User talk:Akhilleus/archive1

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River-stream of Oceanus[edit]

Some researchers (ancient and modern) believe that on his trip back to Ithaca, Odysseus came out of the Straights of Gibraltar, and travelled in the Atlantic Ocean. Homer describes the river-stream of Oceanus which can be identified today as the Gulf stream. See also Ogygia and Scheria.

I know it's a long way out of his course, but what do you think about this?--Odysses 18:59, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm skeptical about theories that identify the "real geography" behind O.'s adventures. I think the Odyssey does reflect archaic Greek knowledge of the western Mediterranean, but not in a way that allows us to plot O.'s voyages on a map. Archaic Greek (8th-6th centuries BCE) geographical knowledge of areas outside the Aegean and mainland Greece was pretty hazy and non-specific, and doesn't necessarily correspond with our modern knowledge (or even that of a 5th century Greek sailor). Even in the 5th century, there seems to be a hazy picture of the western mediterranean--if you look at, say, Herodotus' geography of north-west Africa, a lot of it is quite fantastic--and this is in a period where we're sure that (some) Greeks were familiar with the Iberian peninsula. And remember, during a lot of O.'s journey, he can't figure out where the sun rises and sets, which is a clear way of indicating he's not in the normal world.
As for Oceanus, I'd simply say that Odysseus goes there because like Gilgamesh and Herakles, he has to go to the ends of the earth to get to the land of the dead. For the ancient Greeks, Ocean always represents the edge of the world. A really good book on this subject, and ancient geography in general, is James Romm's The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought (Princeton 1994). Akhilleus 05:22, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

I had a look in some pages of "The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought" by James Romm and it looks quite interesting. I agree that Odysseus was certainly a cunning explorer, but even though he survived Scylla and Charybdis, he wasn't much of a sailor. It took him some three years of sailing to make a 3-4 week journey. Unless this was just an excuse to delay his return home :-)

Homer describes two types of places. Those that can today be verified as existing archaic places or cities, like Sparta, Aulis, Troy and Ithaca (even though the exact location may be disputed) and the unidentified places like Ogygia Scheria and the underworld for the location of which there is hardly any clue.

The last 150 years there has been a lot of progress in archaeology. Heinrich Schliemann , Sir Arthur Evans, Michael Ventris are some of the major contributors. Recently Robert M. Schoch suggested that the Great Sphinx of Giza is much older than archaeologists believe, at least 7.000 years old, which is a very significant piece of information. Yet, we'll have to wait for a few more years to see if Schoch is right or wrong.

Plato in Timaios gives some relevant information.

in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles. The island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean.

Surprisingly, by "the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean" Plato refers to America, not Atlantis as some researchers believe. He could neither refer to Asia, since Asia is not fully surrounded by ocean. So today we can verify that Plato was right in this second part.

In Homer's description:

Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there. For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand what it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the cities and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. (Homer, The Odyssey, Book 8)

Phaeacians ships could possibly be identified today as equipped with an Autopilot, a Global Positioning System, and a Doppler radar. Hence no pilot required, the destination coordinates recorded into a memory allow to accurately determine the destination location and finally, travelling in bad weather conditions is possible.

Despite of all this, we still have insuficient information for any reliable conclusions.--Odysses 15:38, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

I don't think Homer's geography is an archaeological problem. Archaeology helps, as when Schliemann excavated Troy, but he had already figured out where Troy was--the excavations confirmed his identification. Re-dating the pyramids isn't going to help us find Hades or Ogygia, I think...
On the western continent, Romm has some interesting stuff, I hope you get a chance to look at it. I'll just say that Plato's description might superficially look like he's talking about the Americas, but his description doesn't actually correspond. More importantly, there's almost no chance he had accurate information about the Americas.
I don't quite understand what you're saying about the Phaeacian ships--are you saying that autopiloted, GPS-equipped ships are the modern equivalent, or that they actually had such things?
Anyway, the fact that you (Odysses) and I (Akhilleus) are having a (friendly) argument about these matters reminded me of another passage from book 8 of the Odyssey:
But when they had their fill of eating and drinking,
the Muse moved the singer to sing the glories of men,
from a tale whose fame reached the vast heavens:
the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus,
how they once fought at a sumptuous feast of the gods,
with terrible words, and the king of men, Agamemnon,
rejoiced in his mind that the best of the Achaeans were fighting...
Akhilleus 18:42, 10 March 2006 (UTC)


As you point out, after many years another Akhilleus and Odysses are attempting to tackle another tricky situation. :-)

It's a nice exchange of ideas.

I had a new look at Romm from your link. Unfortunately, it seems that only chapter 1 is available online, so perhaps I'll have to buy it.

Here is a brief account from another book "Journey to Mythological Hell (to Hades) by Enrico Mattievich. Unfortunately available in Brazilian-Portuguese, not in English. From the description in Odyssey, book 10,

here beach your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring rivers run into one another. (Odyssey, book 10)

Mattievich explored the area in the yellow circle in the scanned map bellow, where Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus flow into Acheron (i.e. into Amazon, South America) and claims that this is the place Homer described as Hades (klick to enlarge) and he said it was like hell :-)


I would like to clarify that Mattievich's account does not prove anything about the exact location of Hades. But taking into account Strabo and Plutarch it's very likely that Odysseus travelled beyond the straights and in the Atlantic Ocean.

Now to your question. The description of Phaeacian ships just fifty years ago wouldn't make much sense. Yet only today we can realize that a ship equipped with an Autopilot, a GPS and a Doppler radar would achieve what Homer described. Obviously no such ships existed in the Mycenaean period. The question is where did Homer got this description? I've got two answers.

  1. Either just like Jules Verne who described submarines, aircraft, rockets to the moon etc. in the mid 19th century, long before they were invented, Homer prophesized such a ship from the future,
  2. Or, he might have uncovered records of an advanced antediluvian civilization, like Atlantis, i.e. copied the paragraph from an old script.

Here is a description on how the Phaeacian ship departed:

The ship bounded forward on her way as a four in hand chariot flies over the course when the horses feel the whip. Her prow curveted as it were the neck of a stallion, and a great wave of dark blue water seethed in her wake. She held steadily on her course, and even a falcon, swiftest of all birds, could not have kept pace with her. Thus, then, she cut her way through the water. (Odyssey, Book XIII)

It seems to me that the above description fits better to a modern 4-engined cruiser than a 12th century BC pentecontor.

With Plato is a bit tricky. I have added a third link and I hope it's more clear now:

in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles. The island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean.

Plato describes Atlantis as big island, and America as a true continent. But again, I may be wrong.

Would it be a good idea to paste this page in Talk:Homer in case others might join? --Odysses 17:59, 11 March 2006 (UTC)


(sob) Wikipedia can really be edited by anyone at all. dab () 10:19, 13 March 2006 (UTC)