Mark Twain said, "It 's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled".
Homer is a constant source of frustration for archaeologists, for philologists and all commentators ... hundreds of pages with thousands of names, events, references, locations,
etc. But they end up confusing rather than help us to clarify them. But if the solution was different from those painstakingly elaborated over the centuries by writers? Why Homer continued to praise the art of deception? Because he slept ... or because it is he who has deceived all of us for 3000 years? And the myths are only fairy tales, or are born from real events of which we just begin to glimpse the origin?

Seven articles of Alberto Majrani on the site of archaeologist Pierluigi Montalbano with automatic translation (you can click on google translator and select INGLESE as language)

Many other abstract in italian here
from the new book by Alberto Majrani entitled L'ASTUTO OMERO The CUNNING HOMER – Ulysses, Nobody, Philoctetes and the ingenious deception of the Odyssey

domenica 15 maggio 2022

The father of archeology, or of fantasy archeology?



"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

A group of archaeologists, including Schliemann, in Mycenae

At this point someone might get impatient, and ask: but Troy, then? Heinrich Schliemann has well discovered a city in Asia Minor! At least this is what is taught and believed to be true today in many universities: the beautiful tale of the adventurous pioneer who, risking his economic fortune and fighting against the doom and hostility of the dull nineteenth-century academic world, succeeds, comparing them with the pages of the Iliad, to perfectly identify the ruins of the city of Priam near the coasts of Turkey, to recover its fabulous treasures and deservedly earn the undying fame of "father of archaeology". Actually, the identification of the Turkish site of Hissarlik with the city of the siege has always perplexed scholars; many authoritative archaeologists today tend to emphasize differences rather than analogies. For example, geological studies show that the wide alluvial plain at the base of the hill on which Troy would have risen did not yet exist at the time of the 12th century BC, a date which is commonly considered to be the most likely for the event of the war. This means that there was no wide beach where more than a thousand ships could park, there was no plain where the chariots could run, and there was not even a battlefield! Furthermore, Schliemann, anxious to search for the treasures of ancient Troy, made considerable disasters, brutally uncovering the various archaeological layers and damaging them irreparably. He believed to find the "treasure of Priam" in the second layer (dating back at least a thousand years before the alleged date of the war), later identifying the city of the siege with the sixth or seventh layer (here the archaeological layers have been numbered in progressive order from the deepest, which is also the oldest, to the most superficial and recent). Furthermore, Schliemann himself was anything but an irreproachable character, and his autobiography, which many know, is largely "fictional": several episodes cited are invented from scratch, such as the story of his meeting with the president of the United States, the presence in San Francisco during the famous fire of the city, the same desire to discover the remains of Troy from an early childhood, and much more. It seems that much of his wealth came from having fake the scales with which he was trading gold with miners in California, and also he even risked being arrested for bigamy! In this regard, we refer to the well-documented essay by David A. Traill: Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit, where the professor of classical literature at California University paints a much less flattering portrait of the German archaeologist than that disclosed by himself and his admirers. To give an example of his working method, having read that in Troy there was a hot and a cold spring, he thought it best to measure the water temperature of all the streams in the area: correct application of the scientific method, we should to say, except that, since the temperature was the same everywhere, he concluded that perhaps the hot spring had run out and therefore the place he said was fine anyway! Particularly serious are the accusations of having altered the results of his excavations with objects found elsewhere, perhaps bought or even counterfeited, distorting many archaeological data and even falsifying his own diaries to prove certain claims. In fact, the most sensational findings would have occurred, in a very strange and suspicious way, in the absence of witnesses. Even the handsome guy boasted of his own unfairness towards other archaeologists who had to oversee the excavations, heavily invading the areas of their competence, and illegally smuggled the most precious pieces, ignoring the agreements signed with the local authorities. Traill, however, still seems to hesitate in the idea of ​​completely demolishing the geographical location of the ruins of Troy.



The excavations of "Troy" - Hissarlik, Turkey

However, many archaeologists think differently. For example, prof. Dieter Hertel (who teaches Classical Archeology at the University of Cologne and took part in several excavation campaigns in the Hissarlik area), in his book Troia , after having premised that "among the many layers that testify to the various reconstructions of Troy after each destruction that took place over the centuries, the Troy phases VI (1700-1300) and Troy VII (XIII century) were not the scene of famous military enterprises ", he underlines that" it is not possible to speak of an expedition of Mycenaean Greeks against the city, whether it was Troy VI or Troy VIIa [.. .] The study of the Trojan phases I-VII [...] has revealed to us the contours of a long historical epoch, with completely different characters from those of the world and of the events described by Homer ». Furthermore, "there is no indication that the end of Troy VI, VIIb1 and VIIb 2 can be attributed to a conquest [...] Even if Troy VIIa was taken by force, this event could not have found reflected in the Greek saga: not even the slightest clue supports this possibility ". Moreover, adds Hertel, “in the surroundings of Troy no sign of a siege contemporary to the layers of destruction found in the excavation of the city, brought by Mycenaean Greeks or other peoples, has been found; neither trenches, nor fortified camps for ships, nor anything similar has been discovered in the outskirts of the city, on the north coast or in the bay of Beşika, despite the numerous and arduous searches carried out ». It should be noted that tourists visiting the excavations are often taken to see remains such as the so-called "Ajax's tomb": it is a pity that these archaeological finds date back to Roman times, about a millennium after Homer, and were built to make the people happy, even then numerous travelers from Rome, including some emperors, who were fascinated to discover what Virgil had told to be the "roots" of the ancient Romans! We transcribe verbatim what Stuart Kelly's Book of Lost Books says about Homer, taking up the aforementioned Agon between Homer and Hesiod: "The emperor Hadrian tried to unravel those contradictory accounts by asking the sibyl Pythia for an opinion, who replied:" Ithaca it is his homeland, Telemachus his father, and Epicasta, daughter of Nestor, the mother who bore him, a man who is by far the wisest of mortals ”. If he was right, and if Telemachus, son of Ulysses, was Homer's ancestor, the Odyssey is a biography of his grandfather as well as an epic poem "and therefore, we add, a hagiographic device to legitimize his power over Ithaca. Thus the Pythia, who was at the head of the oracle of Delphi, could perhaps be aware of some "mystery", well kept and well handed down for generations. Not bad the idea of ​​Homer, son of Telemachus, who writes the history of the noble dinasty... It should be added that if you look at Homer's descriptions of Troy, for example in books XII and XX of the Iliad, you realize that the ancient stone city of the site of Hissarlik, founded five thousand years ago on the Turkish coast, has very little in common with what appears to be a typical Nordic European fortified village. Homer reports that the walls of the Achaean camp are even more impressive than those of Troy, but that they are partly demolished during a Trojan attack, and then swept away by the next flood of the river. Troy itself was then completely destroyed by a fire: all this suggests that it was largely made of wood; Homer points out that only the houses of the members of the royal family were made of stone. 


Rural village in the open-air museum in Olsztynek, Poland. This is how the houses of the protagonists of the Homeric poems must have been.

Consider how much effort it made centuries after Julius Caesar to make capitulate Alesia, the city of the Gauls, to realize how difficult the villages of Northern Europe were to conquer, despite being protected only by sturdy log palisades, sometimes reinforced with stones. It should also be noted that the remains of the Gallic city have not yet been identified with certainty, despite intense research and although its existence has never been questioned: it could be the same thing that happened to the Northern Troy, which would in any case be well different from the mighty stone fortresses imagined by Schliemann and which we are used to seeing in historical films and documentaries. At this point one can also think, taking up the observations of some historians of ancient Greece, that the famous "Trojan Horse" was actually a kind of "war machine", not very dissimilar from those designed by Caesar to conquer Alesia. There is also to consider the propensity of the Nordic peoples to drink and get drunk in an exaggerated way, well testified by all historical sources: Troy was destroyed because its inhabitants, deluded that the enemies were gone, did not put anyone on guard and they gave themselves to mad joy so much that they were all dead drunk! The Trojan hero Aeneas then states (Iliad XX, 219-240) that the foundation of his city dates back to less than six generations earlier, that is, about 200 years before; so if the war dated to 1200 BC, and the foundation to 1400, there would be "just" 1600 years of difference with the real date of birth of the Turkish city, which stratigraphic investigations place in 3000 BC! In short, despite the fact that in ancient times there were continuous wars, and fires in the inhabited areas were rather common events, it is not possible to find the so-called "smoking gun" that is able to prove an unequivocal correlation between the archaeological remains of Hissarlik and the events of the war, and the destruction of Troy so accurately described in the poems. Times and places do not square. In short, there is no what should be there, and there is what shouldn't be there! At the end of this speech, therefore, archaeologists would have every reason to breathe a good sigh of relief at the thought that the glorious city sung by Homer is not that heap of rubble devastated by the "mythical" Schliemann! The much-maligned nineteenth-century academic world had good reasons to be wary of that adventurer, and it is time for the current academic world to do so too. But the story does not end there: in 1912 a certain Paul Schliemann, self-styled grandson of Heinrich, sold a long article to a newspaper, complete with amazing details, in which he claimed that his grandfather had left him a series of archaeological finds and clues for discover none other than the lost civilization of Atlantis. The matter obviously aroused a certain sensation, and the good Paul, a worthy heir (real or presumed) of his grandfather, enjoyed for a short time an undeserved fame. But then, when his claims began to be scrutinized more carefully and turned out to be completely unsubstantiated, the good grandson preferred to disappear from circulation, not before declaring with shameless cheek: "But if I had to say everything I know, where would the mystery end? ". However, if you have a little patience, in a few pages we will also investigate the question of Atlantis and other mythological enigmas: as you can see, we do not miss anything. So, returning to Homeric geography, the Troy of Turkey is none other than one of the many cities so called, as there is one in Puglia, one in Portugal, a Troyes in France, a Troynovant in ancient England, not to mention of the twenty or so of Troy in the USA. In the case of Ilion we have two Ilions in Greece and one in New York. Moreover, this mechanism of calling different places with the same name has continued to perpetuate itself from antiquity to the present day: just think that the term Eridanus in ancient times indicated a European river (it was never understood whether the Rhone or the Rhine, or any other) and then designated the Po river in Italy. Or how many Olympus mountains there are: seven between Greece and Turkey, some others scattered around the world, including one in America, and one even on Mars! In practice, whenever a mountain higher than the others was encountered, someone promptly baptized it with the name of the seat of the deities. It is the same thing that astronomers have been doing since the dawn of time and still today, when they have to baptize some new planet, or satellite, or comet, and draw heavily from mythology. So Schliemann did not discover Homeric Troy, but only an important city of antiquity which was then called that. It would now be interesting to find out which city it was, perhaps it is precisely what the Hittites called Wilusa (even if its geographical location would seem different), which was later confused by the ancients for its assonance with the Homeric Ilium. After all, that of the German amateur archaeologist was not a particularly difficult undertaking: he was a rich merchant, who traveled a lot and was passionate about archeology, at a time when wealthy travelers were very few, and archaeologists even fewer. It was enough just to ask around and leave a few tips, to discover interesting remains. Good times! To find out where the ancient Troy was

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