Ancient history and mythology long held a fascination for me and it stems from wanting to know where we came from. How did it all begin? Every civilisation has origins, oral and written traditions passed down through the generations explaining how the earth and humans were born, their achievements and morality stories. For me, it’s the richness of these legends in combination with the history that has lured and trapped my interest.
If it wasn’t for Heinrich Schliemann, who believed Homer’s epic story The Iliad was true, the sites of Hissalik (Ilios/Troy) and Mykenai may have continued to be a figment of the bard’s imagination. No doubt they would have been discovered, along with the sites of Pylos and Tiryns but their existence and the characters in the story may have languished for years until another believer in the story put the clues together. In spite of Schliemann’s crude and rough methods he uncovered the actual site of the Priam’s palace; though he was inaccurate as to which level it was. Many archaeologists followed in his stead and have continued to reveal evidence of the war, the size of the city and the famous cyclopean walls. I visited the site three years ago, and was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place and amazed by the walls. As I stood there mesmerised, I could almost hear the thunder of horses hooves as Akhilleus’ steered his chariot around the walls dragging Hektor’s dead body.
As I mentioned in my post ‘Fact versus Fiction’ legends and myths are not borne from nothing, these stories have developed from actual events and people. Who are we to say there was no Helen, a Paris, or a Odysseus? Evidence may be lacking in identifying such people but how can we accept they didn’t exist? (Paris’ name did appear in the Hittite tablets dating back to the time of the Trojan War).
How would we feel if in a 1000 years’ time, people say you and I didn’t exist because we didn’t leave behind some trail of evidence? I can hear you shouting ‘we have the internet, people writing and posting on it, plenty of clues left behind’. Yes, but what if in the future it’s gone, like when the Alexandria Library was set alight and the information and knowledge stored there destroyed? All we have left is the possibility of our existence. I am sure these people must have thought the same thing in their time.
In my next series of posts, I’ll be writing about the places and players during the time of this legendary war story and great romance.
Thank you for reading.