New Chronology

The New Chronology is a pseudohistorical theory which argues that the conventional chronology of Middle Eastern and European history is fundamentally flawed, and that events attributed to the civilizations of the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt actually occurred during the Middle Ages, more than a thousand years later. The central concepts of the New Chronology are derived from the ideas of Russian scholar Nikolai Morozov (1854–1946), although work by French scholar Jean Hardouin (1646–1729) can be viewed as an earlier predecessor. However, the New Chronology is most commonly associated with Russian mathematician Anatoly Fomenko (born 1945), although published works on the subject are actually a collaboration between Fomenko and several other mathematicians. The concept is most fully explained in History: Fiction or Science?, originally published in Russian.

Anatolij Fomenko
Anatolij Fomenko

The New Chronology also contains a reconstruction, an alternative chronology, radically shorter than the standard historical timeline, because all ancient history is “folded” onto the Middle Ages. According to Fomenko’s claims, the written history of humankind goes only as far back as AD 800, there is almost no information about events between AD 800–1000, and most known historical events took place in AD 1000–1500.

The New Chronology is rejected by mainstream historians and is inconsistent with absolute and relative dating techniques used in the wider scholarly community. The majority of scientific commentators consider The New Chronology to be pseudoscientific. Interest in the academia in the theory stems mainly from its popularity which has compelled historians and other scientists to argue against its methods and proposed world history. A second point of interest from the mainstream academic community is to understand why it has become so popular as to perhaps have the sympathy of 30 percent of Russians. It is not really known to which extent readers of New Chronology texts regard it as history or fiction. Nor are there reliable statistics on who the readers are.

The theory emerged alongside other alternate histories and conspiracy literature in the period of increased freedom of speech that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. While other authors have written on New Chronology theory, such as Fomenko’s junior partner G.V. Nosovskiy and Bulgarian mathematician Iordan Tabov who expanded the theory in regards to the Balkans, the theory is mostly discussed in reference to Fomenko’s writings.

The idea of chronologies that differ from the conventional chronology can be traced back to at least the early 17th century. Jean Hardouin then suggested that many ancient historical documents were much younger than commonly believed to be. In 1685 he published a version of Pliny the Elder‘s Natural History in which he claimed that most Greek and Roman texts had been forged by Benedictine monks. When later questioned on these results, Hardouin stated that he would reveal the monks’ reasons in a letter to be revealed only after his death. The executors of his estate were unable to find such a document among his posthumous papers. In the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton, examining the current chronology of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East, expressed discontent with prevailing theories and in The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended proposed one of his own, which, basing its study on Apollonius of Rhodes‘s Argonautica, changed the traditional dating of the Argonautic Expedition, the Trojan War, and the Founding of Rome.

In 1887, Edwin Johnson expressed the opinion that early Christian history was largely invented or corrupted in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

In 1909 Otto Rank made note of duplications in literary history of a variety of cultures:
almost all important civilized peoples have early woven myths around and glorified in poetry their heroes, mythical kings and princes, founders of religions, of dynasties, empires and cities—in short, their national heroes. Especially the history of their birth and of their early years is furnished with phantastic traits; the amazing similarity, nay literal identity, of those tales, even if they refer to different, completely independent peoples, sometimes geographically far removed from one another, is well known and has struck many an investigator.

Fomenko became interested in Morozov’s theories in 1973. In 1980, together with a few colleagues from the mathematics department of Moscow State University, he published several articles on “new mathematical methods in history” in peer-reviewed journals. The articles stirred a lot of controversy, but ultimately Fomenko failed to win any respected historians to his side. By the early 1990s, Fomenko shifted his focus from trying to convince the scientific community via peer-reviewed publications to publishing books. Beam writes that Fomenko and his colleagues were discovered by the Soviet scientific press in the early 1980s, leading to “a brief period of renown”; a contemporary review from the Soviet journal Questions of History complained, “Their constructions have nothing in common with Marxist historical science.”

By 1996 his theory had grown to cover Russia, Turkey, China, Europe, and Egypt.

Central to Fomenko’s New Chronology is his claim of the existence of a vast Slav-Turk empire, which he called the “Russian Horde”, which he says played the dominant role in Eurasian history before the 17th century. The various peoples identified in ancient and medieval history, from the Scythians, Huns, Goths and Bulgars, through the Polyane, Duleby, Drevliane, Pechenegs, to in more recent times, the Cossacks, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, are nothing but elements of the single Russian Horde. For the New Chronologists, peoples such as the Ukrainians, Belarusians, Mongols, and others who assert their national independence from Russia, are suffering from a historical delusion.

Fomenko claims that the most probable prototype of the historical Jesus was Andronikos I Komnenos (allegedly AD 1152 to 1185), the emperor of Byzantium, known for his failed reforms; his traits and deeds reflected in ‘biographies’ of many real and imaginary persons. The historical Jesus is a composite figure and reflection of the Old-Testament prophet Elisha (850–800 BC?), Pope Gregory VII (1020?–1085), Saint Basil of Caesarea (330–379), and even Li Yuanhao (also known as Emperor Jingzong or “Son of Heaven” – emperor of Western Xia, who reigned in 1032–48), Euclides, Bacchus and Dionysius. Fomenko explains the seemingly vast differences in the biographies of these figures as resulting from difference in languages, points of view and time-frame of the authors of said accounts and biographies. He claims that the historical Jesus may have been born in 1152 and was crucified around AD 1185 on the Joshua’s Hill, overlooking the Bosphorus.

Fomenko also merges the cities and histories of Jerusalem, Rome and Troy into “New Rome” = Gospel Jerusalem (in the 12th and 13th centuries) = Troy = Yoros Castle. To the south of Yoros Castle is Joshua’s Hill which Fomenko alleges is the hill Calvary depicted in the Bible.

Fomenko claims the Hagia Sophia is actually the biblical Temple of Solomon. He identifies Solomon as sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1494–1566).

On the other hand, according to Fomenko the word “Rome” is a placeholder and can signify any one of several different cities and kingdoms. He claims the “First Rome” or “Ancient Rome” or “Mizraim” is an ancient Egyptian kingdom in the delta of the Nile with its capital in Alexandria. The second and most famous “New Rome” is Constantinople. The third “Rome” is constituted by three different cities: Constantinople (again), Rome in Italy, and Moscow. According to his claims, Rome in Italy was founded around AD 1380 by Aeneas and Moscow as the third Rome was the capital of the great “Russian Horde”.

In volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of History: Fiction or Science?, Fomenko and his colleagues make numerous claims:

  • Historians and translators often “assign” different dates and locations to different accounts of the same historical events, creating multiple “phantom copies” of these events. These “phantom copies” are often misdated by centuries or even millennia and end up incorporated into conventional chronology.
  • This chronology was largely manufactured by Joseph Justus Scaliger in Opus Novum de emendatione temporum (1583) and Thesaurum temporum (1606), and represents a vast array of dates produced without any justification whatsoever, containing the repeating sequences of dates with shifts equal to multiples of the major cabbalistic numbers 333 and 360. The Jesuit Dionysius Petavius completed this chronology in De Doctrina Temporum, 1627 (v.1) and 1632 (v.2).

One might wonder why we should want to revise the chronology of ancient history today and base our revision on new empirical-statistical methods. It would be worthwhile to remind the reader that in the XVI-XVII century chronology was considered to be a subdivision of mathematics.

  • 37 complete Egyptian horoscopes found in Denderah, Esna, and other temples have unique valid astronomical solutions with dates ranging from AD 1000 and up to as late as AD 1700.

The vocabulary of Egyptian astronomical symbols once applied to horoscopes from temples allows for extraction of unique dates of eclipses. Astronomical data therein contained is sufficient for unique dating. There are symbols allowing for astronomical interpretation and the symbols do not change from one temple horoscope to another. The horoscopes from temples contain data about eclipses visible in Egypt allowing their exact pinpointing on the time axis.

As we have already noted, the inability of the latter day commentators to comprehend the astronomical symbolism of the Apocalypse is directly resulting from the loss of knowledge about the correct chronology and the distortions introduced by historians of the XVI-XVIII century. Another possibility is that there was an unspoken general taboo on what concerned a subject quite as dangerous, which resulted in the misdating of the Apocalypse. One way or another, the understanding of the astronomical descriptions that the Apocalypse contains got lost at some point. The Apocalypse had lost its distinctive astronomical hue in the eyes of the readers. However, its “astronomical component” is not simply exceptionally important – it alone suffices for the dating of the book itself.

  • The horoscopes found in Sumerian/Babylonian tablets do not contain sufficient astronomical data; consequently, they have solutions every 30–50 years on the time axis and are therefore useless for purposes of dating.

The vocabulary of Babylonian astronomical symbols once applied to clay tablets don’t allow for extraction of unique dates of eclipses. Astronomical data therein contained is not sufficient for unique dating. Either there not enough symbols allowing for astronomical interpretation or the symbols change from one clay tablet to another. The clay tablets contain data about eclipses visible in Babylon that could have taken place every 30-40 years, therefore don’t allow there exact pinpointing on the time axis.

  • The Chinese tables of eclipses are useless for dating, as they contain too many eclipses that did not take place astronomically. Chinese tables of comets, even if true, cannot be used for dating.

Chinese eclipse observations can neither confirm nor refute any chronology of China at all, be it veracious or erroneous.

One of Fomenko’s simplest methods is statistical correlation of texts. His basic assumption is that a text which describes a sequence of events will devote more space to more important events (for example, a period of war or an unrest will have much more space devoted to than a period of peaceful, non-eventful years), and that this irregularity will remain visible in other descriptions of the period. For each analysed text, a function is devised which maps each year mentioned in the text with the number of pages (lines, letters) devoted in the text to its description (which could be zero). The function of the two texts are then compared.

For example, Fomenko compares the contemporary history of Rome written by Titus Livius with a modern history of Rome written by Russian historian V. S. Sergeev, calculating that the two have high correlation, and thus that they describe the same period of history, which is undisputed. He also compares modern texts which describe different periods, and calculates low correlation, as expected. However, when he compares, for example, the ancient history of Rome and the medieval history of Rome, he calculates a high correlation, and concludes that ancient history of Rome is a copy of medieval history of Rome, thus clashing with mainstream accounts.

In a somewhat similar manner, Fomenko compares two dynasties of rulers using statistical methods. First, he creates a database of rulers, containing relevant information on each of them. Then, he creates “survey codes” for each pair of the rulers, which contain a number which describes degree of the match of each considered property of two rulers. For example, one of the properties is the way of death: if two rulers were both poisoned, they get value of +1 in their property of the way of death; if one ruler was poisoned and another killed in combat, they get -1; and if one was poisoned, and another died of illness, they get 0 (Fomenko claims there is possibility that chroniclers were not impartial and that different descriptions nonetheless describe the same person). An important property is the length of the rule.

Fomenko lists a number of pairs of unrelated dynasties – for example, dynasties of kings of Israel and emperors of late Western Roman Empire (AD 300-476) – and claims that this method demonstrates correlations between their reigns. (Graphs which show just the length of the rule in the two dynasties are the most widely known; however, Fomenko’s conclusions are also based on other parameters, as described above.) He also claims that the regnal history from the 17th to 20th centuries never shows correlation of “dynastic flows” with each other, therefore Fomenko insists history was multiplied and outstretched into imaginary antiquity to justify this or other “royal” pretensions.

Roman Empire parallelism
Roman Empire parallelism

Fomenko uses for the demonstration of correlation between the reigns exclusively the data from the Chronological Tables of J. Blair (Moscow 1808–09). Fomenko says that Blair’s tables are all the more valuable to us since they were compiled in an epoch adjacent to the time of Scaligerian chronology. According to Fomenko these tables contain clearer signs of “Scaligerite activity” which were subsequently buried under layers of paint and plaster by historians of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fomenko examines astronomical events described in ancient texts and claims that the chronology is actually medieval. For example:

  • He says the mysterious drop in the value of the lunar acceleration parameter D” (“a linear combination of the [angular] accelerations of the Earth and Moon”) between the years AD 700–1300, which the American astronomer Robert Newton had explained in terms of “non-gravitational” (i.e., tidal) forces. By eliminating those anomalous early eclipses the New Chronology produces a constant value of D” beginning around AD 1000.
  • He associates initially the Star of Bethlehem with the AD 1140 (±20) supernova (now Crab Nebula) and the Crucifixion Eclipse with the total solar eclipse of AD 1170 (±20). He also believes that Crab Nebula supernova could not have been seen in AD 1054, but probably in AD 1153. He connects it with total eclipse of AD 1186. Moreover he holds in strong doubt the veracity of ancient Chinese astronomical data.
  • He argues that the star catalog in the Almagest, ascribed to the Hellenistic astronomer Claudius Ptolemy, was compiled in the 15th to 16th centuries AD. With this objective in sight he develops new methods of dating old stellar catalogues and claims that the Almagest is based on data collected between AD 600 and 1300, whereby the telluric obliquity[clarification needed] is well taken into account.
  • He refines and completes Morozov’s analysis of some ancient horoscopes, most notably, the so-called Dendera Zodiacs—two horoscopes drawn on the ceiling of the temple of Hathor—and comes to the conclusion that they correspond to either the 11th or the 13th century AD. Moreover, in his History: Fiction or Science series finale, he makes computer-aided dating of all 37 Egyptian horoscopes that contain sufficient astronomical data, and claims they all fit into 11th to 19th century timeframe.[clarification needed] Traditional history usually either interprets these horoscopes as belonging to the 1st century BC or suggests that they weren’t meant to match any date at all.
  • In his final analysis of an eclipse triad described by the ancient Greek Thucydides in History of the Peloponnesian War, Fomenko dates the eclipses to AD 1039, 1046 and 1057. Because of the layered structure of the manuscript, he claims that Thucydides actually lived in medieval times and in describing the Peloponnesian War between the Spartans and Athenians he was actually describing the conflict between the medieval Navarrans and Catalans in Spain from AD 1374 to 1387.
  • Fomenko claims that the abundance of dated astronomical records in cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia is of little use for dating of events, as the astronomical phenomena they describe recur cyclically every 30–40 years.

On archaeological dating methods, Fomenko claims:
Archaeological, dendrochronological, paleographical and carbon methods of dating of ancient sources and artifacts are both non-exact and contradictory, therefore there is not a single piece of firm written evidence or artifact that could be reliably and independently dated earlier than the XI century

Dendrochronology is rejected with a claim that, for dating of objects much older than the oldest still living trees, it isn’t an absolute, but a relative dating method, and thus dependent on traditional chronology. Fomenko specifically points to a break of dendrochronological scales around AD 1000.

Fomenko also cites a number of cases where carbon dating of a series of objects of known age gave significantly different dates. He also alleges undue cooperation between physicists and archaeologists in obtaining the dates, since most radiocarbon dating labs only accept samples with an age estimate suggested by historians or archaeologists. Fomenko also claims that carbon dating over the range of AD 1 to 2000 is inaccurate because it has too many sources of error that are either guessed at or completely ignored, and that calibration is done with a statistically meaningless number of samples. Consequently, Fomenko concludes that carbon dating is not accurate enough to be used on historical scale.

Fomenko rejects numismatic dating as circular, being based on the traditional chronology, and points to cases of similar coins being minted in distant periods, unexplained long periods with no coins minted and cases of mismatch of numismatic dating with historical accounts.

Fomenko’s historical ideas have been universally rejected by mainstream scholars, who brand them as pseudoscience, but were popularized by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Billington writes that the theory “might have quietly blown away in the wind tunnels of academia” if not for Kasparov’s writing in support of it in the magazine Ogoniok. Kasparov met Fomenko during the 1990s, and found that Fomenko’s conclusions concerning certain subjects were identical to his own regarding the popular view (which is not the view of academics) that art and culture died during the Dark Ages and were not revived until the Renaissance. Kasparov also felt it illogical that the Romans and the Greeks living under the banner of Byzantium could fail to use the mounds of scientific knowledge left them by Ancient Greece and Rome, especially when it was of urgent military use. However, Kasparov does not support the reconstruction part of the New Chronology. Russian critics tended to see Fomenko’s New Chronology as “an embarrassment and a potent symbol of the depths to which the Russian academy and society have generally sunk … since the fall of Communism”.Western critics see his views as part of a renewed Russian imperial ideology, “keeping alive an imperial consciousness and secular messianism in Russia”.

In 2004 at the Moscow International Book Fair, Anatoly Fomenko with his coauthor Gleb Nosovsky were awarded for their books on “New Chronology” the anti-prize called “Abzatz” (literally ‘paragraph’, a Russian slang word meaning ‘disaster’ or ‘fiasco’) in the category “Pochotnaya bezgramota” (the term is a pun upon “Pochotnaya gramota” (Certificate of Honor) and may be translated either “Certificate of Dishonor” or literally, “Respectable Illiteracy” ) for the worst book published in Russia.

Critics have accused Fomenko of altering the data to improve the fit with his ideas and have noted that he violates a key rule of statistics by selecting matches from the historical record which support his chronology, while ignoring those which do not, creating artificial, better-than-chance correlations, and that these practices undermine Fomenko’s statistical arguments. The new chronology was given a comprehensive critical analysis in a round table on “The ‘Myths’ of New Chronology” chaired by the dean of the department of history of Moscow State University in December 1999. One of the participants in that round table, the distinguished Russian archaeologist, Valentin Yanin, compared Fomenko’s work to “the sleight of hand trickery of a David Copperfield“. Linguist Andrey Zaliznyak argued that by using the Fomenko’s approaches one can “prove” any historical correspondence, for example, between Ancient Egyptian pharaohs and French kings.

James Billington, formerly professor of Russian history at Harvard and Princeton and the Librarian of Congress from 1987-2015 placed Fomenko’s work within the context of the political movement of Eurasianism, which sought to tie Russian history closely to that of its Asian neighbors. Billington describes Fomenko as ascribing the belief in past hostility between Russia and the Mongols to the influence of Western historians. Thus, by Fomenko’s chronology, “Russia and Turkey are parts of a previously single empire.” A French reviewer of Billington’s book noted approvingly his concern with the phantasmagorical conceptions of Fomenko about the global “new chronology”.

H.G. van Bueren, professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Utrecht, concluded his scathing review of Fomenko’s work on the application of mathematics and astronomy to historical data as follows:
It is surprising, to say the least, that a well-known (Dutch) publisher could produce an expensive book of such doubtful intellectual value, of which the only good word that can be said is that it contains an enormous amount of factual historical material, untidily ordered, true; badly written, yes; mixed-up with conjectural nonsense, sure; but still, much useful stuff. For the rest of the book is absolutely worthless. It reminds one of the early Soviet attempts to produce tendentious science (Lysenko!), of polywater, of cold fusion, and of modern creationism. In brief: a useless and misleading book.

While Fomenko rejects commonly accepted dating methods, archaeologists, conservators and other scientists make extensive use of such techniques which have been rigorously examined and refined during decades of use.

In the specific case of dendrochronology, Fomenko claims that this fails as an absolute dating method because of gaps in the record. However, independent dendrochronological sequences beginning with living trees from various parts of North America and Europe extend back 12,400 years into the past. Furthermore, the mutual consistency of these independent dendrochronological sequences has been confirmed by comparing their radiocarbon and dendrochronological ages. These and other data have provided a calibration curve for radiocarbon dating whose internal error does not exceed ±163 years over the entire 26,000 years of the curve.

In fact, archaeologists have developed a fully anchored dendrochronology series going back past 10,000 BCE. “The absolutely dated tree-ring chronology now extends back to 12,410 cal BP (10,461 BC).”

Critics of Fomenko’s theory claim that his use of historical sources is highly selective and ignores the basic principles of sound historical scholarship.
>Fomenko … provides no fair-minded review of the historical literature about a topic with which he deals, quotes only those sources that serve his purposes, uses evidence in ways that seem strange to professionally-trained historians and asserts the wildest speculation as if it has the same status as the information common to the conventional historical literature.
They also note that his method of statistically correlating of texts is very rough, because it does not take into account the many possible sources of variation in length outside of “importance”. They maintain that differences in language, style, and scope, as well as the frequently differing views and focuses of historians, which are manifested in a different notion of “important events”, make quantifying historical writings a dubious proposition at best. What’s more, Fomenko’s critics allege that the parallelisms he reports are often derived by alleged forcing by Fomenko of the data – rearranging, merging, and removing monarchs as needed to fit the pattern.

For example, on the one hand Fomenko asserts that the vast majority of ancient sources are either irreparably distorted duplicate accounts of the same events or later forgeries. In his identification of Jesus with Pope Gregory VII he ignores the otherwise vast dissimilarities between their reported lives and focuses on the similarity of their appointment to religious office by baptism. (The evangelical Jesus is traditionally believed to have lived for 33 years, and he was an adult at the time of his encounter with John the Baptist. In contrast, according to the available primary sources, Pope Gregory VII lived for at least 60 years and was born 8 years after the death of Fomenko’s John-the-Baptist equivalent John Crescentius.)

Critics allege that many of the supposed correlations of regnal durations are the product of the selective parsing and blending of the dates, events, and individuals mentioned in the original text. Another point raised by critics is that Fomenko does not explain his altering the data (changing the order of rulers, dropping rulers, combining rulers, treating interregna as rulers, switching between theologians and emperors, etc.) preventing a duplication of the effort and effectively making this whole theory an ad hoc hypothesis.

Critics point out that Fomenko’s discussion of astronomical phenomena tends to be selective, choosing isolated examples that support the New Chronology and ignoring the large bodies of data that provide statistically supported evidence for the conventional dating. For his dating of the Almagest star catalog, Fomenko arbitrarily selected eight stars from the more than 1000 stars in the catalog, one of which (Arcturus) has a large systematic error. This star has a dominant effect on Fomenko’s dating. Statistical analysis using the same method for all “fast” stars points to the antiquity of the Almagest star catalog. Rawlins points out further that Fomenko’s statistical analysis got the wrong date for the Almagest because he took as constant Earth’s obliquity when it is a variable that changes at a very slow, but known, rate.

Fomenko’s studies ignore the abundance of dated astronomical records in cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia. Among these texts is a series of Babylonian astronomical diaries, which records precise astronomical observations of the Moon and planets, often dated in terms of the reigns of known historical figures extending back to the 6th century BCE. Astronomical retrocalculations for all these moving objects allow us to date these observations, and consequently the rulers’ reigns, to within a single day. The observations are sufficiently redundant that only a small portion of them are sufficient to date a text to a unique year in the period 750 BCE to 100 CE. The dates obtained agree with the accepted chronology. In addition, F. R. Stephenson has demonstrated through a systematic study of a large number of Babylonian, Ancient and Medieval European, and Chinese records of eclipse observations that they can be dated consistently with conventional chronology at least as far back as 600 BCE. In contrast to Fomenko’s missing centuries, Stephenson’s studies of eclipse observations find an accumulated uncertainty in the timing of the rotation of the earth of 420 seconds at 400 BCE, and only 80 seconds at 1000 CE.

Fomenko states that world history prior to 1600 was deliberately falsified for political reasons. The consequences of this conspiracy theory are twofold. Documents that conflict with New Chronology are said to have been edited or fabricated by conspirators; the Vatican, the Holy Roman Empire and pro-German Romanov dynasty. New Chronology taps traditionally Russian anti-Western thoughts and ideas of Germany as a chief enemy. Further, the theory is Russocentric diminishing achievements of other cultures and claiming major civilization accomplishments as Russian and by proposing a giant “Russian Horde” empire and eliminating historical time before its existence. The theory also claimed to undermine nationalism in countries neighboring Russia by positioning divisions and conflicts as fabricated. Unlike other popular conspiracy theories New Chronology is not anti-semitic per se, but it contains claims that may be unwelcome by Jewish communities like that the Old Testament is newer than the New Testament, placing Jerusalem in Constantinople and projecting stereotypes of Jews by proposing that Jews originate from bankers in the Russian Horde that adopted the religion of Judaism, itself a derivative of Christianity and not the other way round.

The theory provides an alternate history account of the “true” history centered around a world empire called the “Russian Horde”. The scope of the New Chronology has been compared to J. R. R. Tolkien‘s fantasy world. Thousands of pages has been written about it and authors address a wide range of objections.

Fomenko has published and sold over one million copies of his books in his native Russia. Many Internet forums have appeared which aim to supplement his work with additional amateur research. His critics have suggested that Fomenko’s version of history appealed to the Russian reading public by keeping alive an imperial consciousness to replace their disillusionment with the failures of Communism and post-Communist corporate oligarchies.

taken from Wikipedia

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