T h e R e a l S t o r y O f T r o y
The Trojan Kings of England
Lecture by Iman J. Wilkens to the 'Herodoteans',
Classical Society of the University of Cambridge, UK
26th May 1992
[Appendix 1 to 'Where Troy Once Stood by I. Wilkens, 2nd revised edition 1999, page 1 of 9]
Since classical antiquity, readers of Homer have been puzzled by the inconsistencies of the Greek geography as described in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Already Strabo and Eratosthenes had abandoned their efforts to make sense of Homer's geography in the Mediterranean. To mention only a few examples of the absurdities : when Odysseus had arrived in his native country Ithaca, which is supposed to be Thiaki near Greece's west coast, he at first made believe Athene that he had come as a passenger aboard a ship travelling from Crete to Sidon, present Saïda in Lebanon. But it is obvious to anyone that Thiaki is not on the way from Crete to Lebanon, but quite in the opposite direction.
As to Ithaca itself, it is described as the westernmost of a group of islands while it is also situated close to the mainland, with the tiny island of Asteris close by. As none of these descriptions and none of the other details mentioned by the poet correspond to the present island of Thiaki, or to any of the other islands in the region, the problem of identifying Homer's Ithaca has never been solved, despite the efforts of countless scholars. Most surprising is also the story where Agamemnon recounts that it took him a full month to sail from his kingdom Argos, taken to be in the northeastern Peloponnese, to Ithaca, when we know that in Greece the trip takes less than 24 hours. One may also wonder why the Achaeans built 1186 ships for their attack on Troy in Turkey as it would have been much cheaper, quicker and far more convenient to approach northwest Turkey overland via Thessaly.
What is more, they were clearly afraid to cross the sea, despite the fact that sailing in the Aegean is rather a question of 'island hopping' as one is seldom out of sight of the next island. But Iphigenia had to be offered to secure a fair wind and Menelaus even invoked the gods to show him the best course to sail from Lesbos to Euboea. But when he hears that his brother Agamemnon was assassinated by his wife, he apparently sees no particular difficulty in making the enormous detour to Egypt to build a burial mound for his dead brother in this country which, in fact, was ruled by the Pharaohs and certainly not by Agamemnon or any other Greek king.
If the Achaeans were afraid to cross the Aegean Sea, one also wonders why Paris, after the abduction of Helen, on his way from Greece to Turkey, would have made the enormous detour via Sidon in Lebanon to buy some embroidered cloth for her.
Another story that defies explanation is about a merchant sailing from Taphos with a cargo of iron to Temese, as it is impossible to identify these names with coastal cities or with any mining region in the Mediterranean, as many commentators have noticed.
We are also informed about a place with a very healthy climate called the island of Syria, situated about six days sailing north of Ortygia, which could not be identified either, apart from the fact that such a north-south distance is too great for the Mediterranean. One also wonders, for instance, how Menelaus' ship could drift from Cape Malea southwards to Crete in a storm blowing from the south !
The list of inconsistencies in Homer's geography is very long indeed and this is also true for the descriptions of the city of Troy and the Trojan plain. The ruins at Hissarlik in northwest Turkey, which Heinrich Schliemann took for those of Homer's Troy, despite the doubts expressed by the scientific community ever since, can hardly be those of the great capital 'with the wide streets' of Priam's kingdom, which, according to Homer, had a garrison of 50,000 warriors.
The ruins of Hissarlik are those of a very small village, about the size of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, but the layers VIIa and b, which correspond to the time of the Trojan War, are particularly poor hamlets. What is more, the so-called 'Treasure of Priam' was found in a layer that is about a millenium too old. The Trojan plain in Turkey is also far too small to contain all the rivers mentioned by Homer, or all the cities destroyed by Achilles. In fact this plain, which was even considerably smaller 3200 years ago, does not provide enough space for the installation of an invading army of about 100,000 men and still leave enough room for the long pursuits with the horse-drawn chariots. Since Homer speaks of the 'horse-taming Trojans' and of 'Troy rich in horses' one would expect archaeologists to have found many skeletons of horses, which is not the case.
Although the Trojan War was of great importance in Antiquity, neither Troy nor the war are mentioned in the thousands of claytablets with diplomatic correspondence of the Hittites living in Turkey at the time, although these tablets do mention for instance, the battle of Kadesh against the Pharaoh. The names of the famous commanders of the Trojan War are not mentioned either, nor those of the famous city of Athens nor the 'opulent' city of Mycenae, the capital of Agamemnon's kingdom, which in fact has never been more than a small village according to Thucydides. What is more troubling is that Mycenae had ceased to exist by the time the Trojan War was about to start. We must also ask ourselves the question whether it would take a great army ten years of efforts to conquer a hamlet !
For all these reasons and many others, the late Sir Moses Finley, Professor of Ancient History at University of Cambridge, concluded that 'we are confronted with this paradox that the more we know, the worse off we are' and he therefore suggested that 'Homer's Trojan War must be evicted from the history of the Greek Bronze Age'. As it seems difficult to disagree with his conclusion, we are, in my view, left with only two options : either the great Trojan War never took place in northwest Turkey and consequently, the Iliad is the fruit of pure imagination, or else, the war did take place, but in another country.
The first option must be discarded because it is very unlikely that a myth or any other work of pure imagination would go to such length to mention hundreds of geographical names, give precise descriptions of towns and ports, and indicate distances and even travel directions. In addition, the Iliad and the Odyssey describe many people in great detail, from their physical appearance to their character and often even their status, family ties and personal history. In our days we have of course the example of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' but life in the Bronze Age was certainly too harsh for such a luxury !
Metric verse was used to pass on useful knowledge from one generation of illiterates to another, and if we agree that it is most unlikely that a myth would provide such a wealth of detail, we are left with the alternative option, namely that the war took place in another part of Europe.
The next question then arises, of course, where that could have been. At first sight, the problem is not a simple one, but Homer gives an initial indication through the description of the late Bronze Age culture of his time, which has so little in common with Mycenaean culture that a disappointed John Chadwick, who assisted Michael Ventris in deciphering the Linear B script, wrote an article entitled 'Homer, the Liar', thus adding insult to injury for the poet who was not only considered 'utterly ignorant of Greek geography' by Professor Murray, but also incapable of correctly describing the culture of his society. As it seems unlikely that a poet would be ignorant in both fields simultaneously, we have a strong argument to search elsewhere for the Trojan War.
The most important clue given by Homer is the cremation of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector, whose ashes were collected in golden urns. By contrast, in Bronze Age Mycenae, important people were buried with a golden mask, many of which have been found by Schliemann, such as the golden mask he attributed to Agamemnon, but which has turned out to be a century too old to have belonged to this king. But cremation was a typical Celtic custom that was not shared by other peoples in Europe at the time.
Another interesting clue given by Homer is the frequent indication of oceanic tides, as tides are insignificant in the Mediterranean. Already Strabo wrote that 'Homer was not unfamiliar with tides and that for this reason several of the places described by the poet should be sought in the Atlantic Ocean'. These combined indications given by Homer therefore suggest that his epics related to Celts living on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. However, this suggestion raises a number of serious problems and questions which must be dealt with before arriving at any firm conclusions.
The first question is : were there already Celts living in Western Europe in the late Bronze Age, around 1200BC ? Although urnfields dating from this period have been found in England and on the Continent, we know the Celts only through archaeological finds dating from the Iron Age, starting around 800BC but we have no trace of their existence in the second millenium BC. Fortunately, Homer provides another indication to help us out by mentioning in passing the 'very famous ' Galatea. But precisely because she was so famous in his time, the poet obviously did not need to elaborate, leaving modern readers in the dark about the reason of her fame. But we learn from other ancient Greek sources that in classical mythology Galatea was one of fifty-odd Nereïds and the legendary mother of the Celts, the Gauls and the Illyrians through her three sons, Celtus, Galas and Illyrius.
It is interesting to note that Achilles was also a relative of Galatea through his mythological mother Thetis, another Nereïd. He was of course not of the same generation as Celtus which means that Thetis was substituted for his biological mother merely as a mark of honour. In the Bronze Age, there were no civilian or military honours and the only way to immortalize kings and heroes was to substitute names from the Pantheon for one or both of their biological parents. As to the Illyrians, they are mentioned by Thucydides among the 'barbarians' living in western Greece in his time. Much later they would become so influential that, during the Roman Empire, Greece and part of southern Yougoslavia were known as the 'Prefecture of Illyricum'.
The relationship between Galatea, Celtus and Achilles is an irrefutable piece of evidence that Homer's epics are of Celtic origin.
In this context, it is interesting to note that several specialists of the Celts actually compared the Celtic culture in Western Europe with Homeric culture, as both the vernacular Celtic epics and Homeric epics are heroic, both recount a warrior aristocracy, both describe warriors fighting from two-wheeled, horse-drawn chariots and both show the highest esteem for individual courage. But few suspected that Homer himself originated from the Atlantic seaboard, and those who did found it impossible to prove, because of the second major problem we have to solve : if one assumes that the Trojan War was a conflict between Celts fought in England, how does one explain that Egypt, Lesbos, Crete Cyprus and Syria are only a few days sailing from Troy ?
This problem remained the major stumbling block until I realized that in Homer's time these places had entirely different names : Lesbos was called Issia, Cyprus was Alasjia, Crete was Keftiu, Syria was Aram while Egypt was called Kemi or Misr (as today) and in Hebrew Mitsrayim, also unchanged until today. The conclusion was that the geographical names mentioned by Homer designated entirely different places, which were situated, as it turned out, in Western Europe. It thus appears that we have always made a monumental error in the chronology of place-names, and that there has been a transfer of place-names from Western Europe to the Mediterranean just as much later, colonists would give familiar names to places in the America's and other regions in the world.
In the Bronze Age and the Iron Age the transfer of place-names was due to the so-called Sea Peoples, who, judging by their names, were Celts and Gauls from the Atlantic seaboard who sailed into the Mediterranean as early as the second millenium BC as recorded by the Egyptians. What is more, Herodotus tells us that the city of Athens was founded by a non-Greek people, the Pelasgians, meaning Sea Peoples. According to him, the Pelasgians changed the names of many Greek towns and began speaking Greek when they had integrated with the local population.
THE SEA PEOPLES (Thirteenth century BC)
Egyptian names (Likely origin)
Dardany (Dardanians - Trojans from England, Dardanus being an ancestor of King Priam)
Denyen (Danaans - Danes, people from Scandinavia)
Tjekker (People from England, Teucer being an ancestor of King Priam)
Peleset (Pelasgians - "who dwell on the sea" people from the Low Countries)
Shikala (Sikule - "who live on ships", people from western France)
Note: The above table updated to 2005 version.
The detailed list of regiments in Book II of the Iliad enabled me to identify nearly all Homeric place-names in Western Europe of which only one-third was ever transposed to Greece and the Mediterranean. This work of identification was facilitated by the fact that place-names were grouped by region, mentioning also many rivers which are reputed to have the oldest names in Europe.
The picture that emerged was consistent and logical, as not only the geographical descriptions, but also the distances between places and the travel directions as given by Homer appeared to be entirely correct.
As we all know, the Trojan War was started by Agamemnon, who was called 'the wide-ruling king', an epithet unjustified if he ruled over the small, northeastern corner of the Peloponnese, but most appropriate in Western Europe, where he ruled over a very vast territory indeed, stretching from the Gironde river in southwest France to the Rhine near Cologne in Germany.
We can therefore consider Agamemnon as the first king of France in documented history, whose capital was Mycenae, since called Troyes, situated to the southeast of Paris on the Seine river. His kingdom was called Argos, a name preserved by the Argonne region in northern France. Here, river names have changed very little over time. For instance, the Orneia river in Homer is now the Orne. The same is true for many towns, such as Cleonae, now Cléon and Gonoesse, now Gonesse, both situated near the Seine. But other names changed beyond recognition, such as Corinth, which became Courances after the Middle Ages, when it was still called Corinthia. Similarly, Homer's Tyrins was still called Tirins in the Middle Ages, but has since changed its name to Thury-Harcourt, a little town in Normandy. And Agamemnon's capital Mycenae was apparently renamed Troyes after his victory in the Trojan War, much like in our era the names of victorious battles are given to avenues, squares and buildings in our cities, such as Trafalgar Square or Waterloo Station.
The Achaeans (Homer never speaks of Greeks) under the command of Agamemnon, had waged war against a nation overseas, the Troad, which turned out to correspond to present England, where Troy stood on the Gog Magog Hills near Cambridge. These hills, whose name refers to the most terrrible battle of mankind in prehistory, mentioned in the Bible by the prophet Ezechiel, are about 100 meters above sealevel, where they form a plateau large enough for a city with wide streets and a garrison of 50.000 warriors. In the adjacent plain, all rivers mentioned by Homer can be identified between the Ditton Woods and the Wash, which was an ideal bay to receive the huge fleet of 1186 ships. It was also possible to identify many towns destroyed by Achilles in the plain as well as two giant war-dykes and remains of prehistoric hill-forts. The Achaean army was installed on the south coast of the Wash which was some 40 kilometers further to the south than at present, close to Littleport and Shippea Hill.
There remains the crucial question as to why 29 regiments of continental Celts would wage a war against other Celts in England, given that they had much in common, had the same language and practised the same religion. The reason for the war must have been to secure free access to Cornish tin, just like more recently 29 allies united for the Gulf War to protect their free access to the sources of crude oil in the Middle-East.
In the Bronze Age, tin was a highly valued commodity which was as important for the economy as crude oil today. Tin is required to produce bronze which is an alloy consisting of about 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin. Whereas copper is found in many places in Europe, in the second millenium BC tin was found virtually exclusively in two regions : Cornwall and Brittany. But we know from archaeological research that the tin mines in western France were already worked-out by 1200BC, which is the reason why arsenic had to be used to harden copper, with dire consequences for people's health as attested by skeletons dating from the period. As this coïncides with the time of the Trojan War, we may assume that access to tin was the real cause of the conflict. Commerce was no alternative, as the Continentals had nothing of great value to offer in exchange, the British Isles being also rich in gold, silver and copper. Without tin, the Continent would virtually have returned to Stone Age living conditions, whence the decision of king Agamemnon, whom Homer called 'leader of men' to take the great responsibility of launching the greatest war the world had ever seen.
The 28 allies of Agamemnon came from regions as far apart as southern Spain and southern Scandinavia. Among those from Spain were Odysseus - whose real name was Nanus according to the 11th century Byzantine scholar Tzetzes - whose island kingdom was in the present province of Cadiz where all the islands are now part of the mainland due to the silting up of the coastal areas by the Guadalquivir and Guadalete rivers. Of all the allies, only Odysseus was reticent to participte in the war which is understandable for the king of the strategically best situated port in Europe, Cadiz, as he expected to always be able to acquire some tin from seafarers stopping over in the harbour of Ithaca.
Among Odysseus' neighbours were Nestor, king of Pylos - now called Pilas - who was nicknamed 'the Horseman of Gerenia' after the present town of Gerena in the same region. Menelaus, king of Sparta, lived in a town at the foot of the Esparteros mountain, this town being renamed Moron by the Moors. Further south we find Homer's Sidon, presently Medina Sidonia, which is Arab for 'town of Sidon'. To the north, another famous ally of Agamemnon was Achilles, prince of 'deep-soiled Phthia' in the Low Countries where is the fertile delta of the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde rivers. On ancient maps, the name of the Schelde is spelled as 'Scelt', a name cognate with 'Celts' according to some researchers. They may well be right, as we find also a village called 'Galatea' on ancient maps of the region, after the mythological mother of the Celts, whose name means 'Milkwhite'.
In Homer's time, Phthia appears to have been the most important religious centre of the Celts from both sides of the North sea. For reasons of secrecy, the Achaean fleet had therefore to be assembled in a remote region of Denmark. Here the port of Aulis was situated in the present province of Aalborg in North Jutland, where, near the village of Nors, archaeologists have found a hecatomb of 100 small ships of goldleaf dating from around 1200BC. The 'Treasure of Nors', which is now in the National Museum of Copenhagen, was almost certainly a votive offering by the Achaean fleet before sailing to Troy in England, as both the time and the site near the large inland lakes in northern Jutland suggest.
Among the 17 regiments of Trojan allies, two came from Finistère, the westernmost tip of France and the others from various regions of England, Scotland and Wales. The allies from Finistère sailed up the Severn and Avon as far as Pershore, which corresponds to Homer's Percote, from where, according to the poet, they travelled overland to Troy.
After the fall of Troy, Aeneas, his son Ascanius as well as Antenor, the counsellor of king Priam, managed to flee the country to settle in those parts of Europe that were not inhabited by allies of Agamemnon, in particular in Portugal, where we find the Troia peninsula south of Lisbon, and in the Mediterranean countries, in particular in Italy and northwestern Turkey, near the Dardanelles, which bear the alternative name for the Trojans, the Dardanians (after Dardanus, founder of Troy in England). It was here, around the Aegean Sea, that the memory of the Trojan War was kept alive, in Greece by the descendants of the Sea Peoples of the continental seaboard of western Europe, who cited the verses of Homer, and in Turkey by the descendants of the Trojans from England, who cited the story as told by Dares. It is therefore not surprising that over time the peoples living around the Aegean Sea believed that the Trojan War had taken place in their part of the world.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote his 'History of the Kings of Britain' in the early Middle Ages, based on a much older document, a great-grandson of Aeneas, by the name of Brutus, sailed with an army to England where he founded London under the name New Troy (Caerdroia in Celtic) in 1100 BC.
Brutus became the first of the Trojan kings mentioned by the author. Brutus built his capital on the Thames (Homer's Temese) rather than on the Gog Magog Hills for a better access to the North Sea, as the Wash was gradually silting up to form the present Fenlands.
This genealogy is based on Homer from Dardanus down to Aeneas, while the lineage from Aeneas down to Brutus figures in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The combined genealogy confirms that Homer's Troy was situated in England as it is most unlikely that Brutus would have been allowed to found a new capital in this country and become its king if he had not had strong ancestral ties with the local population and a claim to the throne.
Since Hector's infant son was reportedly killed during the sack of Troy, Brutus being of the lineage of Aeneas, was the rightful successor of the Trojan kings of Homer's time. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, on their way from the Mediterranean to England, Brutus and his army were joined by other Trojans, the descendants of Antenor under the command of Corineus soon after they had passed the 'Pillars of Hercules', in this context the Strait of Gibraltar. This would confirm that some Trojans had indeed settled in Portugal, most likely in the region of the Troia peninsula. The combined armies then sacked and burned towns along the French coast terrifying the inhabitants with the manifest intention to discourage these people to attack them in the rear during the liberation of England. It is hardly a coincidence that Brutus landed in Totnes in Cornwall, not far distant from the tin mines, as he had no doubt to neutralize the Achaean garrison in Land's End before liberating the rest of the country.
Also according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Cornwall owes its name to Corineus who was Brutus' second in command, while Brutus, once he had become king of England named the country Britain after himself. Since the medieval author has provided us with a complete list of the kings of England from 1100BC to the Middle Ages, it becomes also clear why Queen Elizabeth I was once greeted as 'that sweet remain of Priam's state, that hope of springing Troy'. This was certainly not - as is often believed - because of the Tudor fashion to admire Homer, as in that case they would not have identified with the losers of the war. No, it was clearly because at the time it was still known that Elizabeth I really was heiress to the throne of the Trojan kings. England's history can therefore now be retraced to Dardanus, the founder of Dardania, the most ancient name for the country, who lived in the fourteenth century BC.
On re-reading Homer, keeping in mind the particularities of the Bronze Age Celtic culture and the poet's detailed toponomy of Western Europe, one must admit that his descriptions of both the society of his time and the geography are astonishingly accurate.
We must at last recognize that Homer was not an 'ignoramus' and 'liar' but a particularly well-informed poet, whose works now turn out to contain an unsuspected wealth of information on the Bronze Age history of England and the Continent, about which nothing was known until now. But we still have to deal with the often heard argument that Homer's epics concern Greek history because his works were written in ancient Greek. However, this is a very weak argument as it matters little whether an event is recounted in one language or another. In fact Homer's texts were transmitted orally for some 400 years before they were translated and written down in Greece but it is still possible to retrace their origin to the Sea Peoples living on the Atlantic seaboard. It is indeed unlikely that the original language was Greek.
Already Professor Flacelière noted that 'the metrics of the epics, the dactylic hexameter, seems to be a borrowing, an imitation of a foreign model rather than an invention of the Greeks themselves, since the lines contain an abnormally high proportion of short syllables for their language, and thus require a particular effort on the part of the poet'.
It also appears that Homer's Greek contains a large number of loan words from western European languages, relatively more often from Dutch rather than English, French or German. This phenomenon is not difficult to understand in view of the migration of the Sea Peoples into the Mediterranean during the second millenium BC, as confirmed by Egyptian records as well as Herodotus. Conversely we may assume that a large number of Greek words were adopted in Western Europe long before the Renaissance. We may take this to be so as Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us that Brutus and his men spoke 'Trojan' or 'Crooked Greek' which subsequently became 'British'.
As to the date of the Trojan War, it is generally assumed that the event took place around 1200BC although estimates vary widely. Eratosthenes placed the destruction of Troy in 1184BC on genealogical grounds. This comes quite close to the date of Odysseus' visit to the Low Countries just after the destruction of Troy as recorded by the Frisian Oera Linda Book, better known in England under the title 'The Other Atlantis'. Converted to the Christian calendar this would have been in 1188BC, implying that the war had started in 1198BC, a date also compatible with the foundation of New Troy around 1100BC by Aeneas' great-grandson.
We can deduct from Homer's works that he must have composed the Iliad about one generation after the war but not later than 1150BC. The best guess would be around 1160BC, followed by the Odyssey around 1155. These dates are also in line with his description of a late Bronze Age culture with a rudimentary iron technology.
It seems very unlikely that the epics were composed at a later date for a number of reasons. For instance, there is no mention of a single person living after the Trojan War, not even the sons or grandsons of Aeneas, nor is there any mention of the important city of Thebes in Boeotia, which according to Thucydides, was founded sixty years after the sack of Ilium. If, on the other hand the Iliad had been composed around 750BC as is often believed, the Greeks, being convinced that the Trojan War was part of their history, would almost certainly have added Thebes to the list of regiments. The Greeks would also have felt obliged to give a more prominent role to the regiment of Athens which is hardly mentioned in the Iliad, as it was an unimportant place in Western Europe.
These considerations lead to other important conclusions : first, the lists of regiments were not added at a later stage to the Iliad, as is often believed, but formed from the very beginning an integral part of the epic, which indeed often repeats names of persons and cities mentioned in these lists and second, the epics were transmitted orally for about four centuries without significant changes (although there are some interpolations), thanks to the use of metric verse.
As everyone knows, the fall of Troy was engineered by Odysseus who devised the trick of having the Trojans themselves introduce the famous wooden horse packed with Achaean warriors into their city. Ever since, the Trojan Horse has remained the symbol of people bringing defeat upon themselves and of catastrophe due to internal weakness. Although it cannot be established with certainty whether the story of the Trojan Horse is based on an historical event, I believe that the huge wooden horse was effectively built and that the unsuspecting Trojans indeed introduced it in their town. I also believe that there were many Achaean warriors inside the structure. However, where my opinion differs with that of other historians is that I am sure that these warriors were not alive but dead. This may seem surprising at first sight, but the explanation is logical and can easily be deducted from Homer's text as follows:
In the Odyssey we read that on the eve of his return to Ithaca, Odysseus is the guest of honour at a banquet in the palace of king Alkinous. During the dinner, the bard Demodocus sings of the last days of the Trojan War and when he tells the story of the valiant Achaeans hidden in the wooden horse, who eventually sacked the city, Odysseus starts to weep. This is noticed by Alkinous, who orders the bard to stop singing. The important question is of course, why would a heroic commander cry when he is reminded of his greatest victory ? Because of the victims he has made ? That is most improbable, as we have never heard of generals weeping at dinner parties while they listen to words of admiration and praise for their victories. And if someone would be so indiscreet as to remind them of the terrible sufferings inflicted on the enemy, the reply would certainly be that there is no pleasant way of killing enemies during a war.
We are therefore given to understand that Odysseus weeps because he is deeply ashamed of himself. He had obviously something terrible on his conscience, but what could that be ? A first clue is given in the very beginning of the Iliad where Homer tells us that in the final year of the war the plague was raging in the Achaean camp. The warriors believed that the epidemic was caused by the black magic of a Trojan priest of Apollo, whose daughter, Chryseis, had been kidnapped by the Achaeans and given to their leader Agamemnon. Although Agamemnon was forced by the army to return the girl to her father, the problem of the epidemic was certainly not solved. As the number of his warriors quickly dwindled, Agamemnon offered towns, gold and women to persuade his estranged ally Achilles - and his troops which had remained on the sidelines for some time - to return to the battlefield. But Achilles refused, and the army was under increasing pressure to take Troy before most of its warriors had died of the plague. Since the Trojans were apparently not affected by the disease, the balance of fighting power was increasingly tipped in their favour. At that crucial moment in the war, the wily Odysseus must have pondered how to transmit the plague to the Trojans. After all, it was unfair of the gods to punish the Achaeans with the disease, but not the Trojans. Since those who had died from the plague were cremated on pyres of wood as was Celtic custom, - which in the circumstances was a wise custom indeed - he conceived the idea of constructing a pyre in the shape of a wooden horse on wheels to contain the bodies of the victims of the disease. He let it be known in the enemy camp that the horse was empty and built as an offering to Athene. When the troops were subsequently ordered to burn their huts and take to the sea, simulating a sudden departure home, Odysseus would have two possibilities of winning the war: the first possibility was that the Trojans would put fire to the wooden horse standing in the plain during a religious ceremony dedicated to Athene, discovering too late that there were dead bodies inside. In the opinion of the superstitious and god-fearing people of the time, this error was sure to bring the anger of the gods over the Trojans. The Celts used to offer living humans and animals to their gods, while sacrificing dead bodies was considered as the worst of insults to the Immortals. If that were to happen, the gods would somehow make the Trojans pay dearly for it, thus enhancing the chances of the Achaeans.
The second possibility was that the Trojans would introduce the wooden horse into their city for the religious ceremony. In that case they would inevitably be contaminated by the liquid dissection poison of the corpses inside the horse. Subsequently, the plague would spread all the more quickly as the population was weakened by the long - although often interrupted - war.
According to Homer, the Trojans did indeed introduce the horse into the city, but we can be sure that the warriors hidden inside were dead, as it is impossible, from a military point of view, to take a large city with a handful of soldiers. From history we know that it has occasionally succeeded but in very different circumstances. For instance, in 1590 a small group of Dutch warriors liberated Breda from the Spanish occupiers after penetrating into the city hidden in a peat boat. The story is famous in the Netherlands, but a similar feat would have been impossible in Troy for two reasons : not only was Breda at the time a much smaller town than Troy, but, more importantly, its inhabitants sided with the infiltrators. If these two preconditions are not fulfilled, the mission has no chance to succeed.
There is still another, very down-to-earth reason why the warriors hidden inside the horse cannot have been alive : people sitting for one or more days locked-up would need to relieve themselves, and this would not remain unnoticed ! Therefore, our conclusion must be that Odysseus wept because he felt guilty of a hideous act we would call today a warcrime, and that Demodocus' version of the story of the Trojan Horse was a cover-up for a crime he, wily Odysseus, 'the man of the many resources', had devised.
Obviously, the Achaean commanders could not tell the home front that they had won the war with a criminal act. That is why also Homer, by mouth of Nestor, recounts that the most famous Achaeans, including Odysseus, were hidden in the horse and sacked the city. The poet even reinforces the cover-up by suggesting that it was Athene herself who had inspired Odysseus' trick.
The contamination of an enemy camp with the plague was repeated in the Middle Ages when the Mongols conquered an Italian fortified town on the Crimea in the Black Sea in a similar way. They hurled corpses of plague victims into the city with huge wooden levers. A few infected survivors escaped to Sicily from where the plague epidemic started that would take the lives of one-third of Europe's population.
As to Odysseus, he had acted against the strict code of honour of his time, namely that one was not allowed to kill people at a distance, the only exception being the archers (the noun for which was correctly rendered in ancient Greek as the 'cowards'). The people of the Bronze Age would be incredulous to learn that in our times mass-destruction can be achieved at a great distance by simply pushing a button. To them, real honour was bestowed only on the man who excelled in close combat.
Odysseus probably believed that he had merely 'assisted' the gods in spreading the plague in the Trojan camp, whereas in reality he had set a trap for the Immortals for which he would be severely punished. As we all know, he had to wander for ten years over the seas suffering terrible woes. This was imposed upon him by Poseidon, not in his function as god of the ocean, but in his quality as lord of the subconscious. The initiates among Homer's public would certainly have interpreted the Odyssey from a different perspective than the profane. The purification of the soul through harsh trials has always been a prerequisite for initiation into the Mysteries, and for Odysseus the way to become an initiate or, as Homer calls it, 'god-like', was long and painful indeed.
Fortunately, he enjoyed the protection of Athene, the goddess of wisdom, who rescued him on several occasions. This also has a symbolic meaning, because wisdom emanates from the subconscious, but not without a great deal of suffering. For the Ancients, the symbol of the eternal struggle between Poseidon and Athene, that is between the subconscious and wisdom, was the olive tree (in southern Europe) or the willow (in northern Europe). That is why Homer mentions the 'long-leafed' olive tree at the entrance of the harbour of Ithaca, present Cadiz, where Odysseus finally arrived after many years of ordeals which were necessary for his redemption.
This then, is what I believe to be the true story of the famous citadel of Troy, the 'holy city' which once stood just outside Cambridge on the Gog Magog Hills.
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