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VELIKOVSKIAN Vol. 1, No. 2
VELIKOVSKY'S "The Dark Age of Geece"
I met Immanuel Velikovsky for the first time in 1969. During our interview at his home in Princeton, he showed me a letter from a man in North Carolina, begging him to complete his Ages in Chaos reconstruction of ancient history.
"I am getting old," the man wrote. "If you don't publish soon, I will die without knowing the answer."
It is probable the man did indeed die without knowing the answer. Velikovsky's Peoples of the Sea and Ramses II and His Time weren't published until eight and nine years later. The manuscripts of "The Assyrian Conquest" and "The Dark Age of Greece" have still not appeared in print. It is both sad and ironic to speculate that Velikovsky himself may have died without knowing the complete answer. The last two volumes of his revised chronology were received not with the acclaim he hoped for but with unfavorable comments from a number of his admirers and supporters, specially in the U.K. This criticism may have prompted him to delay still further the release of his two remaining volumes.
On the other hand, it may not have had a very great impact at all. Velikovsky was a man of both patience and caution. His books appeared at an unhurried pace. He waited 18 years to publish Oedipus and Akhnaton, compiling additional evidence to bolster his argument, and believed the delay to be of "great benefit" to the final result. Twenty-five years separated Ages in Chaos from Peoples of the Sea, a long wait by any standard and one which Velikovsky said was caused in part by the work involved in keeping up with the many discoveries of the space age. Also, he mused, he may have secretly enjoyed being the only person to know the answers others so eagerly sought. His caution and solitude are understandable in light of the vicious attacks he endured following the publication of Worlds in Collision. His critics lurked in the treacherous alleys of academe with knives in their teeth, waiting to use the slightest slip or error as an excuse to cut his throat. But he knew how to defend himself, as would-be assassins were often shocked to discover. Velikovsky was a fighter. He was determined to win the war, battle by bloody battle if necessary, and took on all comers.
I once sent him an insulting article by Isaac Asimov called "Worlds in Confusion." Asimov, an intellectual tap dancer who likes to disguise himself as a scholar, revived anti-Velikovsky arguments that had been used--and disproved--19 years earlier and dreamed up several new ones on his own. It was a crude hatchet job, appropriately published in a second-rate science fiction magazine. But Velikovsky was enraged. Instantly he leaped into the arena. Back in the mail came Asimov's head, neatly skewered on seven pages of razor-sharp rebuttal. But this willingness to accept any challenge exacted a terrible price and gave Velikovsky's enemies their greatest victory. By nipping at his heels they got him to slow his pace. Each counterattack cost him precious time and energy. Each reply to his critics took him away from work that remained to be done. This is one reason why a number of his manuscripts remain unpublished, notably "In the Beginning"--which deals with Saturn and related topics--and "New Light on the Dark Age of Greece," which is the subject of this paper.
I believe Velikovsky's investigation into the true cause of this so-called "Dark Age" ranks with the best of his work and may well prove to be the most convincing of the Ages in Chaos series. In the introduction he briefly reviews ancient Greek history, which is conventionally divided into three periods Helladic, Hellenic, and Hellenistic. The Helladic period includes the time of Mycenaean civilization and, according to the accepted chronology, ends not long after the fall of Troy c. 1200 BCE. A dark age of some 400 to 500 years is then thought to have divided Helladic Greece from the Ionian and classical ages, which mark the beginning of Hellenic Greece c. 700 BCE. The Hellenistic period begins c. 330 BCE with the advent of Alexander and the expansion of Greek culture eastward to India and southward to Egypt, and ends with the Roman conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt in 30 BCE.
Most events in the Hellenic and Hellenistic periods are firmly anchored in time. However, the Helladic period--the time of the heroes of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey--supposedly has been cut loose from the anchor by the intervening "Dark Age." It is important to note that this age is not "dark" in the sense the term is used to describe Europe following the fall of Rome. That age was dark only in comparison to the centralized authority and culture of the Roman Empire. The subsequent centuries are well-documented. The Dark Age of Greece, however, is dark absolutely. Nothing of consequence is thought to have happened in Greece for hundreds of years. Velikovsky immediately directs our attention to the reason why the Helladic period is adrift in history.
The Mycenaean Age in Greece and the contemporary and partly preceding Minoan Age on Crete have no chronologies of their own and depend on correlations with Egypt. Objects inscribed with the names of Egyptian kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, found at Mycenaea, were like a calendar leaf. Then excavations at el-Amarna in Egypt established the presence of Mycenaean ware in Akhnaton's short-lived city... thus providing a link between Mycenaean history and the established Egyptian chronology. It was therefore concluded that the Mycenaean civilization was at its apogee in the days of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
Since this period of Egyptian history was dated to the 14th and 13th centuries BCE, scholars concluded that Mycenaean Greece must be far older than was previously imagined. But the history of Greece provided no events to fill such an expanse of time. There were traditions and memories of a time when the Argive Tyrants ruled in the 8th and 7th centuries, but beyond was shadows and silence. "Thus," Velikovsky writes, "by the 1890's, the Hellenists were coerced by the evidence presented by Egyptologists to introduce five centuries of darkness between the end of the Mycenaean Age and the beginning of the Hellenic."
This sudden and unexpected appearance of a dark age left classical scholars perplexed and puzzled. Nevertheless, Velikovsky notes, "In the end, they accepted the Egyptian plan as being valid for Greece--still without having investigated the evidence on which the claim of the Egyptologists was founded." They could take some comfort in believing that dark ages also interrupted the history of other areas, such as Anatolia, but:
No place did it create such discomfort as in Hellenic history..... The Hellenic Age is ushered in by the sudden and bright light of a literary creation--the Homeric epics, of perfect form, of exquisite rhythm, of a grandeur unsurpassed in world literature, a sudden sunrise with no predawn light in a previously dark world, with the sun starting its day at zenith--from almost  years that divide the end of the Mycenaean Age from the Hellenic Age, not a single inscription of written word survived.
This, Velikovsky explains, is the "Homeric Question" that classical scholars have been trying to answer for a century. Logically, Homer's epics should have come at the end of a great civilization, not at the beginning. Velikovsky outlines the method he will use in his search for an answer:
In the light of--or better to say--in the darkness of the Homeric Question, we shall try to orient ourselves by scanning some early chapters of Greek archeology, and having done this, we should return to the problem of the deciphered Linear B script. [Scholars apply] two timetables simultaneously to the past of Greece, one built on the evidence of Greece itself, the other on relations with Egypt. Against this set-up, the Homeric Question grew to ever greater proportions. Thus, instead of any new discovery reducing the question to smaller confines, every new discovery enlarged the confines and decreased the chances of finding a solution.
Velikovsky "sets the stage" with brief descriptions of the Mycenaean and Minoan cultures that produced cities, palaces and remarkable works of art in the age of Achilles, Agamemnon, Menelaus and the other great heroes that live in the pages of Homer. Homer was the source and inspiration of the great literary achievements of classical Greece, and was admired and emulated by the Romans. By the 19th century, however, a number of scholars and historians believed his writings had no basis in fact and were little more than skillful flights of fancy. Enter Heinrich Schliemann.
A wealthy German merchant, Schliemann took Homer seriously and set out in search of ancient Troy. His famous and infamous excavations at Hissarlik destroyed much of the evidence, but revealed enough to show that Homer knew his history. At Mycenae, Schliemann unearthed Egyptian artifacts bearing the cartouches of Amenhotep II, Amenhotep III, Akhnaton, and Queen Tiy, who proved that a boy's best friend is his mother. The age of archeology was under way. Arthur Evans excavated Knossos and other sites on Crete and discovered what he called Minoan civilization. The Late Minoan period was clearly contemporary with Mycenaean culture, since tablets inscribed with the mysterious Linear B script were found on Crete and at Pylos, on the mainland. The links with Egypt required that the time scheme of the whole region be pushed backward to coincide with New Kingdom chronology, Thus, thanks to a little mis-matchmaking by archeologists, a notorious liaison between Mycenae and Egypt brought forth the illegitimate history we know as the Dark Age of Greece.
Usually it is easier to fill a hole than it is to dig it. But not the chronological hole created by the Dark Age. Specially vexing was the absolute lack of literary remains. Velikovsky quotes Sir Maurice Bowra:
There is no evidence whatsoever that the Mycenaean script continued anywhere in Greece after c. 1200 BC. There is no trace of writing of any kind in the sub-Mycenaean and Protogeometric periods, or indeed before the middle of the eighth century, when the new and totally different Greek alphabet makes its first appearance. Now, this is surely not an accident. A single scratched letter from this period would be enough to show that writing survived; but not one has been found. This is, undeniably, a most remarkable phenomenon, for which it is hard to find either a parallel or an explanation. A society seems suddenly to have become illiterate, and to have remained so for centuries. How and why this happened we do not know....
One historian, Alan Wace, complained that "[i]t is incredible a people as intelligent as the Greeks should have forgotten how to read and write once they had learned how to do so." Some scholars suggested the Greeks may have done their writing on parchment, wooden tablets or other perishable matter, but they were whistling in the dark age. Velikovsky quotes Denys Page:
There is no scrap of evidence and no reason whatsoever to assume that the art of writing was practiced in Greece between the end of the Mycenaean era and the eighth century BC.... The Iliad preserves facts about the Trojans which could not have been known to anybody after the fall of [Troy].... How did the truth survive, through the Dark Ages, into the Iliad?
The usual answer is that the bardic tradition preserved the story of the Trojan War and passed it along orally from generation to generation for 500 years. Velikovsky doubts this bit of conjecture, and so do 1. To read the Iliad is to be immersed in a tale not only of grand themes and deeds, but also of small and striking details. When Paris dons his armor to do battle with Menelaus, we are told his breastplate belonged to his brother Lycaon "and he had to adjust it." When Menelaus is choking Paris with his helmet strap, we learn the strap is "embroidered." In Book VII, Paris kills an Achaean named Menesthius, "who lived at Arne and was the son of King Areithous the Maceman and the ox-eyed lady, Phylomedusa." During the climactic battle to the death, Achilles' pursuit of Hector leads him past "the windswept fig tree" and "the troughs of stone" where the Trojan women did their washing. Fig trees and Bronze Age laundries add nothing to the epic clash of heroes.'
Such digressions into detail are the mark of those who remember the scene as it actually was. These details, and the overall focus of the Iliad, are what make it ring true. In essence, it is really not about the Trojan War per se. In his opening line, Homer tells us he is writing about "The wrath of Achilles" and the terrible losses suffered by the Achaeans while the well-known heel sulked in his tent. The war was supposedly being fought over one woman, but Agamemnon and Achilles upped the ante by fighting over two women, Chryseis and Briseis. This feud was devastating to the Achaean cause. Achilles' absence from the battlefield led to a Trojan counterattack that nearly turned the beach at Ilium into Dunkirk.
There was probably no court of inquiry to assess blame for the disaster. But it is not difficult to imagine that, after the war, a grieving relative with a big bronze ax to grind was determined to avenge the loss of a father, brother, or son. What better way than by hiring Homer to immortalize the pettiness and stupidity of the Achaean general staff. Obviously, this is pure speculation. My point is that the Iliad is a highly detailed document (perhaps written in consultation with surviving scribes from Troy) which dwells on personal injuries, jealousies and bickering that would be of diminishing interest to each succeeding generation of bards. I am convinced the Iliad could only have survived in written form, and this would certainly be the prevailing opinion were it not for the apparent absence of writing during the Dark Age. We know that Homer was familiar with life in the Late Bronze. His catalogue of Mycenaean cities has proven to be an accurate guide for archeologists. Velikovsky cites the examples of a dove-handled cup and a boar's tusk helmet described by Homer and actually found in Mycenaean strata. It would be logical to deduce that the Iliad was written soon after the Trojan War. But Homer also includes unmistakable references (such as a clasp on the cloak of Odysseus) to Iron Age Greece, supposedly hundreds of years later, on the other side of the Dark Age.
The problem is compounded by the accepted chronology, which holds that the Dark Age engulfed not only Mycenae but also Troy and all of Anatolia. Velikovsky quotes Professor Ekrem Akurgal of the University of Ankara:
Today (1961), despite all industrious archeological exploration of the last decades, the period from 1200 to 750 [BC], for most parts of the Anatolian region, lies still in complete darkness. The old nations of Asia Minor, like the Lycians and the Carians, the names of which are mentioned in the documents of the second half of the second millennium, are archeologically first noticeable about 700 [BC] or later.... Hence, the cultural remains of the time between 1200 and 750 [BC] in central Anatolia, specially on the plateau, seem to be quite irretrievably lost for us.
Phrygian conquerors were thought to be responsible for this void, but they left no sign of their occupation before 750 BC. Again, as in Greece, the Dark Age in Asia Minor is absolute. Velikovsky notes that, over an area of 250,000 square miles, no tombs were found. Not even ash or kitchen refuse was discovered. Such circumstances are nothing short of incredible and could scarcely have passed unnoticed by the scholars and philosophers of antiquity. And yet, as Velikovsky points out, none of the sages of the ancient world--"Neither Herodotus nor Thucydides nor Xenophon"--mention anything resembling a Dark Age. Neither does Aristotle. Neither does Pausanias. Neither do the Romans, nor the scholars of the Renaissance. And neither does Homer himself. No, the lights did not go out on the Dark Age until the switch was flipped by modern archeology.
By contrast, the Iliad is a burst of sunshine that illuminates an otherwise dismal display of scholarship. Without the Iliad, the Dark Age of Greece might well have become an incurable abscess in the corpus of world history. Interestingly, Velikovsky admits that "not so long ago" he tended to consider the Trojan War as "more mythology than history: neither in its cause nor in its conduct did this conflict seem to reflect historical traditions." Velikovsky raises an eyebrow at the idea of Helladic chiefs sailing off to Ilium for ten years to rescue the wife of a compatriot while leaving their own spouses behind to be "ravished or besieged by suitors." And, if Hissarlik is in fact ancient Troy, then the war was a mighty tempest indeed for a two-acre teacup.
In his search for a firm, historical footing for the Iliad, Velikovsky asks who the Trojans were. in the Homeric text, they are identified only as "the people of Priam." Homer is more specific about the Trojan allies. The Phrygians are mentioned. So are Ethiopians. Most historians believe that the reference to Phrygia is an anachronism, since the earliest Phrygian remains are dated to the eighth century BCE and Troy fell in the 12th. Velikovsky states that Phrygian penetration into Asia Minor advanced rapidly in the eighth century BCE and soon brought them into conflict with the Assyrians. Sargon II moved to stop them. But it was the Cimmerians, descending from the north, who displaced Phrygian civilization, which finally came to an end in the natural catastrophe of 687 BCE. The Cimmerians were also a brief candle in Anatolia. Set in motion by the same catastrophe that destroyed Sennacherib, they were followed by the Scythians. Velikovsky writes that, if the Phrygians were actually the allies of Priam, this "would limit the Trojan War to the years between -720 and -687."
The next production on the Anatolian stage was Lydia, with its capital at Sardis. The Lydians were ruled by Gyges, who was on friendly terms with Assurbanipal. Then, feeling the heat of Assyrian expansion, he supported Egypt's struggle for independence by sending Ionians and Carians to Psammetichus, king of Egypt. Velikovsky agrees with the view that Homer was most likely a contemporary of Gyges and lived on the shore of Asia Minor. Homer's listing of the Ethiopians as allies of Troy belongs in all probability to the period when the Ethiopians were one of the most honored nations. In Egyptian history, the Ethiopian dynasty is dated from c. -712 to -663, when Assurbanipal pursued Tirhaka to Thebes, occupied it, and expelled the Ethiopian from Egypt proper.
The tradition concerning Memnon, the Ethiopian warrior who came to the aid of Troy, would reasonably limit the time of the conflict also to the end of the eighth and the beginning of the seventh century. The possibility of an Ethiopian landing at Troy in the days of the Ethiopian pharaoh Tirhaka need not be dismissed because of the remoteness of the place: [A]s just said, Gyges sent in the reverse direction Carian and Ionian mercenaries to assist Psammetichus in throwing off the Assyrian hegemony.
Velikovsky suggests that the Trojan War may have been caused by rumors reaching Mycenae of hordes of Phrygians and Cimmerians pushing westward toward the Argive frontier. A united Achaean army under Agamemnon sailed east to head them off at the Hellespont, a strait controlled by Troy. Velikovsky concludes: "While the Greek expedition may have had some limited success, its forces were wrecked and dispersed in the natural upheavals that accompanied the fall of Troy."
It is one of the bitter ironies of ancient history that the Achaeans won the battle, but their victory was apparently as hollow as the horse they won it with. Troy was demolished, its male population slaughtered, its women condemned to the beds and looms of the conquerors. To the victors, however, went a spoiled triumph. Literature, tradition and archeology affirm that the Achaean city-states were themselves swept from the pages of history in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Agamemnon went home to betrayal and death. His brother, Menelaus, with Helen finally in tow, wandered for seven years to Cyprus, Phoenicia and Egypt (could Menelaus and his men have been "People of the Sea?") before returning to Sparta. Odysseus wandered for ten years and his son Telemachus wandered in a search for the wanderer.
Trojans who managed to escape their doomed citadel were also cast upon the Mediterranean waters. Aeneas fled to a desolate Crete, then to Carthage, and finally landed in Italy where his grandson, Romulus, is said to have founded Rome. The most famous rendering of this story is Virgil's Aeneid, which has been dismissed as a self-serving attempt to glorify Roman origins. Under the accepted chronology, Troy fell in the 12th century BCE and Aeneas is supposed to have arrived in Italy in the eighth. But Virgil does not claim Trojan ancestry for Rome alone. He says that trading colonies (such as Buthrotum) established in the seventh century BCE, on the Illyrian coast of the Adriatic, were also founded by refugees from Troy. Al De Grazia, who has done extensive research on the subject, reports that the city of Gela, in southern Sicily, was said to have been established by a warrior from Troy. The strong, historical and literary links between Troy and Rome are intriguing for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact the descendants of Aeneas (the Roman Empire) conquered the descendants of Agamemnon (the Hellenistic Greeks) in the second century BCE. Greece remained under Latin (Roman and Byzantine) rule until 1453 AD, a lengthy--if somewhat remote--revenge for the people of Priam.
As a final piece of literary-historical evidence for dating the Trojan War, Velikovsky cites a passage from Book XI of the Iliad. Nestor, the aged king of Pylos, while convincing Patroclus to take the field in Achilles' place, mentions a four-horse chariot team which his father, Neteus, sent to the land of Elis to "run in the games and compete for the tripod." An important event in the ancient Olympic games was a race between chariots drawn by four-horse teams. It is firmly established that the first Olympiad was held in the eighth century BCE, most likely in -776. Olympia was located in the land of Elis, in the western Peloponnese. Neither Neleus nor Nestor could have known of the Olympic games if they lived in the 12th century BCE and this, Velikovsky notes dryly, "gives some indication of the time in which the Trojan War was fought."
Section II of Velikovsky's manuscript is titled "Mute Witnesses" and focuses on the archeological evidence pertaining to the Dark Age. Troy VI, in which Carl Blegen identified eight separate levels of occupation, is usually dated (by connections with Egypt) to the 14th-13th centuries BCE. However, this presents yet another five century problem. Velikovsky quotes Rodney Young, the excavator of Gordion, the Phrygian capital:
In their batter, as well as their masonry construction, the walls of the Phrygian Gate at Gordion find their closest parallel in the wall of the sixth city at Troy .... Though separated in time by  years or thereabouts, the two fortifications may well represent a common tradition of construction in northwestern Anatolia; if so, intermediate examples have yet to be found..... Me Phrygian Kingdom was at the apex of its power toward the end of the eighth century [BCE], when it apparently extended as far to the southeast as the Taurus and was in contact with Assyria. This period of power was apparently the time of the adornment and fortification of its capital city.
Velikovsky observes: "Eighth century Gordion is similar to 13th century Troy, yet intermediate examples of the peculiar way of building the gate and the wall beg to be found." The famous Lion Gate at Mycenae offers another example of an artistic concept apparently separated by hundreds of years from its roots in Phrygia. Since Velikovsky published this chapter in PENSEE (along with a companion piece by Lewis Greenberg), I won't repeat it here except to say that, in spite of the internal evidence linking Mycenae to Phrygia, Egyptian chronology once again carried the day.
The confusion and discord created by the hegemony of Egypt was the source of bitter debates and backbiting among archeologists. Velikovsky reviews the fight to the death between Wilhelm Dorpfeld and Adolf Furtwangler. Both were outstanding scholars. Their fieldwork was superb. But they feuded endlessly and even vilified each other on their deathbeds. Why? Because Dorpfeld insisted the evidence showed that geometric Greek and Dorian ware, usually placed in the first millennium, was really from the same time period as--and even preceded--Mycenaean ware of the second millennium. Since the Mycenaean Age is contemporaneous with the Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt, Dorpfeld reasoned, and geometric ware is found in the same strait as Mycenaean ware, then geometric ware belongs back in the second millennium too.
Furtwangler scoffed. He called Dorpfeld an ignoramus and pointed out that geometric ware could not possibly be assigned to the second millennium since it was found in the necropolis near the Dipylon Gate at Athens along with porcelain lions from the 26th Egyptian Dynasty (Saitic) of Psammetichus and Necho. The debate raged. Both men excavated the Temple of Hera at Olympia. Both unearthed evidence to support their ideas. Dorpfeld saw clearly that geometric and Mycenaean ware are found together, not only at Olympia but also at Troy and Tiryns. Furtwangler replied that iron tools were found at Olympia with geometric ware. The Mycenaean Age is the Late Bronze. The geometric period is in the Iron Age. Therefore, the geometric and Mycenaean periods must be separated by "einer ungeheueren Kluft"--a tremendous chasm.
The scales tipped in Furtwangler's direction. A chasm opened in the history of Greece and swallowed Dorpfeld whole. He fought to the end, but in isolation. His students abandoned him. His theories were called "wild." Velikovsky writes this homage to the broken Dorpfeld:
The archeological work that brought him to his theories was impeccable. His theories were wild mainly because he did not make the final step and free Greek archeology from the erroneous Egyptian timetable. The contemporaneity of Mycenaean and early geometric ware, if true, contains the clue to the removal of the last argument for the preservation of the Dark Age between the Mycenaean and Greek periods of history.
Dorpfeld was not the only archeologist to find himself steered over a cliff by the faulty compass of Egyptian chronology. In a chapter titled "The Scandal of Enkomi" (also published in PENSEE), Velikovsky reviews a 1896 dig in an ancient burial ground at Enkomi, Cyprus, by A. S. Murray of the British Museum. The tombs all belonged to the Mycenaean Age, and Egyptian artifacts were found from the time of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton, supposedly the 14th century BCE. But other objects in the sepulchral chambers closely resembled ware dated to the seventh century, Ivories and bronzes were found similar to ones discovered at Nimrod, capital of Assyria. A box of Assyrian design was also unearthed. Silver vases were "obviously Mycenaean in shape" but shared distinctive features with silver rings having engravings very much like those "seen on Assyrian sculpture from the Nimrod of Assurnazirpal (884-860)...... A porcelain head of a woman "seems to [be] Greek, not only in her features but also in the way in which her hair is gathered up at the back in a net, just as on the sixth century vases of this shape." Phoenician glass was found next to an amulet stamped with the cartouche of Tutankhamen. Murray was baffled. He dared not challenge the Egyptologists, which left only the theory that "during a lapse of seven centuries little artistic progress or decline had been effected."
The Dark Age also cast its shadow over the excavations at Tiryns, a fortified city mentioned by Homer. Schliemann and Dorpfeld found Mycenaean ware dated to the 12th century BCE mixed with geometric ware of the eighth century BCE and archaic ware of the sixth. A later dig at Tiryns, conducted by Frickenhaus, focused on a Temple of Hera which is known to have survived until 460 BCE. The temple was built right on the floor of the Tiryns palace shortly after the palace had been destroyed by fire. However, the temple was built in the seventh century BCE, which seemed to indicate that the palace survived until that time. This theory required what Velikovsky calls "some unusual assumptions":
For instance, that the inhabitants of the palace did not undertake any alteration for the entire period of more than half a millennium and that in one part of the palace the refuse of centuries was preserved, while in another part life went on. But the excavators knew no other explanation, because it was clear to them that "the fire of the palace was followed immediately by erection of the temple."
Carl Blegen, noting that the temple was in continuous use from the seventh century BCE onward, wondered how it was possible that "this same area was later covered over with almost purely Mycenaean debris?" The temple, he reasoned, could not be Greek but must, instead, be a "reconstruction carried out toward the end of the Mycenaean period after the destruction of the palace by fire." He denied the significance of a Doric column found during the excavation of the temple. Archeologist Karl Müller concluded that the difference of opinions was irreconcilable.
Again and again, modern archeology was confronted by chronological problems in the history of Greece. The Dictaean Cave on Crete yielded Late Minoan (Mycenaean) artifacts clearly linked by style to the geometric period in Greece. Similar links exist between the Mycenaean period and Scythian art of the seventh century BCE. Etruscan architecture of the eighth century BCE has much in common with structures of Mycenaean design. At the close of his section on the "Mute Witnesses," Velikovsky observes laconically: "It becomes ever clearer that the end of the Mycenaean Age, put at c. -1200, is placed so not by a true verdict."
Having assembled a mass of evidence that the Mycenaean and geometric periods of Greek history were not separated by 500 dark years, Velikovsky is faced with the task of providing an alternative timetable. At the beginning of Section III, "A Gap Closed," he writes:
It cannot be denied that there was some interruption between the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages in Greece and elsewhere; no smooth and evolutionary transition took place from the Mycenaean to the Ionian Age. There were great migrations in the eighth century [BCE] and in the first part of the seventh. What kind of interruption, then, occurred in the entire ancient East?
He begins his answer with a quote from Rhys Carpenter:
Despite the fact that there is no indication that the late Mycenaeans were driven out by any human intervention, they abandoned the south Aegean islands even as they deserted the central Peloponnese. For some reason and for some cause over which they had no control [Emphasis added.] they found life in Greece and in the southern Aegean so unendurable that they could not remain .... What caused them to evacuate their towns and villages? .... In the seventh book of his "History," Herodotus recounts that Crete was so beset by famine and pestilence after the Trojan War that it became virtually uninhabited until its resettlement by later inhabitants. Could Herodotus, by any chance, have had access to a true tradition?
An invasion by Dorians is frequently cited as a principal cause of Mycenaean and Minoan collapse, but Carpenter states: "The Dorians had nothing whatever to do with the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, since they did not enter the Peloponnese until long after the collapse had taken place." In place of a Dorian invasion, Carpenter suggests a climatic cause: "drought with its attendant famine ... and it was this unbelievable condition of their native abode that forced the Mycenaeans to emigrate, ending their century-long prosperity." In his search for evidence from other countries, Carpenter cites three natural disasters in the history of Egypt during the time of the Libyan and Ethiopian dynasties.
"But how," Velikovsky asks provocatively, "could these instances in Egypt, of the eighth and seventh centuries [BCE], help to understand what happened in Greece at the end of the Mycenaean Age if this end occurred shortly after -1200?"
Velikovsky's explanation for the natural cataclysms of the eighth and seventh centuries [BCE] is the periodic approach of Mars. Velikovsky's research on this subject will be familiar to readers of Worlds in Collision. Archeologists are well aware that upheavals took place. Arthur Evans saw clearly that the different ages on Crete all ended in natural disaster. Spyridon Marinatos believed that Crete was swept by an enormous tidal wave that came from the north and devastated the island. He noted that "[a] normal earthquake is wholly insufficient to explain so great a disaster."
"These upheavals of nature," Velikovsky writes, "were responsible for the break in continuity that is found in Greece, in Asia Minor and in many other places. There was a disruption in [the] occupation of lands and a discontinuity in civilizations. But there was no Dark Age and the four centuries inserted between the Mycenaean and Greek periods are unreal."
At this point in my review, I have covered about three-fifths of Velikovsky's manuscript. The remaining manuscript is devoted to such topics as "Seismology and Chronology," "Celestial Events in the Iliad," "Changes in Land and Sea," "Pylos,"
"Linear B Deciphered," and "Radiocarbon Dating." Limitations of time require that I cover the remaining material at a somewhat faster pace.
"It appears," Velikovsky writes, "that, in the Iliad, Homer telescoped into a few weeks events that took place in the space of several decades." He then gives us these correlations, based on disturbances in the apparent motion of the Sun as reported in the Bible and in Greek legendary tradition:
Atreus and Thyestes were contemporaries of Ahaz. Agamemnon, son of Atreus, was a contemporary of Hezekiah, as was Romulus.
Velikovsky states that "[at] least two conjunctions between Venus and Mars are described in the Iliad, in the Fifth and Twenty-first Books" and suggests these events are separated by decades. In my view, this is not necessarily true. If Mars and Venus were on converging orbits, they might well have had two encounters during the period of time covered by the Iliad, about two months. However, this would present problems for Velikovsky's chronology, which has Venus causing Mars to alter its orbit in the eighth century BCE and later approach Earth by itself in the eighth and early seventh centuries BCE. Since Velikovsky favors a late eighth century date for the Trojan War, Venus and Mars wouldn't have been battling in the sky while Hector and Achilles were fighting it out on the plain of Ilium. It would surely be an error to insist upon such a connection, since Venus and Mars (Athene and Ares) were not alone in their participation in the war. Zeus, Apollo (who was responsible for the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon), Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Poseidon and the whole pantheon of Olympian buttinskys eagerly take sides and fly the unfriendly skies. It is well to remember that the Iliad is a theological text as well as a history. We may never have a clear understanding of where religion ends and reportage begins. Indeed, Homer may not even have made such distinctions.
Velikovsky introduces his chapter on Linear B script with a review of Carl Blegen's excavations at Pylos, where tablets in this archaic alphabet were found in abundance. He also found "...along with the usual Mycenaean pottery, a few glazed sherds of Late Geometric Style, as in so many other parts of the site, where similar deposits were discovered." The discovery of Linear B established a firm connection between Mycenaean Greece and Late Minoan Crete, but all attempts to decipher the language failed. Arthur Evans insisted Linear B could not be Greek, since Greek writing was thought to have appeared for the first time in the eighth century BCE, on this side of the Dark Age. This was the prevailing view right up to the 1950s. But Velikovsky's research gave him the insight he needed to deduce the truth. On October 4, 1953, he addressed the Graduate College of Princeton University and said:
I believe that when the Minoan [Linear B] writings unearthed in Mycenae are deciphered, they will [be] found to be Greek. I also claim that these texts are of a later date than generally believed. No "Dark Age" of six centuries duration intervened in Greece between the Mycenaean Age and the Ionian Age of the seventh century.
Six months later, astounding news was received from England. Michael Ventris, a young architect and former cryptographer, succeeded in proving that Linear B was in fact Greek. The old question was heard once again: How could a literate people have forgotten how to read and write for 500 years? Velikovsky concludes: "The Homeric Question, instead of being solved, grew now to astonishing--one would like to say Homeric--proportions." It made things still worse when scholars discovered that Linear B was not a primitive tongue but had much in common with later Greek dialects.
Velikovsky ends his exploration of the written evidence with a chapter on Cadmus, the legendary hero who "came to Greece from Phoenicia and founded Thebes in Boeotia, and who is credited with the introduction of the Hebrew or 'Phoenician' alphabet to the Greek language." Yet another 500-year problem is encountered in trying to align the Cadmus myth with the evidence. The current issue of KRONOS (XI: 3) has a detailed article on Cadmus which investigates the historicity of his legend.
In a chapter called "Competing for A Greater Antiquity," Velikovsky investigates the assertion by Eratosthenes, a scholar of Greek origin who lived in the third century BCE, that Troy fell in -1183. "Was there any special intent in Eratosthenes' effort to place the Trojan War more than nine centuries before his own time?" Velikovsky asks. His answer will be familiar to readers of Ages in Chaos. Eratosthenes was in the employ of Ptolemy III Euergetes in Egypt, a nation ruled by a dynasty established by Alexander of Macedon. The Greeks were awestruck by the antiquity and learning of Egypt. They were confirmed in their admiration by the writings of Manetho, and Egyptian scribe who, Velikovsky says, deliberately sought to impress his Greek masters by inflating the history of his country. Eratosthenes, also eager for the status of age, extended the history of Greece back to the 12th century BCE, perhaps basing his calculations on Manetho's list of kings and dynasties. "Thus," Velikovsky states, "Eratosthenes found support in Manetho and Manetho in Eratosthenes."
Following a long section on radiocarbon dating, Velikovsky sums up his thesis by reviewing the salient arguments of the preceding chapters. In spite of the compelling evidence against a Dark Age in the history of Greece, Velikovsky does not underestimate the difficulty in overturning the accepted chronology.
In the 1880's, when Hellenists were coerced, upon the evidence presented by Egyptologists, to introduce those five dark centuries, they did it only after a period of protest and resistance. But now that three generations of historians have lived with those dark centuries as a historical reality. it is even more difficult to part with them. [The Dark Age has] engendered and continues to engender an ever-growing scholarly literature. If it can be shown that the Egyptian timetable is off its hinges, the bondage of these studies and their dependence on Egypt may terminate.
The removal of the Dark Age from the historical sequence unshackles what was for centuries shackled, and releases the scholarly endeavor from travelling on the same circular paths with no exit, the modern version of the Cretan Labyrinth. Moreover, it rehabilitates scholars accused of ignorance or negligence, their having been guilty only of not perceiving that the problems they dealt with were not problems at all, as soon as unreal centuries are stricken out.
With these words Velikovsky brings his manuscript to a close. At the time of his death in 1979, he had been refining the thesis presented in these pages for well over 30 years. Already in Worlds in Collision he asked a telling question: If the ruins at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos, belong to the Mycenaean Age of the 13th and 12th centuries BCE, then where are the palaces of the Argive Tyrants, whom tradition and history place 500 years later?
Others may be able to shed light on why this crucial research wasn't published during Velikovsky's lifetime. I can only mourn its absence from the canon of his work. "The Dark Age of Greece' might be the key that unlocks the shackles he evokes so eloquently. But genius makes its own rules. I believe Velikovsky to be one of the greatest geniuses of the millennium. The task he assigned himself was overwhelming, too great even for a man of his formidable intellect. Today we are seeing a revival of the 1950s school of Velikovskian criticism. Ice cores or new translations of ancient texts are boldly trumpeted as the final refutation of his ideas. We've been through this before. The uniformitarian mind has a hard time tolerating the anxiety and uncertainty that goes with a catastrophist view of the universe. Uniformitarians prefer to think the Earth is a nicer and safer place than it is, and they'll fight hard to defend their illusions.
I believe Velikovsky will eventually be honored in the annals of history and science as Columbus is honored in the annals of exploration. Columbus was probably not the first European to reach the Americas. And he made mistakes. To his dying day he believed Central America to be the mainland of Asia. It was for others to demonstrate that Asia could indeed be reached by sailing west from Europe, but it was Columbus who showed the way.
Velikovsky has shown us the way to sanity, to understanding our history and ourselves. Some day, the reason for his reluctance to publish will be known. In the meantime, the ages are still in chaos. Otherwise enlightened people continue to live in deadly ignorance, preferring the nothingness of a Dark Age to the truth about dangerous planet on which we live. How many more, like the man from North Carolina, will die without knowing the answer?
If Columbus had succumbed in mid-voyage, it's unlikely his crew--a mutinous bunch--would have carried on without him. Velikovsky's crew--to whom the word "mutiny" is not unknown--has done pretty well in his absence, all things considered. We take turns clapping each other in irons, and we're all sailing in different directions, but perhaps it's just as well. There are new worlds and new collisions ahead, enough for all of us before the voyage ends.
. We thank Milton Zysman and Clark Whelton, editors Of Catastrophism 2000 (Toronto, Canada, 1990) for permission to reprint this review. This is a published work. Citing pagination is not possible. Citations noted are from an original , and if other differently formatted manuscripts exist, other pagination would ensue.