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Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

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Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Bert » Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:09 am

I am getting into the story of the Iliad.<br />This %@*&^* Agamemnon who supposedly is on an honourable mision but kidnaps the daughter of a priest doing it.<br />I wish I could read Greek a little faster in order to find out what happens next.<br />I am wondering if the Iliad is historically acurate or if there was a lot of "poetic license used.
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby bingley » Thu Aug 28, 2003 2:43 am

Well, Troy was inhaibited at the right time, although the signs of destruction by fire that Schliemann thought proved the Iliad was true turned out to be the wrong period. I suppose short of a grafitto saying [face=SPIonic]A)xillleu/s h)=ke[/face] in Linear B we'll never know.
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Milito » Thu Aug 28, 2003 2:59 am

In the Greek history course I did last fall, it was suggested that the Iliad holds "echos" of the Mycenaean culture, about which we are still finding out..... But the Iliad is also told through the eyes of Dark Age Greeks, so there is a blending of two (at least!) cultures interpreting events going on. Trying to sort out just how accurate (or not) the Iliad is seems to be a part of the studies of the Mycenaean culture, and frankly, it's pretty fascinating....<br /><br />The general cautious feeling expressed by my texts was that the general events - a league of Mycenaean-culture Greeks attacking and eventually destroying Troy, which was apparently destroyed several times over through history - is at least possible, if not probable, and that although the Mycenaean city-states seem to have been fairly autonomous, it is conceivable that they allowed a single individual to have some limited overlordship of them, perhaps only as a war leader. The Mycenaeans did build tremendously huge walls around their citadels, and the later Ancient Greeks found them so big that they couldn't fathom the idea that mere mortals might have done that work (this from the people who created the works on the Acropolis in Athens!) so they assumed them to be the works of the gods or the Cyclopes, or something equally supernatural.<br /><br />Kilmeny
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Skylax » Thu Aug 28, 2003 8:00 pm

[quote author=Bert de Haan link=board=6;threadid=561;start=0#5052 date=1062029375]<br />I am wondering if the Iliad is historically acurate or if there was a lot of "poetic license used.<br />[/quote]<br />Are the Homeric poems true ? The answer is the same as for Beowulf : such poems are not supposed to be true. How could it be ? However, I often noticed that people want Homer to be true. Even scholars begin sometimes by saying that Homer has no historical value but later they do as if it was the case. I knew pupils who were sad to learn that Homer didn’t compose an historical work.<br /><br />Now, are there things in Homer that we recognize as real ?<br /><br />- Unlike Snow White’s castel, the poems allow to localize the theatre of the Trojan war, south of the Dardannelles. Excavations have revealed a site inhabitated 2900-ca 950 BC, with remains of seven different settlements («towns»). The site was abandoned for 250 years, then inhabitated again 700 BC – 500 AD. We can be sure that this last town was called Ilion, which was the name of Troy’s citadel.<br /><br />- Some scattered material details refer to the Mycenian Age (ca 1500-1200 BC): bronze armament, war chariot, the famous helmet covered with boar tusks, of which an example was found in excavations in Greece.<br /><br />- The word [face=SPIonic]a)/nac[/face] « Lord » was also used by the Mycenians (wa-na-ka).<br /><br />- Mycenae, Agamemnon’s city, and Pylos, Nestor’s one, are mentioned by Homer although these Mycenian sites had disappeared in Classical times.<br /><br />However, the simplified social organization, the lack of writing, allusions to iron etc remind to Dark Ages (ca 1100-800).<br /><br />Now, there are sometimes confusions in Homer showing that the Mycenian tradition had already faded away among the poets:<br />- the ending [face=SPIonic]–fi[/face] (in Mycenian Greek an instrumental plural), is used in Homeric Greek to denote genitive or dative, singular or plural.<br />- the fighting methods: the use of the war chariot is juxtaposed in Iliad to the use of foot soldiers in close order, but effective fights are between single warriors (or small groups fighting for a corpse). One cannot figure out how it could have worked.<br /><br />But Iliad and Odyssey are still marvelous poems even if we don't know the events on which they are based, if any.<br /><br />
This %@*&^* Agamemnon who supposedly is on an honourable mision but kidnaps the daughter of a priest doing it.
<br /><br />Iliad and Odyssey frequently show that all these kings are plunderers. Alexandros kidnaps Helen as he is returning from a plundering expedition on the coast of Lebanon. While besieging Troy, the Greek plunder the surrounding cities, killing men and enslaving women. C'était la vie. See the words of Briséis, Achilles' captive, who laments after Patroclus' death (Iliad, XIX, 287ss, translated by Samuel Butler):<br /><br /> “Patroclus, dearest to my hapless heart, alive I left thee when I went from the hut, and now I find thee dead, thou leader of hosts, [290] as I return thereto: thus for me doth evil ever follow hard on evil. My husband, unto whom my father and queenly mother gave me, I beheld mangled with the sharp bronze before our city, and my three brethren whom mine own mother bare, brethren beloved, all these met their day of doom. [295] But thou, when swift Achilles slew my husband, and laid waste the city of godlike Mynes, wouldst not even suffer me to weep, but saidest that thou wouldst make me the wedded wife of Achilles, and that he would bear me in his ships to Phthia, and make me a marriage-feast among the Myrmidons. [300] Wherefore I wail for thee in thy death and know no ceasing, for thou wast ever kind.”<br /><br />Poor, poor, poor Briséis : "Achilles killed your husband, but, don't worry : he will surely marry you !"<br /><br />In the Odyssey (IX, 39s), Ulysses tells the beginning of his... odyssey (translated by Samuel Butler):<br /><br />[39] "When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismaros, which is the city of the Kikones. There I sacked the town and put the people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to complain."<br /><br />How ingenuous !
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Bert » Fri Aug 29, 2003 4:23 am

Very interesting. Thank you.
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby greagach » Mon Sep 01, 2003 5:06 pm

<br /> Very interesting remarks, Milito and Skylax. Taking my hat off!<br /><br />Recently, I’ve read in a German paper about the discovery, near Sparta (southern Hellas), of a Mycenaean complex of buildings, which the chief updigger attributes to Menelaos, the legendary(?) king of Sparta and husband of Helen. Now, if this really is the Palace of Menelaos, and much will depend on the completion of the excavation and study of findings, it could be sensational news for archaeology and Homeric studies. Some specialists are almost certain, given the amount of unearthed fragments carrying the name “HE-LE-NA” in and around the site. <br /><br />But quite astonishing was to read about the story behind it all: The archaeologist in command of the fieldwork said that he was led to the site following hints in Homer’s Iliad, and by the very fact that in that particular village of Peloponnese, people had an unusual predilection for giving their children the names Menelaos and Helena! <br /><br />Now, isn’t this an exciting proof of how Homer’s works still continue to inspire scientists, humanists, even locals? <br /><br />As to whether Iliad was true, who cares, I agree. It is above all a work of ancient literature. <br /><br />But isn’t it also strange, that in a time when most people, after centuries of idealization of the Iliad and Odyssey, finally compromise on the fact that these works are the produce of some poet’s “licence” (and learn to read them with a more pragmatic and often impersonal approach), Archaeology is coming up with evidence for the contrary?? (Mycenae, Linear B, Ilion, Northern Aegean Bronze culture, and now this!) <br /><br /><br />Strange times we’re living in, and I wonder what’s still in store for us!.. <br /><br /><br />
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Bert » Mon Sep 01, 2003 6:56 pm

[quote author=greagach link=board=6;threadid=561;start=0#5172 date=1062435994]<br /><br /> As to whether Iliad was true, who cares, I agree. It is above all a work of ancient literature. <br /><br /><br />A work of ancient literature, sure. However, it does make a difference to me if it is written like Shakespeare wrote eg. about Julius Ceasar, or if was written like a bard would write to pass on history to the next generation. [/quote]
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby klewlis » Mon Sep 01, 2003 9:09 pm

The greeks had a very different conception of "proper" history than we do, so we need to be careful not to superimpose our own desire for "accuracy" onto greek artistic works. They had a habit of reshaping the story to fit their agenda. For example:<br /><br />"Aeschylus, like Shakespeare, had a long and complex story to work with. The difference is that Aeschylus tears his to bits, and with the bits he begins to construct a play about a certain conception of justice: roughly speaking, that retributive justice inflicted in plain revenge leads to chaos. His framework is not the story, but this conception. Those bits of the story which he does not want, the story of the war, for instance, or the seduction of Clytemnestra by Aegisthus, he throws away, and those which he does want he uses not in chronological order, but in the order that suits him. (He is able to treat the story in this way because his audience knew its main outline already. One great advantage in using myth was that the dramatist was saved the tedious business of exposition.) He is, in this special sense, creating something new, the Form is entirely under his own control. His theme, crime punished by crime that must be punished by crime, he states a first, a second, a third time, with ever increasing tension, and the result is a logical, beautiful and powerful structure. All Greek plays are, in this way, built on a single conception, and nothing that does not directly contribute to it is admitted."<br /><br />(Kitto, "The Greeks", pp 185-186)
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Bert » Tue Sep 02, 2003 1:27 am

That makes good sense. Thank you.
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Re:Is the story-line of the Iliad historically acurate?

Postby Moerus » Wed Sep 03, 2003 8:32 am

There are many books on this question. So it's impossible to explain this in a few lines. So I will be very brief:<br />No it is not historicly correct; <br />although there is a historical nucleus! But most things aren't historicly true. <br />But first of all the Iliad is a poem. And poems don't have to be historicly correct! If the Iliad sais something it's always correct, cause it's a poem and it makes his own poetic world. Historicly correct is an other thing. The nucleus is historicly correct; there was once a war, etc., etc. <br /><br />So I suggest to read a book about it if you are interested.
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