HOMER IN THE BALTIC
"Homer in the Baltic": why? Since ancient times the Homeric geography was considered discrepant with the Mediterranean Greek world (for instance, the position of Ithaca, the Peloponnese plain, etc.). The key for penetrating this world is furnished by Plutarch, who in one of his works, the "De facie quae in orbe Lunae apparet", makes a surprising statement: Calypso's island Ogygia is located in the North Atlantic, "five days of navigation from Britain". Starting with this tenuous clue and following the precise indications of the Odyssey as to the eastward route that Odysseus travelled after leaving Ogygia (identifiable as one of the Faroe islands where the highest mountain still keeps a similar name) one is able to locate the land of the Phaeacians, Scherie, in the southern coast of Norway (in the ancient Nordic language, "skerja" means "rock").
Beginning with the Norwegian coast - lapped by the Gulf Stream, the River Ocean of the mythology - exact matches enable us to locate the archipelago in which Homer places Ithaca in a group of Danish islands (South-Fyn islands): in fact, as Odyssey affirms, there are three main islands: Dulichium (meaning "the Long One" in the Greek language, never found in the Mediterranean), Same and Zacynthus, the first of which corresponds to Langeland ("the Long One" in Danish). We can identify Ithaca itself with the island Ly\o, that fits perfectly with Odysseus's island for its geographic position: it is the furthest to the west in the archipelago; moreover, between Ithaca/Ly\o \ and Same/ \O r\o \ there is another little island, named Asteris by Homer: it is the present Avernak\o. Furthermore, Ly\o \ agrees with Ithaca in every topographic detail: for example, we again find the ancient "Phorcys's Harbour" and the "Raven's Crag" (corresponding to a Neolithic dolmen placed in the west of the island). East of Ly\o, we can identify the Homeric Peloponnese - "Pelops's Island", where the Atreidae and king Nestor reigned - with the wide island Sj\o lland, where Copenhagen lies now: it is a plain as described by Homer both in Odyssey and Iliad (the Greek Peloponnese is neither a plain nor an island).
Our search now turns to the area of Troy (at present some scholars, e.g. Professor Moses Finley, deny the identification of Troy with the town discovered by Schliemann near Hissarlik). The Homeric Troy is placed North-East of the sea, in front of the "broad Hellespont": therefore, it is quite different from the town near the Dardanelles (notice that the medieval Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus mentions a people named "Hellespontins" in the Eastern Baltic area). Now, in an area in the south of Finland, west of Helsinki, there are many places whose names startingly recall the names in the Iliad, in particular those of the Trojan Allies: Askainen, Reso, Karjaa, Ly\o kki, Tenala, Kiila, Kiikoinen, Aijala and many others. Moreover the place-names Tanttala and Sipil\a a (the mythical King Tantalus was buried on a mountain named Sipylus) indicate that this matter doesn't only touch Homer's geography, but affects the entire world of "Greek" mythology. And Troy? Right at the centre of this region, in a place whose characteristics correspond to those passed down to us by Homer - the hilly ground dominating the valley with the two rivers, the plain stretching to the coast, a mountainous area at its shoulders - we discover that king Priam's city had survived the sacking and burning of the Achaeans and has preserved its name almost unaltered to this day: "Toija", as it is called today, is now a peaceful Finnish village, unaware of its tragic past.
In this geographical context we understand why a "thick fog" often falls on the warriors fighting on the plain of Troy and why Odysseus's sea is never the shining Greek sea but is always "grey" and "misty". Homer's descriptions outline a typically northern climate, with cold, ice, wind, rain, storms, snow (even on the plain and on the sea!), without sunshine or warmth. We are very far from the torrid Anatolian plains. In this context, the "anomaly" of the long battle described from books XI to XVIII of Iliad, with two noons (XI, 86; XVI, 777) and a "dreadful night" (XVI, 567), without any pause for darkness (which is impossible in a Mediterranean context), becomes understandable: the clear night of the high latitudes, near the summer solstice, allows Patroclus's fresh troops, entering the battle in the evening, to go on fighting till the following day, without interruptions.
The "Catalogue of the Ships" of book II of Iliad, followed anticlockwise along the coasts of the Baltic sea, allows us to reconstruct the whole world of Homer. For example, the Swedish bay of Norrt\aa lje, from whose end the ferries leave for Helsinki, coincides with Aulis, from which the Achaeans left for Troy; the island Lemland recalls ancient Lemnos, where Achaeans halted during their trip; near Stockholm one comes across T\aa by, Oedipus's Thebes, as is confirmed by the nearby Tyres\o, which recalls the Theban soothsayer Teiresias; the primordial Theseus's Athens (of which a singular description is left to us by Plato in the dialogue Critias: it was lying on a wavy plain with many rivers, very different from Greece's morphology) should be located near Karlskrona; following the Catalogue, we meet the Peloponnese, Dulichium and Ithaca's archipelago: in short, the Iliad confirms the previous identification with Sj\o lland, Langeland and Ly\o; the "spacious land" of Crete, which Homer never calls an island, lies along the Polish tract of the Baltic coast (Poland's own name, Polska, recalls the "noble Pelasgians", Crete's mythical inhabitants; moreover, according to the Theseus and Ariadne's myth, between Crete/Poland and Athens/Karlskrona was the island Naxos: effectively there lies the island Bornholm with the town of Nekso); the Estonian island Hiiumaa, or Chiuma, is Chios, which Nestor's fleet coasted when coming back from Troy. In short, this northern location of the Iliad and the Odyssey outlines a fully coherent global picture with the Greek mythology, totally non-existing in the Mediterranean world!
And what about Odysseus's trips, after the war of Troy? When he is about to reach Ithaca, a storm takes him away from his world; so he has many adventures in fabulous localities until he reaches Ogygia, one of the Faroe islands. These islands are located out of the Baltic, in the North Atlantic. He also meet s the "Ocean River", that's the Gulf Stream. The Eolian island, where there is the "King of the winds", "son of the Knight", is one of the Shetlands (maybe Yell), where there are strong winds and ponies; Cyclops were in the coast of Norway (near Tosenfjorden: the name of their mother is Toosa): they coincide with the Trolls of the Norwegian folklore. The land of Lestrigonians was in the same coast, towards the North: Homer says that here the days are very long (in fact the famous scholar Robert Graves places the Lestrigonians in the North of Norway! Besides, in this area we find the island Lamoj, the Homeric Lamos); the island of the sorceress Circe, where there are the midnight sun and the rotating dawns ("the dancing of the Dawn", as Homer says), is Jan Mayen (at that time the climate was warmer); following Prof. Graves, the strange "wandering rocks" are icebergs; Charybdis is the well-known whirlpool named Maelstr\o m, near the Lofoten; south of Charybdis Odysseus meets the island Trinakia, that means "trident", and near the Maelstr\o m we find Vaer\o y, a three-tip island. The Sirens are very dangerous shoals for sailors, who are attracted by the enticing noise of the backwash (the "Sirens' song") and deceive themselves thinking that landing is at hand. Instead, if they get near, they are bound to shipwreck on the reefs! In short, these adventures, presumibly taken from tales of ancient seamen and elaborated by the Poet's fantasy, represent the last memory of the oceanic routes followed by the ancient navigators of the Nordic Bronze Age. They became unrecognizable when transposed into a totally different context.
Our northern location of the Iliad and Odyssey outlines a fully coherent global picture with the Greek mythology. Moreover this is coherent with archaeological evidence found in Greece about the Northern origin of the Mycenaean civilisation (see Nilsson, Homer and Mycenae, London 1933, pages 71-86). For instance, the presence of a great quantity of amber in the earlier Mycenaean graves and its absence in the later ones, the northern features of their architecture (the Mycenaean megaron "is identical with the hall of the old Scandinavian kings"), the "striking similarity" of some stone slabs found in a chamber tomb at Dendra "with the menhirs known from the Bronze age of Central Europe", the northern like skulls found in the Kalkani necropolis etc. On the other hand, scholars found remarkable analogies between a huge Swedish Bronze Age grave near Kivik (75 meters of diameter!) and the coeval Aegean (Cretan and Mycenaean) imagery. Also a graffito of a Mycenaean dagger was found on a megalith at Stonehenge (South of England; other traces in the same area appear to preceed the rising of this civilisation in Greece) and the civilization described by Homer appears more archaic than the Mycenaean one.
So, it was along the Baltic coasts, where the Bronze Age was flourishing in the 2nd millennium B.C., during the terminal phase of the climate optimum of the present interglacial, that the events of the Homeric poems and the Greek mythology took place. Subsequently, when the "post-glacial climatic climax" (with average temperatures much higher than at present) ended, the Achaeans, fair-haired navigators, moved to the Mediterranean sea, where they gave origin (about 1600 B.C.) to the Mycenaean civilization. They named the various places they settled after the ones they had left in their lost homeland. Besides, they handed down from generation to generation the ancient tales of their ancestors and the former nuclei of Iliad and Odyssey, real "fossils" that survived the collapse of the Bronze Age in the North of Europe. This is why nobody knows anything of their author(s)....
There is sufficient evidence to start archaeological research on the
places of Ly\o \ and Toija, which already appear very promising.
Remains of Stone and Bronze Age were found in the ground near Toija. Besides,
in the area of Salo (a town 15 miles away) wonderful bronze swords, now
exhibited in the National Museum of Helsinki, were found. This is the proof
that this area was really the site of an ancient civilisation. The one
sung by Homer? The ultimate word is up to archaeology.