The Sea-Raiders — Part 7 : THE GREAT MIGRATIONS: ABOUT 1210–1190 B.C.

James Thomas
Apr 4, 2014 · 22 min read


The origins of “The Sea Raiders saga continues yet further with the following: Part Two — NARRATIVE, Chapter VI — “The Great Migrations: 1210–1190 B.C.” of A.R. Burn’s Book “Minoans Philistines and Greeks” (1930). Reproduced in whole, for the benefit of the reader.

“The isles were restless, disturbed among themselves; the poured out their people all together. No land stood before them, beginning from Khatti-Kode, Caremish, Avrad and Alysaya; they destroyed them and assembled together their camp in the midst of the Amorite country.

. . . They marched towards Egypt with fire prepared before them. P-l-s-t, Z-kk-r, Sh-k-l-sh, D-n-y-n and W-sh-sh were their strength. These lands were united; they laid their hands upon the countries as far as the circle of the world. . .

The countries which came from their isles in the midst of the sea, they advanced upon Egypt, their hearts relying upon their arms.”

Thus wrote the scribes of Rameses III, describing the most formidable invasion that had endangered Egypt for three hundred years, since the passing of the Shepherd Kings.

The Hittite records confirm the news, by their silence. Dudkhaliyas IV, their last king of whom we know, came to the throne about 1210, and during his reign came the catastrophe. The great stronghold of the City of Khatti-Khattusas, “the silver Town” which is now called Boghaz-keui — came to an end as an imperial capital, and the tables in its record office lay scattered and neglected until our own times.

We know nothing, nor are we likely to, on the last campaigns of the Hittite army or of the disastrous battles somewhere along the Halys or in the pass of the Sangarios Gap. An allusion in a subordinate clause by Rameses III’s scribe above-quoted, ad, negatively, the cessation of the Hittite records; these give us our only notice of the fall of one of the great powers of the older world. And when next we have news of the interior of Asia Minor, from Assyrians and Greeks, it is news of Aryan-speaking peoples, the Phryges and the Moschoi, under their Midas and Gordios Kings — those Phrygians who first appear in Homer as allies of the old Mysian and Dardanian tribes.

As for the Hittites, with their strange half-Aryan group of languages, they still hold Carcemish and their other Syrian stronghold; but their very name has perished out of Anotolia.

The Phrygians, who thus penetrate to the centre of Asia Minor between 1200 and the date of the Trojan War, almost certainly came from the Balkan Peninsular. The refugees of the older nations, fleeing before them, move to the south and east, by land through the Tarsus Mountains into Syria and Palestine, and by sea from “the isles”, that is, the shores of the Aegean, into the Levant, And thus by land and sea together, the wave of migration breaks upon the coasts of Egypt.

Working back from the well-known to the less-known, it will be best for us to see how the hordes of the migration fared at the hands of Rameses III, and afterwards to examine the rather copious Greek and Lydian traditions which appear to refer to these important events.

It was not a mere piratical raid, this time, like that incursion of sea-folk who had fought against Merenptah along with the Libyan migrants. The whole of Asia Minor seemed to be moving, disturbed by the same shock that ruined the Hittite power; all except a few tribes such as the Lykians and the Dardanoi, left, as though in a backwater of the stream of migration, in the far west of the peninsula.

Egypt had fought the Sh-k-l-sh before, but the older contingents of the horse bear names that are unfamiliar. The W-sh-sh may be men of Oassos in Karia or Oasos in Crete; the D-n-y-n may be Danaans; for archaeology shows that the Aegean civilization-area, as well as Anatolia, recruited this movement.

The Aegean however, unlike Anatolia, suffered no wholesale displacement of populations. The gradual decline of Late Minoan civilization continued without any abrupt break; and even such notable sea-wolves as the Lykians and the Achaioi took no part in this enterprise.

The name of the Z-kk-r is variously translated and vocalized: Thekel, Zakkar, Zakkal, Djakaray, to quote a selection. One may reasonably connect them with a region called Zikhria or something like it, conquered by the Hittites in the reign of Mursil. There are highly suggestive Greek traditions about the tribe called the Teukroi, an ancient people found in Crete and in the Troad; but the initial letter of the Egyptian word — some kind of modified dental — presents us with a difficulty.

Lastly the P-l-s-t are certainly the Philistines, whose most important achievement in history was to be the welding into a nation of the hill-tribes of Israel. Of their origin at least, we can speak with some confidence, on the strength of the representations of them on the walls of Rameses’ temple at Medinet-Habu.

Here we see them, armed with the tapering sword, round shield and laminated lobster-like corselet of the Shardana. The corselet is worn only by some, not all, Philistines however; and instead of the prominent apparently metal crest of the Shardana helmet, the Philistines, like the “T-r-sh”, have their headgear surrounded by a circlet of feathers.

It is this equipment that enables us to trace them with fair certainty to the south-west of Asia Minor. The feather crown is “as worn” by a procession of Ionian and Karian warriors in an Assyrian relief, and by the Lykian contingent in Xerxes’ fleet; the feather crown and round shield appear together among the hieroglyphics of the Phaistos Disk, and the crown, with a different type of shield, semi-cylindrical like a common Roman type, seems to reappear in the battle-scene of the fragment of a silver vase, the”Siege Vase” found at Mykenai. The Philistines in short were not Minoans, but were in touch with the Minoan civilization.

Not mentioned by the inscription, but added by the great Papyrus Harris to the list of Rameses’ enemies, there was also among the migrants a contingent of Shardana.

The situation was complicated for Rameses by the fact that in spite of the great victory won by Merenptah, the Libyans were already once more threatening the Delta from the west; and to make matters worse, the Sea-Peoples knew quite well what was going on and were prepared to concert operations with them. That the Libyans should again be moving, and in very large numbers, within a generation after the fearful punishment inflicted on them by Merenptah, argues pressure of economic circumstances — more shortly, of famine.

This agrees well enough with several Greek traditions, with Merenptah’s reference to famine among the Hittites in his time, and with the evidence cited by Mr. Brooks on conditions in Central Europe. The great and widespread increases of rainfall about 1300 had spelt disaster to inhabitants of the European mountain-zone; but in more arid districts, such as the Greek islands and the steppeland of the Libyan coast, increased rainfall must have increased fertility and increased population.

Now, with the gradual return to dry conditions from about 1250 onwards until 1000, the shoe pinches; but there is “corn in Egypt”, thanks to Abyssinia and The Nile, and towards Egypt press both Libyan tribesmen and Asiatic refugees.

The sea-farers had planned an attack on Egypt from two sides; the main army and fleet, conveying the enormous waggon-train that carried the women and children, moved southward from their camp “in the midst of Amor”, while the Libyans, supported by an allied contingent, struck in from the west.

But to synchronize operations so far apart was beyond their power, and Rameses was able to engage them in detail. Rameses’ army was of the now usual Egyptian type; strong in archers and chariotry, but relying for heavy infantry almost entirely on mercenaries drawn from among the Sea-Peoples themselves; the Shardana, as usual, the Tursha or Tyrrhenians who had fought against Merenptah, and a Libyan contingent. It was very much the same type of army as that of the Persians in the time of Alexander, with its eastern cavalry and archers, but relying on its Greek mercenaries for stubbornness and solidity. But there was not an Alexander among Rameses’ opponents.


RAMESES DEFEATS THE SEA-RAIDERS. A scene from the huge sculptured battle-piece on the walls of the temple at Medinet Habu. On the Left the Egyptians, armed with bow and club are about to board a Philistine ship, of whose crew the arrows have made havoc. On the Right a ship of the Shardana (in horned helmets) is in danger of fouling that of their Philistine allies: men on both ships gesticulate and shout warnings. The Egyptians are already confident enough to be taking prisoners (immediately below the above scene). The laminated body-armour of the Sea- Peoples can be clearly seen. From A.R. Burn’s Book “Minoans Philistines and Greeks” (1930).

Near the rising ground on the edge of the desert, called “the Mountain of the Horns of the Earth”, just where Merenptah’s chariotry had at last checked their pursuit in thebattle nearly thirty years before, Rameses and his men made a still more dreadful slaughter of the Libyans and their allies.

The sea-rovers, like the Achaians at Troy, were driven to the water’s edge where their ships were beached; and even their fleet, or much of it, was burnt or captured. A thousand prisoners were taken, and nearly thirteen thousand enemy dead were counted on the field. The western danger was at an end.

Then, moving by the coast into Palestine and accompanied by a powerful fleet, which he had collected to meet that of the Sea-Peoples, The Pharaoh marched against the main body of the northerners. Shardana fought Shardana, and the mercenaries of Egypt won, breaking through the enemy’s attempt to defend his vast unwieldy convoy and plundering the slow two-wheeled ox-waggons that carried the women and children and other possessions of the horde.

And finally, as his “crowning mercy”, Rameses somehow managed to trap the opposing fleet between his own fleet and army, in one of the harbours of North Syria or of the Delta. This is the fight of which so spirited a picture still exists, in relief on the temple walls of Medinet Habu.

Once again it was an archers’ battle. At long range the first Egyptian arrows sang through the air, and as the fleets came together the heavy-armed men, who crowded the northerners’ deck and fighting-tops, fell in heaps beneath them. There was no escape to be had on to the land, for there was the Egyptian army under the Pharaoh; and a desperate attempt by the northerners to force their way out by sea only hastened their destruction.

“They were trapped like wild-fowl”, says the exultant Rameses. “As for those upon the sea, a full flame was before their eyes in the harbour mouths, and a wall of bronze upon the land enclosed them.

. . . They were slain and made heaps from stern to prow of their galleys; and all their goods cast upon the waters, for a remembrance of Egypt”.

All was confusion among the Philistines before ever they could get near enough to board. On the temple walls the scene still lives before us: men gesticulating, shouting orders and counter-orders; ships fouling one another — one has capsized; the arrows pick off the chiefs from deck or crow’s nest; and then finally the southern fleet crashes into them and the Egyptians leap, mace in hand, over their galley’s lion headed prows, to complete the work.


Miltary Artist Igor Dzis’ rendition of the great Naval Battle between Rameses III Navy and Army against the invading naval forces of the Sea Peoples.

Egypt was saved, and Rameses was also confirmed in his sovereignty over the southern portion of Syria, where he now graciously permitted the surviving Philistines, “Zakkaray”, and their allies to settle; the Zakkaray at and north of Dor in the neighbourhood of Mount Carmel, and the Philistines in what now for the first time became the land of Palestine. He also left, like his predecessors, a permanent mercenary garrison at the stronghold of Beth-Shan.

After one more campaign in which he penetrated into North Syria, and one more victory over the hapless Libu, who were driven on by other tribes from behind, Rameses was able to spend the rest of his reign of thirty-one years in well-earned repose.

In the wall paintings of certain tombs of this period, in Egypt, appear some Aegean vases of “Late Minoan II” type. It is almost the last trace of trade, or of any but hostile contact, between Egypt and the Aegean peoples for over five hundred years.

Archaeology in Cyprus and in Palestine preserves numerous traces of the movement of these eventful years, and shows, as we have said, that some at least of the invaders of the Levant were people who had been in close touch with Minoan civilization. The characteristic “Philistine Vase” — a type of pottery found on all the undoubted early Philistine sites, and on no others in Palestine — is already familiar to archaeologists from thirteenth-century finds in Argolis, Rhodes, and Cyprus; and the brooch or safety-pin, which in the previous century had been coming into vogue in the Aegean, now seems to have become commoner in Cyprus, and, in a slightly different form, makes its first appearance in Palestine.

Cyprus seems to have suffered considerably from the passing of the horde; Alasya was one of the lands that “stood not before” the Sea-raiders; and accordingly in Cyprus, where Apollo Alasiotes was worshipped in Hellenic times, we find that at this very date the important Aegean settlements all appear to suffer destruction, and two of them — Salamis and Kition — when rebuilt in the following years, are rebuilt on different sites.

One interesting relic of the times was found in Gaza, in the shape of a tapering sword of bronze, of exactly the type carried by the Shardana and Philistines on the temple walls of Medinet Habu. It is of considerable size, and may be compared with the enormous weapons of some of Rameses III’s mercenaries in the sculptures.

In the course of the thirteenth century swords — and helmets — had developed with a rapidity that tells its own tale; probably in the effort to resist the “great Thracian sword” that does such execution in Homer’s battles.

The leaf-shaped swords from Egypt and one from Cyprus point the moral. The Shardana would have done well to adopt this weapon, but their conservatism evidently shirked a change that would have necessitated a complete alteration in their style of fencing. They preferred to go on enlarging, to the point of unwieldiness, swords of an old type in which the weight is all close to the hand. This facilitated clever wrist-work and the use of the point; but the fact that the trend of migration was all from the north to south shows that their sword-play was on the whole no match for the furious onrush and whole-hearted slash of the warriors of the Homeric or Danubian School.

The Danubian sword made its way south through Asia Minor as well as by sea — as indeed one would expect from the double land and sea migration. The Hittite warriors of north Syria, early in the last millennium B.C., are girt with leaf-shaped swords of great size, as may be seen from the sculptured dado-slabs from Sinierli in the Berlin Museum.

These weapons belong to the full-developed Iron Age; but since the leaf shape is not particularly suitable for iron, and essential if a heavy blow is to be delivered with a blade of the more brittle bronze (a long, straight blade of bronze would be shivered by such use) — it is probable that like the historic Greek and Roman swords, these Syrian weapons owe their shape to bronze-age originals.

Greek traditions of the migration of 1210–1190 — the outpouring from Thrace, the overrunning of Anatolia, and the invasion of Palestine from the Aegean and the west of Asia Minor — are fairly numerous, and are worth collecting; less because they add anything to what we already knew of the period than because they show how solid a core history, if only we can get at it, the most unpromising legend reported by a Hellenistic historian may contain.

First as the movement from Thrace; we have already quoted traditions confirming the probability that the Phrygians who destroyed the Hittite Empire came from Thrace. There are also other traditions which give some idea of the activities of raiders from Thrace, both among the islands of the Aegean and in Greece.

The thalassocracy-list, on the theory here adopted, would date the great development of Thracian sea-power about 1223; which corresponds sufficiently closely with the date of the first great counter attack of the disturbed Asian and Aegean peoples upon Egypt, under Merenptah in 1221. But this is by no means the only Greek reference to Thracian sea-power at the time of the Greek “Heroic Age”. The most detailed story that we possess is that in Diodoros, of the Children of the North Wind, a Thracian war-band which occupied Naxos and spread its devastations far and wide.

Repulsed in a descent on Euboia, they supplied themselves with women by carrying off a number who had been celebrating religious rites on the coast of Thessaly; for their own Viking expedition had consisted of men only. They were said to have continued to hold Naxos for two hundred years, after which they abandoned it owing to drought and the island was afterwards reoccupied by Karians.

Samothrace also received its northern colonists at an early date; it is already in the Iliad called Thracian Samos. And Eleusis in Attica had an old legend of one Eumolpos, a prince of Thrace who was also in some fashion a son of the Sea-God, a fighter and medicine man, who in true sea-raider fashion lent his sword to the Eleusians for their war with Erechtheus king of Athens and was slain by him.

Eumolpos had all the appearance of a historic personality. A clan of Eumolpidai, priests of the Mystreries, preserved his name down to historic times; and since neither they nor their ancestor were in any particular sense “sweet singers”, as the name implies, it is probable that that ancestor is a real person and not a mythical creation.

The names of two of his daughters, Saisara and Pammerope, are also recorded, and that of a son, Immarados; and these are not Greek at all — a striking contrast to the conventional Kreusa’s and Iophinoe’s that we find in a genealogy that has been patched up by the “logographers”. Mr. T.W. Allen suggests that since Eumolpos’ children are not Greeks by language, their father should presumably bear a non-Greek name too; and that possibly the name by which we know him may be a Hellenization of the Nordic name ending in –ulf.

By Land too, as well as by sea, Thracian bands pressed into Greece, and the traditions of a short-lived Thracian Kingdom as far south as the region of Parnassos are too numerous and circumstantial to be reasonably ignored. The grim old fairy-tale of the Nightingale and the Swallow, who for ever lament a deed of blood done long ago, is attached to a Thracian Kingdom of Dualis; and presumably from this same kingdom the raiding bands penetrate further yet.

The stormed and sacked the Minyan Orchomenos, so the Greeks of the fifth century believed; they defeated the Thebans under king Labdakos, by treachery, somewhere among the spurs of Kithairon, after an earlier battle by lake Kopais in which the Thebans obtained a hard-won victory; they strengthened themselves against Thebes by an alliance with the men of Athens; they extended their power even into the Megarid, and colonized Euboia from the mainland. These numerous stories are highly suggestive, in view of the strong evidence for northern influence on the Heroic Age of Greece.

To the fall of the Hittite Empire, there is only one possible allusion in Greek saga; it is the story of Pelops. Pelops, was, we are told, the son of Tantalos, king of the Paphlagones, or Enetoi, or Phhrygians — that is, evidently, of some Asiatic folk whose very name has perished. The alternative traditions make it quite clear that Pelops was not a genuine Phrygian, one of the invaders of Anatolia from Thrace. High gods were angry with Tanyalos and smote him with hunger and thirst — a reminiscence of the great drought of the late thirteenth century?! Then his “autochthonous” native dynasty was attacked and overthrown by a Trojan and Phrygian invasion led by “Ilos, son of Tros”.

Tantalos died, and his son Pelops abandoned the country, passed over to Greece with some retainers and a great treasure, and arrived at Thebes where he was kindly received by the ruling Kadmeians.

With their backing, before the end of his life he had carved himself out, by conquest, treachery, and politic marriages, the nucleus of a new kingdom in the western Peloponnese, at the very time when another prince of the same royal house was similarly winning himself a new throne in Philistia.

It all fits in very exactly with what Aegean and Philistine archaeology and Egyptian history would lead us to infer. Allusions to disastrous drought in Asia and the Aegean during the Heroic Age are also fairly numerous in the Greek tradition, and may be compared with the Egyptian evidence for famine in Asia Minor and persistent emigration from Libya into the Delta.

Herodotus speaks of a drought in Lydia, more than five hundred years before king Gyges, which drove the Tyrrhenoi oversea, on a migration which brought them at last to Italy.

Diodoros repeats local traditions of similar famine causing migration from Syme as well as from Naxos; and it was a famine that came upon the northern branch of the Minyan tribe which occasioned the famous Voyage of the Argo, the legends of which deserve to be studied in some detail.

Mr. Brooks’ collation of such evidence with that from Central Europe enables us to see these disasters in historical perspective, as episodes during the recession from the curious rainfall maximum of 1300 back to dry conditions in the last generations of the millennium.

The Hellenistic historians repeat several stories mostly derived from Lydian sources, which we can confidently connect with the Philistine migration. Of these the most detailed is that of the foundation of Askalon, which is variously given.

Xanthos, the early native Lydian historian, who seems to have had access to some sort of written Chronicles of the Kings of Lydia, tells us that the founder, Askalos, was a brother of Tantalos and general under a western Anatolian King named Akiamos; with which may be connected the legend that Derketo, who elsewhere appears as a Lydian nymph married to the river-god Kaystratos, was drowned in the lake of Askalon by Mopsos or Moxos, an Aegean hero.

Another version of the Moxos story makes him a mighty and popular warrior in the Lydian region, who overthrew the hated tyrant Meles and won great glory by many warlike expeditions. The most famous of these was against the city of Krabos, which he took after a long siege, andwith a piety which he had already shown by his offerings to the gods after the fall of Meles — drowned all the inhabitants “as atheists” in the neighbouring lake.

The last detail is as unexpected as it is striking. It is interesting to find that religious atrocities even at this early date are not confined to the Jews and to peoples under their influence.

The same account adds the detail that there was a great famine at the time of Moxos’ expeditions.

These legends were known to the Greeks at a fairly early date. The Hesiodic school had already a story of the foundation of Kolophon in which Mopsos figures as the prophet who out-prophesised Kalchas, meeting him when the latter was on his way home from Troy. Kalchas died of the shock.

And in Kallinos, the early and learned elegist, there seems to have been a full account of Mopsos’ march overland, leading his army through the defiles of the Tarsus to find new homes in Syria.

The place-names Mopsos’ Hearth and Mopsos’ Fountain, near Tarsos, remained to mark his passage in Hellenic times; and a tomb of Mopsos (this time said to have come that way as the seer of the Argonauts) was shown at Kyrene.

Disregarding the Greek attempts to attach the story, in the usual cyclic manner, to the tale of Troy or to the Argonaut legends, we are left with a very convincing picture — all the more convincing because so alien to any Greek poetic ideal — of a stalwart Asiatic warrior, pious and upright according to his lights, popular with his own folk, to his foes fanatical and cruel; just another leader as must have been needed to combine into an army the motley hordes of the Philistines and their allies, and to arrange the combined operations against Egypt, from Libya, Palestine and the sea, whose results we have already seen. Under the circumstances it seems highly probable that the invader of Syria and the hero buried at Kyrene are one and the same.

The variant forms of the name, Mopsos and Moxos, presumably result simply from the varying use of the letter “PSI” in different early Greek alphabets to denote ps and x.

The name seems to appear also in certain place-names in Greece- Mopsion in Thessaly, Mopsopia a district in Attica.

As the former place is in Pelasgiotis, it may well be that Mopsos is a Pelasgian name. We have already seen what a blend of European and Asian elements it was that founded Philistia; and the suggestion has even been made, several times, that “Philistine” and “Pelasgian” are in some way the same name.

The story of the drowning of the people of Krabos in their own sacred lake is of such an unusual character in Greek literature that it is probably to be taken as literal history; but the variant that makes it not the people but their goddess that was thrown into the temple pond, to be devoured by the sacred fish, is due to a confusion of historical legend with religious myth.

Derketo, or Atergatis, as her name is alternatively given, is a manifestation of the mother-goddess in mermaid shape, worshipped as a patroness of fish; hence the sacred fishponds attached to her temples, in Cyprus and Syria, and hence the hieratic myth according to which she drowns herself in the pool at Askalon or Hierapolis as the sequel to a love-chase, and is metamorphosed into a fish.

A variant of this story, with some of the cruder details Hellenized away, appears in Crete, with Diktynna, the Lady of Fishermen, also called Britomartis “the sweet maiden”, in the heroine’s role, and Minos in that of the amorous pursuer; and yet other versions referred the legend to Aigina of Kephallenia.

Such being the local cult, it is natural to find localized in the same part of the world the romance in which Perseus, coming from Achaia, rescues the king’s daughter Andromeda from being sacrificed; finding her exposed to be devoured apparently by this same Fish-Goddess’ sacred crocodile.

And here again we find a legend localized in Palestine and also in the Aegean- the doublet this time being the tale of Herakles’ rescue of Hesione, whose name means simply the Maid of Asia, from a similar fate. It is a story as old as Homer and as modern as the Legend of St. George.

Derketo, by the way, is not the only Palestinian deity to appear also in Lydia. The god Marnas (explained as being Zeus the Cretan-Born, and apparently the Virgin-Born), who was especially the god of “Minoan” Gaza, is also named on coins of Ephesos in Roman times as “Marnas of the Ephesians”.

The recurrence of the name is usually dismissed as a mere coincidence; but that there should be two such coincidences seem unlikely. Probably, therefore, we have here one more item of evidence on the highly composite origin of the Philistines.

Lastly, it is worth while to collect the evidence of Greek writers on the geographical distribution, in prehistoric and in historic times, of three ancient tribes of the Asiatic coastlands.

The “Cilicians” — Kilikes — appear in Homer as a tribe of the southern Troad; Andromache, Hecktor’s wife, was daughter of the king of Thebe, one of their towns. It may be they who had already appeared along with Lykioi and Dardanoi as allies of the Hittite king at Kadesh.

Anyhow, their next appearance seems to be in the Assyrian (late eighth century) references to “Khilakku”, a district now apparently in the centre of the peninsula, bordering on the Assyrian province of Kuweh which is the modern Cilicia.

Khilakku in these documents appears as being threatened and raided from the west by Mita, King of the Mushki or Moschoi, who has been long recognised to be the fabled Midas of Phrygia; which gives us a hint of the agency by which, like Goths pushed on by the Huns, the Kilikes have been pushed so far to the east. Presumably they were still north of the Tarsus when, as Strabo tells us, the Kimmerian raiding bans from the north were cornered and destroyed in Kilikia by Lydians and Assyrians.

By Herodotos’ time the movement from north-west to south-east is almost complete. The Kilikian name has replaced that of the Akhhiawa of the Hittites, the Kuweh of the Assyrians, the Hypachaioi of the old times referred to by Herodotos; yet even now, there were still some Kilikes north of the Tarsus, if one may trust the old historian’s accuracy when he makes the upper Euphrates the boundary between Kilikia and Armenia.

Strabo, in discussing this migration, mentions a Thebe and a Lyrnessos in Pamphylia as well as in the land of Troy, and a tradition that the Kilikes had driven out a “Syrian” population from the Kilikia of historic times.

The movement of the Kilikes is typical of the shifting of populations across Anatolia by land; with the Teukroi we find ourselves among the peoples of the sea. They are not mentioned by Homer, but Kallinos believed that they had carried the worship of Apollo the Mouse-God from the Cretan to the Trojan Mount Ida; and Teukros the brother of Aias is said by post-Homeric writers to have been so called, according to a regular Greek custom, as being the son of Telamon by a Teukrian captive woman.

By him, the genealogists said, was founded the Teukrian Salamis of Cyprus, which certainly was always connected in men’s thoughts with the Salamis of the Saronic Gulf. And also — a valuable confirmation of the belief that we have here something more than a mere Greek logographer’s piece of pedigree-faking — a long line of Priest-Kings of a brigand tribe in Pamphylia still in Hellenistic and Roman times boasted their Teukrian ancestry, “and most of the priests were called Teukros or Aias”.

It is phonetically impossible to identify the Teukroi with the Zakkar or Djakaray, all that can be said is that it is a pity.

And thirdly, the obscure but ancient Asiatic tribe of the Gergithes have a similar distribution, showing coastwise movement from the Aegean into the Levant; and their traditions connect them somehow with the Teukrians. Herodotos in fact, naming them among the races of the Troad — where there was a place called Gergithion — calls them definitely “the remnant of the ancient Teukroi”.

There were other Gergithes in Strabo’s time near Kyme in Aiolis; in Miletos in the sixth century B.C., forming apparently a “ submerged” serf or proletarian class; and yet others in Cyprus, said to be ultimately of Thessalian origin, and to have been brought to Cyprus by Teukros. And if, as Dr. Cowley has conjectured, the Hivites — Ha-Khiwwi — of the Old Testament can be legitimately be connected with the “Akhaiwoi”, then it is a far from hazardous suggestion that these Teukrian Gergithes are the Old Testament Girgashites and perhaps also the New Testament Gergasenes.

This early Greek interest in the north-east corner of the Levant seems, by the way, to have introduced the name “Asia” into Geography. The name makes its first appearance, in the form Asy, as that of a remote land named along with Keftiu in a triumphal inscription of Thothmes III; and its second, probably, in the famous Homeric simile of the clamorous wild fowl in “an Asian mead”.

In Hesiod “Asia” is first personified as a nymph, Herodotos refers to a legend, apparently well-known, that made her the wife of Prometheus, son of the Titan Iapetos.

Another version makes her marry Iapetos himself. The district of “Asy” at this date is evidently still some part of southern Asia Minor, and the association of its eponymous nymph with Iapetos is interesting; For Iapetos is apparently none other than the ancestor of the peoples of Asia Minor and the Isles — of Kimmerians and Medes and Ionians and Moschoi and “Tiras” — Japhet, the friend of everyone’s childhood, out of Noah’s Ark.


A study of the Bronze Age by James Thomas

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A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store