Part Two. A preclassical Homer from the Bronze Age

A working definition of the Bronze Age

II§1 Just as I redefined the Dark Age in Homeric terms as a transitional phase leading up to a notionally terminal phase of Homer the Classic, I now redefine the Bronze Age as the corresponding initial phase. In Homeric terms, this initial phase of Homer the Preclassic is marked by one central event, the Trojan War.
II§2 The Trojan War is a primary temporal frame of reference for the stories of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey—stories that tell how women and men like Andromache and Hector and Achilles and Odysseus lived out their heroic destinies as planned for them by an epic plot controlled in sometimes unknown ways by the gods. The Trojan War is a war to end all heroic wars, marking the end of the age of heroes. [1]
II§3 The Trojan War is also a primary temporal frame of reference for the Bronze Age as determined by archaeologists, who appeal to objective dating criteria in making their determination. It marks the end of the Bronze Age as they know it. The centerpiece is the ancient city Troy or Ilion, refounded as a New Ilion in the historical period. The old Ilion of the Iliad has been identified by some archaeologists as Troy VIIa (by others, as Troy VI), an earlier stratum of this New Ilion (which is Troy VIII). [2]
II§4 As in modern times, Troy was sought out in antiquity, most prominently by world rulers striving to link themselves with the heroes of the epic past. In 480 BCE, Xerxes the king of the Persians made sacrifice to Athena, surnamed hē Ilias, in New {131|132} Ilion. [3] He also made libations to the hērōes ‘heroes’ (Herodotus 7.43.2). [4] Over a century later, Alexander the Great likewise sacrificed to Athena in New Ilion (Strabo 13.1.26 C593; Arrian Anabasis 1.11.7).
II§5 In ancient as well as modern times, then, the Trojan War was a decisive point of reference in situating whatever it is we call the Bronze Age. More than that, the Trojan War was in ancient times a decisive point of reference for situating and even defining whoever it is we call Homer.


[ back ] 1. Martin 1993.
[ back ] 2. Pfeiffer 1968:250–251, with special reference to the formulation of Carl Blegen concerning the identification of ancient Troy with the hill of Hisarlik, first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann (Blegen 1958).
[ back ] 3. On the historical and archaeological reality of the New Ilion, see the overview of Rose 2006.
[ back ] 4. On the political motives of Xerxes, see Haubold 2004.