Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Kalifat problem deepens

I wrote two months ago about the fact that old maps of the plain of Troy place Kalifat in the center of the plain, rather than at the foot of the prominence south of Hisarlik.  I noted that it is possible that the village used to be in the plain and was moved to its present location.  I thought that was unlikely, because it seems unlikely that there would be a village in the plain at all given the flood danger. 

Well, according to William Leaf, who visited Troy in the early 20th century, Kalifat was "on the flat". 

"The plain of Troy itself, exposed to frequent inundations in winter, marshy and malarious in summer, is almost uninhabitable. The alluvial soil, fertile enough where not waterlogged, can maintain a considerable population ; but those who till it are compelled to have their homes on the hillsides, barren though they are, as high as may be above the wet and fever of the level. At the present day only one poor village, that of Kalifatli, lies on the flat; while the hills around carry a considerable number of thriving settlements, some of them newly founded with Moslem refugees from various Turkish countries taken over by Christian powers. "  Walter Leaf, p. 53

There you have it.  Leaf saw Kalifat "on the flat", not on the foot of the prominence where we see it today.  The old maps place Kalifat in an abandoned river bed.  

The above map from Thomas Spratt places Kalifat in the "Winter Channel" of the Scamander around 1844.  That bed was canalized in modern times, and the Scamander/Mendere now flows in that bed.  

I have lost the link for the above map, so, I am unsure where it comes from.  It shows a 1956 shoreline at the Dardanelles, from which we can conclude that it was made after that time. It places Kalifat in the plain, west of the sharp angle taken by the Kalifatlee Osmak.  Based on this recent work, it is reasonable to conclude that as of 1956 or so, Kalifat was in the plain, as the older maps show.  When the river was canalized, the village must have been destroyed and moved to a new location above the plain.  

So, I think my original question is answered.  I was asking, how could Spratt get this wrong?  But in fact he did not get it wrong.  Kalifat was correctly placed by Spratt and others in the center of the plain.  However another problem is raised by this answer.  Because if Kalifat lasted hundreds of years in the low spot that Spratt called the winter channel, that fact needs an explanation.  How could it have survived for so long in a flood plain?  

Leaf is not wrong about the difficulty of living in the plain of Troy.  The plain is often waterlogged, marshy and mosquito laden.  And it floods.  

"The Mendere is a considerable stream throughout the year; in winter it often brings down heavy floods, which overflow the whole plain, and leave it covered with silt and tree-trunks." Leaf p 30 

I suspect that the old Kalifat was protected by ancient flood control structures that are no longer visible.  Perhaps the canalization project obliterated them.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Pliny the Elder on the Troad and the Navigable Scamander

Pliny the Elder mentions a navigable Scamander river in the first paragraph of his discussion of the Troy region, which was chapter 33 of his Natural History.  

The first place in Troas is Hamaxitus, then Cebrenia, and then Troas itself, formerly called Antigonia, and now Alexandria, a Roman colony. We then come to the town of Nee, the Scamander, a navigable river, and the spot where in former times the town of Sigeum stood, upon a promontory. We next come to the Port of the Achæans, into which the Xanthus flows after its union with the Simois, and forms the Palæscamander, which was formerly a lake. The other rivers, rendered famous by Homer, namely, the Rhesus, the Heptaporus, the Caresus, and the Rhodius, have left no vestiges of their existence. The Granicus, taking a different route, flows into the Propontis. The small city of Scamandria, however, still exists, and, at a distance of a mile and a half from its harbour, Ilium, a place exempt from tribute, the fountain-head of universal fame.  Beyond the gulf are the shores of Rhœteum, peopled by the towns of Rhœteum, Dardanium, and Arisbe. There was also in former times a town of Achilleon, founded near the tomb of Achilles by the people of Mitylene, and afterwards rebuilt by the Athenians, close to the spot where his fleet had been stationed near Sigeum. There was also the town of Æantion, founded by the Rhodians upon the opposite point, near the tomb of Ajax, at a distance of thirty stadia from Sigeum, near the spot where his fleet was stationed.

In the first sentence, Pliny mentions three towns, the last of which is Alexandria Troas, a town 15 miles south west of Troy on the Aegean shore that was renamed for Alexander the great, and which was in Pliny's day a Roman colony.  He is progressing north along the Aegean shore.  Another town, then the river, then Sigeum,  

If Pliny spotted a river between Troas and Sigeum, it would have been the artificial canal at Besik Bay.  It is probably not the Scamander, and certainly not navigable.  Below is a clip showing the canal in our times.  

Even if that is only a tenth of the water volume that was flowing down this hillside in ancient times, it was not navigable.   

After Sigeum, Pliny mentions "the port of the Acheans into which the Xanthus flows".  At this point his progression turns eastward.  The port of the Acheans has a river flowing into it which has joined with the Simois, and forms the Paleoscamander, "which was formerly a lake".  That sounds like a large river mouth.  After this he talks about the other rivers mentioned by Homer.  Then he talks about the trojan plain.  There is a town called Scamadria.  And "Ilium, a place exempt from tribute, the fountain-head of universal fame" is a mile and a half from its port.  

Then he says, "Beyond the gulf" is Rhoeteum. What gulf does he have in mind?  Perhaps the Paleoscamder.  Perhaps there was more of a bay between the two prominences than we see today, and he is referring to that gulf.  

In addition, he mentions the belief that Achilles and Ajax stationed their ships on the far sides of the beach, one near Sigeum the other near Rhoeteum, which are at least two miles apart.  

There is a tumulus of Achilles where Achilleon was supposed to be.  There is a tumulus of Ajax near Rhoeteum.  

My question is, what is Pliny talking about with his navigable Scamander remark?

Perhaps he thinks of the canal as a branch of a navigable river, the Paleoscamander, which he says was once a lake.  He calls its source Xanthus, which is interchangeable with Scamander in many writers.  

So if Pliny is at sea going north along the Aegean coast here, then perhaps he thinks of the canal and Besik Bay as a finger of the delta of a navigable river.  As he sails east into the Dardanelle Straits, he sees a quarter mile wide, mile long river mouth and other river mouths.  He concludes that what he saw along the Aegean side of the land mass was a finger of the same river.  

That is my suggestion.   On this reading, Pliny is not saying that the finger of river he saw at Besik Bay was navigable.  He is saying that the river that puts out a finger there was navigable.  

So, I think he is probably making two bad inferences.  

1. He infers that the canal at Besik Bay is part of the Scamander/Paleoscamander

2, He infers that the upper parts of the Xanthus/Paleoscamander are navigable like the mouth at the shoreline of the Dardanelles probably was

In general, the waterways in the plain of Troy are not navigable except by small craft near the Dardanelles.    

On Atlantis, Graham Hancock and Ignatius Donnelly

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