Sonnet The Vallances for Judy, Meagan, Holly, Mitchell all the Vallances Here's Richard Vallance, Judy Harris Vallance, Meagan Holly and Mitchell, nieces and nephew, Bill Vallance, Donna too and a fine chance plenty more abound, and you know it's true. Our family crest bespeaks of Normandie where we lived our lives in lavish wealth where we were crowned as ducal royalty and never had to hide from court in stealth. The King of France was our next of kin and Notre Dame our angelic home, where the chartreuse Seine quelled the city's din silenced by our cathedral's holy dome. And though you wonder why we're Scots by blood the fleur-de-lys is our indigo bud. Richard Vallance October 14 2019 This is my family on my mother's side, as my full name is Richard Vallance Janke. We are in fact descended from the ducal family, De Valence, in Normandy and were related to the King of France in the thirteenth century.
summer haiku d’été – tiger by the sea = tigre et la mer tiger by the sea snarling at the surf – king of his wild realm tigre et la mer qui gronde aux vagues – roi de son royaume Richard Vallance
The word WANAKA = King, which apparently adorns this Royal Seal from Malia (Click to view this seal on the Minoan Language Blog:
The seal has been deciphered as it stands here by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog.
It quite looks like the term WANAKA = King appears on this Royal Seal form Malia. I have flagged what appear to be the syllabograms WA NA and KA on this seal. Of course, the reading is definitely open to interpretations other than this one. And yet, the meaning seems to suit the context well enough. If this reading is correct, then this sealing is one of the earliest attestations of the Linear B syllabary in existence. If correct, it is also the very first reading ever in the history of Linear A and of Linear B of the Linear A-B term for king, i.e. WANAKA, #a/nac.
Complete decipherment of the Kafkania Pebble, ca. 1700 BCE. Is this the first ever inscription in proto-Greek? This medallion is particularly striking, insofar as it actually appears to be inscribed entirely in proto-Greek. So even though this medallion dates from the Middle Helladic or Middle Minoan era (ca. 1700 BCE), the text appears not to be Minoan at all, but proto-Greek! If this is the case, this is by far the earliest inscription ever unearthed actually inscribed in proto-Greek. The decipherment makes perfect sense. Moreover, the presence of the king is clearly implied in this inscription. And what is even more astonishing is this: the Royal Seal of Malia, equally archaic, inscribed in Cretan hieroglyphics, appears to describe in no uncertain terms the word, wanaka! If this is true, then wanaka, which as we all know means “king” in Mycenaean Greek, in other words, in a language which came to the fore much later than the Minoan language, is in all probability either a Minoan word or, failing that, in the pre-Greek substratum. It is just as conceivable that all of the words on the Kafkania Pebble fall within the pre-Greek substratum, in other words, that all of these terms were to be taken over by the Mycenaeans at least a century later (ca. 1600 BCE at the earliest). This is an amazing discovery, to say the very least.
Archaeology and Science annual: the Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, the last & most formidable frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B:
For the past 65 years since Michael Ventris first deciphered Linear B, one phenomenon has eluded historical linguists and philologists. This is the supersyllabogram, which is always a single syllabogram, being the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a particular Mycenaean word in any one or more of the major economic sectors of the Mycenaean economy: agriculture, military, textiles and the vessels and pottery sector, along with a few religious supersyllabograms. Supersyllabograms are always independent; they always stand alone on extant Linear. My discovery, isolation and classification of supersyllabograms represents the final frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B. Some 800 tablets from Knossos alone contain primarily supersyllabograms, with a subset of these incised with supersyllabograms and nothing else. It is difficult to decipher the former, and impossible to decipher the latter without fully accounting for the presence of supersyllabograms. The decipherment of supersyllabograms accounts for the last and most difficult remaining 10 % of Mycenaean Linear B to be deciphered.
You may also download “The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B” here:
This article is 35 pages long (pp. 73-108) in a 29 cm. x 22 cm. format, which is far oversized compared with the standard north American format for research journals (ca. 20 cm. vertical), meaning that if it had been published in the standard north American format, it would have run to some 50 pp., which is the size of a small book.
The Editorial Board consists of 21 peer reviewers, all of them matriculated professors and researchers at the Ph.D. level or higher, from Ancona, Belgrade, Belgium, Bologna, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A., Moscow, Münich, Philadelphia, U.S.A., Rome, Warsaw & Trieste. Every author must pass muster with the majority of these peer reviewers if his or her article is to be published in Archaeology and Science. That is one tall hurdle to overcome.
Note also that I am ranked in the top 0.5 % of all researchers and publishers on academia.edu
Imagine my utter astonishment when I just now revisited a rare Minoan Linear A tablet from Malia, and deduced that it may be written in proto-Greek! And here it is, complete with a fairly complete decipherment, except for the word puwi, which utterly escapes me: As I have just pointed out in the illustration of this tablet above, the implication for the eventual (all but complete?) decipherment of Minoan Linear A are nothing short of staggering ! The first time I attempted to decipher this tablet, I got absolutely nowhere, but this time round the story is quite different. Compare the decipherment of this rare Minoan Linear A tablet with my decipherment of a Minoan Linear A medallion, on which is inscribed what appears to be the Linear A ideogram for “man”, but in fact is not. I have explained this in some detail in the preview of my article, “The Mycenaean Linear B “Rosetta Stone” to Minoan Linear A Tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) Vessels and Pottery”, to be published in Vol. 12 (2016) of the prestigious international journal, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 (the article being currently under wraps until it is eventually published, probably early in 2018), and which will run to at least 50 pages.
Table of the distribution of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector: Following is the Table of the 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector. It is clear from this table that the majority of supersyllabograms (12) in Minoan Linear A fall in the olive trees, olives and olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan economy, primarily in Haghia Triada, but also in Khania (Chania). The next most common sector is grains (barley & wheat) with 7, the third are vases and pottery and also wine with 5, the fourth is figs with 2 and the fifth are military (men as attendants to the king) and textiles with 1 SSYL each. The distribution of supersyllabograms in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B by economic sector is of the utmost importance. I shall need to cross-correlate the key economic sector-by-sector distribution of supersyllabograms in both syllabaries to verify whether or not the distribution of SSYLs in the one syllabary (Linear A) and the other (Linear B) is closely aligned or not. The alignment of supersyllabograms in each syllabary relative to the other will determine with greater accuracy which economic sectors are the most and which the least important in each language, Minoan and Mycenaean. This way, we can get a much better idea of how the key economic sectors are distributed, from most to least important, in each of the two societies, Minoan and post-Minoan Mycenaean. It is of the utmost important to understand that all of the supersyllabograms in both of these syllabaries must refer only to major economic terms in each sector and sub-sector. I shall explicitly compare the relative economic distribution of each society, the Minoan and Mycenaean in my upcoming article, Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is the Mycenaean Linear B “Rosetta Stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada, in Vol. 16 (2016) of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448. The Table of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector is to appear in this article. I have deciphered the following 8 supersyllabograms more or less successfully in Minoan Linear A: DA = dadumata = grain/wheat measurer? = Linear B sitokowo KA = kapa = follower or foot soldier, attendant to the king KI = kidata = to be accepted for delivery = Linear B dekesato OR kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis kiretana = (having been) delivered (past participle passive) = Linear B amoiyeto AND kireza = unit of measurement for figs, probably 1 basket AND kiro = owed = Linear B oporo = they owed NI = nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai) = figs = Linear B suza. But Mycenaean Linear B shares NI with Minoan Linear A, in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean word for figs is suza. PA = pa3ni (amphora for storing grain) + pa3nina = grain or wheat stored in an amphora RA ra*164ti = approx. 5 litres (of wine) SA sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre TE = tereza = standard unit of usually liquid measurement, sometimes of dry measurement
UPDATE on the military Minoan Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada) = attendants to the king/foot soldiers: This tablet, HT 94 (Haghia Triada) contains the key military Minoan Linear A term, kapa, which is almost certainly the approximate equivalent to Mycenaean Linear B eqeta = “follower”. The term eqeta in Mycenaean Greek has a special connotation. It denotes an attendant to the king, wanaka, who is usually also the rawaketa = “leader of the hosts” i.e. “Commander-in-Chief”, which in the case of the Mycenaean expedition against Troy (ca. 1300-1250 BCE) would have been Agamemnon. It is notable that the ideogram, apparently for “man”, on the medallion is so large that it practically fills the entire surface. Note also the supersyllabogram KA which is surcharged top right. This medallion is not the Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada), but its resemblance to the text of the latter is so striking it simply cannot be ignored. In addition, this ideogram is more elaborate than the standard one for “man” in Minoan Linear A, and bears an amazing resemblance to the fresco image of the eqeta above. For these two reasons alone, I have come to the firm conclusion that indeed kapa in Minoan Linear A is the close equivalent to eqeta in Mycenaean Linear B, with a scalar precision of 75 % or >. According to the renowned twentieth century Linear B expert and researcher, L.R. Palmer, the eqeta also appears to have had a religious function. It is highly unlikely there was such a person as a “follower” in pre-Mycenaean, Minoan society at Knossos. So we must take a stab at an approximation to the term eqeta in Minoan Linear A, i.e. kapa, which would probably have referred to attendants to the King, much in the same way as the Praetorian Guards who protected the sacrosanct person of the Emperor in post AD ancient Rome.
Mycenaean palace administrative hierarchy (POST 1,300): Although we will never know the exact details of the Mycenaean palace administrative hierarchy, the table above gives us a pretty good idea of the power-base hierarchy from the King or wanax on down to the higher administrative officials, the mid-level officers and lower-level administrators, followed by the subaltern freemen, craftsmen and farmers and finally by the slaves. The names of each of the positions top-down follow in Latinized Linear B: 1. wanaka = King. The official residence of the King, or the Palace was called the wanakatero. 2. rawaketa = Leader of the Host, i.e. Commander-in-Chief. Sometimes, as in the case of Agamemnon, the General who lead the host (i.e. the army) into the Trojan War, the King and Commander-in-Chief are the selfsame person. 3. qasireu = prince potentate (slightly below the wanax & the rawaketa in the power hierarchy. 4. eqeta = the followers, professional foot soldiers and the personal guard of the wanax and the rawaketa. Cf. the Praetorian Guards of the Roman emperors. 5. teretai = aristocrats, called aristoi = the best people in later ancient Greek. These are the wealthy, upper class people protected by the wanax and rawaketa. 6. konosia rawaketa = (literally) the palace of Knossos for the Commander-in-Chief, i.e. his official residence, but in Knossos only. In Mycenae, his official residence would have been called the rawaketero. 7. konosia qasireu = (literally) the palace of Knossos for the prince potentate, but in Knossos only. In Mycenae, his official residence would have been called the qasireuo. AT THE NEXT LEVEL, we find the mid-level administrators: 8. porokorete = the district governors, meaning the rulers of the districts in the Mycenaean Empire, such as the district of Mycenae itself, and the districts of Knossos, Phaistos, Pylos and the Hither Provinces (the closer provinces, such as Tiryns, Pylos, Argos, Lerna etc.) and of the Farther Provinces (Thebes, Orochomenos, Eutresis etc.) 9. korete = so-called mayors or chief administrators of cities or primary settlements, such as Knossos, and the centres of the Hither and Farther Provinces. These officials reported directly to the porokorete. AT THE NEXT LEVEL, we find 10 the freemen or woko of the cities or primary settlements, such as craftsmen, artisans, farmers and tenant farmers, fishermen and finally, AT THE LOWEST LEVEL 11. chattel (privately owned workers) doeroi = slaves, temple slaves = rawaiai or temenoio doeroi and nawoio doeroi = galley slaves. P.S. This one is specially for you, Rita!
Minoan Costume History synopsis: a wonderful site! You simply have to check this site out! I have never seen such an in-depth study on Minoan costume, female and male alike, on the Internet. Here is just a small excerpt: An era of great development, contemporaneous with the civilization of ancient Egypt and Phoenicia, and which may be dated about 2000-1500 B.C., had preceded the civilization that came from Asia Minor into Crete and Greece. Such fragments of Cretan culture as have come down to us reveal a beauty of technique and a delicate sense of form to which no contemporaneous civilization provides any parallel. (italics mine). It is certainly true that the Minoans were far more style-conscious than people of any other contemporaneous civilization, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites. No question about it. Owing to the lack of written records, the processes and methods of manufacture are still wrapped in obscurity, but although we are thus reduced to surmise regarding the materials used, the dress of that time is of the highest interest in view of its connexion with the costumes of other peoples. Our attention is especially attracted by the dress worn by the women. The slim, wiry figures of the men are clothed almost universally with a loincloth, richly patterned and splendidly decorated. Here and there we see wide cloaks that clothe the whole body, giving it a large appearance. Women also, it would seem, wore the short loincloth, but we find them wearing in addition skirts put together in an almost fantastic manner that betrays a highly developed knowledge of the technique of dressmaking. These skirts are constructed in tiers, separated by strips of rich ornamentation. Illustrations from this site (there are many more, just as striking as these!)
Minoan Linear A ideogram for “man” “soldier” + supersyllabogram KA = kapa = Mycenaean Linear B = eqeta: The illustration above highlights the Minoan Linear A ideogram for “man” “soldier” + supersyllabogram KA = kapa = Mycenaean Linear B = eqeta, which in turn is the Mycenaean military functionary called in English “soldier” (approximately). Actually, the eqeta were the personal attendants of the rawaketa or Leader of the Host (Homeric), otherwise known as the Commander-in-Chief. Yet this title was often synonymous with wanaka, the king, who in the case of the Trojan War was none other than Agamemnon. Since the high Minoan civilization (Late Middle Minoan MMIIIb, ca 1600 BCE) preceded the Mycenaean at Knossos (Late Minoan III, ca 1450 BCE) by about 150 years, it is of course impossible to directly cross-correlate the Minoan word kapa with the Mycenaean eqeta, which came much later, typically at Mycenae itself and at Pylos (ca 1400-1200 BCE). So kapa may not strictly mean “follower”, but simply “soldier” or “foot soldier”. Yet it must be said in all fairness that the Minoan soldier was highly likely to be a subaltern, in other words, follower of his ultimate supernumerary, the King of Knossos. I am relatively confident of my decipherment, given that Haghia Triada tablet HT 94 mentions 62 kapa, a number commensurate with a company of followers or (foot) soldiers, attendants to the King. This is the fifty-seventh (57) Minoan Linear A word I have deciphered, more or less accurately (in this case more).
The lengthy and highly informative Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 from Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon: Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 which Chris Tselentis deciphered in his superb Linear B Lexicon is presented above. This tablet runs the gamut from wheat and wheat seeds, to the measurement of olive oil to a number of references to the gods and sacred cults. Since Linear B tablets from Pylos tend to be significantly larger than those from Knossos, they are often a richer source of information applicable to the decipherment, not only of Linear B tablets, but of Minoan Linear A tablets as well. You can be sure that I shall rely a good deal lon this tablet in my efforts towards the further decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Since Chris Tselentis has done all the work for us, I have simply translated it into English, without troubling myself with appending the text in Archaic Greek.
Linear A labrys with inscribed Idamate = king? or god (Zeus)? no. 29: Does the inscription on the Linear A labrys with inscribed with Idamate simply mean that this labrys (double axe) is dedicated to a Minoan potentate at Knossos whose name is Idamate? Perhaps. But there are two other more cogent decipherments, and these are either (a) idamate = Linear B wanaka = “king” or just as convincingly (b) idamate = Linear B diwo = “god” or “Zeus.” I am far more inclined to the either of the latter two. Pylos tablet Py Ta 711 (Chris Tselentis) may lend some credence to the decipherment “king”. Certainly the King (Idamate or Wanaka) of Knossos would be highly deserving of such an honour. But so for that matter would Zeus, whose immortal power would certainly be strikingly symbolized by this inscription on a Minoan labrys! Recall the great importance the Minoans and Mycenaeans alike at Knossos imputed to the double axe or labrys. The Hall of the Double Axes is decorated with a whole series of them, one after another, on a magnificently painted frieze, so typical of the masterful artistry of the Minoans at Knossos.
Comprehensive Architectural Lexicon, Knossos & Mycenae (Part B): Part B of our architectural lexicon in Linear B presents only a few little problems. First of all, pokironuka = decorated with different studs, would appear to refer to studs which are jutting ornamentations on buildings, but I cannot be sure of this. Ponikiyo is almost always translated as palm tree, but I suspect it also means Phoenician, i.e. an architectural style. For the three * asterisked notes, see the lexicon above. Just one more point on samara. Samara is an actual ancient city. One Linear B lexicon defines it as points, but I have not the faintest idea what that is supposed to mean. The alternative meaning is monuments, which is completely acceptable. But I have added the additional signification, burial mounds, because these appear in some numbers at Mycenae alone.
Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO While the translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward, there are a few points worthwhile mentioning. The first is that the supersyllabogram MO, appearing for the first time on this tablet, is the first syllable of the Linear B word – mono - , meaning – one, single (i.e. spare). Secondly, since the tablet is right-truncated, we do not know how many spare wheels (MO) the scribe has inventoried, but my bet is that there is a spare wheel for each set of wheels on axle. Given that there are 3 sets of wheels on axle, that would mean that there would be 3 spare wheels. Lastly, and significantly, there is absolutely no mention of a chariot on this tablet (nor is there on well over a dozen other tablets), leading me to the all but inescapable conclusion that a considerable number of chariots were fully assembled without their wheels, the wheels being separately manufactured. But why? There are three discreet sets of tablets discussing the construction of chariots and their wheels (on axle): (a) The first set of tablets inventory fully assembled chariots with their wheels on axle and their spare wheel (if present); (b) The second is comprised of tablets for fully assembled chariots without their wheels on axle and; (c) The third details the construction of wheels on axle, usually along with spare wheels, with no mention of chariots. Now this third set of tablets raises the inescapable question: why do so many tablets refer to the construction of wheels (both wheels on axle and spares), with no mention whatsoever of the chariots for which they are destined? The most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that the privileged functionary who has ordered his chariot does not want it delivered with its wheels already on axle [set (b) above], because he wishes to have the wheels separately manufactured according to his own specifications. We can be reasonably certain that VOPs such as the wanax (King) or the rawaketa (Commander-in-Chief) were the only supernumeraries who could possibly afford to have chariot wheels manufactured to their exacting specifications. Here you see a composite of four different styles of Mycenaean chariot wheels: Such highly placed aristocrats would probably have been terribly fussy about the style and decoration of the wheels they wanted mounted. So the wheels on axle would have been manufactured separately from the chariots, which neatly explains why numerous tablets speak of wheel construction alone, while others refer to chariots without their wheels attached destined for the same elite customers. In fact, these two types of tablets appear to run in tandem with each other, there being one tablet referring to the chariot fully assembled without wheels on axle and a corresponding one detailing the manufacture of the wheels on axle (and most of the time of the spare wheel), but with no mention of the chariot itself. The difficulty is which Knossos tablet dealing with a particular fully assembled chariot without wheels is to be paired with which corresponding tablet describing the manufacture of wheels on axle (and most often a spare wheel to boot)? That is a question we shall never know the answer to, but the plausibility of this method of dual (or paired) construction of chariots without wheels in tandem with the separate manufacture of wheels makes sense.
Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation While some of the military tablets from the Knossos Armoury dealing with the construction and design of chariots pose a few problems in the translation of certain words which yield at least two or possibly even three different possible meanings, others are much more of a challenge to the translator. Some vocabulary in the more challenging tablets proves to be much more fractious. There are several reasons for this phenomenon when we are dealing with Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, let alone that of any truly archaic ancient language, such as Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are: 1 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek or Classical Greek, conveying the same or a similar meaning. Such is the case with – wanax – = “king” in Mycenaean Greek. 2 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek, and yet not convey precisely the same meaning or might even mean something more remotely associated, such as – qasireu – , which does not mean the same thing as “basileus” = “king” in Homeric Greek. A – qasireu – in Mycenaean Greek is merely a local leader of a town, citadel, redoubt or similar small centre and nothing more. A king in Mycenaean Greek is a – wanax – , for which there is an almost exact match in Homer’s Iliad. 3 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may look like variants of later Homeric or Classic Greek words, although they are spelled in a fashion alien to the latter, never appearing in them. 4 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Classical Ionic or Attic Greek, and yet convey an entirely different meaning. 5 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may be archaic Greek which later fell entirely out of use even prior to Homeric Greek, in which case it may be next to impossible to confirm that such words are even archaic Greek at all. 6 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly be proto-Greek or even more ancient proto Indo-European, but we can never be certain of this at all. 7 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly or even likely be Minoan or of Minoan origin. Such is the case with the word – kidapa – on tablet KN 894 N v 01, the very first tablet I translated in this series of tablets on chariots. L.R. Palmer assumes this word refers to a kind of wood, and I agree. This assumption is based on the fact that two other kinds of wood are referenced on the same tablet, i.e. elm and willow. With this evidence in hand, I have gone even further than L. R. Palmer and have taken the calculated risk to identify this word as meaning “ash (wood)”, a wood which Homer uses for weapons. 8 Just as is the case with Classical Greek, in which a few thousand words are not of Indo-European origin, Mycenaean Greek contains a fair proportion of such vocabulary. Words such as – sasama – (sesame) & – serino – (celery) come to mind. This is the scenario which confronts us in the translation of at least two of the words on this tablet, namely, – piriniyo – and – mano –, both of which are certainly open to more than one possible interpretation. The first word - piriniyo – meets the criteria outlined in 1 & 3 above. It probably means “an ivory worker”, but we cannot be sure of this. Since the latter – mano – may not have any relation to later Homeric or Classical Greek at all, it is a crap shoot to try and translate it. This word meets the criteria in 1,2 and 4 above. But I took the chance (as I always do), on the assumption, however fanciful, that – mano – may be related to the Classical Greek word – manos – , meaning “thin”, as defined in Liddell & Scott. And what applies to Mycenaean vocabulary on this and all other tablets dealing with chariots, whether or not they originate from Knossos, equally applies to all of the vocabulary on each and every tablet in the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. By extension, this principle must also apply to all of the vocabulary on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes etc.) and regardless of the sector of the Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In short, the 8 criteria outlined above must be applied on an equal footing, through the procedure of cross-comparative extrapolation, to all of the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek. We shall return to this phenomenon in our article on chariot construction and design, which is to appear on my
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