Project „Trojan Catalogue (Hom. Il. 2.816-877) and the Peoples of Western Anatolia in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. A Study of the Homeric Text in the Light of Hittite Sources and Classical Geographical Tradition”


Agreement No. UMO-2015/19/P/HS3/04161 on the implementation and financing of a research project financed within the „POLONEZ 1” funding scheme between Narodowe Centrum Nauki (National Science Centre) and Rostislav Oreshko

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 665778

Research field: HS – Social Sciences and Humanities (SH)
Discipline: HS3 – The study of the human past
1st September 2016 – 31 August 2018

  • Principal Investigator: Rostislav Oreshko
  • Research Partner: prof. Piotr Taracha

Project details:


The project is inspired, in the long run, by the same questions which the Greeks begin to wonder about already in the 5th century BC: is the Trojan War, the central event of their own heroic past which gave rise to the Iliad and distantly looms practically in all other Greek epic poems, a really historical fact and, if yes, when precisely did it take place? Unlike numerous previous attempts which approached the question from a Greek perspective, be it purely textual inquiry or a combination of philology and archaeology, the project takes an essentially different stance and deals with this question from an Anatolian point of view. The aim was to test the Homeric picture of Anatolia, succinctly recapitalized in the catalogue of the Trojan Allies preserved in the second book of the Iliad, against the evidence about western Anatolia scattered in the Hittite cuneiform sources dated to the 2nd millennium BC, on the one hand, and against the historical information on the peoples of this region provided by later Greek authors, as Herodotus or Strabo, on the other. A systematic and comprehensive comparison of the picture reflected in the Trojan Catalogue with that offered by the Hittite sources – created as a whole for the first time on the basis of a full collection of the relevant evidence – conclusively demonstrated that the ‘Homeric Anatolia’ is fundamentally different from the ‘Hittite Anatolia’. This means that both the Trojan Catalogue and the Iliad itself cannot go back to the historical realities of the Late Bronze Age and are products of a later period which followed the disintegration of the Hittite Empire ca. 1180 BC, even if some scattered reminiscences of the earlier times may still be present in the poem. Which historical period, if any at all, can then the Trojan Catalogue and the Iliad be attributed to? The key part in answering this question is played by the Phrygians, about whom, unlike many other Trojan allies, we do have some reliable historical evidence, which unequivocally suggests that the people migrated to Anatolia from the Balkan region shortly after 1180 BC. The localization of the Homeric Phrygians close to Hellespont, considered against the background of literary evidence of the Greek authors, the Phrygian archaeology and the historical geography of the region – the first-hand knowledge of which was collected during two extensive journeys in north-western Turkey – implies that for Homer the Phrygians were relatively recent newcomers in Anatolia, which allows the date of the Homeric picture of Anatolia to be specified to ca. 1150-1050 BC. Now, with more confidence than hitherto, one can call Homer the ‘Poet of the Dark Age’ and consider the Iliad as a historical source – even if to an extent poetically transformed – for the still very enigmatic period of Greek and Anatolian history between ca. 1150 and 900 BC. It is noteworthy that the date provided by the Anatolian approach proves to be way more precise than it was hitherto achieved by considering Homer solely form the Greek perspective, which once again proves the fruitfulness of an interdisciplinary approach. Another domain on which the project shed new light is the ethnic (and ethnolinguistic) history of Anatolia: multiple indications have been found that the Phrygian migration represents only one aspect of a much longer and wide-reaching process of migration of the Balkan population to Anatolia, which profoundly changes the current perspective on the Anatolian culture, religion and linguistic history. Seen in the wider historical prospective of the extraordinary cultural thrive seen in western Anatolia in the 8th-6th centuries BC, the ethnic history of western Anatolia, which now proves to mix three major components (Anatolian, Balkan and Greek), serves as a vivid reminder that migration and cultural amalgamation were always integral parts of human history producing entirely positive effects on the development of society, arts and technologies.


  1. Key achievements of the project (in bullet points)
  • Clarification of the question of the relationship between the picture of Anatolia reflected in the Iliad and that of the Late Bronze Age (‘Hittite’) Anatolia (ca. 1500-1200 BC): there is no positive correlation between them and, consequently, Homeric picture should reflect a later period in the history of Anatolia
  • Significant narrowing down of the time span when the Trojan catalogue was most likely created to ca. 1150-1050 BC, which has important consequences for the date of the creation of the core of the Iliad and the question of preservation and transmission of historical memories within an oral tradition
  • Clarification of the overall picture of the geography of western Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age as reflected in the Hittite texts Age, as well as several its specific points
  • Establishment of significance of the Balkan ethnolinguistic and cultural factor in the history of western Anatolia, whose emergence in the region may be dated as early as Late Bronze Age, which introduces serious corrections into the ethnolinguistic map of the region
  1. A brief description of the results obtained

The main aim of the project was to clarify the question of whether the Homeric picture of Anatolia found in the Iliad and succinctly rendered in the Trojan Catalogue (Il. 2.816-877) relates to the historical reality and, if yes, what chronological period precisely this picture – as a whole or at least in its core – may reflect. The first and relatively straightforward stage on the way towards this goal was to conduct a comprehensive and systematic comparison of the Homeric picture with the evidence on western Anatolia found in the Hittite texts dated to ca. 1400-1200 BC. The collection of the relevant Hittite evidence, started earlier, has been completed during the project, allowing a reconstruction of general political-geographical situation in the region to be made. The situation did not stay stable over time and two principal chronologically distinct phases can be defined: the first (ca. 1400-1350 BC), predating the conquest of the region by Suppiluliuma I and Mursili II completed by ca. 1317 BC, is characterized by the domination of Arzawa in the region, and the second (1317-1200) follows the conquest, reflecting the situation when the political formations of the region has been reduced to the status of vassal states of the Hittite Empire. Even if the Homeric map of the Trojan Allies is largely based on the ethnic principle – i.e. reflects rather territories dominated by certain tribes/peoples – and is thus only comparable with the Bronze Age maps (based on the political-geographical principles) with some reservations, the lack of systemic correspondences of any kind between the Homeric and the Hittite Anatolia leads to a conclusion that the Homeric picture does not go back to the realities of the Hittite Anatolia. Just as Homer has no knowledge of the Hittite Empire whatsoever (as was established long ago) – or gives any other hint of the existence of a major eastern power in Anatolia which might be identified with the Hittites – so is he unaware of any of the states which played key roles in the region in the Bronze Age: Arzawa, Mira or the Seha River Land. The only correspondence between the Hittite and the Homeric maps of western Anatolia, Wilusa-Ilios (Troy), proves to be, on a closer glance, of a rather unspecific nature. Only geographical positions of Wilusa and Ilios correspond, but the respective roles played by the Late Bronze age polity and Homeric city in the political networks of the region are completely different: the latter is the center of gravity and the leading force of a large coalition of peoples and lands straddling the Hellespont, while the former is a relatively insignificant vassal state of the Hittite Empire, which might have had – by virtue of its geographical position – some dealings with Greeks (called Ahhiyawa in the Hittite documents) already in the Bronze Age, but was obviously not in a position of to lead any coalition. Equally ambiguous for the question of chronology is the other point adduced earlier to demonstrate the alleged Bronze Age roots of the Iliad: the correspondence of the name of a king of Wilusa Alaksandu to that of Paris-Alexandros. In fact, nothing suggests that the two are exactly the same historical personages, and the correspondence can be explained by the assumption that Alexandros was a dynastic name of the kings of Wilusa-Ilios – which finds an exact parallel in the later dynasty of Macedonian kings – and Alaksandu is an ancestor of the Homeric prince Alexandros. Besides this important general result, two important discoveries resulting form the work on the Hittite documents can be mentioned. The first concerns the so-called ‘Tawagalawa Letter’, which is one of the most significant texts from the corpus of Ahhiyawa texts: re-reading of a line of this text crucial for the identity of Tawagalawa (which likely renders Greek names Eteokles), combined with observations on its content, allowed the traditional identification of the addressee of the letter as a Mycenaean king to be questioned. The addressee can be identified rather as a local king of western Anatolia; this has important consequences for the question of extent and nature of the Hittite-Mycenaean relationships. The second discovery concerned the identification of the core of the land Mira: before its expansion in western Anatolia under Mursili II, the land represented relatively insignificant state on the border between western and central Anatolia (situated to the north of modern Afyonkarahisar).

The next question was whether the picture reflected in the Trojan Catalogue corresponds to any historical reality at all and, if yes, if it is possible to specify its date within the broad time span commonly suggested for creation and/or written fixation of the Iliad, 1200-700 BC. Despite virtual absence of historical record concerning western Anatolia in this period (and general dearth of Greek evidence), it proved to be possible and the key role in it played the Homeric localization of the Phrygians at the Lake Askania (Bithynia). Literary references, linguistic and, to an extent, archaeological evidence suggest that the Phrygians migrated to Anatolia from the Balkans at some point after the collapse of the Hittite Empire ca. 1180 BC; on the other hand, excavations at the Phrygian capital Gordion in central Anatolia shows that the Phrygians should have settled there by ca. 900 BC at the latest. Homeric localization of the Phrygians proves to be crucial in two respects. As it well agrees with how one would trace the way of Phrygians from the Balkans, it proves that the Homeric picture is rooted in historical reality (and is not just a poetic phantasy), which is further confirmed by reasonably precise localization of other ethnic groups (when it is possible to check against other evidence). Second, it implies that the Homeric Phrygians are relatively recent migrants from the Balkan region, which means that the picture reflects realities shortly after 1180 BC. A general dating of the Trojan Catalogue to ca. 1150-1050 BC (which roughly corresponds in archaeological terms to Late Mycenaean IIIC period in Greece) agrees well as with presence of some vague Mycenaean allusions in the Iliad, as well with many indications of the Catalogue of Ships, the Greek counterpart of the Trojan Catalogue. It is noteworthy that the Trojan Catalogue proves to be a much more specific and valuable chronological indicator than the Catalogue of Ships, leading thus to a more secure date for the creation of the epic cycle about the events of the Trojan War. It is noteworthy that an important role in the elaboration of the Phrygian argument played two trips which I made to Turkey, aimed at gaining first-hand knowledge of historical geography of the region (May-June 2017 and April 2018). The second trip concerned specifically Mysia (including the region of the Askania Lake) and eastern Phrygia and significantly clarified the question of natural borders in the region and the potential routs of an eastward migration from the Hellespont.

The work on the structure of the Trojan Catalogue from the point of view of ethnolinguistic composition of western Anatolia further lead to several important results. The striking feature of the Catalogue excluding its last two positions – which might likely be somewhat later additions – is that it includes, besides the Trojans themselves, only the peoples living in the Balkans (several groups of the Thracians and Paeonians) and those occupying a narrow swath of northern (Enetians) and north-western Anatolia (Mysians, Phrygians and Maeonians), the region which, after 1180 BC, was likely occupied by non-Anatolian peoples migrating from the Balkans. It is then possible to identify an ethnocultural principle in the organization of the Catalogue: it is very likely that originally it included a group of culturally and, at least to a degree, linguistically connected peoples, which, like Phrygians, had ties with the Balkans. This means that the Trojans themselves were quite probably in cultural and ethnolinguistic sense a Balkan people (or at least included a significant Balkan component) and were consequently in a cultural sense more or less close relatives of the Greeks. This inference is corroborated as by many indications of the Iliad, as, for instance, many Greek-looking (but not quite Greek) names of the Trojans. Moreover, some indications have been found that this situation was characteristic of the Troad and the whole north-western Anatolia already in the Late Bronze Age. In particular, this well explains the ‘Greek’ name of the ruler of Wilusa in the 13th century BC (Alaksandu) and the unique names of other Wilusan rulers having no parallels elsewhere in Anatolia (Walmu and Kukunni). These observations suggested that a slow penetration of the peoples form the Balkans into Anatolia began earlier and that the ‘Balkan factor’ might have played a much more profound role in the cultural processes in early Anatolia than it is usually assumed. This discovery has important implications not only for cultural history of the region, but also for the question of linguistic composition of the region: if one assumes an early migration to Anatolia from the Balkan region, there are reasons to assume the presence of Balkan language(s) in the region or, at least, Balkan linguistic elements in Anatolian languages spoken there. This assumption presents a new explanatory model for Lydian, the most deviant language of the Anatolian group attested in central western Anatolia.

  1. Which objectives included in the proposal were attained and which not? Why? Have any additional objectives been attained? If so, please specify.

All objectives formulated in the proposal were attained. Moreover, the study resulted in a clearer picture than anticipated, producing preciser answers on a number of historical questions and more specific dates than it is common in the Homeric studies. In addition, the project produced evidence highlighting the role of the Balkan cultural and linguistic element in Anatolia (hitherto barely recognized at all), which rather profoundly influences the current perspective on the ethnolinguistic and cultural history of the region. In particular, the results are relevant for such diverse questions as the phenomenon of the ‘Sea Peoples’ (sea-born raids directed at Egypt in the 13th-12th centuries BC); the question of the Armenian ethnogenesis and the linguistic history of Armenian; the ethnolinguistic composition of the northern parts of Anatolia (at present practically a terra incognita in this sense); the dialectal position of Lydian within Anatolian and Indo-European etc.

  1. Impact of the fellowship on the future career of the fellow and development of the scientific discipline

The impact of the fellowship was defining in several respects. First and foremost, the work on the questions associated with ethnic history of Anatolia allowed me to define a long-term carrier goal as working on a hitherto largely unexplored complex of questions connected with ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics. This is relevant not only for Anatolia, which was and remains my primary domain, but also for the Aegean, the Balkan and the whole Mediterranean, which significantly widens the sphere of potential collaborations and job applications. The optimal opportunities for elaborating these questions is a department of comparative Indo-European linguistics, traditionally associated with cross-linguistic and cross-cultural comparisons. Second, the fellowship enabled me to take part in 12 conferences (in 10 as a speaker), which significantly expanded my network and created multiple of opportunities for collaboration. Third, four substantial articles (25 to 50 pages long) prepared during the fellowship period – a part of which touches upon ethnolinguistic and/or sociolinguistic aspects – pave the way to a firmer establishment in the field. In accordance with the main results described above, the project has an impact on the Homeric studies (and, consequently, on Classics in general) and cultural and ethnolinguistic history of Anatolia; in the latter domain, the project virtually establishes a new sub-field associated with the Balkan peoples of Anatolia.

  1. Benefits for the host institution from the cooperation with the fellow (please describe the benefits from the fellow’s perspective)

The ongoing work on my project and its results were regularly presented and discussed during the meetings (seminars) with the members of the department of the Ancient Near East, which contributed to the differentiation and widening of the department’s scientific perspective; especially this concerned the usage of Classical sources for reconstructing the history of the Ancient Near East, as well as usage of the linguistic approaches. The two corses I taught at the department (‘Introduction into Indo-European Studies and History of Anatolian Languages’ and ‘Introduction into Indo-European Studies: the History of Greek and the Italic Languages’), which were never taught at the University of Warsaw, made a contribution into the teaching profile of the department. Besides that, I participated in a seminar at the Institute of History of the University of Warsaw, giving lectures on Homer and Anatolia. The publications prepared during my stay at the department were (or will be) registered in the system of Polska Bibliografia Naukowa (PBN), which (will) influence(s) the scientific ranking of the department/faculty.

  1. Further professional career plans, including the academic career plans of the fellow (please include information on whether the fellow intends to apply for new NCN/ERC/other grants)

Following a study visit and an invited lecture at the Leiden Center for Linguistics (LUCL) in September 2017, I applied for and obtained a short-term (5 months) grant within the Leiden University program ‘Language Diversity in the World’ with a topic directly building upon the results of my POLONEZ project (‘Balkan Peoples of Anatolia: an Ethnolinguistic History (ca. 1400 BC-300 AD)’). Following the terms of the present grant, which presuppose applying for further external funding, I wrote an application for a MSCS project localized at the LUCL. I intend to apply for a ERC or a Vidi grant (a scheme of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) after bolstering my publication record with a book (work in progress) and several articles on the relevant subjects.

  1. Further development of the cooperation between the host institution and the fellow

I will stay in touch with the Department of the Ancient Near East and especially with my Research Partner Prof. Taracha on the topics touching upon the questions of Greek-Anatolian interaction and historical geography of Anatolia.


Prof. Piotr Taracha:


Dr Rostislav Oreshko:

  • Ahhiyawa and Danu(na): Greek ethnic groups in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Light of Old and New Hieroglyphic-Luwian Evidence [green OA]