Speculations about the history that lies behind some of the famous legends

I have tried to take what little I have been learning since our holiday, about the history of the Eastern Meditarranean and Mesopotamia, and use it to make what I think are amusingly plausible speculations about the background to some famous legends. For each, I try to set out what I believe to be the facts that are more or less well attested, and then see how the legend fits into those facts. The method is very similar to that of "Folk Etymology" in the study of language, and is in no way to be taken as more than an amusement! They are "Just So stories", and no more. But they could be right, in spite of that. A few of the suggestions may be original, but most have been made by other people, credited where I know them.

More legends will be addressed as I continue to develop this site. At present the following "Legendary Speculation" pages exist:

King Midas and the Golden Touch

I suggest that the legend was started by King Midas himself, or one of his senior political advisors.

The Trojan War and the Trojan Horse

In respect of the Trojan War, our main source is Homer's Iliad. Until the 19th century, it was taken to be a fanciful story, but after Schliemann found Troy, it began to be taken as a true history. John Chadwick, one of the decipherers of Linear B, has analyzed the Iliad to assess its possible historical accuracy. Here is a discussion of Homer's accuracy, based largely on Chadwick's analysis.

Theseus and the Minotaur


Could these two seemingly very different legends actually be stories of the same event? I propose that both deal with the destruction of the Minoan seafaring empire after the 1650BC explosion of Thera. Here is the section of Plato's Critias dealing with Atlantis. It is where the legend started, so far as we in modern times are concerned. Also, although it is not itself a legend, here is a depiction and discussion of the so-called Marine Festival frieze, a fresco from Akrotiri, which may have a slight bearing on the Atlantis story. I look a little more closely at the relationship between the Minoan and the earlier Sumerian cultures here.

Another interesting legend is that of

Jason and the Golden Fleece

One element of the legend suggests that the Argonauts were very close to Thera when it finally exploded, and were able to land on an island only 20 km from Thera during the ashfall. A different, well reasoned and researched view on the legend with lots of documentation is here.

Some aspects of what I have been learning about Ancient History will be developed here. (At the moment, it's only the 12th episode of a series of e-mail messages I sent. The first 11 were text messages).

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