The Sea-Raiders — Part 6. Egypt, Khatti, And The Sea-Raiders 1375–1200 B.C.

James Thomas
Feb 28, 2014 · 35 min read


(C. 1375–1200 B.C.).

The origins of “The Sea Raiders” saga continues with the following : Part Two — NARRATIVE, Chapter V — “Egypt, Khatti, And The Sea-Raiders (C. 1375–1200 B.C.).” of A.R. BURN’S Book “Minoans Philistines and Greeks” (1930). Reproduced in whole for the benefit of the reader.


So much for the actors in the drama of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries.

The situation, then, some twenty-five years after the fall of Knossos, was that, freed from Minoan tyranny, Aegean civilization appeared to be stronger than ever before; Khatti and Egypt too — the one in warfare, the other in art and thought — were showing every symptom of free and vigorous development.

It would have taken a clever prophet to foresee that, before two centuries were out, Hittite civilization would be lying in ruins, and both Aegean and Egyptian far gone in decay. There may have been merchants of Crete or of Mykenai who felt misgivings over the growth of piracy on the Asiatic coast, and regretted the passing of the house of Minos; but even they cannot have foreseen the dimensions to which the menace was to grow within a few generations.

Nor, it would seem, need the menace have been allowed to grow. There are times in history when man is manifestly the sport of circumstances as cruel as Homer’s gods; but this is not one of them. There is no obvious reason why civilization in Asia and in the islands at any rate — if not the mainland Greece — should not have been saved, had the time of crisis brought forth the man.

But, to say no more of the might-have-been, it appears that the crisis was not recognized and tackled. The lordship of the sea, wrenched from the hands of the Cretans, was seized by — no one; or if anything, left to the Lykian pirates and “Shardana of the Sea”.

True, the kings of Mykenai, to say nothing of the lords of Pylos and Lakedaimon, or of the Kadmeians and Minyans north of the isthmus, or even the invader who now dwelt in his palace, of mainland type, at Knossos, and ruled over still wealthy Crete — all these must have had ships as well as men at their disposal, and have been interested in maritime trade; the distribution of Late Minoan potsherds, and especially the frequency of the occurrence of mainland pottery in Rhodes and Cyprus, would alone show that.

But none of them singly had power to police the seas as Minos is said to have done; and both Greek legend and the great number of small palace-citadels of this age in Greece — several even within so small an area as Boiotia, or Attica, of Argolis — suggest that there was a complete lack of political unity among the Minoized Greeks, and that now as forever “fractionalism” was the bane of Greek civilization.

Egypt, too, had everything to gain by the seas being kept safe, as well as free, but the young Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, son of the old Amenhotep the Magnificent who had dealings with Mykenai, was not the man to take an interest in such matters as encouraging the forces of order and peaceful commerce, by subsidy or even moral support, among the distant “isles of the Danaans”.

Of a singular personal beauty — in his youth at any rate — and of high intelligence; poet, dreamer, visionary, patron of a new sincerity in art and religious reformer as he was, he was emphatically not the cunning and ruthless soldier and diplomat that a Pharaoh of Egypt in that Age had need to be.

Before he had been six years on the throne he had introduced and was trying to enforce his monotheistic sun-worship, changed his name to Akhnaton in honour of his one God, and embarked on his famous and lifelong struggle with the powerful priesthood of Amen-Ra.

Subbiluliuma, King of the Hittites, was an entirely different character, an exponent of the most Machiavellian real-politik of his age, and if he had chosen — since fight he must — to lead his victorious armies towards Lykia and Dardania and bind those regions more firmly to his empire than his dynasty in fact ever did, he would have given to the now anarchic Aegean world an element of stability which it badly needed.

But the natural tendency of the Hittite raider was to look southwards and eastwards where the richest spoils were to be won, and thanks to Akhnaton’s personal character the Egyptian empire in Syria offered opportunities not to be missed.

So the West was left to itself, and Subbiluliuma obliterated his ancient rival, Egypt’s ally, the Kingdom of Mitanni in the bend of the Euphrates, and invaded Syria, and fomented rebellion against Egypt in Palestine and Phoenicia. Among the invaders of Palestine we seem to hear the name of Hebrews — Khabiru. Meanwhile, Egypt was rent by discord, and governors and native princes of the Egyptian party addressed despairing letters, still to be read among the Tell-el-Amarna Tablets, to the deaf ears of a Pharaoh who cared for none of these things.


AEGEAN INFLUENCE ON FOURTEENTH CENTURY SYRIA. Ivory relief of the Mother-Goddess as Corn-Giver and Mistress of Beasts, in typical Aegean costume and attitude; lid of a casket found at Ras Shamra, along with numerous other objects which appear to attest close contact between the Aegean, Cyprus and Syria, in the fourteenth century B.C. From Minoans Philistines and Greeks, by A.R. Burn, 1930.

The reproaches and entreaties of Rib-addi of Byblos are echoed by Abdi-Khiba of Jerusalem, as the situation grows always more desperate; until, writes Abdi-Khiba:

The king has no longer any territory; the Khabiru have wasted all the lands of the king. If the royal troops come this year, then my lord the king’s territory will be saved; but if no troops come, then the territory is lost unto my lord the king”. And the summer ended and the troops did not come.

Akhnaton died about 1360, none too soon for his country’s good; and before the decade was ended, the young Tutankhaton had made his peace with the priests and changed his name to Tutankhamen. The monotheist heresy was at an end.

Subbiluliuma “mounted the hill”, as the Hittites put it, about the same time, and after a few years taken up with dynastic troubles in both kingdoms his son Mursil concluded a treaty with Egypt which ended the wasteful Syrian wars for the time being.

Horemheb, the tough old soldier who reorganized Egypt and founded the Nineteenth Dynasty wisely recognized the fact that his country was in no condition for a war with the formidable northerners, and accepted the situation as it stood, ceding practically the whole of the Eighteenth Dynasty’s Asiatic conquests.

During the years of peace with Egypt, Mursil was at last free to attend to affairs on less remote frontiers of his empire. He reduced the vassalage the kingdom of Arzawa in the south of Asia Minor, and extended his suzerainty as far as the borders of Lugga, which is probably Lykia. It may well be more than accident that his name (among other non-Greek names) was bore by more than one Greek of Lesbos in historic times.

And in the course of his conquests, he came into contact with certain persons and places whose names have suggested, to many scholars, that we have here references to Homer’s Achaians in the Hittite texts from Boghaz Keui.

The references in question are as follows:

About 1336 Mursil assisted a certain Antarawas, king of the Akhhiyawa, against the kings of Arzawa and Millowanda; which may be Milyai in Lykia.

The treaty which followed makes mention of “the god of the city of Akhhiyawa, who is the god of the city of Laasba”.

About twelve years later Akhhiyawa is mentioned again, when its new prince, called in the clumsy Hittite script Tawagalawas the Ayawalawas, or something of the kind, supplicates Mursil for a grant of the title of king, in return for military services rendered to Lugga.

It is certainly very tempting to see the name of Akhhiyawa the name of the Achaioi — Akhaiwoi, as they seem originally to have been written, with the insertion of a digamma. But the implications, if we accept the identification, as many scholars have done, are somewhat startling.

These Achaioi under the chieftains Andreus (?) and Eteokles the Aiolian (?) are not, as we should expect, sea-rovers active on the coast, but occupants of one or more cities on the mainland of Asia, which can be attacked by the king of Arzawa and delivered by the king of Khatti. And Tawagalawas clearly stands towards Mursil in the relation of a vassal to his overlord.

This is in itself enough to rule out the rash identification of Laasba with the island of Lesbos, which is nowhere near Arzawa, and which in the Iliad is still held by non-Greek people; it is called the “home of Makar”, a native name (Il., XXIV, 544), and is hostile to the Achaians (Il., IX, 129). We should place the city of Akhhiyawa, whether Achaian or not, rather in Pamphylia or the modern Cilicia, within Arzawa’s sphere of influence.

Some years ago, before the Achaian identification had been suggested, Professor Garstang showed reason to identify it with the Anchiale of Greek times. However, a “city of Achaia” somewhere in the south of Asia Minor in the days of Mursil is not an impossibility.

The recent sensational discoveries by the French at Ras Sharma show strong Aegean influence on Phoenicia even as early as the fourteenth century; the archaeology of Cyprus, too, seems, as we have seen, to show that it received its Arkadian-speaking Greek colonists not long after the fall of Knossos, if not even before; and as the same Arkadian dialect was spoken by the semi-Greek population on the coast of Pamphylia in Hellenic times, it is quite possible that parts of this coast were colonised at the same time.

The griffin-slaying warrior on an ivory mirror-handle of this period, from Enkomi in Cyprus, carries what looks like that characteristically “Homeric” weapon, the cut-and-thrust leaf-shaped sword.

Already in the Tell-el-Amarna letters we may read a report from Abimelech, king of Tyre, to the Pharaoh, that the king of D-n-y-n is dead and that his son has succeeded peacefully to the throne (letter no. 151).

If, as is often suggested, this is a reference to the Greek Danaoi, then presumably there were Danaoi also, as well as Achaioi, in the Levant. The king of Tyre is reporting on the local situation and would hardly trouble himself about a people so distant as the Danaoi of the Aegean.

A name resembling that of Akhhiyawa and Achaia was still attached to the south-east corner of Asia Minor many centuries later. The name of the district in Assyrian times — Kuweh — preserves the same consonants; and about 658 B.C. the Assyrians were having trouble somewhere in the Tarsus with a motley horde of barbarians under the leader named Andaria, which is very like the Hittite Antarawas. More interesting still, Herodotus (VII, 92) tells us that the Kilikians in Xerxes’ army were descended from Greeks who had come thither in the Heroic Age, and “were of old called Hypachaioi”.

This name, “Lower Achaians” or “Lesser Achaians” is reminiscent of the “Hypothebai” in the Iliad (II, 505), the “Lower Thebes” whence the Boiotians came to the Trojan War, at a time when the great Kadmeian citadel was lying waste.

Whether or not it was a “Lesser Achaia”, Akhhiyawa was certainly a very important state at one time; its kings are addressed by the Hittite emperors as “brother”, and it is even mentioned in the following century in the same breath with Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria. One is reminded of the tradition in Solinos that before the rise of the Assyrian Empire, Cilicia was one of the four great powers of Asia.

And there we must leave the matter; a question that can never be answered with certainty until excavations are possible in this corner of Asia Minor.

Early in the reign of Mutallu, the successor of Mursil, about the year 1310, we hear of a treaty concluded with another chief who bears a suggestive name — Alaksandus of Uilusa; he may well be a Greek Alexandros of Ialysos — Homer’s Ielusos — the very important “Mycenaean” settlement in Rhodes.

It all tends to show how strong, already at this date, was the tendency to migration from the Aegean to the south-east. To the following century (about 1308–1223) belongs, if our theory concerning Kastor’s History of Sea-Power is correct, the dispersion of the Pelasgoi over the length and breadth of the Aegean; and indeed, whether or not that theory is sound, it must have been now or earlier that they were thrust into the sea, from their old home in Pelasgiotis and round the Pelasgian Argos, by the advance of the Achaioi.

Also about 1300 the movement was given a fresh impetus by natural causes, in the shape of a curiously sudden break in the climatic conditions of Central Europe.

The patient work of de Geer, in counting the layers of annually-deposited mud in the bottom of Lake Ragunda in Sweden, which was accidently, drained in 1796, seems to have dated the end of the Quaternary Ice Age fairly certainly, not more than 8,500 years ago.

Since then, the fluctuations of European climate have been less violent. It seems to be established, however, that fluctuations have taken place, as the story of the deduction of their history from evidence of the most diverse character, geological, archaeological, and for recent millennia literary, makes fascinating if not easy reading.

On the whole the evidence from Irish peat-bogs and Central European lakes, Norwegian and Alpine glaciers and their moraines, agrees together remarkably well. The “climatic optimum” of post glacial time appears to be fairly securely dated round about 1800 B.C., at which period Mr.Brooks, after an exhaustive discussion, comes to the conclusion, somewhat astonishing to the layman, that the North Polar ice sheet ( though not the ice from Greenland or of Antarctica) temporarily broke up altogether. As a result of this “the sub-tropical anti-cyclones would extend much further north than at present” and “storminess, especially along the present north temperate storm-belt, would be greatly diminished”. Under these favourable conditions the European Bronze Age civilizations reached their height.

Round about 1300, however, there was a catastrophe — a sudden and unexplained rainfall maximum, of no great duration; a foretaste of the much more serious climatic break early in the last millennium B.C. During the preceding climatic Golden Age, Gams and Nordhagen, the leading authorities on the history of climate in Central Europe — “ the ideal combination of a Swiss and a Norwegian” geologist, to quote Mr. Brooks, — believe many of the so-called Lake dwellings of the Alpine region to have been established not in the lakes themselves but on peat-bogs now covered by their waters.

Now, in the Feder See basin and around many other lakes of Central Europe, there was a “high-water catastrophe”, which overwhelmed the villages of the lake-dwellers on every side. A whole population was homeless; and not here only, but in many another district of marsh, now growing wetter, or mountain region where clouds meant snow and severe conditions, must there have been a tendency for individuals, groups, or even in places tribes, to set out to seek their fortune under sunnier skies.

Having noted which, we shall be less surprised at what followed. An increase in the rainfall would matter comparatively little to the Mediterranean agriculturist; it might even be welcome; but traditions exist that seem to show that not far to the north of Greece, in the valleys of Pindos and on towards the wild hills of Illyricum, the climatic break was felt as a disaster.

Aristotle, in a curious and characteristic essay on climatic change, alludes to a tradition that the name Hellas first came into use “around Dodona, where Deukalion’s flood was worst”.

It is a most suggestive remark. That it is indeed in this region that the name appears earliest and in various primitive guises we know; as also that it was from the adjacent regions that the Hellenic dispersion was said to originate. “Deukalion’s flood” gives us the occasion if not the cause of the migrations.

For though the climatic break was probably directly responsible for certain tribal movements of the following century, there can be little doubt that in Greece the coming of the Heroes was largely the product of nothing else than the spirit of adventure. As Mr.Peake, modifying Ridgeway’s “Nordic theory” of the Achaians, has observed, it was less an invasion than an infiltration. Repeatedly, he points out, in Greek story the Heroes arrive alone or almost alone at a city, distinguishes himself in service against an enemy, human or animal, and often ends by marrying the King’s daughter and succeeding to the throne. Perseus, Theseus, Amphitryon, Tydeus, Alkathoos of Megara, will serve as examples. Very probably it was in some such way that the men of the leaf-shaped sword rose to power in Argolis.

Some of the earliest northerners may well have made their appearance as slaves: there is a serving-man in one Tiryns fresco whose flesh is painted white-not red, the conventional Minoan colour for men; and Sir Arthur Evans convincingly suggests that he is a northern captive. So did the Germans make their way to Rome; first as slaves, later as mercenary soldiers, presently as conquerors.

The genealogies of most of Homer’s “Zeus-born kings”, as is often pointed out, are short, and probably imply that the rise to greatness of these families-or perhaps their arrival in the country-was recent.

But there was a tradition about some earlier Achaians, which does not seem to be a myth, since it explains nothing and flatters nobody, and the names are not eponyms. These earliest Achaioi known to Greek legend are named Archandros and Architeles. Nothing was known of their date or parentage; they are said to have appeared in the land “in the time of Danaos” — which means nothing but “long before the Trojan War”; they are called sons of the eponym Achaioi himself; and their chief exploit, characteristically enough, is the waging of an indecisive war against King Lamedon of Sikyon.

The process by which the Achaioi reached the thrones of so many kingdoms, by the help of their strong right arms, seems to have been helped by the existence in pre-Hellenic Greece of some form of matrilinear succession, perhaps introduced by the non — “Aryan” Cretans along with the worship of their Mother-Goddess, whose son-consort seems to occupy such a definitely subordinate position.

Such a system would be of great assistance to the immigrant warriors, as ensuring that to win a throne one need not murder the occupant; one need only marry his daughter. That such a matriarchal system existed (still, in historic times) in Lykia, on the edge of the Minoan area, is well known.

Whether it did in fact exist in pre-Hellenic Greece has been much argued, and the weight of modern authority seems on the whole to be of opinion that it did not.

There are, however, some facts which accord much better with a matriarchal than with a patriarchal system; for example, one may examine the genealogy of the kings of Lakedaimon in Homer (Kings printed in heavy type):


Here the kingdom twice passes to a son-in-law, during the life of a son or sons — though in one case the son is base-born.

Before Tyndareus and Leda we have no authentic information; the accounts are numerous and conflicting. But if it is true that Tyndareus was son of Perieres, an Aiolid from Thessaly, then it looks as if he, too, must have succeeded to the throne iure uxoris, like his own successor Menelaos; certainly not iure suo.

Another genealogy that is worth quoting once more for the way in which it brings out the idea, is that of the kings of Nisa: though in this case the earlier steps are all obviously mythical and of no authority.

(Kings in heavy type, as before):


Probably the fact is that the laws of succession were thoroughly vague in the Aegean at this time. It is likely enough that the Minoan Cretans reckoned it through the mother and introduced their system on the mainland; but there it must have met and conflicted with the presumably patrilinear system of the Aryan-speaking native Danaans, so that it may never have been the invariable rule there. In any case during the Achaian period one may assume that in this matter as in others-clothing, religion, the art of war — Achaian customs were gradually prevailing over those of Crete.

However that may be, there was no lack of adventure, on either side of the sea, for thirteenth century heroes who liked to seek for it.

Occasionally adventure came unbidden, as in the case of Bellerophon, whose story contains so many points of archaeological interest, that it will be worth our while to translate it in extenso.

Bellerophon’s date cannot be given with any confidence, even in terms of generations, reckoning back from the Trojan War; for we come up against a conspicuous example of the way in which the laboriously-secured mutual consistency of the legendary genealogies breaks down when tested.

Here, however, is the story, as Glaukos the Lykian told it to Diomedes son of Tydeus on the plain before Troy:

“Great-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask my race? Even as the race of leaves is the race of men; these leaves the wind scattereth to earth, and others the green wood putteth forth, when the season of spring is at hand. So of men, this generation groweth up, and that passeth away.

“But if thou wilt learn this also that thou mayest know my lineage — many there are that know it; -

“There is a city Ephyre in the heart of Argos the pasture of steeds; there Sisyphos dwelt, most cunning of men, Sisyphos Aiolos’ son; he begat a son Glaukos, and Glaukos begat the good Bellerophon. To him the gods gave beauty and lovely manhood; (but Proitos devised evil for him in his heart, and drave him from home, for Proitos was mightier far among the Argives; for Zeus had made them subject to his sceptre;) — and Proitos’ wife, the fair Anteia, lusted after him, to lie with him in secret love; but she in no wise persuaded wise Bellerophon, the upright of heart.

Then she with lies addressed the king; “Mayest thou die, Proitos-or kill Bellerophon, who was fain to lie with me against my will.” So she spake, and anger took hold on the king at the tale. Kill him he would not, for he was ashamed to do that; but he sent him to Lykia, and he gave him grievous signs, scratching on a folded tablet many baneful things; and he bade him show them to his father-in-law, that he might perish.

“Then he went to Lykia under the good guidance of the gods; and when he came to Lykia and the stream of Xanthos, then the lord of wide Lykia greeted him well. Nine days he set hospitality before him, and sacrificed nine oxen; but when on the tenth day rosy-fingered dawn appeared, then he questioned him and would see his token, even what word he might bring from Proitos his son-in-law. And when he had received his son-in-law’s evil token, first he bade Bellerophon slay the horrible Chimaira.

Now she was of breed divine and not of men; a lion before, and a serpent behind, and a goat in the midst; and breathing forth the dread might of burning flame.

“Here he slew, by obedience to the portents of the gods. Then second he fought with the proud Solymoi; that, he said, was the sternest battle he ever was in. And third he slew the Amazons, a match for men. But as he was returning, the king devised yet other cunning guile against him; picking the mightiest men out of broad Lykia, he set an ambush; but they returned not home, for all of them did noble Bellerophon slay.

Then when the king knew him for the valiant child of a god, he kept him there, and plighted to him his daughter, and gave him the half of all his kingly honour; and the Lykians set apart for him a demesne, exceeding fair beyond all others, with vineyard and ploughland, that he might till it.

“Now the princess bare three children to wise Bellerophon; — Isandros and Hippolochos and Laodameia.

With Laodameia lay Zeus the Giver of Counsel, and she bare godlike Sarpedon of the helm of bronze.

But when he also become hateful to all the gods, then verily he wandered alone along the Aleian plain, eating out his heart, shunning the paths of men.

And Isandros his son, him Ares greedy for battle slew, in battle with the proud Solymoi; and his daughter, Artemis of the golden reins slew her in wrath.

But Hippolochos begat me, and his seed say I that I am; and he sent me to Troy, and laid many a command upon me, ever to play the warrior and to be excellent among all men, nor to dishonour the race of my fathers, who showed themselves exceeding valiant men, both in Ephyre and in broad Lykia.

“Of this lineage, then and of this blood I boast myself to be”.

The narrative is a curious one, and not quite like anything else in Homer. It is clearly not put in out of delight in storytelling, for the stories of Bellerophon’s adventures are not told; they are merely made the subject of allusions. Sandwiched between the fine poetry of the first five and the last five lines we have, not a “short story” with or without a moral, like Nestor’s reminiscences or Odysseus’ “yarns”, but the outline of a whole “Bellerophone Saga,” containing far more episodes than there are in the main plot of the Iliad itself; “providing”, as Aristotle would say, “material for many tragedies”. The allusive style in which the Lykian king and his daughter are not even named, and phrases like “by the gods’ good guidance”, “but when he also was hated of all the gods”, which are not explained, are more reminiscent of the “catalogue” of personages whom Odysseus saw in Hades than of anything else, and seem to indicate the existence of an audience which enjoyed merely being reminded of stories which it knew.

The same thing is indicated by the extraordinarily free use made of the personal pronoun, which would be intolerable to anyone who did not know the story already. (There are even fewer proper names in the original than in the translation here given; nor are the Greek pronouns here less ambiguous than the English.)

However the chief interest of the story in the present context lies in the light it sheds on conditions in the Aegean at the very beginning of the Achaian period.

The age depicted is one of free intercourse with foreign lands, as we should expect from the character of “Mycenaean” pottery — painted in exactly similar style whether we find its sherds in Argolis, Boiotia, Crete, Asia Minor, Thessaly or Cyprus. Of the three actors in the first episode, Bellerophon is an Aiolid, and therefore by later Greek ideas a Hellene by descent; Proitos’ lineage on the other hand goes back to Danaos, who came from the south oversea and was a grandson of the sea-god; and Anteia is a princess of Lykia, with a pedigree presumably going back to Sarpedon, the brother of king Minos of Crete.

The unnamed king of Lykia, (King Iobates of Lykia, Lakodaemon’s insert) whose relations with Proitos are taken for granted, like everything else in the chronicle, is of course he whose expeditionary force restored the Danaan prince to his throne when driven out by his brother, and who was credited with the building of the walls of Tiryns.

These walls are far older than any probable date for Proitos; but his Lykian allies if they did not build may have repaired and reconstructed them.

The “Potiphar’s wife” story told of Anteia is one of several favourite “plots” common to Hebrew and Greek mythology.

The next lines are famous and important, as containing Homer’s only reference to writing. In the following book, when the heroes draw lots for the right to meet Hektor in single combat, they only mark their lots, and one man cannot recognise another’s mark (VII, 175–189).

Homer has no verb meaning “write”, for “grapho” merely means “scratch” and except here is used only of weapons (e.g. Il., XVII, 599) or of thorns (Od., XXIV, 229). Here, he refers to “grievous signs” or “tokens”, “life-destroying things”, and “the token, whatsoever he might be bringing from Proitos”, rather as if he did not understand what he was describing and suspected magic.

In fact, as the Aegean world in historic times uses our familiar alphabet, the “Phoenician letters”, with their Phoenician individual names — unlike Greek Cyprus, which uses a syllabary descended from the Minoan script — it seems very likely that writing did really become a lost art in the Aegean amid the increasing barbarism of the later heroic and earliest Hellenic periods; and as if both the Heroes and their poets were illiterate.

That there is nothing impossible in this theory has been shown by evidence from more recent times among the South Slavs; in Bosnia the bards used to remember without any extreme difficulty bodies of verse considerably longer than the surviving works of Homer.

The fact of the tablet being folded (and doubtless also sealed) makes it clear that the reference in this passage is to real writing which unauthorized persons (such as Bellerophon) might have read if the letter had been open.

So Bellerophon comes to Lykia and, with the charming politeness of the Aegean world, is entertained first and asked his business afterwards — like Telemachos by Nestor and Agamemnon’s emissaries by Achilleus. The fact that, after reading the “soul-destroying things” in the letter, the father of the alleged injured lady still does not have Bellerophon murdered out of hand is probably due to the same cause as Proitos’ own similar forbearance; Bellerophon was now his guest. So like Saul in a similar predicament he tries to let his enemy’s own high spirits cause his death, by sending him on a desperate quest; but Bellerophon, like David with his collection of Philistine trophies, returns alive and triumphant, having killed the Chimaira.

The description of the Chimaira, “a lion before, but a serpent behind” is well known. It is not so well known that a beast of this description was probably to be seen in Asia Minor in Bellerophon’s time, and can be seen in Syria at the present day. A Hittite relief from Carchemish shows us a veritable Chimaira; a winged lion, with its tail raised aloft and ending in a serpent’s head, and a human head in a conical helmet rising from the lion’s shoulders, in place of that of the goat.


THE CHIMAIRA IN HITTITE ART. Relief from Sinjerli, c. 1000 B.C. From Minoans Philistines and Greeks, by A.R. Burn, 1930.

Once Hittite art had evolved an effective composite monster of this type, it was a short step to the point at which stray heroes from the Aegean who had penetrated beyond the Asian coast claimed over their wine, when at home again and bragging of their experiences, that they had met the beast in the flesh, and killed it too.

They had had special interviews with the immortal gods who gave them a winged horse (or winged sandals and a cape of darkness) to help them rid the world of a pest. But they were not able to bring these home to show to their friends, because Athene (or Hermes, or the Nymphs) wanted them back afterwards.

Pegasos, by the way, and his partnership with Bellerophon, is described in Hesiod (Theogony, Il, 281, 325) and was presumably known to Homer, though not mentioned in this brief synopsis.

There is a winged quadruped among the Hittite reliefs of Sinjerli whose head and neck might be meant for those of a horse, though it has a lion’s legs and paws.

In this case as in that of the Chaimaira, since we know that the Hittites imagined such monsters in the Syrian period (about the tenth century) and that the Greeks pictured them as existing in Asia about the twelfth or thirteenth, it is a probable hypothesis that the conception, both in Greek poetry and Syrian art, derives from the art of Anatolia in days when the empire of Khatti still stood.


THE CHIMAIRA IN HITTITE ART. Relief from Carchemish, rather earlier. From Minoans Philistines and Greeks, by A.R. Burn, 1930.

The Solymoi, victims of Bellerophon’s next exploit, are a perfectly historical people. They were the aboriginal hillmen of the Lykian hinterland, and as such waged perpetual war with the lowlanders and coast-dwellers, with their foreign kings and contact with foreign civilization.

The few facts we hear about them bear sufficient witness to their prowess: they gave Bellerophon the hardest struggle of his life, in the next generation they killed his son, and centuries later, as we hear from an inscription, they were still carrying on the same warfare against the Rhodian colonists of Greek Phaselis.

The very persistent Greek tradition of Amazons in Asia Minor is difficult to account for. Possibly it is a mistake, originally based on the existence of a hairless and fleshy male type among the Anatolian peoples, a type represented in Hittite art.

Alternatively, there may really have been female warriors in Asia; there is possibly a reference to them in a cuneiform tablet, containing part of a code of laws, from Boghazkeui. An old theory was that the original “Amazons” were armed priestesses, corresponding to the effeminate eunuch-priests, of one or other manifestation of the Asiatic mother-goddess-for instance the war-goddess Ma (whose name does not require interpretation) at Komana.

Evidence that such armed priestesses existed is lacking, however. In any case, one or two traveller’s tales, handed on into the Aegean via Troy or Lykia, of women warriors on the plateau, would naturally give rise to whole nations of Amazons by a simple process of exaggeration.

Then at last, after Bellerophon has come successfully through all these adventures, does the king of Lykia in desperation try to kill his guest by direct methods-and fails again; at which, recognising him for a favourite of the gods, he gives it up, promises his daughter to wife (the usual ending) and one imagines that they will all live happily ever after. But not quite. A final and even more than usually cryptic allusion is made to a story of how “he also came to be hateful to all the gods”; it looks like a story of the madness of Bellerophon, on the lines of the Old Testament story of the madness of Nebuchadrezzar. The Aleian plain, however, where he wanders “shunning the path of men” is probably that of Tarsos. The Elisha of Hebrew and probably the Alasya of Egyptian geographers; a locality of which we shall hear more anon.

Sarpedon, the leading Lykian chieftain in the Iliad, holds his throne by matrilinear succession as far as the pedigree here given goes. He is son of the daughter of Bellerephon by the daughter of the previous king and queen.

That is one picture of life in the Aegean at the time when the Aiolid heroes were beginning to “discover” Asia. As a pendant to it — a picture not of individuals but of populations beginning to move by sea — we have the sundry and confused accounts of the wanderings of the Pelasgoi; wanderings which ultimately brought fragments of their race to Crete, to the Troad, to the coast of Thrace, to the islands of the north Aegean.

There were also traditions of them in the foundation stories of Lesbos, Chios, Knidos, and, on the mainland of Asia, Klazomenai. Whether they spoke a dialect of Greek we cannot tell; we only know that in Herodotos’ time the language of their descendants was unintelligible to him, and therefore “barbarous”. If the place-names Larisa (or Larissa) and Argos, both found so commonly both in Greece and Asia, were native to the Pelasgian Language, then obviously that language, like that of the Minoan Cretans, was primitive Aegean. But in any case, driven out from their old “Pelasgian Argos” in Thessaly they became for the time a wild race of landless pirates — one more danger to civilization — with their hand against every man.

Meanwhile Egypt and Khatti were busy in Syria, drawing each other’s blood again.

In 1313 after the short reign of Rameses I, Set I succeeded to the kingdom restored to health by Horemheb, and immediately broke the treaty with Khatti. The honour of a Pharaoh, he seems to have felt, demanded a war of revenge for the aggressions of Subbiluliuma; and so he and his successors followed the will-o-the-wisp of prestige into the bog of a new Hittite War.

There was no considerable Hittite forces nearly so far south; resistance to the Egyptian advance was feeble, and Seti, with his army newly organised in the four great “legions” of Amen, Ra, Ptah and Sutekh (as we learn from a stele found at Beth-Shan itself), overran Palestine in one campaign. In the absence of any formidable enemy he was even able to divide his army and move in several columns; and the legions of Amen, Ra, and Sutekh occupied Hamath, Beth-Shan and Yenoam on the self-same day.

Seti’s army included a considerable force of those Shardana who had already figured as Egyptian Mercenaries in the “Amarna Age”; and we now meet with valuable evidence of their Aegean origin. In the remains of the temple which Seti proceeded to set up at Beth-Shan, after completing his re-conquest of Palestine and Transjordania, the excavators claim to have discovered several cult objects of unmistakably Aegean type; and the most obvious, indeed the only theory of the way in which these were introduced is that they are relics of Seti’s mercenaries.

The excavators believe, in fact, that the mercenaries did the actual building of this temple, save for a few pieces of highly skilled work. It looks as if a small permanent garrison of mercenaries was left on the spot, who worshipped the gods of the land in the temple that they themselves had built for their Egyptian master.

Having in a further campaign pushed forward against the Hittites, fought a battle with them and probably been disagreeably surprised at the solidity of their power in Syria — for they were actually colonizing the land — Seti had the sound sense to abandon thoughts of further conquest and renew the treaty, contenting himself with little more than Palestine out of the great Asiatic empire of his predecessors. But his son and successor, the ambitious, vigorous, and not very clever Rameses II, must needs renew the war, one of the most futile military struggles in history.

A preliminary campaign gave Rameses the Phoenician coast, by means of which the great Eighteenth Dynasty conquerors had been accustomed to keep open communications with Egypt by sea. The Egyptian was no great seaman, but the Hittites was no seaman at all, and sea-transport, for limited numbers of troops, was safer as well as quicker than land-transport.

However, as Professor Breasted has pointed out, this campaign gave the enemy warning of the coming offensive, and when in the following year Rameses moved against the country further north, which the Hittites had not only conquered but colonized, all preparations had been made against him.

The veteran king Muttalu had come down in person with the full levy of his empire and its subject kingdoms, as well as bands of mercenaries from the warlike nations further west; Dardanians and Lykians, “M-s-“, who may well be Homer’s Mysians and “K-r-k-sh”, who may well be the Kilikes, Andromache’s people in the Iliad, dwelling south of the Dardanoi, about the gulf of Adramyttion.

With them also were a people whose name is variously read as that of the Maionians or men of Ilios or of Oroanda. Of these the first identification is the most probable, and the second much the least so. Ilios (never Ilion in Homer) was a small though a wealthy and strongly fortified town, and not likely to send a contingent worth mentioning. If any Ilians or other Troes figured in Mutallu’s army, they are probably included among the Dardanian contingent. The Maiones on the other hand, who, like the Lykioi, figure among the Trojan allies in Homer, seem to be quite an important tribe; and they hail from the later Lydia — just that central district of Western Asia Minor where the westernmost Hittite rock-sculptures, at Sipylos and Kara-bel, mark the limits attained by the conquests of Mursil. Consequently the reading “Maunna” or the like, rather than “Iliunna”, is to be preferred.

Altogether it was a formidable host. The Hittite King, says the Egyptian epic poet who celebrated the valour of Rameses, “had left not a nation on his way, that he brought not with him….He had left neither silver nor gold to his people; he had taken all their wealth and possessions to give them to the people who marched with him to war”.

Rameses for his part had not been idle in preparation; he had with him the four “legions” of the Egyptian regular army as reorganised under Seti, with probably the black Sudanese troops who had been a feature of Pharaoh’s armies from early times, and a large force of the redoubtable armoured Shardana. So important an element in the army did these now form that “the footmen, the chariots, and the Shardana” has become a natural periphrasis for the whole army.

These “Shardana”, when named as a contingent in the Egyptian army, probably include troops levied among the sea-peoples generally. Some at least of them were prisoners of war, we find, whom Rameses had incorporated in his own army; they must have been captured in unsuccessful raids on the Delta coast. It sounds a dangerous expedient; but even when, in later years, these troops were pitted against their own countrymen, their discipline or loyalty stood the test.

The armies met in the hard-fought battle of Kadesh, were some forty thousand men must have been engaged on this side and that; the most interesting of Egyptian battles since the sources are full enough to let us see something of the cleverness with which Mutallu lay in wait for Rameses. The latter, sweeping northward by forced marches, remained all unsuspecting until the whole mass of the Hittite chariotry thundered out from behind the town of Kadesh, falling upon the flank of his marching columns as they straggled over the plain.

We can see, too, how, by desperate fighting, Rameses and the wreck of his two leading divisions struggled out of the trap; while the fact that practically the whole of Palestine proceeded to revolt from Egypt, and had to be reconquered once more, shows how ill-founded was the Pharaoh’s claim to reckon his escape as a victory.

But neither with this nor the succeeding campaigns in which, by fifteen summers more of arduous fighting, Rameses carved his way into central Syria, are we here immediately concerned. The appearance of the sea-peoples and western Asiatics in the ranks of the opposing armies is of more importance for our present purposes than the result of the campaign.

Like his father, Rameses II built a temple at Beth-shan, utilizing the labour of his mercenaries; and some of the bricks are marked with signs identical with characters of the Minoan script. Both this and some other indications confirmed the excavators in the belief that the builders were certainly of Aegean and not improbably of actual Cretan extraction. The building may have been done either in the intervals between campaigning seasons or after the end of the war.

For at last, in about Rameses’ twentieth year as king, a peace was signed, apparently on the basis of the status quo ante bellum, between him and Mutallu’s brother and successor, Khattusil III; a peace presently confirmed by the marriage of Khattusil’s young daughter to the middle-aged polygamist of Egypt. Even Rameses had had enough of the war. His persistent battering had seriously shaken the Hittite Empire, but he had not loosed its hold on Syria; and the resources of Egypt for a war of aggression were coming to an end.

In the following generation the sea-peoples began to venture on attacks on both the late belligerents; no longer mere acts of piracy, but operations on a considerable scale. The damaging and evenly-contested war between the two great powers must have had a deleterious effect on the prestige of both, among the sea-peoples; very much the same effect as modern European wars, from 1854 to 1914, have tended to have among Asiatics. And the habitual employment of islanders and western Asian peoples as mercenaries on this side and that served to give these nations a high idea of their own warlike prowess, and also to keep them well informed about the state of affairs in the east and south.

The earliest great sea-raid of which we hear is directed against the Hittites. Some time after the middle of the century, Attarissiyas, or Attarsiyas, of Akhhia, was making war with a large armament in the south-west of Asia Minor, where he drove from his throne the native king, Wadduwattas, Adyattes as the Greeks would have called him. Hittite royal troops, however, sent by the new king of Khatti, Dudkhaliyas III, restored Adyattes, and gave Dudkhaliyas a chance to boast of his victory.

The fact that he addresses Attarsiyas as “brother” in a letter, however, suggests that the Hittite victory might have been, to say the least of it, more complete. Attarsiyas was in fact not discouraged from making a second attack with a fleet of as many as a hundred sail, about 1230. He was again defeated, in a pitched battle, and driven back towards his base, but appears from the language of the tablet, to have continued to hold some portion of the Pamphylian coast; and he was also still strong enough to fall a few years later upon Cyprus, which he devastated.

The “Achaia” from which this sea-rover was operating, if it is not the same as the Akhhiyawa or lesser Achaia of which we have already heard, was probably the island of Rhodes, where Diodoros tells us that the city of Ialysos at one time bore the name Achaia, and where well-known finds of “Mycenaean” graves testify to colonization from the Greek mainland before this date.

The name of Attarsiyas (“-T-r-s-y-s”) himself is identified by his discoverer Dr.Forrer, with “Atresas”, an uncontracted form of the familiar name Atreus; Dr.Sayce, however, shows reason to prefer “Pterseus”, “the Destroyer”, the older form of the more euphonious name Perseus.

The initial vowel then represents a Hittite attempt to render the awkward Greek double consonant. He further suggests a connection between this episode and the founding of Tarsos (called Tersos on its coins); and draws attention to the statement of a late historian that “while Belimos reigned over the Assyrians”, “Perseus son of Danae arrived in his country with a hundred ships”.

Certainly, whether or not we may connect Belimos with some such Hittite name as “Subbiluliuma”, there is no doubt that the very early Achaian hero Perseus’ adventures were traditionally placed in the East; it was here that he slew the monstrous Gorgon and here — on the coast of Syria, At Joppa, it was said — that he rescued Andromeda from the sea-dragon. It would be quite in the manner of folk-memory and of the epic tradition to translate the historical chieftain of a fleet and army into a legendary slayer of dragons all alone.

The Empire of Khatti was indeed rocking towards its fall. The strain imposed by Achaian raids following on Egyptian wars was intensified by a disastrous famine about 1225- probably to be connected with the return of dry conditions after the “rainfall maximum” early in the century. It is interesting to hear that Merenptah of Egypt sent shiploads of grain to help in the work of famine-relief; so it was still possible for a strong Egyptian convoy to sail along the coast of Syria in spite of the sea-raiders.

Shortly afterwards the Pharaoh found to his disgust that peoples whom he reckoned as Hittite subjects were leaguing themselves with the Libu (Libyans) to threaten an invasion of the western Delta.

These peoples were the ever restless Lykians with the Sh-K-l-sh (Shakalsha? — perhaps Sagalassians; but the historic Sagalassos were inland) and the T-r-sh, who are clearly the people of the Hittite Taruisa and Old Testament Tiras, and probably identical with the Tyrrhenoi or Tursci, whom we call the Etruscans — still at this date a people of Asia Minor.

With them, and probably not from the Hittite area, were bands of Shardana and –k-w-sh-, whose name is usually vocalized as Akaiwasha and identified with that of Homer’s ‘Achaigoi, Achaians.

The Pharaoh might well feel aggrieved at being attacked by old allies of the very kingdom to which he was just selling the corn that they sorely needed, but the probability is that the Hittite king could no longer control them. The remote and almost amphibious Lykians can have been but precariously “subject” at the best of times, and the career of Attarsiyas shows that in the outer regions of his empire the Hittite king’s writ no longer ran even so firmly as of old. Also the raiders, like the native Khatti themselves, were hungry, as Merenptah tells us, and the reason for fighting was a pressing one — “to fill their bellies daily”.

It was a powerful confederacy, but the threatened storm did not burst at once, and Merenptah had time to carry out a campaign in Palestine, chastising rebels among whom Israel makes its first appearance in a contemporary document, before turning his steps westward.

The invasion came in or about 1221. The Pharaoh was ready for it. He had fortified Heliopolis and Memphis, but his best defence was the very effective field army which he was holding in readiness, and with which in the early days of April he marched to seek out the enemy in the western Delta. There the battle was joined.

From the first it was a one-sided affair. The allies were numerous and brave, but their masses of swordsmen on foot were ill-matched against a combination of archery and mounted troops. For six hours the Libyans and the sea-raiders tried to press home their attack, while the Egyptians poured their shafts into the crowded ranks.

It was an ancient Omdurman. Then at last the assault wavered, and the Pharaoh counter- attacked. His chariotry, held in reserve till this moment, charged in terrifying style, rank on rank, with archers shooting from the cars as they came, as we may see in Egyptian battle-pieces of their old Hittite wars; and the enemy line dissolved in irretrievable flight.

The rout was very bloody. Some 2,500 of the sea-raiders were killed, 6,500 Libyans, six sons of the Libyan king. Prisoners were nearly as numerous. The Libyan camp was captured with a splendid spoil, looted and burnt.

Nine thousand bronze swords were taken up on the battlefield — but no bows; evidently the allies had none, to their cost.

Egypt was saved for a generation. It was well, for the Nineteenth Dynasty virtually died with Merenptah, and a period of confusion seems to have followed. Merenptah, already an ageing man when he succeeded his father, the long-lived Rameses II, had shown the vigour without the rashness of his father’s youth, and had deserved well of his country.

It was, it will be remembered, one of his short lived successors, Set II, who set his cartouche upon an object of the utmost importance for Aegean archaeology — a bronze sword of the Danubian leaf-shaped type; the captured sword of some ill-fated sea-raider. But there was no further serious threat until the twelfth century had begun, by which time a soldier, Rameses III, once more sat upon the throne of the Pharaohs.

It was well that it was so; for about 1200 the storm burst finally over the tottering Hittite Empire.


A study of the Bronze Age by James Thomas

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