Thursday, July 06, 2006

July 1, 2006

Ship's Log
July 1st, 2006
Departure Location: Name Unknown
Departure Time: 8:15 hours
Distance Travelled: 16.52 nautical miles
Arrival Location: Saltsbjoden, Sweden
Arrival Time: 11:00 hours
Weather: Very sunny and almost no wind

Personal Comments:

Today we woke early and began our last day by taking a morning dip off the back of the boat. The water was jarringly cold and provided a fresh start to the day. It was an exceptionally hot morning with no winds, which produced a glassy placid look to the water. As a result we were forced to motor the entire distance back to Saltsbjoden. Our arrival at the dock here marks a full circle to our journey.

It was an exceptional evening tonight. We had the privilege of meeting Felice Vinci, the author of the theory we have been following, his wonderful wife Pina, and the German scholar Karin Wagner. We had a relaxed reception aboard the boat where we enjoyed conversation in which Vinci shared his thoughts on the strongest points of his theory, and before proceeding to dinner on the dock we shared a slideshow of photographs from our trip.

This was the perfect culmination to many months of preparation and three wonderful weeks of exploration and fine sailing. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been so supportive and followed our journey. For those of you waiting for the CD-ROM we have already begun work on it and you can expect it in the coming months.

Research Comments:

This voyage has presented many opportunities for us to share Vinci’s theory with those who we have met. It is clear from our experiences that there is a growing interest in furthering this new theory on Indo-European migration. There are also tentative plans for the translation of Vinci’s work into Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian.

Tonight Vinci encouraged Professor Mullen to use this journey as the starting point for a number of scholarly works on the subject, which he intends to do. These past three weeks have confirmed that there is ample contextual evidence to support Vinci’s theory. In the future we hope to see archaeological excavations of the sites we have visited in order to further confirm or refute the Baltic origins of the Homeric epics.

As a final note to this summers activities July 3rd though the 8th, Felice and Pina Vinci and Professor Mullen will head off to St. Petersburg to meet with representatives of The Hermitage Museum to discuss these new theories on Indo-European migration.

What the future holds beyond this has yet to be determined.

June 30, 2006

Ship's Log
June 30th 2006
Departure Location: Sandhamn, Sweden
Departure Time: 13:15 hours
Distance Travelled: 16.5 nautical miles
Arrival Location: Name Unknown
Arrival Time: 19:00 hours
Weather: Very sunny and very light winds, periods of drifting

Personal Comments:

Today was the last day sailing in open waters and we spent most of it drifting aimlessly. Because there was no need to cover much distance we spent the morning sleeping in and running errands, and left Sandhamn in the early afternoon.

Our expectation was that we would sail for a few hours and get to our destination early enough to cook a big dinner and roam. The wind had other plans for us however. We started the afternoon with light winds and after a few hours ended up with no winds. Sunning ourselves on the back deck we would often look up to find that the boat had started to drift backwards because there was not enough pressure on the rudder to get any control. John even managed to take the dinghy out for a short row since it was clear that we would not be sailing away from him anytime soon.

Sometime around 18:00 hours we decided that we were done waiting for nature to guide us and turned instead to our trusty motor. Within 45 minutes we had arrived at our last port and an hour after that our feast was laid out. To our pleasant surprise a small motor boat, selling fresh baked bread and chocolates, pulled up beside us just as we were finishing dinner, providing a perfect end to a quiet day.

It was by far one of the laziest days that the team has spent since arriving and as you can see below, we did our best to take advantage of it.

Research Comments:

After three weeks of long winded discussions and sailing past hundreds of beautiful islands we have noticed that the one subject that comes up more often than most is the god Apollo and the many facets of the daily life he presides over. Because of this we thought it would be appropriate to pass some of this discussion on to you, our readers. Everything that is discussed below was composed by Professor Mullen, who has created a wonderful amalgam of thoughts about our most consistent literary companion; Apollo:

Earlier we mentioned how sailing past Applö, Vinci’s candidate for an island sacred to the god at which the Greeks might have stopped on their way to Troy (p. 165), made us thinking harder about the nature of this god, the one Greek clearly associated by cult and myth with the far north, the land of the Hyperboreans who live “beyond the north wind”. He is the god of antinomies:
· the sender of plague and the healer of it
· the god of radiance clarity, as in sunlight on promontories seen from afar, and the god who comes down “like night” at the beginning of the Iliad
· the wielder of the bow which sends death and player of the lyre which is the flower of life (and his feastday is at the new moon, when its curve resembles both bow and lyre)
· the god of purification; if, like Orestes, you shed kindred blood, you flee to his sanctuary to be purified.
How might all these attributes fit together in a single concept? And is there anything in our three weeks’ sailing which might help us to intuit that unifying concept? The last two nights we’ve been mesmerized by the appearance of the slim crescent of the new moon as evening comes on—a fit time to try to draw our thoughts together, at the end of our weeks centered around the summer solstice.

One way to approach him is through the role he plays in the Iliad. There he is what scholars have come to call an “adversary god” to the hero, in this case Achilles, whom he resembles (both are young men in perfect shape) and whom he frustrates. In fact Apollo enters the plot at four places to frustrate people and only at the end to bringing about healing. His first frustrating entry is obviously his sending of plague on the Greek army in Book One. At two key scenes where a Greek hero is so brilliant that day on the battlefield that he threatens to take Troy, Diomedes in Book Five and Patroclus in Book Sixteen, Apollo calls out terrifyingly to him Phrazeo kai khazeo!, “Take heed and fall back!” In the case of Patroclus the first to strike him a deathblow is the god Apollo, and only later does the mortal Hector finish him off. And at the beginning of the book in which the climactic killing of Hector by Achilles is destined to occur, Apollo taunts Achilles in six chilling lines (8-13) which Achilles answers in six more lines of almost precisely the same structure and rhythm (15-21). Once Achilles seems to have foreknowledge through his mother’s prophecy that his final death at Troy will come through Apollo’s arrows (21.277-8). Insofar as we identify with the mortal hero Achilles we find Apollo mainly an adversary and a threat.

All this, however, is reversed in the final book. There we see, as Jonathan Shay shows so clearly in Achilles in Vietnam, that Achilles is still traumatized and bestialized by the berserker state triggered at the death of his best friend; even after Patroclus’ elaborate funeral in Book 23 Achilles still is not at peace, tosses and turns at night remembering him, rises before dawn and again and again savagely drags Hector’s body around Patroclus’ tomb (24.3-16). And now it is Apollo who intervenes in the action of the plot and denounces the poem’s hero to the Olympians as a wild lion, not a man (41), one who has not learned, as most mortals do, an “enduring heart” from the Fates, a man who cannot let go of his wild grief. And it is Apollo, we learn no less than three times, who has been instrumental during this whole period in preserving Hector’s body from corruption while Achilles is trying to abuse it (23.188-191, 24. 18-21, 24.757-759). It is Apollo who now stands for human decency, for doing what is fitting and decorous. He reestablishes his presence as that which ennobles and inspires human civilization.

Apollo emerges, at the end of the poem, as the god who protects the fair body of the young warrior even in death. How noble and beautiful a recently dead warrior’s body seemed to Homer’s audiences is shown in the words of Priam (22.71-73). It was seemly and civilized to honor that death by the funeral rites Achilles is so bent on arranging for Patroclus, and Apollo now ensures that the poem will end with the same “decency of fire” for the hero who killed Patroclus before he was killed by the hero of the whole poem.

Perhaps—and this is sheer intuition—the unifying concept behind Apollo is that of the radiance by which we perceive and honor beautiful forms. In landscape these are forms like promontories and headlines seen in clear weather from from off on the sea—what we have been seeing so stunningly day after day in these three weeks of luminous days, either cloudfree or with lustrous separate cumulus clouds massing. In the human realm the paradigmatic form is that of the young man in perfect shape who is ready to test his form by struggle, be it in competitive athletics or on thefield of battle. In the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (which by Vinci’s lights should be part of the same larger epos brought from Baltic to Mediterranean) Apollo is said to rejoice in headlands and promontories. And now at the end of the Iliad he is shown honoring the paradigmatic human form of beauty, the warrior who has pushed his youthful strength to the ultimate test of death.

Another way of putting it is that this god abominates the violation of the body’s boundaries. If it takes the form, as in the case of Orestes, of shedding kindred blood, he is the god to whom one may flee for purification. If it takes the form, as in the case of Achilles, of a traumatized savaging of a dead body, he is the god who intervenes to demand that the gods stop it. And indeed they do: Zeus agrees with his son, and as soon as Achilles learns from his mother that this is Zeus’ will, he yields to that will in two lines of utter simplicity, in which his healing may be said to occur (24.139-140). After that, for the rest of the poem, he is, in his kindness and consolatory wisdom to Priam, the very paragon of human decency again. When they had eaten together, Priam simply admires his beautiful form, “how huge a man he was, and what kind of man—equal to the gods, he seemed”. Achilles has become, in mortal guise, everything Apollo stands for as a god.

June 29, 2006

Ship's Log
June 29th 2006
Departure Location: Lilla Nassa, Sweden
Departure Time: 8:00 hours
Distance Travelled: 11.57 nautical miles
Arrival Location: Sandhamn, Sweden
Arrival Time: 12:15 hours
Weather: Sunny and light winds

Personal Comments:

We began this morning with a pancake breakfast that lacked Mom’s special touch. Having had Jonas cook Swedish pancakes for us we hoped to be able to offer a comparable cultural exchange, but the thick flat pastries we produced were a far cry from the Sunday morning breakfasts that we hoped to recreate. Next time we will learn to track down a recipe, or maybe some Aunt Jemima if we get desperate.

After calm sailing all morning we arrived at Sandhamn in the early afternoon. Sandhamn is a small summer vacation island, which happened to be hosting the Royal Swedish Sailing Society’s Gotland Run (a multi-day regatta). Due to the race the port was teaming with activity. Upon arriving, John was immediately dispatched to retrieve mustard, a condiment that the team has become particularly dependant upon (average mustard consumption has reached one entire bottle per day). We spent the first part of our afternoon fending off other boats, which were being packed in next to us like sardines. In the afternoon we shopped for supplies, explored the town, and had a late afternoon drink in an outside café. At days close we found ourselves over served and under slept.

Research Comments:

This morning’s leisurely sail gave us the perfect opportunity to come together as a group and have a final review of our thoughts regarding the voyage and Vinci’s theory. To open our casual symposium we each went around in turn and named the high points of the trip. Each person had a unique perspective on the experience, but all agreed that the fields of Troy, the beauty of the environment, and the ample opportunities for individual reflection have made this trip truly memorable.

Each person was asked to summarize their understanding of the Iliad’s underlying themes in one sentence. The question proved it’s merit in that it brought to our attention an interesting dichotomy that was consistent with both the Iliad and our own experience of retracing the Achaean voyage to Troy; namely the necessary balance between the action of individuals and the group to which they belong. What we realized in the midst of our discussion about the Iliad’s thematic focus is that Homer’s work explores this exact balance (the group/society vs. the individual).
On the boat we have seen this split play out on a daily basis. Everyday there is a time when each person needs to be alone and act without being confined by the desires of the group. But it is also true that each day brings moments of camaraderie where we are reliant on one another for support, entertainment, and guidance.

That The Iliad can still be so applicable to humanity is what gives it the capacity to endure and makes it worthy of continual study.

June 27, 2006

Ship's Log
June 27th 2006
Departure Location: Eckero, Aland Islands
Departure Time: 8:30 hours
Distance Traveled: 59.59 Nautical Miles
Arrival Location: Arholma, Sweden
Arrival Time: 17:20 hours (lost one hour by crossing back into Sweden)
Weather: Rough seas and rain in the morning. Overcast in the afternoon with winds dropping off throughout the day.

Personal Comments:

Today was the day that John and Dane have spent the last few weeks secretly hoping for. Although most of us are content with the blue skies and calm seas that we have enjoyed throughout the majority of the trip, it has not made for particularly interesting sailing. Thankfully when we awoke this morning the trend had been broken, with high winds and consistent rain waiting for us up on deck. John, Jonas, and Dane spent most of the morning bundled up in sweaters and raincoats, smiles on their faces and water dripping off their noses. Caleb even used the occasion to break out the foul weather gear that his dad equipped him with before departure. He wants to take the opportunity here to pass on a thank-you to Mason and tell him that everything was as helpful as it was meant to be.

At midday we stopped in Marienhamn for supplies before pushing on to Arholma in the afternoon. For the first time we found ourselves docking next to American travellers who were also out sailing the Baltic. They had stopped at many of the same places that we had over the last weeks and it was nice to have a momentary break from the language barrier that faces us everywhere we go.

In all fairness it is worth mentioning here that almost everywhere we have been, whether in Finland or Sweden, we are almost always able to use rudimentary English. The Swedes now learn English throughout all of their required school years and this is reflected in most of the younger people that we converse with. It has been a luxury that we are grateful for. Still, there is much that is missed in conversation when one of the participants is struggling against a language barrier, and it was nice to be able to chat and joke with people who did not have to work to understand us.

The day ended with a walk through the small back roads and communities that occupy most of the island. It was a foggy evening and the walk was made even more beautiful because of it.

Research Comments:

In an earlier blog we raised the question whether Vinci’s hypothesis should be deemed to have a major stumbling block in the fact that Greek epic tradition, which presents an immense body of detailed collective memory—nowhere systematically narrates a migration south from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Surely this would be as important to them as, say, the Exodus was to the Israelies, and would be enshrined in narrative memory?

The simplest response is to say that a majority of classical historians still consider the evidence to be substantial that a significant proportion of what later became the classical Greek population did in fact migrate there from the north, as part of a much larger set of waves of Indo-European migrations. The problem of the absence of a narrative epos about any of these migrations (something larger than the problematic and fragmentary reference to the so-called Dorian Invasions) is every bit as much a problem for them too, and yet it has not caused them to disavow the evidence of such migrations (as is discussed throughout Vinci’s book).

A quite different approach to the problem can be developed from Vinci’s allusions (pp. 95 and 191) to key passage in Hesiod’s Works and Days which speaks of the different races of men each destroyed by the gods after the previous—the Gold, the Silver, the Bronze (p. 95, “those terrible Bronze Age warriors mentioned by Hesiod”), and “ ‘those who died at Thebes and Troy’ in an intermediate period between the Bronze and the Iron Ages” (p. 191). The myth of four or five ages of men, or of kindred races preceding the present race of men, is world-wide, and can be fruitfully attached to other catastrophic myths about the Deluge, about world conflagration, about combat in the sky affecting the whole earth (as in Zeus and the Olympians’ battles with the Titans and Typhon in Hesiod’s Theogony). Indeed, a famous fragment from the epic cycle shows Zeus altering the seasons at the time of the Trojan War and another shows him deliberately using it to reduce population at a time when it was so great it made the earth groan (as in Genesis and some Mesopotamian myths as well). If these myths are the cultural memory of intense environmental stress, interpreted religiously as due to the will of the gods and sometimes also to the crimes of humans, then it is to them we would have to look for the break between Baltic and Mediterranean homelands Vinci posits.

Finally, it is worth spelling out what is involved in Vinci’s principal argument on this issue, namely, that memory of the earlier pre-Mycenean migration from Baltic to Mediterranean was then lost in the Dark Age which brought the Mycenean kingdoms down. Here too one can simply state the failure to give an adequate epic narrative of what brought about this so-called Dark Age is a problem for all mainstream Greek historians, not just for Vinci. Further investigation into problems of dating this Dark Age (which first was posited out of deference to Egyptian chronology, now questioned) and problems of accounting for what caused it (merely military/systemic societal collapse, or some form of catastrophic environmental stress) may elucidate this problem common to Vinci and the mainstream. A principal collection of essays for starting this kind of investigation is Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilization (Archaeo Press, Oxford 1998), the highly interdisciplinary proceedings of the conference at Cambridge 1997 devoted to that theme. In particular, Benny Peiser’s long essay amassing literally hundreds of studies from different disciplines, arguing for a global environmental catastrophe c. 2300 BCE, can be fruitfully collocated with Vinci’s reliance on the mainstream climatological concept of the climatic downturn between the 2500 BCE Post Glacial Climatic Optimum and the subsequent events leading finally to the foundation by northern invaders of the Mycenean kingdoms.

June 28, 2006

Ship s Log
June 28th 2006
Departure Location: Arholma, Sweden
Departure Time: 9:00 hours
Distance Traveled: 38.44 Nautical Miles
Arrival Location: Lilla Nassa, Sweden
Arrival Time: 18:00 hours
Weather: Surrounded by storm clouds throughout the afternoon. Intermittent light showers. Moderate to heavy winds from the South/ Southwest

Personal Comments:

This was one of the most exciting sailing days thus far. From the early morning to the end of the day we battled strong headwinds on a consistent beat through narrow passages. Towards midday the wind was so strong that the boat would continually broach (this means that the boat heels over far enough that the rudder actually rises out of the water so it is momentarily impossible to steer and the boat naturally heads up into the wind). For the first time some of our crew showed signs of sea sickness. Thankfully none of it was too serious. A few hours before coming into harbor we reached open sea and added large rolling waves to the already strong winds. At this point we decided to reef the jib (by partially drawing in the sail). The waves not only made it difficult to stay on course, but also threw things all over the cabin. It was an intense few hours but made for some great pictures.

After 6 hours of rough sailing we reached our evening port, which turned out to be nothing more than a small outcropping of rock rising out of the ocean. Bill spent much of the evening sitting on the highest outcropping on the island reading the Iliad. He said that it was one of the most beautiful places that we have seen and we all had to agree.

Research Comments:

Because of the rough weather today there was little time for discussion and even less time for theorizing. More thoughts on Vinci and Homer’s works in general will have to wait until tomorrow.

June 26, 2006

Ship s Log
June 26th 2006
Departure Location: Mattskar, Aland Islands
Departure Time: 10:00 hours
Distance Traveled: unknown
Arrival Location: Eckero, Aland Islands
Arrival Time: 17:00 hours
Weather: Started sunny with accumulating fog throughout the day. Light rain overnight.

Personal Comments:

Last night was one of the most interesting so far. We stayed in a protected cove overnight but could find no place to tie up on shore and were forced to rely on our anchor. To make sure that we wouldn’t find ourselves drifting out to sea in the middle of the night we set a depth alarm on the boat and put ourselves to bed. It will probably not come as a surprise to know that we were roused several times in the middle of the night by the alarm and rushed to check things out. Having an alarm going off every few hours doesn’t make for restful sleeping conditions.

Despite our lack of sleep we managed to keep our spirits up during the day. The sailing was calm and we ended our day at Eckero, the second largest city in the Äländ Islands. There, we found showers, internet, and most importantly laundry. After trying to wash our clothes by hand we have all agreed that it is generally just better to wait until finding a laundromat whenever possible.

What is most amusing about this port is that given its description as the second largest city in the Äländ islands we were looking forward to having a fair amount of places to blow off steam and go shopping. Much to our surprise however what we found was not a small city, or even a large town, but rather a gas station/supermarket, a few coffee shops, and a ferry terminal.

Mostly I mention it just to give some perspective on what it must be like to live in this part of the world. We, being mostly a young crew to begin with, were feeling especially sympathetic toward the teenagers in these tiny villages. What would it be like to be rebellious in places such as these? It boggles the mind.

Research Comments:

Some readers have argued that Vinci’s massive accumulation of homotopes are not credible because he remaps them as a set from the Baltic to the eastern Mediterranean. Our usual experience of homotopes, such as those found in New York state, where we can find a Troy, an Ithaka, a Rome, an Utica, a Carthage etc.—does not include the remapping of them as a set, but only as a random use of individual names here and there.

The experience of navigating tens of thousand of islands and skerries in the Baltic, between Stockholm and Helsinki, has given us a greater appreciation for what might have led the ancient Greek sailors to remap homotopes as a coherent set rather than randomly.

Consider the challenge to these sailors in their earliest centuries of Baltic sailing. Individual sailors likely exchanged information with each other and agreed on names, and sailors within a culture or a language group would continue this process of regularization and consolidation among themselves. This set as a whole would be passed on by various mnemonic devices, including metrical lists and catalogues such as the Catalogue of Ships in Book Two of the Iliad, or the many catalogues whose fragments we see in Hesiod’s works. The place names as a set would in effect constitute one of the most vital treasures of the culture.

When forced by environmental stress and climatic downturn to migrate south, what would be the attitude of the migrants towards these long standing cultural tools of naming islands and sights useful for navigation? It seems unlikely that the subset of travelers who reached the Eastern Mediterranean, to a landscape and seascape far more strikingly similar to their abandoned Baltic homeland than any they had seen previously, would abandon their system of naming. They would have been presented with an interesting set of options. They could adopt the “natives” place names; they could slowly and laboriously generate and consolidate a set of new ones; or they could see how far they could get by remapping their old Baltic names onto their new homeland as an anlogical set.

This last alternative, on consideration, has considerable merits as compared to the first two. The set of names is already deeply engrained in collective cultural memory, and in addition to sentimental value (which is all one imagines the classical and British placenames in New York State provided for their first employers) they would be far easier for all within the culture to agree. Indeed, they would reaffirm the pride this sailing culture must have in this collective creation, which was useful for navigation and celebrated in epic song by generations of bards. It is also true that these names would be mnemonically useful. The more one thinks about this option of remapping as a set, the more attractive it becomes.

The process of transferring old cultural standards and place names is well established in other cultures. One of the well known problems encountered by Indologists is the fact that the RigVeda, a body of oral transmitted texts considerably larger than Homer, have virtually no place names, flora, or fauna to attach them to their current setting in India.