For a Fistful of Amphorae (or; These oath gods will destroy you)



There is a supreme tension caused by wondrous discoveries about the past; they provide enough insight to provoke curiosity and some understanding, but they hint at a vast and more complete whole to which they belonged. Even when that pool of knowledge grows we tend to find only how much left there is to understand. This is at its most frustrating for societies and cultures who are only partially out of our sight. We long to reach out and touch them.

The Bronze Age is full of such cultures. We are relatively blessed in some quarters. The Akkadian speaking cultures of Mesopotamia left us many of their documents intact, even at this early stage. They also engaged in diplomacy with many of their contemporaries, such as Egypt, Elam, and the cultures of the Levant. Between the legacy of Mesopotamia and their neighbours’ own archaeological remnants, we are privy to many events in their histories. This trove was added to by the discovery of the Hittites and the deciphering of their own records. But even in this group of relatively well known cultures there are ambiguities, puzzles, and outright blanks in our knowledge.

By contrast to these beacons, much of the Mediterranean in this era is barely understood. Cyprus and the two cultural groups we refer to as Mycenaeans and Minoans were clearly vibrant, active societies. Only the writings of the Mycenaeans have been deciphered, and within living memory. The script used on Cyprus, and the two used by Minoan cultures, remain locked. The faintest of references to these peoples have had to be excruciatingly drawn out from cultures with a larger textual corpus, and many of those references remain disputed. Archaeology has matured greatly since the discovery of many ancient societies, and this has helped consolidate our limited pool of knowledge. But a limited pool of knowledge it remains. We are still, ultimately, operating on our best guess and not near certainties.

This is perhaps highlighted best of all with the Bronze Age collapse. It refers to an interregnum of sorts, in which many previously organised societies were scattered, changed or destroyed entirely. At its most basic level, these are our certainties via one particular example; the Hittite Empire was a longstanding state, which varied in size and power over a period of several centuries. But sometime around 1200 BC, it collapsed never to return. By the time that we have access to written accounts in the area again, there’s a new crop of completely different cultures now living across Anatolia. Our direct evidence for this seemingly violent period is from a couple of Egyptian texts, and archaeological remnants that we have so far discovered. In addition, a few vague echoes from later periods have often been used as supplements to our small certainties. Even in those areas not razed in this period there were great changes- new dynasties arose, different languages became prominent, the balance of power was radically altered.

This is a confusing area to navigate. But I think that there is great scope to imagine many different reflections of what became the Early Iron Age and beyond; this was a period of evolution and change with enormous weight and consequence. Before introducing the notions that I am exploring, I’d like to talk a little about what informs my view of this period.

Traditional narratives of this period are full of single-issue explanations, and often feature mass migration rather heavily. This has not been helped by later narratives from particular cultures in the same regions, who believed this to be the case. But the resistance to these narratives within archaeology has grown into a complete paradigm change, particularly with genetic studies indicating many attested migrations involved far fewer people than previously thought. Alternative explanations are now sought, along with an understanding that collapse rarely occurs for just one reason. 5th century Athens was hit by a plague in the midst of the Peloponnesian war. This neither caused the collapse of Athenian society nor their immediate defeat in the war. Likewise, widespread corruption in early 17th century English civil institutions did not cause the collapse of the English state. To that end, this exploration is actively assuming that the Bronze Age collapse was a result of multiple factors and not one particular event.

Archaeological evidence has also altered many previous perceptions regarding the evolution of particular cultures. The Bronze Age Collapse is often talked about as though Mycenaean and Minoan culture instantly disappeared, and as if there were no complex societies left standing. But we now have direct evidence of several phenomena which contradict that notion. We now know that several cities that had previously housed major Mycenaean palaces continued to be inhabited, although the palaces were not rebuilt. More importantly, we know of several cities that were never abandoned, and didn’t collapse. Some of those were continuously occupied until the Archaic and Classical Greek eras, with no sign of a break in the material record. Many sites continued to produce clearly Mycenaean artifacts, and in some cases Minoan ones. The actual death of Mycenaean material culture is around two centuries afterwards, where the last traces of Mycenaean material culture are replaced by new movements in material culture. Despite the collapse of complex society in many areas inhabited by Mycenaeans, its cultural legacy had a long afterlife and did not vanish overnight. Nor was the collapse of complex society total. This timeline is proceeding under the assumption that there was no real Dorian migration to speak of, and the changes in Greek language and culture were likely a long-term result of the previous social landmarks being removed or destroyed.

What is to follow is also going to follow a more debated and controversial notion; that the death of the title wanax that features so heavily in Linear B texts and its replacement with the term basileus by the Archaic era was not simply a quirk of linguistics, but reflected a social conflict in the last stages of the Bronze Age within Mycenaean society. The original Mycenaean word that may be the origin of the term is qa-si-re-u, and the position the individuals with this title hold in Linear B texts we currently possess marks them out as both a feature of palatial life and also something akin to sub-kings or local rulers. It has also been argued that it was an originally non-Greek term, and a fundamental institution in the region well before anyone speaking Mycenaean Greek actually settled there. That is not for certain, and keenly argued, but it is the notion that I feel makes the most sense of what information we currently possess and the one that I am going to go ahead with.

What now follows is a saga of Hittites and Helots, Minoans and Mycenaeans, warships and warlords, and hope.

Welcome to For a Fistful of Amphorae, or These oath gods shall destroy you.

1210 BC

As he looked out from the high walls of the city, Ahi-Teshub sighed. He was the fifth governor of the province in the last decade and matters had not greatly improved. He needed more men; he always needed more men. The countryside was well populated by the natives, and they still looked upon him and his men with great disdain. Many native kingdoms of some strength still existed outside the borders of the province, all with grudges against the Hittites and the royal house to which Ahi-Teshub belonged. There were never enough scribes, never enough soldiers, never enough resources. And in the last year, the situation had become even worse; the surrounding kingdoms had destabilised and become increasingly warlike. Fortunately much of their attention was spent on one another, but Ahi-Teshub knew that he could not withstand a dedicated assault. Even here, at the mighty citadel of Athens.

Ahi-Teshub sighed, and rested against the parapet he stood next to. He longed for home. He didn’t belong in the back of beyond, far across the White Sea. And yet here he was. He was not even permitted to take a wife; his cousin, the King of the Hittite Empire, had forbidden many of the king’s more distant relatives from doing so due to the near constant coups of the past thirteen years. The modest wealth he gained from his position enabled nothing. It was worth as much as ash because it gained him nothing he actually wanted. He was trapped, and the only two options were to maintain the tenuous status quo or to fail and die. Ahi-Teshub spent another five minutes on the wall before returning to the palace.

Three days later, Ahi-Teshub was in a better mood. Hittite sails had been sighted off the coast, and landed at Marathon. He was eating olives when his uncle, Shamu-Teshub, walked into the chamber. His long hair had streaks of gray, and his face was extremely worn. At once Ahi embraced his uncle.
“Uncle, it’s wonderful to see you. Come, sit with me, you look exhausted.”
“And you too, Ahi. It's mostly just the trip from the port at Marathon, nothing a little rest won't cure. I must ask though; I was not announced at all, and I find you in this small space rather than a grand chamber. This does not seem right; are you struggling with your role here?”
“There have been so few visitors from the homeland that I closed the main hall. No Ahhiyan kings have passed through here in a long while, and I have to use the servants elsewhere as we are shorthanded here.”
“It seems times are hard for you too... I had hoped that your isolation here would keep you safe.”
“Safe? Safe from what, uncle?”
Both men sat down.

“I am sorry, my nephew, but I come with terrible news.The Kingdom is crumbling, Ahi. All across the north, we are struggling to contain the men of the mountains. Vassals rebel against the king across Arzawa and even further east. The Kashka are on the warpath again. Vultures have sensed blood. Our enemies are legion, and we do not have that power which granted us majesty in the reign of Muwatalli II.”
“But... if the Kingdom is in such turmoil, why are you here with me? Am I to return home with you and defend Hatti?”
“No, Ahi. You must remain here in Ahhiyawa, because this is one of the few places where our people might take refuge from the coming storm.”
“But uncle, we should be defending our home if it is in such trouble. We should be saving our homes!”
“Ahi, our home is lost! It is no longer a matter of standing and fighting, it is a matter of survival. You know me, you know I would only be saying this if I truly believed it. The upper lands are already lost. It is only a matter of time before Hatti is lost, and Hattusha is burned to the ground. The whole world is united against us; I only barely got here from Wilusa. The Empire is done; I have seen the forces ranged against us, and we have not the strength to repel all of it.”
Ahi’s face went pale.There was an uncomfortable silence.
“How could the Empire be falling? Our people have stood for so many centuries, how could we have failed now?”

“Ahi, I need to ask you what the situation is like here. The court has not been in contact with any of our lands across the White Sea. Are the Ahhiyans amenable to us?”
“... no. It is not good here, uncle. The Great King of Ahhiyawa is at war with members of his own family, many of his vassals have broken away. There are reports of war, and of their kings being overthrown by their lesser clients. It is not a safe place, uncle. And the Ahhiyans here still loathe us.”
“By the gods, it is worse than I feared. It is not just Hatti which is falling, it’s the whole world. Everything is falling...”
The uncomfortable silence returned.
“Uncle, if you are not here to take me home... why did you come here?”
“Firstly, I wanted to make sure you were safe. But secondly, I was planning to evacuate as many Hittites as I can find and bring them to somewhere sheltered from this chaos. I had hoped to bring them here, but if the situation here has grown so bad, perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it is indeed the end of all things.”

Another silence descended. But as Ahi-Teshub sat and pondered, something changed. The world that he had known was smashed to pieces, and was only going to be smashed further. Getting back to Hatti was now no longer an option. But his response to that was to find what he could do with the power that was available to him; as he accepted that his previous desires were now meaningless, he became open to the possibilities opening before him. His eyes were no longer shocked and flailing but focused and calm. And in his chamber in the palace of Athens, lit by the Mediterranean sun, Ahi-Teshub began to plan.
“Uncle, this land of Attika is not safe. But this is not the only land that we control in Ahhiyawa. There is the Great Isle to the east, which the Ahhiyans call Euboea. It is more easily defended than our position on the mainland and we control more of the countryside. A siege here would cut us off from the countryside, with no hope of reinforcement or rescue. We should quit this land, and consolidate on Euboea. I can move all of my men there, and you can evacuate our countrymen there when you return.”
“That makes sense, excellent suggestion! Hope is not lost yet. But are you sure that it must be Euboea? Many of the natives there are rather fierce, what about the island to the south west. Aegina, I believe.”
Ahi-Teshub shook his head.
“Our presence there is minimal, and it is much closer to the fighting than Euboea is. In addition, Euboea has copper and iron in abundance. We would easily be able to produce weaponry and other arms without relying on others. We would be free and we would be strong.”
“Then Euboea it must be. I will stay a night to rest, and then return with my ships.”
“Of course you should stay the night uncle, and your soldiers could use the rest. But you will not be going back with your ships. You will also have ten of my own. Your plan to transport our people here will not succeed without additional security, and without the capacity to transport them. If we mean to make a home for ourselves here in Ahhiyawa there will be no half measures.”
This is really great. Subscribed :)
One question: Will this lead to a new Kingdom in Attica and Euboea, a beacon for Hittite people to travel to, leading them to not migrate and attack as the Sea Peoples? Or am I confusing myself? Ancient history really isn't my forté;)
Odd... ive never seen it suggested that the hittite empire ever controlled athens.

Clearly, even troy at the time of the trojan wars was either not part of the empire, or not properly defended by it. That, of course, was likely a different century.
Odd... ive never seen it suggested that the hittite empire ever controlled athens.

Clearly, even troy at the time of the trojan wars was either not part of the empire, or not properly defended by it. That, of course, was likely a different century.

Just in case anyone else gets confused, the PoD occured earlier than this period. OTL, there's no suggestion the Hittites ever controlled anything on the other side of the sea, you're entirely right. However, I will ask for a little patience as more information is going to be presented.

One question: Will this lead to a new Kingdom in Attica and Euboea, a beacon for Hittite people to travel to, leading them to not migrate and attack as the Sea Peoples? Or am I confusing myself? Ancient history really isn't my forté

Our direct references to the Sea Peoples only comes from once source; the Egyptians. Most of those that they name are those in direct conflict with Egypt, and many of the ethnic/cultural groups they refer to are unknown. There are many theories about them, but truthfully we honestly don't know a great deal about how the Sea Peoples fighting against Egypt relate to the chaos in the Near East, Anatolia and the Aegean. For all we know, Hittites could have been represented among the Sea Peoples. But then again, 'Hittite' was an identity linked to the Hittite Kingdom/Empire and actually covered a wide range of different ethnicities which will be explored further soon.

As for the Hittites and Attika/Euboea, if only things were quite that simple...
The Point of Departure

We begin in 1265 BC.

Mursili III, Great King and ruler of the land of Hatti, had successfully repulsed the Assyrian attempt to annex the remnants of Mitanni with the aid of the Egyptians. The Treaty of Taida fixed the boundaries between the Assyrian kingdom and the Hittites at the river Euphrates in a similar manner to the Treaty of Qadesh fixing the boundaries between Egypt and the Hittites. These victories had increased the prestige of the young king, silencing many growing doubts about his capacity for leadership. Though the arrogance of the Assyrians had not been smothered (the Assyrian King continued to call himself Great King in his diplomatic correspondence), they had been slapped around the face and had ceased their attempts to expand west. A measure of equilibrium had returned to the Near East.

However, whilst matters in the east were somewhat settled, the west was another matter entirely. Piyamaradu was a young scion of the Arzawan ruling dynasty, but had been in exile after Arzawa had been joined to the Hittite Empire. After a stint as a freebooting pirate, he asserted his right to the throne of Arzawa and attempted to remove the Hittite-appointed governors and client-kings by force in 1262 BC; his time as a pirate had allowed him to hire a great deal of mercenaries, and his position as Arzawan royalty granted him some popular support. He was hoping that the effort of fighting Assyria had weakened the Hittites, and that going from one end of the Kingdom to the other would prove too great a prospect. The local kings loyal to Mursili were unable to repulse this attack with their own resources, and year after year found themselves sacked or with burned crop fields. Mursili had enough of the pest; he committed himself to protecting his Empire’s frontiers, and sent a Hittite army to intervene in 1259 BC. Now that he was outmatched, Piyamaradu sought allies; he conducted a marriage alliance with the Ahhiyan prince of Apasa, and successfully swayed the Great King of Ahhiyawa over the sea. This had now escalated the war from a dynastic conflict in Arzawa into a clash between the two mightiest powers facing the Aegean.

Battles raged across the White Sea, which was one of the busiest trade thoroughfares of the entire Mediterranean. Each side had access to their own navies, those of vassals, and hastily hired merchant vessels repurposed as crude warships. Black sailed ships from Ahhiyawa fought the Hittite royal fleet and those of their vassals. Sieges raged in Wilusa, Lazpa, the Seha river lands, and across the entirety of Arzawa. These sieges and campaigns lasted for ten years, taxing the resources of both Great Kings. However, the Hittites had the greater resources and their resolve was stronger. After these incursions were repulsed and defeated, Piyamaradu had fled back across the White Sea and was given asylum by the King of Ahhiyawa. It was hoped that this would be the end of the unpleasantries. However, friendly letters from Mursili were unable to get Piyamaradu extradited, and he was not willing to compromise his prestige by brushing the matter under the carpet. Mursili then prepared to move against Ahhiyawa directly, and bring Hittite arms across the White Sea.

Individual Ahhiyans had come to rule many of the great cities that faced the White Sea over the past century, many through freebooting or outright conquest. Other areas had been settled by Ahhiyans directly. Some of these kings and dynasties, like Alakshandu in Wilusa, were already subject to Mursili. But many others who had been previously independent were subjected to direct Hittite authority. No help was forthcoming from Ahhiyawa itself, and none dared stand against the full rage of the Hittite war machine. Their own fleets, black sails and all, were combined with that of the Hittite king and in 1248 BC the expedition was launched. Elements of the fleet occupied *Chios, *Psyra, *Skyros, then the great island *Euboia on the flank of Ahhiyawa. The Abantes ‘ashen-speared’ were fierce warriors, and the struggle to occupy the island was intensive. In theory, the island was in *Thebes’ sphere of influence and the great kingdom could have intervened. However, the wanax of Thebes distinguished himself only by his absence; his own dynastic troubles were far too great a problem to concern himself with the island of Euboia.

For the next two years, Mursili waged war with the Great King of Ahhiyawa. But the continuing success of Hittite arms fractured the authority of the Ahhiyan Great King; *Aigina became an ally of the Hittites, the Great King’s representative on *Krete broke his oath of service taking the entire island with him, and *Thessaly no longer received the Great King’s emissaries. A peace treaty was drawn up, in which *Aigina, *Attika and southern *Euboea were considered to be vassals of the Hittites and the seized islands of the White Sea as well. The Great King of Ahhiyawa, who had attempted to defeat the mighty Hittites, had been utterly humiliated. Though Mursili had realised that he had defeated his foe, little did he know that soon the land of the Ahhiyans would be utterly devastated. Sensing opportunity, the already ambitious sub-kings now began openly eroding the authority of the wanaktes of Ahhiyawa. Dynastic problems that had already caused instability also became more and more frequent, and far worse was to come in the future; economic instability, plague, and the utter destruction of the palaces and their wanaktes.

However, the Hittites themselves had bitten off far more than they could chew. Already stretching from the White Sea to the Euphrates, governing the new acquisitions was extremely difficult. The vassal kings proved feckless and within a decade direct Hittite governors had to be installed. Pirates went from a noticeable presence in the northern White Sea to a near constant problem, and trade was starting to become adversely affected. The Ahhiyawan provinces were restless and unwilling to lie back and accept foreign domination. What's more, as the 1220s began, it was becoming clear that the entire known world was was destabilising. The first international system established in the Mediterranean was coming to an end, after bringing the many peoples of it together for centuries. Closer to home, many of the peoples bordering the Hittites had become restless and fractious. The Kingdom was having to do so much to contain them that they were unable to drive the pirates from the Aegean or even properly reinforce their territories there. In addition, the trading patterns that had previously existed were radically altering. The Mediterranean was now saturated with previously rare bronze, and now iron was the prestigious metal. The economic primacy of the Mycenaeans was ending, and the lucrative palaces were beginning to lose their ability to organise and profit from trade. This then had repercussions for the Hittites. Though the Hittites under Mursili III, who died in 1236 BC had in theory become more powerful than ever, their period of dominance would soon be at an end, with many others sharing their fate. The plague that had begun in 1239 BC, by itself damaging but containable, would slowly and inexorably lead the Hittites to their doom, followed by the Mycenaeans.

So in 1209 BC, as Ahi-Teshub and his uncle do what they can to evacuate Hittites of all stripes to their refuge of Euboia, both Ahhiyawa and the Hittites crumble. The Hittites are pressed in their very heartland. Many of the Mycenaean palaces have been sacked and their wanaktes toppled, and war has become endemic across almost all lands that they inhabit. Even those areas that are not organised by the palaces are being drawn into the mixer. The entirety of *Messenia is devoid of people already, with the last wanax of *Pylos dead and no heirs remaining. The art of the script known to us as Linear B will be gone within the year, the scribal class all but extinct. The preoccupation of Mycenaeans is overwhelmingly that of war, by land or sea. Hatti and the Mycenaean world both are in the midst of a total social collapse.

But there is always hope.


1209 BC

Ahi-Teshub had been sitting next to his uncle the entire day. It was now dusk, and the sun had begun to dip below the sky. Shama-Teshub, who had worked tirelessly for a year to save everything that he could, was dying. He had been been asleep for some time, and Ahi had been sitting by his bed in total silence the entire time. A small movement stirred Ahi from his thoughts, as his uncle returned to the waking world. He would not remain for long.
“Nephew, would you pass me some water? My throat is dry and my lips are cracked.”
“Of course, uncle.”
Ahi passed him the cup of water, and helped him to drink from it.
“Now that I can speak properly again, there are things I must tell you before I go to dwell with the gods. Things that you must do. Will you promise me, Ahi, that you will do what I say?”
“Of course I promise, uncle.”
“By the oath gods?”
“By the oath gods.”
“Firstly, you must declare yourself King.”

Ahi moved to object but Shama silenced him with a look.
“I know you have resisted this, but you must do it. You are already the ruler of these lands, it is obvious to everyone. Take the final step, become the king. You are of the royal house, you have every right to rule. And even if that was not true, everything you have brought about shows you deserve to be. If you do not, claimants will rise and civil war will tear this kingdom apart before it even begins. Do you promise me that you will have yourself crowned king?”
“I promise.”
“Next, you must take a wife. You must have sons. The line of Hattusili must survive. I know you have thought this impossible for so long, but you cannot ignore it. It doesn’t even matter if she is a Hittite or not, marry an Ahhiyan if she is suitable. Remember this, though; she will be at your side at all times, and hold no small power of her own. Choose someone worthy of your trust, and respect. Do you promise me that you will find a wife?”
“I promise.”

“Good. You were always a bright boy, nephew, I wish your father and the King had seen that. But none of that matters now. You will be King, the King over the sea. I have faith that you will protect the people under your care, and preserve the line of Hattusili for generations to come. When I depart to dwell with the gods, I will have no fear for the future.”
Ahi had to turn away a moment, his eyes tear filled. After a moment, he turned back around to look at his uncle.
“Uncle, I wish you didn’t have to leave. You are the last of my family. I don’t want to be alone.”
“Ahi, you will not be alone. There are other virtuous and brave men here. And perhaps one of my sons will find his way here. If that happens, they are of my blood and they will serve you well.”
Shama-Teshub sighed.
“That, above all, is my one regret. In all my searching, I could not find a single one of my sons this past year. I must trust to the gods that I did not look hard enough, and that at least one among them may still be alive.”
He smiled at Ahi.
“But you, nephew, will more than suffice. Now, you should go and arrange your coronation. Staying at my side delays your future.”
“No, uncle. I will not leave you yet.”
“You would disobey your elder?”
“On this one matter, yes. I will not leave you until you have left me, uncle. I will not change my mind.”
“As you wish, my king.”

Ahi sat with his uncle all night, until he finally passed away a few hours before dawn. In the morning, many things were set in motion. He arranged for his uncle’s ritual cremation, in which he led the ceremony. He gathered architects and drew up plans to create a Stone House, in replication of the Hittite original, to house the urn that carried his uncle’s ashes and a statue of him to dwell within. Then, he commissioned smiths to forge a crown of electrum. A week later he was crowned Muwatalli III, King Over the Sea.
God, this is amazing! I love all things to do with Hittites and the Aegean, though I'm somewhat ignorant on the subject.

Glad to see that your out doing more amazing ancient history work, Daeres. Keep it coming!
1207 BC

There was an awkward silence. Muwatalli, who still thought of himself as Ahi-Teshub, was faced with the woman who was due to be his wife. She was not a truly stunning beauty, nor perfectly proportioned. But her piercing eyes were full of intelligence, she was in good shape and perhaps a little muscular, and her clothing with associated jewellry elevated her rather than made her seem gaudy. What she possessed in abundance was majesty.
“Do you know why I asked to speak with you, Antigeneia?” asked Muwatalli in the Mycenaean dialect.
“No, my lord.” she replied, meekly. Muwatalli frowned a little.
“My lady, false demureness does not suit you. I would like us to be honest with one another.”
Antigeneia’s eyes flashed for a moment, then she settled again.
“Alright, then I will be honest with you, Arkelawos. I don’t know why you asked me here. It is not traditional for a bride to meet her husband before the wedding, unless he intends to bed her. Do you intend to bed me?”
There was an awkward pause; Muwatalli did not have much experience in these situations.
“Well, here is my honest response to that. Whilst I would be... greatly honoured to bed you, that is not why I brought you here tonight. What I have to speak to you about is more important than... beds.”
Antigeneia smirked.
“I must be certain, beyond all doubt, about your character my lady. That is the honest truth of it. I must know that I can trust you.”

“I was not expecting that. I’m not sure whether to feel honoured or insulted, my lord. Are the Abantes such barbarians to the mighty Hittites that you will not trust the word of my father?”
“That isn’t it. I don’t have any quarrel with the integrity of the Abantes, or your father. It would be the same matter if you were Luwian, or Neshilite, or an Egyptian. It’s because the choice of whom I marry is extremely important.”
“And why is that?”
“My wife will not only be the mother of my children, she will be my partner. When someone marries into the royal family, they are considered to become part of it, not simply a consort or glorified concubine. There are so few Hittites here that someone who becomes such a huge aspect of my life will become involved in my own royal duties. I can’t leave that to chance, Antigeneia.”
“So what do you want to know about me, Arkelawos?”
“What do you think of Hittites?”
“If you honestly want to know, I don’t like the way you make my father behave. He was so overawed at your diplomatic overtures that he promised me to you as soon as he heard you were looking for a wife. That is all well and good, except that he thinks he’s marrying into the Hittite Empire, and he was so desperate to please you. He has actively sought to dress himself up as a Hittite king because he thinks that your Empire and your culture are practically divine. I know better. I know that you were never intended to be a King, I know that the Hittite Empire has been destroyed, and there are many mainlanders who would dearly love your head.”

“Well, I asked for honesty and I certainly got it! My answer... is that almost all of that is true. I was never intended to become a King; I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a king. The Hittite Empire has crumbled, and here I am the ruler of an island considered our most distant frontier. I am not the Great King of Hattusha. But I am what I am.”
“And what is that?”
“The protector of all the people under my care, Hittites or not. I am the last Hittite king, the last of the land of Hatti still standing. Many of those that are here have come from lands swept bare of cities and crops, and their only hope of a future is here. The world crumbles around us, and I will make this land unbreakable if I can.”
“And where is the room for the Abante nations in that? You want to preserve the Hittite way of life, culture, ideals. Are we not simply primitive savages to be swept clear from the island?”
“I don’t think of the Abante like that. Do you know what a Hittite is? A Hittite is a subject of the King of Hatti, nothing more. There are already many cultures within my kingdom- the Luwians, the Hurrians, the Hattians, the Neshilites. I know they might be hard to tell apart for you, but there are differences among us. And yet we are joined together. Why would we not have room to treat the Abantes as equals?”
There was a pause as Antigeneia took all of this in.
“Are there any other questions you want to ask?”
“Only one. What do you think of me?”

“Are you sure you want me to stay honest? If I’m to marry you, it would be best to save arguments until after the ceremony.”
“Try me.”
“Well. I think that... you are certainly unique. I have met many men with ambitions, and many with power, and yet here we stand having an honest conversation. Those with power are often haughty and those with ambition aloof; you seem grounded. There are those who would call you less of a man for compromising and not simply exerting their will. And no matter what your intentions are, having to personally check your prospective wife does seem like mistrust. And I think your beard is too long. But you have kind eyes, and eyes show you everything.”
“There is one other thing I wanted to ask. Why do you keep calling me Arkelawos?”
“Well, the name’s quite literal- you’re a leader of people. I nickname people. Surely you Hittites have nicknames?”
Muwatalli laughed.
“Yes, of course we do! My uncle called me Ahi.”
“Ahi? What kind of strange language do you speak where Ahi is short for Muwatalli?”
“Muwatalli is not the name I was born with. It is traditional for Hittite kings to take a new name when they take the throne. The name I was born with is Ahi-Teshub.”
“It’s good to know even Hittites have nicknames. If I might ask, what do you think of me?”
“You’re fierce and caring, particularly of your own father. You’re shrewd and intelligent. You’re bold, for certain. And you’re honest in the face of power. I... don’t think I could have chosen someone better for a wife.”
Subscribed! I find this area of history very interesting. (And there's just a touch of Sutcliff's post-Roman Britain, which I like, too.)
(Apologies for the gap, I've actually had two updates written for several days but with everything ongoing at the moment I didn't feel it was necessarily right to put them out there)

Summer 1207 BC

The air was dry and the sun was high. The Mediterranean summer was not yet at its height, but the slopes of Euboea were still baking hot. On some of the lower slopes, Rashmania watched his flock as they grazed. He had adjusted well to Euboea- his homeland far to the east had an almost identical climate, and he had been left in peace to tend his flock. His only real interaction with the Kingdom he was a subject of was when he travelled to the market of Chalkis on the plain below. But it was not to the plain that his eye was turned now. Visible from his vantage point was the coast of the mainland, and much of the Euboean gulf. This was not yet home to Rashmania, and so the vista in front of him still drew his roving eyes as he grew acquainted with the land of Ahhiyawa. As his eyes wandered, something unexpected drew his eye. Dark shapes on the sea, many miles away in the Gulf. Rashmania stood bolt upright, and focused. There was no mistaking it; there was a fleet of ships hugging the mainland coast, perhaps only thirty miles away. Making up his mind, Rushmania ran for Chalkis despite its distance. It was an exhausting, blistering run across slopes and extremely hot stones. At one point he tripped and fell, and gave himself a nasty gash in the shoulder. Wheezing on the last dregs of breath and energy, he reached Chalkis. The exhausted Rushmania explained what was going on, the alarm was sounded and a swift horseman was dispatched to the King’s city at Lefkandi. After a while, Chalkis’ own spotters reported a fleet of warships approaching, and it was swiftly clear that they were not friendly.

The military settlers of the nearby plain armed themselves, and the town’s militia armed themselves with spears and wooden shields. The levy was somewhat disparate- Hittite warriors rubbed shoulders with Greeks, bronze armour stood alongside leather and cloth, spears alongside ancestral swords. All were determined to hold against this unknown foe. The enemy approached, and it was clear they were numerous- each of the vessels was a fifty-rower, and eleven ships had beached. The city’s port was immediately overrun by the attackers. It had already been evacuated, but any remaining stragglers were cut down without mercy. Warehouses and storage yards were plundered and set ablaze. Meanwhile, the defenders of Chalkis stood on the city’s battlements and waited impassively. Frustration grew as they sat and watched the destruction unfold in front of them. After some time, the enemy’s warriors began to reassemble just outside of bow range, and it was clear they were now eyeing Chalkis herself. A figure with magnificent bronze armour emerged from the throng, and flung a spear into the no-man’s land between himself and the wall. The men around him began to beat their shields and yell; it was clear this impressive-looking man was their leader.

The man then shouted at the walls, in Mycenaean.
“Does no-one dare leave to face the wanax of Iolkos?”
The city’s governor, Okunawos, responded in kind.
“I owe no respect to any ‘wanax’, I serve the King of Euboea! What honour do I owe to a pirate chief and his reeking, baying hordes?”
The men of Chalkis raised a yell in support.
“Your stench befouls the sacred ground upon which you stand, Hittite-lover. This land is mine by birth, and belongs to better men than those who sacrifice to Hittite demons. Killing my nephew doesn’t change my right to inherit the land, by sacred law. And now I claim Chalkis as spear won land. You have no Hittite shield to hide behind now, sandal-kisser. If you defy me, I will slaughter and rape as I please for you stand against the gods themselves.”
“You call yourself a servant of the gods, and yet you threaten with rape and pillage. The title of wanax doesn’t suit you. ‘Pirate’ suits you more, but pig-fucker suits you even better. If you want to take this city then you’ll have to do a lot better than that spear, and I have a few spears of my own. I've got a place in mind to shove that spear of yours, though!”
The Chalkidians cheered even more loudly, the Iolkan wanax spat and sounded the assault. The battle had now truly begun.

The men of Iolkos were heavily armoured; most bore helmets of boar tusk, bronze cuirasses, and firm ox-hide shields in a figure of eight shape. This panoply absorbed most of the missile fire being directed at them from the walls as they charged. But some lucky shots would find a gap, or exposed skin. This was answered by thrown spears which caused the defenders to duck. The Iolkans had not had time to construct ladders, but a group of them suddenly sprinted ahead of the rest carrying an enormous tree trunk. They reached the gate of the city and begun to swing at the gate. Heavy tower shields were used to deflect the spears, rocks and arrows directed at them from the gatehouse, and it seemed only a matter of time until the gate was broken.

Okunawos rushed down the battlements, taking some archers and many spearmen with him. Joining him behind the gate was a handful of heavily armoured Hittites in scale armour and Greek landowners in their own bronze panoply. These armoured men, the new aristocracy, were few in number and stood out like a sore thumb. There were only thirty of these hardier men at best, and Okunawos longed to have a force as well equipped as the Iolkans. He quickly gathered the men into a shield wall behind the gate, as it began to buckle and splinter.
“Now listen to me!” he cried as the ram continued to slam against the gates, “I don’t care if you’re Theban, Abante, Minyan, Hittite or Egyptian! If the enemy get past this gate, they will slaughter everyone in this town no matter where you came from! No matter what gods you worship or what tongue you speak, the man next to you is your brother and you will all fight together as a family! The King will be here soon, we just have to hold out until then; trust and protect one another and we will not be defeated!”

Only three seconds later, the gate finally burst open to reveal the enemy soldiers. A volley of arrows were loosed, and five boar-helmed Iolkans fell dead or injured. The injured were then trampled by their own comrades charging through the gate. They crashed into the awaiting defenders, and the grind of infantry combat had begun. The sheer weight of spears and shields was enough to slow the Iolkans, even with their bronze. But the sheer weight of numbers slowly pushed the Chalkidians back from the gate and into the street behind it. A champion among the Iolkans suddenly emerged with a longsword and felled two spearmen with a single swing. His helmet was crested with bull’s horns and bull’s blood painted his face, making him a terrifying sight. The defenders were pushed even further back as none dared get too close to him. But from the Chalkidians leapt Towanor the Theban in heavy bronze armour, who then charged the crested champion of Iolkos with a mighty two handed axe. In an instant, the axe cleaved through crown, helmet and skull. The bull-crowned Iolkan fell dead onto blood soaked cobbles. The Chalkidians cheered, and the shield walls clashed once more.

With many spears splintered or thrown the Chalkidians were now using axes, swords and daggers. The axes were particularly effective, and the Iolkans were now temporarily being driven back. The defenders left on the wall had used the last of their ammunition and now joined in the fight with their own hand to hand weapons. The fighting devolved into a truly brutal press; blows rained down from all directions, warriors had their skulls smashed in with rocks, and more men had died from being trampled than from their wounds. The bloody stalemate seemed to be unending, as neither side seemed able to break the other. However, the balance was still against the Chalkidians- despite the defenders’ bravery and tenacity, the Iolkans still had more men and many more armoured men. Chalkidian swords were becoming knotched, bent or broken over time as they were forced to clash with strong bronze armour. The Iolkans once again began to push into the city, and Okunawos knew that it was only a matter of time before his men broke. However, as he wrestled with a bronze-clad Iolkan he heard a sound; at that moment, it was the most beautiful sound to him in the world. It was the sound of a war horn, and it was not one that belonged to the Iolkan wanax. With renewed strength he snapped the neck of his enemy, and then yelled at the top of his voice.
“The King of Euboea has come!”

Muwatalli rode at the head of fifty horsemen around the city’s western walls, the burning port and enemy fleet clearly visible. As him and his men rounded the wall, the throng of armoured Iolkans still outside the city became visible. I wish I had war chariots, thought Muwatalli, I cannot charge that mass with cavalrymen and none of us can fire a bow from a moving horse. He led his men straight towards the beached enemy ships, and interposed his force between the Iolkans and their vessels. Not having the time to dismount, he and his men began to loose arrows into the backs of the Iolkans as soon as their horses came to a halt. The powerful bows immediately began felling men, and the Iolkans now hurriedly attempted to wheel and face this new threat. Trapped between two forces, they now had only once choice. The Iolkans retreated entirely from the gate and city, streaming back towards their ships. Muwatalli dismounted with his men, arming himself with shield and mace. He steeled himself for a moment, feeling much of himself going numb from fear, then yelled for a countercharge. He felt almost a distant observer of his own actions as he sprinted straight at the Iolkans, returning to his body only when an enemy warrior crashed against his shield with a mighty thud. He blocked a series of wild strokes before smashing his mace down on his enemy’s right arm with a disgusting crunch. Finding little success against the King’s men, the Iolkans once again retreated. But now the defenders of Chalkis were pouring out from the gate, and the men of Iolkos instead found themselves surrounded between the two armies.

The Iolkans were trapped in a tight ball, facing in all directions. Their king stood at the centre, his splendid armour now coated in blood. Everyone was exhausted and tired, but the men of Chalkis were elated at their rescue. They were also hungry for payback. For now, there was a temporary halt in the battle as Okunawos met with Muwatalli. Both men were exhausted and kept having to pause to take in big gulps of air.
“Thank Poseidaon for your swift horses, my king, I don’t know... if we could have held them much longer.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t arrive quicker. You must have fought with the strength of... gods to keep them out. When I have dealt with the enemy, you and... everyone who fought by your side will be rewarded, I swear it by the oath gods.”
“You honour me my king. What do you plan to do with the men of Iolkos?”
“So that’s where they’re from. I will test the mettle of their King, and see what comes next.”
“Many men of Chalkis have died today. I can’t honestly say I’d be pleased to see these beasts let back into the wild.”
“Will you trust me, your king, to enact vengeance for your lost men?”
Okunawos bowed.
“Of course.”

Muwatalli strode closer to the huddle of Iolkans.
“Who among you passes for a king, men of Iolkos!” shouted Muwatalli.
“I, the wanax of Iolkos, rule these men.” replied the blood soaked figure in the centre of the men.
“Come forward, wanax of Iolkos, so that I can see your face.”
The Iolkans shifted to allow their king to pass through.
“If you declare sacred truce, then I shall come forward.” said the wanax.
“I swear by the oath gods and the great god Teshub that you will come to no harm.”
“I swear by Diwos and Enuwalaos that you will come to no harm.”
The two men then walked towards one another, certain of divine protection, and then stood only a few paces from one another.
“What is your name, wanax of Iolkos?”
“I am Ortinawos Ekedamoios.”
“Oh, you’re the son of Ekedamos are you? Well that name still commands respect on this island, and further east. He may have been Greek but even I grew up on tales that told of his genuine bravery. It’s a shame that hasn’t rubbed off on you; I don’t think your father taught you to attack a fortified city less than nine miles away from that nation’s capital.”
“I would have been right if you hadn’t come on horseback. You have no chariots, I expected you to fight in the dirt.”
“Well, brother king, take some advice. Don’t have your plans rely on people being as stupid as you. Now to the matter of terms.”
“What terms do you offer me, King of Euboea?”
“You will be permitted to return home to Iolkos. Twenty of your best, that I personally choose, will remain as hostages in my Kingdom dependent on your good behaviour. You will only retrieve half of the arms of your fallen; the rest will be tribute to me as payment for your destruction and stupidity. You will return all of your stolen goods, and I will graciously allow all of your ships to depart unharmed and unspoiled. If you cause any more trouble, then I will send my fleet to Iolkos and burn your palace to the ground like so many others have been these past years. Those are my terms, and if you value your life you will take them.”

Rage grew in Ortinawos’ eyes. He was a proud, violent creature. A sensible man would have recognised his loss and left with his head, a better man would have left and profited from it. But the wanax of Iolkos was only sensible when his mood suited it. All he could think about was the disrespect shown to him, the conduit of the Gods, by a demon worshipper. A subhuman. A Hittite. And that disrespect turned to fierce anger, and that fierce anger grew to bloodlust. His senses took leave of him and he pulled out his sword, swinging it straight towards Muwatalli. He was brought back to earth when the mace of the Hittite smashed down on his hand, shattering his fingers and causing him to drop his sword. Ortinawos yelled with pain only for a moment before Muwatalli’s dagger pierced his throat, and that was the end of the wanax of Iolkos.

Muwatalli’s heart felt like it was pounding in his throat, but he forced himself to concentrate.
“Iolkans, you saw your king swing at me after he had sworn a sacred oath! Now you have seen what happens to those who defy the oath gods; screaming death! If you value your lives, none of you will dare raise a spear against me, or you will all die in agony here by the sea!”
None of the Iolkans moved a muscle. The memory of a king mad with bloodlust was not worth dying over.
“Now, I offered terms to your king, but he has defied the gods and me! The oath gods will not rest until this debt has been paid! I should really have you all killed... but I will allow you all to live if you do exactly what I say. Instead of twenty men, you will leave forty men of my choice as hostages to guarantee your good behaviour! You will collect none of the fallen armour of your comrades! You will return all of your stolen goods, and then afterwards I will burn the ship of your dead king; after all, many of you are not sailing back home and you do not need all eleven ships any more! I will not permit any trace of this wretched King to remain on this island. If you surrender, and do all of this, then I swear by the oath gods that you shall all live!”

There were a few moments of dreadful silence. Then the Iolkans all dropped their weapons.


There had originally been twelve ships from Iolkos. Eleven had gone to plunder Chalkis, while the twelfth had circled around the east of Euboea searching for easy targets. The great-bearded captain had no reason to be alarmed; the Sword of Hermehai was crewed with fifty bronze armoured Iolkans, and the few ships in these waters had simply vanished rather than tangle with a large warship. However, as the ship rounded the Khersonnasos, they were suddenly met with a fearful sight. The hills were suddenly alive with Abante warriors and their famous ashen spears. Any hope that they had not spotted the ship was driven out by the sound of their war cries, audible to the Iolkans. Hundreds of the warriors lined the coast. Stood proud among them, barely distinguishable from this distance, was Antigeneia the Queen of Euboea. She bore a magnificent longbow, a proud heirloom made in Ithaka. Nor was she simply there for show. She notched an arrow, pulled back the string to the middle of her cheek, and fired at the ship. No longbow could possibly reach that far, and so the arrow whistled into the waters between the Sword of Hermehai and the shore. But the message was extremely clear. The captain took only a moment to order that the ship turn around, and head back home to Iolkos. As the rowers obliged the captain looked bitterly at the shore, where the Abantes were cheering the Queen and jeering at the Iolkans. There would be no plunder today.
Summer 1207 BC

Antigeneia sighed.
“I will ask you one more time. Why did you not alert us that a fleet was on its way?”
Leunax glowered.
“I am King of the western Abantes, not a vassal of your husband or part of your tribe. I am not obligated to...”
Antigeneia slammed her hands down on the table.
“Obligation has nothing to do with it! As a brother King to my husband, it is common courtesy to let us know about a fleet of bronze-armoured Iolkans sailing for our shores! It wouldn’t have taken much effort- you could have had a ninety year old priest walk as soon as you first heard the news and he still would have reached us before the enemy! How dare you show both him and me such disrespect, after the gifts we sent north and the fair deals you have been granted!”
Antigeneia’s piercing eyes were terrifying to behold in her rage, and Leunax was unable to look at her in the face.
“Now, I have chosen to talk to you once more. Not to the easterners and their king. Why do you suppose that is? It’s because we still believe that you want to be our friend and not our enemy. If we were wrong then you can walk out of this city, and then I will bring King Geron here instead and it will be the easterners that get our favour. I will be sad to see you leave, for perhaps a whole five minutes. Our time and attention can easily be spent elsewhere, do you understand me?”
“I do. You know, I had wondered if marrying a Hittite would have made you soft. I am glad to see I was wrong. I will not disrespect you or your husband again.”

Three days later

Antigeneia and Muwatalli were laying in each other’s arms. There was only the thinnest of sheets, as the summer heat had followed them to bed. Even if it was slightly too warm, the mattress was soft and comfortable. Both of them were relaxed, for what felt like the first time in weeks, and enjoying the privacy.
“Did you reward that shepherd, in the end?” asked Antigeneia, playing with her husband’s hair.
“I did. His name is Rushmania, and he came all the way from Hanigalbat.”
Antigeneia looked confused for a moment.
“Sorry, I mean the Mitanni lands.”
“How did you reward him?”
“I granted him and his descendants first choice of grazing land on the hills he lives on.”
“That’s a good gift for a shepherd. You have a real knack for doing what’s right and sensible at the same time, it makes me very proud.”
“I’m glad, and it makes me proud to see the terror you inspire in ambassadors and kings.”
“I’m not sure all of them appreciate it quite the way you do. The Abantes do, but we’re a strange and barbarian lot.”
“You don’t seem so strange and barbarian to me. Though I wish I could shoot a bow as well as you.”
“Well, that’s the privilege of being a strange barbarian. Better archery. And better sex.”
They both smiled gently at one another.

“So, what counts as strange and exotic to a Hittite? I’ve often wondered.”
“For many Hittites Ahhiyawa, Akhaia, was an unknown land. And much of it still is to me, the furthest west I ever went was Tanagra and that was only very briefly. But the real mystery for me has always been the lands west of Akhaia. The lands over the Green Sea. I don’t know that any Hittite has ever been so far west, there are no stories of those lands among us. Only rumours.”
Antigeneia pondered.
“I’ve only met one man from that far west, once. He didn’t leave so much of a memory to tell you the truth, though he did have a tattoo of a bull on his arm. He called his homeland the mountain lands, and his wealth was from cattle. Our stories speak of sunny lands with tall mountains, cattle, and rich forests. I’m sure someone from the palace lands could tell you more, there are many of them here.”
“You know, you complained to me about how many different peoples are part of the Hittites, often. But when we get to Akhaia, not only are there many dialects and peoples but you even have different types of government!”
“Not so much anymore. There are almost no wanaktes left. And one less after you killed Ortinawos.”
Muwatalli’s face grew sadder.
“You don’t have to remind me, that scream repeats itself in my mind every day.”

Antigeneia kissed her husband.
“You had better not argue he didn’t deserve it, because he did. Even with that, it’s only natural that it haunts you. I wish it didn’t, but I’ve known many who felt this way after battle and it is not because you are weak. It will pass, and the memory will fade.”
Muwatalli sighed, and for a minute there was silence.
“You know, Hittite Kings are supposed to become gods when they die. I wonder what Ortinawos would be a god of.”
“Slag. Burns hot but nobody actually wants it.”
“That’s hardly fair, you can actually use slag to make things with.”
“And what about you? What will you be a god of?”
“I’d like to actually enjoy my afterlife, something low maintenance. I could be the god of wine presses, that doesn’t sound too bad. I don’t want to be woken up all day with everybody’s prayers!”
“... when they speak of the great Muwatalli of Euboea, and his hopes for the great beyond after we die, it was said that he was enjoying the opportunity to drink wine and sunbathe. Quite some epitaph, I must say.”
“You, on the other hand, I can imagine as being a rather fierce war goddess. Priests would tremble as they sacrificed to you, and nobody would ever dare look your statues in the eyes!”
“Well, we already have Enujo for that, but I’m sure she could spare some room. What would my sacred animal be?”
“Oh don’t ask me that... us Hittites have rather different ideas about that sort of thing.”
“After all this time spent persuading me that Hittites aren’t all that strange, you finally confess that your people are weird after all! Now I’m curious...”
“If I can’t escape this question, as a war goddess you’d probably have lions.”
“Lions? Well they are fearsome, but I’d rather have snakes personally.”
“Help! My wife’s a Cretan!”
“Oh be quiet.”

Reconstruction Corner: The Abantes


Historical references to the Abantes abound, but forming an image of them as a people or a culture is relatively difficult. It is possible that they did not exist in the Late Bronze Age, so my decision to locate them here is one that I acknowledge might be incorrect. However, my reason for doing so is their mention in the Iliad as forming part of Agamemnon’s assembled forces.

Their mention in the Iliad is as follows in the translation I’m using;

'And the Abantes breathing fury, they that possessed Euboia and Chalkis and Eiretria and Histiaia rich in vines, and Kerinthos by the sea and the steep fortress of Dios and they that possessed Karytos, and they that dwelt in Styra, all of these again were led of Elephenor of the stock of Ares, even the son of Chalkodon, and captain of the proud Abantes. And with him followed the fleet Abantes with hair flowing behind, spearmen eager with ashen shafts outstretched to tear the corselets on the breasts of foes. And with him forty black ships followed.'

Strabo, writing in his own time, had this to say about the Abantes;

'The island was called, not only Macris, but also Abantis; at any rate, the poet, although he names Euboea, never names its inhabitants "Euboeans," but always "Abantes": "And those who held Euboea, the courage-breathing Abantes . . . . And with him followed the Abantes." Aristotle says that Thracians, setting out from the Phocian Aba, recolonised the island and renamed those who held it "Abantes." Others derive the name from a hero, just as they derive "Euboea" from a heroine. But it may be, just as a certain cave on the coast which fronts the Aegaean, where Io is said to have given birth to Epaphus, is called Boös Aulê, that the island got the name Euboea from the same cause.'

We also have this reference from Herodotos;

'For this reason, and for no other, the Ionians too made twelve cities; for it would be foolishness to say that these are more truly Ionian or better born than the other Ionians; since not the least part of them are Abantes from Euboea, who are not Ionians even in name, and there are mingled with them Minyans of Orchomenus, Cadmeans, Dryopians, Phocian renegades from their nation, Molossians, Pelasgian Arcadians, Dorians of Epidaurus, and many other tribes; and as for those who came from the very town-hall of Athens and think they are the best born of the Ionians, these did not bring wives with them to their settlements, but married Carian women whose parents they had put to death.'

Pausanias, in his Description of Greece, has this to say as well;

'When the Greek fleet was scattered on the voyage home from Troy, Locrians from Thronium, a city on the river Boagrius, and Abantes from Euboea, with eight ships altogether, were driven on the Ceraunian mountains. Settling here and founding the city of Thronium, by common agreement they gave the name of Abantis to the land as far as they occupied it. Afterwards, however, they were conquered in war and expelled by the people of Apollonia, their neighbors. Apollonia was a colony of Corcyra, they say, and Corcyra of Corinth, and the Corinthians had their share of the spoils.'

Ethnography in ancient Greece is a tricky business. And the sources that I am utilising are not without their faults. However, from these references a certain picture constructs itself. The Iliad’s date of composition is still disputed, along with when it was first put into writing. My position, taken from others before me, is that the Iliad has a kernel taken from the Late Bronze age but has accumulated an enormous quantity of additional material over the centuries. What seem to be archaeologically evidenced hallmarks of the 13th and 12th centuries BC rub shoulders with strong elements of the 9th century BC, and 6th century Athens as well. It is a very schizophrenic text in that regard. However, the references in Herodotus certainly present the image that assimilation of (at least some) Abantes into the Ionian ethnic group had already occurred by his day, the 5th century BC. Given that Pausanias directly attributes Abantes to period of the Trojan War, in a story separate from the Iliad, we can at least distinguish that some Greeks believed the Abantes to have an ancient pedigree. Ancient enough that there were multiple reasonings for the origin of Abantes as a name.

This then intersects with current theories regarding the Bronze Age collapse in the Aegean- some of the most recent works on the subject that I have read, particularly the mammoth PhD thesis of Guy Daniel Middleton, do not believe that wide scale invasions of various Greek speaking ethnic groups occurred in the Dark Ages. In particular, there’s simply too much continuity in material culture. His theory regarding the Dorians is that the ethnogenesis of this group occurred within pre-existing populations in Greece. This also connects to many recent treatments of the Mycenean dialect of Greek- it actually isn’t the ancestor of the majority of ancient Greek dialects, but a brother. Ancient dialects like Ionian and Dorian have their own archaisms harkening back to a still-shadowy Proto-Greek language, rather than sharing the same archaisms found in Mycenaean Greek. We now also have a growing body of evidence that previous imagery of invasion and migration is rather mistaken- many populations that have experienced multiple changes in cultural paradigms, like Britain, are turning out to have had their genetics surprisingly little-altered in the past few millennia. The ability of relatively small, elite populations to transform culture and linguistics in a particular area should not be underestimated. This does make one thing suspect; it’s quite probable that the actual ‘Abante’ ethnicity only originated in the Geometric period or later, but I would rather continue to use the term to indicate their relationship to this culture within our own history. This is so that the changes become more apparent.

So when reconstructing this culture, I have taken the following elements together- it is likely that the Abantes existed as early as the 9th-8th century BC, and it is extremely unlikely that this was an introduced population so I have assumed a direct precursor in the late Bronze age. They are clearly denoted as, in the past, not being part of the Ionian ethnic group. However, they are also spoken about in terms of being Greeks. It seems to me that the label ‘Abantes’ refers to a pre-Ionised Greek speaking culture of the island, since ‘Euboean’ or ‘Eretrian’ and other later equivalents are not used at all in the Iliad. Only the term Abante is used. Additionally, its use by Strabo and Pausanias indicates that Greek analysts were using this demonym in a particular fashion, to refer to a past status quo on Euboea. I also took the Iliad relatively at its word in its reference to extremely fierce and spear wielding warriors. However, Linear B tablets indicate that the wanax centred at Thebes’ palace had active interests on Euboea, particularly on its western coast. It seems to me likely that they would have put a family member in place there to guarantee interests, just as it seems likely the wanax at Mycenae had his relative in place on Rhodes. The Abantes are not ‘naturally barbaric’, not that I tend to conceive cultures in these terms; my reconstruction is that the Lelantine plain would once have functioned as their breadbasket, but incursions from the mainland led to the loss of its control and thus much valuable farming land.

The Abantes, as I have reconstructed them in this period, have instead adapted to a more pastoral, rugged mountain lifestyle. But they are not barbarians- they do control several towns and cities, large numbers of them are sedentary and not at all ‘nomadic’. However, they have lacked a solid population base to form more complex social structures, particularly as the Hittites were... less than kind in their invasion of the island. Whilst they have access to bronze, they lack the social structures to set about producing enough bronze equipment to armour their warriors in the fashion of many mainland Greeks in this period. Instead, this kind of armour is restricted to royalty and their most prestigious followers. They were not really incorporated into the Hittite province, the Hittites preferring instead to cultivate the Thebans and the Abantes who had assimilated into the Theban colony. However, Muwatalli’s kingdom has incorporated one of the major Abante tribes as he has to actually live there and not just keep it pacified. The divisions I have placed among the Abantes into various kingdoms/tribes are not something indicated by any literary or archaeological material, but comes from the assumption that cultural divisions are likely to have been complex and there is no reason to assume that an island of this size was a unitary state in this period.


And here is a map of Euboea in earlier times, c.1300 BC.


1- Northern Abante- reputedly the most savage of the Abante tribes, they also have a relationship with Minyans in *Thessalia.

2- Western Abante- Would once have controlled more of the fertile Lelantine plain until displaced by mainlanders in relatively recent times.

3- Chalkis- Ruled over by a branch of the Iasowonids, the ruling family of Iolkos. The population is mostly Theban as at Lefkandi.

4- Eastern Abante- Rule from their seat at Khuwme, they are the most prestigious of the Abante tribes as they control Mount Dirphoos, the site of a major sanctuary unconnected to an associated wanax.

5- Lefkandi- Ruled over by a Theqan (*Thebes) dynasty, they retain close links to the wanax of Theqai and in particular Amarynthos is an important locus for them.

6-Southern Abante- Dominate the most rugged areas of the island, and have a reputation for indulging in piracy.
Loving this; the Antigeneia and Muwatalli scene is just right.

Thank you for the good historical notes and map, too.
Just wanted to say that this continues to be amazing - it's a plausible reconstruction of a poorly documented place and time, and a hell of a story too.
This is excellent. Question: Will there be some kind of myth of a distant Hittite king(as in a "tabarna over the water") in Anatolia?
This is excellent. Question: Will there be some kind of myth of a distant Hittite king(as in a "tabarna over the water") in Anatolia?

Tabarna? Ah, Hittitte Imperium, basically.

Interesting that the only article i found on the term was from the Spanish wiki which had no links to equivalent articles in any other language. Although i got some hits of its use as a technical term in english. English SEEMS, again from a quick google, to use the Labarna variant of the word as much as the t form.
Tabarna? Ah, Hittitte Imperium, basically.

Interesting that the only article i found on the term was from the Spanish wiki which had no links to equivalent articles in any other language. Although i got some hits of its use as a technical term in english. English SEEMS, again from a quick google, to use the Labarna variant of the word as much as the t form.
Ah, I only saw the term because I had to read some of the royal annals for a class. The translators seem to favor Tabarna for the title and Labarna when a personal name is implied.
This is excellent. Question: Will there be some kind of myth of a distant Hittite king(as in a "tabarna over the water") in Anatolia?

For now, no. Anatolia is extremely chaotic, and communications across the Aegean is now almost non-existent. However, once things do calm down a little, perhaps the Hittites on Euboea will gain a little more international notice...