In other words, I think the Greek were right mainly about their myths.
First off a disclaimer: Greeks did not believe in the true God as revealed to the Hebrews. But neither did they necessarily believe in their own false gods as we believe the true one. Here is a dialogue about their beliefs, the bold are by a modern interviewer come to them in a time machine:
- Guys, is Zeus the son of Kronos?
- Sure thing. That is what everyone is saying anyway.
- It is in the Theogonia by Hesiod.
- And a few things by Homer too, and he lived 100 years before Hesiod.
- Of course, Homer was telling stories for the fun of it.
- And in his hymns he was paying compliments to the gods that were likely to please them. If he guessed wrong, probably Zeus forgave him, or whoever the guy is who rules the heavens.
- Yeah, ok: but how can you be so sure he was the son of Kronos?
- Oh, we are not!
- I mean Egyptians says Horus was the son of Osiris. Is Osiris Kronos and Horus Zeus, or is Osiris Zeus and Horus Herakles?
- Beats me anyway! Not sure they even know of Kronos, I mean maybe their Seth was Kronos, but he was against his brother, not against his father and his sons.
- I think they reckon Seth as Kronos the murderer and maimer. Then again Osiris as both Ouranos and Zeus. Like as same person. Anyway they are saying Horus is the new Osiris, so ... they just mixed up the genealogy a bit.
- Unless we did.
- Hear, hear, he's no patriot! Let's stick with our story and let them stick with theirs!
- And what if neither story is true?
- OK, you are a sophist, no problem.
- We cannot actually prove all that Hesiod heard from the Muses was the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.
- I mean poetry and dreams are a bit the same: some come by the ivory gate and some by the golden one.
At least that would have been a typical attitude from Euripides and Socrates and Plato onwards. In Athens. When Hta ceased to be a long broad Ei and became a long Iwta. By the time St Paul was preaching this attitude was taken as common sense. But when we come to Kekrops of Athens and Priamos of Troy the attitude is not quite the same. Let me cite for you "Troy Between Greece and Rome" by Andrew Erskine.1 Here goes page 3, starting last line previous page:
In what follows, I will often refer to the Trojan War and related stories as mythical. In doing so I am adopting a modern perspective, one which distinguishes myth from history, but it is important to remember that the Greeks would not have made this distinction. For them heroes such as Agamemnon, Achilles, Hektor all existed, and the Trojan War was a historical event.
To shorten I abridge examples: Thucydides was not a poet, in the sense Homer was. He was making common sense analyses of motives behind events. Including why Agamemnon was obeyed. Eratosthenes was not a poet either, he was making a Chronology, where the Trojan War was in 1184/3 BC. Pausanias doubted the Trojan horse - would Phrygians have been that gullible?, but not the war. Another source by this time inscriptions giving date after date begins with Kekrops about 1500 before Christ and has Trojan War a bit before 1200 BC. It goes on without any break to things like battle of Salamis or Alexander the Great.
The author believes the ancient ones were mistaken in this view. He argues that Aineia got its mythical founder Aineias as a juridical defence against the harrassments of Thracian tribes. If so these tribes were not very impressed. But scenes we know from the Aeneid, Aineias carrying Anchises out of Troy, were on coins from Aineia dated to 600 BC. Six hundred years before Virgil, nearly. Neither have I verified if he had any complete explanation why that city would have simply forgotten a much more recent "non-mythical"2 founder. A motive is hardly a complete explanation. At least his name would have been preserved. And then the enemies of the city would have said "but so and so, whom you call Nth successor of Aineias was the founder only N centuries ago when we had already discovered this place". I have just skimmed a few pages, if I do find anything approaching a more complete explanation, I will be back.
Marie du III/Paris
St Nicholas day of Church Year MMXI
or 6/XII/2010 civil date.
1 I give a shorted url, which does not work in Versailles Municipal Library (or did not when I checked last), because they consider that url-burner a porn site: http://o-x.fr/iivv - the code for this one is easy to remember anyway.
2 Actually such one is non-mythic in a real sense too: no stories left about him. Unless as suggested, disguised as a mere successor of a back-projection of himself, but I find that less likely. Whether it is about Aineias and his Sixth-C. BC successors or about St Peter and his VIIth C. successor St Gregory the Great.