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Asking impertinent questions about received wisdom is the reason a lot of us are pagans. Just because an authority says something is true, is it really truly true? How do the experts know? There’s no evidence in The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales that Felice Vinci, an Italian nuclear engineer with (the back cover says) “an extensive background in Latin and Greek studies,” is pagan, but he sure does set forth some impertinent speculations concerning the epic poems upon which much of Western literature is founded. He’s not the first, he assures us, to wonder why the geography described in the Iliad and the Odyssey does not resemble the geography on the ground around the Mediterranean. The Latin geographer Strabo, for example, wondered why the island of Pharos, right outside the port of Alexandria, is said in the Odyssey to be a day’s sail from Egypt. The Roman historian Tacitus says that Ulysses visited Germany. The Greek biographer Plutarch placed the island of Ogygia in the North Atlantic. Anyone who visits Greece can easily see that the Peloponnese is not the “broad plain” that Homer describes but hilly, rocky countryside. Various modern writers have also questioned the accuracy of Homer’s geography.

 

After the last ice age ended in Europe, the climate became warm enough from about 4000 to 2000 BCE for people to live comfortably above the Arctic Circle. When the ice began to advance again, however, the people who lived in the Baltic region started migrating south, probably via the same Russian rivers that their descendants, the Vikings, used as highways during the first millennium CE. One tribe, which Homer called the Achaeans, settled on the Peloponnese, the main peninsula of Greece, and founded the Mycenaean civilization. “Of course,” Joscelyn Godwin says in his foreword, “they brought their myths and histories with them.”

 

Doing a close reading first of the Odyssey (where the true location of Ithaca is a key point) then of the Iliad, plus careful geographical surveys of the seas and islands of Scandinavia and Greece, plus comparisons of place-names, Vinci establishes (at least to his own satisfaction) the fact that Homer’s tales originated with migrants from Hyperborea. The adventures of Odysseus, he writes, “are probably what remains of ancient tales told by Bronze Age sailors, who undoubtedly spiced them up with exaggerations, paradoxes, and metaphors describing their routes across the Norwegian Sea at a time when the climate was much better than what we know it to be there today” (p. 23). Homer “has provided us with a wealth of detail, all of which makes a cohesive whole unto itself but does not correspond to the geographic and topographic context of a Mediterranean Ithaca. Yet…it is extremely easy to detect Homer’s archipelago in a new northern setting” (p. 24).We learn (among other things) that the Athens of Erecthonius and Theseus was in Sweden, the Nile Delta was the delta of the Vistula, Crete was really northern Poland, the River Ocean was the Gulf Stream, Mount Olympus was in Lapland, and Achilles came from Estonia.

 

Part 1 of the book shows the adventures of Odysseus along the coast of Norway. Part 2 is “The World of Troy,” which was really, Vinci says, located in Finland. Part 3 is “The World of the Achaeans. Part 4 is “The Migration of Myth from the Hyperborean Paradise.” As if all this weren’t enough, there’s also an appendix: “The Bible and the Northern Bronze Age.” Because the Acheans renamed geographical features they found in their new home after their old home, Vinci says “we might…interpret the meaning of Hermes Trismegistus’s famous expression ‘As above, so below’ from a geographical perspective: ‘As in the northern world, so in the southern world’” (p. 254). It would be enlightening to get the opinions of Greek reconstructionists and Heathens on Vinci’s ideas.

  

~review by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

Author: Felice Vinci

Inner Traditions, 2006

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