus of international trade? No wonder the city was never fortified. This pretty much how Knossos looked at her height: Click to ENLARGE No walls or fortifications of any kind in evidence! That alone is a very powerful indicator of the critical commercial value of Knossos as the very hub of international commerce in her era. But more than anywhere else, the archaeological evidence powerfully evinces a very close trade relationship between Knossos and Egypt, since Minoan jewelry, textiles, pottery and wares have shown up in considerable amounts – sometimes even hordes - in Egyptian archaeological sites. The Egyptians clearly placed extreme value on Minoan goods, as exquisitely crafted as they were. So what? - I hear you exclaim. So what indeed. These major trading partners each must have had something to trade with the other that the other was in desperate need of. And in the case of Knossos and the Minoans, the Egyptian commodity they would probably have needed most of all would be, you have it, papyrus. The Cretan climate was not dry enough for them to produce it themselves. So they would have had to rely exclusively on Egypt for what was, after all, one of the most precious commodities of the entire Bronze Age. If we accept this hypothesis – and I see no reason why we should not at least seriously entertain it – then the Minoans may very well have used papyrus and ink to record their religious literature. There is some evidence, however second-hand and circumstantial, that they may have composed religious texts, and possibly even a religious epic, on papyrus. This evidence, although only secondary, if we are inclined to accept it as such – is the high incidence of the names of Minoan and Mycenaean deities and priestesses, and even of religious rites, on the Linear B accounting and inventory tablets from Pylos, over all other Minoan/Mycenaean sites. Why on earth even bother mentioning the names of so many gods so frequently on minuscule tablets otherwise dealing almost exclusively with anything as boring – yet naturally economically vital - as statistics and inventories of livestock, crops, military equipment, vases and pottery, and the like? There was nothing economically useful about religious rites or babbling on about deities. So why bother, unless it was a matter of real significance to the Minoans and Mycenaeans? But ostensibly, it was. Chuck economics, at least where religion is concerned, they apparently believed. This cannot come as any surprise in the ancient world, and of course, in the Bronze Age itself, where religions and superstitious beliefs were rampant, playing an enormous and absolutely essential rôle in virtually every civilization, every society, great or small. This composite of Minoan/Mycenaean deities, which were were found in droves on every single Minoan/Mycenaean site, makes this blatantly obvious: Click to ENLARGE (d) The implications of a putative Minoan & Mycenaean military literature in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad: Given this scenario, I am seriously inclined to believe that not only did the Minoan and Mycenaean scribes writing in Linear B (leaving Minoan Linear A aside for the time being) keep track of religious rites, and possibly even compose a creation myth of their own on papyrus, but that they may very well have also written down a stripped down written version of their oral military epic, their own story of the Trojan War, and if so, the most accurate version of the events of that war. Their original history of the Trojan war would have almost certainly been much more factual than the version of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad, which must have been derived from it, had it existed. This would go a long way to explaining why the Greek of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad is written in the most archaic, and the most-Mycenaean like Greek in the entire Iliad – not to say that Mycenaean Greek does not appear elsewhere in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, because, surprise, surprise, it most certainly does. There is one passage in The Catalogue of Ships which really brings this sort of scenario to the fore. I refer specifically to lines 645-652, which read as follows in the original Greek and in my translation: Click to ENLARGE It is passingly strange that Homer bluntly states, in no uncertain terms, that Knossos and Crete were major contributors to the Achaean fleet in the Trojan War, since everyone these days, archaeologists and literati alike, assume without question that Knossos fell long before the Trojan War (ca. 1450-1425 BCE). So who is right? Homer? - us? -anyone? How on earth can we resolve the blatant discrepancy? We cannot, nor shall we ever. But the fact remains that this extremely important passage in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad leaves me quite unsettled. Since Homer is obviously convinced that Knossos and some 100(!) Cretan cities did figure prominently in the Trojan War, where on earth did he get his information from? I for one believe it is quite conceivable that rewrites on papyrus of some Minoan documents from Knossos and possibly even Phaistos may still have been in existence when Homer wrote the Iliad, or that at least stories of their prior existence were still in circulation. If you think correlatively as I always do, this hypothesis cannot simply be dismissed out of hand. For my in-depth discussion of this very important question, please refer to this post: (e) If the Minoans and Mycenaeans wrote some sort of religious and/military literature of their own on papyrus, there is absolutely no evidence that they did! This leaves us with only one final consideration. If the Minoans and Mycenaeans actually did compose documents on papyrus, where are they all? The answer to that stares us in the face. While the scribes would have taken great pains to assiduously preserve documents on papyrus in dry storage while the city of Knossos was still flourishing, these same documents would all have rotted away entirely and in no time flat, once Knossos and the Minoan civilization had collapsed. Crete was not Egypt. Egypt’s climate was bone dry; the climate of Crete was, and still is, Mediterranean. Ergo, the whole argument against the Minoans and Mycenaeans ever having had a literature of their own, composed on papyrus scrolls is de natura sua tautological, as is the argument they did. 50/50. Take your choice. But since I am never one to leave no stone unturned, I much prefer the latter scenario. NOTE: This post took me over 8 (!) hours to compile. So I would appreciate if at least some of you would tag it LIKE, comment on it, or better still, reblog it! For all the intense work Rita and I put into this great blog of ours, it often shocks me that so few people seem to take much interest in some of our most compelling posts. I am merely letting you know how I feel. Thanks so much. Richard
MAJOR Announcement! PARTNERSHIP with KORYVANTES: Association of Historical Studies: A World-Renowned Historical Greek site: Click to visit KORYVANTES: KORYVANTES: Who we are “KORYVANTES”, The Association of Historical Studies, is a Cultural Organization, researching and applying experimentally the Military Heritage of the Greeks from the Bronze Age to the late Byzantium. “Koryvantes” has participated in Academic conferences of Experimental Archaeology (University of Warsaw 2011, Academy of Pultusk 2012, University of Belgrade 2012, Organization Exarc / Denmark 2013 ), while our studies have been published in academic literature (British Archaeology Report Series) and Special International Journals (Ancient Warfare Magazine ). “Koryvates” has participated in International Archaeological Festivals (Biskupin / Poland 2011 , Lyon / France , 2012 ) and International Traditional Archery Festivals ( Istanbul 2013 Amasya 2013 , Biga 2013 , Kiev 2013) , presenting high quality shows to thousands of viewers. “Koryvantes” has participated in major international TV Productions (History Channel, BBC2, BBC 4, ITV), on the thematics of warfare and culture of ancient Greece. Since 2008, we have spearheaded research and the practical study of Greek Warfare at an international level, reconstructing and testing weapons, armour and fighting techniques of 3,300 years of Greek History. The Major Concerns & Areas of Research of our Site are: Experimental Archaeology, Academic Research, MYCENAEAN EQUETA, Archaic Hoplite, Classical Hoplite, Byzantine Vandon, Traditional Archery, 33 Centuries of History (CAPS for MYCENAEAN EQUETA by Richard Vallance Janke) Click on this banner to visit ALL CATEGORIES: For photos of people arrayed in the armour of the Mycenaean Equeta, Click on this photo to visit the page: Text minimally revised by Richard Vallance Janke to reflect Canadian English. TO CONTACT US: For more information on the KORYVANTES, visit WIKIPEDIA: Korybantes You may also visit KORYVANTES on Twitter here: and follow them if your are a student, researcher, professor or an aficionado of Mycenaean History and Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, ancient Greek Military History, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I fully expect that KORYVANTES will be profoundly interested in my translation of the entire Catalogue of Ships, which I expect to finish by spring 2015. KORYVANTES IS WITHOUT QUESTION THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTNER SITE LINEAR B, KNOSSOS & MYCENAE HAS EVER PARTNERED WITH! We shall be reblogging a great many posts from KORYVANTES, and we are certain that they shall be doing the same with many of ours. English-Myceneaen Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Greek Lexicon: My research colleague, Rita Roberts and I, shall soon be compiling the first major LEXICON of our all-new, extremely comprehensive English-Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Greek Lexicon which is to be published in its entirety sometime in 2018. When it is published, it will be by far the largest and most comprehensive Linear B & Linear C Lexicon on Mycenaean Linear B and the first ever on Arcado-Cypriot Linear C ever published. Published FREE in PDF format, it is bound to at least double the currently attested (A) Mycenaean vocabulary of some 2,500 words, logograms and ideograms to at least twice that many attested (A) and derived (D) lexical entries, to at least 5,000, if not 6,000 – 7,000 words. The Military section of this Lexicon is to be published first, meaning that KORYVANTES, The Association of Historical Studies, will benefit fully from the largest vocabulary of Mycenaean Linear B Military Terminology ever assembled online or in print. It will be published on its own sometime later this year as a prelude to our full lexicon, under the title, An English-Mycenaean Linear B/Mycenaean Linear B-English Lexicon of Military Terminology (PDF). Richard
Surprise, surprise! What rôle does Formulaic Language play in Linear B Tablets, and does it have anything to do with Homer’s archaic Greek? Does that surprise you, if you are a Linear B translator? It surprised my translator colleague, Rita Roberts, and myself, for quite some time – well over a year. But not any more. There are two inescapable reasons why we have been able to come to the conclusions we have reached. These are: (a) that the Linear B scribes very frequently used what Rita and I call supersyllabograms, a term which describes a peculiar phenomenon common to only a subset of syllabograms which have defied decipherment for the past 63 years since 1952. We shall be deciphering almost all of the 31 supersyllabograms, a substantial subset of the full set of 61 syllabograms (over 50 %). Only a very few supersyllabograms still defy decipherment, at least for us, but someone in the near future may find the keys to even those ones. Enough of that for now. We will be publishing our complete peer-reviewed research paper later on this year. So folks will just have to wait. (b) that the Linear B scribes very often left unsaid (i.e. omitted) from their tablets what was perfectly obvious to them (see my Comments on Knossos tablet M 10 E x 233 below for the full text), since they all assiduously followed the same strict guidelines for transcribing accounts and inventories, and all used the same formulaic language for their transcriptions. To visualize how all this directly influences Rita Roberts’ methodical and accurate translation of Knossos Tablet M 10 E x 233, click on this image of the tablet to ENLARGE it: From the red outline to the right, you can see that I have filled in the rest of the missing section of this Linear B tablet. I am confident that the tablet in its entirely did in fact look almost exactly as you see here, because there is only 1 ideogram (for ram) only partially missing, while the word, SURI on the second line is clearly the Mycenaean place name, SURIMO, or in Greek, Syrimos. Since this tablet is clearly all about an offering TO the god Dikataro (dative!) or Zeus, and no one in their right mind would sacrifice more than one ram or animal to any of the gods, livestock being indispensable to their livelihood, it follows that one ram and one ram only was sacrificed to the god. Ergo, there cannot possibly be much more on the truncated right side of this fragment than the outline in red I have tacked on to its end. Does Formulaic Language in Mycenaean Linear B Tablets Have Anything to do with Formulaic Archaic Greek in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey? Surprise, surprise. It does. And so does Arcado-Cypriot in its alphabet or in Linear C. My Hypothesis runs as follows. If this premise does not hold water for some translators of Linear B, recall that Homer also heavily relied on formulaic phrases. He appears to have picked up that habit, not only from the Mycenaean Greek scribes who preceded him by 400-600 years, but also from the Arcado-Cypriot scribes, who wrote in the Linear C syllabary and in the Arcado-Cypriot Greek alphabet at the very same time as he was composing the Iliad – a fact that all too many historians and linguists completely overlook. Recall that Linear C had already evolved from the almost exclusively accounting and inventorial syllabary (Linear B ) to a literary one, with many of their tablets simultaneously composed in both Linear C and in alphabetic Arcado-Cypriot Greek. The lengthy legal document, the famous Idalion tablet, ca. 400 BCE, was one such tablet, written in both Linear C and alphabetic Greek. But Linear C had been in constant use from ca. 1100 BCE (long before Homer!) non-stop all the way through to ca. 400 BCE, when the Arcado-Cypriots finally abandoned it in favour of the Greek alphabet alone. My point is simply this: I for one cannot believe that Homer was not even remotely familiar with documents in the Arcado-Cypriot alphabet or possibly even in Linear C, because there were plenty of them around at the time he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey (if he did). So even if he was not at all familiar with Mycenaean Linear B, he certainly must have known about, and may very well have read documents in Arcado-Cypriot. But that is not all. In spite of the fact that he almost certainly did not know Linear B, being familiar as he most likely was with the vocabulary and grammar of Arcado-Cypriot meant that he automatically had some inkling of Mycenaean Greek. Why so? - simply because of all the ancient Greek dialects (archaic or not), no two were more closely related than Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, not even Ionic and Attic Greek – not by a long shot. This alone implies that even if Homer consciously knew nothing about Mycenaean Greek, its vocabulary and grammar, unconsciously he did, because every time he borrowed formulaic language from Arcado-Cypriot, he was in effect borrowing almost exactly the same vocabulary and phrases from Mycenaean Greek. But there is more – much more – to this than superficially meets the eye. Homer was in fact very familiar with Mycenaean society, and with Mycenaean warfare, because he mentions both so often in the Iliad, especially in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II, and even occasionally in the Odyssey, that is obvious to all but the most recalcitrant translators of ancient Greek that he frequently resorts to Mycenaean vocabulary, phrases and even grammar (especially for the genitive and dative cases), even if he is not conscious of it. It stares us in the face. To illustrate my point, allow me to draw your attention to the numerous instance Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot vocabulary and grammar in just one of the serial passages of Book II of the Iliad I have already meticulously translated into twenty-first century English. Click to ENLARGE: Now if you compare my scholia on the word, thalassa, on line 614 with the Linear B tablet below from Knossos, you can instantly see they are one and the same word! Since Linear B had no L+vowel series of syllabograms, the scribes had to substitute the R+vowel syllabograms for Mycenaean words which would have otherwise begun with L. Also, Linear B never repeats consonants, as that is impossible in a syllabary. Similarly, Linear B was unable to distinguish between variants of consonants, such as we find T & TH in the Greek alphabet. So the Mycenaean tarasa is in fact equivalent to the Homeric thalassa, given that on Linear B fragment KN 201 X a 26: t = th, r = l & s = ss, hence tarasa = thalassa, down to the last letter. Anyway, for the time being, I rest my case. But with respect to the relationship between formulaic language in Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot, whether in Linear C or alphabetic on the one hand, and Homer’s use of formulaic language on the other, there is more to come on our blog this year – much more. It is highly advisable for all of you who are experienced translators of either or both Mycenaean Linear B and Homeric Greek to read all of my translations in series of the entire Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, wherein he uses the most archaic Greek in all of the Iliad. Otherwise, you may experience some difficulty following my thesis on formulaic language and the hypotheses upon which it is based. As for the rest of you folks, who are not translators, but who frequently read the posts on our blog, just enjoy and assimilate the essentials, and forget the rest, because all of the technical stuff I delve so deeply into doesn’t matter anyway unless you are a translator. Still, you may be asking, why delve into so much detail in the first place? Great question. It is all for the benefit of our fellow translators and decipherers, to whom we absolutely must address so many of the posts on our pointedly technical blog. Nevertheless, our blog is open to all to enjoy and read, as far as each of you wishes to take yourself. As I said just now, keep what you like and leave the rest. You will always learn at least something truly valuable to yourself. Otherwise, why would you be a regular visitor to our blog in the first place? Keep posted. Richard
Ripley’s Believe it or not! The telling contribution of the Minoans & of the great metropolis of Knossos to the Trojan War according to Homer. Iliad II, “The Catalogue of Ships” - lines 615-652: Click to ENLARGE With reference to the great Minoan civilization, to Knossos, a metropolis of some 55,000 citizens (the size of Classical Athens), Phaestos & some 100 (!) Minoan cities in prominence in these few lines of the Iliad (according to Homer), this is far and away the most significant passage in the entire “The Catalogue of Ships” as far as we as researchers into Mycenaean Greek and its civilization, should truly be concerned with. Click to ENLARGE: There are several points of note we feel we must raise here: (a) It is hugely surprising that Homer should take so much trouble to refer to so many Minoan cities and settlements under the Mycenaean aegis, at least as far as the Trojan War is concerned. This is because Knossos at the acme of its power was supposed to have fallen no later than 1400 BCE, but the Trojan War took place at least 200 years later! (ca. 1200 BCE). So what is going on with Homer? Is he off his rocker? I sincerely doubt that, when it comes to perhaps the greatest Epic poet of all time. Either Homer is truly confused with his “historical facts” or Knossos did not fall around 1400 BCE, but hung on as a major Minoan/Mycenaean centre of economic and maritime naval power for at least another 200 years, or... or what? What on earth can we make of this bizarre scenario? – bizarre to us, that is. I find it positively intriguing that Homer should be so insistent on mentioning by name several Minoan cities and outposts, and that he should then go on to inform us that there were at least 100 of them overall. This is simply astonishing! (b) The memory of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete appears not to have faded one jot by Homer’s era, another point of contention in our modern historical understanding of the time lines for the height of the magnificent Minoan maritime empire and for the Mycenaean Empire. Homer’s emphatic references to the major contribution of the Minoan Cretans to the expedition against Troy flies straight in the face of all modern archaeological evidence to the contrary. So who has got their “historical facts” right or wrong, Homer or we ourselves today? Or perhaps no-one has got it “right”, neither Homer nor we ourselves. This is just one exasperating instance of the innumerable glaring discrepancies between Homer’s interpretation of the so-called “historical facts” and our own, where the toponyms, the disposition of the geographical and cartographic features of the expedition and a great many other finicky details of the Trojan War are concerned, and refuse to go away. (c) The question is – as it always has been – can we reconcile these perplexing paradoxes? The answer is bluntly, NO. I for one suspect that Homer (or whoever “wrote” the Iliad, whether or not this was one author or multiple authors) must have known a good deal more about the recent Trojan War, from his perspective a mere 400 years or so after it, than we credit him for. It would be risky at best, and pure folly at worst to dismiss his observations out of hand. The primary reason for my asserting this is simply that he gives us so much detail, not only about the Minoan participants in the Trojan War, but about the participation of all of the other Argives or Achaeans in it. Just because he mentions so many place names that no longer exist does not mean they never existed. And even if he has got his geography all wrong, can we blame him for that? I hardly think so. After all, were there any competent cartographers anywhere in the ancient world at the time Homer lived, whenever that was – somewhere between 800 & 700 BCE? When I say, were there any good map makers at the time, I mean precisely that. How do we know? How can we know, in the patent absence of evidence to the contrary? I am quite serious when I say this, since only about 10 % of all ancient Greek literature alone – never mind that of other great ancient civilizations – survives to this day. That is a pitiable resource-base of primary documentation we have to reply on. When I speak of primary documentation, I mean in any form whatsoever, whether or not this be engravings on signets, tablets such as those in Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, monuments or burial stones and the like, on buildings or edifices, on shards or pottery, in actual writings by the ancient Greek authors, etc. etc. Frankly, we really do not have much to go on. (d) Archaeological data, while accurate where it has been decisively confirmed, is never the same as written records, and cannot be relied upon to convey the same core of what we nowadays call “information”, however reliable that information may or may not be. This includes historical information, and, if anything, primary historical information is itself subject to all sorts of contradictions, anomalies and paradoxes which cannot ultimately be resolved, no matter how much of it we have at our disposal. Quantity can never replace reliability or the presumed lack of it of primary sources. Yet Homer is, let’s face it, a primary, if not the primary, literary source for the Mycenaean War against the Trojans. What then? I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. Yet I for one dare not draw any, for fear of trapping myself in a quandary of conflicting “evidence” between confirmed reliable archaeological findings and the much more unstable and inconsistent historical written records we are nevertheless fortunate enough to still have on hand. Still, the astonishing detail Homer provides us in this single brief passage alone from “The Catalogue of Ships” in Book II of the Iliad begs the question. How did he come to be consciously aware of all these historical details, however “right” or “wrong” the majority of researchers take them to be. Perhaps it might be better for us all if we just dropped the notion of “right” or “wrong” where the ancient authors in general are concerned, and above all else, in the case of Homer, who really does seem to know what he is talking about. In other words, I believe that we should take what he has to say with much more than a grain of salt. Rather, we should be taking much of what he says quite seriously. But in what regards and in what applications to modern interpretations of the Trojan War and the deep, dark recesses of Mycenaean history I cannot, I dare not say. For all of this, somehow, somehow deep down inside, I instinctively, intuitively suspect he knew a lot more than we possibly can ourselves, if for the sole reason that he lived only a mere 4 centuries from the actual events in the Mycenaean War, while we live at the historical remote in the time line of events exceeding 3,200 years! (e) Finally, and especially in light of that huge gap between ourselves and the Mycenaean era, we are in no position to understand with anywhere near the insight Homer must have had what the Mycenaean Trojan War was all about anyway. After all, Homer was Greek in the so-called “dark ages” of archaic Greece (another misnomer, if ever there was one); so he, being Greek, and living at that time, must have been immersed, not only in the mythology of the Trojan War – if indeed it ever was mythology to him, which I sincerely doubt – but in the historical facts as probably most of the Greeks of his era then understood them. Sadly, we shall never know how much they still knew about the Mycenaean War against the Trojans, nor how accurate their knowledge of it was. But the fact remains, they did indeed know about it, and if the Iliad is any indicator of their knowledge of it, they were consciously aware of a hell of a lot more about that great event in human history than we can ever hope to understand today. How the ancient Greeks understood and related to the world they lived in is beyond our ken. But we still must endeavour to understand their world on their own terms, in so far as this is humanly possible. This is a basic tenet of modern historical research. Do not judge ancient civilizations – or for that matter, much more recent ones – on our terms, but try to understand them on theirs. A huge bill to fill? You bet. But we must do the best we can; otherwise, we learn nothing of any real value even to ourselves in our modern society, with all its technological and scientific marvels. Science and technology cannot unearth the past, any more than we can in good conscience dig up the graves of the dead without desecrating them. Am I giving up the search for understanding the far-flung past? Far from it. I am merely saying that we have to watch ourselves at every turn, no matter how sophisticated the scientific and technological tools, marvels as they are, at our command. To summarize, it takes real human empathy to actually try to relate to civilizations long-since dead and gone. I myself always try to imagine what a life I would have been living, were I Minoan or Mycenaean. To my mind, that sounds like a good place to start.... indeed the right place. Richard
Why anachronistic translations of Homer's Iliad scare people off, Versus my modern translation of the Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships”, lines 581-604 Here is my translation: Click to ENLARGE: & here is the 1924 translation, which is even worse than the one of the previous post (lines 546-580). I have underlined the grossest anachronisms. Click to ENLARGE: Richard
Some Really Fine Twenty-First Century Translations of Homer's Iliad Be as it may, it is up to us in the early twenty-first century to rectify this pitiable state of affairs. Here is at least one downloadable modern translation of the Iliad which really flies: You can download this translation in .PDF, Mobi, Epub, WORD or HTML here: Fortunately, there have been many truly fine translators of the Here are a few telling reviews of some of the best contemporary translations: click to READ Take your choice. Richard
My translation of Homer. Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships”, Lines 546-580 in Modern English: Click to ENLARGE Compare my translation in twenty-first century English with that of A.T. Murray 90 years ago (1924): Click to ENLARGE: and you can instantly see the glaring discrepancies in the English of these two completely alien translations. Murray's translation from 1924 sounds uncannily like something Alexander Pope might have dryly penned in the eighteenth century! There really was no excuse for this, even in 1924, when people spoke an English very little removed from that we speak today. We can be pretty sure that the poor school children who were obliged to read the Iliad and Odyssey in that translation would probably not want to have anything more to do with either masterpiece for the rest of their lives. And who could have blamed them? But the Georgian mores of that era, still grudgingly hanging on in spite of the roaring twenties, prevailed, and to this day, far too many readers, young and old alike, end up in the ghastly grips of translations such as that one. God forbid! The most galling thing about it all is that The Perseus Digital Library should know better. They have such a wealth of choice from modern translations, which they could easily have availed themselves of. In the next post, we will be recommending some quality twenty-first century translations of the Iliad. Richard
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: 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 Homer’s Iliad. NOTE: to read my previous translations of Homer’s Iliad on our blog, scroll to the top of the page, and click on “ILIAD: Book II”. Richard
Ancient Greek is Polytonic, but Mycenaean Greek in Linear B is not & How to Deal with the Whole Blasted Mess: Click to ENLARGE Peering at this (apparently) complex chart of ancient Greek polytonic orthography, you are liable to want to jump off a cliff or at least take a valium. I know I did when I first learned ancient Greek, and to be quite frank, I still do have a great deal of difficulty remembering where stressed or unstressed accents (especially when subscripted) are supposed to fall, either on the first syllable or on one of three final syllables, which are linguistically stylized as antepenultimate (third last syllable), penultimate (second last syllable) & ultimate (last syllable), just to drive us even crazier. We can blithely (and safely) ignore these totally unnecessary definitions and just say last, second last & third last syllable, so that ordinary folks like you and me can understand what on earth all those linguists are on about. And I am the first to admit that, even though I learned ancient Greek all on my own (auto-didactically), and have learned to read it very well after 15 years, I always was and still am far too lazy to be bothered learning the niceties of all those polytonic “rules” anyway, because all you need to do, in order to write ancient Greek, is to look up the word you want to write in an excellent Greek dictionary, of which by far the best is Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (1986), grab the correct polytonic accents from the entry, et voilà! And I know darn well right that plenty of folks do precisely this, because who can be bothered with silly details like that if in fact you already know the word for which you want to check its polytonics. This is above all true for those of us who have read plenty of ancient Greek texts, from at least Books I & II of Homer’s Iliad, several prominent ancient Greek poets such as Sappho (above all others), Anacreon & Alceus, historians such as Herodotus & Xenophon (ridiculously easy to read & my first introduction the ancient Greek), Plato, Strabo, Plutarch etc. etc. (all of whom I have read extensively, plus many other authors in several ancient Greek dialects – another maddening distraction, at least for the first five years or so). It is in fact the dialects, of which there at least 10 major ones, all of them treating polytonics in their own quirky way, which really mess things up! Trust me. Add to this the incontestable fact that ancient Greek has far more polytonics than any Occidental language, ancient or modern, and you can see exactly what I mean. Even French, which sports plenty of accents, is a cakewalk in comparison. As a Canadian, I speak and read French fluently, and I can and do remember precisely where any accent falls on any French word, all this in spite of the fact that French has a number of accents – though far, far less than ancient Greek. And if you wish to write any text in ancient Greek, you just do the same thing (look it up) and copy it from the dictionary. This makes life a lot easier for those of us who are obliged to write ancient Greek. Another suggestion: if you need to write a whole sentence or a whole paragraph of some ancient Greek author, just go to a site like Perseus Digital Library: look up the author and subsequently the passage you want to transcribe, and then copy and paste it into your word processor, simple as that. Well, not quite as simple as that. You have to make sure that you have first set your font to SPIonic (the best there is for most dialects – but not all – in ancient Greek), to make sure that it turns out as Greek in your word processor. Otherwise, all you will see is nothing but garbage. This situation gets far more frustrating for those of us who can also read and write Minoan Linear A (even if no-one has a clue what it means), Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C (all of which, thank God, have no polytonics!). Now if you wish to set the exact Greek equivalent of any Linear B text, for example, if you do not do as I advise, it will take you hours and hours just to type a few sentences. Who needs that like a hole in the head? Not me, let me tell you. But of course our chart above serves to save you hours and hours of totally needless fooling around with ancient Greek diacritics. Just print it out, laminate it if you like, and pin it on your wall. Then you can gaze at it in stunned awe any time you like. Even without doing this, it takes me hours and hours to create a chart such as the one you see above. That one took me four hours! So I really would appreciate it if folks who visit our blog actually get this, and at least tag each post they really find fascinating with the number of STARS they would rate it as (top of the post) & LIKE (bottom of the post). Please! It makes Rita, my colleague and myself very happy to know you care. Best, Richard
My Translation of lines 474-510 of “The Catalogue of Ships” in Book II of the Iliad: Click to ENLARGE This is Part 1 of 9 Parts of my running translation of the “The Catalogue of Ships”, lines 474-815 in Book II of the Iliad. The cardinal aim of our translation is to underscore the close relationship between the most archaic vocabulary in the Iliad, almost all of which appears in Book II, and primarily in “The Catalogue of Ships”, with both of the earlier Mycenaean Greek & Arcado-Cypriot dialects. With this in mind, I expect to be able to regressively extrapolate derived (D) vocabulary in the Mycenaean Greek & Arcado-Cypriot dialects from archaic vocabulary found in “The Catalogue of Ships” in Book II of the Iliad. Derived vocabulary (DV) in Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C is not to be found on any extant tablets in either script. Vocabulary on extant tablets is designated as attested (AV). I am quite convinced that it will be possible for us to derive a considerable number of Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot words, which are presently nowhere attested. This derived vocabulary (DV) should appreciably expand the corpus of Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot vocabulary in Linear B and Linear C respectively. My research colleague, Rita Roberts, and I expect to eventually be able to compile a truly comprehensive topical English-Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Lexicon, which may very well double the existing vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek, and supplement somewhat the already considerable vocabulary of Arcado-Cypriot, which appears in both in Linear C and in alphabetic Greek. Our Lexicon, which should appear in PDF sometime in 2016 will prove to be greatly superior to the Mycenaean (Linear B) – English Glossary, currently available on the Internet. This glossary should be consulted with the greatest caution and wariness, as it was so poorly proof-read that its entries in Linear B, alphabetic Greek and English are riddled with well over 100 errors. In fact, I would strictly advise anyone who is familiar with either or both Linear B & ancient Greek to double-check every single entry for errors. On the other hand, Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon, which can be downloaded in PDF format from the net, is a reliable source of considerable merit of Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary. It has the additional advantage of including a large number of eponyms and toponyms, which play a formative rôle on extant Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance. Richard
A Request for your help at Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae. Yes, we want to see stars! While our highly informative, strongly research oriented blog, which has been visited 10s of thousands of times in the eighteen months since its creation in May 2014, attesting to its wide appeal as a research blog on Mycenaean Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, the Catalogue of Ships in the second book of Homer’s Iliad, and occasionally, Minoan Linear A, as the need arises, very few of you have been tagging our posts with “Like” (if you like), the number of stars out of 5 yellow stars letting us know how you seriously rate a particular post on these counts: informative content, style and graphics, or any other consideration you deem pertinent, and even to comment on anything you find interesting to ask questions about anything you do not understand but would really like, this is your opportunity. You can take it at any time, and we shall answer your requests and questions to the best of our ability. Tagging any post with stars (5 being the maximum) will greatly assist us in improving the quality of information and graphics we provide, comments even more so. So if you can find the time every now and then, even if only once in a few months or so, that would be greatly appreciated. Of course, if you wish to rate our posts and comment on regular basis, we welcome you to do just that. No need to be shy. We aren’t. And there is no such thing as a stupid question. You should see some of the questions my co-researcher and I ask one another, and other Linear B researchers, colleagues and friends! Ask us questions, no matter how inane they seem... because none are. You will surely want to visit Rita Roberts blog too.
EREPATO in Mycenaean Greek. Is this the word for “ivory” or “slain in war”? Extensive Circumstantial Evidence for the case against the latter Here we have Gretchen Leonhardt’s translation of Knossos tablet KN V 684 (Click to ENLARGE): From the very outset, when I ran across Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt’s highly unusual, irregular translation for the Mycenaean Greek word in Linear B, EREPATO (here latinized for most folks visiting our blog, who cannot read Linear B), my first reaction was to be totally confused, bordering on dazed. I just couldn’t wrap this decidedly esoteric translation around my head. I was stumped. Was Ms. Leonhardt on to something no other researcher has even remotely entertained as a possible translation of EREPATO in the past 62 years since the decipherment of Linear B by the brilliant Michael Ventris? OK, I thought, I will give her the benefit of the doubt, but when my own doubts starting piling up one on top of the other, the benefit of the doubt simply vanished in a puff of smoke. I hasten to add that my doubts as a Linear B researcher and translator, hopefully as adept as Ms. Leonhardt most certainly is, over her newly coined decipherment of this one word alone are founded, not on mere speculation, but on truly practical, experimental and logical factors which together conspire to cast serious doubt on, if not almost certain evidence strongly mitigating against such a translation. To put a fine point on it, either one or the other of our translations, but not both, can reasonably be said to be close to the mark if not on it. My reservations are based on the following factors impinging on Ms. Leonhardt’s highly imaginative – and I stress, imaginative – decipherment of EREPATO, and subsequently on the huge impact her translation has on the entire text, warping the meaning of the tablet way out of kilter. Since I have spent months on end ruminating over her translation, I have come up with more and more practical and/or logical objections to it, and there are many. So please bear with me. These are:  Given the minimal context surrounding the word EREPATO on this tablet, it would seem, at least on the surface, that Ms. Leonhardt is perfectly justified in entertaining a newly coined translation that makes sense, once it passes closer scrutiny. So where context is minimal, I must grant Ms. Leonhardt the prerogative to translate this word as she sees fit. However, there is one Linear B tablet from Pylos containing the very same word, EREPATO, in which context is not minimal at all, but extremely precise. And here it is Click to ENLARGE: I posit that in the context of the Pylos tablet, bearing on craftsmanship alone, EREPATO can mean one thing and one thing only, “ivory”. Certainly not “slain in war” or “slain by Ares” or more properly “slain by Ares in war”, unless the translator of the Pylos tablet consciously sets out to radically change the meaning of almost all the other words, to force them to conform with his or her pet decipherment of just one single word on the Pylos tablet. But this is patently a very risky, if not outright dangerous, route to pursue, since it is bound to warp huge chunks of Mycenaean vocabulary way out of joint, the more and more one relies on it and pursues it to the exclusion of most if not all other impinging factors for any and all Linear B tablets one intends to translate. In this light, I would like to ask Ms. Leonhardt if she truly believes the Pylos tablet, of which the context is very precise, namely, the fine craftsmanship of chariot wheels, can be rendered any other way than it has already been. Is it even possible, let alone feasible and – I fear I must say it again - practical or logical to pursue this method of decipherment of this particular tablet? With all this in mind, I really have no other choice but to invite her to do precisely that, i.e. to decipher this detailed tablet as she sees fit, and to come up with a really convincing alternate translation. When I say “convincing”, I certainly do not mean to me alone (even if it does convince me, even partially) but convincing as a practical alternative substantial version to the community of Linear B translators at large of the very kinds of things Linear B scribes were so bent on tallying, almost exclusively in the domain of inventories or statistics.  This brings us right to our next point, the overarching rôle of inventory keeping and statistical analysis which the Linear B scribes were fixated on, to the exclusion of practically any other consideration, almost without exception. I can hear Ms. Leonhardt proclaim, “But my translation is an inventory.” Fair enough. But here lies the rub... an inventory of precisely what? To her mind, it seems pretty obvious – to a strictly military matter. But it is surely in this regard that the entire translation, let alone the rendering of EREPATO as “slain in war” or “slain by Ares” simply crumbles to pieces. And here is why. It is not a question of tabular context at all, since Ms. Leonhardt has frequently informed me that, to her mind at least, context is not an over-riding factor in the decipherment of any Linear B tablet. Again, fair enough. I’ll buy that, at least for the time-being. But what Ms. Leonhardt has failed to seriously take into account is the level or frequency of occurrence of Linear B tablets specifically and solely concerned with military matters as their primary focus. And I hate to say this, there is not one single tablet or fragment in the 3,000 (give or take a few) that I have meticulously examined from Scripta Minoa that deals with anything like something as specific as Ms. Leonhardt’s translation, relating - and I emphatically stress – to sweeping up the spoils of war from the battlefield. Not even remotely. But there is more, a lot more to take into account.  In my recent exhaustive statistical analysis of the occurrence of the primary, over-riding concern of the huge cross-section of 3,000 of the Linear B tablets out of some 4,000+ (i.e. 75 %!) I closely examined from Knossos, I was astonished to discover that no fewer than 700+! or 20 %+ of all of them put together deal exclusively with sheep, rams and ewes, and nothing else. Here are the published results of my survey of sheepish tablets (pardon the pun!) Click to ENLARGE: In fact, the pre-occupation of the Linear B scribes with sheep at Knossos and everywhere else is nothing short of obsessive. Once we get past sheep — I stress again — every other agricultural, economic area of Minoan society, in short, any and all concerns otherwise addressed by the Linear B scribes, at least at Knossos, all come a very distant second to sheep. The Linear B scribes were utterly obsessed with sheep, and the reason is obvious. Sheep raising and husbandry was squarely at the heart of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. It was, plainly put, the underpinning of their entire socio-economic platform. Now, what really amazes is that not even the consideration of wool, which is the end-product of sheep raising, plays anywhere near the rôle as do the sheep themselves on the 3,000 tablets and fragments I examined. There are only about 100 tablets or 3.3% zeroing in on wool in the entire inventory of 3,000. The situation gets worse and worse, even where other areas of the agricultural economy are concerned, which is after all the real underpinning of Minoan society (however huge the sheep subset is). This includes all other livestock, pigs, bulls and cows etc. regardless. These tablets and fragments account for something like 50 or a mere 1.65 % of all Linear B media. When it comes to military matters, the situation is positively dismal. Of the 3,000 tablets and fragments at Knossos, only about 125 or a little over 4% deal with military matters whatsoever, all inclusively, from top to bottom, leaving nothing out, including the inventory of chariots as such, some 25 or about 0.8%, and then falling dramatically where the tablets and fragments deal specifically with things such as chariot wheels in working order or in need of repair, chariot bodies (5 as far as I can recall), horses etc. etc. And of all the tablets specifically dealing with military matters, there is not a single one which zeroes in on gathering the trophies and spoils of war. Not one. Why is this so? Well, I think one of the reasons for this state of affairs is that Knossos itself was a peaceful city, rarely, if ever involved in any wars (except when conquered by the Mycenaeans, if it ever was in the first place), to the extent that it was unwalled and practically undefended. Granted, even if we still allow for Ms. Leonhardt’s highly imaginative translation, the Minoan Linear B scribes at Knossos would have inventoried the spoils or war only for their Mycenaean overlords (if that is even who they were) and for no other reason. Inventories of the actual spoils of war would be of such little concern to the scribes at Knossos that the whole business would have amounted to nothing more than a hill of beans, if that. Yet nowhere else than on this single tablet KN V 684, if we are to grant Ms. Leonhardt’s translation the benefit of the doubt, are military matters the subject of any great concern on any Linear B tablet, except for fixing broken wheels and chariots and boring things like that. Come to think of it, practically everything the Linear B scribes so loved to inventory (at least at Knossos, where by far the greatest trove of extant tablets is found) sounds crashingly boring to us nowadays. But I put it to you, are not all inventories boring, even ours today? Yet the sole purpose of the Linear B tablets (with paltry exceptions few and far between) was to keep inventories on absolutely everything pertaining to the Minoan agri-economy. I have to say I was not prepared at all for their overwhelming obsession with sheep to the exclusion of so much else in their social fabric. In fact, I was astonished. But there you have it. Boring, yes, but to the Minoan scribes at Knossos, absolutely essential to the smooth functioning of their entire economy from top to bottom. Unfortunately, concern for inventory keeping for military matters was practically at the bottom of the barrel. Such statistical evidence, if we are to put our faith in statistics, and in the case of Mycenaean Linear B literacy, there is nothing else to rely on, greatly mitigates against the possibility, even remote, of the decipherment Ms. Leonhardt attributes to KN V 684. So what does this tablet really say? Linear B translators, including myself, decipher it as follows (give or take a few picayune variations). This is my own translation, which in fact Ms. Leonhardt challenged to me decipher (Click to ENLARGE): As you can see, it is just another boring inventory, in this case of smashed ivory, as opposed to the perfectly intact ivory on the Pylos tablet. But that is what inventories always are, nothing more or less, dull as concrete. This does not mean that they are not significant! They are in fact the only real-time indicators of the Minoan agri-economy we have to go on. I say, thank God the Minoan scribes at Knossos were hell-bent on inventories. The reason is apparent. The King or “wanax” of Knossos and his own subalterns, the overseers of the scribal community, positively demanded it.  I am far from finished. Regressive extrapolation of archaic Greek vocabulary from the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, where the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad appears, backwards to Mycenaean Greek actually seems to confirm (if we are to accept the premise of regressive extrapolation, and I do) that the word EREPATO in Mycenaean Greek is the exact counterpart of “elephantos” in Homer, which meant only one thing, “ivory” and not “elephant”. If you want to assign it the meaning of elephant too, that is fine with me. But in the context of the Pylos tablet above, that translation is silly. Given the strict application of “ivory” to EREPATO, I am strongly inclined to reject Ms. Leonhardt’s hypothetical “slain in war” or “slain by Ares” out of hand.  And there is even more. In the entire lexicon of the extant Mycenaean vocabulary, there are almost no abstract words. This cannot come as the least surprise, since after all the entire purpose of keeping records in Linear B was to inventory everything and anything the Minoan scribes were obliged by their overseers to keep track of at all cost. The very presence of several words for overseer in Mycenaean Linear B (wanaka = king, damokoro = village overseer or mayor, qasireu = viceroy, korete = governor, opidamiyo = accountable village administrator, rawaketa = general & tereta = master of ceremonies, among others) serves to firmly underscore this phenomenon. Unfortunately, however, Leonhardt’s “slain in war” or “slain by Ares” flirts almost too closely, if not actually crossing the line, with the semi-abstract. In and of itself, this factor again mitigates against her translation of EREPATO.  But it does much more than just that. It practically invalidates her entire translation, from top to bottom, because she makes the whole thing hinge exclusively on one word only, EREPATO, as she envisions it. The result is that her translation warps the meaning of the integral text of KN V 684 way out of whack. What particularly disturbs me is the summative, indirect way she translates the tablet. She does not translate it word by word, but instead comes up with a summary, an ideal translation as she envisages it, “I envision the scribe, or another person, roaming the battlefield to loot bodies and to gather... passim... (Greek words omitted) ‘lost things on the ground’ detritus such as weapons, armor and personal items.” OK, let us take a good hard look at this translation, which strikes me far more like a quotation from Homer than an inventory. (a) Why on earth would a Minoan scribe working exclusively at Knossos, just doing his job, which was solely to keep inventories, be wandering around in a battlefield to loot bodies and to gather detritus? This fanciful scene stretches my powers of reason beyond credulity. And since the Linear B tablets are concerned only with statistical inventories, and nothing else whatsoever, why would the scribes even bother to mention booty they themselves might have pilfered off some bloody battlefield (which, as I say, they never would have done), let alone from soldiers slain by Ares? What on earth did Ares have to do with looting battle fields?... and here I mean, in the scribe’s own mind, not mine. Probably bugger all, if you don’t mind my saying (and even if you do, I am just having a bit of fun). By the way, the word Ares does not appear in Tselentis’ huge Linear B Lexicon. (b) Can we really imagine that some bloodied, possibly injured, messenger or soldier from the battlefield would come barging into the office of a bunch of bureaucratic scribes half bored out of their skulls to report such esoteric, if not insignificant, information to them? They would either have been horrified at the intrusion, and summarily kicked him out or laughed at him. Not a pretty picture. (c) Such a herald or messenger would have been completely illiterate (analphabetic), and a member of a lower stratum of Minoan society. The scribes were the only literate people in that society, apart (possibly) from the nobility, and their sole function was to serve their overseers without question, not to kowtow to their own subalterns. (d) Now here the waters get really muddy. Why does Ms. Leonhardt tell us that she envisions, i.e. imagines this entire scenario, when all we are asked for is a straightforward decipherment and translation of what is ostensibly an inventory, period? The whole exercise of decipherment and translation of Linear B tablets cannot and must not be the demonstrable result of some imagined or fanciful notion of what the tablet appears to say to the mind of the translator, but instead must be the ostensible result of a thorough-going practical, logical contextual and, if at all possible, cross-correlated analysis of any and all tablets referring to any single Mycenaean word one wishes to translate. Otherwise, the whole exercise invalidates itself in a hopeless cycle of purely hypothetical, tautological reasoning, even if it is reasoning at all. Poetry is fine, as poetry. I am a frequently published poet myself. But inventories are as far removed from poetry as a stone is from God.  Compare my own crushingly boring translation with Ms. Leonhardt’s, and you will instantly observe the multiple practical and eminently logical processes I followed to arrive at the run-of-the-mill inventory of smashed ivory that I did. First off (a) given the sparse context of KN V 684, it was even pretty much impossible to verify that EREPATO meant “ivory”. So we had to have recourse to another extant tablet, if such exists, which provides plenty of sound context for the very same word... which is precisely what I did by digging up the Pylos tablet illustrated above. And guess what? It means “ivory”. Period. I put it to you that of our two translations, taken as a whole, one or the other must be right, but certainly not both. I repeat: given the fact that Mycenaean words are almost exclusively concrete, preference for a concrete over an abstract translation of any Mycenaean word on any Linear B medium must take overwhelming if not absolute precedence over the (semi-)abstract. In fact, I would be willing to posit the relatively sound hypothesis, that translation of any Mycenaean word as semi-abstract or an abstract is fraught with so many difficulties, contradictions and loopholes that it is a risky venture at best. Unfortunately, Ms. Leonhardt’s translation of EREPATO suffers from all of these defects, and because of this, it in turn tinctures the connotation of all the other words she translates, even though her translations are technically correct. The real issue here is that she has taken all of these concrete words, which admit only of denotation, and turned them on their heads, so that taken all together, as an ensemble, as a sentence, if you like, they end up transformed into semi-abstracts with inherent connotations, thus essentially violating their own concrete meaning. It is a flat-out contradiction in terms. This, I venture to say, is a decided step backwards in the decipherment of any medium in Mycenaean Greek written in Linear B. Just read her translation, and you can immediately see that it is the product of her own imagination, rather than of a thorough scientific, linguistic analysis of the actual text, based on such principles as (a)(absence of) context, (b) cross-correlation to contextually (more) precise Linear B media in which context sets the matter aright; (c) with the Idalion tablet in the slightly younger cousin dialect of East Greek Mycenaean Greek, Arcado-Cypriot, composed in Linear C and (d) regressive extrapolation from the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, and other similar procedures.  There still lacks but one final step, which is bound to nip in the bud the matter of the precise meaning of a great many Linear B words once and for all, and that is to resort to cross-correlation between Linear B tablets in Mycenaean Greek and Linear C tablets in Arcado-Cypriot. There are several reasons to adopt this strategy, which I cannot as yet do, as I am still trying to master Linear C, yet another syllabary, which bears no physical resemblance to Linear B, but for which the values of almost every single syllabogram and every single word are either practically identical with their Linear B counterparts, or very similar to them. The fact of the matter is that East Greek proto-Ionic Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Cypriot are as closely related and as strikingly similar as are Ionic and Attic Greek some five centuries later, give or take. And there is more. Not only was Arcado-Cypriot written in Linear C (almost exclusively for about 700 years, from ca. 1100 – 400 BCE), it ended up being written solely in the Greek alphabet from ca. 400 BCE onwards, for reasons which we shall not enter into at this time. What happened then goes without saying. All of the Arcado-Cypriot Linear C tablets, including the extremely long famous Idalion tablet, a legal proclamation, were translated into alphabetical Greek. All of the vocabulary on the Idalion tablets and others instantly leaped into clear focus. The impact of this revolutionary development on the completely accurate translation of the entire vocabulary of the Idalion tablet is enormous. Once we know the precise meaning of the 100s of words on this tablet it is but one small step for man and one huge leap for mankind to cross-correlate the precise meaning of each and every Arcado-Cypriot word which has an exact or close match to its Mycenaean counterpart (and these are in the clear majority), to settle once and for all time the precise denotation of a large number of concrete Mycenaean words, the meaning of which is currently somewhat or seriously ambiguous or in doubt. I can at least assure Ms. Leonhardt that EREPATO is not one of those words, so she is safe on that account... at least for that word, but not for any exclusively concrete Mycenaean word which I successfully match up with its Arcado-Cypriot counterpart. And rest assured, there will be plenty. I do happen to know that the word for “physician” in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C and Mycenaean Linear B (iyate) is practically identical. So no matter how much any Linear B translator struggles to decipher it otherwise, he or she is bound to fail by default. In anticipation of a counter argument I suspect Ms. Leonhardt will advance, that plenty of words on the Idalion tablet are bound to be (semi-)abstract, given that it is a legal decree, I have only this to say. I simply would not even bother to take these words into account, as they would perforce invalidate my own procedure of cross-correlation. A rose is a rose is a rose. I hasten to add that I have read the Idalion tablet in the Arcado-Cypriot Greek dialect. I am astonished that for the last 62 years no Linear B researcher, expert in decipherment or translator has even bothered to take into consideration the extremely close relationship between these two pre-Ionic East Greek dialects in order to extract the precise meaning from a (large) number of concrete, denotative Mycenaean words, just as one would extract a tooth, let alone that anyone would take the next obvious step, take the trouble to learn Linear C, read the Idalion tablet in both Linear C and in Greek, and methodically have at it, surgically analyzing and cross-correlating every single concrete word on the Idalion tablet that (nearly) matches up with its Mycenaean Linear B equivalent. This is precisely what I intend to do, to lay to rest any lingering doubts about the meaning of (hopefully) a substantial number of Mycenaean words, and again to cross-correlate the results of these translations to a great number of other (similar) Mycenaean words, based on the orthographic conventions & the syntactical structure (so often identical) of both of these dialects. Once we have the alphabetical version of any concrete Linear C word matched with its Linear B counterpart, it is but one small step to applying the same or similar orthography to its Mycenaean equivalent, let alone to firming up the precise meaning of the word in both dialects. This is going to be hard work, but a lot of fun, because I am more than just reasonably certain the overall results will shock the daylights out of the Linear B research community. For the time being, I am not going to bother targeting Ms. Leonhardt’s heavy reliance on the West Greek Doric dialect, which bears little resemblance to the East Greek proto-Ionic dialects, Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Cypriot, since this factor does not directly impinge on the validity or lack thereof of the translation in the context of the methodology by which we are here considering it. This analysis will have to wait until a later post, as it also will require my strictest attention to most of the vocabulary Ms. Leonhardt translates on at least one Linear B tablet. Richard
One Brave Soul’s Courageous Attempt to Transcribe some of the Proemium of the Iliad into Mycenaean Linear B (Click to ENLARGE): Now I must admit that when I ran across this wonderful exercise some brave soul recently undertook to try to translate at least some of the Proemium of the first book of Homer’s Iliad into Mycenaean Linear B, I was delightfully rewarded by the person’s true grasp of the manifold difficulties (some of them well-nigh insurmountable, or so it would appear) in any such hazard-fraught attempt! But as I have so often said before on our blog, someone has got to do it first. And my congratulations to this person! I would be delighted if you would identify yourself to us all. Eventually, we will be attempting the same zany exercise, not only with the Proemium (Introduction) to Book I of the Iliad, but for certain portions of the famous Catalogue of Ships in Book II, which will more easily lend themselves to translation from Homeric Greek to Linear B text, since the Homeric Greek in the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad is the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad. And the reasons why we shall insist on translating certain key passages in the Catalogue of Ships will become abundantly clear when we eventually get around to said translations. But don’t hold your breath. That will not happen until sometime in 2015, since I must first translate the entire Catalogue of Ships (viz. Lines 489-784 of Book II of the Iliad) this year, before we can even begin to think about taking that next bold step. In the meantime, I invite you to enjoy our friend’s translation as we do. Richard