Last updated on February 13th, 2021 at 11:09 am
Greek mythology is one of the richest in the world.
Most cultures don’t need such complex stories to explain the origin of the world, they use only the essentials.
But the Greeks overdid it.
Maybe not without a reason though and mythology was not just about myths.
As we know, most of the mythological elements come from 3 epic poems. The Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer and the Theogony of Hesiod.
In fact, most mythological monsters are mentioned in the Odyssey.
Homer and Hesiod were not historians but poets.
They wrote their poems based on old stories that were passed down orally from generation to generation. Every time with some degree of alteration since the imagination of the ancients raged.
After the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, around 1100BCE followed what is referred to as the dark ages of Greek civilization.
In fact, historical development and life did not stop, they just stopped recording the events for some reason.
It was the period that did not leave us written documents about historical events.
But these continued to happen and their memory was preserved by oral speech.
The poets collected them and wrote their epics.
Are epics History?
Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey around 760 BC while the Theogony of Hesiod was written about 50 years later, in 700 BC.
Epic poems that in our opinion include myths but also historical events slightly distorted and very embellished with fictional stories that made them more attractive to the audience of that time.
So in mythology and because of the absence of other more reliable sources, we have to look for historical truths and facts during the Greek Dark ages.
Certainly, there are historical truths in the epics. There is no other way to explain the volume of information and the countless people, historical and imaginary, who participate.
The Trojan War and the city of Troy as real facts and location are disputed by many.
On the other hand, there is no evidence for the non-existence of Troy.
On the contrary, there are dozens of indications that there was a war and the city of Troy existed.
The Iliad describes so many events and there are so many faces that it is not possible to be all figments of the imagination.
We do not know if the leader of the Achaeans Agamemnon was a historical or imaginary person, but it is indisputable that Mycenae and their culture really existed.
The same happens with the Myrmidons of Achilles, there was historically a Greek tribe of warriors in Phthia, today’s Fthiotida.
Also, all these Greek leaders who took part in the campaign against Troy could not be imaginary.
There is no smoke without fire.
Here and now, using simple logic, we can distinguish the imaginary from the real.
We can, with almost certainty, classify the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the abduction of the Beautiful Helen, if she ever exists, and other stories, in the realm of fantasy.
But we will keep things that seem logical.
History through myths
If the Trojan War took place, it was not due to an unfaithful woman, but for economic reasons.
In the Black Sea, the Ancient Greeks had since established colonies and commercial activities with the peoples of the region, through their ships.
If there was a city where is believed to be Troy, it would certainly be in control of the Bosphorus Strait and most likely impose tariffs on merchant ships.
That was probably the reason for the war. The Greeks wanted to gain control of the straits.
A very logical explanation showing us that although man progressed after 32 centuries, in fact, he remained the same.
Through the Odyssey, we met many mythological monsters, witches, sirens, cyclops.
But also People like the Phaeacians, which really existed and it is known that their island is today identified as the island of Corfu.
It is said that the island of Calypso was the largest island of the Diapontian islands north of Corfu, today’s Othonoi.
In fact, there is a cave on the island called the cave of Calypso.
Ithaca is also described in the Odyssey. According to Homer’s descriptions regarding the topology of the islands, it is not today’s Ithaca.
It is probably the western part of Kefalonia which at that time had not yet joined Kefalonia and was an independent island.
But also the stories of Hesiod that describe the origin of the Greeks may also contain some historical truths.
And why believe Bible tales that have no historical basis and question our own history?
As funny as a war between the Titans and the gods seems, it is ten times more ridiculous for a (non-existent) god to give his ten commandments to Abraham on a mountain.
A war between the Titans and the gods may have actually taken place between two groups of people or aliens? and passed into the realm of myth.
The son of Deucalion and Pyrrha, Hellene, settled in Phthia (Fthiotida) where according to Hesiod the first nucleus of the Greeks emerged.
From there comes the mythical Achilles, his possible descendant, and leader of the historic Myrmidons.
The Pelasgians and the Minoan civilization
In mythology, we find elements for both the Pelasgians in the islands and the Minoans in Crete.
Peoples that have been proven to exist.
One may not be able to prove the existence of king Minos, of course, the Minotaur is out of the question, but the labyrinth used to prison the minotaur, exist. Discovered by Arthur Evans after excavations in Knossos.
The Pelasgians flourished in the Cyclades and Crete 5000 years ago. Before the Achaean civilization in the Peloponnese and Mycenae.
They lived in the Late Bronze Age and had their own writing system, Linear A, until the 16th century BC when their civilization collapsed, possibly due to an eruption of the Thera(Santorini) volcano.
Linear A found in several archaeological finds but could not be deciphered.
Its oldest specimens date back to 3000 BC.
The Mycenaeans took over Crete after the Minoans collapse
After the Minoans collapse, the Achaeans of Mycenae possibly took over the islands and Crete. They transformed Linear A to Linear B in order to make it suit better to their language.
That is the reason, we believe, that Linear B deciphered while Linear A didn’t. Linear A was used for a different language, unknown until today, while Linear B was a syllabary system adapted to suit the Greek language.
For this reason, probably the Minoans were non-Greek-speaking people.
But if not, what they were, where they came from?
Origin of the Minoans
There were many speculations about the Minoan’s origin. Some spoke about north African origin, some others that they were settlers from Anatolia or the Middle East.
Until DNA studies revealed the historical truth and put an end to these speculations.
A team of researchers in the United States and Greece has used mitochondrial DNA analysis of Minoan skeletal remains to determine the likely ancestors of these ancient people.
Results published May 14th, 2013 in Nature Communications suggest that the Minoan civilization arose from the population already living in Bronze Age Crete.
The findings indicate that these people probably were descendants of the first humans to reach Crete about 9,000 years ago and that they have the greatest genetic similarity with modern European populations.
They were local Cretan people without genetic relations with Africans or middle Easterns other than cultural influences!
Linear B – The first Greek script
Clay tablets with Linear B texts found almost all over Greece with the oldest dating back to 1650 BC.
Linear B is the evolution of A and used both by the inhabitants of the Aegean islands and Crete and by the Mycenaeans from 1650BCE onwards.
This writing deciphered by the young architect Michael Ventris with the help of the philologist John Chadwick in 1952.
Linear B used linear characters, something that distinguishes it from hieroglyphics. Every character depicted as a syllable, therefore it was a syllabic script.
It includes 89 letters, which represent syllables, and around 260 logograms, ie small linear icons that each give a whole word. There are also symbols for numbers.
It turned out that this writing rendered the Greek language. The decryption revealed Greek words and names of an archaic Greek dialect.
Linear B was therefore a Greek script used to write an archaic Greek dialect.
And more than 5000 samples of Linear B inscriptions have been found. The clay tablets of Linear B are the first written monuments of the Greek language.
At 1200BCE the Mycenean civilization collapsed. And by 1100BCE the script of Linear B gradually diminished until it was fully abandoned during the dark ages.
The pre-classic Greek civilization(Archaic) emerged again in 800BCE, with another writing system, the Greek alphabet. The names of several deities and the language remained unchanged.
This is extraordinary, names such as Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes, Hera, Ares, Dionysos, Artemis, and others, found written with the Greek alphabet in 800BCE. As they were in the oldest of Linear B texts, unchanged in time.
Without a doubt, there is cultural continuity between Mycenaean times and classical times despite the 3 centuries of illiteracy and stagnation.