D
ELPHOI AND HOMER

THE evidence connecting the oracle of Delphoi with the oracle of Ammon at Thebes and at Napata is so clear and unequivocal, that the only question that could be debated is why classical scholars did not consider it.  But this second question can be forgotten and left to future historians of classical studies.  I will leave to them to decide whether it is the horror of contemporary classicists for all that is factual and exact or their prejudice against any linking of the Greek world with the Oriental world.

   The similarities between Ammon and Apollo have been noted by the Egyptologist Wainwright in his study of the meaning of the cult of Ammon in Egypt.  Wainwright notes that although the god Ammon in the Oasis of Siwah was at times identified with Apollo, the identification with Zeus prevailed.  He remarks that even though the Greeks identified Ammon of Thebes with Zeus, as a divinity of the sky, Apollo would have been a better identification.  My explanation of this phenomenon is that Apollo is nothing but Ammon himself as exported from Egypt to Delphoi, so that when the Greeks had first to find a Greek counterpart to Apollo they could not but turn to Zeus.

   The very idea of a national oracle is strange in a country as divided as Greece and it is an import from Egypt.  In classical times there were two national oracles in Greece: that of Apollo at Delphoi, connected with Sparta and oligarchic politics, and that of Zeus at Dodona, connected with Athens and democratic politics.  Greek authors clearly derive these oracles from the oracle of Ammon, but they always include the oracle of the Oasis of Siwah in the process of derivation, indicating that the channel of derivation was a trade route going from Thebes in Upper Egypt to the Oasis of Siwah, to the Greek colony of Kyrene on the coast and from there to Greece.  There were two possible sea routes from Greece to Egypt: one from the island of Rhodes across the Mediterranean to Naucratis, and the other, the safer one, from Greece to the island of Crete and from there to Cyrenaica. 

   In my study of the Odyssey I shall show that the Homeric poems reflect with specific details the politics of those Greeks who were opposed to the policy of King Gyges of Lydia and his ally King Psammetichos I of Egypt.  For this reason Homer presents Apollo as a foreign god hostile to the Greeks.  The oracle of Delphoi is barely mentioned in the Homeric poems, whereas the oracle of Dodona plays an important role.  Dodona is in Epiros and is reached through a trade route that goes from Korinthos (Odysseos is Korinthian) to the islands of Leukas (the Ithaka of Homer) and Corfu (the island of the Phaiakians), settled by a member of the Bakchiad clan of Korinthos.  Emile Mireaux, who in brief sketch has already stated most of what I will demonstrate about the Homeric poems, notes the importance of the control of trade routes in Homeric politics.  He has roughly preceived that this issue is connected with the trade of metals; I will show that the political struggles had an economic basis which was the introduction of wrought iron.  The Homeric poems represent the views of those who had used iron only as cast iron which cannot be used for the manufacture of weapons; the new technology was a threat to those whose fortunes were connected with copper and bronze.  Sparta tried to remain faithful as far as it was possible to cast iron and condemned herself to economic decline.  The new metallurgy and the new economy expressed itself in the dedication of iron obols at the Heraion and at Delphoi.  Wrought iron meant a social revolution, because it allowed the adoption of Assyrian phalanx tactics by the use of hoplite armor.  The Greeks always connected hoplite armor with oligarchy.  Both Gyges and Psammetichos came to power with the help of Assyria, but, having discovered the power of Greek and Karian mercenaries, provided with hoplite armor, operated jointly in revolting against Assyria.  The Homeric poems are the swansong of the feudal aristocrats armed with bronze weapons.