Perseus Tiryns Troy Iliad Odyssey Moses (2 of 2) / © 1990-2002 by Franz Gnaedinger, Zurich, fgn(a)bluemail.ch, fg(a)seshat.ch / www.seshat.ch
READING THE ODYSSEY (THE FABLE OF MELEGISTES OF SMYRNA)
In 712 BC a boy was born in Smyrna (Izmir, western Anatolia) near one of the many sources of the river Meles (Halka-Pinar), which gave him his name: Melegistes. His mother was a handsome woman, daughter of a poor local farmer, who talked to her dearly beloved boy of her childhood home, where as a girl she had herded sheep, goats and pigs. Melegistes' father was a Greek merchant who lived in Phocaia (Eski Foça), an Ionian colony on a peninsula near Smyrna across the river Hermos (Gediz Cayi), which at that time flowed into the Gulf of Smyrna. Melegistes' father traveled widely in search for business, as far as the Black Sea, Corcyra (Corfu), and to Naucratis, an Ionian colony on the Nile Delta. His boy often accompanied him, and thus Melegists as a child saw the harbor of Phocaia, the seal-like rocks in its bay (phoka means seal), the rocks that sing in the wind (Siren Kayaliklari), and many other distant places.
Melegistes was a child who enjoyed listening to stories, which he then recounted to his comrades. He liked playing on the banks of the river Hermos, where he would hide in a cave, disguise himself and surprise his comrades and parents. They nick-named him our boy of the nimble wits, a name he liked. He was an eager learner and astonished his father by reading a clay tablet at the age of five. Growing up, he collected all kinds of songs and poetry, and as a young man learned long passages of the Iliad by heart, reciting lines from it on all occasions.
One particular trip Melegistes took with his father, was to be very significant for him. On board the ship to Naucratis was an Egyptian priest who told him the legend of Isis and Osiris, explaining the symbols:
Osiris = Nile
Isis = river oasis, delta, green land
Melegistes was deeply impressed, and he decided to combine the various poems about Troy and create a new epic with these new elements. In the new story there would be a loving couple, the woman symbolizing the land (Greece), the man the sea; and instead of Seth their enemies would be Laomedon and Priam of Troy. - Troy, however, was not an evil place for Melegistes: as a part of the western shore of Anatolia, it belonged to his mother's homeland.
Melegistes' epic began with the end of the Trojan War. Odysseus wishes to leave Troy, but has a false start, falls asleep on the Trojan shore, and re-lives the ten years of the Trojan War in his dreams. There he tries to leave Ilium, but never reaches home: he comes to strange places, which are Troy in disguise, combined with various Trojan allies. Finally, Odysseus wakes up and does sail home, but back in Ithaca he again sleeps on the shore and dreams. In his new dream, his ship is wrecked by Poseidon, and he comes to another Troy, this time an early one called Scherie, a lovely and wealthy place. He is kindly received by the beautiful princess Nausicaa, by her father King Alcinous and mother Queen Arete. A blind singer and seer by the name of Demodocus sings a ballad about the Trojan War, a popular ballad everyone likes but does not understand - apart from Odysseus, who recognizes what a lovely place he had destroyed (or will destroy), whereupon he covers his head and weeps (following Eberhard Zangger).
This was only one level of the epic. Melegistes told Odysseus' journeys on three levels, which resemble the wind blowing in one direction, the sea flowing in another, and deeper currents of water streaming in yet another:
Adventure - a new world in the west: Odysseus' journeys as reconstructed by Ernle Bradford in Ulysses Found
History - old world in the east: Odysseus and his men stay for ten more years in the Troas; several battles against former allies of Troy, a disastrous one in the Crimea in 1180 BC
Psychology - Odysseus dreams: he returns home, comes to strange places, which are Troy in disguise, often combined with a former ally of Troy; in his last dream he visits an early Troy, Scherie, and when he wakes up on the shore of Ithaca, the vision of lovely Scherie lingers in his mind ...
The title of the epic was the Odyssey. The peaceful Troy of an earlier age was called Scherie, meaning commercial center in Phoenician (Eberhard Zangger). Lovely Scherie, the peninsula of the Phaeacians combined an early Troy with Phocaia and Smyrna of Melegistes' boyhood. The writer's alter ego was Hermes, while his pen name was Homer:
Hermos - Hermaes - homoios - homaereo - Homaeros
Hermos: the river where he played as a boy; Hermaes: messenger of the gods; homoios: equal, similar (epics Iliad and Odyssey); homaereo: I unite (Homer's goal: uniting Greece).
The Odyssey resembled the Iliad in many ways, and yet was a completely different book, symbolic, compiling various legends and ballads, while the Iliad was mainly realistic, compiling ancient lists from various archives.
Melegistes alias Homer honored his predecessor from Mantineia by calling him Mentor, an alter ego used by Pallas Athene.
On his return home, Odysseus was obliged to take up the fight with the league of pirates and young nobles who had brought down the Greek islands and the Peloponnese. These events are recounted in the second part of the epic. Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, was a symbol of the Greek Empire in Homer's time: Telemachus, obeying his father Odysseus and resembling him in many ways, was to teach the rulers of Homer's time how to behave during a Messenian War and how to hold back Gyges, who was trying to conquer the Greek towns on the western shore of Anatolia (among them Melegistes' home, Smyrna).
The opening lines of the Odyssey (Penguin Classics):
Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, in spite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.
Odysseus, attempting to return from Troy, has a false start. Book 3, lines 159-164:
... eager to be home, we sacrificed to the gods. But Zeus had no intention of letting us reach home so soon, and he mercilessly stirred dissension among us once more. As a result, one squadron swung the curved prows of their vessels round and turned back towards Troy. These were the followers of Odysseus, that wise and subtle king.
Odysseus and his men are caught in a heavy storm. Several ships are lost, and Odysseus returns to Troy. Several incidents with former allies of Troy force him to remain there for ten more years. Finally, in 1173 BC, he leaves Troy for good. The night before he sails, he sleeps one more time on the shore of the Besik bay. Haunted by his memories, he dreams of the Trojan War, as follows:
Leaving Ilium, Odysseus and his men come to Ismarus - Troy disguised, combined with a town on the Thracian shore, a former ally of Troy. They sack the town, the Cicones get help from their neighbors and Odysseus loses six comrades from each ship. In his next dream, he passes Malea and Cythera in the Aegean, and reaches the land of the Lotus-eaters, which may be a combination of Troy and Sinop on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Leaving the land of the Lotus-Eaters, Odysseus and his men reach the island of the Cyclops Polyphem. Odyssey, book 9, lines 176ff:
Then I climbed into my ship and told my men to follow me and loose the hawsers. They came on board at once, took their places at the oars and all together struck the white surf with the blades. It was no great distance to the mainland. As we approached its nearest point, we made out a cave close to the sea, with a high entrance overhung by laurels. Here large flocks of sheep and goats were penned at night, and round the mouth a yard had been built with a great wall of quarried stones and tall pines and high-branched oaks. It was the den of a giant, who pastured his flock alone, a long way away from anyone else, and had no truck with others of his kind but lived aloof in his own lawless way. And what a formidable monster he was. He was quite unlike any man who eats bread, more like some wooded peak in the high hills, standing out alone apart from the others
The land of the Cyclopes, who have no ships, may be Hattusas in Anatolia, while Polyphem, the hermit Cyclops, may be Wilusa, vassal of Hattusas. His den may symbolize the Trojan harbor in the Besik bay, his flock the ships and crews that were forced to pay high duties and prices. Polyphem is called lawless, and later kills and devours two men, this perhaps meaning that the Trojans charged very high prices and showed no quarter.
'"Strangers!" he cried. "And who are you? Where do you come from over the watery ways? Is yours a trading venture; or are you cruising the main on chance, like roving pirates, who risk their lives to ruin other people?" / 'Our hearts sank. The booming voice and the very sight of the monster filled us with panic. Still, I managed to find words to answer him. "We are Achaeans," I said, "on our way back from Troy - driven astray by contrary winds across a vast expanse of sea - we're making our way home but took the wrong way - the wrong route - as Zeus, I suppose, intended that we should. We are proud to say that we belong to the forces of Agamemnon, Atreus' son, who by sacking the great city of Ilium and destroying all its armies has made himself the most famous man in the world today.
Book 2, 15-20:
Aigyptius, an old lord bent with years and rich in wisdom was the first to speak. His own soldier son Antiphus had sailed with godlike Odysseus in the big ships to Ilium the city of horses, only to be killed by the savage Cyclops in his cavern home when he made the last of his meals of Odysseus' men.
Old lord Aigyptus, bent with years and rich in wisdom, was an Ithacan; however, on the level of dreams, he may symbolize Egypt. The name of his son Antiphus might be a contraction of Anti-Typhon = anti-Seth, enemy of Seth. We may assume that the Trojans also demanded high fees of ships carrying goods destined for Egypt.
Driven by contrary winds, Odysseus and his men again take the wrong route: back to Troy. And the wrong route in time: backwards ...
My name is Nobody - Odysseus fools Polyphem by saying that he is a nobody.
me tis = no one
metis = wily scheme, resourcefulness
He tricked the Trojans by hiding in a wooden horse (perhaps a ship, as explained above in my Fable of Troy), making himself invisible and thus pretending to be a nobody. Then he blinded Polyphem, a giant resembling a hill. Polyphem could well stand for Troy, his one eye for the Hisarlik, whose round and gilded walls gleaming and sparkling in the sunlight may have overlooked the Troas like the flashing eye of a giant.
In his next dream, Odysseus comes to the island Aeolia, which may combine windy Ilium, lofty Troy with the Aeolian island of Thesos. Odysseus wishes to leave Aeolia. King Aeolus, willingly offering his help, summons Zephyr, a breeze from the West, so that Odysseus and his men may return home. Ironically, Zephyr, the west wind, would have blown Odysseus and his men back to Troy, so that the journey home was just another dream bringing Odysseus back to Troy. - The episode in Telepylus in the land of the Laestrygonians resembles that in the land of Polyphem. But the giant is now a woman of mountainous proportions, who appalls Odysseus' men. The harbor of Telepylus, described in book 10, lines 87-94:
Here we found an excellent harbor, closed in on all sides by an unbroken ring of precipitous cliffs, with two jutting headlands facing each other at the mouth so as to leave only a narrow channel in between. The captains of my squadron all steered into the harbor and tied up in the sheltered waters within. They remained close together, for it was obvious that there was never any swell there, slight or strong, but always a flat calm.
Telepylos means far away doorway: Troy was kind of a doorway to the Black Sea. The harbor of Telepylos may combine elements of the shore and camp of the Trojan bay north of the Hisarlik (by the former mouth of the river Simois where the Greeks beached their ships) with a harbor of one of Troy's many allies (level of history), and the harbor of Corsica as proposed by Ernle Bradford (level of adventure).
Odysseus and his men come to the island of Aeaea, home of Circe, who bewitches the men and transforms them into mountain lions, wolves and pigs - animals whose behavior may symbolize how the foreign warriors treated the native women. Hermes tells Odysseus how to impose his will on Circe: harshly. If Hermes really was the alter ego of Homer, and if my interpretation of the Circe chapter is correct, Homer is no less macho than Odysseus and his men, but also poet and honest enough to tell the truth symbolically.
The Hades of the following dream may be the cemetery of the Greek camp in the Troas, containing the mound of Patroclus and Achilles. How does Odysseus reach the Hades? He has to cross the River of Ocean (Aegean), he comes to a wild coast (Trojan shore), beaches by the swirling stream (Dardanelles, Simois, Scamander), arrives in Hades' Kingdom of Decay (battlefields of Troy), where the River of Flaming Fire and the River of Lamentation, which is a branch of the Waters of Styx, meet and pour their thundering streams into Acheron (Scamander and Simois met in the flood of 1183 BC and poured their waters into the Acheron of the Trojan bay - the main rivers of Troy, combined, dreamlike, with the fire of burning Troy VIIa in 1183 BC and the heavy flooding of the same year). This time, Troy in disguise is combined with the Crimea, island of the Cimmerians who lived in the Ukraine, while the town of eternal fog and short days and long nights may refer to reports from Scandinavian merchants who sailed along the Dnjeper and sold amber in the Crimea.
The Sirens may combine, again dreamlike, the singing rocks (Siren Kayaliklari) of Phocaia with rocks along the Dardanelles. - Scilla and Charybdis are probably the Bosporus, and perhaps Thracian customs posts along the narrow passage between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
The island of Helios Hyperion may be the Crimean peninsula. Hyperion's cattle may be a Crimean fleet, which Odysseus' men attacked against his orders; the furious gale, hurricane, lightning and thunderbolt may be the ensuing battle, in which many Greek ships sank. And the stormy and shipwrecking winds blowing from west (Zephyr), southwest and south (Notos) may symbolize armies on the corresponding shores, and, furthermore, volleys of arrows falling on Odysseus and his men when they tried to pass the Bosporus on their way back to Troy.
Helios Hyperion is mentioned at the begin of the Odyssey, while the episode on his island is related at the end of book 12, in the middle of the epic. Book 12 of the Iliad begins with a heavy rain and swollen rivers sweeping away the Greek camp. Book 12 of the Iliad ends with the words: and hell was let loose, meaning the Trojan attack on the Greek camp. Now, in book 12 of the Odyssey, the fury of the elements no longer anticipates a battle but replaces or symbolizes the fighting, which may have been a sea battle (perhaps taking place during an actual storm).
The Ionians founded a settlement by the name of Odessos on the eastern shore of the Black Sea (near Varna in Bulgaria). Later Odessa / Udyesa was founded near the mouth of the river Dnjeper. The name Odysseus comes from odyssomay, to be angry. The Black Sea is often stormy, angry, so to speak.
Odysseus - Odessos - outis emoi g'onoma - Udyesa / Odessa ?
Odysseus lost many of his men and ships. In his dream he loses all of them, and only by good fortune reaches Troy again. However, it is a Troy in disguise: now it is Ogygia, home of Calypso, who loves him and keeps him for seven years on her island. Book 1, lines 48-54, Athene speaking:
My heart is wrung for Odysseus, the wise and unlucky Odysseus, who has been parted so long from all his friends and is pining on a lonely island far away in the middle of the seas. The island is well-wooded and a goddess lives there, the child of the malevolent Atlas, who knows the depths of all the seas and supports the great columns that hold earth and sky apart.
Ogygia is a lonely island far away in the middle of the seas; Troy lies between the Aegean and the Black Sea. If the Caucasus was the mountain range of Atlas, and if a tribe from the Cholkis had invaded the Hisarlik and founded Troy IV, these people may well have called their lovely new home and the Ida mountain range a daughter of Atlas, hence Atlantis (Eberhard Zangger, referring to several British historians of the 19th century, identified Atlantis with Bronze Age Troy).
Odysseus and his men spend a final night on the Trojan shore, and Odysseus re-lives the war in his dreams. The next morning they sail, and reach Ithaca within a few days. At home, asleep on the shore, Odysseus dreams again, this time of Calypso. In his dream he leaves her and sails west or northwest - back towards Troy, in fact - for seventeen days, never closing his eyes in sleep = dreaming. He is caught in a heavy storm, his ship is smashed, but he is protected by Athene and reaches a peninsula: lovely Scherie, wealthy land of the Phaeacians, who are ruled by King Alcinous and Queen Arete. According to Eberhard Zangger, Scherie represents an early Troy, and Odysseus' travel from the island of Calypso to the peninsula of Scherie is time travel ... Nausicaa addressing the girls who flee Odysseus:
Here she turned and called out to her maids: 'Stop, girls. Where are you flying to at the sight of a man? Don't tell me you take him for an enemy. There is no man on earth, nor ever will be, who would dare to set hostile feet on Phaeacian soil. The gods are too fond of us for that. Remote, we are at the edge of the world and come in contact with no other people. This man is an unfortunate wanderer who has strained here, and we must look after him, since all strangers and beggars come under the protection of Zeus, and to such people a small gift can mean much. So give him food and drink, girls, and bathe him in the river where there's shelter from the wind.'
A tragic error, for the very man Nausicaa invites into her town will destroy it, although in a much later time. And he, Odysseus, in the evening, guest in the shadowy hall of Alcinous and Arete, listens to the blind seer Demodocus, recognizes where he is and what he has done and cannot help weeping.
The events in the shadowy hall of King Alcinous and Queen Arete were perhaps as follows. A blind bard, a prophet such as Teiresias, who was able to see the future, sings a well-known ballad about the Trojan War (the ballad is known, not necessarily the war itself) and recounts how Odysseus fooled the Trojans. At the same time they are being fooled at that moment, for they are sitting with the sacker of Ilium, without recognizing him nor the fate of their own city; whereas Odysseus sees the loveliness of early Troy, and what he and his man had destroyed or will destroy (Eberhard Zangger). In his dream he covers his head and weeps. Hereupon (still dreaming) he tells colorful stories of his own, which are dreamlike versions of the Trojan War, takes a little wine and goes to bed (sleeping in his dream). The next morning (still in his dream), he wakes up, boards a Phaeacian ship (dreaming) and falls (still in his dream) into a deep sleep. Book 13, lines 70-93:
When they had come down to the ship and the sea, the young nobles who were to escort him took charge of his baggage, including all the food and drink, and stowed it in the polished ship. For Odysseus himself they spread a rug and a sheet on the ship's deck, well aft, so that he might enjoy an unbroken sleep. Then he too climbed on board and quietly lay down, while the crew took their seats at the oars in order, and untied the cable from the pierced stone that held it. No sooner had they swung back and churned the water with their blades than sweet oblivion sealed Odysseus' eyes in sleep, delicious and profound, the very counterfeit of death. And now, like a team of four stallions on the plain who start as one at the touch of the whip, leaping forward to make short work of the course, so the stern of the ship leaped forward, and a great dark wave of the surrounding sea surged in her wake. With unfaltering speed she forged ahead, and not even the wheeling falcon, the fastest creature that flies, could have kept her company. Thus she sped lightly on, cutting her way through the waves and carrying a man wise as the gods are wise, who in long years of war on land and wandering across the cruel seas had suffered many agonies of spirit but was now lapped in peaceful sleep, forgetting all he had endured.
The Phaeacians laid the still-sleeping Odysseus on the shore of Ithaca and returned to Scherie. Just before they reached harbor, angry Poseidon hammered their ship into the ground. Ship like rocks are indeed found off Troy (Eberhard Zangger). A rock resembling a ship is also found in a bay of Corcyra (Corfu), a lovely island north of Ithaca, and the locals believe that Corcyra was Scherie. Bradford Ernle, following ancient authors, came to the same conclusion, while I believe that Scherie was both an early Troy in Odysseus' last dream and a vision of a New Scherie in Greece, presumably inspired by Corcyra: Homer's wish that Greece may become as lovely, wealthy, prosperous and powerful a place as Troy (Anatolia) in former times.
Book 13, Poseidon complaining:
But now these people [the Phaeacians, dwellers of Scherie] brought him over the sea in their good ship and landed him asleep in Ithaca, after showering gifts upon him, countless gifts of bronze, gold and woven stuffs; far more than he could ever have won for himself from Troy, even if he had come back unhurt with his fair share of the spoils.
If Odysseus were dreaming, the gifts he brought back from Scherie were conceptual: a vision of early Troy, a wish to turn his home into a new Scherie ... The possible meaning of the gifts:
clothes, golden decorations: a royal garment: kingship
a tripod: islands, peninsulae, mainland: the power and ability to unite Greece
cauldron: symbol of the sea: ruling the oceans
packed in a polished strong-box: lasting for a long time
Poseidon had helped to build Scherie. He warned the Phaeacians to be careful of strangers. They ignored his advice and accumulated wealth by allowing foreign ships in the Besik bay and guiding them through the perilous passages of the Hellespont and across the Aegean as well in return for high fees, which made them rich but also brought their downfall. Poseidon was the Earth shaker, so the fall of Troy VI during an earthquake must have been his work, a powerful warning. But the Trojans did not heed, and continued their practices, and Poseidon went over to the side of the Greeks, who finally sacked Troy. However, Poseidon had to see Ilium burning, his son Polyphem blinded, the walls of Troy tumbling down, and took revenge by sweeping away the Greek camp on the shore of the Trojan bay, persecuting Odysseus and wrecking his ship. But Odysseus survived. He arrived in Scherie, an early Troy, an idyllic place. The Phaeacians brought Odysseus back to Ithaca. This again aroused the anger of Poseidon, and he hammered the returning ship into the seabed, just before it reached harbor, thus repeating his past advice and again foreseeing the fall of Troy. His anger does not help the Trojans. However, he has much reason to be angry, especially about Odysseus, for Poseidon had built Scherie, and Odysseus sacked holy Ilium, a later Scherie, and then upon his returning home united Greece and founded a new Scherie, while Poseidon saw his own work destroyed forever. Poseidon was thus angry with the Phaeacians, with Odysseus, and also with Athene, who helped him.
Odysseus returns home. He sleeps on the shore of Ithaca. In his dream he returns to Troy again, this time to an early, idyllic, peaceful and prosperous Troy. Waking in the morning, Scherie lingers in his mind. He does not recognize his home, which appears to him as an outlandish place / rugged, unfit for driving horses, unlike Scherie, horse loving Troy. However, he still possesses the gifts he received from the Phaeacians. If one can keep a gift from a dream, then it must be a vision, a feeling, a wish - hence Odysseus keeps in his mind an image of early Troy, a longing for Scherie, and a wish to turn Greece into a new Scherie, as lovely and prosperous as the former. - Corcyra (Corfu), a lovely green island, blooming in spring, may well be an alternative Scherie, model of a new Greece on the level of adventure, and in book 24 of the Odyssey Odysseus' father the old Argonaut Laertes reminds his son of their own gardens and their many trees ...
However, turning Greece into a new Scherie was everything but an easy task. During Odysseus's absence his home had been invaded by the shameless suitors of Penelope, who had besieged her house. The Archipelago and Peloponnese had been brought down by a league of pirates and depraved young nobles. Athene told her hero to confront his wife's suitors, and inflamed him to the Battle in the Hall and the ensuing feud. Finally, Zeus himself put a stop to her fury, whereupon Athene
still using Mentor's form and voice for her disguise, established peace between the two sides. (End of epic)
And now her resourceful hero, wise Odysseus, may unite Greece and lay the foundations of a new civilization.
In around 680 BC, in Homer's time, Greece and the Greek colonies in Anatolia must have been in danger again. Homer was thus advising the rulers of his time to follow the ways of Odysseus, to be worthy of him, and to keep his wish to unite Greece.
The real conclusion of the Iliad: the fall of Troy (anticipated by the first killing)
The real conclusion of the Odyssey: the rise of Greece (may Greece become a new Scherie)
Let me go on speculating:
Homer completed the Iliad and worked over several passages in the epic. He paid homage to his precursor by calling him MENTOR in the Odyssey - Mentor whose form and voice are used by Athene. Homer's own alter ego was HERMES, herald and messenger of the gods; god of roads, commerce, invention, cunning, and theft. Homer 'stole' legends, songs and poems for his own epic, and even 'annexed' the Iliad. He was a cunning writer, no less ruseful than his hero, always playing a double game with his readers. He may also have been a wealthy man who traveled widely. Hermes owns a pair of gold sandals that transport him everywhere as swiftly as the wind, while Homer's mind may be on the Mount Olympus and a few lines later in Scherie. From books 5 and 15:
he bound on his feet the lovely sandals of untarnishable gold that carried him with the speed of the wind over the water or the boundless earth; and he picked up a wand which he can use at will to cast a spell upon men's eyes or waken them from sleep
Hermes the Messenger, who gives grace and dignity to every kind of common labour
Thus Hermes might well symbolize Homer the poet, who can cast a spell upon his characters' eyes or waken them from sleep, and who made a swineherd one of his most likeable figures.
Hermes was called argeiphontaes both in the Iliad and Odyssey. He was the god of roads and a watchful killer of snakes, like Argos of the many eyes. The myth of Hermes overcoming Argos may be an ancient misinterpretation of the word 'argeiphontaes'; Odysseus' faithful dog is also called Argus, and this name is certainly meant in a positive sense. 'Argeiphontaes' as an epithet for Hermes / Homer may imply that Homer was an observer of the political events of his time. Telemachos, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, may represent the Greece of Homer's time, for 'Telemachos' means a 'far away war', possibly the First Messenian War, 740-720 BC, much later than the Trojan War (and far away from Troy). Telemachus may symbolize the kings of Homer's time who, Homer may have felt, ought to emulate Odysseus and Penelope. What Telemachus says and what he is taught may form a political program. Mentor appears in book 2 and gives a speech. Penelope's Suitors call him a crazy fool, and ignoring his advice meet their downfall. In book 1, Zeus complains:
What a lamentable thing is it that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own transgressions which bring them suffering that was not their destiny.
Not all is fate. One may hope to avoid or overcome un unfavorable situation by considering the words of wise. For example by listening to Mentor, speaker of Athene, and Hermes, herald and messenger of Zeus ...
Homer (4/4) / Reading the Odyssey (part b) / The Fable of Moses / © 1990-2002 by Franz Gnaedinger, Zurich, email@example.com / www.seshat.ch
A speculative glossary:
CRONUS --- symbol of time (both creating and destroying)
ZEUS, son of Cronus --- father of mankind, ruler of all peoples, patron of both Anatolia and Greece
ATHENE, daughter of Zeus --- symbol of history: once protrectress of holy Ilion, lovely Troy; now protectress of the upcoming Greek civilization
ILIAD --- perhaps written between 750 and 730 BC in Argos, Pylos and on the Bali Dag in the Troas. Based on tablets in royal archives, and on various Mycenaean and Anatolian records and legends. Recounting 50 days in the Trojan War. Athene on the side of the rising Greek civilization, helping the Greeks to win the war. Fault of the Trojans: having stood in the way of history, symbolized by Athene. Written by a poet from Mantineia, finished by the author of the Odyssey, who was known as Homer. - Philosophical problem of the Iliad: do we humans have an free will? or do we behave according to a higher will, that of the gods and goddesses? (In modern terms: do we have a will of our own? or is our life determined by the many and various laws of biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, economy, sociology, history, and so on?) The motif of human behaving and heavenly will is already apparent in the opening lines of the Iliad, while an answer to the philosophical problem is provided by Achilles in his reply to Athene and Here in book 1: 'Lady,' replied Achilles the great runner, 'when you two goddesses command, a man must obey, however angry he may be. Better for him if he does. The man who listens to the gods is listened to by them.'
PATROCLUS, friend of Achilles --- did the author of the Iliad see himself in Patroclus? In the Odyssey, book 13, 110, Achilles and Patroclus are called wise in council as the gods'
ODYSSEY --- perhaps written between 680 and 650 BC; a compilation of old songs and poems held together by an ingenious framework: Odysseus, departing from Ilion, has a false start, sleeps on the shores of Troy and dreams of the war; the acropolis of Troy appears as a woman of mountainous proportions, as a one-eyed giant resembling a hill ... Back home in Ithaca, Odysseus again dreams of Troy. He comes to Scherie, peninsula of the Phaeacians, an early Troy combined with the Phocaia and Smyrna of Homer's boyhood. Odysseus recognizes how lovely Troy had been in former times and what he and his men had destroyed, and weeps (Eberhard Zangger). Back at home he is forced to lead a war against a league of pirates and depraved young nobles, following which Greece may unite. On another time level, the Battle in the Hall may symbolize the first Messenian War (740-720 BC). The epic can be read on many levels (history, psychology, adventure, politics)
MENTOR --- Homer's alias for the author of the Iliad, used by Athene for her disguise (Homer paying homage to his precursor)
HERMES --- alias of the bard from Smyrna who finished the Iliad and wrote the Odyssey; Greek name Hermaes
HOMER –-- pen name of the poet who finished the Iliad and wrote the Odyssey; a pun on the names and words Hermos (river), Hermaes (Greek messenger of the gods), homoios (equal, similar), and homaereo (unite); Greek name Homaeros
GIANTS such as the Cyclopes and Cicones --- tyrants (such as Gyges)
CYCLOPES --- Anatolia around 1200 BC, Hattusas, vassal Wilusa
HYPEREIAE, previous home of the Phaeacians --- Cholkis?
PHAEACIANS --- neighbors of the Cyclopes (Hattusas), came from Hypereiae (Cholkis?) to Scherie (a former Troy)
SCHERIE --- Troy IV, from around 2200 BC on, combined with the Smyrna and Phocaia of Homer's boyhood
ANIMALS such as sheep, goats, oxen, horses --- boats and ships
TROJAN HORSE --- Odysseus' ship? with a wooden bow-sprit in the shape of the neck and head of a horse? a voluminous ship modified by Epeius? furnished with narrow cases allowing the warriors to hide and enter the well-guarded Trojan harbor in the Besik bay?
WINDS --- real winds; or dreams transporting Odysseus back to Troy; or a dream sending him via time travel to an early Troy; or attacking armies and volleys of arrows, as in the key-episode on the island of Helios Hyperion (Crimea?)
NAUSICAA --- Anatolia around 2200 BC
LAERTES --- Greece around 1700 BC, the Argonauts
CALYPSO, her cavern and lovely garden --- Anatolia around 1200 BC
OGYGIA, island of Calypso --- Troy around 1200 BC, in combination with Cholkis; name a reminder of King Gyges who subjected western Anatolia (680-652 BC) with the exception of Smyrna, Milet, and others
PENELOPE, her house and bedroom built around an olive-tree, --- Greece; weaving and unraveling her work: a timeless land; Helen - Hellas? Penelope - Peloponnese?
ODYSSEUS --- son of Laertes, the seafaring skills and military power of Greece around 1200 BC; more of a symbol than a real person? his name is Nobody; he returns home and no one recognizes him; Penelope says that there are no more leaders of men as was Odysseus, if ever there was such a man
TELEMACHUS, son of Penelope and Odysseus - Greece of Homer's time; telling name meaning 'far away war': Messenian Wars 740-720 and 660-640 BC, battles in between (Hysiai 669 BC), war against Gyges; Homer concerned about Greece (strength of the Greek mainland, security of his home in western Anatolia): will Telemachos equal his father? Homer not really sure but optimistic, Odyssey, book 2, lines 270-280, Athene speaking through Mentor:
Telemachus, you will be neither a coward nor a fool in the future, if your father's manly vigor has descended on you - and what a man he was in word and deed.
It is only if you were not the true son of Odysseus and Penelope that I would think your plans might come to nothing you are by no means lacking in Odysseus' resourcefulness, and since you will be no fool or coward in the future, you can hope to succeed ...
We may well doubt that Odysseus was a historical person (if ever there was such a man), yet I am fairly sure about the message of the Odyssey.
THE FABLE OF MOSES (reading the Bible)
Rolf Krauss, on the base of recently rediscovered hieroglyphic inscriptions, has been able to reconstruct the life of an ostracized Pharaoh by the name of Amunmasesa (created by Amun) heqawaset (ruler of Thebes), as follows. The royal Seti II married his aunt Tachat; and their son Amunmasesa was born in 1229 BC. In 1214 BC, at the age of 15 years, Amunmasesa was sent to Kush (Nubia), where he spent 10 years as viceroy and married a Kushite princess. In 1204 BC, Seti II was enthroned as Pharaoh. His 25-year-old son Amunmesa, however, conquered Upper Egypt, resided at Thebes and caused tomb KV 10 to be built. A war ensued, and four years later, Seti II gained victory over his son. There are strong parallels between the life of young Amunmasesa and that of Moses as described by Philo, Josephus Flavius and several rabbis. According to their record, Moses was an Egyptian prince who lived in the 13th century BC. His parents were related: aunt and nephew; he spent several years in Kush; and he had to leave Egypt after a violent struggle for the throne. Rolf Krauss believes that the 5th century Jahwist invented the Exodus, discovered the history of Amunmasesa in the same sources later used by Manetho, and chose him as a model for Moses. In the following fable I arttempt to link Amunmasesa with Moses, tentatively taking him for a historical figure. My primary sources are the excavation of Ashkelon by Lawrence Stager of Harvard; the Canaan scenario in ca.1200 BC according to Israel Finkelstein, as well as other authors. Notes: The Canaanites in Goshen worshipped a Serpent. The burning bush is a natural phenomenon: a certain bush in the Sinai produces a gas when its seed are ripe, and if a falling stone creates a spark the gas ignites and the bush and the plants around it burn, causing the hard seed capsules to break and new bushes to grow.
Abraham lived in the kingdom of Ur, by the then shoreline of the Persian Gulf. In around 2005 BC Ur collapsed. Abraham left his home and went to Harran in Syria, where he spent many years, gathered a tribe around him, and then settled in Canaan. Around 1950 BC, a Canaanite tribe took over the old port of Ashkelon, and hundred years later their descendants built a strong, 45 meters thick and 2.2 kilometer long wall around the town.
The Canaanite population expanded southward, and many of them went to Egypt, where they were known as Hyksos. In Egypt they grew so numerous that between 1650 and 1610 BC they took over the country. Ahmose defeated the Hyksos / Hapiru / Hebrews in around 1450 BC, but in spite of this many remained in Egypt, where although forced to pay high taxes or to work for the Pharaoh they lived well. Many became scribes, a few even viziers.
Ramesses II, whose name means Favored by Ra, was born in 1304 BC. He became Pharaoh at 25, and had a long reign. His son Merenptah was the father of Seti II, who (as above) married his aunt Tachat and begot a son, who was born in 1229 BC. Ramesses was fond of his great-grandson and called him Amunmasesa, Created by Amun.
Amunmasesa had a friend, three years older than he, whom he loved as dearly as a brother: Aaron, son of a Canaanite scribe.
In 1214 BC, at the age of 15, Amunmasesa was sent to Kush, where he spent ten years as viceroy and married a Kushite princess.
Ramesses died in 1212 BC, and Merenptah, over fifty years old, became Pharaoh. He ruled for eight years, and died in 1204 BC, whereupon Seti II ascended the throne.
Amunmasesa was now 25 years old - the same age at which Ramesses, who had been so fond of him, had become Pharaoh! Amunmasesa considered this a sign, and declared: Now has come my time. I will rule Egypt together with my father; he may rule Lower Egypt, I will rule Upper Egypt, the land of Amun.
But Seti refused to share power. So Amunmasesa conquered Upper Egypt and lived at Thebes. A four-year war ensued. Finally Seti defeated his son and erased his memory from the records.
Amunmasesa fled to Midian, the region east of the Gulf of Aqaba, where he married a woman called Zipporah and for many years concealed his true name and origin. When he was asked where he came from he said that he had been found as a baby in the rushes by the riverbank and was raised by a noble Egyptian family; that he had worked as an overseer for Pharaoh; and that when he had seen an Egyptian treat a Hebrew worker rudely he has slain him and had to flee, so coming to Midian, where he had been kindly received.
He made himself useful in many ways, he helped to build channels, dikes and cisterns, but when his work was done, he would climb a mountain, gaze out over the Red Sea, and ponder his former life. He knew he had been wrong to fight the army of his father - although he felt would have made a better king. He should not have lied to Zipporah and the Midians - he was so wrong in many ways.
His memories haunted and shamed him, and he grew silent. He still believed himself the true king of Egypt, but he would never again have a chance to rule.
He became more and more religious, although he doubted the gods of Egypt, who are worshipped in so many persons. There is only one god, he felt, and that God is the same everywhere.
When he was feeling sad, he remembered his friend Aaron. Where might he be now? He recalled the stories Aaron had told him: how Abraham had come from Ur, gone to Harran, gathered together a new people, and then led his people to Canaan. One evening, on a hill, he saw a bush burning - and at that moment he had a vision: he saw himself as a new Abraham, leaving his land, gathering a new people, and founding a new kingdom. His vision was most frightening. He saw his walking stick turn into a snake, the serpent worshipped by the Canaanites, who were to become his new people. He went pale, his skin looked leprous, and he saw the water of a well turn to blood, sign of coming battle. He trembled and asked his God: Have you sent me this vision? Are you telling me that I should gather the Canaanites and lead them to their former home in Canaan? Who are you? Amun? Baal? But no, every image we create of you is wrong. You are that you are. But will I be able to go carry out this mission? How can I, a man grown silent, convince my new people, the Canaanites who live in the land of Goshen, to follow me? My heavenly Lord: let me find Aaron again, my friend whom I love as dearly as a brother, who is eloquent, and we will accomplish this task together ...
From this day on, the man was changed. He had a mission and found his speech again; and when, soon after, he heard from Aaron and was rejoined with him he felt relieved and sure. He thanked the Lord, and he changed his name to Moses, omitting the name of Amun:
Moses / ( ) Masesa = created by (I am that I am)
No one recognized Moses. The long years and hard work in Midian had made a new man of him. Aaron and Moses gathered some 600 Canaanites - Hapiru/Hebrews, or Israelites - who were willing to leave Egypt for Canaan, where they would hopefully multiply, become 6,000, 60,000 and then 600,000 people, and found a new kingdom. Aaron and Moses visited Ramesses III, who became Pharaoh in 1182 BC, and told him that they wished to leave Egypt with their 600 Israelites. Ramesses shook his head: Some of you can go, but not all of you, for among them are several scribes we need here. Aaron recounted to Pharaoh a dream he had the previous night: he had seen the Serpent of Canaan swallow a great number of Egyptian snakes. And Moses said: Let my people go. Ramesses replied: My good men, I rule a large country, I need your scribes, and I need all my precious time, and neither do I care about your dreams. I cannot let all of the 600 Hapiru go; please understand me and leave, for there are many visitors waiting.
A vizier, however, was frightened by Aaron's dream and considered it a bad omen.
In 1180 BC a wave of immigrants and refugees and warriors from the Great Green (Mediterrannean) arrived, another in 1177 BC, yet another one in 1174 BC, followed by a famine. The dwellers of the Nile Delta groaned: The strangers come, as numerous as frogs and flies and locusts and grains of hail. They steal our emmer and barley, they devour our small harvest, they suck our blood as if they were dust turned to lice, they kill our cattle, they let burning arrows rain fire on our houses and villages, our firstborn sons in the army are killed, the water is turning to blood, we are plagued with fevers, we live in a miserable time.
The vizier remembered Aaron's dream and told Pharaoh: Aaron's vision has come true, so let him and Moses and the 600 Hapiru go. Pharaoh finally gave in, and Moses was able to leave.
As there were battles raging along the shoreline of the Great Green, Moses and Aaron decided to take the long way through the Sinai. The Israelites took all they owned and traversed the marshes and Bitter Lakes between Goshen and the Sinai. A strong wind blowing from the east parted the waters of a shallow lake, baring the lakebed and allowing the Israelites to pass, but when a group of Egyptian soldiers, attracted by the riches the Hapiru were carrying, followed them, the wind ceased to blow, the waters returned and stopped the soldiers. The Israelites were saved and thanked the Lord for this wonder. They followed the shore of the Red Sea, reached the southern Sinai and camped below the mountain Horeb.
There Moses again encountered the Lord. His memories returned to him: how he had conquered Upper Egypt, how he had called himself Amunmasesa heqawaset, ruler of Thebes favored by Amun, how he had fought the army of his father, been defeated and ostracized as an usurper, and how his memory had been erased in Egypt. Moses felt ashamed. He went off for a time alone into the wilderness - but finally he returned with a clear mind and wrote down laws for his new people.
Yet many of the 600 were troubled. Although Moses had brought them through many hardships, they felt his laws to be almost too severe; they had worshipped Baal for so long that they wondered why they should now worship a god of whom they had no image, and whose name they were not even allowed to pronounce. They gave Aaron some of their silver and gold, and asked him to cast a bull, the symbol of Baal, that they might carry it with them: Then we shall have two gods, the God of Moses, and our own. But Moses was angry, and he had several of the Baal worshippers killed.
Moses led his people with a hard hand along a dangerous route. He appointed an experienced soldier, by the name of Joshua, his successor. Moses died before he reached the promised land, but Joshua led the Israelites to Canaan, where he founded a dozen villages, one for each group of Israelites; these, later, became the 12 tribes of Israel. The villages lay geographically far from each other but were joined the bonds of marriage, and by an another of which I will say more later on.
Now for the eastern Great Green (Mediterrannean, Aegean) and its islands (any shore across the sea in the Egyptian usage of the word) near the end of the Bronze Age.
Troy VI, called Wilusa in Luwian, was subject to Hattusas. In order to make their city more glorious, the scribes from early Troy VI invented a splendid past: in a former Golden Age, Troy was surrounded by channels and harbors and was the capital of Eurasia, a large continent comprising the Ore Mountains in Czechia, the rivers of Georgia, rich in gold, the copper mines in Anatolia, the precious tin mines in Tazhikistan; and the sky overarching Eurasia was supported by Atlas, who resided on the mountain Elbrus, the highest peak of the Caucasus. The legend contained elements of the real past of Troy and Eurasia, for example the age-old memory of a flood that had swept away the shores of the Black Sea. It was meant to impress the foreign sailors who paid high prices for the metals traded in Troy, especially for the rare tin needed for casting bronze; high duties for camping in the harbor of the Besik bay while waiting for favorable winds; and high fees for the Trojan pilots who navigated the foreign ships safely through the perilous waters of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. The legend impressed all sailors except the Mycenaeans, who camped for nothing in the shallow bay north of the Hisarlik: skilled, experienced and daring sailors who made fun of the Trojans, who, in return, considered them mere pirates.
In the early years of his reign, Ramesses II had led several campaigns in Canaan and Amurru. he destroyed the Ashkelon of the Canaanites; he was defeated by the Hittites at Kadesh and barely saved his own live, but using bombastic language managed to turn a disastrous defeat into a triumph. Later he made peace with the new Hittite emperor Hattusili II.
Troy VI was destroyed by an earthquake in around 1230 BC. Thracians stormed Hattusas and in around 1200 BC felled the Hittite empire. A powerful alliance of Mycenaeans besieged Troy VIIa for ten years. Troy's shining diadem of towers burnt in 1183 BC. From then on, the Mycenaeans ruled in the eastern Mediterranean.
Several Mycenaean tribes were among the Sea Peoples (about six groups from the shores, peninsulas and islands of the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean: soldiers, pirates, immigrants and refugees). One such Mycenaean tribe, called the Philistines, took over Ashkelon in around 1175 BC.
Canaan was controlled by Egypt. The Canaanites lived in its valleys, while nomads from Transjordania built small villages in the mountains. While the early Troy might be called the Bronze Age focus of Eurasia, long favored by geography, the region of Israel might be described as a vortex of history, surrounded by powerful empires, exposed to many dispersing forces.
Joshua, successor to Moses, led the Isrealites to Canaan. He was not able to establish a kingdom, so had a dozen villages built, appointed as many leaders, and allotted to each leader a group of people, who later became the twelve tribes of Israel. The villages were located far from each other. The twelve groups swore to stay united forever, and to overcome all inevitable rivalries. Their first bond was intermarriage. Their second was the word: they held in memory all the important names of their common history, and to each name told a story.
David, son of Saul, father of Salomon, succeeded in establishing a transitory kingdom which comprised all the 12 tribes of Israel. He asked his scribes to record the story of his people; how Noah had saved his loved ones; how Abraham came from Ur to Harran, and from Harran to Canaan; how the Hebrews lived and multiplied in Egypt, how Moses led them back to Canaan and promised them a kingdom of their own in a land that flows with milk and honey. The scribes recorded all; the genealogies were kept in the ark, and stories were told to every name. Thus we see that while other peoples relied on pictures, the Hebrews relied on the word. It was the word which kept them together in Egypt, in Canaan before the time of Saul and David, and again after the time of David and Salomon - and also in the Babylonian exile, where all the names had been remembered, and where all the stories had been told and retold. After the return to Canaan, the old stories had been written down again - farther away from reality than ever, and yet retaining the memory of times long gone. The Sea Peoples were symbolized in the plagues coming upon Egypt; the reasoning of Moses was conveyed in the form of dialogues with the Lord; Mycenaean / Philistian Ashkelon was symbolized in Goliath (just as Homer's Polyphem, resembling more a hill than a man eating bread, symbolizes Troy). Symbolic stories were the best way to hand down history, as they were easily remembered. Each generation made them a little more heroic, more splendid. Stories of a glorious past conveyed experience, the law, wisdom and hope, and acted as a fertile soil, nourishing not bodies but minds and souls. These stories kept the Hebrews together with the powerful band of the word.
The Holy Bible, London M.DCCC.LXII.
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DERK OHLENROTH, Das Abaton des Lykäischen Zeus und der Hain der Elaia, Zum Diskos von Phaistos und zur frühen griechischen Schriftkultur, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen 1996.
*** Der Spiegel, 26/1997, Das Testament des Pharaoh (Amenmesse).
*** Weltgeschichte, Band 1, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 1964/98.
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3. Jahrtausend v.Chr., Aus dem Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte der Universität Heidelberg, Band 53 I und II, Verlag Rudolf Habelt, Bonn 1998.
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*** Neolithic in Turkey, The Cradle of Civilization New Discoveries, Edited by Mehmet Oezdogan & Nezih Bazgelen, Arkeoloji ve Sanat,Yayinlari, Istanbul 1999.
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*** National Geographic, Wo die Bibel irrt Archaeologische Entdeckungen im israelischen Askalon, Januar 2001.
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