Crete and the Trojan War: Going Beyond Homer and Sir Andrew Evans
April 12, 1999

By: Halford W. Haskell, Professor of Classics, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

This event was co-sponsored with the Archaeological Institute of America, Denver Society

Professor Haskell dealt with the question of what we can know about Crete in the period of the Trojan War.  This is really the question of the relationship between mainland Greek culture and the Minoan culture of Crete.

Professor Haskell dealt first with evidence from Homer.  Homer indicates that Crete was prosperous and contributed many ships to the expedition under a unified command.   But Homer is writing some 500 years after the event, Professor Haskell points out, and his evidence has to be taken with care.

Archeology on Crete received a major impetus from Sir Artur Evans who excavated Knossos and coined the term "Minoan."  He discovered the now well-known fact of the destruction of the palaces by fire.  A destruction which we now know cannot be due to the explosion of Thira to the north, as that explosion is earlier.  But the initial destruction is followed by a new dynasty, and a second destruction.

How to date all of this?  A bitter academic controversy broke out over dating of the Linear B tables, a key to dating the sites.  Should those tablets be 15th century BC or 13th century?  Professor Haskell recounted the history of the battle.

New evidence has led to new conclusions.  Three assumptions of the old debate have now been undermined.  First, it was thought that Linear B tablets were only found at Knossos, but tablets have been found at Hania.  It was also thought that none of the inscribed stirrup jars were to be found at Knossos, but in 1995, Prof. Haskell found such a jar.  Then, it was assumed that the Linear B tablets were all of one date, however, we now know them to be from more than one period.

Prof. Haskell sketched out a new scheme.  In the earlier period, mainland Greeks were at Knossos, but as rulers only.  In the later period, Knossos had rivals, and any period of confederation (such as Homer depicts) must have been brief.