Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Few Notes on the Destruction of Troy

There are several stories about the destruction of Troy.  I will recite a few here and in future blog posts.  I am especially interested in remarks about the city, but remarks about the destruction of other things will be taken into account as well.  

I will start with Strabo, who wrote in the second half of the first century.  

Though many writers have made collections of such instances, those collected by Demetrius of Scepsis will suffice since they are appropriately cited. For example, he mentions these verses of Homer: "And they came to the two fair-flowing springs, where two fountains rise of deep-eddying Scamander; the one floweth with warm water, while the other in summer floweth forth like hail"; and then he does not allow us to marvel if at the present time the spring of cold water is still there, whereas the one of hot water is no longer visible. For, says he, we must lay the cause to the shutting off of the hot water. And he recalls on this point the words of Democles, who records certain great earthquakes, some of which long ago took place about Lydia and Ionia as far north as the Troad, and by their action not only were villages swallowed up, but Mt. Sipylus was shattered — in the reign of Tantalus. And lakes arose from swamps, and a tidal wave submerged the Troad.  (Strabo, Geography 1.3.17)

A tidal wave submerged the Troad?  The Troad is the area containing Troy, and the designation usually takes in the entire Biga Peninsula (everything west of a line from Zeleia to Adramyntium on the map below). 


Needless to say, if a tidal wave submerged the entire peninsula, it would have devastated the city in the plain at Troy.  Strabo also mentions earthquakes.  

Let's move on to Quintus of Smyrna, who lived in the late 4th century.  His topic is Poseidon's destruction of the wall built around the camp of the Argive/Achean/Danaan/Greek forces at Troy.  

But Earth-shaker's jealousy now burned against those long walls and towers uppiled by the strong Argives for a fence against the Trojans' battle-onset. Swiftly then he swelled to overbrimming all the sea that rolls from Euxine [Black Sea] down to Hellespont, and hurled it on the shore of Troy: and Zeus, for a grace unto the glorious Shaker of Earth, poured rain from heaven: withal Far-darter [Apollo] bare in that great work his part; from Ida's heights into one channel led he all her streams, and flooded the Achaeans' work. The sea dashed o'er it, and the roaring torrents still rushed on it, swollen by the rains of Zeus; and the dark surge of the wide-moaning sea still hurled them back from mingling with the deep, till all the Danaan walls were blotted out beneath their desolating flood. Then earth was by Poseidon chasm-cleft: up rushed deluge of water, slime and sand, while quaked Sigeum with the mighty shock, and roared the beach and the foundations of the land Dardanian. So vanished, whelmed from sight, that mighty rampart. Earth asunder yawned, and all sank down, and only sand was seen, when back the sea rolled, o'er the beach outspread far down the heavy-booming shore. All this the Immortals' anger wrought. But in their ships the Argives storm-dispersed went sailing on. So came they home, as heaven guided each, even all that 'scaped the fell sea-tempest blasts.  THE END  (Quintus of Smyrna, Post-Homerica, final lines) 

Quintus is talking about the destruction of a "rampart" or of "those long walls and towers" built by the Greeks somewhere in the Trojan plain near the shore.  This passage recalls a passage in Homer on the same topic, the destruction of the Greek walls in the Trojan plain.  

While brave Patroclus was tending wounded Eurypylus in his hut, the Greeks and Trojans milled together fighting, and it seemed the Danaans’ trench and the thick wall behind it would not long protect them. They had built the wall and dug the moat to defend the ships and their vast spoils, but had failed in ritual sacrifice to the gods. Built in violation of immortal will, it could not stand for long. In fact while Hector lived, and Achilles nursed his anger, and Priam’s city remained intact, the Achaeans’ mighty wall remained. But when the best of the Trojans were dead, and many Greeks too though some survived, and Troy had fallen in the tenth year, and the Greeks in their ships had sailed for their native land, Poseidon and Apollo would agree to destroy it, channeling the force of all the rivers against it, those that flow from Ida to the sea. RhesusHeptaporusCaresusRhodiusGranicusAesepus, fair Scamander and Simoïs, by whose banks lay many an ox-hide shield, many a helmet, many a warrior of that well-nigh immortal generation: all these rivers Phoebus Apollo would merge together, and for nine days turn their flood against the wall, while Zeus poured down continual rain the quicker to wash it to the sea. Poseidon, Earth-Shaker, the trident in his hands, would further the destruction, sweeping its foundations, all the stones and beams, into the waves, all that the Greeks had laboured so hard to establish; would turn the rivers back into their channels confining their fair streams; cover the long beach again with sand, and make all smooth again by Hellespont
(Iliad Book XII, lines 1ff)

Both passages describe many rivers in the area flooding at the same time and washing the Greek walls away.  Quintus includes an earthquake: "Then earth was by Poseidon chasm-cleft: up rushed deluge of water, slime and sand, while quaked Sigeum with the mighty shock, and roared the beach and the foundations of the land Dardanian." Sigeum is NW of Troy about 4 miles, Dardania is NE more than 15 miles from the city.  By "the land Dardanian" he probably does not mean merely the area around the city of Dardania, but the area in the northwest Troad.  

Finally, consider the account of Dio Chrysostum, a Greek writer living in the first century. Dio's 11th Oration is about Troy and maintains the thesis that Troy was never captured.  Dio claims to have learned his tale from Egyptians.  

I, therefore, shall give the account as I learned it from a certain very aged priest in Onuphis, who often made merry over the Greeks as a people, claiming that they really knew nothing about most things, and using as his chief illustration of this, the fact that they believed that Troy was taken by Agamemnon and that Helen fell in love with Paris while she was living with Menelaus; and they were so thoroughly convinced of this, he said, being completely deceived by one man, that everybody actually swore to its truth.  My informant told me that all the history of earlier times was recorded in Egypt, in part in the temples, in part upon certain columns, and that some things were remembered by a few only as the columns had been destroyed, while much that had been inscribed on the columns was disbelieved on account of the ignorance and indifference of later generations. He added that these stories about Troy were included in their more recent records, since Menelaus had come to visit them and described everything just as it had occurred.  When I asked him to give this account, he hesitated at first, remarking that the Greeks are vainglorious, and that in spite of their dense ignorance they think they know everything. (11.30)

Dio claims that the Acheans were never able to effectively fight Hector, who survived the war and became king of Troy.  

The enemy then sailed back to the harbour of the Achaeans and landed under darkness, built a wall about their ships, and dug a trench because they feared Hector and the Trojans, and made preparations as if it were they who expected a siege. Now while the Egyptians agree with Homer on the other points, they insist that he does not speak of the wall as having been finished, their reason being that he has represented Apollo and Poseidon as having at a later time sent the rivers against it and swept it away. The most plausible explanation of it all was merely the foundations of the wall that were inundated. Indeed, even in our day the rivers still make a marsh of the place and have deposited silt far out into the sea.  (11.75f)

Dio wants to accept Homer's story of the Greek wall being washed away, but he thinks that the upper, mud brick parts of the walls were not washed away by the gods, only the stone foundations required divine destruction.   But he is talking about flooding nonetheless.  This is all he says about the destruction of Troy.  He does not accept that it was captured or destroyed by Greeks. Rather, the Trojans survived, grew stronger and prospered.  

The story goes that after the Achaeans sailed away there was a great multitude assembled in the city, and that the allies were not all inclined to depart, and that, further, Hector discovered that Aeneas would not be satisfied if he did not get some share in the royal power, as Priam had promise him, so he claimed, if he saw the war through to the end and expelled the Achaeans; so Hector sent the colonists forth, generously supplying means and dispatching with Aeneas as large a force as he wished, with all goodwill. He assured Aeneas that he was fully entitled to reign and have an authority no whit inferior to his own, but that it was better for him to get another country; because it was not impossible for Aeneas to become master of all Europe, and in that event he had hopes that their descendants would be rulers of both continents as long as their race endured. Accordingly, Aeneas adopted the suggestion of Hector, partly to please him, partly because he hoped to achieve greater things. So thanks to vigour and spirit the colony became an actuality and under the guidance of fortune's favourites was a power at once and in future times. Then Antenor, so they say, on observing Aeneas' preparations, likewise desired to get a kingdom in Europe. So another similar expedition was fitted out. The story adds that Helenus, complaining that he was getting less than Deïphobus, petitioned his father, obtained a fleet and army, and sailed to Greece as though it were waiting for him, and occupied all the territory from which the treaties did not exclude him.  And so it happened that when Diomede in exile from Argos heard of Aeneas' expedition, he came to him, since peace and friendship existed between them, and asked for his help, after relating the misfortunes that had befallen Agamemnon and himself. Aeneas welcomed him and his little fleet of ships and gave him a small part of his army, since he had brought all the country under his sway. Later those Achaeans who had been driven out by the Dorians, not knowing in their weak condition which way to turn, made their way to Asia and to the descendants of Priam and Hector as to friends and allies, and then, with the friendly consent of these, founded Lesbos, whose inhabitants allowed them to do so through friendship, and other not inconsiderable places. (11.140f) 

The war ends in Trojan colonization of the world, according to Dio.  




 

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