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Siciliy, Carthage, and the Fall of Troy
Jan N. Sammer, Winter 1983
Archaeology of Troy
Map
The Wanderings and Colonization of the West
Objects in the Tombs
The Date of Carthage's Founding
Notes & References
Olympia

The Wanderings and Colonization of the West

Greek literature tradition recounts many tales of the "returns" of the heroic generation that fought at Troy - but few of the plunderers of Priam's citadel reached home safely, and those who did kept their thrones for only a little while; most were condemned to years of wandering in the far reaches of the known world until finally, in despair of ever again seeing their homes, they settled on distant shores from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. It was as if the return home was blocked - not just by stormy seas, but by upheavals and dislocations that deprived the returnees of shelter in their own land. Following the disasters that afflicted the Greek lands, the last of the heroic generation turned into wanderers and pirates, seeking for living space far from their own ravaged habitations.[10] Strabo, the Roman geographer, thus described the situation that ensued in the wake of Troy's fall:

"For it came about that, on account of the length of the campaign, the Greeks of that time, and the barbarians as well, lost both what they had at home and what they had acquired by the campaign; and so, after the destruction of Troy, not only did the victors turn to piracy because of their poverty, but still more became the vanquished who survived the war. And indeed, it is said that a great many cities were founded by them along the whole seacoast outside of Greece, and in some parts of the interior also." [20]
Excavations in Sicily over the past one hundred years have revealed evidence of extensive contact with Greece in the Mycenaean Age. As to the people with whom the Mycenaeans traded, their remains attest to a prosperous culture, beginning in the Early Bronze and lasting for many centuries; but then, after the latest style of imported Mycenaean ware had run its course,[30] no new pottery, actually no sign of any human presence, appears until the late 8th century BC. Scholars conclude that Sicilian civilization of the Late Bronze Age "came to an abrupt end about the middle of the 13th century BC."[40] Were the same causes which brought to a close the age of Mycenaean greatness also active on the far-removed island of Sicily? Archaeologists can only speculate about causes; but on one point their verdict is clear - "A real Dark Age set in only to be brought to an end five centuries later with the Greek colonization of Sicily and Southern Italy."[50]

Regarding the new Greek settlements, archaeology and tradition agree that the first ones were established near the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 7th. The founding of colonies in the western Mediterranean was one of the earliest achievements of the historical Greeks as they emerged out of the ruins of the Mycenaean Age.

Syracuse, on the eastern coast of Sicily, was founded - according to the almost universally accepted tradition - ca. 735 BC [60] Thucydides wrote that "Gela was built in the 45th year after Syracuse by Antiphemus, that brought a colony out of Rhodes."[70] This yields a date of ca, 690 BC for the founding of Gela on the island's southern shore.[80] A tradition preserved by Eusebius has Gela founded in the same year as the city of Phaselis in Asia Minor. Eusebius' date for both cities is 690 BC, closely matching that of Thucydides.[90] These traditions were set forth in greater detail by a Greek historian whose works are no longer extant except for fragments preserved by other ancient writers.

In one surviving fragment from his book `On the Cities of Asia',[100] Philostephanos wrote that Antiphemus - the founder of Sicilian Gela - was a brother of Lacius who founded Phaselis in Asia Minor, both brothers hailing from Rhodes; they had been in the company of Mopsus as he made his way into Cilicia in the years following the Trojan War. In the chronology of Philostephanos, then, Gela was founded in the same generation that saw the fall of Troy, by one of the warriors who took part in that war; and since, what we have seen, the historical date of Gela's establishment was acknowledged by the best authorities to be ca, 690 BC, Priam's city could not have fallen more than two or three decades earlier.[110]

If the Sicilian Late Bronze Age, contemporary with the Mycenaean Age in Greece, ended abruptly about the time of the Trojan War, the stratigraphic sequence yields no evidence about the dark centuries supposedly separating it from the Geometric Age. After only a few decades the Geometric Age was interrupted by the arrival of Greek colonists, bringing their own distinctive culture from Corinth and Rhodes and other places in Greece. Despite the marked changes in the archaeological finds after the cessation of imported Mycenaean ware, many of the old Mycenaean influences continued to flourish both in the native settlements of the late 8th and early 7th centuries and in the Greek colonies - the examples are very numerous.

"The strength of `Mycenaean' influence in Siciliy [in Late Geometric times] is attested by the tholos at Sant'Angelo Muxaro, north of Agrigento [an ancient port on Sicily's southern coast]; but it can scarcely be appreciated without knowledge of the Mycenaean royal tombs."[120] The "large and unusual tholos tombs" [130] at Muxaro "are, in fact, real tholoi, comparable with the Mycenaean ones"[140] even though they are dated "much later than Mycenaean times"[150] - this because of the Geometric pottery found inside. How the Sicilians were able to imitate the dome shaped tholos tombs half a millennium after such constructions ceased to be made in Greece, and despite being "cut off from contact with the Aegean" during the same period,[160] is a puzzling question - especially if we consider that scholars deny that any such tombs were built in Sicily in the five preceding centuries, though they were common in the Late Bronze Age.[170] But let us enter some of the tombs and examine the objects found inside.

Objects in the Tombs

Little pots with geometric and Orientalizing designs indicated a period not earlier than the beginning of the 7th century.[180] Among them the excavators discovered two "splendid gold rings with animal figures incised in their settings."[190] One of these "shows a cow suckling a calf, the other a strange feline animal, or perhaps a wolf" [200], depicted in a way clearly descended "from remote Mycenaean traditions."[210] Not only the rings, but gold bowls found in the same tomb "derive from Mycenaean gold-work."[220] "Perhaps here again we have a far distant echo of the Mycenaean world."[230]

The same puzzling survivals from Mycenaen times appear also at another Sicilian site - at Segesta, in the western part of the island. The founding of Segesta was dated by tradition to the years following the Trojan War, and ascribed to a Trojan named Aegestes.[240] The 8th and 7th century Geometric pottery from Segesta displays startling Mycenaean influences. "A good example is the schematized drawing of a bull, moving from the left to the right with horns butting against an unidentified object. This motif as a common one on Mycenaean and, more generally, Aegean pottery." Other motifs of Mycenean derivation include stylized floral patterns and tassels with meandering lines; these motifs "are not paralleled in Geomtric pottery."[250] The examples are many; and they are all the more remarkable since the last Mycenean pottery on the island is said to have gone out of use some four or five hundred years earlier. These observations caused much amazement among art historians, but brought no vialble suggestion as to how the motifs could have been transmitted through the Dark Age to influence the Geometric ware of Segesta half a millennium later. Could the Phoenicians perhaps have preserved the Mycenaean tradition and, on establishing themselves on the island, have imparted them to the native people of Sicily?, wondered one scholar; but he rejected the thought, for one the earliest Phoenician settlements in Sicily - Motya - only dates from the late 8th or 7th century, and that was found there "of course is not Mycenaean."[260]

Wherever the archaeologists turned, they found a blank in the archaeological sequence where five centuries should have left at least a trace. At Gela "there is a gap ... between the Bronze Age sites, belonging at the outside to the middle of the 2nd millennium, and the objects from the first Greek occupation in the 7th century BC." And the explanation? "This is one confirmation that the native peoples left the coastal regions at the close of the age when, at the dawn of the Greek world, the Mycenaeans and other seafarers who came in their wake brought piracy, violence and looting along with trade."[270] At Thapsos in the vicinity of Syracuse, "Mycenaean imports ... late Mycenaean XIIIth century ware and Ausonian pottery of the XIIth century {was followed] by VIIth century pottery of Sant' Angelo Muxaro type."[290] Between the levels, nothing at all was found.

The responsibility for creating the Dark Age of Sicily lies with the erroneous Egyptian timetable. Some of the Mycenaean ware found on the island at Milazzo "is actually the same pottery as that found in Egypt in the ruins of Tell el Amarna, the capital of Pharaoh Amenophis IV [Akhnaton] (conv. 1372-1355 BV)."[300] All the indications from Sicilian sites showing direct succession of the Late Bronze Age and Greek colonial periods counted for nothing when the absolute time scale, introduced from Egypt, demanded the insertion of five empty centuries. As one scholar admitted in another context, "the Agean prehistorians have no choice but to adapt themselves to the Egyptologists."[310]

The Date of Carthage's Founding

The Phoenicians, who are credited with imparting the alphabet to the Greeks, themselves left few documents, though we know that they had their historians and kept official chronicles. Apart from the laconic testimony of some scattered inscriptions carved in stone, Phoenician writings have perished; for what we know of their history we depend on the reports of Greek and Roman authors who, often, were not kindly disposed towards them.[315] A grim struggle was waged for centuries between the Greeks and Romans on the one hand, and the Phoenicians and their western offshoots, the Carthaginians on the other, in which the prize was nothing less than the political and commercial control of the Meiterranean.

It began as early as the Orientalizing period of the 8th and early 7th centuries with the rivalry of Greek and Phoenician settlers in the West, and culminated with Alexander's capture of Tyre in the 4th century, Rome's defeat of Carthage after the exhausting Punic wars of the 3rd, and Carthage's destruction in the 2nd. Carthage had been the focus of a Phoenician presence in the West for many hundreds of years, before it was leveled to the ground by the Romans in 146 BC. The Roman historian Appian gave a round figure of seven centuries for Carthage's founding [320] by Dido or Elissa, who had fled with a group of followers from the hands of her murderous brother Pygmalion, king of Tyre. Josephus [330] dated Dido's flight 155 years after the accession of Hiram, the ally of David and Solomon, that is in 826 BC.

Another tradition, associated with the 4th century Sicilian chronographer Philistos, placed Carthage's founding "a man's life-length" before the fall of Troy. Despite the fact that Philistos' dating of the Trojan War is unknown, scholars have assumed that he put the date of the founding of Carthage in the 13th century.[330] Yet Appian, who followed Philistos in dating the founding of Carthage "fifty years before the capture of Troy",[340] knew that the city - destroyed in 146 BC - had had a lifetime of not more than 700 years.[350] Thus Appian dated the Trojan War to ca, 800 BC, and there is no reason to thinks that Philistos did not do likewise.

Archaeology, however, does not support a mid-or late 9th century date for the founding of Carthage. After many years of digging, archaeologists have succeeded in penetrating to the most ancient of Carthage's buildings. P. Cintas, excavating a chapel dedicated to the goddess of Tanit, found in the lowest levels a small rectangular structure with a foundation deposit of Greek Orientalizing vases datable to the last quarter of the 8th century.[360] These are still the earliest signs of human habitation at the site; although Cintas originally held out hope that there would be found remains of the earliest settlers of the end of the 9th century, the years have not substantiated such expectations.[370] Scholars are now, for the most part, ready to admit that the ancient chronographers' estimate of the date of the city's founding was exaggerated.[380] But if Carthage was founded ca. 725 BC, the Trojan War would - in the scheme of Philistos and Appian - need to be placed in the first quarter of the 7th century, around 700 to 675 BC.



Notes & References

[010] The reader is also referred to the section titled `A Gap Closed' in Velikovsky's notes `The Dark Age of Greece.'

[020] Strabo, Geography.

[030] The latest style was Late Helladic IIIB with a small number of exemplars of Late Helladic III C. See W. Taylour, Mycenaean Pottery in Italy and Adjacent Areas, (Cambridge, 1958), p. 74.; H.-G. Buchholz, "Agäische Funde und Kultureinflüße in den Randgebieten des Mittelmeers", Archäologischer Anzeiger 89 (1974), pp. 343-346, 349-350.; Thapsos, near Syracuse and Agrigento, are the two main find spots.

[040] L.B. Brea, Siciliy Before the Greeks, (N.Y., 1967), pp. 136.

[050] Loc. cit.; Cf. M. Guido, Sicily: An Archaeological Guid (N.Y., 1967), pp. 133, 196-198.

[060] M. Miller, The Sicialian Colony Dates: Studies in Chronography I, (SUNY Press, Albany, 1972), pp. 13, 21, 32, 33, 41, 42, 110, 182.

[070] Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, VI.4.; The Penguin Classics Version reads, "Gela was founded by Antiphemus from Rhodes and by Entimus from Crete, who joined in leading out a colony there in the 45th years after the foundation of Syracuse." p, 411.

[080] Cf. A.G. Woodhead, The Greeks in the West, (London, 1962), pp. 51-52; G. Griffo and L. von Matt, Gela: The Ancient Greeks in Sicily (Greenwich, Conn., 1968).

[090] This tradition is given in the version of Eusebius' Chronicle preserved by Jerome, Dionysius, and Barhebraeus; cf. Miller, Sthe Sicialian Colony Dates, pp. 14, 187.

[100] In Athenaeus, Philostephanos, Deipnosophistae VII, 298.

[110] A Cretan named Entimus is said to have assisted Antiphemus in the founding of the city; and traces of Minoan influence at Gela have been noted by E. Langlotz (Ancient Greek Sculpture of South Italy and Sicily, (New York, 1965), transl. by A. Hicks, p. 15) and by many others.

[120] Langlotz, Sncient Greek Sculpture, p. 15.

[130] Guido, Sicily, p. 102.

[140] Brea, Sicily Before the Greeks, p. 178.

[150] Guido, Sicily, p. 102; the author dates them "probably from the VIII to the middle of the V" pre-Christian centuries, p. 129.

[160] Dunbabin, T.J., "Minos and Daidalos in Sicily," Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. XVI (New series, Vol. III (1948), p. 9: "The complete absence of Protogeometric, and of Geometric older than the second half of the eighth century, makes it clear that the Minoan-Mycenaean contacts were quite broken."

[170] E.g., at Thapos, Cozzo del Pantano and Caltagirone; Cf. Woodhead, The Greeks in the West, p. 22.

[180] Brea, Sicily Before the Greeks, p. 179; but cf. above, n. 150.

[190] Ibid., p. 179.

[200] Galinsky, G.K., Aeneas, Sicily and Rome (Princeton, 1969), p. 86.

[210] Brea, Sicily Before the Greeks, p. 179. For photographs of the ring, see E. Sjoqvist, Sicily and the Greeks (University of Chicago Press, 1973), fig. 1, p. 5.

[220] Langlotz, Ancient Greek Sculpture, p. 15.

[230] Guido, quoted in Galinsky, Aeneas, Sicily and Rome, p. 86.

[240] Strabo, Geography 6.2.5; 6.1.3. Another name for Segesta was Aegesta.

[250] Galinsky, Aeneas, Sicily and Rome, p. 83.

[260] Ibid., p. 89.

[270] Griffo and von Matt, Gela, p. 56.

[290] Ibid., p. 133. On the excavations at Morgantina, cf. the reports in American Journal of Archaeology, Vols. 62, 64, 65 and 66.

[300] Brea, Sicily Before the Greeks, p. 126. (According to the revised chronology, as presented in Ages in Chaos (chapters VI-VIII), the reign of Pharaoh Akhnaton should be dated to ca. 840 BC.- LMG).

[310] Cadogan, J., "Dating the Aegean Bronze Age Without Radio-carbon" in Archaeometry 20 (1978), p. 212.

[315] See D. Hardin, The Phoenicians, (N.Y., 1962), pp. 19, 238-240.

[320] Timaeus, F. 23; Dion, Hal., I:74. (Also see the article on Pygmalion by B. Feldman in `KRONOS' II:1, pp. 79ff.

[330] `The Antiquities of the Jews. (Also KRONOS, IV:1, pp. 46-47.

[330] Pauly's Realencyclopädie, article "Karthago"; Picard, G.C., The Life and Death of Carthage, (London, 1968), p. 30.

[340] Bk. VIII, pt. 1, The Punic Wars I., 1.

[350] Bk. VIII., ch. 132.

[360] Cintas, P., Ceramique punique, (Tunis, 1950). Cf. Warmington, B.H., Carthage, (Baltimore, 1964), pp. 25-26; Picard, op. cit., pp. 50-53.

[370] Coldstram, J.N., Geometric Greece (London, 1977), p. 240; Picard, The Life and Death of Carthage, pp. 34ff.

[380] Picard, The Life and Death of Carthage, pp. 34, 47; Coldstream, Geometric Greece, p. 240. A.R. Burn long ago pointed to this tendency of the ancient chronographers to give inflated estimates of past dates. See his "Dates in Early Greek History," Journal of Helenic Studies 55 (1935), pp. 130-146. Cf. R, Carpenter, "A note on the Foundation Date of Carthage," American Journal of Archaeology 68 (1964), p. 178.


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