Composite theories of the Troy deception

Quotation: ‘Homeron ex Homerou saphenizein.’
i.e. ‘you should elucidate Homer by the light of Homer’.

The Troy deception is a multifaceted study which may best be understood in terms of its principal component theories. These are listed below.

Theory 1. The Homeric plain of Troy lies below Bergama in the valley of the Bakir Çayi. It is illuminated by Homer. The ancient Greeks knew this region as Mysia, and the river as the Kaikos.
Comment – evidence supporting this is set out in Volume 1 of ‘The Troy deception’, ‘Finding the plain of Troy’. Archaeological evidence is not relevant to this theory, since comparative landscapes are defined by their geography and topography, not their archaeology. When all the relevant evidence is considered, an open minded jury would conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Trojan plain has now indeed been found. Furthermore, the consistent accuracy of the landscape descriptions throughout the epic strongly supports the view that a single poet was responsible for composing much of the original story incorporated within what today we know as the Iliad. The ancients called him Homer. So will I.

Theory 2 Troy and Ilios were two separate but adjacent walled cities. This is clear from the Iliad as shown by Blegen’s study of the epithets describing both places. (Blegen 1963).
Comment – this is also clear from the Hittite texts. Yet it has been denied for the last 140 years by supporters of Troy at Hisarlik, where there was only one small walled ‘city’.

Theory 3. Ilios, the acropolis of Troy, was the hill today known as Pergamon. Throughout history it has retained the name of the precinct of Apollo on its upper terrace, called Pergamos by Homer.
Comment – significant quantities of Grey Minyan Ware pottery have recently been identified on Pergamon and a full publication is awaited. According to Blegen, GMW was found in quantity in both Troy 6h and 7a at Hisarlik.

Theory 4. Homeric Troy, the lower town with the Dardanian Gate, stood in N Bergama close to the ancient geothermal spring at the Asklepion.
Comment – Assuming this is correct, this leads us to expect to find evidence for Late Bronze Age occupation in this locality. Preliminary archaeology does not disappoint.

Pause for thought. If theories 1-4 are accepted, a number of different scenarios remain possible. At this stage let us consider just two opposing possibilities:
Scenario A – Homer did not know where Troy was, or even if the Trojan War was historical. He simply composed his epic incorporating folk stories about the war which were current in his day, and set his story in a landscape in ancient Mysia which he knew well.
Scenario B – Homer set his epic in Mysia because he knew from folk memory that Ilios and Troy were at Pergamon and Bergama, and that the Trojan War really did take place there.

If Scenario A is true, then there may be no Bronze Age cities on Pergamon and in N Bergama. Or, if there are, these may not be the Homeric Ilios and Troy. Both places could have been elsewhere. Also the questions remain open as to whether or not the Trojan War was a single major historical confrontation, a myth, or a composite of many historical yet unrecorded colonising battles, as some [e.g. Bryce (2005)] have concluded from the Hittite texts as presently dated.

If Scenario B is true, as I choose to believe, much of the literary and historical evidence available to us can be incorporated within it.

Now back to the main theories.

Theory 5. The Homeric Trojan War was in its totality an historical event, a real war between a Greek confederacy and a combined force of Trojans and their allies.
Comment – now that a real Homeric Trojan plain has been found, the overwhelming view of antiquity that the war was historical should hold sway, on the basis of what M. Bernal calls ‘competitive plausibility’, until convincing evidence to the contrary has been presented and accepted.

Theory 6. The Iliad and Odyssey, similar in form to that which we have today, were compiled in Athens from the surviving fragments of Homer’s original poems under the Pisistratids in 6C BCE, with assistance from some of the finest poets of their day.
Comment – this is an old theory, still supported by some Homeric scholars. The preservation of the then surviving works of Homer was arguably the greatest service to civilisation performed by the Athenians.

Theory 7. The principal objective of the Pisistratids in making this compilation was to help them gain a new colony for Attica. But there were other benefits. Objectives included:
a) to promote the genius of Homer as a great poet and historian.
b) to glorify Athena, the protector goddess of Athens, her fame and her antiquity.
c) to promote Athens as the mother city of the Ionian colonies.
d) to promote Athens as a centre of culture and learning.
e) to demonstrate ancient historical links between Athenians and the Trojans.
f) to show that Troy was once in the lower Mendere valley and visible from Samothrace.
g) to enhance the role of Athenians in the Trojan War, partly by making Ajax, King of Salamis and a Greek hero arguably second only to Achilles, one of their subjects.

Theory 8. Having achieved objectives f) and g) the Athenian tyrants then claimed that, because of the Athenian contribution to the victory at Troy, the Achaeans awarded the lands of Troy to Athens as the spoils of war.
Comment – this is confirmed by Aeschylus in his ‘Eumenides’. Thus Attica acquired a much needed new colony for its growing population. This colony was called Sigeum, a large region including the lower Mendere valley and the city later named Alexandria Troas. The Athenians also became custodians of the holy site of Troy.

Theory 9. After the Trojan War Troy, or what was left of it, was embraced by Phrygia. Pergamon remained separate from the later Aeolian settlements, and became lost to the Greek-speaking world. But on Lesbos and across Aeolia they remembered their Trojan heritage, and the ravages of Achilles while the Achaeans were fighting in the Kaikos valley. So if the Athenians wanted to claim that Troy was once at Ilion, a necessary part of this deception would be to explain why the Achaeans should have been fighting in Mysia. Hence the story of the Mysian misadventure was created.
Comment – This told of the Achaeans getting lost when they first sailed for Troy. They landed by mistake near the mouth of the Kaikos and destroyed Teuthrania before realising they were in the wrong place. They were then driven off by a local hero called Telephos, and sailed for home. Thus arose the need for a story about a second assembly at Aulis, with its gory embellishments, before the Greek ships finally sailed for Troy. The Greek genius for story-telling excelled itself at this time.

Theory 10. Copies of the Iliad and Odyssey compiled in Athens were promoted in festivals and distributed as literature, which in turn promoted the Athenian propaganda contained within the epics.

Theory 11. The Athenians ‘aged’ the Mysian war stories by inserting them into some earlier poems, so as to show they were not newly invented. Copies of these ‘edited’ ancient works were written out on the newly available papyrus, and placed on the shelves of the library of Pisistratus. Thus the fraudulent antiquity of the Mysian war stories was promoted.
Comment – The Cypria is an example of an earlier work ‘edited’ in the Pisistratid era to include mentions of the Mysian war and Telephos. Thus this myth was adopted into the Athenian literary heritage. Re-writing history had become a propaganda weapon of the state. Arguably, the purpose of the western world’s first library 2,500 years ago was to spread propaganda.

Theory 12. All the ‘Homeric’ passages and stories which refer to Athena having a temple on Ilios are later interpolations.
Comment – this echoes the conclusions of Lorimer and Bethe, among others. I have been unable to find any convincing evidence of Athena worship in W. Asia Minor before the Ionian colonisation.

Theory 13. Other lines in the Iliad which promoted the role of Menestheus and the Athenians in the war, and the Attic version of the Troy foundation legend, are not Homeric. They are examples of later Athenian propaganda.

Pause for thought. If all the above theories are correct, then the colony of Sigeum could not have been won from Lesbos before the era of the Pisistratids. It also seems reasonable to suggest that Sigeum could not have been taken from Lesbos and held by Athens before the fall of Lydia, a powerful ally of Lesbos. So all stories of the Sigeum war taking place before the Pisistratid era must be later inventions. It seems these later fraudsters chose to forget about the role Lydia would have played in any such early Athenian adventure on the shores of NW Asia Minor. We must therefore conclude that apparently earlier literature containing lines mentioning this war must have been tampered with, or composed as fakes. In short, they were hoaxes.

Theory 14. The capture of Sigeum from Lesbos was achieved by the Pisistratids, probably soon after the fall of Lydia c546.
Comment – stories that Sigeum had been captured in late 7C by an Athenian commander were therefore inventions of the new era of democracy, as was the story of the arbitration by Periander.

Theory 15. In the 5th century BCE, called by Prof. G Nagy the ‘era of the new democracy’, it became fashionable to diminish the achievements of the undemocratic tyrants. This was done either by backdating them to the era of Solon, Athens’ new culture hero, or by crediting them to a later period.
Comment – as an example, some stories credited Solon with the introduction of coinage to Athens, but today numismatists can show that this must have happened in the time of the tyranny.

Theory 16. In the era of the new democracy, the propaganda tool used earlier by the Pisistratids was used again, but this time against them. The writings of some pre-Pisistratid authors were ‘edited’ or imitated to contain mentions of the Sigeum war. Thus the major achievement of Pisistratus, who had captured this colony, was downgraded to simply recovering a colony which should never have been lost.
Comment – Both Alcaeus and Archilochus apparently suffered at the hands of the 5C fraudsters.

The collective wisdom of leading scholars in the time of Smith’s Dictionary (1849-51) was that four named poets helped Pisistratus compile Homer’s epics. ‘These persons may have interpolated some passages, as it suited the pride of the Athenians or the political purposes of their master Peisistratus’.
This outdated view seems due for a return to fashion. We can now better understand the wider motives of the Pisistratids in bringing so many great poets to work for them in Athens.

All the above theories follow a logical progression and contain a thread of mutual dependence. Collectively they represent a new scenario relating to early Athenian history and the production of the Iliad and Odyssey in 6C Athens. They offer a new and firmer platform for future studies of Homer and his role in the heritage of western civilisation.

‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.’ W Scott.