E. Does Homer provide evidence of Bronze Age Greek contacts with Anatolia and the Pontos?

Homer is conventionally dated to the eighth century. However, a passage in the Odyssey (12.70) refers to the Argo as being “in all men’s minds” (Lattimore 1965). As Hiller (1991: 213, citing Lesky) points out, the implication of this clearly intended quotation is that there existed a still earlier version of the Argonaut myth. More concretely, the Iliad (2.851-77; especially 853-55) displays a considerable knowledge of the southern coast of the Black Sea. Beyond Homer’s surviving “Catalogue of Trojan Allies,” Strabo (1.1.10) maintains that Homer mentioned “the Propontis and the Euxine Sea as far as Colchis and the limits of Jason’s expedition” (H.L. Jones 1932). Drews (1976: 20-1) argues that there is no basis for the argument that the material in the Iliad represents a late interpolation and he goes on to reason that

If one accepts the conventional date for the Iliad and ascribes the Catalogue of Trojan Allies to the poet of the Iliad one must conclude that by the late eighth-century some Greeks, at least, knew about a number of native settlements on the Paphlogonian coast. … If, on the other hand, one believes (with Allen, Page, Lazenby and R.H. Simpson) that the Catalogue of Trojan Allies was passed down from the end of the Bronze Age, one must assume that the Mycenaean Greeks were familiar with the Paphlagonian coast, and that the native settlements on that coast retained their identity through the troubled Iron Age. (Drews 1976: 21-2)

It is of interest in this connection that, according to a geological study, Homer’s description of the geography of the area around Troy is consistent with the sediment record of the Dardanelles coastline in c. 3000 BCE (see http://www.nature.com/nsu/030127/030127-4.html.)

Of course this constancy of identity over so long a period is troubling. On the other hand, it would not be unprecedented historically and, as the remarks of Hammond (1986: 63) demonstrate, the Iliad does preserve Bronze Age data:

[A] number of names in the Trojan catalogue recur in Hittite and Egyptian documents of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries: Ilioi (Iliunna), Dardanoi (Dardenui), Lukie and Lukioi (Luka), Pedasos (Pidasa), Asios (Asuva), Musoi (Musa), while Troia (Tariosa), Lesbos (Lazpa) and Kilikes (Kilikisha) occur elsewhere in the Iliad.

To Hammond’s report we may append that “a Luvian text, more or less contemporary with the Mycenaean period identifies the city as Ilium and even employs a popular formula in the Iliad: ‘steep Ilium'” (Scully 1990: 7, citing Watkins; compare Kullman 1999: 108). (Bennet [1997: 524-26], indeed, has pointed out several features of epic language that take us back to the period of Linear B.) Morris (2001: 425-6) notes the identification of Homer’s “Asia” (Il. 2.461) with Hittite Aššuwa and Linear B Aswiyos.

Kullman (1999: 108) notes that “there exists a conspicuous onomastic parallel between a certain vassal of the Hittite king, Alaksandus by name, ruling at the beginning of the 13th century BC in a city called Wilusa, and Alexandros as the name of a prince of Ilion.” Kullman (1999: n. 42, 108) is not convinced by Starke’s identification of Ilion with Wilusa. However, his objection is not linguistic but rather seems to be of an a priori kind: “there is an enormous chronological gap between the Anatolian texts and the tradition of the Greek singers.” Kullman (1999: 108), similarly, rules out the possibility that the name Alaksandus was transmitted from the Bronze Age to Homer. However, he admits that “we have no evidence that the name of a King Alaksandus was current among the Anatolian population at the time of the Greek singers and could therefore have been borrowed by them.”

A related problem is whether Homer’s (Od. 12.60f) Planktai “Roving Rocks” correspond to the Symplegades “Clashing Rocks” of the later Greek writes Apollodorus (1.9.22) and Apollonius Rhodius (2.549-610). Graham (1958: 37-8) notes that for the later Greeks the “Clashing Rocks” unquestionably refer to the entrance to the Pontus and he goes on to maintain that

In the areas of Greek navigation there is no place more suited to give rise to the myth of the moving or clashing rocks than the Bosporus. Ancient geographers were right to point out in explanation of the myth that the strait seems closed from afar, and as you come nearer and move from one side to the other, it seems to open and close. When one adds to the appearance the formidable current, one sees that the Bosporus provides a very suggestive factual basis for the Symplegades myth. And if the myth arose from the passage of the Bosporus, then the Odyssey‘s reference be it, however vague, shows that Greek sailors had penetrated into the Black Sea before the Odyssey was composed.30

In conclusion, the geographic data found in Homer serve to reinforce the view that the Argonaut epos provides invaluable evidence of regular Greek contacts with the Black Sea region prior to the eighth century BCE and even as early as the second half of the second millennium. (See Kullman [1999: 102-3] for some contrary arguments.) If Homer really wrote in the eighth century it appears that he had access to records of the Bronze Age which might have been maintained by temples.31 The role of Egyptian temples as repositories of economically valuable geographic information is reasonably well-attested (Silver 1995: 25-27).

F. Did Lemnos have purple?

Lemnos, as we have seen, plays a central role in the Argonaut epos. Given the evidence for early Greek contacts with Troy, Miletus, central Anatolia, and the Black Sea region, it is not really surprising that Lemnos with its good harbors and strategic position with respect to the Hellespont has yielded Mycenaean pottery to the excavators (Desborough cited by Mee 1978: 148). Moreover, at Poliochni on the east coast of the island, archaeologists found the remains of a very large Neolithic and Bronze Age town with definite cultural links to Troy (MacKendrick 1981: 21-3; Stillwell et al. 1976: s.v. Lemnos). Doumas (1983: 23) explains further that:

Outside Crete two island cultures evolved in the Aegean region during the Early Bronze Age: the Cycladic and the Troadic. The island group of the northeast Aegean (Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, and others) was the cradle of the culture which created the prehistoric cities of Polichne on Lemnos and Therme on Lesbos, both of which may be considered the earliest urban centres in Europe. Their origins can be traced back as far as the end of the fourth millennium B.C.. … The origins of these “urban” settlements, at least in the case of Poliochne, may be traced back much further than the time of the founding of Troy. … Troy with its long-lived occupation, is but a small fortified village in comparison with Poliochne or Therme.

So the archaeological evidence demonstrates that Lemnos had a significant trade-oriented civilization in the second millennium.

But David S. Reese (personal correspondence dated June 9, 1989) informs me that there is no evidence, textual or archaeological, for shell purple-dye production in Lemnos. I have not seen any later evidence demonstrating production there. Obviously this represents a problem for my interpretation of the Argonaut epos. Nevertheless, it is well known that the waters of the Troad region had extensive beds of murex (Hammond 1962: 281) and purple-dye production is amply attested in the immediate neighborhood of Lemnos. Close to Lemnos we may cite the discovery of crushed murex shells32 representing murex extraction in a Hellenistic industrial district in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos (Williams and Williams 1987: 11). There is Iron Age textual evidence for purple production at Chios, Cos, Amorgos, and Rhodes (Reese, personal correspondence dated September 6, 1989). Jackson (1916: 11), citing Greek and Latin writers reports that

Shells were fished at Lectum [Hdt. 9.114] and Sigeum [Hdt. 5.95], and one of the islands of the Propontis (Sea of Marmora) was known as Porphyrione. Vitruvius [first century B.C.E.] mentions the purple of Pontus.

Aristotle (Historia Animalium 5.15.547) noted the Troad tradition of purple manufacture (cited by Stieglitz 1994:53) The presence of a “purple industry” is confirmed at Troy by the excavation of several layers “composed almost exclusively of crushed murex shells by the thousands” (Blegen 1937: 582; cf. Reese 1987: 205). In this connection we might mention Homer’s (Il. 22.440-42) picture of Andromache_, wife of Hektor, in her house weaving purple cloth of double-fold and thereon embroidering flowers of various hues. Homer (Il. 23.740-46) also mentions a mixing-bowl of silver, which was manufactured in Sidon and carried to Lemnos as a “gift” to its ruler Thoas, a “son” of Jason. One may speculate that ample supplies of good murex attracted Phoenicians to Lemnos, as elsewhere.33

Additional evidence bearing on the possible role of Lemnos and Lemnian women in purple-dyeing cloth is available in Bronze Age Greek sources. Linear B texts from Pylos and Knossos dealing with cloth and wool sometimes refer to working women by “ethnics,” some of which refer to foreign lands including places in the eastern Aegean: Knidos (ki-ni-di-ja), Miletus (mi-ra-ti-ja), and Lemnos (ra-mi-ni-ja; probably La_mniai).34 Possibly the “ethnics” refer to characteristic occupations of the places named or, more likely, to immigrants pursuing these crafts. In connection with the presence of immigrant craft workers, note that the Pylos texts dealing with “rowers” erata mention me-ta-ki-ti-ta meaning “migrants, new settlers, transported population, metics” (Lindgren 1973: 97). Sometimes the crafts of the “ethnic” women are mentioned, mostly they are not.

Thus Aswian and Zephyrian women were known as flax-workers and …, Khians as o-nu-ke-ja …, Milesians as spinners, and Tinwasians as weavers … These women – or their forebears – would have been drawn to Pylos by its emergence as a textile-making center. (Billigmeier and Turner 1981: 5)

For the possible immigration of Cretan wool workers to Egypt, see Burke (1999, 78).

There may well be evidence of purple extraction at Kommos, a port in southern Crete. Maria C. Shaw reports that

I have excavated part of what seems to be an installation for extracting purple in a MMIIB context at Kommos … In the area involved I found crushed murex and some channels carved in the ground filled with murex shells. -… [T]he material will be published by … Debora Ruscillo. Her study will appear in vol. V, the Minoan Civic Centre at Kommos. (AEGEANET, Maria C. Shaw, “Murex,” May 13, 1999)

In fact, the Knossos tablets refer to po-pu-ro2 “(murex?) purple” and to po-pu-re-ja “female purple dyers” (Palmer 1963: 292, 297, 447). Palaima (1991: 277-78) says that these are loan words of unknown or debated origin. Nevertheless, it is of interest that the Mycenaean word po-ni-ki “crimson color” suggests to Mylonas (1966: 210) that the dye-extraction process originated in the East. Further, when Homer (Il. 4.140ff) wishes to illustrate expert purple dyeing he refers to women of Asia Minor:

From the cut there gushed a cloud of dark blood, as when some Maionian woman, or Karian, with purple colors ivory, to make it a cheek piece for horses; it lies away in an inner room, and many a rider longs to have it, but it is laid up to be a king’s treasure. (Lattimore 1951)

Admittedly, while we find (Near Eastern) female purple-dyers and Lemnian cloth workers, neither the Mycenaean texts nor Homer specifically connect the two. (One tablet from Knossos refers to female purple dyers of the place name da-*83-ja [Killen cited by Burke 1998: 115].)All we can claim is that such a connection is certainly not excluded by the evidence. A Lemnian connection does surface, however, in the report of Herodotus (4.145) that “the descendants of those who were aboard the ship Argo [who] were driven out of their country by … [the] Pelasgians” settled in Lakedaimo_n in Greece (Grene 1987). The alleged kinship of the Lemnian immigrants with the Greeks need not be taken literally as the ancients made frequent and effective use of fictional biological (and national) relationships to build trust or commercium among strangers (Silver 1995: 50-4). The main point is that the Lemnian settlement is later than the establishment of the trade relationship between Greece and Lemnos. The area in which the Lemnians are supposed to have settled is not very distant from Pylos, whose Mycenaean texts record the employment of Lemnian women. Homer (Il. 2.581; Od. 4.1) speaks of koile_n Lakedaimona ke_to_essan “hollow (or deep) Lakedaimon full of (large?) sea-creatures” (deriving ke_to_essan from ke_tos; see Morris 1984: 4, 9). Morris (1984: 6-7) argues that this description must apply to the Lakonian Gulf, not the Eurotas Valley. Focus seems to be provided by Pausanias’ (3.21.6) report that “the Lakonian coast has the best sea-shells in the world for purple dye, excepting only the Phoenician Sea” (Levi 1971; cf. the sources cited by Morris 1984: n. 23, 9). Were the Lemnian immigrants perhaps attracted to Lakedaimo_n by the availability of purple?

To further pursue the Lemnian trail, some of the settlers from Lemnos later took part in the Greek settlement of the island of Kalliste (current Thera) in the Cyclades, according to Pindar (P. 4.1-69) and Herodotus (4.148). It is not clear whether Thera was or became a center for murex processing. Doumas (1983: 117) in reporting on the excavations at the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri was able to cite in this connection only “the discovery … of crushed murex shells used secondarily to strengthen earthen floors.” It does seem possible that the Lemnians were specialists who played a key role in opening new sources of purple-dye.

G. Did Bronze Age Greece have the capacity to export woolen textiles?

The Linear B texts from Knossos show that the palace was very much involved in the production of wool and woolen textiles (see e.g. Ventris and Chadwick 1955: 263; Burke 1998: ch. 3). The Linear B ideogram for CLOTH (Latin TELA = *159) appears in Hieroglyphic Minoan, Linear A and Linear B, a finding that, as Burke (1998: 111) points out, is indicative of a continuing Aegean interest in textile production. About 100,000 sheep are attested in the tablets for central Crete (Bennet 1985). Moreover, the numbers of sheep (estimated at some 60,000) are often explicitly connected with quantities of wool and there are “store records” of finished cloths (Hooker 1987: 313-15: Burke 1998: 120). The concern with wool production is probably reflected in a distaff represented over the “queen’s” doorway in the palace and the many weights of spindles and looms recovered in a first-floor workroom (Glotz 1925: 177). Distaff-women” (a_lakateiai) are

Two terracotta spindle whorls from Cyprus datted to 2000-1800.

mentioned in a textile context in the tablets (Ventris and Chadwick 1956: 388 s.v. a-ra-ka-te-ja).35


Mycenaean terra cotta vessel in form of ram or wether with wool staples clearly indicated (cf. Melena 1987a: 407)

Certainly the ample supplies of wool and textiles at Knossos were prime candidates for export (Killen 1964: n. 67, 14). Indeed, this expectation finds support in the classification of finished cloths as either e-qe-si-ja or ke-se-mu-wi-ja(i.e. xenwia). The xenwia-cloths may well have been destined for export (Halstead 1988: 526; Hooker 1987: 315). Exports of cloth to Egypt are attested by Egyptian frescoes of the Eighteenth Dynasty which list “cloth” among the “gifts” received and represent Cretans, referred to as “the Keftiu lands,” carrying folded cloths (Merrillees 1972). Although Finley (1980: 38) cautions that the Keftiu “also carried gold, silver, ivory, and other things which are not Cretan products, so that this bit of evidence for wool as a major trading commodity is somewhat weakened.” Perhaps a hint of cloth exports may be found in a Minoan (Hieroglyphic and/or Linear A) graffito drawn on a pithos, from Tel Haror in the western Negev. The potsherd is dated by archaeological context to the 17th-16th centuries. One of the three logograms of this Canaanite potsherd, according to Olivier (in Oren et al., 1996: 104), represents “the logogram for CLOTH, but also a specific sort of cloth,” namely “te-pa, certainly not of Greek origin” (emphasis added). The composition of the sherd matches neither Cretan nor local ceramics (Oren et al. 1996:113, 116-17). Note should also be taken here of a Linear A inscription from Tel Lachish, a major site located on a main road leading from Israel’s coastal plain to the Hebron hills. The inscription on a large limestone vessel, which has been tentatively dated to the 12th century, seems to refer to the “ridau” (liquid) commodity (Finkelberg, Uchitel, and Ussishkin 1996).

There is also some evidence suggesting that Pylos and Thebes may have exported wool and cloth to Cyprus (see Shelmerdine 1998a: 295-96). Finally, note should be taken of the Linear A inscription from Miletus (see II.D), whose first sign may have a connection, among other possibilities, to “a special kind of vessel and a particular color used in dyeing textiles” (Palaima: AEGEANET July 25, 1996; cf. Melena 1987b: esp. 216-18). The meaning of the sign AB 56, which resembles a ladder with three rungs, is still the subject of dispute and discussion.

The Pylos texts also reflect the presence of many sheep but, unlike those from Knossos, the linkage with wool is not made explicit (Hooker 1987: 313). A Linear B tablet mentions a ko-wo “sheepskin, fleece” which corresponds to Homeric ko_as, according to Ventris and Chadwick (1955: 283). It is reasonable to assume that Pylos, with its outstanding harbor, exported wool and textiles. We should perhaps add here the recent discovery of an artificial port basin at Romanou (Zangger 1998). Our literary sources claim that Pylos, the “mother of sheep” (Od. 15.226), was the site of a Thessalian settlement. Homer (Od. 11.254-57) says that Ne_leus, the brother of Iolkos’ Pelias who commissioned Jason, was king in “sandy Pylos” (Lattimore 1965). Pausanias (4.2.5; 36.1) adds details:

Aphareus founded a city in Messenia, which was Arene, and received and entertained his cousin Neleus, the son of Aiolus’s son Kreutheus, and called a son of Poseidon, a fugitive from Iolkos because of Pelias. Aphareus gave Neleus the seacoast and its cities including Pylos, where Neleus settled and built his palace. … [Pylos] was built by Pylos, son of Kleson, who brought the Lelegai from the Megarid, which they occupied then. But he never enjoyed it, because Neleus and the Pelasgians threw him out … Neleus as king made Pylos so important that even Homer [Il. 11.681; Od. 3.4] in his epic calls it the city of Neleus. (Levi 1971; emphasis added)

I understand that the “fugitive” Ne_leus represents a Thessalian trading colony at Pylos by means of which “Pelias” sought to supplement his fleeces or, possibly extend his textile trade to the West.

But the Argonauts departed Greece from Thessaly with, or so it has been argued, a cargo of textiles. Hence the economic potentialities of this region must be our center of focus. For Thessaly there are (as yet) no Linear B (or Linear A) tablets. We can say, however, that the sheltered Gulf of Pagasae with its relatively easy access to inland Thessaly and its excellent port at Iolkos, a Mycenaean site, was admirably placed for exporting wool and cloth to Asia Minor. The wool would have originated in Magnesia and the large Thessalian plain. In addition, wool and cloth from Crete, Pylos, and from the flocks grazing the lush water-meadows reclaimed in a major hydraulic engineering project from Boeotia’s Lake Kopais in Mycenaean times, might have found an outlet at a Thessalian port. 36

Dickinson (1977: 99) explains that Thessaly possessed the densest concentration of Neolithic communities in the Aegean and

Indeed, Thessaly was never as important a region in the Aegean world later as in the Neolithic period. Relative ignorance of the Thessalian Bronze Age is partly due to erosion, which at many sites has reduced the Bronze Age strata to a single layer at or near the surface, partly to lack of excavation and publication.

Volos and Pefkakia have, however, rewarded excavators with a “wide range of imported pottery, coming from southern Greece and the Aegean” (Dickinson 1977: 99). “[W]hat commodity brought foreign traders to the area [Volos district] is unknown …” (Dickinson 1977: 100). The reader will anticipate that my candidate for this foreign interest is cloth.

The literary sources, on which we must rely, seem to point to the importance of wool in the economy of Thessaly. We are informed that “Pelias lived, rich in sheepflocks, in the wide spaces of Iolkos” (Hom. Od. 11.256-57; Lattimore 1965). Diodorus Siculus (4.18.6-7) credits Herakles with an important reclamation project in northern Thessaly at Tempe_: “In the region which is called Tempè, where the country is like a plain and was largely covered with marshes, he cut a channel carrying off through this ditch all the water of the marsh he caused the plains to appear which are now Thessaly along the Peneus river” (Oldfather 1933). Pherae, a town in the plain with rich mythological roots and Mycenaean remains, is termed “rich in sheep” by Apollonius Rhodius (1.49-50).37 Indeed, in Euripides’ Alcestis (570ff), Apollo shepherds the sheep of Admetus, son of Pheres, in Pherae (cf. Ap. 3.10.4). Homer (Il. 2.711-15) places both Pherae and Iolkos under the rule of Eume_los, the son of Admetus, whose very name means “rich in flocks” (LSJ s.v. eume_los). More significantly, Homer (Od. 11.256-57) tells that “Pelias lived rich in sheepflocks in the wide spaces of Iolkos” (Lattimore 1965). Ito_n, located in southern Thessaly not very distant from the Gulf, is called “mother of sheepflocks” (Il. 2.696). Perhaps Ito_n can be identified with Zerelia, where remains of the second millennium have been found (R.H. Simpson and Lazenby 1970: 132-33). This town was under Pro_tesilaos of Phylake_, who is “credited” with being the first Greek killed by the Trojans, whose brother Phylakos, the founder of Phylake_, was “rich in flocks” (Il. 2.705-6).

Continuing our literary survey of the economic geography of Thessaly, Pyrasos (contemporary Nea Anchialos), a harbor-town of Thessalian Thebes overlooking the Bay of Volos, is described by Homer (Il. 2.695) as “Pyrasos the flowery [anthemoenta], the precinct of Demeter.” The reference to “flowers” is not innocuous, as may be discerned from a passage in the Agamemnon (197-98), wherein Aeschylus speaks of the anthos “flower” of the Argives being “carded by rubbing” (tribo_ katexaino_n) (LSJ s.vv. tribo_kataxaino_). Borthwick (1976: 1-2) calls attention to this peculiar formulation and offers the following explanation:

Although this sense is not well attested, nor recognized in the lexica, it seems that anthos might be used of the flock or nap on wool, like ao_tos. As Buttman (most notably) pointed out — referring to linoio ao_tos … ao_tos is often taken to be merely “a more poetical word for anthos” (i.e. flower, blossom), but without doubt was used to mean also the downy pile or nap of cloth, that delicate lakne_ which constitutes the fineness and beauty of cloth, and which proves its newness, as on the other hand defloccatae vestes in Latin are the same with de_tri_ae, clothes which in wear have lost their nap and consequently their freshness and beauty.” … A cloak which has lost its nap through rubbing (or, because it was a cheap garment, was not characterized by a full nap in the first place) is called a tribo_n.

Raman (1975: 204) explains further that it may well be the case that the basic or original meaning of anthos is “‘that which grows’ or ‘comes to, is on the surface’, and only secondarily assumed the special sense of ‘flower’.” Thus anthos (and ao_tos) may refer to the nap of woolen cloth and also to the fleece of sheep (Raman 1975: 198) In conclusion, it is quite possible that Homer’s “Pyrasos the flowery” was a place in Thessaly noted for numerous choice fleeces suitable for making attractive, warm, purple-dyed cloaks.

Concluding Remarks

The Argonaut epos has been interpreted here as meaning that the Thessalians produced wool and cloth which they had purple-dyed at Lemnos in the northeastern Aegean and then carried to the Black Sea and exchanged for Kolchian gold. I do not claim to have proven that this is what really happened. However, I have presented grounds for believing that this commodity composition of trade is at least consistent with the available evidence for the economic potentialities of Bronze Age Greece. The main difficulties, as I see them, are the availability of purple in Meliboea and the absence of direct evidence, literary or archaeological, for murex working in Lemnos. However, there is circumstantial evidence that is at least consistent with a Lemnian connection with purple dyeing. My interpretation of the Argonaut epos replaces a nearly total vacuum in our knowledge of commercial relations between Bronze Age Greece and Asia Minor. More generally, this essay represents one more small step in solving the mysteries of ancient economic life.


Morris Silver

Economics Department

City College of New York


30R.H. Simpson (1976: 63) maintains that the Planktai should be located at the Straits of Messina or in the Lipari Island.

31 Bonfante (1996) has presented linguistic arguments that the “Homer Text is Mycenaean”. There is an additional, more concrete, connection between Homer and the Bronze Age. In the Iliad (6.168-9) there is a reference to signs written on a folded tablet that was carried from Greece to Lycia by Bellerophon. The similarity between Bellerophon’s tablet and the folded wooden writing-tablet found in a Bronze Age shipwreck at Ulu Burun off the coast of Turkey has been noted. Bronze hinges with traces of burned wood were found together with Linear B tablets in both Pylos and Knossos. In opposition to the prevailing view, Shear (1998) points out that these hinges are neither sufficiently numerous nor sufficiently large to have come from boxes for storing the tablets.

Some other type of wooden object associated with writing now seems indicated. The wooden writing tablet from Uluburun immediately comes to mind as a possible parallel. The seven corroded hinges found at Pylos, corresponding to the seven partially preserved hinges found at Knossos, can be compared to the exterior closing attachment and the six wooden nails used with the ivory hinge on the tablet from Uluburun.If it is correct to associate the two groups of seven bronze hinges from Knossos and Pylos with the writing tablet found in the Late Bronze Age shipwreck off Uluburun, then the existence of Mycenaean writing tablests suggests the possibility that the Bellerophon Tablet mentioned in the Iliad is also Mycenaean in origin. (Shear 1998: 189)

Ample evidence of Greek literacy is provided by the Linear B tablets and labels on Cretan stirrup jars found at various sites (Hallager 1987).

32The crushing of the shells served to extract the dye sac and would be redundant and counterproductive if one intended to eat the shellfish. The earliest chemical confirmation of the dye (as of 1984) is from a Late Bronze Age sherd from Sarepta in Lebanon (McGovern and Michel 1984).

33Interestingly, in the Bible, Ezekiel (27.7) reports on the export to Tyre of “blue and purple” from the “isles of Elishah.” Elishah is mentioned in Genesis (10.4) as the descendant of Javan (Ionia?) together with Tarshish (Spain? Tarsus in Cilicia?) and the Dodanim (Rhodians?) or, in some versions, Dordanim (Dardania near Troy?) (see Plaut 1974: 91; Silver 1983: 59-64). Might Elishah be an island off Asia Minor, even Lemnos? E. Lipinski (personal correspondence, dated July 9, 1987) has kindly informed me of his proposal to read Elishah (‘lšyh as “Ulysses” and to identify the “isles of Elishah” with the Ionian islands, the homeland of Ulysses (Hom. Od. 13.107-8).

34Billigmeier and Turner (1981: 4-5); Chadwick (1973: 410); Palmer (1963: 113-19); and Uchitel (1984: 275, 278-79).

35The Linear B tablets from Thebes mention women with textile interests called ma-ri-ne-we-ja. The latter designation has been associated with the name of the god ma-ri-ne-u and the later Greek word mallos “flock of wool” (Billigmeier and Turner 1981: 23, citing Palmer).

36For discussions of the drainage project in the Lake Kopais area, see Str. (9.2.40); Pa. (9.38.2); MacKendrick (1981: 95-6); Nilsson (1932: 144-47); R.H. Simpson (1981: 59-61, 66-9); Stubbings (1973: 644). Note further an early Delphic oracle describing the region between Tiryns and Arkadia as “rich in flocks” (cited by Drews 1979: 118). This line of specialization might help to explain the proverbial wealth of Orchomenos. See, most recently, Knauss (1996).

37On the antiquity of Pherae: R.H. Simpson and Lazenby (1970: 135); R.H. Simpson (1981: 161, 165); Stillwell et al. (1976: s.v. Pherai); Cary (1949: 71). On the mythology of Pherae, see: Hom. (Il. 2.711), Od. 4.798), Ap. (1.8.2; 1.9.14-15; 3.10.4). At Petra, a hill on the western shore of Lake Boibe (current Karla) about five miles from Pherae, the excavators discovered a Mycenaean settlement with circuit-walls running for about five miles. It is estimated to be Greece’s largest known Mycenaean walled site (Stillwell et al. 1976: s.v. Petra).


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