According to the Iliad and the Odyssey, the warfare against Troy lasts for more than nine years, and as many as twenty years pass before Odysseus comes home. But in reality the Iliad describes a war that lasts for only a season, during the summer, when the waters are navigable. How have these contradictions arisen?

My reflection is that the word “year” was maybe understood as “lunar year” by the first hearers of the poems, rather than “solar year”. Over the centuries, the meaning of the word changed. Moreover, several different battles might have been mixed up, giving the impression of a war that lasted a very long time. In ILION, I assume that when the heroes in the Iliad talk about the length of the war, they refer to months. Others have made the same reflection. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, who lived about two thousand years ago, reckoned – like the African Egyptians he talked to – that recordings from earlier times regarding the length of rulers’ reigns referred to months instead of years, or to the three seasons of the year; spring, summer, and winter.

Sun clock in sand. The battle of Troy, the Troyan war, Iliad, Homer
In today’s society we are cut off from the heavenly sky. Instead we are watching our mobile phones and other screens. The ancients lived in sync with the stars, the sun and the moon, and their astronomical knowledge is perhaps not so surprising. What anyone can still do today and understand is a simple sundial. Photo by the author.

When writing ILION, I used four different translations of Homer’s Iliad, three Swedish translations and one English translation. The Iliad mentions several times that the men long for their wives and children. One translation always referred to the children as youths while the other translations referred to them as babbling babies. Why the difference and what does the original text actually say? My guess was that one of the translators had problems with the fact that the men had been away for more than nine years and thus their babies must have grown up quite a bit since the men left for Troy. To make sure, I contacted Felice Vinci to ask what the original Greek text says. This was his answer:

“Our wives and the little (nepia) children…”.  nepia is the plural form of nepios, that is, little, tender; the same word, nepion, in the singular form, accusative case, is used for Hector’s child, who is a baby, in song 6, line 400.

So, the word that is used is actually about small babies, which also indicates that the Battle of Troy took nine months and not nine years.

ILION is based on an intriguing new theory by the Italian nuclear physicist Felice Vinci, who claims that the Battle of Troy could have taken place in the Nordic region. The theory provides answers to unresolved riddles that scholars have been debating since ancient times.

© Malena Lagerhorn