Ulysses in the Baltic Sea?

The Trojan war? Ulysses’ travels? A saga set in the Baltic Sea. The idea, at first sight bizarre, is the daughter of a curious story and, after twenty years and not a few irony and objections, it is taken so seriously that various scholars are evaluating it carefully. For example, the university dedicated a conference to it, whose proceedings were published in 2014: . Not only that: in recent years, meetings and seminars have been organized in many Italian and foreign universities. Two international scientific conferences have been organized in Finland. The thesis, however, has also made a breach in the academic world of overseas: the theory, which continues to arouse considerable reservations (and who writes belongs to the skeptical group), is also supported by William Mullen, professor of Bard College in New York.

He, the creator and tenacious supporter of this proposal, is not an archaeologist or a classical philologist; he is an engineer. It’s called Felice Vinci (nomen omen?). And he came to this theory a little by chance. Specializing in the nuclear field, after the 1987 referendum, who said no to the power plants of that type, he found himself with a lot of free time and a youthful passion that he could finally recover: that for the Iliad and the Odyssey. Taking back the beloved volumes, the first doubts were insinuated, <for the entity – as he himself explained in an interview – of the geographical discrepancies of the Homeric world compared to the Mediterranean one, since ancient times quickly cleared with the famous phrase “Homer is a poet and not a geographer”, which however is ill-suited to the remarkable internal coherence of Homeric geography>.

Precise as it is, the engineer Vinci who does? He takes the plane and flies to Northern Europe: he studies, tests in the field. And so a book comes out of it, <Homer in the Baltic. The northern origins of the Iliad and the Odyssey> (Palombi, 1995).

The basic theory is as simple as revolutionary: the Achaeans, blond and often covered with furs, as Homer would have described them, were peoples of the north who emigrated south in the middle of the second millennium, bringing with them names and toponyms, myths and traditions . Or, to quote the very serene abstract of the proceedings of the conference entitled La Sapienza, <according to this theory the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two poems underlying Western literature, would be the reworking of sagas born in Northern Europe and set in their version final in the Mediterranean, following the migration of northern populations to the south. From Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea, where a rich Bronze Age had flourished in the second millennium, migrations, due to a sharp worsening of the climate, would have brought the legends of their world to the South of Europe, which would eventually be written down in the VIII century in the Mediterranean scenario>.

Periodo Miceneo
Periodo Miceneo

So perhaps the foundation of the first Mycenaean centers would be explained, whose earliest tombs are rich in Baltic amber. These people would then give the new locations the names of the northern locations. Thus the Trojan war, according to this theory, dates back to the eighteenth century. The reasoning of Vinci starts from the findings of ancient literature. Already in the II century BC Cratete di Mallo did not exclude a Nordic-Arctic location of the adventures of Ulysses. Strabo hypothesized a setting in the Atlantic ocean. But above all the island of Ogygia where Ulysses was held prisoner by the nymph Calypso, according to a plutarch text, is found five days of sailing from Britain to the west. In short, one of the Fær Øer (Hogoyggj). As for the land of the Phaeacians, with no evidence in southern Europe, according to Vinci it would be identifiable with the area of ​​Bergen, at the mouth of the river Figgjo. That’s why Ulysses noticed at the landing the sea flow back into the river, a phenomenon not found in the Mediterranean..

But there’s more. According to Vinci, who analyzes the morphology, position and toponyms of each Homeric town, everything can find an exact location in Northern Europe. Some examples. Ithaca? It would be the islet of Lyø in the Danish archipelago of South Funen: it coincides with the description of Homer. A never identified Dulichio? It would correspond to the island of Langeland (although both mean, in Greek and in Danish, “long island”). Troy in Toija in southern Finland.

Fog, winds, storms: the climate described by Homer does not seem that of the Mediterranean. The heroes are very copious and do not sweat. Of course during the Trojan war the average temperature was lower than the current one, but the climate described by Homer could not be that of the Aegean, especially if we take into account that the events narrated would seem to take place mostly in the summer. In northern Europe, however, temperatures were higher then.

As for the myth, the Greek world and the Scandinavian world present remarkable cultural analogies.

In the last edition of the book further, suggestive topics emerge. Among these, also the map of the medieval geographer Adamo di Brema where the Cyclops are located along the coast of northern Norway.

Many significant objections remain open and the perplexities seem to be very well founded; certainly the theory of Vinci can not but fascinate, as it could weld in a new cultural perspective the history of northern and southern Europe.

by Christian Stocchi, from the web site “i Fiori del male