Homer, facts or fiction?
By N.R. De Graaf, The Netherlands
About the naval base of the Faeakes June 2015
In 1879 mr Cailleux, a Frenchman, advanced the idea that the histories told by Homer had been enacted in the Atlantic zone of Europe. This was some decade after Schliemann told the world that he had found Troy at the west coast of Turkey, and substantiated his find with the gold treasures he had dug up. The question is not yet solved, though most archaeologists now believe that Schliemann’s claim is true. It fits the traditional setting since the Roman Empire.
One of the problems is that the scenery quite often does not fit the Aegean Sea or coast, or even the Mediterranean Sea. This was already marked in Antiquity, and Homer sometimes was put away as a fanciful poet, even more so in our days. Instead of bending Homer’s poems to make them fit the traditional interpretation, it might however be interesting to see if Cailleux might point in the right direction.
One way to do this is not only to analyze the verses philologically but also to inspect the topographical indications we find in the texts. These do often not change so strongly as to become unrecognizable, e.g. in the case of springs, characteristics of capes, mountains, islands, landing beaches and harbours, caves and strong, durable, human-built structures. Distances walked and travelled by ship can be characteristic in combination with other topographical and geographical data.
Many people have already sought for Troy and Ithaka, and mostly they found considerable gaps between the descriptions of Homer and the reality found in the field. The indications given by Cailleux however become more interesting the more one goes into detail by visiting the places suggested by Cailleux. I can testify for that.
The most convincing arguments are the characteristics of the sea, often called the Ocean (Ωκεανος) by Homer. It is grey, or greenish like wine, it has (strong) tidal action, it is very, very large, it has strong currents and the routes of the ships when blown by certain winds and driven by the currents are more plausible for the Atlantic, in direction and length. Indeed more so than it is for the Mediterranean. I would call this hypothesis of Cailleux the Atlantic stage of Homer.
To check this Antlantic stage idea, I have visited various places along the European Atlantic coast. The supposed place of Ithaca, near Cadiz, as hypothesized also by Wilkins and Gideon in their books, was not my first choice, being complicated to examine. It will be done next time. Essential in this research is that one has to make a real visit, or various visits, with some expertise in interpretation of satellite images and topographical descriptions, wide interest in archaeology of the Bronze Age and some knowledge of the fallacies of translating the Greek original text of Homer.
Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians, indicated to be Lanzarote (of the Canaries) by Gideon and Wilkins, was a good option. Descriptions of Homer are broad and specific, it seems a fairyland at first look, which if becoming a true location would be quite convincing proof that Homer did not fancy in his poems. This in accordance with his descriptions and observations of human behaviour, which still makes his work marvellous.
Finds on Lanzarote
What I found on Lanzarote was astonishing. Most, or nearly all, details of Homer’s story are found on Lanzarote, starting with the description of far view of the island, when seen by Odysseus on his raft, as a dried raw hide (rhinos) which word traditionally is translated as a shield. But the hide is a better translation for the profile of a high cliff with two truncated volcanic cones on it. There is no real river on Lanzarote, but a salty river is indeed present, El Rio, the strait at the northwest coast of Lanzarote that has a strong current during heavy weather. The isolated bush where Odysseus hides for the nightly cold still has a realistic equivalent, if not it is the same location even after three thousand years, as it depends on a spring. The washbasins like those in which Nausikaa did the laundry with her maidens, still are seen, though dry nowadays. They are newly built or repaired with mortar now. The description of the beach where Odysseus eloquently pleads for help, after having disturbed the ball game of the maidens, the mule cart road over the plain to the capital with its double harbour and its springs uphill from the old city, the descriptions of the harbour and even the orders of Alkinoos the king, to draw the ship for Odysseus’ return out of the harbour in time to avoid low tide problems in the entrance, it all fits remarkably. Also the threats of Poseidon to petrify the returning ship into what is now the lonely Roque d’Este, and to cover the city with a mountain, it all is fitting in the scenery on Lanzarote.
A bold hypothesis was made that the riches of the Phaeacians are due to trade in expensive metals, copper and silver and gold, originating from mines e.g in the actual USA, Michigan. This trade route is quite feasible to do with rowing ships, as proven by daredevils doing the transatlantic crossing from the same Canary islands to the Caribbean. That Homer describes people with transatlantic trade some three thousands of years before present is not a new idea, but that their naval base might be found now is really something to be further checked.
In due time the mentioned report and also next ones, will be available on my website <www.Homeros-explorations.nl>
Atlantic currents. From: De Grote Bosatlas 49th edition, Noordhoff Uitgevers, Groningen. Low-resolution