A summary of the historical work of Immanuel Velikovsky
Part 5. The dark ages in Greece
The history of ancient Greece is usually divided into several periods. The Archaic period is the time of ancient Hellas, that ran until about 1200 BC and ended shortly after the Trojan War. During this period Mycenae was the centre. Then followed a period of decline, the Greek Middle Ages, also called Dark Ages, when the country was invaded by primitive Dorians. The Greek heyday that we call Classical Greece, when Athens was the main centre, lasted from about 700 to 323 BC. Finally there is the Hellenistic period that begins with the conquests of Alexander the Great throughout the Middle East. In the Hellenistic period, Alexandria was the centre and the period lasted until the Roman conquest of Egypt.
The part of Velikovsky's work dealing with "the dark ages of Greece" never appeared in print. Velikovsky worked on it in the last years of his life, but could not finish it. It is published in the Internet archive of his work entitled "The Dark Age of Greece".
The Mycenaean civilization is closely linked to the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. During excavations in Mycenae, many objects from the 18th Dynasty were found and vice versa in Akhet-Aten, the city that Akhnaton had built, much Mycenaean pottery was found. This means that there must have been a period of more than 500 years between Archaic Greece that existed until 1200 BC and Classical Greece that began around 700 BC. This period is called a dark age because we know little or nothing about it and little remains of this period are found. Understanding those 500 years is difficult, because 500 years of human activity, however primitive, must have left traces above the remains of Mycenaean civilization and there must have been rulers, however barbaric, about whom people wrote of with fear or surprise. However, those traces are not there and neither are the stories. Of the Greek Middle Ages we know of no people like Vikings or Charlemagne of AD history.
Yet, if we move the Mycenaean civilization to 500 years later, it will be closer in line with the rise of Classical Greece and we are then more in line with what, for example, Herodotus and other Greek historians thought about their past. Furthermore, many problems become easier. For example, the famous riddle: how could Homer write a detailed report of the Trojan War if the war took place more than 500 years before Homer wrote his work?
The Trojan War
The Iliad is the story of the Trojan war that, in the orthodox view, took place around 1200 BC. It should have been in that time because in excavations at Troy and Mycenae many objects of Egyptian kings from this period were found. Homer, however, must have written his work shortly before or shortly after 700 BC, since the Iliad contains details that somebody who lived before 750 BC could not have known. Homerus must have introduced these details into an older text because the Iliad also contained details that a writer from 700 BC could not know. For example, in excavations in the palace of Nestor a cup was found that exactly matched the descriptions of Homer. There were scientists who tried to separate the passages containing old elements from passages with later elements, in order to find out if Homer was the real artist or the follower of a much older artist. Those efforts were fruitless. No wonder, said Velikovsky, since the dark ages do not exist and Homer lived not long after the Trojan War.
Velikovsky made an attempt to place the Trojan war in the political / military situation that existed around the year 700 BC in Greece and Asia Minor. The entire Middle East between 800 and 700 BC was shaken several times by natural disasters that destroyed cities and drove people from their homes and country. In this period the Trojan War took place. Homer speaks of "the people of King Priam" as opponents of the Greeks (Achaeans) in this war.
Troy and Phrygia
Homer mentions the Phrygians as allies of Priam with such regularity that Velikovsky wondered whether "the people of Priam" were not the same as the Phrygians. Not much is known about the Phrygians. Herodotus said that they came from the Balkans to the west of modern Turkey and that their first king, Gordias, founded the capital Gordion. His son was Midas, who was king from 742 to 696 BC. In 687 BC Gordion was destroyed by invading Cimmerians who came from the north of the Caucasus. The fact that Homer mentions the Phrygians as allies of Priam is widely regarded as an anachronism, an insertion by Homer himself. In modern Turkey no traces of Phrygian civilization dating from before 800 BC were found. After the expulsion by the Cimmerians, the Phrygians came under the influence of the Lydians, who lived in the south-west of Turkey around the capital Sardis under king Gyges.
Another ally of Priam was Memnon, an Ethiopian king. This may indicate that the time of the Trojan war was the time of the Ethiopian dynasty that ruled Egypt between 712 and 663 BC.
If it is true that the Trojan War can be placed around 700 BC, then we can find an explanation for this war. Maybe the kings of ancient Hellas came to Troy to prevent the Phrygians from crossing the Hellespont towards mainland Greece, pushed forward by the Cimmerians.
The fact that the Phrygians are known to us only from the period 800-600 BC, but yet seem to take part in the Trojan War, could be complemented by similar examples. First, the Trojan hero Aeneas. According to the Roman historian Virgil, Aeneas wandered around after the fall of Troy and stayed for some time in Carthage and finally ended up in Lazio, where he participated in the founding of Rome. This is remarkable because Carthage is generally assumed to be founded in 814 BC, while Rome was founded in 753 BC. Second, in the Illiad, Nestor, king of Pylos, says that his father sent a four-horse chariot to participate in a horse-race in Elis. Since ancient times historians concluded that he spoke about the Olympic games that were held in Elis for the first time in 776 BC.
During excavations at Troy many different layers were found. The oldest strata contained traces of the Egyptian Old Kingdom and in the sixth layer were founds traces of the middle of the 18th Dynasty, about 1300 BC. In the sixth layer Troy was a well-built fortress, but it was apparently destroyed in an earthquake, not a war. It was concluded that layer seven was Homer's Troy. Remarkably, the excavator of the Phrygian capital of Gordion discovered that the architectural style and structure of the fortress of Gordion was very similar to architecture and construction of the sixth layer of Troy - Troy being dated to around 1300 BC, but Gordion having been built around 800 BC, or shortly thereafter.
The architecture of Mycenae, the capital of the besiegers of Troy, also showed similarities with buildings in Phrygia. The agreement between the Lion Gate in Mycenae and buildings in Phrygia were so great that a researcher in 1888 refused to suppose that hundreds of years could lay between those buildings. His arguments, however, conflicted with the chronology that Egyptologists had previously established for Egypt.
Conflicts among archaeologists
The conflicts over the dating of finds were sometimes very sharp. The most painful conflict was between two German researchers, Dorpfeld and Furtwängler. According to conventional wisdom the Mycenaean civilization perished and then came an invasion of the more primitive Dorians, who then introduced the typical Greek geometric shapes in art and artifacts. All his life Dorpfeld did research in Greece and he was convinced that the geometric shapes were often found simultaneously with the typical Mycenaean pottery. He maintained that the geometric style was essentially of the same age, or even older, than the Mycenaean style and should therefore be dated before1200 BC.
Furtwängler on the other hand, was an expert in pottery and potsherds. Based upon a big collection of pottery fragments and their gradual change through time, he concluded that the geometric pottery was closely aligned to the pottery of classic Greek times (the golden age of Athens and Sparta). Therefore, he was convinced that the geometric shapes were not developed before 900 BC. The two scientists were involved in a bitter fight and added insults to each other up until their death. They did not realise that both could be right if the accuracy of the Egyptian chronology was questioned. Archaeology showed that Furtwängler was right and the "wild theories" of Dorpfeld were rejected, even though it was difficult to deny his great achievements for the development of archaeology.
The same dilemma was visible during excavations in Crete. In Enkomi was a cemetery dating from the Minoan civilization. There were clearly many remains from the Mycenaean period and artifacts from the period of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton, but the pottery, porcelain, glass, ivory and bronze and golden objects were also very similar to Assyrian, Phoenician and Greek objects from the seventh and eighth centuries. Professor Murray, the leader of the study, said that the usual method of comparing sets of approximately similar objects, taking into account the normally expected gradual change over time, should lead to the conclusion that the Mycenaean civilization was not five hundred years older, but only dozens or maybe one hundred years older than the Phoenician or early Greek civilization from the sixth and seventh centuries BC. However, the Egyptologists pointed at the obvious similarities with similar finds in Egypt and that was the end of it. They assumed that the cemetery in Enkomi in a later period was used again and that apparently the excavators were unable to distinguish between older and newer graves. There was talk about "the scandal of Enkomi". Murray denied having been sloppy, but could not solve the puzzle of why the development of making pottery and working gold and bronze should have stopped completely for a period of five hundred years and then restarted again in the classic Greek period.
Everywhere in Greece and Crete arose the problem of great similarity between the Mycenaean and Hellenic civilization and of the absence of traces of a civilization, however primitive, of the period of five hundred years that lay between. There were traces of primitive civilization, but they were often more primitive than the Mycenaean civilization.
Another connection between Mycenae and the seventh and sixth centuries BC was found in the remains of the Etruscan civilisation in Italy. It is believed that the Etruscans settled in Italy in about 700 BC. The Etruscans built the domed tombs similar to the Mycenean tombs and the walls in Etruscan cities are similar to those of Mycenae, just like the vases that were present. Nobody could explain how style and working methods could have remained preserved over a period of five hundred years of 'darkness'.
During excavations in Crete the remains of Minoan clay tablets were found, written in two languages that initially could not be read and which were called Linear A and Linear B. Tablets with the same language and characters were subsequently found at Pylos, the city of the hero of the Trojan war Nestor, and in Mycenae. As long as this language had not been deciphered it was assumed that the Mycenaean / Minoan language was not Greek, because the Greek language was introduced only when the Dorians settled in Greece during the Greek middle-ages. Believing that the Greek middle-ages had not existed, in 1953 Velikovsky predicted that further research might show that Linear B was Greek in origin. In 1954 the Englishman Michael Ventris (who had worked in the war on deciphering secret military codes), succeeded in deciphering Linear B. It turned out to be a variation of the Greek language. When he started his work, Michael Ventris had asked experts what kind of language Linear-B might have been. Many possibilities were mentioned; Hittite, Sumerian and Basque for example, but among the experts no one suggested a possible link with the Greek language.
The discovery by Ventris was the biggest shock in Greek archaeology since the discovery of Troy. In the orthodox view it became clear that the names of the Greek gods were not invented by Homer, but were already known in Mycenae of the thirteenth century BC and also that the Mycenaeans were already writing in a kind of alphabet. Surprisingly the art of alphabetic writing was subsequently lost in Mycenae, only to return in classic Greece somewhere between 800 and 700 BC. Not only the names of the gods turned up in Linear-B, but also many personal and family names and their descriptions, the names of dozens of places and descriptions of their location, half of which had completely disappeared after the downfall of Mycenae. So, it was decided that Homer's Iliad was not invented by the poet Homer in about 700 BC, but had been conceived in detail in the Mycenaean period and must have been remembered by performing readers or artists during five hundred years of darkness.
The Greek historians all agreed that the Greek alphabet derived from the Hebrew / Phoenician alphabet and they say it was introduced by Cadmos, who came from Phoenicia and founded the city of Thebes in Greece several generations before the Trojan War. No examples of the Greek alphabet have been found that date from before 800 BC. It is yet another indication that the usual dating of the Trojan War could be wrong.
The earliest found Greek alphabets show similiarities with the Hebrew / Phoenician characters found on the famous Mesha stele from about 850 BC. In the chapter about the el Amarna letters we saw how and when the art of writing could have crossed to Greece. Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria in 858. He wrote in his annals that he conquered the city of Nikdime and drove the population out to sea. In the el- Amarna letters it was stated that Ugarit was destroyed completely and the excavations showed that Nikmed was its last king. Ugarit was a city where different ethnic groups lived together; for example, the Jaman (Ionians), who possibly fled to Greece and the Khar (Carians) that may have founded Carthage. Later, Nicodemos was a very common name in Greece. In the excavations at Ugarit (Ras Shamra) an extensive library was found of texts on clay tablets, together with dictionaries of several different languages. It is likely that the refugees of Ugarit went to Greece and took with them the art of writing, particularly the alphabet. It is at least a possibility that Cadmos and Nicodemos were the same person.
It looks like we have a large number or pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that, with a shift in the chronology of Egypt and of all cultures associated with it, suddenly and unexpectedly appear to fit together. Both Mycenae and Athens spoke a Greek language and had essentially the same culture, but both towns had their own script and the Mycenaean script disappeared as the city of Mycenae was destroyed.
Velikovsky concluded that the Greek dark ages did not exist and that the destruction of Mycenae occurred shortly, at most a few decades, before the start of the Classical Greek period. There is not a gap in time between the Archaic and Classical Greece, but in harsh reality, there was indeed a gap. This gap consisted of major natural disasters, probably around the year 687 BC. Troy and the Mycenaean civilization, but also the Minoan civilization on Crete, were swept away and the disasters left deep traces all over the Middle East and were probably felt globally. The march of the Assyrian troops toward Jerusalem and Egypt was halted by the same disasters as we have seen above. The massive destruction and the following pests and climate change drove the survivors of all peoples from their homes to find a safer place. Hence, the heroes of the Trojan War returned home through a general chaos and some of them were forced to make long detours (Odysseus and Aeneas).