Italian Archaeologist Claims That the Trojan Horse Was Really the Trojan Boat
Thousands of years after Homer first made reference to the Trojan horse in a short passage of The Odyssey, an Italian archaeologist now claims that the mythical wooden creation was actually a boat, according to reports appearing this month in Italian media. Francesco Tiboni, a naval archaeologist at the University of Marseille, published an article in Archaeologia Viva claiming that the story of the Trojan Horse was nothing more than a mistranslation of one key word in Homer.
The horse, best known from a late version in the Aeneid of Virgil, is first recorded in Homer’s Odyssey, where it is alluded to in two places:
What endurance too, and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and destruction upon the Trojans. (4.271f.)
It is fair enough to dismiss post-Homeric stories as later developments, but the allusions in Homer show that the story was already familiar enough by 750 BCE that he could allude to it and expect his listeners to know the tale.
According to Tiboni, the horse was not hippos, the Greek word for “horse,” but hippos, a Phoenician term for a type of warship with a curving prow. This is based ultimately on a retrofitted legend recorded by Pliny the Elder, who in Natural History 7.57 wrote that “Hippus, the Tyrian, was the first who invented merchant-ships.” Hippus was, likely, the back-formed eponym of a type of boat called in Greek (but not necessarily Phoenician) the hippos, the first true plank-built cargo ship, and one long associated with Phoenicia. In academic literature, a curved Phoenician trading vessel is usually called a “hippos ship,” but it is not, to my knowledge, a Phoenician term. It’s a Greek one, because the ship’s curving prow resembled the curves of a horse’s head. It seems to be the general consensus that such a name is of Archaic or Classical origin and does not extend back to the Bronze Age. Whether it was in common use in Homer’s day is unknown to me, though an image of one on the Balawat Gates c. 850 BCE shows that the type of ship existed at the time, regardless of what it was called. The ships are believed to derive from those of the Sea Peoples, which are depicted in Egyptian art from around 1160 BCE in the mortuary temple of Ramses III in a clearly related but somewhat different form. No record of the Mycenaean word for those ships exists, and our Greek evidence is primarily late, notably Strabo (3.3.4), so the argument must remain speculative.
"From the lexicographic perspective, it appears evident that the appearance of the horse resulted from a translation error, an inaccuracy in the choice of the corresponding term, which, by actually altering the meaning of the original word, led to the distortion of the entire event,” Tiboni wrote, in my translation.
Since Tiboni’s argument is not yet available in English, I will present a bit more of his claim in translation from excerpts appearing in Italian news reports, beginning with his argument that by rewriting the Odyssey with the horse as a ship, we can revise the mythic story into a historical one:
"If, in actuality, we examine the Homeric texts, reintroducing the original meaning of ‘ship’—certainly known to his contemporaries—not only does it fail to change the meaning of the story in any way, but the [Greeks’] deception tends to take on a less surreal dimension. It is certainly more likely that a vessel of great dimensions could conceal soldiers inside, and that they could exit rapidly from doors which are clearly visible on the hull and are in no way suspicious to the eyes of the beholder.”
Now, I would take issue with Tiboni’s claim, since the story of the Trojan horse has both a literal and a symbolic meaning. His claim would preserve the literal meaning, provided that we assume that the boat was also meant as a votive statue and not an actual functional merchant vessel, but destroys the symbolic meaning. The horse was the symbol of Poseidon, and the emblem of Troy, and it is for that reason that the Trojans accepted it as a symbolic gesture of goodwill. By rendering it into a boat, there is no longer as much of a symbolic level to the story. Tiboni counters that the hippos ship was originally used to carry treasure and thus could be remembered in myth as a divine votive after the old Phoenician term fell out of common use. But since the change makes no difference to the story, since a boat can be the shape of a votive offering as easily as a horse, there is little advantage to choosing this option except that Tiboni studies ships professionally and would prefer to see them everywhere.
Homer knew the maritime issue perfectly, so much so that he left us a great deal of information on the construction technology of ancient ships. [...] However, the very ease with which he used technical language led the post-Homeric poets to whom his works were handed down to be led astray by some of his passages. For Homer, talking about a ‘hippos’ was equivalent to indicating the Phoenician ship of this type. For his epigones, lacking knowledge of maritime things, it became a true horse. The underdevelopment – for it lay far in the future – of naval archeology, understood as the ability to analyze the various sources available to scholars for the recognition and study of the types of ancient ships, could have resolved this centuries-long equivocation, which, today, naval archeology can finally resolve.
The argument stands or falls, basically, on whether (a) the Greeks called a Phoenician merchant ship a “horse boat” in Homer’s day, c. 750 BCE, and (b) whether the Greeks forgot this for 600 or 700 years until Strabo remembered it again. I can’t answer (a), but (b) is so self-evidently wrong that it knocks a pillar out of Tiboni’s train of logic in claiming that the post-Homeric poets had never heard of hippos (hippoi) ships, despite the fact that Homer supposedly knew of them before these poets, and the Hellenistic writers knew of them afterward.
The claim is not impossible, but neither is it convincing given the number of problems that have to be resolved in order to make it work.
Not convincing, to say it politely. The symbolism does not work any more, a boat could not be brought into the city.
11/15/2017 11:54:58 am
A boat ?,,, it's enough to think they were so naive as to not check the inside of a statue of a horse, but a boat, by it's very design is meant to carry cargo or people. Who wouldn't check out the inside ?
Peder Sloth Züricho
3/28/2022 02:07:32 pm
They way I see it is more likely. Bronze friscoes from around 800 BC. Seems to suggest that war reparations were paid with phonecian cargo ships. The big question is why pull the ship into the city instead of just the cargo, leaving the ship. Again this is speculative, but it's to be considered either more convenient, or for its symbolic value of a triumph. A practice ancient Rome also practiced, although under different circumstances. One could argue that it would in fact be easier to hide inside the belly of a boat, because it would carry a haul of goods. So you would hide amongst the goods, in a gamble that they would drag the ship into the city in a triumph. To further back this theory, a chance find of a boat called umbu-something, is such a phonecian ship with a cargo so precious, it would be of very high value even today. This suggests it's clearly a royal level of exchange, for instance war reparations. Now I am very much onboard this boat theory, for several reasons. But one of them is that it seems a lot more plausible than constructing an actual horse, that would also be difficult to transport, let alone get through a gate. It also supports the notion of betrayal, as it comes with an exploit of a political practice that would be unheard of, due to the expectations of a treaty, or disarmed practice. In short it would have been a massive betrayal of diplomatic rules. Devious even. And it would have been reason for the Ilians to bring in the boat without a shred of reason to check the haul for a trap. Why would there be a trap, if the war was over? What still bugs me is why the whole boat? Was it a gamble, was it understood that the boat was part of the gift, was it convenient? I have no clue. But an elaborate scheme to have a few men break in under the cover of a price, wait til dark, take control of a gate and let an army which approached under the cover of darkness in while everyone were celebrating and discussing what to do with the haul. Would definitely be plausible. It may also be why it wasn't elaborated upon during either The Iliade or The Odyssey, one because it's nature wasn't exactly honourable, and two because the event itself was quite simply self-explanatory at the destruction of Illios, but over 400 years the practice of boats, and the connection to hippos were remarkably unrecognisable. It may very well be that by the time Homer wrote the Illiade and Odyssey it was no longer self-explanatory that a horse meant war reparations. Or gift. And the misunderstanding is a process of 400 years drift of a footnote in a tale of a war which lasted a decade. It's likely that the significance of the event was not important or even intriguing til at least some 100years later. In order to back this, I am going to refer to the nationalism of Europe strictly speaking 1864 in The Kingdom of Denmark, where a myth of the origin of the line of kings were established, it's a romantic invention, the line of kings is actually much older, but the significance of this small alteration comes with the need to romantify an identity, some greatness of sorts. It may very well be that at the time of the destruction of Troy, the deed was just an important detail, what mattered more was the end of the war and the length, and might even have been taboo to undermine the political practices. Now 400 years later there has been centuries of tough times. It's even called the dark centuries. So it's not far fetched to suggest that a little bit of romanticism causes a glorification of an event that makes you appear superior, and epic. It makes the story shift significance, and it's not unlikely this would include a depiction of the Ilians as stupid to fall for the trick with a horse, nor for the story to spread and rise in popularity in the times around Homer writing it down. The boat theory seems very strong. And the second reason I support it, is that I personally pieces the theory together, once I heard the beginning, which is the claim that it would be. boat, and why Homer described it as a 'shipplanked horse', which to me only got confirmed as the historian went on, so I personally find the idea convincing, before I knew all of the evidence it's based upon. Whether you are convinced after reading this or not, is entirely for you to decide, but I gave you my answer to your question in full.
11/15/2017 01:58:32 pm
What? Am I the only one who thinks it was a giant rabbit?
11/15/2017 03:23:30 pm
As the Phantom said "Not a dog, a wolf."
11/15/2017 10:03:57 pm
Like that nasty killer rabbit from the Monty Python film about the holy grail? Works for me.
11/15/2017 02:44:19 pm
Troy was close enough to the sea that a boat would work, especially if fitted with a false deck.
11/15/2017 03:20:02 pm
Let's say Tiboni is correct. Homer clearly says part of Odysseus's army sailed away before the Horse is brought INSIDE Troy by the Trojans themselves. If the Horse is actually a boat, that part of the story makes no sense.
11/15/2017 03:37:46 pm
You're accepting the "great dimensions" characterization which has no basis. As an exercise, throw that out. Also, as an exercise, throw out the part about "doors".
11/15/2017 04:17:16 pm
It is my understanding that many, but not all, such boats had a horse's head. Others had different animals, according to accounts I've read.
11/15/2017 04:22:18 pm
What you said is true, but I'm accepting Tiboni's argument as presented. He says it wouldn't change the meaning of the story when it would. He needs to clarify what the hippos actually is. Is it a boat or a vessel of great dimensions?
11/15/2017 05:11:57 pm
I believe the argument is that the Greeks created a votive offering in the shape of a boat, similar to the Trojan horse, but not horse-shaped, something like the symbolic boats that the Egyptians carried their gods around in and that the Minoans depicted their gods riding in.
11/15/2017 05:43:27 pm
Thank you, that makes more sense. Like you pointed out in the post, the argument rests on assuming the boat was meant as a votive offering and not a functional vessel that was a part of the fleet. I suppose it may been just that and Odysseus had it converted to accomplish his goal.
11/15/2017 04:02:32 pm
What if it was neither horse nor boat, but instead a wooden hippopotamus !
11/16/2017 01:37:17 pm
Then they would have left it alone as hippos are known to be hungry, hungry.
11/15/2017 06:17:25 pm
I am still waiting for Ancient Aliens to tell us that the Trojan horse was really a star gate which teleported the Greeks inside the walls
11/15/2017 07:22:25 pm
They're never going to TELL you that. They'll say "What if?"
11/15/2017 07:42:22 pm
You mean "What if? .... as ancient astronaut theorists maintain ..."
11/15/2017 08:28:17 pm
The greeks were proto templars. The part of the story that the Smithsonian is covering up is that the Greeks killed all the Trojans by crushing their heads with runestones.
11/15/2017 09:57:11 pm
And who ran Desert Storm? General Schwartzkopf. Can you say "black head"? Is there any doubt it was a Templar operation?
11/15/2017 10:07:37 pm
No doubt they left some Masonic symbols behind so future travelers would know who had done the deed.
11/15/2017 10:19:45 pm
Yup, It's something only the Templars could pull off, with their secret knowledge of measuring latitude and longitude using the phases of Venus and being master sailors only they were capable of returning to the shores near Troy and landing in the dead of night.
11/16/2017 12:14:15 am
The hooked X is obviously a symbol representing the Trojans horse with Greek soldiers inside.
Scott "Longitude" Wolter
11/16/2017 12:25:25 am
I don't know and who can say and that by itself is proof! Please do not post anonymously. Ponce de Leon left me a cup of coffee in the bus station mens' room. Hamilton Burger's bowtie sends secret signals from my Masonic brothers.
11/16/2017 06:05:44 pm
How do we know that David, sometime after killing Goliath, didn't bring his forces and use the wooden horse ruse to conquer the Trojans ? There are some serious gaps in the historical record of King David. He could have easily done this.
11/16/2017 01:18:35 pm
The earliest image I know of the Trojan Horse seems to date from c. 670 B.C.E. See https://xochipilli.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/caballotroyamiconosdetalle.jpg.
11/16/2017 01:39:55 pm
Good image though I expect a real,one wouldn't have those windows.
Peder Sloth Züricho
3/28/2022 02:25:29 pm
670 bc is a centuries of Illios actual year of destruction. So the events are some 400 years apart, and no single illustration of the horse is confirmative with another. And the Illiade doesn't actually mention the eve of the battle.
11/16/2017 01:46:06 pm
Maybe he meant 'workhorse' often a term to describe vehicles, ships, large cargo haulers, etc? (Since Plato and Homer did not have cars, and chariots would not make sense).
11/16/2017 04:56:28 pm
You do understand that everything in the bible is a lie, right?
12/26/2017 02:08:00 pm
The comment of Jason Colavito is exellent, very realistic,and something like this : -Sinožić in his book Our Troy (NAŠA TROJA in Croatian) -write about very old legend from island Krk,nearby Istria,Croatia,-the legend whitch talk about pirates who deceptioned the citizens with the wooden trunk,after the truce.-Pirates came with a trunk,like a gift into the city,and opening sides of trunk,takes the swords and spears and surprising our defenders,and conqering our city.This legend is just one of many from :-"Vejske povede"(-in English -"Feacs stories"). I think it is very interesting,and only one original trail of Homeric story about wooden horse.The soldiers in this story were outside of trunk,not inside,and it is realistic,because Odisey in his stories give us many fantasticly accounts.People from island Krk was the refugies from Troy,and Troy was placed in Istria.Today it is the city of Motovun.My English is not very well,but i try to explaine some stories. Greetings from Croatia...
9/30/2019 01:14:21 pm
Acheans Retreat from Troad: An army retreating usually can leave something behind is path, for example one of the Boats.
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