Logic is not Zangger’s strong suit. He is correct that the Atlantis story has intentional echoes of Homer, as well as the Near Eastern Flood myth, particularly in the last lines of the Critias, when Plato has Zeus plot to destroy Atlantis for their corruption and wickedness. But this doesn’t imply that the Atlantis story is a genuine recollection of said events, only that Plato was familiar with the Homeric poems and the mythic history of primordial times. Other Greek authors demonstrated as much; Apollonius of Rhodes intentionally modeled parts of the Argonautica on Homer, just as Homer himself drew on Greek and Near Eastern sources. Plato himself, in the Timaeus (22-23) and Critias (111b), acknowledges his familiarity with Near Eastern Flood myths. That he saw this Flood as occurring more or less as analogous to the destruction of Atlantis is evident from Plato’s mention in Laws (677a-b) that the Flood that wiped out all civilization had occurred a “myriad” of years before his time, which is literally 10,000 years but was used figuratively to refer to many thousands of years, or just a long time. There is nothing in Plato that could not have been derived from knowledge of Homer and the Flood myths current in his day.
Zangger has built his belief in the Atlantis-Troy connection into a wide-ranging hypothesis that Troy was the center of an empire, not just a city-state. The Trojans may have spoken a Luwian language (as the late Calvert Watkins proposed), so Zangger proposes that all of the speakers of Luwian in Anatolia were in league as part of a federation or empire that banded together to take down the Hittites, thus starting a chain of events that culminated in the Trojan War. This latter hypothesis forms the basis for Zangger’s new book The Luwian Civilization and the accompanying website.
Zangger blames academic dogma for the refusal of scholars to acknowledge that Luwian isn’t just a language but also a united culture. He claims that scholars believe the Luwians were nomadic, so they never searched for Luwian sites. “The absence of evidence for the existence of a remarkable civilization by no means invalidates the existence of such a thing. We simply do not know enough about the Luwians because there have not been enough large-scale, deep excavations to date.”
The question of whether the Luwians existed as a united people is an interesting one, but not one Zangger can solve using his evidence, for his evidence is faulty. The first thing I noticed when I visited his website is that he reconstructed the city of Troy not from Homer or even from other Greek sources but from Guido de Columnis, a medieval writer who based his accounts on corrupt Latin summaries of Homeric texts and their Roman elaborations. This wasn’t a good sign.
Worse, Zangger believes that Western scholars are dogmatically blinded by Homer to the exclusion of later texts that mention the Trojan War, ranging from Hellenistic Homeric fan fiction to medieval epics: “Apparently, not a single attempt has been made so far to compare the content of non-Homeric reports on Troy with the findings made during 140 years of excavations.” Why might this be? Oh, right: Because the non-Homeric accounts are many centuries younger and bear no evidence of containing genuine fragments of material from even the age of Homer, much less the Bronze Age. Homer, for example, contains references to Mycenaean weaponry and Mycenaean cities and social organization, while later texts lack even these small connections to prehistory.
Nevertheless, Zangger sees all of the various accounts of the Trojan War, from Homer down to the late Middle Ages, as containing genuine Bronze Age material which he can then selectively use to match Greek mythic history to his reconstruction of the Luwian civilization. To be fair, he does say more than once that he doesn’t accept ancient texts at face value and doesn’t consider them to be objectively accurate. That said, he reasons that if he can match part of the material from a text to archaeological evidence, he can then use the remainder of the text to fill in the story to explain the archaeological remains and assume the existence of other features not yet excavated or otherwise known to exist. To give an example: The Atlantis story isn’t literally true, he said in one of his earlier books, but if he can “match” some of Atlantis to the geography of Troy, then he can use Plato’s texts to conclude that Troy had artificial harbors like Atlantis.
He believes that the Antique forgery of the journal of Dictys Cretensis, surviving in Latin translation and fragments of the Greek original, preserves genuine Bronze Age information about Luwian instigation of the Trojan War. He similarly sees value in the Latin forgery of Dares Phrygius, another likely translation from the Greek. Both books are essentially Homeric fan fiction, composed in the waning days of Hellenistic Antiquity, for which there is no reason to suppose they contain genuine ancient knowledge. It’s not worth even discussing why Zangger would rely at all on medieval epics that simply retell the Latin version of the Illiad from Dares and Dictys.
The trouble with Zangger’s methodology is rather evident when he tries to justify his reliance on these texts. His two arguments are ridiculous. The first betrays his lack of familiarity with ancient literary traditions:
Homer is generally considered to have offered the Greek perspective of the conflict, while many of those non-Homeric Troy reports relayed a rather Troy-friendly version of events. During the Middle Ages, it was those stories that became popular and common knowledge, not the Homeric epics. They had a lasting impact on European thinking. For over a thousand years, aristocratic families, royal dynasties and entire nations traced their family lines back to Troy. Some historians have considered Troy “the common heritage of Europe” and “the idea of a genealogical relationship within Europe,” but these notions are not related to Homer, because during the peak of the European enthusiasm for Troy, Homer’s work had been neglected and was only known from hearsay.
And this gets to the second of Zangger’s bad arguments about why we should accept these Late Antique and medieval texts as true: He believes that they are more accurate because they lack supernatural gods.
… the non-Homeric sources contain virtually no mythology. It is Homer’s account in which the gods determine the course of history. The poet even claimed to know what gods talked about in conversations. How did he find out? Precisely for these reasons, Homer was considered non-authentic, at least until the Enlightenment. Homer had not been around at the time of the Trojan War, and he claimed that gods intervened in human affairs. Both these considerations made his work seem unreliable.
But Dares Phrygius is a good example of why it’s wrong to consider a text “accurate” simply because it conforms to our secular bias. Dares’ account of Jason and the Argonauts at the start of his history of the Trojan War makes no mention of the gods and offers no supernatural account. Yet Dares doesn’t claim that such magical events didn’t happen. He even refers his readers to an account, which he endorses, that includes just that: “To describe those who set out with Jason is not our purpose: But he who wishes to know about them, let him read the Argonautica” (sec. 1, my trans.). Whether he was anachronistically referring to the Argonautica of Apollonius or Valerius is irrelevant; either one yields the same result. Dares, in particular, doesn’t refer to the gods because he (or rather the character the true author pretends to be Dares) didn’t witness the gods personally, a literary conceit. Latin sources in the West followed Dares and ignored the divine drama more frequently as belief in the gods waned. That doesn’t make Dares accurate or authentic, only coincidentally closer to our preferred bias toward “objective” history.
Zangger concludes that we should honor medieval and early modern “European thinking” and the preferences of antiquarians from before the Enlightenment, when the Trojan War was considered a real event and Latin sources were privileged over Greek ones, before those academics started privileging Greek sources and ancient material over familiar Latin classics. This point is the weirdest but perhaps the most telling. Behind Zangger’s elaborate Luwian fantasy there seems almost to be a quest to find the “real” and “true” Europe, the source that unites Latin and Teutonic, Eastern and Western, and proves, somehow, that all Europeans share a common culture and heritage.