Tuesday, November 2, 2021

No, Epic Legend does not equal Fantasy

I just read Damien Mackey : Epic Legend, or Real History?

As a historian, I (Damien Mackey) am interested in knowing if there is any archaeological underpinning for these great ancient yarns. Otherwise, I might just as well go off and read Homer’s classics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, or Virgil’s Aeneid, with their semi-divine characters such as Achilles and Aeneas. Or, in modern terms, go and read J. R. R. Tolkien or the Harry Potter series.


1) There is a very huge difference here.

JRRT and Rowling were both writing what was immediately considered as fantasy. Homer and Virgil weren't. True, they had no documentation for each line of Priam or Latinus, but they did not need to according to the then standards of historic accuracy. Did Caesar say "et tu Brute," or "et tu fili" or either of these in Greek? Ancient historians didn't care, the sentiment is the same. When Caesar wrote of his Gallic War, I am not sure everything put into the mouth of each character is the actual words, even if translated from oratio obliqua to oratio recta and even if translated (sometimes) from Latin back to a Gaulish language.

Then, there are scenes that are fantasy. Aeneas was not contemporary to both Trojan War and to Dido - one of the two references needs to be fantastic. As Christians, there are other ones we could add, like descent to netherworlds, unless the nekuiai are considered as hallucinations by Aeneas and Ulysses or as demonic deceptions.

2) Archaeological underpinning is overrated.

You can find the New York (without digging even!) where Daily Bugle is supposed to be a newspaper, without proving Spiderman is history, and you need not find the wood bridge that Caesar put over Lake Geneva to conclude that Gallic Wars are history.

Obviously there is also another problem here ...

3) "with their semi-divine characters such as Achilles and Aeneas"

As Christians, we cannot accept the idea there is a goddess of love and that she was mother of Aeneas. We cannot accept there is a one god of thunder, same as the most high, and that he was father of Hercules. But this does not put Virgil or Homer into the realm of fantasy, as these false assessments of Aeneas' and Hercules' origins could well go back to those who lived around them. Being pagans, they made errors. Making errors about the divine, they made errors about men too.

With paternity of Romulus, it could be a question of a demon assisted procreation : a demon plays the succuba role when collecting sperms and the incubus role when inseminating. With divine mothers, this is of course less likely. Two men are both said to be ancestors of Emperors and having a goddess in near or far ancestry : Aeneas (via his son Iulus ancestor of Iulius Caesar) and Tenno Jimmu. With Aeneas, the mother is supposed to be the goddess of love, thus Venus in Roman terms, with Jimmu, the great-grand-mother some generations removed is supposed to be the sun-goddess, in Japanese terms Amaterasu.

There is a person who would fit both goddess roles, if one accepts that pagans could have considered a goddess as mother if her priestess in function were to give birth. Puduhepa, before being the queen consort of Hattusili III, was the priestess of the sun goddess of Arinna and of the goddess of love, and she syncretistically identified both goddesses with each other.

When it comes to Achilles, his origins were somewhat remote, geographically, to the rest of the Achaean army, and he had a property which tends sometimes to get magical explanations. Charles XII was never hit by a bullet except the wound before Poltava and the final shot that killed him. Francisco Franco was never hit by a bullet either. There is a German term for the property, "Kugelfest" and there are superstitious ways to acquire it, when one doesn't, as one should, ascribe it to simple Providence (like the fact Our Lord never had a bone fracture, even on the Cross, where many others had such). Some would have considered a man who was "Kugelfest" as in league with the devil - and hence one can imagine how never getting cut by sword or lance in battle gave rise to imaginations of things like a fairy godmother - or in this case a "fairy mother" with the real wife of Peleus out of sight from those speculating.

But while we are at archaeological underpinning, perhaps Damien Mackey would give such for King David facing "horsemen" both in Kings and in Paralipomena in Greek, and in Kings in Hebrew? Archaeologically, cavalry is supposed to start c. 800 - 700 BC in Assyria.

Hans Georg Lundahl
All Souls' Day

PS - you don't need any nekuia to pray for the Holy Souls, today!
PPS - apart from above quote, the paper is fairly readable./HGL

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