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The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales
The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Migration of Myth
Table of Contents
About The Book
• Reveals how a climate change forced the migration of a people and their myth to ancient Greece
• Identifies the true geographic sites of Troy and Ithaca in the Baltic Sea and Calypso's Isle in the North Atlantic Ocean
For years scholars have debated the incongruities in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, given that his descriptions are at odds with the geography of the areas he purportedly describes. Inspired by Plutarch's remark that Calypso's Isle was only five days sailing from Britain, Felice Vinci convincingly argues that Homer's epic tales originated not in the Mediterranean, but in the northern Baltic Sea.
Using meticulous geographical analysis, Vinci shows that many Homeric places, such as Troy and Ithaca, can still be identified in the geographic landscape of the Baltic. He explains how the dense, foggy weather described by Ulysses befits northern not Mediterranean climes, and how battles lasting through the night would easily have been possible in the long days of the Baltic summer. Vinci's meteorological analysis reveals how a decline of the "climatic optimum" caused the blond seafarers to migrate south to warmer climates, where they rebuilt their original world in the Mediterranean. Through many generations the memory of the heroic age and the feats performed by their ancestors in their lost homeland was preserved and handed down to the following ages, only later to be codified by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Felice Vinci offers a key to open many doors that allow us to consider the age-old question of the Indo-European diaspora and the origin of the Greek civilization from a new perspective.
Let us now look for the region of Troy. In the Iliad it is located along the Hellespont Sea, which is systematically described as being “wide” or even “boundless.” We can, therefore, exclude the fact that it refers to the Strait of the Dardanelles, where the city found by Heinrich Schliemann lies. The identiﬁcation of this city with Homer’s Troy still raises strong doubts: we only have to think of Finley’s criticism in the World of Odysseus. In fact, it coincides with the location of the Greco-Roman Troy, but Strabo plainly claims that the latter does not coincide with the Homeric city: “This is not the site of the ancient Ilium.” He also claims that this plain was under the sea in Homeric times (this was confirmed by a drilling made in 1977).
On the other hand, the Danish medieval historian Saxo Grammaticus, in his Gesta Danorum, often mentions a people known as “Hellespontians” and a region called Hellespont, which, strangely enough, seems to be located in the east of the Baltic Sea. Could it be Homer’s Hellespont? We can further identify it with the Gulf of Finland, which is the geographic counterpart of the Dardanelles (as both of them lie northeast of their respective basins). Since Troy, according to the Iliad, lay northeast of the sea (another reason to dispute Schliemann’s location), then it seems reasonable, for the purpose of this research, to look at a region of southern Finland, where the Gulf of Finland joins the Baltic Sea. In this area, west of Helsinki, we find a number of place-names which astonishingly resemble those mentioned in the Iliad and, in particular, the names of the allies of the Trojans: Askainen (Ascanius), Reso (Rhesus), Karjaa (Caria), Nästi (Nastes, the chief of the Carians), Lyökki (Lycia), Tenala (Tenedos), Kiila (Cilla), Kiikoinen (Ciconians), etc. There is also a Padva, which reminds us of Italian Padua, which was founded, according to tradition, by the Trojan Antenor and lies in Veneto. (The “Eneti” or “Veneti” were allies of the Trojans.) What is more, the place-names Tanttala and Sipilä (the mythical King Tantalus, famous for his torment, was buried on Mount Sipylus) indicate that this matter is not only limited to Homeric geography, but seems to extend to the whole world of Greek mythology.
These place-names do not have recent origins, but it is very difﬁcult to establish just how old they are. Unfortunately, all written Finnish and Scandinavian documents, including the most ancient, are relatively too close to our own time, since they do not date back before the year 1000 A.D. Before this date, unlike the Mediterranean world, there is no written evidence available for reconstructing the evolution of place-names. However, they are significant when they are found in clusters, which make cases of accidental resemblance very unlikely, or when they can be linked to geographic, morphologic, and mythological entities. This theory uses place-names mainly as traces or clues, but it is essentially based on the amazing geographic, morphologic, descriptive, and climatic parallels between the Homeric world and the Baltic one, on which Plutarch has given us a lead.
What about Troy? Right in the middle of this area, halfway between Helsinki and Turku, we discover that King Priam’s city has survived the Achaean sack and ﬁre. Its characteristics correspond exactly to those Homer handed down to us: the hilly area that dominates the valley with its two rivers, the plain that slopes down towards the coast, and the highlands in the background. It has even maintained its own name almost unchanged throughout all this time. Today, “Toija” is a peaceful Finnish village, unaware of its glorious and tragic past.
Various trips to these places from July 11, 1992, onward have confirmed the extraordinary correspondence between the Iliad’s descriptions and the area surrounding Toija. What is more, there we come across many significant traces of the Bronze Age. Incredibly, toward the sea we find a place called Aijala, which recalls the “beach” (“aigialós”), where, according to Homer, the Achaeans beached their ships. Besides, the name of the Halikonjoki, the “Haliko River,” which runs 20 km from Toija, is identical to the ancient Greek name “Halikos” of the Platani River in southwestern Sicily, which flows into the sea in an area extremely rich in archaeological remains and mythical records of ancient Greece.
In short, apart from the morphological features of this area, the geographic position of the Finnish Troas fits the mythological directions like a glove. This explains why a “thick fog” often fell on those fighting on the Trojan plain, and Ulysses’ sea is never as bright as that of the Greek islands, but always “grey” and “misty.” Everywhere in the two poems the weather--with its fog, wind, rain, cold temperatures, and snow that falls on the plains and even out to sea--has little in common with the Mediterranean climate; moreover, the Sun and warm temperatures are hardly ever mentioned. In a word, most of the time the weather is unsettled, so much so that the bronze-clad fighting warriors invoke a cloudless sky during the battle. We are far away from the torrid Anatolian lowlands. The way in which Homer’s characters are dressed is in perfect keeping with this kind of climate. They wear tunics and “thick, heavy cloaks” which they never remove, not even during banquets. This attire corresponds exactly to the remains of clothing found in Bronze Age Danish graves, down to such details as the metal brooch that pinned the cloak at the shoulder.
- Publisher: Inner Traditions (December 20, 2005)
- Length: 384 pages
- ISBN13: 9781594770524
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Raves and Reviews
"Powerful, methodical, important, and convincing."
– Alfred de Grazia, author of Burning of Troy
“It is hard to overstate the impact, both scholarly and imaginative, of Vinci’s compellingly argued thesis. . . . Scholars will be rethinking Indo-European studies from the ground up and readers of Homer’s epics will enter fresh realms of delight as they look anew at the world in which Homer’s heroes first breathed and moved.”
– Professor William Mullen, department of classics, Bard College
". . .Vinci engages in intriguing, fascinating, but also well-substantiated speculation on the bases of Homer's works. . . . this work covers many little-known but interesting and colorful aspects of the ancient European world and also enhances appreciation of the literary style and the cultural material and sources of the works."
– Henry Berry, Midwest Book Review, May 2006
". . . blends history and classical studies with geographical analysis and spiritual insights as it provides evidence linking Homer's tales to northern European, not Mediterranean, origins. From how heroic memories were preserved and locales changed to the origins of civilization itself. . . ."
– Diane Donovan, California Bookwatch, June 2006
"Vinci's audacious rewriting of Homeric culture and mythology is a creative proposition, which deserves to be further investigated. He has my full vote of confidence."
– Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies, Oct 2006
"The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales is a rare example of a book that turns received notions upside-down."
– Joscelyn Godwin, translator of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
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