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Science & The Supernatural: A Discussion of the World Around us - Based on Science with an Interest in the Supernatural ...
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PostPosted: 11 Mar 2009, 07:49 
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That's a speculation that I'd learned of long ago in a documentary about Homer's Odyssey.

Book 10 of it is our only source about the Laestrygonians (online at the Internet Classics Archive). While it is a bit difficult to take seriously some account of giant cannibals, there are some Laestrygonian features that suggest some memories of long-ago voyages to Scandinavia:

* The land has 24-hour daylight or at least twilight; animal herders can work 24 hours a day if they wanted to.

* The harbor resembles a Scandinavian fjord, being rocky and stretching inland between steep cliffs.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together suggests the west coast of the Scandinavian peninsula, which is crossed by the Arctic Circle. And why that place?

Amber. Baltic amber. The Mycenaean Greeks are known to have acquired Baltic amber (Aspects of Mycenaean Trade, etc.), and if they had traveled to the Baltic Sea to get it, they would have passed by the Scandinavian fjords.

And they would likely have traveled during the summer, or at most late spring to early fall, when the weather is the most pleasant. They therefore would have remembered that place as having long daytimes. If they had spent the winter there, however, they would have seen a very short daytime, and if far enough north, only twilight.

Likewise, Hyperborea (Greek: "beyond the north wind") was described as having 24-hour sunlight. Its location and long daytime are also consistent with visits to far northern latitudes, though as with the Laestrygonians, storytellers' imaginations ran wild, imagining that place as a very happy place where people lived for a very long time.

The Laestrygonians' city was Telepylos (Greek: "Far Gate"), which looks like it was named by some Greek storyteller on account of the great distance of the place.


Voyagers to the far northern latitudes would likely have seen ice floes and icebergs; is there any memory of that? Possibly!

The Symplegades are also called the Clashing Rocks or the Cyanean (Blue) Rocks; they appear in the Jason and the Argonauts story as a pair of mist-shrouded rocks in the Bosporus Strait that these heroes must pass.

Why blue rocks? That is a rather unusual color for a rock. However, icebergs sometimes have a bluish tinge, and icebergs and ice floes wander and can bump into each other. So icebergs could have been remembered as blue rocks.

And mist? The northernmost part of the Atlantic Ocean can get lots of ice mist during the colder months.

However, some storyteller decided that the Bosporus would be a more dramatically interesting place for such troublesome rocks than the far north, and that is where we find them in Apollonius of Rhodes's Argonautica. That may also explain the Wandering Rocks described by Circe in Book 12 of the Odyssey, though those rocks may also be floating pumice rafts emitted by Sicily's active volcanoes, Stromboli and Etna.


But the first at least halfway clear account of northwestern Europe and nearby was from Pytheas (~380 - ~310 BCE), a merchant and explorer from Massalia (now Marseille, France). Around 325 BCE, he searched for the origins of various trade goods like tin and amber, and apparently circumnavigated Great Britain. He also visited an island 6 days north of Britain, Thule, which had a night only 2 or 3 hours long. Going a day further northward, he ran into some slushy sea ice, and he could not proceed further. But he found not only tin from Cornwall, Britain, but also Baltic amber.

Pytheas's account has not survived directly, but in quotes and paraphrases by such authors as Polybius, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Diodorus Siculus. But what they describe is enough to work out where he had been and what he had seen.


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PostPosted: 11 Mar 2009, 13:41 
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Loren,

I'm actually working on a paper about this for my thesis. I'll post you a biblio and some reasons why they're *not* Scandinavian soon.


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PostPosted: 11 Mar 2009, 15:22 
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Oooh! Can't wait, Chris! :cheers:

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PostPosted: 11 Mar 2009, 16:24 
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I'm not denying that there are problems with a Scandinavian interpretation.

The Laestrygonians' fjord does not seem as vegetated as many Scandinavian fjords are.

There are only four names in the story, two of them (Telepylos, Antiphates) are recognizably Greek, and I can't place Astacia or the Laestrygonians' own name. This paucity of names is disappointing, because with more names, we might be able to make some guesses as to their possible origin.

The Scandinavian hypothesis would place the Laestrygonians at or near the reconstructed Germanic homeland in south Sweden and nearby Denmark. This means that we could do for them what we'd successfully done for the Mycenaeans: interpolate between the historically-attested Germanic languages and Proto-Indo-European. One could then look for Pre-Proto-Germanic versions of parts of various personal and place name.

Like the Laestrygonians calling their territory something like *Laestrygonalandan ("Laestrygon land")

I think that it was Robert Graves who once suggested that the Symplegades / Cyanean Rocks / Blue Rocks were originally ice floes or icebergs.


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2009, 07:54 
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Sorry, when I said soon, I had no idea it would take so long. I give a paper at a conference this weekend, and perhaps after that I can sleep a week and then post something.

Chris


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2009, 11:54 
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soon is relative...

:cheeky:

We'll wait...

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