Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Straight Dope on the Trojan War

As an occasional reader of the Straight Dope through the years I was pleased to see the latest entry, though I was very highly disturbed by the question that Cecil Adams was responding to:

In mythology class the other day, my teacher mentioned that Agamemnon's death mask had been found ...
I would have replied that her mythology teacher be fired immediately. Cecil was nicer and actually pretty informative (but that's what we've come to expect). The argument that (Hittite) Ahhiyawa equals (Greek) Achaea and that Wilusija equals Ilios is still disputed and I think he handles it well here in his closing statement:
The point is, we know the Greeks (or at least the Ahhiyawans) interfered in Trojan (or at least Wilusan) politics and on one or two occasions arranged the overthrow of the king. That’s a frail thread to hang the Iliad on, but it’s all we’ve got.
An old but still accessible and readable account by as eminent a scholar as you'll find is given in History and the Homeric Iliad by Denys Page, which I apparently picked up in a used book store for $3.50 in my undergraduate days.

For what it's worth, on Ahhiyawa the Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed.) cites only T.R. Bryce in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology (1989): 297-310.

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