Friday 18 July 2014

Rediscovering Troy and the Letter "W"

Walls of Hissarlik (Troy?) today
I've just spent 2 surreal days in Hissarlik, north-west Turkey, generally believed to be ancient Troy. I was telling a great cameraman where the Wooden Horse, IF historical, MIGHT CONCEIVABLY have been dragged inside, in ABOUT the 13th century BCE.

Star of forthcoming TV Show
Everything in Trojan War Studies depends on the sound represented in our alphabet by the letter "w". Bronze Age Ilium/Ilion is better called Wilion. (W)ilion/Troy was known to its eastern neighbours, the Hittites, as WILUSA. But between 1300 and Homer the Greeks forgot the sound "w". The lost sound is known as digamma and represented by the symbol ϝ.

Cafe at Troy with Hittite Name
When "w" went missing, the word for wine, woinos, started to be pronouned oinos. The word for king, wanax, started to be pronounced anax instead. Etc. We must assume the existence of this sound to make sense of the metre of Homer's epic Iliad (or Wiliad). This means that the poem must include verses composed much earlier than Homer (operating in the 8th century BCE) and possibly composed as early as the 13th century BCE. On this rests almost the entire the argument that the Iliad, or parts of it, put us in direct contact with the reality of Bronze Age Troy.

But my great discovery this week is that the sound "w" has resurfaced in western Turkey after three millennia! The Prime Minister (and aspiring President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has his name pronounced ErdoWAN. He has another strong connection with the Bronze Age,and that is in his attitudes to women. He has recently said that all Turkish women should be producing three children, and that a woman without a headscarf is equivalent to "a house without curtains"

The lost letter of the Greeks--digamma "w"
with producer SARAH DEAN & camera/sound TOM FOWLEY
Controlling my desire to imagine ErdoWAN with Venetian blinds crashing shut across his face, and squashing his nostrils, I took to adding "w" onto the beginning of all place-names in Turkey. Wistanbul etc. ErdoWAN lives in--ahem--Ankara.

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