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Science

Odysseus's Return From the Trojan War Dated 160

Posted by kdawson
from the how-oddyssey dept.
srothroc writes "Scientists have used astronomical data from the Odyssey to attempt to pinpoint the time of Odysseus's return from his eponymous journey after the Trojan War. From the article: 'The scientists then searched for potential dates that satisfied all these astronomical references close to the fall of Troy, which has over the centuries been estimated to have occurred between roughly 1250 to 1115 B.C. From these 135 years, they found just one date that satisfied all the references — April 16, 1178 B.C., the same date as the proposed eclipse.""
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Odysseus's Return From the Trojan War Dated

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  • phew.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by agendi (684385) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @12:35AM (#23912921)
    I can sleep at night now.
    • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by srothroc (733160) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:01AM (#23913067) Homepage
      Well, I thought it was interesting, considering the whole "mythical" quality of the story. Don't forget that people doubted Troy was real, let alone the Trojan War, until relatively recently. With the additional verification of other (astronomical) elements of the epic as well as the phenomenon that marked his return, it lends more credence to the story as a whole as well as the existence of Odysseus himself.

      What other "myths" could be somewhat verified in this manner?

      As far as other myths go, don't forget that a lot of people claim that Jesus was an actual person, but in an era that had an extensive bureaucratic system and census, no record was ever made of him, and he was much, much more recent than Odysseus...
      • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:16AM (#23913139) Homepage
        Well, I thought it was interesting, considering the whole "mythical" quality of the story.


        If you want to be accurate, the Trojan War is a legend, not a myth. A legend starts as a true story handed down by word of mouth, and gradually gathers additional details, incidents and other accretions before finally being written down. Behind every legend is a core of truth if you can but find it. The Voyage of the Golden Fleece, as an example, probably started out as the story of a trading and raiding expedition to the Black Sea.

        A myth is an invented story created to explain how things came to be, or illustrate a moral or religious point. Thus, the myth of Persephone having to spend six months out of every year in the Underworld was an attempt to explain the changing of the seasons.

        • Re:phew.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Moridineas (213502) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:45AM (#23913271) Journal

          If you want to be accurate, the Trojan War is a legend, not a myth. A legend starts as a true story handed down by word of mouth, and gradually gathers additional details, incidents and other accretions before finally being written down. Behind every legend is a core of truth if you can but find it. The Voyage of the Golden Fleece, as an example, probably started out as the story of a trading and raiding expedition to the Black Sea.
          Bunk. Behind every legend is a core of truth if you can but find it. -- is that supposed to be like "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur" (that which is said in Latin sounds profound).

          There is a reason the stories--myths and legends--of ancient greece are collectively called "Greek Mythology"--they are so intertwined as to be one. The distinction is largely meaningless.

          I mean, by your standard, what do you do, go through each story and take a stab in the dark the story was based on something real or not? You hypothesis that Jason and the Argonauts is based on actual events while Persephone was just made up is a fine one--it's interesting, but it's a total guess, thousands of years after the fact at that!

          What about myths about Heracles? Fighting with Gods, doing impossible things, yet possibly based on a real person, so is that a myth or a legend? You state that a myth is "an invented story created to explain how things came to be." Pillars of Hercules? The myth goes that massive land structures were put into place by Hercules. Is heracles a myth or legend? Or he is both?

          No, there is not a "core" of truth behind every legend. Sure, some stories might be based upon actual events, some myths too. All--no.

          A myth is an invented story created to explain how things came to be, or illustrate a moral or religious point. Thus, the myth of Persephone having to spend six months out of every year in the Underworld was an attempt to explain the changing of the seasons.
          Completely arbitrary ... If the people telling and hearing the stories believes in all of their realities, your point is irrelevant. Do you think during the high classical age that your average hellene sat around saying "Ah, well I'll pray to Heracles for xyz, realizing that the stories of his accomplishments are based upon real events, and I'm also fully aware that Zeus is just made up to explain thunder" (or whatever).
          • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Informative)

            by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:57AM (#23913331) Homepage
            As far as the Argonauts go, I based my comments on the Afterword of Hercules, My Shipmate, by Robert Graves. He had come to the conclusion that there was a basis of fact behind the story, and wrote a fascinating book based on the idea that all the major events of the book could have happened, although not exactly in the form we know them now. (As an example, the harpies were really carrion birds, and the queen simply told her blind husband that they were supernatural creatures.) In the case of Hercules, or Herakles (I think it's spelled) to give it the Greek form, I gather that scholars now think that there were at least a dozen different men with that name who's adventures were combined. Not sure of the exact number, or of any of the details, but that's what I've heard. Just because it's called "Greek Mythology" doesn't mean that every single one of the stories is a myth; it's just a way to lump them together in one convenient group.
          • No, there is not a "core" of truth behind every legend. Sure, some stories might be based upon actual events, some myths too. All--no.

            Very nice comment. Nonetheless scholars like to make distinction and both the words "myth" and "legend" refer to different concepts and have different meanings.

            "myth" as the OP said is used to describe a story that was made up to explain why the world is the way it is.
            "legend" is stories spoken (or more exactly sung) about past history. They're (very strongly) embellished retelling of (long forgotten) historical facts.

            Common use doesn't make the distinction, scholars do.

            It's exactly the same as the words "

            • Nonetheless scholars like to make distinction and both the words "myth" and "legend" refer to different concepts and have different meanings.

              Ahh, I see, I think I misinterpreted what the OP was saying and perhaps responded unjustly!

              Thanks for clarifying and explaining in more detail, interesting!

          • by GeckoX (259575)

            Based on the post you were replying to, it would only be a legend _if_ there were in fact a core of truth to it, otherwise it would be a myth. I believe you are looking at the argument backwards. No one is saying that a particular event must be true because it is called a legend, or not true because it is called a myth.

            Finding proof that there is truth in an old myth or legend is the interesting bit. But that still says nothing about the rest of a given myth or legend, or any other myth or legend for that m

        • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:44AM (#23913839)

          Actually, IIRC, there are Hittite records of a town called "steep Wilusa", which was supposed to be in western Anatolia, sounding strangely similar to "steep Ilios" from Homer's Iliad. On top of that, one recorded ruler of Wilusa had a name suprisingly similar to "Priam", and another one called "Alaksandu", which "by coincidence" nicely matches "Alexander", another name of Paris.

          Strange coincidences, huh? I should probably read more of what professor Calvert Watkins has to say on this. But even now it seems that there might be some factual truth in Homer's work, even though the historical core will never lessen the "legend" part of the tale. And of course, we will probably never know whether Achilles really looked like Brad Pitt.

          • by Petrushka (815171)

            Actually, IIRC, there are Hittite records of a town called "steep Wilusa", which was supposed to be in western Anatolia, sounding strangely similar to "steep Ilios" from Homer's Iliad. On top of that, one recorded ruler of Wilusa had a name suprisingly similar to "Priam", and another one called "Alaksandu", which "by coincidence" nicely matches "Alexander", another name of Paris.

            As I seem to be on a roll elsewhere in this discussion, I hope you'll forgive me for stepping in and confirming these statements. For more detail: it's widely accepted that Alaksandu is indeed a Hittite transliteration of the Greek name Alexandros, but not that he is the Homeric Paris. In fact, it would be seriously inconvenient for Trojan War literalists if he were the Homeric Paris, as he's about 100 years too early.

            The conspicuous similarities actually go a bit beyond this: there's one mention of a go

        • The way I heard it is that memories become legend, legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
        • People -- most notably Edmund Burke -- have theorized that the Golden Fleece was sheepskin used in sluicing operations to catch gold dust, and the story is about a raid on a neighboring civilization to capture their mineral recovery technology.

      • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by 4D6963 (933028) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:37AM (#23913233)

        As far as other myths go, don't forget that a lot of people claim that Jesus was an actual person, but in an era that had an extensive bureaucratic system and census, no record was ever made of him

        Wait, you forgot about the record of the execution by hanging of a guy named vaguely like him about a decade after his presumed death for wizardry. Not to mention the extensive writings of his life all written at least a couple of generations after his presumed death! I mean with evidence like that who could reasonably doubt that Jesus ever existed, son of God or not? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to think that all (except a few heretics) of modern scholars and historians accept his historicity as a fact!

        • Re:phew.. (Score:4, Informative)

          by AdminGamer (967203) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @08:03AM (#23914997)

          I love how popular it is to doubt Christianity among the geek community, as if it somehow further proves your superior intelligence over the rest of the world. Unfortunately, when you choose an argument such as this "he never existed," you're disregarding your beloved wikipedia which you'd normally jump to for a link instantly when it fit your needs.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus [wikipedia.org]

          It's a choice of faith whether you believe that he was anything more than a Jewish teacher.... But if you're willing to believe most of what we know of history from that period, many elements of which was gleaned from only a single source of archaeological evidence, denying his existence is a bit absurd.

          • by syousef (465911)

            you're disregarding your beloved wikipedia

            Skepticism is not about replacing one form of blind faith with another. Anyone who claims to be a skeptic but takes Wikipedia at face value is not a skeptic. Idiot perhaps.

            I'd rather rely on the best evidence collected, with plenty of references and independent sources to back it up, than on blind faith in anything or anyone.

            That's not to knock Wikipedia as an excellent starting point, but I've seen plenty of bias in the articles and if it's important to know the tr

          • by snowgirl (978879) *

            So, looking at your beloved Wikipedia, we have... the Bible, early Christian teachings, a bunch of works in the late 1st and early 2nd century by non-Christians, but they really just talk about Christians, rather than historical Jesus himself, and again, one Jewish text saying a guy named "Yeshu" was hung for being a witch.

            Meanwhile, I don't remember his name, and can't seem to find it, but Penn and Teller point out that there was someone nearly IDENTICAL to what Jesus is claimed to be, who was actually doc

          • by 4D6963 (933028)

            That's too easy to dismiss such claims as mine as non-factuals, when non-christian sources more or less contemporary to his life as as few as I enunciated. Yes I read this Wikipedia article prior to writing this comment, this is where I got my facts from.

            Instead of going after my motivations how about you go after my claims?

          • by Stormie (708)

            Unfortunately, when you choose an argument such as this "he never existed," you're disregarding your beloved wikipedia which you'd normally jump to for a link instantly when it fit your needs.

            wtf, did you actually READ the article you linked? Or just glance at it, go "oh it's really long", and assume that there was mountains of historical record regarding Jesus.

            Go READ it [wikipedia.org]. You'll find a lot of records concerning the Christian faith, dating back to roughly fifty years after the time that Jesus was alleged

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Wait, you forgot about the record of the execution by hanging of a guy named vaguely like him about a decade after his presumed death for wizardry. Not to mention the extensive writings of his life all written at least a couple of generations after his presumed death! I mean with evidence like that who could reasonably doubt that Jesus ever existed, son of God or not? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to think that all (except a few heretics) of modern scholars and historians accept his historicity as a fact!

          Actually there is extensive evidence in Roman writings of both his existence in life and death by crucifixion.
          If you discount evidence for other historical figures in the same manner you are that of Jesus, then there is no credible evidence for the existence of Julius Ceasar or Nero, amongst a host of others.

          • by Stormie (708)

            Actually there is extensive evidence in Roman writings of both his existence in life and death by crucifixion.
            [citation needed]
          • by Capsaicin (412918)

            If you discount evidence for other historical figures in the same manner you are that of Jesus, then there is no credible evidence for the existence of Julius Ceasar or Nero ...

            Look I happen to believe that on the balance of probabilities there existed an historical person 'Jesus' upon whom the stories told in the Gospels were based. BUT to put Christ's historical existence at anywhere the same level of proof as that of Julius Ceasar or Nero is patently absurd. Being absurd does your position no favours

      • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by NoobixCube (1133473) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:10AM (#23913387) Journal
        I don't know much about verifying myths, but I have to go feed my minotaur now. He gets grumpy when adventurers don't stumble into my labyrinth.
      • What other "myths" could be somewhat verified in this manner?

        What's more interesting is the "facts" that can be disproved by proper analysis. For example, one event that millions take for granted and consider true, the birth of Jesus on a Dec 25th, is easily disproved since shepherds wouldn't have been out in their fields in December. Many other religious "facts", regardless of the religion, are similarly easy to dismiss, yet a sizeable portion of humanity still considers them to be true and base their beli

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          The bible actually states that his birth wasn't December 25th. It was durring the feast of tabernacles which makes if around September 22-29th. That date is actually a date that early Christians took in his name because Christianity was outlawed at the time and they could hide the celebrations in with other festivities of the time. About 300 or so years later, some pope made it the official date because of a number of things namely the traditional hiding of his birth. Some people claim that because Luke say

          • meaning that the conception created Jesus's soul which is also tied to reasoning behind the Christian beliefs against abortion.

            Why would Jesus need a human soul? Isn't he supposed to be a physical manifestation of Yahweh?

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              Because every living human needs a soul. He wasn't a drone or robot or a zombie, he was a man that came to participate in humanity. Perhaps he needed the soul in order to die for our sins or simply because that is what GOD intended like it is documented in Gen 2:7. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." I suppose you could manifest an argument about if GOD was so omnipotent and all powerful he wouldn't have do

              • Because every living human needs a soul.

                I thought the soul was the supposed immortal part of the human? That it's created at the moment of conception and lives for eternity. That it's the essence of the spiritual being. Such that a soul possesses, for lack of a better word, the corporeal body? If so, then God doesn't need a soul, he exists already in an infinite way. But a human would, it's created anew. I thought that's what "sending his son" was about - placing himself, or a vestige of himself, into

                • by sumdumass (711423)

                  I thought the soul was the supposed immortal part of the human? That it's created at the moment of conception and lives for eternity. That it's the essence of the spiritual being. Such that a soul possesses, for lack of a better word, the corporeal body? If so, then God doesn't need a soul, he exists already in an infinite way. But a human would, it's created anew. I thought that's what "sending his son" was about - placing himself, or a vestige of himself, into a human body.

                  Jesus wasn't GOD, he was the

                  • If the trinity concept is a confusing you, it is probably because it is a confusing thing as presented most of the time. It is presented as The Father, The Son, and The Holey Spirit as one. The thing is that trinity is the "one way" not one.

                    Ah, that's the point of confusion then. I was always taught they were three aspects of the same God, just different manifestations.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Phroggy (441)

          What's more interesting is the "facts" that can be disproved by proper analysis. For example, one event that millions take for granted and consider true, the birth of Jesus on a Dec 25th, is easily disproved since shepherds wouldn't have been out in their fields in December. Many other religious "facts", regardless of the religion, are similarly easy to dismiss, yet a sizeable portion of humanity still considers them to be true and base their belief system on them.

          Note that none of the millions of people who believe Jesus was born on December 25th are well versed in what the Bible actually says, since it most definitely does not say that. In fact, nothing in the Bible suggests that we should observe Christmas as any sort of holiday at all, on any date.

          Millions of people also believe that three wise men appeared alongside the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. On the contrary, the Bible doesn't say how many wise men there were (only that they broug

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lilomar (1072448)

            the Bible doesn't say how many wise men there were (only that they brought three gifts), and they didn't arrive until almost two years later.
            Actually, the Bible lists three types of gifts, and it doesn't say that there weren't any others.
            Most of the assumptions about there being three wisemen are due to the carol We Three Kings.
            • by Phroggy (441)

              Yes of course, I meant to say three types of gifts; thanks for the clarification. In fact, Matthew 2:11b says "Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."

            • And rubber cigars do not explode. They just kind of melt and get all sticky.
      • Re:phew.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CNeb96 (60366) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:40AM (#23913521)

        I'm not aware of any group which denies Jesus was a real person. They may not all agree on "who" he was or the meaning of his teachings, but they agree he existed.

        Here are a few resources for this
        http://www.carm.org/bible/extrabiblical_accounts.htm [carm.org]

        >>What other "myths" could be somewhat verified in this manner?

        Like the day Jesus was crucified?

        "... because with Kepler's equations we can determine exactly when historical eclipses occurred. Perhaps it will not surprise you to learn that only one Passover lunar eclipse was visible from Jerusalem while Pilate was in office (30). It occurred on April 3, 33 AD, the Day of the Cross...."

        http://www.bethlehemstar.net/day/day.htm [bethlehemstar.net]

        The earth quakes which occurred during Jesus's Crucifixion?

        http://www.bethlehemstar.net/day/day.htm [bethlehemstar.net]

        "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood..." The gospels do recount that the sun was darkened on the day of the crucifixion from noon until 3 in the afternoon (29). Ancient non-Biblical sources confirm this. Phlegon Trallianus records in his history, Olympiades (41):

                "In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [AD 32-33], a failure of the Sun took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day [noon], so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Niceaea," obviously not a simple astronomical event. (42)

        Or the Star of Bethlehem? A conjunction of Jupiter and the star Regulas in 2 BC which fulfills all 9 Biblical requirements of the star of Bethlehem?

        http://www.bethlehemstar.net/dance/dance.htm [bethlehemstar.net]

        QUOTE
              1. It signified birth.
              2. It signified kingship.
              3. It had a connection with the Jewish nation.

              4. It rose in the east, like other stars.
              5. It appeared at a precise time.
              6. Herod didn't know when it appeared.
              7. It endured over time.
              8. It was ahead of the Magi as they went south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
              9. It stopped over Bethlehem. (Retrograde motion)

        One point in contention is when Herod died. This theory depends on Herod dying in 1 BC, but most historians believe he died 4 BC. There is evidence for this theory but it isn't widely accepted. See the link for more details.

        http://www.bethlehemstar.net/stage/stage.htm [bethlehemstar.net]

        • I'm not aware of any group which denies Jesus was a real person.
          Although it's rather annoying and manipulative in other aspects, "The God Who Wasn't There" makes a pretty convincing argument that Saul/Paul didn't believe that Jesus had existed as a real person, and his were probably the earliest writings to make it into the bible.

      • by ricegf (1059658)

        ...don't forget that a lot of people claim that Jesus was an actual person...

        Nobody important like you, just most historians. Per Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]: "Most scholars in the fields of biblical studies and history agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher from Galilee who was regarded as a healer, was baptized by John the Baptist, was accused of sedition against the Roman Empire, and on the orders of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was sentenced to death by crucifixion."

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:55AM (#23914967) Journal

        As far as other myths go, don't forget that a lot of people claim that Jesus was an actual person, but in an era that had an extensive bureaucratic system and census, no record was ever made of him, and he was much, much more recent than Odysseus...

        To be entirely fair, though:

        1. Jesus seemed to have been a pretty common name back then. So basically it's like having a myth in the USA about a guy called John or in Russia about a guy called Ivan. There were plenty of Jesuses around and there are a few mentions of some unrelated ones in the chronicles. Whether one was actually the son of God or not, is a completely other issue.

        2. A lot of records from that era don't exist any more, or are incomplete. Seriously, we're left scratching our heads even when it comes to such issues of state interest as what the strength of the roman legions were, at almost any given point, or what were their generals.

        So assuming that you can just find out about some John Doe (for the Romans, Jesus was just another nutter executed for speaking against the emperor, not anyone special in any way,) and that you can take lack of a signal as confirmation that such a person existed, is kind of ignorant. Again, even from Rome itself we don't actually have the records of everyone they executed, and we _can't_ say that, for example, someone called Bigus Dickus never existed because we didn't find his records.

        Plus that area had some bloody revolts, very soon thereafter, and some very brutal and devastating roman retaliation, followed by pretty much forced exodus at sword point. There are more than enough records that were lost in that chaos.

        3. There seems to have been an interesting early sect, namely the Ebionites [wikipedia.org], which actually had a bunch of people who knew Jesus and supposedly _relatives_ of Jesus. They actually insisted that the leadership of the church should go to the relatives of Jesus, not to Peter, which wouldn't make sense if they didn't have such among them.

        The interesting thing is that they seem to have had a very different view of Christianity and Jesus than what the apostles mangled it into, and even more so than what the Byzantines later decided it should be. What we inherited as Christianity is a long series of deviations, starting with Paul who basically insisted to throw away half the old Judaism (i.e., of the Old Testament) to make the new religion more palatable to non-jews and thus easier to proselitize. The Ebionites actually called Paul an apostate.

        At any rate, these guys had a much more... down to earth view of it all, and viewed Jesus as just, you know, a human. A prophet and divinely inspired, to be sure. But not the divine "superuser" that later Christianity made him into. And while a lot of information about them is lost, from what the mainstream christians said about them, it seems that these guys thought Mary was _not_ a virgin at birth, Jesus _didn't_ come back from the dead, etc. The bugger just died on the cross, like everyone else, and stayed dead.

        At any rate, I'd say that a sect based on a group of his friends and relatives makes no sense at all, if he didn't exist. Or let me qualify that better: if _a_ Jesus didn't exist.

        Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should be a christian or anything. Note that, going by the views of, you know, those who actually knew him and didn't have to embelish the story to proselitise, he was just a guy. Maybe divinely inspired, if you want to believe that, or maybe he just got a sunstroke there in the desert or ate some funny mushrooms and had visions of what didn't actually exist, if you want to take the skeptical view. Take your pick.

        I'm only saying that _a_ guy called Jesus _might_ have actually have existed and started the whole madness. Of course, we don't know for sure, but it's not too ludicrious a hypothesis, even if the evidence is less than bullet-proof. On the other hand, exactly what he was, and if he's even vaguely like what your local pastor claims, that's another story.

        • by corbettw (214229)

          Heretic! Follow the shoe!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Sunshinerat (1114191)

          1. Jesus seemed to have been a pretty common name back then.

          Jesus... Jesus? His name is Brian...
        • by snowgirl (978879) *

          "Bigus Dickus" most certainly didn't exist, because in Latin, "k" was only used for Greek loanwords to correspond to "Kappa", while "c" was used (hard only) for all native uses.

          At best, it would have been "Bigus Dicus"

    • by Gewalt (1200451)
      And this was the first thing I read after stumbling out of bed at 2 AM cause I couldn't fall asleep.
  • That is actually a cool article to read. I found it quite an interesting read.

    • If you're interested in that sort of thing, try "History: Fiction or Science?" by Anatoly Fumenko.

      It's a very interesting analysis of historical dating methods and how reliable (or not) they might be. Of course you have to take the book with a large pinch of salt - his theory is nothing less than all of history before about 1500 has been wrongly dated, with the result that events we consider "ancient" today actually happened in what we think of as medieval times.

      He spends a lot of time taking apart ecli

  • by themushroom (197365) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @12:46AM (#23912995) Homepage

    That's how I've always felt (as an English minor)... that the stories of Homer were dated. :-D

    • by Nasajin (967925)
      Yeah, I doubt Penelope is looking much better 3 millenia down the track...
    • by value_added (719364) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:16AM (#23913133)

      That's how I've always felt (as an English minor)... that the stories of Homer were dated.

      As an English Major, it's worth pointing out that Homer's contributions to ... ah, fuckit. Just read the Derivative Works [wikipedia.org] section in the Odyssey Wiki article. You'll find everything from Dante to James Joyce to Stargate and Sponge Bob there.

      For the rest of the kids, the funny word ("eponymous") used in the submission means "giving one's name to", as in Romulus gave his name to Rome. Romulus, of course was ... ah fuck that too. It happened a long time ago, before Star Trek the original TV series, even.

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @09:07AM (#23915529)

        For the rest of the kids, the funny word ("eponymous") used in the submission means "giving one's name to", as in Romulus gave his name to Rome. Romulus, of course was ... ah fuck that too. It happened a long time ago, before Star Trek the original TV series, even.
        Look, there's no need to Remus a new one over this.
  • by Petrushka (815171) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:01AM (#23913065)

    Here's another scientist's perspective on the historicity of the Odyssey:

    You will find the scene of the wanderings of Odysseus when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of the winds.
    -- Eratosthenes

    Speaking as someone who works on ancient Greek literature for a living (no, there's not all that many of us), I look forward to this group's publication of their discoveries of exactly which island the Cyclops lived on, the chemical make-up of the drug in the lotus that kept the Lotus-Eaters somnolent, and details on the god Poseidon's dietary habits.

    Myths do, occasionally, have a historical basis; rarely, and only ever in a very distorted fashion; but, very occasionally, it happens. For example, discoveries in Hittite textual archives over the last few decades now have a number of people seriously contemplating the possibility that some kind of "Trojan War" may, in some distorted sense, actually have actually happened. But for a story to have its roots in an event from which it is separated by several centuries in which there was no such thing as writing ... well, why not just announce that you've found Atlantis? That kind of announcement would have pretty much the same relationship between myth and historicity.

    In addition, the "darkening of the sky" bit that they quote comes in the middle of an episode where a seer is having a vision of blood running down the walls. If you're going to look for historically verifiable events, why not look at events that the poem describes as actually happening? -- a hallucination isn't really a very convincing candidate.

    Plutarch suggested the prophecy of Theoclymenus referred to a solar eclipse.

    Plutarch also thought that Odysseus visited a goddess named Calypso who lived on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of a sea enclosed by a horseshoe-shaped continent. It's just not easy to have much confidence in him when he's talking about subjects about which he clearly doesn't have a clue.

    • by srothroc (733160)
      The darkening of the sky bit is dubious, yes, but if you look at the article, they used other references to astronomical phenomenon to narrow it down, rather than going from that one dubious interpretation. It seems telling (to me, at least), that all of those phenomenon PLUS an eclipse can be dated to a time that fits when the story is guessed to have taken place.

      Plutarch may have thought some nutty things, but he also thought some good things. I'm sure you can say that about anyone. For a specific and
      • by Petrushka (815171) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:27AM (#23913191)

        That is true; I had seen another article earlier today, which didn't mention the bit about the fact that it was a new moon. So that part of the story is new to me, and it does mitigate my annoyance quite a bit.

        I'm not very convinced, though. The other references they draw on are much more problematic: it has been known for a loooong time that the internal chronology of the Odyssey is a complete mess. For that reason I wouldn't put any stock in the bit about

        Odysseus is told to watch the Pleiades and late-setting Bootes and keep the Great Bear to his left. Next, five days before the supposed eclipse, Odysseus arrives in Ithaca as the Star of Dawn -- that is, Venus -- rises ahead of the sun.

        Still, the new moon thing is of interest. Not enough to convince me, but enough to get me to actually pay attention to their findings if I ever manage to find out where they're publishing them.

        • June 23, 2008 online proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (American, presumably). Authors are Marcelo O. Magnasco, Rockefeller University New York and Constantino Baikouzis, Astronomical Observatory, La Plata, Argentina.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ResidntGeek (772730)

      But for a story to have its roots in an event from which it is separated by several centuries in which there was no such thing as writing ... well, why not just announce that you've found Atlantis? That kind of announcement would have pretty much the same relationship between myth and historicity.

      Oh, come on, that's not fair. The Mycenaean and Hellenic peoples were two ends of the same culture, and the Greek Dark Age was only, what, four or five centuries long? It's really not that implausible that the sto

      • by Petrushka (815171) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:46AM (#23913277)

        Oh, come on, that's not fair. The Mycenaean and Hellenic peoples were two ends of the same culture, and the Greek Dark Age was only, what, four or five centuries long? It's really not that implausible that the story could have been preserved that long (at the most, remember - no telling when in the dark age Homer composed),

        It's possible, but it can't be the default position. Present-day oral traditions observed (and recorded) "in the wild" show that retellings of stories change drastically from generation to generation, not just from century to century. It's possible for isolated historical references to survive that kind of dilution, to be sure, and there are plenty of cases in Homer (though almost all in the Iliad); but they tend to get overwhelmed by the changes introduced by storytellers desire to (a) innovate, (b) keep their audiences in suspense, (c) cater to a specific audience (if you're a bard in an Athenian court, you're not going to tell stories that reflect badly on Theseus), and (d) several other factors which slip my mind right now but which you can read about in e.g. the anthropologist Walter Ong's book Orality and Literacy (not very up-to-date, but a popular one).

        The upshot of that is that you don't scour literary texts with an agenda. As with any scientific enterprise, you keep your eyes open for out-of-the-ordinary correlations and then investigate. Solar eclipses in conjunction with a new moon are possibly enough to make it worth investigating this one, as I've admitted in a post above.

        especially given that it was regularly memorized in its entirety by students in the Hellenic period.

        (I'd better interrupt to state for the record that it is known for certain that memorising Homer could only have become part of aristocratic Athenian education around 500 BCE at the earliest.)

        Atlantis is a random children's story that got lost, then blown out of proportion. Not the same thing.

        Not really. The Atlantis story is one told by a late-Classical-Period author (Plato), with explicit claims that it is derived from a millennia-old tradition preserved by Egyptian texts. If anything, the Atlantis story has more extrinsic plausibility than this one!

        In view of the conjunction with a new moon I'll retract some of my earlier scorn, but I'll still side with Eratosthenes when it comes to euhemerising myths. Which is really what these folks are doing: they're modern-day euhemerists [wikipedia.org].

        • It's possible, but it can't be the default position.

          It's not the default position, though. Schliemann was laughed at, and people didn't give the idea of a historical Trojan War serious credence until the independent evidence from the Hittite tablets. Only then did scholars start looking for serious correlating evidence from other Mycenaean sites.

          Disclaimer: A majority of my knowledge of this subject is from a single source: Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan War (which I don't remember perfectly any

          • by Petrushka (815171) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:42AM (#23913541)

            It's not the default position, though. Schliemann was laughed at, and people didn't give the idea of a historical Trojan War serious credence until the independent evidence from the Hittite tablets. Only then did scholars start looking for serious correlating evidence from other Mycenaean sites.

            There was still a lot of scepticism around until relatively recently, yes -- heck, there's still a lot even now (among historians; not so much scepticism among archaeologists). Plenty of people accepted Schliemann's discovery as the finding of Troy, mind you. But it's worth remembering that Schliemann thought Troy II was "Homeric" Troy -- it's now known that that archaeological layer is about 2000 years too early. That doesn't diminish the importance of the find, but it does show that Schliemann himself was a bit over-eager with his own agenda. The question of burden of proof can be a tricky one sometimes, though.

            I don't doubt that you know much more about this than me, but isn't it different with poetry? Poems can't be easily changed in the retelling except by a poet, without damaging the meter.

            Question of the century -- literally. Actually it turns out that narrative poems are particularly prone to certain types of changes, because -- at least in pre-classical Greece -- they're not recited by rote. There's overwhelming evidence that early Greek epics were re-told using an enormous set of conventions (formulaic language, typical scenes, typical plot elements); so stories were driven partly by how the story is known to go, partly by the individual storyteller's creative imagination, and partly by these conventions. Basically, what we now refer to as "poetry" was for an early Greek poet "the special kind of language that you use for telling certain stories and which happens to come out in good meter almost automatically". This was one of the big discoveries of the 20th century about Homer, though a lot of people are still bewildered at the implications.

            One implication, though, is that there are at least two forces at work that are actively pressuring changes in each re-telling of a story. One is the poet's creative imagination. Another is the very conventions of the poetic language. Suppose Odysseus meets a young woman on his way to someone's house; well, it so happens that that's an element in one kind of conventional story episode. That puts a tiny amount of temptation in the storyteller's way to put in the next conventional element, which happens to be encountering a dog or dogs at the entrance of the house. The pressure may be minuscule, but if you've got centuries of iterations ...

            If you're interested in finding out more I recommend Albert Lord's book The Singer of Tales. A good fictional spin on the subject is a novel by the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare called The File on H. They're both good reads.

            (Before I sign off I'd better correct something I put in my earlier post -- memorising Homer could have been part of Athenian education as early as 550 BCE.)

            • There's overwhelming evidence that early Greek epics were re-told using an enormous set of conventions

              While I believe you, can you tell us what this overwhelming evidence is? I'm actually curious where we get evidence of social and commercial interaction that doesn't leave a physical by-product from 3,000 years ago.

              Have we found instruction books? Fragments of private notes? Historians describing how storytellers attracted customers in their towns? Other things? How do we weigh what the evidence seems t

              • by Petrushka (815171)

                While I believe you, can you tell us what this overwhelming evidence is? I'm actually curious where we get evidence of social and commercial interaction that doesn't leave a physical by-product from 3,000 years ago.

                Sure. Social, yes (or at least linguistic); commercial, not so much.

                The actual discovery was kickstarted by comparison with a living oral tradition that shared many characteristics with the Homeric evidence, viz. Yugoslavian (or if you prefer, Bosnian-and-Montenegran-and-Serbian-and-Albanian) epic poetry in the 1930s and 1950s, though it's not really dependent on that any longer. Albert Lord (citation in the gpp) gives an approachable outline of the comparative evidence. For more detail, see Parry M (197

        • by sfsp (655361) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:53AM (#23914953) Homepage Journal

          Petrushka opined,

          "Solar eclipses in conjunction with a new moon are possibly enough to make it worth investigating this one..."

          No, not really. Solar eclipses ALWAYS happen at the same time as the new moon. However, the fact that Mercury went retrograde 34 days before, as mentioned in the text of the poem; at the same season that Bootes is setting and the Pleiades are visible, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and that Venus is visible in the morning, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and that the sun is eclipsed, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and it ALL JUST HAPPENS to occur around the most probable estimate of the historical date of the events--THAT is what makes this worth investigating.

          There is evidence of significant historical details being preserved in oral tradition. This might be one example.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by nicomachus (185745)

            sfsp said:

            "There is evidence of significant historical details being preserved in oral tradition. This might be one example."

            Maybe, but I'd like to see exactly what texts in the Odyssey the authors get their numbers of days from. For example, Homer most certainly does not say "Mercury was in retrograde motion 34 days before" or anything like it. The authors instead rely on a story about the god Hermes (= Roman Mercury, but of course identified by the Greeks with the planet Mercury) going from west to east

            • by Petrushka (815171)
              I've managed to get my hands on the actual article now, and their argument is actually pretty persuasive -- if you accept the premise that the internal chronology of the Odyssey isn't a complete dog's breakfast. Unfortunately, it is. (As an approachable example, consider the age of Telemachos. He's supposed to be an adolescent. He's characterised as about 15, just getting face fuzz. Now ... how long has it been since the start of the Trojan War? ...)
          • Petrushka opined,

            "Solar eclipses in conjunction with a new moon are possibly enough to make it worth investigating this one..."

            No, not really. Solar eclipses ALWAYS happen at the same time as the new moon. However, the fact that Mercury went retrograde 34 days before, as mentioned in the text of the poem; at the same season that Bootes is setting and the Pleiades are visible, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and that Venus is visible in the morning, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and that the sun is eclipsed, as mentioned in the text of the poem; and it ALL JUST HAPPENS to occur around the most probable estimate of the historical date of the events--THAT is what makes this worth investigating.

            There is evidence of significant historical details being preserved in oral tradition. This might be one example.

            Those things were only mentioned in the Odyssey as much as WWII and George Bush were mentioned in Nostradamus. The authors take extreme liberty in interpreting the Odyssey in order to make their "prediction" work. This is nothing that numerologists, astrologers, and psychics don't do every day. The Odyssey doesn't mention Mercury going retrograde, nor does it imply that an eclipse happened outside of a vision.

            Let's just throw this on the trash-heap of art/science theories that only appeal to the ignoran

          • by Petrushka (815171)

            No, not really. Solar eclipses ALWAYS happen at the same time as the new moon.

            That's useful to know, thank you. I am currently composing a reply to the article, which I've now managed to actually read, and that removes the last support for the theory.

            However, the fact that Mercury went retrograde 34 days before, [etc. etc.]

            One basic point that the authors have missed is that the argument is wholly and solely dependent on accepting the reliability of the internal chronology of the poem. It has long been known that this internal chronology is an absolute mess, and several studies (the most important dating to 1994) have shown exactly why and how. Specif

            • by Petrushka (815171)
              s/theory/hypothesis/g dammit!!!
              (I'm a classicist, I shouldn't need to use scientific terminology consistently ....)
        • by AJWM (19027)

          Not really. The Atlantis story is one told by a late-Classical-Period author (Plato), with explicit claims that it is derived from a millennia-old tradition preserved by Egyptian texts. If anything, the Atlantis story has more extrinsic plausibility than this one!

          Is there any evidence beyond Plato's word that there is/was such a tradition in ancient Egyptian texts? Just curious, not trying to argue a position here.

          • by Petrushka (815171)

            Is there any evidence beyond Plato's word that there is/was such a tradition in ancient Egyptian texts?

            (At last, an easy question!) The answer is: no.

    • I thought that the Thera/Santorini epic eruption is a cataclysm that could well be associated with the fall of Atlantis (after all, it marked the beginning of the end for the Minoan civilization).

      It was a couple of times larger than Krakatoa/1883 (albeit smaller than Tambora/1815)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Petrushka (815171)
        The main issue with the Atlantis story is that (a) Plato invented it himself, and (b) he dates it to about 9400 BCE if I recall correctly -- which would be around about the same time that we first see Neolithic humans in Greece. (I'm sure there's a standard excuse Atlantis-hunters use to explain the latter point, though.)
        • The main issue with the Atlantis story is that (a) Plato invented it himself
          While Plato was certainly prone to pulling things out of his ass, doesn't it seem more plausible that he was just writing down a popular legend? There had been a lot of little societies in the area for quite some time, some more advanced than others, and some certainly took the occasional (sometime fatal) whuppin' from natural phenomena. I expect the legend was probably inspired by more than one such place.

          he dates it to about 940

          • by Petrushka (815171)

            While Plato was certainly prone to pulling things out of his ass, doesn't it seem more plausible that he was just writing down a popular legend?

            If you accept that, you have to give equal credence to the myth of Ur in book 10 of the Republic. (For reference, it's kind of like Edwin Abbott's Flatland, only in 3 dimensions.) If you don't accept the myth of Ur, you have no grounds for accepting the Atlantis story.

    • Hey, with ample funding from the Cyprus Tourism Organization, you'd find Atlantis [discoveryofatlantis.com] too!

      Speaking as someone who works on ancient Greek literature for a living (no, there's not all that many of us)...

      And there won't be that many of you if you keep replying to /. instead of working on that dissertation. And I question whether "Actually have actually happened" is an appropriate rendition. I'm guessing the original had some form of wordplay on entelecheia/energeia that's not been rendered properly.

    • by nanoakron (234907)

      Hmm...somnolence after ingesting a drug from a plant that looks like a lotus?

      Could that possibly be opium? Growing freely in the fields of the near and middle east and certainly within trading range of the ancient peoples of Egypt and Greece?

      Horseshoe-shaped continent a couple of thousand years ago? Could that be a misinterpretation of the mediterranean coast's geography at the time?

      And just for kicks, I'm not going to end on an ad hominem.

    • Well the Gulf of Mexico is pretty horseshoe shaped, and there's lots of islands in the horseshoe.

      I can't be the first person to notice this -- someone saw fit to name the national music of Trinidad & Tabago "Calypso". There's a lot of stories about seafarers getting lost in storms and most of those that show some semblance of a reference to the Americas have realistic timescale for travelling the trade winds across the Atlantic.

      How long was Ulysses away from home...?

      HAL

    • by syousef (465911)

      Speaking as someone who works on ancient Greek literature for a living

      My hat's off to anyone who can get through Iliad and Odyssey let alone make a living at it. I'm no idiot. English was my easiest subject in school. Shakespeare didn't phase me (though I had a love/hate relationship with some of the drivel he wrote). However when I tried to read the Iliad and Odyssey I just couldn't handle the repetition. It bored me to tears.

  • Next Step (Score:1, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    With all this new info, perhaps now they can finally find his fossilized poop.

  • Damn (Score:3, Funny)

    by MrCreosote (34188) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:18AM (#23913147)

    I had March 25th in the sweep.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:56AM (#23913327)
    Resurrection of Dinosaurs Dated. Scientists have thoroughly examined the fashion styles of individuals in the documentary Jurassic Park, and have dated the first reincarnations of dinosaurs to approximately 1700 A.D.

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