To what extent do the archaeological discoveries made at Troy, Mycenae and other sites support the view that the places, people, material objects and values depicted in the Homeric poems are those of a society that actually existed? In order to justify this statement, we must investigate into the evidences of the places, people, material objects and values mentioned in the Homeric poems and compare them with the archaeological discoveries.
Firstly, we will look into some of the places mentioned in the Homeric poems. According to Homer, Mycenae is where Agamemnon comes from (Il. 2.269). Comparing that with the current artefacts found in Mycenae which suggest a society or societies of wealth and power associated with war, it seems to tally with Homer’s epithet ‘rich in gold’ (VCD 1 01.17.23-23.02). However, the archaeological remains neither yield names of individuals nor evidence of who the wealth belongs to. Even the owner of the golden death masks found in the grave is unknown (LG 2, p. 10). Thus, there is insufficient evidence to confirm that the Mycenae seen in the video is the real ‘Mycenae’.Order now
With regards to Troy, many scholars in the sixteenth century, who believed that there is some historical basis to the Homeric texts, went in search for Priam’s Troy. Their efforts were in vain. Unlike Mycenae, Troy’s location was, until the late nineteenth century, uncertain (LG 2, p. 23). By placing the archaeological site of Troy in its geographical and topographical context using aerial shots, maps and site plans, recognizable features on are identified. The massive curved walls at the site entrance, stone-built theatre, large paved ramp and Troy’s first excavator, Schliemann’s north/south excavation trench demonstrates the site’s complexity (LG 2, p. 25).
Unfortunately, major problems arose in interpreting Troy. The long period of habitation resulted in numerous different archaeological layers. Another problem is related to the way in which later settlements used earlier material. Thirdly, there is a lost of valuable material and evidence with the effect of the drastic methods of Troy’s first excavator, Schliemann. Nevertheless, Donald Easton suggests three connections with Homer. Troy VI may have been destroyed by the Mycenaean Greeks and if it is true, it may tell us about the Trojan War and the basis for Homer’s poem. He also believes that Troy VII is an Aeolic Greek settlement contemporaneous with the final composition of the Illiad and Odyssey.
The large Troy VI walls would have been visible and influenced the development of the Iliad (LG 2, p. 29). J.M. Cook, an archaeologist who specializes in the topography of the area around Troy, tries to identify the tombs of Ajax and Achilleus. Unfortunately, they lack archaeological evidence that dates them to the Mycenaean period (LG 2, p. 33). On the other hand, Sturt Manning believes that there is more than one Trojan War since Troy’s position is vulnerable (LG 2, p. 35). He also states the chronological limits of both archaeological background and the history of the archaeological search for Homer and Troy. Manning finds it unnecessary to depend on Homer’s account of events to interpret the Mycenaean past. He argues that archaeological sites and texts cannot so easily relate to each other, unless found in similar places. With such unclear information, whether there was really a Troy war remains a mystery.
Next, the search on people will reveal about their social groups, status and authority as well as economic basis. In the Mycenaean period, women are treated like gifts, comparable to artefacts and livestock e.g. daughter of Briseus (LG 3, p. 19). There is insufficient evidence to support if this is still true in Mycenae. Iliad and Odyssey present us with the notion of a heroic society. Their active self-definition, through heroic poetry, ostentatious burial and representational art, have greatest importance in periods of social and political fluidity and change when new family or social groups emerge, fighting for power and keen to establish their credentials (Essay 10, p. 156). Similarly, we gather evidence of a hierarchical society, emphasized by centralized, palace organization and the architectural display of tombs in Mycenae from the video sequence (VCD 1 01.23.03-37.13).
However, the compatibility between the poem and this context poses another problem. There is a crucial absence of writing, apart from Linear B tablets. The tablets do not have names of Homeric heroes inscribed (LG 2, p. 11). Likewise, the identity of the Achaians remains a mystery. They could have come from Asia, Aegean or Greek mainland (Essay 8, p. 110). The archaeology is inconsistent since it is only in Troy VIIb that novel architectural features and the Knobbed Ware are found. There is uncertainty if this implies that the foreign population enters Troy only after then. Perhaps some variations of the new pottery style belong to newcomers. If the Philistines could make Mycenaean IIIC pots, so could new occupants of Troy, especially of potters who survived the attack and continued working (Essay 8, p. 111).