Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hissarlik Blues and Achaian War Effort


In a state of Revolutionary or Migratory or Feudal or other anarchy, a man like Hercules would easily have been able to carve out a little kingdom for himself. As easy as it was for Don Quixote and Sancho Panza or for Conan the Cimmerian. If a man like that remained subject, either he had a very strong sense of loyalty and local attachment - or he was dealing with a very strong state controlling his moves and keeping him busy with monsters. If he lived a generation before the Trojan War, and if he lived in the Achaian society that Walter Leaf depicts in Homer and History as a military cast, a garrison taxing the farmers by ruthlessly pushing them down, then the latter is the case.

By the way, Walter Leaf also wrote one book I've not read so far, namely Troy: a study in Homeric geography. If C. S. Lewis could lecture on the military aspects of the Skaian gate, he had probably read it or something referring to it. And if he had read that, he had also probably read my read, Homer and History. The Ithacans originally on present day Leukas (Lefkada), the Taphian pirates (outside Achaian realm) on Corfu (unlike the role a French scholar of the Odyssey had given that island) and things like that may very well have inspired Lone Islands in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with its specific geography and economic conditions. And what Walter Leaf wrote about Achaian society in general is pretty close as a possible model for the Telmarine invasion as depicted in Prince Caspian. Miraz could have been an Achaian lord, on Walter Leaf's showing.

Now, these 97 years ago, when Walter Leaf published his book, he felt that the Greek Ship Catalogue in Iliados Beta was totally inconsistent with the Achaian way of basically rough colonial administration - as later Sparta copied it, except for the chasing of Helots which may not have been there in the earlier Achaian case. He argues that if Mykene, Argos and Tiryns were all manned castles, they must have been so under the same ruler, with only trusted lieutenants and above all no real independence if in any matter it could be avoided in the two non-capital citadels.

He also argues that the Ship Catalogue (still only the longer Greek one, he thought the shorter Trojan one genuine) portrays a more clearly feudal society, with real local loyalties. He argues that the world of the Ship Catalogue was a sop to far later local loyalties by name-dropping, by giving cities later important to commanders in the Trojan War. And he argues that the Catalogue Poet - whom he refuses to identify with Homer - betrays that by clumsily making the "baronies" impossible to govern. The "baronies" that is which he and a few other Homer scholars read into the Ship Catalogue as existing later than the Trojan war but, through the Ship Catalogue, projected back into its times.

One case he gives for this clumsiness is that the very humble and very dependent Diomedes would, if ruling those places in Argolis, have been mightier than Agamemnon himself. The other case is that Achilles would have had a far lesser "barony" than at least two of the other Phthian Captains. He further makes the case that Nestor's advice is a mere prop to introduce the Catalogue.

He does make a few other cases too, which I find weightier, but I submit that to me these cases cancel each other out. If the Catalogue Poet, whether Homer or someone else, wanted to flatter local loyalties, then he must have done so where-ever he had mentioned the origin of a ship or of ships. And he would have achieved exactly the reverse if locals there could have said "wait, how come the theme" (let us call baronies in Greece themes, so they were called in Byzantine times) "of such and such lies around the theme of such and such in every direction?"

That is exactly what Leaf showed on the map as one result of seeing the commands at Troy in the Ship Catalogue as feudal commands with administration in peacetime too. And, I submit, my thought when reading this was: what if they did precisely not reflect and where not meant to reflect even possible future administrations?

The men of Argos, again, and those who held the walls of Tiryns, with Hermione, and Asine upon the gulf; Troezene, Eionae, and the vineyard lands of Epidaurus; the Achaean youths, moreover, who came from Aegina and Mases; these were led by Diomed of the loud battle-cry, and Sthenelus son of famed Capaneus. With them in command was Euryalus, son of king Mecisteus, son of Talaus; but Diomed was chief over them all. With these there came eighty ships.


And the same Diomed was a dependant on Agamemnon. Whose own command was only twenty ships more numerous:

Those who held the strong city of Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae; Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old; Hyperesia, high Gonoessa, and Pellene; Aegium and all the coast-land round about Helice; these sent a hundred ships under the command of King Agamemnon, son of Atreus. His force was far both finest and most numerous, and in their midst was the king himself, all glorious in his armour of gleaming bronze- foremost among the heroes, for he was the greatest king, and had most men under him.


Note that Corinth was not rich at all in Achaian times if Leaf is right that its wealth came from being on the trade route between East and an as yet un-reachable (blocked by Taphians on Corphu) West. I wonder if Homer (a blind performer possibly reciting in some street corner if no one invited him) had been insulted in a recently rich Corinth and given a blow back by referring to "rich Corinth" in a context where everyone knew it was inappropriate. A bit like talking about "Manhattan and Wall Street and Bronx and Twin Towers" in an epic or story about the times when a Dutch trader had just bought Manhattan Island for some glass pearls.

Here Walter Leaf thought this mention of "rich Corinth" was one argument in favour of Catalogue being written by someone who had only garbled knowledge of the past, unlike, obviously, Homer.

And here we come to the "baronies of the realm of Peleus":

Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis; and those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over which Achilles was in command. But they now took no part in the war, inasmuch as there was no one to marshal them; for Achilles stayed by his ships, furious about the loss of the girl Briseis, whom he had taken from Lyrnessus at his own great peril, when he had sacked Lyrnessus and Thebe, and had overthrown Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of king Evenor, son of Selepus. For her sake Achilles was still grieving, but ere long he was again to join them.

And those that held Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus, sanctuary of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea, and Pteleum that lies upon the grass lands. Of these brave Protesilaus had been captain while he was yet alive, but he was now lying under the earth. He had left a wife behind him in Phylace to tear her cheeks in sorrow, and his house was only half finished, for he was slain by a Dardanian warrior while leaping foremost of the Achaeans upon the soil of Troy. Still, though his people mourned their chieftain, they were not without a leader, for Podarces, of the race of Mars, marshalled them; he was son of Iphiclus, rich in sheep, who was the son of Phylacus, and he was own brother to Protesilaus, only younger, Protesilaus being at once the elder and the more valiant. So the people were not without a leader, though they mourned him whom they had lost. With him there came forty ships.

And those that held Pherae by the Boebean lake, with Boebe, Glaphyrae, and the populous city of Iolcus, these with their eleven ships were led by Eumelus, son of Admetus, whom Alcestis bore to him, loveliest of the daughters of Pelias.

And those that held Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and rugged Olizon, these were led by the skilful archer Philoctetes, and they had seven ships, each with fifty oarsmen all of them good archers; but Philoctetes was lying in great pain in the Island of Lemnos, where the sons of the Achaeans left him, for he had been bitten by a poisonous water snake. There he lay sick and sorry, and full soon did the Argives come to miss him. But his people, though they felt his loss were not leaderless, for Medon, the bastard son of Oileus by Rhene, set them in array.

Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they that held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were commanded by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of healing, Podalirius and Machaon. And with them there came thirty ships.

The men, moreover, of Ormenius, and by the fountain of Hypereia, with those that held Asterius, and the white crests of Titanus, these were led by Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon, and with them there came forty ships.


Leaf's point (against this ship catalogue, not against Homer in general) is: the "barony" of Protiselaos and Podarces was so much greater than that of Achilles. As well as the fact that Diomed's "barony" was very very compact and threatening to the capital Mykene if he had wanted to rebel against Agamemnon. Thus, the baronies were impossible.

If you find a map of these localities, take a good look at the city names. It is worth the while. Walter Leaf shows a map with lines drawn between towns with garrisons under same commander at Troy.

Now, after seeing the maps in Leaf's book I was pretty convinced that as baronies either of peaceful administration or of defense these things are impossible. But Homer does not say the command over those and those cities like Argos and the rest was hereditary to Diomed or that he had predecessors over same cites as Schwarzenegger has over all California. He does not say that Protiselaos comes after a line of other administrators over "Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus, sanctuary of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea, and Pteleum that lies upon the grass lands". Or that Philoctetes comes after a line of people administrating "Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and rugged Olizon" although the next in line to the throne has only "Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis".

He actually misses that Achilles (next in line after Peleus, obviously, though he will not survive long enough to enjoy it) also has "those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans" - i e all of the countryside around the cities of either Philoctetes and Medon or Protiselaos and Podarces. I presume. Because the map Walter Leaf showed of Southern Thessaly is divided into Phthia in the East or North East Coast and Hellas (eponymous for later Greek selfunderstanding) further inland maybe also South East Coast and it is there that Achilles' cities or towns show as a small band. Well, what if he had few city garrisons precisely because he had all the country around? Excepting Mount Titanus and a few more places.

But even presuming he had only the towns or cities of that list and that Phthia and Hellas were included because he had command over the other captains too, even so there is something to say for the "baronies" assigned by Homer or by the Catalogue Poet (as Leaf wanted to distinguish him): that they never were baronies at all.

These commands, this division of commandment under Agamemnon, was strictly ad hoc, excepting the High King Agamemnon and the Kings who obviously commanded troops from their chief strongholds among the other troops they held command over. Also the contingent from Pherae is led by Admetus' son, along with the contingent from Iolcos (where Jason' family might no longer be ruling for pretty obvious reasons).

The reason why Agamemnon could leave the troops of most of Argolis around Mycene to Diomed was perhaps precisely that in peace-time Diomed was only ruling Argos. Also that Diomed was trusted precisely as a dependant.

That was one main point against the Ship Catalogue. Another one had already been answered in Antiquity: Boeotians were not yet in Boeotia. Thebes was not inhabited by Boeotians but by Cadmaeans. And Thukydides answered millennia earlier that Boeotians existed although they had other habitations back in Trojan War times. He also says the Ship Catalogue contains lots of contingents that do not come into the action. And so? Iliad and other epics are not a fullength war chronicle like the Commentarii in Bellum Gallicum. They were not written by Agamemnon, if he had written them he would obviously have omitted nearly all the Achilles stuff. They were written because they were memorable. Like the rescue of Moscardó and the battle of Teruel were perhaps not the most decisive things on Franco's road from Burgos to Madrid, but they were certainly among the best remembered.

When it comes to the Odyssey, Leaf vindicates Homer by identifying Ulysses' and Homer's Ithaka with Leukas (Lefkada). Therein he follows Dörpfeld, who had also excavated in Troy, after Schliemann.

Now, considering that the Trojan War was the last great achievement of the Achaians, considering the possibility that Chadwick and Leaf were right about the Achaian society, what does this mean?

It means Homer did not deal with the capture of Troy.

He dealt with one incident of eminently human frailty nature that might have stopped it. And with a tragedy in the last moment rescued to happiness of the one homecomer who had not wanted to do the war at all.

Homer was not a loyal Achaian, so to speak. He did not celebrate the statescraft of people dividing the troops of Phthia into units that would be impossible to administrate for any possible hero from the war. He just mentions it. He celebrates exactly what was irrelevant, but strictly irrelevant, to the war effort. What was not in the Casablanca or Canons of Navarrone or Seven Colours of Rainbow vein. Much more of Solzhenitsyn making a war scene about people in a railway junction and about people getting along in that kind of life, and how they do.

When Iliad starts, Troy is not taken. When Iliad ends, Troy is still not taken. Actually it ends on a truce while Hector's body is getting what would have been a burial if they had been Christians rather than heathens. What maybe even was a burial if the pyre is projected backwars from Homer's times. Love and quarrels and death and mourning are as much the themes of the Iliad as of Zorbas the Greek - which is not set in a war.

In a garrison of international importance, in a big company, either dogmatic or local or family loyalties denying or not bending completely down to the team spirit and obedience to orders is unwelcome to some not universal but pretty typical givers of those orders.

Just like Achilles had his love for Briseis (not quite the fag some would paint him, despite Patroklos), so Odysseus had his wife and Penelope her husband, so Antigone had a loyalty to death to the piety of mourning.

That is how Greece as we know it was born. That is what some today want to kill.

Warriors would perhaps have been war machines, like Saruman's Orcs or like Red Army or SS officers as they were supposed to be in Achaian society. Not so in Homer's epic. And the one fail in the obedience under Agamemnon was precisely Achilles sulking about Briseis.

And if this led to a breakdown of Achaian overlordship over Pelasgians, if it led to a fraternal mingling of the two societies taking place of the brutal domination, it is pretty easy to see why the new people would prefer to call themselves Hellenes after Achilles' men - just as Romans wanted to be and perhaps historically also were Trojans - rather than either humble Pelasgians or haughty Achaians. It is as if either Hitler or Stalin had won a complete victory, but not enjoyed it, and after that one would have identified with the beaten side or with people condemned to camps for not doing their war effort.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Audoux, Paris
St Felix Valesius and
Martyrs of Theban Legion*
20-XI-2012

*Sancti Felicis Valesii, Presbyteri et Confessoris, qui Ordinis sanctissimae Trinitatis redemptionis captivorum exstitit Fundator, ac pridie Nonas Novembris obdormivit in Domino. ... Taurini sanctorum Martyrum Octavii, Solutoris et Adventoris, Thebanae legionis militum; qui, sub Maximiano Imperatore, egregie decertantes, martyrio coronati sunt. martyrologium mensis novembri

PS: Nevertheless, the importance of obedience and valour is stressed. Freedom without a military being open to invasions.

1 comment:

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Actually what Leaf calls Baronies in the Greek Ship Catalogue are so impossible as baronies of administration, that the thesis of Iliados Beta being a later addition falls to the ground.

In that supposed later time, after Homer, would not the local pride of people in these cities, the same local pride that is supposed to be responsible for the ship catalogue in the first place, would it not have gone hand in hand with some local knowledge?

Anyone familiar with either surroundings of Mycenai or with Phthia would have known these things could not function as administration for these pieces of land. That the commands before Troy could only function as commands, precisely because they were not at home.

I suppose before that ninth or tenth year, the troops were still more scrambled to avoid war time nostalgies to enforce later local solidarities - but that the scrambling worked very ill, and by regrouping so as to have at least locality based commands, they fought somewhat more eagerly.