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Map showing the homeland of every character in Homer’s Iliad (kottke.org)
120 points by juanplusjuan 94 days ago | hide | past | web | 30 comments | favorite

"it was surprising to me how geographically widespread the hometowns of the characters were"

On the contrary, that was quite unsurprising, because the story describes a fight of two large alliances, and talks about the lords and rulers of these places. It doesn't talk about the local warriors e.g. Agamemnon was leading, but talks about the actual allies, the lords that joined each with their own armies.

In that time when Homer says "Lord-A and Lord-B and Lord-C participated" it's the equivalent of modern "Country-A and Country-B and Country-C participated". It's not like the story is describing a band of adventurers, the both sides commonly represent pretty much the whole military might of the surrounding region at the time, and since there's no centralization yet, each local "warband" is lead by their local "kings"/warlords/leaders/nobles, who are named in the story.

The colored areas of the map are not just a homeland of random representative characters, but the "countries" that actually fought in the war - you could say that it is "a way of making listeners from many areas feel connected to the story", or you could say that it is simply not omitting any participants; For example skipping Philoctetes from the list would pretty much mean saying that the land of Meliboea didn't participate in the war - it's like omitting New Zealand from the list of WW2 Allies, it would be far more serious than making people connected to the story, it would be considered offensive.

It's a curious visualization / fact in light of some of the explanations I've heard for the rise of post-medieval European science vs Chinese science. Specifically, that competition among politically distinct European states drove innovation beyond what a stable monoculture empire could.

In looking at this, it's like the Greek isles were a petri dish for the same phenomenon.

Also, keep in mind that the entire landmass displayed in the map is approximately the area of Ohio

It looks to me that the map goes from the modern Turkish-Bulgarian border across to the Albanian-Montenegran border in the north and includes all of Greece and 20-25% of Turkey. I'd say it is 100% Greece (51 000 sq miles), 20% Turkey (60 000 sq miles), 90% Albania (10 000 sq miles), 90% Macedonia (8 000 sq miles), 15% Bulgaria (6 000 sq miles). So about 135 000 sq miles versus 45 000 sq miles for Ohio. So I'd say the landmass represented is about 3 times the size of Ohio. (And we are not counting the water.)

Original source is user Pinpin on Wikimedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homeric_Greece-en.sv...

Bit of an oversight not putting Helen on it. Awesome map though.

> I wonder if that level of mobility was accurate for the time

Looking at old scripts or books like the one from Herodotus, I would say yes, just that it would take a few days/weeks instead of hours.

Also since the traveling meant being able to fight for your life, only the adventurous would do it.

There were pretty extensive trading networks in the late Bronze Age[1]. I'm not sure what the accepted timeframe for the Trojan War is now, whether it is in that late bronze age period or has been pushed up into the following dark age, but it does increasingly seem that voyages around Greece and the greater Mediterranean as in Homer would not be that unusual.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/1177-B-C-Civilization-Collapsed-Turni...

Sea faring is front and center in the Odyssey, and mentions the more mundane reasons why people would travel by boat; trading, pilgrimages, family reunions, ... It must have been dangerous for sure, but common experience as well.

And in that particular case, the sea travel took 10 years, rather than weeks or months. With favorable winds or strong oarsmen, a vessel can transit from the port on one island in the Aegean to another in days. With diesel engines, cruise ships can make those same trips overnight, while the passengers are sleeping.

Seafaring ships and river boats were the highest-throughput way to transport soldiers and cargo for thousands of years, until one empire or another built an overland road and maintained it.

Sea travelers had to deal with adverse weather and piracy. Land travelers had to deal with inconvenient terrain, adverse weather, taxes or tolls, banditry, and blisters.

Sea travel would have been the fastest and possibly safest way in any case.

Odysseus' crew would beg to differ.

It doesn't say which Ajax is which?

Good point. The great Ajax is the brother of Teucer and son of Telamon, from Achaea. The lesser Ajax is the son of Oileus, from Locris. (Both Telamon and Oileus were Argonauts.)

There really should be a legend on here:

1) There are boxes of two different colors here, light green versus yellow. I read the Iliad in high school, so I forget if there are actual differences that the creator was attempting to codify. I shouldn't have to look it up, good information design should make that apparent to the unfamiliar viewer.

2) I assume the crosses are meant to signify that the character died at some point? If that's true, perhaps another signifier would be more appropriate, since that seems to the uninitiated to be associated with the death of a Christian person. Since this was written sometime beyond 1,000 B.C.E., I'm going to say that those people weren't Christians.

Would love for someone with the time/ability to edit that map to make these updates.

1) The green ones are the Greeks, yellow ones are the Trojans. I think there should be a legend for this.

2) Needs legend. Actually, the cross might typographically be the dagger character, which usually looks like a cross. But in this case it looks a lot like a cross. I think it is used quite universally as the sign of death in books about history, and I haven't seen any other sign used instead.

I completely agree that many Wikipedia maps and graphs have this problem. The symbols and colors are not explained in the figure itself. I guess it's because they want to be able to translate them easily.

The dagger or obelisk symbol often indicates death, and can look like a cross in certain fonts. This symbol was actually initially developed by the ancient Greeks to mark up Homer's manuscripts, so its use here couldn't be more appropriate.

Yes, the crosses mark the characters that died in the war. The mark is in common usage for death, regardless of religious affiliation - we don't spell the names of the characters in the original ancient Greek either.

> The mark is in common usage for death, regardless of religious affiliation

If where you live is mostly Christian it may seem that way, but that symbol is only used by Christianity (and is it even used by Eastern Orthodox?). Go to Muslim, Hindu, Confucian, Jewish, etc. cemeteries and look around.

It is typical in written English and this an English-annotated map not a Hindu cemetery. I'm not suggesting the dagger is some universal symbol for 'dead', but in context, it's used appropriately. If you translated the map, perhaps some other symbol would be better.

Take a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagger_(typography)#Modern_usa...

Edit: Oh, and yes, it was used as such in Orthodox, pre-revolutionary Russia.

> It is typical in written English

Let's not blow this out of proportion, but to address this narrow point:

Again, it may seem that way if you read a lot written by Christians, but I believe it's the religion of the author not the language that determines the usage.

Consider the nation with the largest English-speaking population in the world, India; do they use crucifixes? English also is widespread in Israel and other countries that aren't predominantly Christian. My guess is that books written by Israelis don't use them either. I agree that the usage is widespread in predominantly Christian countries.

EDIT: To be clear, I'm talking about using the symbol to indicated death.

I'll stop here but I honestly don't understand how the actual, real, referenced fact that this is an existing typographical convention is 'blowing things out of proportion'. It either is or isn't and in this case, it is.

A lot of language conventions, including typographical ones have implicit and explicit cultural biases. That's just how language works. You seem to be arguing this should not be a typographical convention because you're unfamiliar with it and some other general principles. Sure, maybe, but that's also very much not how language works. You're welcome to advocate for change but this does not instantly turn this into not-an-English-typographical-convention.

> I honestly don't understand how the actual, real, referenced fact that this is an existing typographical convention is 'blowing things out of proportion'.

I only meant, let's not make too big a deal over this tiny issue.

I understand your claims, but do you have evidence that in non-Christian, English-speaking cultures, the cross[0] is used to indicate death? Wikipedia isn't the best source, and I'd expect it to represent the views of people in mostly Christian societies. I admit I'm not doing the research myself, so I'm not complaining if you don't.

EDIT: Also, from the Wikipedia page you cited: While daggers are freely used in English-language texts,[citation needed] they are often avoided in other languages because of their similarity to the Christian cross.[citation needed] Certainly that could apply to non-Christian English-speaking societies. An uncited Wikipedia statement is even less reliable than a cited one, but so far nobody has pulled in any solid evidence.

[0] I don't agree that the icon on the map is a typographical dagger. Of course, any cross could be a dagger and vice versa, but otherwise nothing about it indicates a dagger. Also, as the Wikipedia page you cited says, "The dagger should not be confused with the Unicode characters "Latin cross" (, U+271D),"

" but do you have evidence that in non-Christian, English-speaking cultures"

Who cares? This is an existing convention in written English. It doesn't matter whether you or I like it. Your original argument was that it shouldn't have been used on this map because the dead weren't Christians. That's not how typographical conventions work. Now you want me to prove to you something that really exists exists. It does. Sorry you find it irksome and didn't know it before or that sometimes dagger and cross get mixed up. None of this changes the fact this is an existing typographical convention. Let's call it a day.†

> Your original argument was that it shouldn't have been used on this map because the dead weren't Christians.

It was not and is not. Regarding the rest of your message, it's sad that I can't discuss typography with you without enduring insults.

In Iliad 12, the Trojans wish for the Achaeans to die unremembered; in the original Greek, literally "nameless." This map is a good reminder that the level of detail in the Iliad is no accident, it's an integral part of what the story's about.

It gets really tricky when they use son-of-this-and-that. I'm working through the much shorter Ilias Latina and it's really hard to keep track of the characters.

It's not that hard, but due to us not being used to these names, you'd benefit of taking notes. "Son-of-this-and-that" is just like the family name in their case. Something like, imagine, John Smithson and John Markson, if the narration starts about one person, once it will be refereed to as John Smithson, then probably just Smithson or just John.

The second problem is that the narration assumes that the "famous" relations are known. If I mention the Beatles, then say just John, everybody knows John who. Or whoever now says England and then the Queen and Kate, everybody knows who's that about... But you're dealing with the stories from almost 3000 years ago.

I imagine that Homer would have killed to have this on a Powerpoint slide when he got to reciting the Catalogue of the Ships :)

Spoilers! Achilles dies?

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