History and The Iliad
The excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik in the late 19th century provided initial evidence to scholars that there was an historical basis for the Trojan War. Research into oral epics in Serbo-Croatian and Turkic languages, pioneered by the aforementioned Parry and Lord, began convincing scholars that long poems could be preserved with consistency by oral cultures until they are written down. The decipherment of Linear B in the 1950s by Michael Ventris (and others) convinced many of a linguistic continuity between 13th century BC Mycenaean writings and the poems attributed to Homer.
It is probable, therefore, that the story of the Trojan War as reflected in the Homeric poems derives from a tradition of epic poetry founded on a war which actually took place. It is crucial, however, not to underestimate the creative and transforming power of subsequent tradition: for instance, Achilles, the most important character of the Iliad, is strongly associated with southern Thessaly, but his legendary figure is interwoven into a tale of war whose kings were from the Peloponnese. Tribal wanderings were frequent, and far-flung, ranging over much of Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. The epic weaves brilliantly the disiecta membra (scattered remains) of these distinct tribal narratives, exchanged among clan bards, into a monumental tale in which Greeks join collectively to do battle on the distant plains of Troy.
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Famous quotes containing the words iliad and/or history:
“In Homer and Chaucer there is more of the innocence and serenity of youth than in the more modern and moral poets. The Iliad is not Sabbath but morning reading, and men cling to this old song, because they still have moments of unbaptized and uncommitted life, which give them an appetite for more.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“Bias, point of view, furyare they ... so dangerous and must they be ironed out of history, the hills flattened and the contours leveled? The professors talk ... about passion and point of view in history as a Calvinist talks about sin in the bedroom.”
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