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Why Not Call it Troy?

February 19, 2012 1 comment

My last post gave a basic feel for False Light, the novel I’m writing. Its story begins about twenty years after the Trojan War ends, when tales of that victory are still part of daily life. In that post, I also use the name ‘Wilios’ to mean Troy. A reader asked “Why?” That’s a good question. Below is what I hope you will think is a good answer.

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Who conquered Troy? And what happened to the victors after that? We think we know. But do we? Achilles died in the Bronze Age, when Egyptians and Hittites were the two super-powers always clawing for lands in between. On the other hand, Homer lived in the Iron Age, when a faded, inward-looking Egypt was still there, somewhere to the south, but the bard had never heard of anybody called a Hittite. Hmmm… .

Homer’s story of Achilles’ rage amidst the Trojan War was a bard’s song passed from one poet’s memory to the next for twenty generations until it was finally written down. That memorized song somehow made it through the chaos of a centuries-long Dark Age about which we know almost nothing—except that four out of five people died at the start, writing was lost and each surviving village raided the next one for centuries. Today, only a handful of dug-up hints give us even a clue about how bad those times must have been. Or what collapsed the Bronze Age. Or how the Achaeans morphed into the amazing people who thought all those brand new thoughts and made up out of thin air most of what we call Western Civilization.

With False Light I want to bring that lost time and its people to life for you. I also hope to highlight the differences between how things truly were then and what we might assume. In addition, I want to show that human nature is a near-constant, barely changing over thousands of years. Love, hate, villainy, nobility, greed, sacrifice, courage, wisdom, foolishness, seekers of truth and corrupt demagogues have always been with us, and barbarians are always at the gate.

Most of all, I hope to tell a good story.

To help realize these hopes, I’ve chosen to use a lot of scholar-verified words and views from that ancient time. The intent is to make it easier for you as a reader to let go of the Troy you think you know—the Troy with shirtless Brad Pitts and Sean Beans conquering it (just before a ripped Gerard Butler holds off a million or so decadent Persians) or the Troy you fell asleep hearing about for weeks on end in High School. Or both.

So, how does calling Troy ‘Wilios’ fit in with that? Historical accuracy is a factor.

First, Homer called it Wilios. In the Iliad, the bard names the conquered city both ‘Troy’ (Τροη) and ‘Wilios’ (Ϝίλιος). That makes sense. Especially, if you’re a master bard with ten thousand lines of poetry to remember and you have to modify it on the fly each night to please the audience in front of you. Having two or more names for a thing—each with a different number of syllables—makes it much easier to tell a story as a poem, which was Homer’s thing. ”Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week. And don’t forget to tip your waitress. House Master, more wine; my throat is dry!.”

Second, Wilios is what its conquerors and defenders called the city. As I noted above, Homer lived as long after the Trojan War as we live after Drake’s victory over the Spanish Armada, or Shakespeare. Language changes over several centuries—wouldst thou not agree, mayhap, sire? And so it was for Homer. The Greek spoken by Troy’s conquerors used a ‘w’ sound, but Homer’s Greek did not. And Hittite records from the time of the Trojan War name the city and its lands Wilusa.

So, for False Light, ‘Troy’ had to be named Wilios, restoring the dropped ‘w’. And ‘the Greeks’ had to be called what they called themselves, Achaeans (also corroborated by those helpful Hittite scribes).

Make sense? I hope so. Even more, I hope these and my other author’s choices will help carry you away into this fascinating time with your mind wide open. You’re going to meet some intriguing people doing some interesting things.

Categories: Period, Settings Tags: , , ,

The Ancient Middle

February 12, 2012 4 comments

The events in my novel, False Light, take place long ago in Western Greece and the Central Mediterranean. Things were not the same back then.

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Our story begins twenty years after the fall of Troy, so long ago that most of the Mediterranean Sea was still a vast mystery. In that time, the exciting tales Homer spun out for us in the Iliad and the Odyssey were not myth but the stuff of daily life. There was no ‘Middle Sea’, as the Romans would call it more than a thousand years later, only a Great Sea that had no end, stretching on forever into the West.

 

The people of False Light  lived when Aegypta was the world’s invincible super-power and had been since time began. For our characters, the ‘middle’ of things was somewhere toward that impossibly huge river delta, perhaps at an imaginary spot between the islands we call Crete and Cyprus.

Back then, Italy was not Italy, but a barbarous wilderness in the Far West where belief in magic held sway while Gods were few and terrible, a place often populated by vicious cannibals eager to draw dark power from the spirits of their ritually sacrificed enemies. Even the first thought of a place called Rome was four hundred years in the future.

Primeval forests grew and thick topsoil lay where, today, three millennia of wood fires, shipbuilding and sheep have given much of the Mediterranean region its barren, rocky slopes and scrub pines.

Back then, Greeks called themselves Achaeans. Over the previous few hundred years, they’d taken the mainland of southern Greece and learned civilization’s value from a powerful people called the Islanders, who also—inadvertently—taught them the secrets of the sea. So, of course, the Achaeans took the Islanders’ empire as well. Then, they took more. Finally, the allied kingdoms of Achaea invaded and conquered The Island itself, Crete. Today, we call those defeated, ancient islanders Minoans.

The Achaeans were a strong, proud and vital people. They looked down on the old, effete empires that had come before and from whom they’d wrested glory and their own place in the sun. Now, Achaea is a full and rising member in the brotherhood of civilized powers. And Pylos in the western Peloponnese is first in honor among all Achaean kingdoms.

With the capture of Wilios—Homer’s Troy—and its countless treasures, Achaeans rule all of the Great Sea worth having. Nine Achaean kingdoms spread across southern Greece, the Aegean islands and Crete. Three more control much of what we know as the coast of western Turkey. And, the new Achaean Kingdom of Wilios has opened a great door to another vast sea with more riches waiting to be taken.

 

To the north and west of Achaea, twenty or so scattered Achaean Princedoms dot the wild, barbarian coasts and occupy some choice inland sites. One of those sites will become Olympia, where games to honor the Gods go on for a thousand years. By chance—or the will of the Gods—those games will begin right around the time that a tiny settlement on a single hill near a bend in an Italian river names its first king. This insignificant village calls itself Rome.

Greatest of the Achaean Princedoms is Thapsos on the east coast of modern Sicily. Beyond Thapsos is wilderness. There’s nothing there except more barbarians, those pillars that Hercules will tell of in a few hundred years and then the end of the world.

For Achaeans, salt water is both enemy and friend. There are no maps or charts and the open sea will kill even a hundred-oared galley as fast as a starving lion rips the throat from a newborn lamb. Sailors who want to live never stray much beyond sight of land. But, thousands of them follow those rocky coasts and make the dangerous crossings that allow Achaea to be a great empire rather than just a scattering of kingdoms.

In the Far West, is one other place of note, the mysterious, vile Spider Island of Sardu, a land of looming, black stone castles built in strange, circular patterns, where everyone’s hand is raised against his neighbor. For Sards, war and treachery have been the warp and weft of life since the Gods overthrew the Titans. For a century now, Sard Warfathers have supplied tens of thousands of men as mercenaries to civilized kingdoms around the Great Sea. The strongest of the black castle keeps also send vast quantities of copper and bronze on Pylosian ships to feed foundries and workshops in the civilized world. And they grow rich.

Thanks to its fertile land and secure position, Pylos became the first powerful Achaean kingdom. And, it’s still the richest because of those metals flowing in from Sardu. Pylos is first in honor among the Achaeans because its king and heroes led Achaea to finally defeat Wilios after 200 years and four great wars, though Achaea’s King of kings now rules in Mycenae to the east.

The vigorous Achaeans have made themselves great in the world, and their future is bright. Or so they think.

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The map sums up who is where as the story begins in 1,202 BC, twenty
years after the Trojan War and near the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean.

False Light in 295 Words

February 5, 2012 2 comments

In my last post, ‘Who is This Guy?’, I mentioned the novel I’m writing. Here’s a brief description.

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False Light is the story of three brave but mismatched people thrown together against their wills amidst ancient danger. Hektor is a loyal, ambitious mercenary. Korinsia is a smart but frightened princess. Argurios is a skilled and cynical chariot archer. All three are among the best in their land, but that may not be enough. False Light is also a tale of how fragile a great civilization can be.

The time is more than 3,000 years ago, and the place is what we now call Greece. It is two decades since the great Achaean victory over Wilios in the east, and prosperity has soared. Fabled Pylos is first in honor among the empire of Greek kingdoms. This empire and its ships dominate most of the Great Sea, almost to the shores of eternal Aegypta.

A looming threat has begun to show itself, but the proud, confident Achaeans are blind. Arrogance, centuries of rising power, and their own internal struggles cause leaders and people alike not to see the new peril for what it is.

Our three heroes are forced together by circumstance, but they are far from being kindred spirits. Too late in the year, they must set out on a long voyage fraught with unknown risk. The goal is Thapsos, a powerful Achaean enclave many weeks away. Their galleys struggle along wild barbarian coasts amidst  jagged rocks, would-be pirates and ship-killing storms. At every outpost, they uncover more clues about a vast, new power looming in the Far West. It’s single purpose: destroy all Soft Ones. Utterly.

Can the three fight their way back to warn Pylos in time? Will their constant conflicts with each other and barbarian fanatics curse them to failure? Will any of that matter to merciless Fate? 

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As you might surmise, copyrights apply to everything about the book, False Light, and The First Dark Age series.

Who is This Guy?

February 1, 2012 1 comment

Dave loves the ancient Mediterranean world. He’s a well-travelled writer and photographer who has explored Classical and Bronze Age sites throughout the region. From the pre-pyramid Mastabas of Saqqara in Egypt to the storied cities of Magna Graecia to the mysterious Megaliths of Malta, he’s wandered in the footsteps of mysterious, fascinating and mostly unknown Antiquity.

A few years ago, he spent some time amidst the three-millennia-old stones at Mycenae in the Peloponnese, and then at Knossos on Crete. This experience ignited a deep interest. He plunged into the the churning sea of scholarship about the age of Homeric legend, the time when a thousand black ships sailed to war, the high towers of mighty Ilium fell and wise Nestor ruled sandy Pylos.

Out of that study, the outlines of a lost time appeared. It was the more than four centuries that followed, until the bard we call Homer finally wrote down his epics.

For most of that chaotic, danger-filled time, a Dark Age reigned. Perhaps a generation after the Greeks’ conquest of Troy, history’s terrible club, bristling with long, poisoned spines, slammed down on the victors. It smashed their world to bits in just a dozen years. Only a scarred and battered few survived, For those remnants, warm sunshine that nurtured a high, fertile plateau of civilization had just winked out. And, amidst the ruin and death, Fate arose, terrible and merciless, to hurl them into twenty generations of bloody, barbaric night.

Why? How? And, what happened after whole civilizations were snuffed out? Especially, what happened then that later spawned the ideals of Classical Greece, those thoughts that form the core of Western Civilization and have been a shining beacon for humanity ever since? Dave sees amazing stories in the answers to those questions, ones that need to be told.

Thus began his journey as a novelist. And, now, most of his first book, False Light, has tumbled across his keyboard into a rough manuscript. It’s a tale of adventure, passion and sorrow, civilization and barbarism, fools and wisdom, cowards and heroes, true friends and implaccable enemies.

The story is set in a prosperous ancient world that doesn’t yet know it’s on the brink. Little time remains before all is swept away in one last, screaming plunge into the Abyss. For those who care to delve, this epic novel may also hold an insight or two about the fragile stability of modern times as well.

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The Dave of today is a former Marine and Navy man. Degreed as an engineer, he spent more than 10 years in the service, enlisted and officer. Then, he worked far longer as a businessman. He has always lived as an outdoorsman. Dave’s personal philosophy aligns in many ways with that of author Robert Heinlein, where narrow specialization is best left to insects. Also, his outlook resembles Mark Twain’s: moderation in all things, including moderation.

Home for Dave is near a pristine river in the clear, bright High Desert of Central Oregon. Proud of his whole family, Dave shares their deep respect for his Cherokee great-grandmother.

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As you might surmise, copyrights apply to everything about the book, False Light, and The First Dark Age series of which it is a part.

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