Agamemnon praises the elderly warrior King Nestor of Pylos:
‘Father Zeus, Athene and Apollo, give me ten such advisers as Nestor, and the town of lord Priam would soon be captured, sacked and turned over to Greek hands!’
Homer, The Iliad, Book 2, Lines: 371-374
Nestor was regarded highly in Homer’s story evident through lines of praise and how the other characters deferred to him when he spoke. However, there are a few lines where Homer does poke fun at his age. There are many references to the aging king, such as when Diomedes addresses him during the confrontation with the Trojans:
‘Venerable sir, these young warriors are proving too much for you. You’re exhausted, with all those years to carry too.’
Book 8, lines 102-103
In spite of the derogatory statement, Nestor was respected and it was his past deeds which placed him as the wisest and revered individuals in the story. Nestor fought many wars in his youth and in each of the combats, he’d shown bravery and skill as a warrior. It was the war between Pylos and Elis, (the region where Olympia is located) where he demonstrated his prowess. There followed a war against Arkadia and killed Ereuthalion, who was the great grandson of Zeus. Next he joined the Lapiths, who lived in Thessaly, in their battle against the Centaurs and fought alongside Theseus and Peleus (Akhilleus’ father).
Nestor was one of the few heroes of the Greek warriors to make it home without running into any trouble. He was old at the time of the Trojan War (well, for those times!) for it was believed he had already lived two generations and into this third. He was granted a long life from Apollo who had killed the brothers and sisters of Nestor’s mother and granted the years to him.
Pylos, the city from which Nestor ruled, dates back to the Bronze Age 3300 BC and grew into power during the Mycenaean period 1400 BC. The palaces of the time were extraordinary complexes with many rooms each with different functions: storage rooms, wine cellars, workshops, megaron, bathroom, sleeping quarters. From the artists’ rendition of what the palace may have looked like, it would appear there were close trading links with Krete, the art and engineering mirrored that of the Minoans.
Power and prosperity of Mycenaean Greece declined after the Trojan War. According to Thukydides, in the years following the war, there was little innovation and unrest in the major cities like Mykenai, Tiryns and Pylos, where a number of the returning heroes were cast from their homes. Bronze Age Greece had been weakened, the ten year war had taken many lives and unable to defend their homes. There were invasions, raiders from the sea who pillaged, killed and destroyed cities. The ruins of Pylos show evidence of such destruction. It was the beginning of the Dark Ages.
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