Perseus Tiryns Troy Iliad Odyssey Moses (1 of 2) / © 1990-2004 by Franz Gnaedinger, Zurich, fgn(a), fg(a) /


Homer 1 / Homer 2 / Homer 3







The Fable of Perseus. The Fable of Tiryns. The Fable of Troy.

Reading the Iliad. Reading the Odyssey. The Fable of Moses.



Poetical cosmology in Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia

based on the work of Wilhelm Pötters


BUDDING CIRCLES - The grammar of Pater Rupert Ruhstaller OSB



In honor of Gerhard Goebel





Franz Gnaedinger, Zurich, 2001




Mein Dank geht an Katherine, die einmal mehr das Beste aus meinem Englisch machte (verbleibende Fehler und allfällige mühsame Passagen gehen auf mein Konto). I wish to thank Katherine, who, once again, made the very best of my English (remaining mistakes and tedious passages are entirely my fault).












The ancient ones loved to convey knowledge in the form of myth. The entertaining yet complex form of the story makes it possible to say a great deal, while using a small number of words. Let me explore the possibilities of telling a fable by reinventing some of the early Greek myths on the basis of present-day archaeology.


Facts and speculation:

     The megalithic Snake Pillar Building on the Goebekli Tepe in the (Sanli-)Urfa region in southeast Anatolia was built over 11,000 years ago. Its site is rich in reliefs and statues (excavation: Klaus Schmidt). The oldest copper sickle from Zaerzentmihaly, western Hungary, is believed to be 7,500 years old. I assume that the very first copper sickles were cast in the region of the Caucasus 8,000 years ago, for the Caucasus and Anatolia were the pioneers of early ceramics and metallurgy. The first examples of Old European Script (a term coined by Marija Gimbutas) on vessels and figurines from the river valley of the Danube, west of the Black Sea, are about 8,000 years old.

     7,500 years ago the rising level of the Mediterranean caused the Bosporus to gave in, and a mass of water corresponding to that of 200 Niagara Falls thundered into the deeper basin of the Black Sea, at that time a freshwater sea, making its level rise by 70 meters in the first year and a further 50 m in the following, increasing its size by 100,000 square meters and expelling over two million farmers (Walter Pitman and William Ryan). Many figurines of a rain/bird/snake goddess, possibly anticipating Gorgo (a speculation of mine), date from around this time.

     Cronus was originally an Anatolian weather god. Zeus was an Indo-European weather god, his bird the eagle. Zeus' brother Poseidon was originally a god of streams and rivers, and his animal was the horse. Zeus' brother Hades ruled the underworld, his animal being the dog (Iranian followers of Zarathustra even today believe that only a dog can sense if the soul of a deceased person lingers or has left the body). - Prometheus was punished for bringing fire to mankind, and was chained to a mountain in the Caucasus, where Zeus' eagle fed on his liver. Heracles freed Prometheus. The trident is still the symbol of the Crimea and Ukraine. - Atlas carried heaven on his neck and shoulders. According to the Greek geographer Strabo, the pillars of Heracles are also found in the region of the Black Sea, and fleeces were used for washing gold out of the rivers of Georgia. - The founders of proto-dynastic Egypt possibly came from the region of the Caucasus and conquered Egypt via the Wadi Hammamat in the period from around 3400 till 3200 BC.

     My Fable of Perseus follows: a conglomeration of facts, working theses and free speculation, brought together in fable form:


Gaea and Uranus had a son, a titan by the name of Cronus. Cronus lived on Mount Ararat. His friend Japetus lived across the valley, on the Ala Dag above Lake Van, then a freshwater lake. Japetus had two sons: a strong one by the name of Atlas, and a clever one by the name of Prometheus. Atlas helped the Anatolians build their megalithic temples, while Prometheus taught the Caucasians how to melt copper and how to cast and hammer copper sickles. Cronus had three daughters: Gorgo of the White Sea, Gorgo of the Caspian Sea, and Gorgo Medusa of the Aral Sea, which was by then as large as the White Sea or the Caspian Sea, and all three seas were freshwater.

     On the Iranian highland lived three brothers: Zeus, creator of the eagle; Poseidon, creator of the horse; and Hades, creator of the dog. Zeus had many offspring, among them Perseus, Heracles and Jason.

     Medusa was in love with Perseus, who, however, loved Andromeda from Ethiopia. His brother Jason loved gold more than anything; he longed for the Golden Fleece belonging to Gorgo of the White Sea. Jason thought up a ruse, and asked Perseus for a favor. Lie to Medusa, he begged him, tell her you love her, and ask her for the Golden Fleece of her sister Gorgo of the White Sea. Perseus went to Medusa, who loved him, and said: Medusa, Gorgo of the Caspian Sea, you are a beauty; if I am to marry you, my beauty must be a match for you. Bring me the Golden Fleece of your sister, Gorgo of the White Sea, for me to wear. Medusa asked her sister for the Golden Fleece. Gorgo of the White Sea saw that her sister was in love, and gave it to her. Medusa handed it over to Perseus.

     Perseus now gave the Fleece to Jason, whereupon Medusa realized that Perseus did not love her, and she turned on him in fury. Perseus took a sickle sword he had received from Prometheus and beheaded Medusa. Her sea immediately began to shrink, and its fresh water turned salt and bitter. Her sister Gorgo of the White Sea turned black, she crashed through the Bosporus, and the waters of the Sea of Marmara swept into the basin of the Black Sea, mixing its fresh water with salt, flooding its shores, sweeping away fields and expelling farmers. The anger of Gorgo of the Caspian Sea sullied her fresh water with salt and bitterness. The waters of all three seas rose in storm, perilous to sail on; and the women who lived on the shores of the Caspian and the Aral sea became Amazons.

     Medusa's head lived on but was so hideous with fury that each mortal who looked upon it was turned to stone. Zeus took the head and put it on a high mountain peak in the Caucasus where it could harm no-one. Zeus and Poseidon felt pity for Medusa, since her love for Perseus had been so real. Poseidon made a horse from her blood, Zeus placed wings upon its back, and thus together they created Pegasus.

     Cronus loved his daughters the Gorgons dearly, and wished to revenge poor Medusa, her head chained to a mountain peak. A titanic fight ensued when Atlas and Prometheus, helping Cronus, attacked Zeus, Poseidon and Hades; the latter, however, with the help of Perseus, Heracles and Jason, dethroned Cronus and Japetus. Jason and his dog, a monster with seven heads, guarded Cronus and Jason on the northern shore of Lake Van, whose sweetness had also turned to salt. Zeus captured Atlas and transformed him into the mountain Elbrus, obliging him to carry the loads of the heavens, and provide company for lonely Medusa. Zeus then chained Prometheus to a flank of the Elbrus (where his sickle may still be seen), and sent his eagle to feed on Prometheus' liver. For it was Prometheus' sickle sword that caused all the trouble: had Perseus had no sword, he could never have beheaded Medusa.

     Heracles took pity on Prometheus, his former enemy, and freed him from the rock. Poseidon observed this and proceeded with angry words to the Crimean pensinsula where Heracles lived. Clever Prometheus swiftly moulded a trident, using the Demerdshi as a smith's furnace. He presented the trident to Poseidon, and promised to respect him, Zeus and Hades forever after. Poseidon was pleased with the gift and made for the Aegean, showing everyone his beautiful weapon. Gorgo of the Black Sea thanked Heracles for freeing Prometheus, who had been an ally of her father Cronus, and allowed Heracles to marry the Virgin Snake, princess of the river Dnjeper. But Gorgo of the Black Sea was angry with Perseus and Jason, and she ordered Perseus to bring Andromeda before her, or she would release another terrible flood. The poor parents of Andromeda delivered their daughter, and Gorgo of the Black Sea chained her to a rock on its shore, where the head of Medusa guarded her.

     Perseus loved Andromeda so deeply that he feared neither Medusa nor Gorgo of the Black Sea, and he freed Andromeda from the rock. Gorgo of the Black Sea realized that Perseus' love for Andromeda was also genuine, and so she allowed Andromeda her freedom from the rock and gave her to Perseus, obliging him however to leave the Black Sea and the Caucasus regions and to settle in the Nile Valley.

     While she was thus absorbed, Jason, unnoticed, sailed along the southern shore of the Black Sea, passed the perilous Bosporus and Dardanelles, and arrived in Greece. Zeus and Poseidon founded Troy by the Aegean, and then moved on to Thessaly and later to the Peloponnese and Arcadia, where they found a new home on the mountain Lycaion.






(inspired by Derk Ohlenroth's translation of the Phaistos Disk; the pictograms on the disk; the former Circular Building of Tiryns from the Early Helladic period; a Mycenaean stucco head and several Mycenaean idols; a gold signet ring from a robber's cache at Tiryns; the fresco in the so-called Throne Room of Knossos; and many Mycenaean vessels from Crete)


In around 3000 BC, Greek speaking Indo-Europeans came from the western shore of the Black Sea, reached Dimini in Thessaly and built a fortified palace. In perhaps 2600 BC, people from Dimini reached the Argolis and settled in Lerna and Tiryns. They built the House of the Tiles in Lerna, and the Circular Building on the gray limestone hill of Tiryns on the then northern bank of the river Manesse, near the shoreline of the Argivian gulf. This unique building stood about 24 meters above the level of the plain. It combined a fortified palace with store rooms, granaries, a watchtower, and a Zeus sanctuary. Over 40 stone pillars, arranged like the petals of a flower, supported the 470 cm thick, strong clay wall. The diameter of the rosette measured nearly 32 meters. A wall surrounded the acropolis. The main gate lay on the northeast side and was guarded by several soldiers. Those allowed entrance turned to the left and followed a spiral causeway leading to the Circular Building topping the acropolis. Guardians in the high tower overlooked the polis of Tiryns below the limestone hill, and the Argivian plain and gulf. The round wall of the tower was plastered, shining white, and visible from afar - a welcome to returning sailors.

     In around 2300 BC the Circular Building was destroyed by fire. Ashes, clay and loose stones were removed, leaving only the bases of the pillars, which formed a rosette on the limestone hill, in the center of the spiraling causeway.

     In around 2000 BC, the Minoans built the palace of Knossos. There were several Greek colonies on Crete, and a vivid exchange of ideas was going on between Minoans and Mycenaeans.


The scene: Arcadia in around 1720 BC. A nobleman from Lycosoura and his hopeful son went on a journey to Phigalia, where they visited Elaia's grove (a sanctuary of Demeter / Black Elaia) and consulted the oracle of Nyx , noble late Night, Despoina, daughter of Elaia in the guise of a horse and Poseidon in the guise of a stallion. Two priests of Nyx, wearing horse masks, walked around the fire, beating the ground with bundles of rods, and imitating a pair of neighing horses [following Derk Ohlenroth]:


     Aio ae! Hyauax! Come, noble late Night, shadowy one,

     always born anew by the goddess


Thus they evoked the daughter of Demeter / Black Elaia and Poseidon. Hereupon a veiled priestess of Nyx pronounced her oracle:


     lykos ynos phaennos, lykos ynos askios


The priests explained her mysterious words: The shining lonely wolf is a ruler living in glory and splendor, but lonely when it comes to making an important decision; the lonely wolf expelled from its pack is a banished man living in misery, prowling around in the dark. The father gave these words long and careful consideration, and decided to send his promising son to a school in the Argolis. The young man was such an intelligent and diligent pupil that he won the respect of Eponymous Argos, king of Argos and Tiryns. This one loved the young man as a son, appointed him governor and later king of Tiryns.

     Argos was known for his sharp eyes: he saw every ship nearing the Argivian shore, even by night. In his younger years Argos, together with Jason of Iolkos, Laertes of Ithaca, Castor and Pollux, and other daring sailors, had voyaged to Cholkis on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, where they bought cheap gold, copper, and the rare tin needed for casting bronze. As an older man, he was now much concerned with agriculture in the Argolis, and he could well use a young man such as Eponymous Tiryns. Argos always said: We must hold together. He founded an Argivian alliance, whose members stamped the sign of their respective polis on their foreheads and cheeks when they held an assembly. The sign of Argolis was a dot or a filled circle surrounded by 6 (or more) dots, and this symbol was called the Eye of Argos. The sign of Tiryns was a pair of touching circles, symbolizing the friendship of Argos and Tiryns. The one of Asine was a rhombus, symbolizing the Argivian plain, the upper corner being Mycenae.

     A famine menaced Tiryns and the whole Argolis. The new king, Eponymous Tiryns, journeyed again to Elaia's grove in Phigalia. The gate in the southeast was guarded by a soldier. The king bought an ox, and with it was allowed to enter the oak grove and to follow the spiraling way up to the shrines on top of the hill. He passed several beehives, knowing well that the bee was sacred to Demeter; a small animal, and yet worshipped in the most magnificent constellation, namely Orion, which, in former times, had represented the goddess of the universe. Eponymous Tiryns passed a grotto of Demeter-Gaia, symbol of the earth, lying to the west. He passed one spring to the east and another to the southwest, sacred to Poseidon. Near these stood baking ovens, decorated with figurines of the pregnant goddess of grain and bread (who had also been so honored four thousand years earlier in Thessaly, the enduring breadbasket of Greece). Following the ascending way, taking the ox with him, Eponymous Tiryns reached the shrine of Demeter Black Elaia. She was worshipped in the form of a black statue of a woman with the head and mane of a horse: for Poseidon once had fallen in love with Demeter, who, hoping to ward him off, turned into a horse, whereupon he turned to a stallion and violated her, this making her so furious that she turned black and made the crop wither, and people began to starve. Pan, Zeus and the Moirae succeeded in consolating her, and the emmer grew again, and she gave birth to Despoina / Nyx. Eponymous Tiryns uttered a prayer, spoke of the famine in the Argolis, and promised to sacrifice an ox. The priest's helpers sacrificed the animal; the head was offered to Elaia, and a thigh to Nyx. Finally the king reached the top of the hill. Standing on a rock he caught a glimpse of the far away gulf of Kyparissia. Next to a pond filled with water from the springs in the oak grove and consecrated to Poseidon, stood another baking oven consecrated to Elaia bearing Nyx. The priests lit a fire and paced around it, wearing horse masks and evoking Nyx as before. Her veiled priestess pronounced another oracle, and the priests translated her words as follows: Take a twig from one of the sacred olive trees in our grove, return home and plant the twig: if it grows, your polis shall flourish, but if it withers, your polis will perish; be as diligent as a bee (an animal dear to our goddess), use your sting if necessary, and share the honey with your people. The king took an olive twig and hastened home, keeping it moist, and planted it. He forced the farmers to work twice as hard; savage beasts and grazing sheep, goats and oxen were all kept off the fields; hillsides were terraced in order to avoid further erosion; wells were dug for irrigation; horses, donkeys and oxen transported all kinds of loads; young hawks were trained for chasing snakes on the acropolis so the king and his administrators could work safely. Everyone was busy, the polis a swarm of buzzing bees, so to speak. And the olive twig grew, famine was averted, and the harvest was divided equitably among the dwellers of the town

     The grateful king had a temple built for Elaia and Nyx on the southern part of the acropolis, placed a shrine for Elaia on the western wall where she looked toward Phigalia, and a beehive on the eastern wall. Then he had a relief set into the lintel above the gate of the acropolis, depicting a pair of genii who combined the wolf / dog (Arcadian ruler) and the lion (Argivian ruler) together; they were dressed in bee skins, held libation jugs filled with mead, and flanked a Tree of Life. Instead of wings they had spirals emerging from their shoulders, and in the center of these, rosettes, to symbolize the rosette of the former Circular Building in the center of the spiral causeway, and hence the Argivian Zeus. (The holiest Zeus sanctuary in the Argolis had never been forgotten by the Mycenaeans).

     Meanwhile the king was accepted by all; no one complained any longer that he had come from Arcadia and did not believe in the same Zeus as the native Argivians.

     Another of the king's concern was to develop a useful script allowing better administration of the many goods available. He ordered his scribes to invent a sign for every sound produced by the lips and tongue, and thus they invented an alphabet.

     Sseyr (Zeus) was written as follows: a rosette plus a bald head plus an ear of emmer. The rosette was another reminder of the former Circular Building. The phonetic value of this sign was an emphatic Ss. The bald head with a pair of touching circles on its cheek symbolized Eponymous Tiryns, the godlike king, who averted famine; the phonetic value of this sign was ey. The ear of emmer symbolized agriculture, Eponymous Tiryns' main concern, and that of Eponymous Argos in his later years; the phonetic value of this sign was r. Together, the signs made up the name Sseyr.

     Many vocals and consonants were represented by more than one sign [e.g. there were six different signs for a; Derk Ohlenroth], allowing to a certain extent the choice of a pictogram suited to the meaning of a word or a message.

     The nobles of Lycosoura in Arcadia were proud of their great son Eponymous Tiryns and consecrated to him a shrine in their Zeus sanctuary. A pair of limestone disks, each measuring two arms across, represented in spiraling and circular inscriptions Elaia's grove in Phigalia and the acropolis of Tiryns.    (many more illustrations in Homer 3)


The Phigalia disk provided instructions on how to ask Despoina / Nyx for an oracle [following Derk Ohlenroth]:


     Enter Elaia's grove, kindle barked wood,

     walk around the fire,

     beat the ground with bundles of rods,

     and neigh suddenly like a pair of horses:

     Aio ae. Hyauax.

     Come, shadowy one, noble late Night,

     always born anew by the Goddess.


In the center field was shown an oven belonging to the goddess of grain, and the sign of water, meaning the pond of Poseidon, filled with water from the two springs in the oak grove of Phigalia. The word for biga, team of horses, i.e. Demeter in the guise of a horse and Poseidon in the guise of a stallion, began with a rosette, for Poseidon was a brother of Zeus. Elaia (Black Demeter) was shown as a standing woman with a protruding face and a mane (half woman, half horse); the phonetic value of this sign was a. This pictogram, however, was only used in a special context. It appears twice on the Phigalia disk: in E.L.AY.A (Black Demeter) and in G.AY.A (Demeter as goddess of the earth). It also appeared on the Tiryns disk; once in the spiral: in K.Y.OY.S.A, loved by Zeus (Demeter was a lover of Zeus and gave birth to their daughter Kore); and once on the ring: in S.A.O.S, without hope for salvation (Demeter, violated by Poseidon, in her fury turned black, made the emmer wither, and sent famine over the land).

     In the gate field of the Phigalia disk were seen offerings to Elaia: the head of an ox; two beehives (honey); a bag (according to Pausanias, unwashed sheep wool was offered to the the Phigalian Elaia); and a wine leave (honey and wine gave mead).



The spiral of the Tiryns disk honored Zeus, the shining acropolis of Tiryns, and the glory of the godlike king Eponymous Tiryns. [Following Derk Ohlenroth again, but in more words:]


Zeus the Argivian, once worshipped in the Circular Building, is justly called the Radiant. My Zeus from Arcadia who lives on the mountain Lycaion is the very same god. He, also, is a radiant one, and if the shining acropolis of Tiryns, visible from afar, resembles Zeus the radiant, then I, Eponymous Tiryns, ruler of this splendid polis, may be called a godlike man


The center of this spiral contained a rosette, meaning Zeus; and his name was repeated there. The center box contained a rosette, a male head, and an ear of emmer: Ss-ey-r (Zeus). Slryns (Tiryns) began with an angle, a building device, with the phonetic value s; this was followed either by a column (for the town) or a scepter (for the king), with the phonetic value l; then followed an ear of emmer, symbolizing agriculture, phonetic value r; then a ship, meaning the harbor of Tiryns, phonetic value y; then an ox hide, meaning the sacrifice for Demeter (to whom have been offered pigs and oxen) and Nyx (to whom have been offered limbs of animals), phonetic value r; then a soldier, representing a guardian of the acropolis, phonetic value s.

     Now for the circular inscription along the margin [following Derk Ohlenroth again]:


     Those who dare enter the Zeus sanctuary without permission

     shall be seized by Zeus and be sent lonely forever without hope of salvation.

     They will return without a shadow


The circular inscription symbolized the wall around the acropolis, while the spiral symbolized the spiraling way up to the Zeus altar on top of the hill. The box, in which the spiral and ring met, symbolized the main gate of Tiryns, to the northeast of the former Circular Building, guarded by several soldiers. A beehive on the ring was a reminder of the diligent bees that produce honey but also a sting. Wavy lines, symbol of water, were shown on the southern part of the wall, and symbolized the river Manesse, which by then flowed just south of the limestone hill. Four men near the center of the spiral - the heads of the king (twice) and of a soldier, and a walking man - gazed in four different directions, symbolizing the king and guardians overlooking the Argivian plain and gulf. In the gate box, where the spiral crossed the ring, were depicted a bow (meaning defense, the sting of the bee) and an olive twig (meaning life and peace, the Tree of Life). The words ASKIOS (without a shadow) and SSGLOS / THIGOS (touched, seized, taken hold of, hit, struck) flanked the gate box: an intruder will be seized by god and banished from the polis; from then on he will prowl around in the dark, be without a shadow, live the miserable and hopeless live of a wolf expelled from its pack. However, the same words ASKIOS and SSLGOS / THIGOS were a welcome for the king and his followers: if they enter the Zeus sanctuary, they will be seized by Zeus the radiant, partake in his glory and also be without a shadow, for the sun, being light itself, never sees a shadow ...

     The limestone disks in the Zeus sanctuary of Lycosoura in Arcadia were considered a marvel. The pictograms as read in Greek were powerful poetry, and read as pictures they conveyed much information regarding Phigalia and Tiryns.

     Clay copies of the famous disks were kept in early Mycenaean colonies, for example at Phaistos on Crete. [This copy, was rediscovered by Luigi Pernier on July 3, 1908, and successfully translated by Derk Ohlenroth one evening in 1981.] 

     Crete was a melting pot of various tribes, and the region from Phaistos and Hagia Triada to Mallia was kind of a laboratory of early writing. A clay tablet from Hagia Triada, written in Linear A, kin to Ugaritic, Eblaitic, Phoenician and Canaanitic, instructs on one side how many measures of grain should be offered to Baal, and on the other how many measures of grain should go to his lover Dadumata [clay tablet HT 95, translated by Walther Hinz].

     King Eponymous Tiryns founded a dynasty of four kings. In around 1640 BC, the great grandson of Eponymous Tiryns had a fresco painted in his throne room showing a personal union of Elaia and Nyx approached by Eponymous Tiryns, his son, grandson and great grandson (the new king himself) in the guise of genii: wolf / dog / lion / bee-men, with spirals and rosettes on their shoulders. Above the genii were seen the sun and the new moon, bright and dark. Then came four ears of emmer, and flying grains of emmer that also signified raindrops. The same grains or drops were seen on the mantle of Demeter-Nyx. Behind her was an eagle, the bird of Zeus. Semicircles symbolized the sanctuaries of Zeus and Demeter with the altars in the centers - and as a pair of semicircles form an oval, Zeus and Demeter belong together as the supreme deities of the Greek Pantheon. A wavy line between the figures and the heavenly symbols represented both the clouds and the river Manesse, flowing at that time south of the acropolis of Tiryns.

     Around 1450 BC, a new generation of Mycenaeans took over the Minoan palace of Knossos. The conquerors painted a new fresco in the Throne Room, showing a pair of griffins that flanked and guarded the throne, combining the lion of the Argivian ruler with the head of an eagle, bird of Zeus. Instead of wings, the griffins had spirals on their shoulders. In the center of each spiral a rosette was painted, representing Zeus speaking - his winged words, if you like:




The rosettes in the palace of Knossos were painted over with spirals containing rosettes in the center, and the ceilings were decorated with stucco spirals containing rosettes in their centers. This Mycenaean symbol of Zeus was soon adopted by Minoan artists.

     The Mycenaeans took over further Minoan palaces and invited many Cretan artists to visit the Argolis. One of those Minoans made a copy of the relief above the lintel of the Tirynthian gate on a gemstone, and a copy of the fresco of Tiryns on a golden signet-ring - very fine works, amazingly rich in details. [The stone was found in a tomb at Mycenae; the signet ring in a robber's cache at Tiryns and is kept in the National Museum of Athens, object no. 6208.]    (Reynold Higgins, Minoan and Mycenaean Art, Thames and Hudson 1967/1981) / (head, shoulder and arm of the first king, from: Lionel Casson, The Greek Conquerers, Stonehenge Press 1981) / (spiral on the shoulder of the first king, diameter only two millimeters on the ring, here magnified by a factor of about 50, shown in the negative, sepia-colored).

     The new generation of Mycenaeans destroyed the former palaces and built new and stronger ones, replacing each and every block of the former wall of Tiryns.

     Above the lintel of the gate of the acropolis of Mycenae was placed a relief that depicted a pair of griffins. The animals combined the body of a lion with the head of an eagle. The heads were separately carved - the left of reddish yellow quartzite amethystine, the right of bluish violet amethyst - and attached to their respective bodies with dowels. The eagles looked down, their vertical beaks resting on four rosettes on the capitel of a Minoan column. The curved lintel symbolized the earth; the tympanum made of four altars (only two visible) symbolized Mycenae. The lions symbolized the Mycenaean kings; the eagles Zeus; the column kingship and heaven; while the four rosettes symbolized the four heavenly directions, the yellow eagle's head in the east, morning, and the violet eagle's head in the west, evening. 






Let me begin with a brief history of Troy, from around 3000 till 750 BC, according to Manfred Korfmann and Birgit Brandau:


Maritime culture, Aegaean, Cycladic: Troy I, 2920-2480/20 BC; Troy II, 2600-2480/20 BC, most wealthy, treasure from this period found by Heinrich Schliemann; Troy III 2480/20-2300 BC


Anatolian culture: Troy IV, 2200-1900 BC; Troy V, 1900-1750 BC Highest culture of Troy / Wilusa / (W)ilios / Ilios / Ilion / Ilium, vassal of Hattusas: Troy VI, 1700-1250/30 BC, destroyd by an earthquake between 1250 and 1230 BC; Troy VIIa, 1250/30-1180 BC, Hattusas  fell around 1200 BC, stormed by Thracians, Troy VIIa burnt in 1183 BC


Balcanian culture: Troy VIIb1-b3, 1180-1000 BC or later; then partly or completely left until around 750 BC


Now for my fable of Troy, blending fact and speculation.



Troy I was founded in around 2920 in eastern Anatolia. It lay at the edge of a fertile plain, on the shore of the wide, shallow Trojan bay by the fast-flowing Hellespont, which was also known by the name of  Dardanelles, and near the Aegean shore. Troy was embraced by the Simois and the Scamander, two rivers running down from the Ida range of many springs and mouthing nearby each other into the Trojan bay north of the Hisarlik. In the time of Troy I, this bay measured some 5 kilometers (S-N) by 3 kilometers (E-W). However, the rivers slowly filled the bay with silt, and the shoreline receded by about one kilometer per millennium.

     In around 2200 BC, an Indo-European tribe took over Hatti in central Anatolia, founded a powerful empire, named the capital Hattusas, and added a mighty Indo-European weather god to the Pantheon of the Anatolian solar goddess. At the same time, a tribe from the Cholkis took over Troy in western Anatolia.

     Troy, favored by geography, was an important commercial center in the Bronze Age. Many goods were traded there, including tin and other metals from the Ore Mountains between Germany and Czechia, amber from the Baltic, horses from the Ukraine, gold from the Caucasus, tin from Tadzhikistan, copper and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and perhaps even ivory from the Indus valley.

     As the Trojan bay north of the Hisarlik was shallow and hardly navigable, the Trojans built a harbor in the Besik bay, on the Aegean shore, some 12 km southwest of Troy [this harbor was discovered by Manfred Korfmann in 1985]. Foreign ships and sailors had to pay high duties for harboring here, and very high prices for the metals traded in Troy, especially for the rare tin needed for casting bronze - and if they wished to obtain cheaper metals on the shores of the Black Sea they had to pass through the perilous waterways of the Dardanelles and Bosporus, and if they engaged a skillful pilot from Troy, they had to pay high fees.

     The only ones who dared navigate these waterways without the help of a Trojan pilot were the Greek Argonauts led by Jason (who named himself after Jason of the ancient myth) and their no less daring and experienced followers. Jason reached the Cholkis as early as 1700 BC.

     Troy VI was ever-richer. The Trojans were often plagued by pirates, and so they built a fortress on the Aegean shore, overlooking the sea some 7 kilometers east of Troy, and made a pact with the powerful empire of Hattusas to pay tribute in return for a contingent of soldiers.

     The Hittite empire expanded into the near East and inflicted a disastrous defeat upon Ramesses II.

     In around 1270 BC, the Greek sailors were no longer willing to pay the high fees charged for lying in the Trojan harbor, waiting for a favorable wind which would take them through the Dardanelles. So they skillfully navigated reefs and swamps to enter the shallow Trojan bay, and beached their ships on its eastern shore near the mouth of the river Simois, a little more than a kilometer north of the Hisarlik. Here, plagued by mosquitoes, they had to pay no duties, but provoked the anger of the Trojans.

     The Trojans loved their shining diadem of towers (Iliad) and made it look even more impressive by coating the brick walls on top of the stone walls with a varnish containing metal flakes which glowed in the sun like fire. The scribes of Troy VI, in around 1260 BC, inspired by the discovery of gold in caches in the city's walls, invented a glorious past Golden Age when Troy, on the shore of a then wider and fully navigable bay and surrounded by channels and harbors, must have been immensely rich and powerful, not just the vassal of an Anatolian kingdom, but itself the capital of a great empire comprising Anatolia, the shores of the Black Sea, the plains of Eurasia; when heaven was carried by Atlas who resided on the Elbrus, the highest mountain peak of the Caucasus ... By coating the walls of the Trojan acropolis with metal flakes and by half reconstructing and half inventing a glorious past, the Trojans impressed foreign sailors and justified their high duties, fees and prices. They became richer and richer, despite the tributes they had to pay to Hattusas:


(...) there was a time when the opulence, the gold and bronze, of Priam's city was the talk of all the world    (Iliad, book 18; Penguin Classics)


The gleaming walls and the legends of a glorious past impressed everyone except the Greek sailors who camped in the Trojan bay and made fun of the Trojans, scoffing that they were nothing but vassals of Hattusas, an empire of mountain Cyclopes, with self-fabricated legends of a glorious past which made them laugh. The Trojans reply was to accuse the Greeks of being pirates who raid foreign shores and sack foreign towns. Several incidents ensued. The Greeks fortified what had become their camp on the shore of the Trojan bay. Around 1250 BC, a heavy earthquake destroyed both Troy VI and the Greek camp, killing many from both sides.

     The Trojans now built higher and stronger walls than before, and again coated the clay crowns topping their stone walls with metal flakes, so that the acropolis of Troy VIIa overlooking the wide plain gleamed in the sunshine like the flashing eye of a giant.

     Between 1250 and 1200 BC heavy rains caused the river Manesse to overflow and deposit a layer of silt several meters deep around the acropolis of Tiryns. The dwellers of Tiryns built a dam 10 meters high and 300 meters long about 3 kilometers northeast of their polis, and diverted the Manesse around the mountain of Tiryns.

     Around 1200 BC, Hattusas fell, stormed by Thracian tribes.

     The Greek sailors camped again on the shore of the Trojan bay, one kilometer north of the Hisarlik, and were joined by soldiers on their way to the shores of the Black Sea. The Greeks needed more soldiers, for they were in conflict not only with the Trojans and their supporters the Hittites who survived, but also with Thracians, who partly joined Troy and partly claimed power over the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus. The Trojans felt strong enough to provoke the Greeks, but their confidence was fatal: in 1193 BC the prince Paris kidnapped beautiful Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and sparked off the Trojan War.

     The Danaans protected their camp with a wall, a trench and a palisade along the wall, some distance from it, which held horses, riders and charioteers. The Greeks besieged Ilium for ten years. In the summer of 1183 BC, Hector and his men stormed the Greek camp on the shore of the Trojan bay, near the mouth of the river Simois, and hell was let loose (Iliad, end of book 12). In the subsequent battles, Patroclus, Hector and Achilles fell. The Trojans then feared no one more than Odysseus, the sly king from Ithaca. Odysseus realized that the Greeks would never successfully storm the walls of Troy; the only way to win the war was to take the harbor in the Besik bay, the well-guarded harbor of the Trojans and their many allies.

     One morning, following a heavy storm, the guards of the harbor in the Besik bay saw a Greek ship drifting helplessly along the shoreline, minus mast or sail, covered with dirt and hung with debris. A Greek ship, no doubt, and, yes, it must be that of Odysseus, recognizable by the bow-sprit in the shape of the neck and head of a horse. Odysseus must have lost his life in the storm! Trojan sailors dragged the empty ship into the Besik bay harbor, chopped off the bow-sprit and brought the wooden head of the horse into the acropolis. But they rejoiced too early. Epeius had built a double floor into the broad and deep ship, allowing a dozen of the most daring soldiers, among them Odysseus, to hide. Now in the harbor of the Besik bay, they left their narrow quarters and sacked the port. The Trojans were taken by surprise. The guards on top of the cliffs, using mirrors, alerted the guards on the battlements of the Hisarlik. The Trojan army left the town and sped down to the harbor, expecting the whole Greek army there. But it had hidden below the Hisarlik, and when the Trojan army left the city the Greeks moved in and finally succeeded in storming Troy, pulling down battlements, towers and walls, and setting the palace and houses on fire.

     In August 1983 BC a heavy rain fell for nine days and nights, without ceasing (Iliad, begin of book 12), and hell broke loose again: the rivers Rhesus, Heptaporus, Caresus, Rhodius, Granicus, Aesepus, Scamander and Simois, which flow from the Ida range, swelled and washed away the fertile fields of deep-soiled Troy. The united waters of these rivers reached the Greek camp and swept away its wall, and their debris blocked the narrow channels between the reefs and swamps in the shallow Trojan bay north of the Hisarlik so that these were no longer navigable.

     The surviving Greek soldiers attempted to return home, but were caught in a storm, and several ships sank. Odysseus gave the order to return. Now that Ilium had fallen and the Trojan bay was no longer navigable, they camped in the comfortable harbor of the Besik bay on the Aegean shore. Several incidents with former allies of Troy, e.g. Ismaros on the Thracian shore, followed, forcing Odysseus and his men to remain even longer.

     Dorians from the eastern Balcan reached the Peloponnese.

     The so-called Sea Peoples from the shores, peninsulas and islands of the Ionian, Aegaean and eastern Mediterrannean comprising soldiers, pirates, immigrants and refugees, including several Mycenaean tribes, stirred up the ancient world and even challenged Egypt. Ramesses III turned back some of them, while others were allowed to settle in Lower Egypt.

     In 1180 BC Odysseus and his men sailed to the Crimean peninsula, where the Taurians and Cimmerians lived as wealthy farmers, tradesmen, smiths and warriors. The Taurians wore amber pearls in the fiery gold of their supreme sun god, and amber disks with incised rays in the form of crosses and stars. Odysseus ordered his men not to attack foreign ships on the Crimea, but they disobeyed him and robbed a Crimean fleet. A disastrous battle ensued, and many Greek ships were sunk. Odysseus and a few surviving soldiers fled in a single ship and made for the Bosporus. Approaching the shore, they were met with volleys of arrows, first from the European and then from the Asian shore of the Bosporus, and only with luck could pass the dangerous waterway and return to the Besik bay.

     Now they had new enemies in the region and were forced to stay for seven more years in the Troas, accompanying Greek ships to and from the Black Sea. Finally, in 1173 BC, Odysseus returned home. During the long years he has been away his homeland had been vanquished by a league of pirates and depraved young nobles. So Odysseus thus waged yet another war, until, finally, peace was made and the Peloponnese united.






In ca. 780 BC a boy was born in Mantineia in the Peloponnese who, when he reached adulthood, went to Argos and worked there in the royal archives. This young man was a diligent and careful scribe, but above all he enjoyed perusing the old clay tablets kept in one particular archive. People made fun of him: How many hour did you spend in there today? You'll go blind there in the dark. Take a break, join us here in the spring sunshine and tell us what you have found in your dungeon. He joined his friends and described what he had seen in the archive: lists of the troops who had fought in Troy. He recited names and places, names and places, names and places - at such length, that his friends finally sighed and said: Long-gone times; what are all those names good for? let them sleep in the Hades of your archive. But the scribe said: You shall see me bring them to life again.

     His words went the rounds of Argos. Other scribes, envious of this young man's privileges, called him a crazy fool: He can hardly see the people around him, his eyes are so weak, and now he wishes to see what happened over 400 years ago. The young scribe paid no attention, and buried himself in the archive. A week later he produced a poem made from a list of names - and truly did they live again. The king liked the man's poetry, freed him from all common tasks and sent him to Pylos, where he was instructed to go through the archives of Nestor and his successors. [This part of my fable is nonsense. The bard of the Iliad might have collected recitals of other bards, and perhaps written fragements of an earlier epic. FG, July 03] Later the young man undertook a journey to Ilium, where he remained for several years, on the Bali Dag. He learnt Luwian, he read everything he could find on the Trojan War, and roamed the Troas. Of course was he not blind, just a little short-sighted, allowing him to see Thetis of the Silver Feet in a mist on the waves. He began compiling the old records, and wrote a story of 50 days near the end of the Trojan War, filling gaps with his lively imagination; his goal was, however, to convey as many facts as possible. He reworked his book several times, and called the epic, never really completed, the Iliad.

     In this are described 50 days in 1183 BC, near the end of the Trojan War (the fall of Troy's shining diadem of towers is not included, only anticipated by the first killing described in book 4: The spear point, landing in his forehead, pierced the bone, darkness came down on his eyes, and he crashed in the melee like a falling tower). In book 18, Hephaestus makes a suit of armor for Achilles and decorates the shield with a number of designs representing


(...) first of all, Earth, Sky and Sea, the in fatigable Sun, the Moon at the full, and all the Constellations with which the heavens are crowned, the Pleiads, the Hyads, the great Orion, and the Bear, nicknamed the Wain, the only constellation which never bathes in Ocean Stream, but always wheels round the same place and looks across at Orion the Hunter with a wary eye.


This shield may, perhaps, be read as a map of the ancient world as seen by the Greeks:


                      Bear or Wain


  Castor & Pollux                              Aries-Caucasus

     Argonauts                              Pleiads-Hattusas


                Great Orion



The Pleiads and Hyads were daughters of Atlas and may symbolize Hattusas and Wilusa of the Indo-European age (from around 2200 BC on).


Castor and Pollux were Argonauts, who, in search of the Golden Fleece, succeeded in passing the Dardanelles and the no less dangerous Bosporus, to reach the Cholkis on the western shore of the Black Sea.


Aries was the ram of the Golden Fleece and may symbolize the Cholkis and the Caucasus.


Orion chasing the Hyads and Pleiads may symbolize Achilles fighting the Trojans and Hittites, while the Bear or Wain may symbolize Eurasia, where many bears lived (the bear remains the symbol of Russia today) and where loads were transported on vehicles.


A Greek would have seen Aries, the Pleiads and Hyads rise above Anatolia; then the great Orion may have symbolized Achilles, Mycenae, Achaia, Greece.


In the southern sky Orion standing upright: the firm hero Achilles, and in the western sky Orion running: the swift runner Achilles.


In the northern sky the Pleiads dim and disappear: Hattusas fell around 1200 BC. Aldebaran vanishes: Hector, prince of Troy, died in 1183 BC. Finally Orion departs: Achilles followed Hector, dying in the same year.


Gemini: Ionian Sea // Orion: Aegean Sea // Auriga: Sea of Marmara // Perseus: Black Sea // Andromeda: Caspian Sea // Pegasus: Aral Sea.


In the Iliad Zeus aided both the Greeks and the Trojans but finally favored the Greek army. Athene was a patroness of Troy, and was worshipped there, but she also helped the Greeks to win the Trojan War. - Were the Greeks favored because they were so good and strong? Did the Trojans lack divine help because they were so villainous and week? The answer may be that Priam lost the Trojan War because he stood in the way of history by hampering the Greeks and the rise of a new and promising civilization. After Achilles had decided the outcome of the war by killing the Trojan hero Hector and dragging him around the walls of Ilium in order to destroy their magical protective powers (Eberhard Zangger), Priam, enemy of the Greeks, was shown to be a noble, admirable, even godlike man. His only fault was to stay in the way of history, represented mainly in Athene.


May the bard of the Iliad have recognized himself in Patroclus, friend of Achilles?


The poet probably died in c.730 BC, during the first Messenian War (740-720 BC).





Homer 2 / Homer 3