But enough of that… Let’s instead look at a case of genuinely atrocious research.
The Epoch Times, a website and newspaper that increasingly relies on fringe history click-bait to supplement its primary mission covering the Chinese diaspora community, published an article this week claiming that the ancient Greeks visited Chavin-era Peru. The piece would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it’s based on the work of physicist Enrico Mattievitch, whom I mentioned earlier this year when the media used him as a source for the history of Atlantis. Mattievitch believes that Greek mythology took place in South America, which he said the Greeks saw as the Underworld. By his own admission, his claims recycle the work of David Childress and Henrietta Mertz, which ought to tell you how seriously we should take them.
The Epoch Times is summarizing a chapter from Mattievitch’s 1992 book Journey to the Mythological Inferno, which was translated into English in 2010.
The thrust of the claim is that Hesiod’s account of the Gorgons in the Theogony (c. 650 BCE) can be taken as a reliable guide to locate their home in Chavin-era Peru. To untangle this we need to start with what Hesiod actually said before looking at what Mattievitch claims he said. In the Theogony (lines 270ff.) Hesiod wrote of the Graiae and the “Gorgons who dwell beyond glorious Ocean in the frontier land towards Night where are the clear-voiced Hesperides, Sthenno, and Euryale, and Medusa who suffered a woeful fate” (trans. H. G. Evelyn-White). The Epoch Times and Mattievitch would like us to read this as being the same land described in lines 736-744:
And there, all in their order, are the sources and ends of gloomy earth and misty Tartarus and the unfruitful sea and starry heaven, loathsome and dank, which even the gods abhor. It is a great gulf, and if once a man were within the gates, he would not reach the floor until a whole year had reached its end, but cruel blast upon blast would carry him this way and that. And this marvel is awful even to the deathless gods.
In so equating the two, Mattievitch then identifies the following lines (744f.) with a Peruvian temple at Chavín de Huántar, which is just so flattering to the Peruvian architects:
There stands the awful home of murky Night wrapped in dark clouds. In front of it the son of Iapetus (Atlas) stands immovably upholding the wide heaven upon his head and unwearying hands, where Night and Day draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze: and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door.
There remains to dispense with Mattievitch’s final piece of evidence, which either he or the Epoch Times has apparently misunderstood:
A later Chavin myth about the god Huari is a Peruvian version of the Greek myth of Perseus, Mattievich said. The local people are said to have invited Huari to a feast, planning to trap and kill him there. Huari saw through the ploy, however, and turned them all to stone. The feast and the subsequent petrification is said to have occurred at the Chavin de Huantar.
On another occasion they say that he began to preach with loving words, in a town where they were holding a great festival and banquet to celebrate a wedding, and they would not listen to the preaching of Tonapa. For this they were cursed and turned into stones, which may be seen to this day. The same thing happened in Pucara and other places. They further say that this Tonapa, in his wanderings, came to the mountains of Caravaya, where he erected a very large cross…
Mattievitch interpolated into the banquet story an attack on Tunupa from a subsequent incident when he was taken prisoner and condemned to death while carrying his cross—a clear Christian interpolation. Mattievitch asks us to read his mangled and conflated story as a reflection of Perseus’ dinner with Polydektes, where that evil king tried to kill Perseus by requesting the head of the Gorgon as a wedding gift. When Perseus obtained the head, he gained the power to turn men to stone. This story bears virtually no similarity to Tunupa’s tale—and indeed in Apollodorus (Library 2.4.2) doesn’t feature a banquet at all—and at any rate the Peruvian story had been both Christianized and harmonized with European storytelling conventions anyway.
In short, the only way Mattievitch’s claims hold up is to be completely ignorant of the texts they claim to elucidate.