HOMER knew nothing about History
Homer was not a historian.
Well, that’s an exaggeration. But when Homer began documenting the stories he heard, writing had just been re-invented.
We have all played the game when we stand in a long line of listeners, and at the top of the line the “teller” whispers something into the ear of the first listener. And when the story reaches the last listener, and the first “teller” of the story hears what this last listener repeats as the story heard, the “teller” can not recognize that this story has anything to do with the one told to the first listener only some half hour before.
That story had just been told to people all in the same room at the same time. But the stories Homer heard had been passed down from first tellers who had lived the story and experienced the destruction of that time, and they passed it down generation to generation until Homer, the last hearer, heard it after some 600 years. Obviously the stories Homer heard would be totally un-understandable to anyone who would return from those 600 years past. There would be lots of reasons for that. Most of all, the points of reference that were in the original story were by then long gone. And by then the language was totally different. The society that had finally emerged from the total destruction of the society of1200 B;C. would have been completely changed in all aspects. Homer tried to explain as best he could what he heard, but he did not could not really understand and therefore what he told would have been gibberish to any who had managed to survive 600 years.
With that complete destruction of the Bronze Age society of the Peloponnesos in 1200. B.C., there was little “history” for Homer to write about in 700 B.C. The destruction of the Bronze Age some 500-600 years before had been total. There were no remains of buildings or technological inventions, or written texts (except for some deeply buried clay shards recording tallies of goods storerooms which would be uncovered 3200 years later.) But IF any shards had been discovered by those from whom Homer got his information, the “writing” would never have been recognized as “writing.” The symbols might just as soon have come from Mars. Like the symbols we create today for example for optics. “There was no extant “history” for him or anyone to write or tell about.
And writing had just been reinvented.
Cobbled together from ancient bits and pieces, whisps of lost worlds, along with all the new international interactions, writing finally reemerged.
Homer did not know there had been writing long before from that destroyed age. He was using this “new” invention with all the zest that being on the cutting edge of new technology always brings. And did he jump, rather naively, into his new-found career: writing. Writing down those intriguing stories of what had preceded him by a long long time. A lost age of giants.
Lost age of giants. That was the big rumor on the streets that he traveled on.
Stories persisted also about the humongous destruction of that great society of amazing people.
So Homer did as all enthusiasts do. He set out to find his adventure and life’s work. He went to where many who survived the great collapse of 1185 B.C. had fled: The Islands. And there he heard tales from survivors of survivors of survivors …likely some 10 or 11 generations ago. Often these passed stories were spoken in words that could just as soon have been foreign languages. Because they were. Words that described things and events that happened, with strange-sounding objects, caused by fantastic events, were truly un-understandable because those descriptive words were no longer comprehensible. The tales Homer heard were a language totally foreign because all points of reference had long been erased from this planet. Words describing technologies that no longer exist become as foreign as what they once described. In many instances new words were invented to described as closely as possible what the old words had. But they too, after a couple of hundred years, also lost significance.
And therefore by Homer’s time little of the stories made sense. Therefore Homer, eager as are all rookies in on a great story, eager to be in the forefront to pass on what remained of what had been from this now fabled time, made up words to say what he thought might be what was being passed along.
But he got it mostly wrong.
Names of the main cast of characters survived. That some of the events they were involved in survived is also amazing. But more than not those stories were also cobbled together into this fantastic story. And the words that had survived to describe some of the events had become gibberish.
So Homer made up what he thought the gibberish must have been talking about. And what cloth could he use to make up this new suit of clothes? Obviously words that were lying around. So he put current day words and events that he thought must be what had happened 500 and more years before. And he added in put in creatures that his society was dependent on: gods. He gave to King Nestor’s society these creatures to influence and determine the outcome of events in the Bronze Age. But they had not been there then. Gods and goddesses warring among each other did not exist in the Bronze Age. It was a much more enlightened age of man, that Bronze Age was. But Homer had to put in gods there because what the gibberish he could understand talked about were of events so fantastic Homer could not believe them. He believed the surviving tales were just that: tales. Made up to make it all much better than it could possibly have been. A world with technologies as had existed had no meaning for a Homer living in a most unenlightened age. He was standing at the end of a long line of listeners and the words they passed down over 500 years had become gibberish.
Societies for and by the people had no meaning for a Homer because such was unimaginable.
So, what we have learned about the Bronze Age from Homer should mostly be tossed into the trash.
And the few original bits of messages that Homer did manage to keep in those passed down tales should be rethought using what we know today:
When Homer describes Odysseus’s at last return home after dillydallying all around the Mediterranean for some 10 years after Troy, he tells a most wonderful and, to Homer, unbelievable story: he tells how the captain of the “Ship” on which Odysseus will be placed, tells Odysseus that all he needs to do to get home in the twinkling of a night’s sleep, is to “think of home” and he will be placed in a deep sleep “as of death” and when he awakes he will be there. Homer goes on to report that people on the ground “below” the path of flight on that day heard strange sounds as of “Zeus tossing lightning bolts through the sky, though the day was clear.” Here is an excellent example that managed to survive of the original stories. Homer is trying to understand what he cannot. He really however passed on to us that Odysseus has been placed on a time-travel ship that will fly him home by reading his thoughts, and in a ship so fast the sounds heard below signify it is breaking the sound barrier. But those words would have been incomprehensible to Homer. So such strange noises had to have been an action by a “god”. And such swiftness of travel, and done by “telepathy”, he just wrote as best he could because he could find no explanation.
What had been before him, in that time we now call the Bronze Age, had been utterly destroyed more than 500 years before. So calamitously destroyed that any few survivors of the atomic winter that followed, subsisted as we imagine Cave Men to have done, hunting and gathering to stay alive; living in ruins and caves, and as close to water as possible.
What they did do that was as important to their staying alive as the food they hunted and gathered, was, each night around the fires that cooked what nourished and warmed and illuminated the night, to entertain and educate themselves and the next generations – (so they would remember with pride, and so they would learn) – with vibrant stories of what life had been like before this bleakness: of the peaceful society that raised great buildings and fine homes, with Universities open to all for learning, of the peaceful and scientifically advanced world they had experienced.
As the generations passed from the original survivors to the next, and then to the next and to the next, while they were rebuilding their world into one better than subsistence, they were losing context. The objects they had described 100 and 200, 300 years before were all now things beyond imagining, without even words that could describe. Even the fourth generation words to describe no longer made any sense. Those who had seen and experienced were gone. And those to whom they had vividly portrayed those descriptions with words that could at least be drawn, or illustrated so the things and concepts could be seen while functions were described, those too were now gone . Until finally even the words that had described those objects and events could no longer be comprehended because they described what was unimaginable. When telling the old old stories of who they had once been, now words that the newer generations felt might describe what they imagined their grandparents had talked about were created. And the old words were lost because they were meaningless. So, for example, for powerful forces that could change the outcome or influence events, Homer substituted what he could imagine, what in his day would be comprehended. Like instead of the offer of sharing of fabulous technology among new emerging nations for the spread of peace and education, which is what I believe was the premise for the gathering at Troy, because Homer could not comprehend that this long -gone society was far more advanced than his , that it was a peaceful society, peace could not have been the first premise of a Greek hierarchy trip to Troy. Homer could definitely not understand a peace conference being destroyed by something truly alien. All powerful beings in Homer’s day had to have been gods; warring gods who controlled men and made mischief among then in order to influence events. So, Homer in effect created the Trojan War with these tales he devised of gods.
Homer was not a historian.
He was a writer.
He could have been a screen-writer.
If Homer was walking around college campuses in Los Angeles and San Francisco sixty years ago – in the 1960s and 70s, his tales would have greatly amused young screen makers Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola. Maybe if any of them stopped to listen, he would have fed them stories about far-bigger-than-life creatures who arrived as if from the skies, creatures he would tell them were called gods, and who, with their powers, fomented world-changing events like one called the “Trojan War”, then continued unopposed to demolish all society, even ending the great Bronze Age by stirring the planet into a doomsday. Perhaps they listened enough to their new pal Homer’s tales and then went on to create screenplays filled with amazing worlds. Star Wars. Star Trek. E.T.. Aliens of the Deep. Alita. Solaris. Ready Player One.
Historian? No. But –
Somehow Homer has been elevated to the position of Historian of the Bronze Age. How?
Is it simply that at no time in the history of human life on this planet can we human creatures conceive that past societies could possibly have had more information, more knowledge about the universe than we happen to be living with at that moment?; more knowledge about geology, about astronomy, about physics? We seem to be hardwired to assume that all past societies were far less advanced in all areas of knowledge than we are at this very moment. As Homer assumed the Bronze Age to have been.
But, it sure sounds like there were creatures of truly amazing powers that arrived and interfered over there at Troy.
Who were they?
From where did they come?
Did they return?
Are they still here?
MEANWHILE , Homer did get some words right, did hear some words passed down for 500 years that still described some things that still existed after all the destruction and centuries. Like TROY. In fact this month, SMITHSONIAN magazine has published an article about Homer and Schliemann and TROY. And I will write another blog about that here.
MEanwhile do read my newest novel which does tell a lot about that extraordinary society that really did exist in 1200 B.C. in the Peloponnesos.
And do check out the video-trailer created by a dear friend. Enjoy