Tag Archive: commander

UPDATE on the military Minoan Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada) = attendants to the king/foot soldiers: 


This tablet, HT 94 (Haghia Triada) contains the key military Minoan Linear A term, kapa, which is almost certainly the approximate equivalent to Mycenaean Linear B eqeta = “follower”.


The term eqeta in Mycenaean Greek has a special connotation. It denotes an attendant to the king, wanaka, who is usually also the rawaketa = “leader of the hosts” i.e.  “Commander-in-Chief”, which in the case of the Mycenaean expedition against Troy (ca. 1300-1250 BCE) would have been Agamemnon.


It is notable that the ideogram, apparently for “man”, on the medallion is so large that it practically fills the entire surface. Note also the supersyllabogram KA which is surcharged top right. This medallion is not the Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada), but its resemblance to the text of the latter is so striking it simply cannot be ignored. In addition, this ideogram is more elaborate than the standard one for “man” in Minoan Linear A, and bears an amazing resemblance to the fresco image of the eqeta above. For these two reasons alone, I have come to the firm conclusion that indeed kapa in Minoan Linear A is the close equivalent to eqeta in Mycenaean Linear B, with a scalar precision of 75 % or >.      

According to the renowned twentieth century Linear B expert and researcher, L.R. Palmer, the eqeta also appears to have had a religious function.

It is highly unlikely there was such a person as a “follower” in pre-Mycenaean, Minoan society at Knossos. So we must take a stab at an approximation to the term eqeta in Minoan Linear A, i.e. kapa, which would probably have referred to attendants to the King, much in the same way as the Praetorian Guards who protected the sacrosanct person of the Emperor in post AD ancient Rome. 


Minoan Linear A ideogram for “man” “soldier” + supersyllabogram KA = kapa = Mycenaean Linear B = eqeta:

Ideogram Eqeta Linear B kapa Linear A

The illustration above highlights the Minoan Linear A ideogram for “man” “soldier” + supersyllabogram KA = kapa = Mycenaean Linear B = eqeta, which in turn is the Mycenaean military functionary called in English “soldier” (approximately).  Actually, the eqeta were the personal attendants of the rawaketa or Leader of the Host (Homeric), otherwise known as the Commander-in-Chief. Yet this title was often synonymous with wanaka, the king, who in the case of the Trojan War was none other than Agamemnon. Since the high Minoan civilization (Late Middle Minoan MMIIIb, ca 1600 BCE)

Minoan Mycenaean tiimelines

preceded the Mycenaean at Knossos (Late Minoan III, ca 1450 BCE) by about 150 years, it is of course impossible to directly cross-correlate the Minoan word kapa with the Mycenaean eqeta, which came much later, typically at Mycenae itself and at Pylos (ca 1400-1200 BCE). So kapa may not strictly mean “follower”, but simply “soldier” or “foot soldier”. Yet it must be said in all fairness that the Minoan soldier was highly likely to be a subaltern, in other words, follower of his ultimate supernumerary, the King of Knossos.   

I am relatively confident of my decipherment, given that Haghia Triada tablet HT 94 mentions 62 kapa, a number commensurate with a company of followers or (foot) soldiers, attendants to the King. 

This is the fifty-seventh (57) Minoan Linear A word I have deciphered, more or less accurately (in this case more).

The lengthy and highly informative Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 from Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon:

Pylos tablet PY TA Er 312 Linear B

Pylos tablet PY TA Er 312 Linear B Latinized and translation
Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 which Chris Tselentis deciphered in his superb Linear B Lexicon is presented above. This tablet runs the gamut from wheat and wheat seeds, to the measurement of olive oil to a number of references to the gods and sacred cults. Since Linear B tablets from Pylos tend to be significantly larger than those from Knossos, they are often a richer source of information applicable to the decipherment, not only of Linear B tablets, but of Minoan Linear A tablets as well.  You can be sure that I shall rely a good deal lon this tablet in my efforts towards the further decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Since Chris Tselentis has done all the work for us, I have simply translated it into English, without troubling myself with appending the text in Archaic Greek.  

Comprehensive Architectural Lexicon, Knossos & Mycenae (Part B):

Architectural Lexicon Knossos and Mycenae Part B

Part B of our architectural lexicon in Linear B presents only a few little problems. First of all, pokironuka = decorated with different studs, would appear to refer to studs which are jutting ornamentations on buildings, but I cannot be sure of this. Ponikiyo is almost always translated as palm tree, but I suspect it also means Phoenician, i.e. an architectural style. For the three * asterisked notes, see the lexicon above. Just one more point on samara. Samara is an actual ancient city. One Linear B lexicon defines it as points, but I have not the faintest idea what that is supposed to mean. The alternative meaning is monuments, which is completely acceptable. But I have added the additional signification, burial mounds, because these appear in some numbers at Mycenae alone.

Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO

Linear B tablet k 04-39 N u 10 from Knossos wheel ZE MO

While the translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward, there are a few points worthwhile mentioning. The first is that the supersyllabogram MO, appearing  for the first time on this tablet, is the first syllable of the Linear B word – mono - , meaning – one, single (i.e. spare). Secondly, since the tablet is right-truncated, we do not know how many spare wheels (MO) the scribe has inventoried, but my bet is that there is a spare wheel for each set of wheels on axle. Given that there are 3 sets of wheels on axle, that would mean that there would be 3 spare wheels. Lastly, and significantly, there is absolutely no mention of a chariot on this tablet (nor is there on well over a dozen other tablets), leading me to the all but inescapable conclusion that a considerable number of chariots were fully assembled without their wheels, the wheels being separately manufactured. But why? 

There are three discreet sets of tablets discussing the construction of chariots and their wheels (on axle):

(a) The first set of tablets inventory fully assembled chariots with their wheels on axle and their spare wheel (if present);
(b) The second is comprised of tablets for fully assembled chariots without their wheels on axle and;
(c) The third details the construction of wheels on axle, usually along with spare wheels, with no mention of chariots. Now this third set of tablets raises the inescapable question: why do so many tablets refer to the construction of wheels (both wheels on axle and spares), with no mention whatsoever of the chariots for which they are destined?

The most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that the privileged functionary who has ordered his chariot does not want it delivered with its wheels already on axle [set (b) above], because he wishes to have the wheels separately manufactured according to his own specifications. We can be reasonably certain that VOPs such as the wanax (King) or the rawaketa (Commander-in-Chief) were the only supernumeraries who could possibly afford to have chariot wheels manufactured to their exacting specifications. Here you see a composite of four different styles of Mycenaean chariot wheels:

composite of 4 Mycenaean chariots

Such highly placed aristocrats would probably have been terribly fussy about the style and decoration of the wheels they wanted mounted. So the wheels on axle would have been manufactured separately from the chariots, which neatly explains why numerous tablets speak of wheel construction alone, while others refer to chariots without their wheels attached destined for the same elite customers. In fact, these two types of tablets appear to run in tandem with each other, there being one tablet referring to the chariot fully assembled without wheels on axle and a corresponding one detailing the manufacture of the wheels on axle (and most of the time of the spare wheel), but with no mention of the chariot itself. The difficulty is which Knossos tablet dealing with a particular fully assembled chariot without wheels is to be paired with which corresponding tablet describing the manufacture of wheels on axle (and most often a spare wheel to boot)? That is a question we shall never know the answer to, but the plausibility of this method of dual (or paired) construction of chariots without wheels in tandem with the separate manufacture of wheels makes sense.

Ripley’s Believe it or not! The telling contribution of the Minoans & of the great metropolis of Knossos to the Trojan War according to Homer. Iliad II, “The Catalogue of Ships” - lines 615-652: Click to ENLARGE

Iliad 2 615-652
With reference to the great Minoan civilization, to Knossos, a metropolis of some 55,000 citizens (the size of Classical Athens), Phaestos & some 100 (!) Minoan cities in prominence in these few lines of the Iliad (according to Homer), this is far and away the most significant passage in the entire “The Catalogue of Ships” as far as we as researchers into Mycenaean Greek and its civilization, should truly be concerned with. Click to ENLARGE:

Role of Knossos in the Trojan War according to Homer
There are several points of note we feel we must raise here:

(a) It is hugely surprising that Homer should take so much trouble to refer to so many Minoan cities and settlements under the Mycenaean aegis, at least as far as the Trojan War is concerned. This is because Knossos at the acme of its power was supposed to have fallen no later than 1400 BCE, but the Trojan War took place at least 200 years later! (ca. 1200 BCE). So what is going on with Homer? Is he off his rocker? I sincerely doubt that, when it comes to perhaps the greatest Epic poet of all time. Either Homer is truly confused with his “historical facts” or Knossos did not fall around 1400 BCE, but hung on as a major Minoan/Mycenaean centre of economic and maritime naval power for at least another 200 years, or... or what? What on earth can we make of this bizarre scenario? – bizarre to us, that is. I find it positively intriguing that Homer should be so insistent on mentioning by name several Minoan cities and outposts, and that he should then go on to inform us that there were at least 100 of them overall. This is simply astonishing!

(b) The memory of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete appears not to have faded one jot by Homer’s era, another point of contention in our modern historical understanding of the time lines for the height of the magnificent Minoan maritime empire and for the Mycenaean Empire. Homer’s emphatic references to the major contribution of the Minoan Cretans to the expedition against Troy flies straight in the face of all modern archaeological evidence to the contrary. So who has got their “historical facts” right or wrong, Homer or we ourselves today? Or perhaps no-one has got it “right”, neither Homer nor we ourselves. This is just one exasperating instance of the innumerable glaring discrepancies between Homer’s interpretation of the so-called “historical facts” and our own, where the toponyms, the disposition of the geographical and cartographic features of the expedition and a great many other finicky details of the Trojan War are concerned, and refuse to go away.

(c) The question is – as it always has been – can we reconcile these perplexing paradoxes? The answer is bluntly, NO. I for one suspect that Homer (or whoever “wrote” the Iliad, whether or not this was one author or multiple authors) must have known a good deal more about the recent Trojan War, from his perspective a mere 400 years or so after it, than we credit him for. It would be risky at best, and pure folly at worst to dismiss his observations out of hand. The primary reason for my asserting this is simply that he gives us so much detail, not only about the Minoan participants in the Trojan War, but about the participation of all of the other Argives or Achaeans in it.

Just because he mentions so many place names that no longer exist does not mean they never existed. And even if he has got his geography all wrong, can we blame him for that? I hardly think so. After all, were there any competent cartographers anywhere in the ancient world at the time Homer lived, whenever that was – somewhere between 800 & 700 BCE? When I say, were there any good map makers at the time, I mean precisely that. How do we know? How can we know, in the patent absence of evidence to the contrary? I am quite serious when I say this, since only about 10 % of all ancient Greek literature alone – never mind that of other great ancient civilizations – survives to this day. That is a pitiable resource-base of primary documentation we have to reply on. When I speak of primary documentation, I mean in any form whatsoever, whether or not this be engravings on signets, tablets such as those in Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, monuments or burial stones and the like, on buildings or edifices, on shards or pottery, in actual writings by the ancient Greek authors, etc. etc. Frankly, we really do not have much to go on.

(d) Archaeological data, while accurate where it has been decisively confirmed, is never the same as written records, and cannot be relied upon to convey the same core of what we nowadays call “information”, however reliable that information may or may not be. This includes historical information, and, if anything, primary historical information is itself subject to all sorts of contradictions, anomalies and paradoxes which cannot ultimately be resolved, no matter how much of it we have at our disposal. Quantity can never replace reliability or the presumed lack of it of primary sources.

Yet Homer is, let’s face it, a primary, if not the primary, literary source for the Mycenaean War against the Trojans. What then? I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. Yet I for one dare not draw any, for fear of trapping myself in a quandary of conflicting “evidence” between confirmed reliable archaeological findings and the much more unstable and inconsistent historical written records we are nevertheless fortunate enough to still have on hand. Still, the astonishing detail Homer provides us in this single brief passage alone from “The Catalogue of Ships” in Book II of the Iliad begs the question. How did he come to be consciously aware of all these historical details, however “right” or “wrong” the majority of researchers take them to be. Perhaps it might be better for us all if we just dropped the notion of “right” or “wrong” where the ancient authors in general are concerned, and above all else, in the case of Homer, who really does seem to know what he is talking about. In other words, I believe that we should take what he has to say with much more than a grain of salt. Rather, we should be taking much of what he says quite seriously. But in what regards and in what applications to modern interpretations of the Trojan War and the deep, dark recesses of Mycenaean history I cannot, I dare not say. For all of this, somehow, somehow deep down inside, I instinctively, intuitively suspect he knew a lot more than we possibly can ourselves, if for the sole reason that he lived only a mere 4 centuries from the actual events in the Mycenaean War, while we live at the historical remote in the time line of events exceeding 3,200 years!
(e) Finally, and especially in light of that huge gap between ourselves and the Mycenaean era, we are in no position to understand with anywhere near the insight Homer must have had what the Mycenaean Trojan War was all about anyway. After all, Homer was Greek in the so-called “dark ages” of archaic Greece (another misnomer, if ever there was one); so he, being Greek, and living at that time, must have been immersed, not only in the mythology of the Trojan War – if indeed it ever was mythology to him, which I sincerely doubt – but in the historical facts as probably most of the Greeks of his era then understood them. Sadly, we shall never know how much they still knew about the Mycenaean War against the Trojans, nor how accurate their knowledge of it was. But the fact remains, they did indeed know about it, and if the Iliad is any indicator of their knowledge of it, they were consciously aware of a hell of a lot more about that great event in human history than we can ever hope to understand today. How the ancient Greeks understood and related to the world they lived in is beyond our ken. But we still must endeavour to understand their world on their own terms, in so far as this is humanly possible. This is a basic tenet of modern historical research. Do not judge ancient civilizations – or for that matter, much more recent ones – on our terms, but try to understand them on theirs. A huge bill to fill? You bet. But we must do the best we can; otherwise, we learn nothing of any real value even to ourselves in our modern society, with all its technological and scientific marvels. Science and technology cannot unearth the past, any more than we can in good conscience dig up the graves of the dead without desecrating them. 

Am I giving up the search for understanding the far-flung past? Far from it. I am merely saying that we have to watch ourselves at every turn, no matter how sophisticated the scientific and technological tools, marvels as they are, at our command. To summarize, it takes real human empathy to actually try to relate to civilizations long-since dead and gone. I myself always try to imagine what a life I would have been living, were I Minoan or Mycenaean. To my mind, that sounds like a good place to start.... indeed the right place.


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