Iliad

The Iliad is a Greek epic traditionally attributed to Homer. Scholars are of the opinion that it could be the work of several contributors all of whom attributed their work to the first contributor Homer. Thus its evolution is similar to Mahabharata and Ramayana, which were attributed respectively to Vyasa and Valmiki, though their evolution was the result of contributions from several others. Iliad is sometimes referred as the Song of Ilion or the Song of Ilium. It is composed in dactylic hexameters. The language used, for want of a technical term, is called Homeric Greek, a literary mixture of Ionic Greek with other dialects probably descended from the dialects spoken by the heroes mentioned in Iliad. The Iliad contains over 15,000 lines.

Table of Contents

Temporal Span

The core temporal span and focus of Iliad is a few weeks of the tenth year of the war famously known as the Trojan war (occurred approximately around 1200 BCE). However in the different parts of the epic we finds events that occurred before this few weeks in the 10th year as well as those occurred in the other nine years. It also contains narrations that described the cause of the war, viz. abduction of princess Helen, wedded wife of Menelaus (brother of the great king Agamemnon) by the Trojan prince Paris. It also contains events that occurred spanning several generations that preceded the war-heroes who fought this war, describing the deeds of their parents and grandparents. In this way it is similar to Mahabharata, in which the core temporal span is the 18 days (close to 3 weeks) of the war, famously known as the Kurukshetra War (occurred approximately around 3100 BCE) fought between two branches of the Kuru tribe, but which also contains information on many generations that preceded and succeeded the generation of the war-heroes. In Iliad, a few narrations have a futuristic predictive tone, such as the death of Achilles the foremost hero among the Achaeans and the final sacking of the city of Troy. However it is clear that these were added in a futuristic tone after the events had occurred.

The few weeks where Iliad focus most of its content deals with a quarrel between warrior Achilles and king Agamemnon regarding a captive women belonging to the Trojans named Briseis. It also includes the subsequent battles and death of many war-heroes like Hector.

Warring tribes

Defenders of Troy

The defenders of the city of Troy, on behalf of its king Priam and his sons including Hector and Paris (who abducted Helen), were generally called the Trojans. They were supported by several other tribes who came from neighboring territories of Troy and from far away lands to the east of Troy (which could include whole of Turkey and what later became Persia and now Iran). These tribes seems to have migrated from the western regions of India and most of Pakistan, taking several generations. Iliad clearly mentions that these tribes were diverse, assembled from far away lands and speak diverse languages. The tribe of king Priyam ruling at Troy is specifically mentioned as Dardanian. A region named Dardania is mentioned as their older territory before establishing Ilius with the capital city named Troy. Dardanians were identical to or a branch of the Darada described in Mahabharata, whose territories lied to the north of present day Kashmir valley. This group seems to have migrated from the mountainous terrains to the north of Kashmir valley to the mountainous terrains of western Turkey.

Ilius and Ila

The name Ilius finds connection with the Ailas (the descendants of Ila), a prominent tribe described in Mahabharata. Ila is described as a goddess in Rigveda and as the originator of a royal race in Mahabharata. The name Priyam too have a Vedic-Sanskrit etymology, and means, 'the one who is liked', 'the favored one' etc.

Attackers of Troy

The attackers of Troy under the supreme command of king Agamemnon and warriors like Achilles too were diverse in their origin but spoke a common language (probably with recognizable dialects) and hailed from more or less the same territory which is now Greece and a few territories around it. They called themselves as Achaeans and as Danaans.

Achaeans, Ajas, Ajamidhas and Ahis

A tribe named Aja is described in Mahabharata and Ramayana. A king named Ajamidha is described in Mahabharata as founder of several royal dynasties many of which migrated to the west. Achaeans seems to have connection with the Ajas or with the Ajamidhas. The Achaemenids of Persia (550–330 BCE) too seems to be linked with the several descendants of Ajamidha. Another tribe having connection with Achaeans was the Ahis, the Nagas. In Hittite texts the Achaean-territory is called by the name 'Ahiyyava'. The Ahis of India had established cities like Ahichatra in Indo-Gangatic plain.

Danaans and Danavas

Even stronger than the Achaean-Aja-Ajamedha-Ahi connection is the connection of Danaans with the Danavas described in Mahabharata. The three tribes viz. the Daityas, Adityas and the Danavas were described as the most ancient tribes in Mahabharata and in the later parts of the Vedas. They were three matriarchal lineages that originated from three women who were often described as goddesses named Diti, Aditi and Danu. Daityas were the descendants of Diti, Adityas descended from Aditi and Danavas from Danu. Interestingly the Danaans too were described as descended from goddess Danu as per Greek and Irish mythology. Mahabharata describes the Danavas to be one among the most beautiful tribes. In the Indic texts that emerged after the Vedas called the Puranas, the Daityas and Danavas were together called the Asuras who opposed the Devas viz. the Adityas. This description is found in later parts of the Vedas and the two epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) as well while the older parts of these texts does not speak of any animosity between the Devas (Adityas) and Asuras (Daityas and Danavas). Thus this division seems to have occurred after the emergence of the Vedas, towards the last stages of the Vedic age and close to the Kurukshetra War event.

After the continued clash of these tribes, the Daityas and Danavas spread westwards, while the Adityas spread in the Indo-Gangatic plain and went northwards (into Central Asia and Russia). Daityas later spread to Iran. They were attested as living on the banks of the Daitya river (northern Indus tributaries or Oxus) as per Avestan texts like Vendidad. Daityas finally settled in Iran. The Danavas went further westward. The Danaans described in Iliad as a people settled in Greece seems to be a branch of this Danavas. They themselves or another branch which went further westward and later established their home in Ireland, which explains the Irish mythology about goddess Danu and their children viz. the Danaans.

There were two more matriarchal sister tribes described in Indic texts. They are the Nagas (snake worshipers) and the Suparnas (snake eaters) descended from two women viz. Vinata and Kadru. The Nagas and Suparnas spread throughout India, but some of them migrated to South East (reaching South East Asia and Australia) and North East (reaching China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and finally the two Americas).

Atreus and Atri

As per Iliad, Agamemnon and Menelaus were the sons of Atreus. The descendants of sage Atri were called Atreyas as per Mahabharata. This this figure Atreus (The father of Agamemnon and Menelaus) is most likely an Atreya, born to a Danaan (Danava) women upon an Atreya father.

Book-wise Summary of Iliad

Book 1: Dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon

Chryseis was a Trojan women held as a captive by Agamemnon. Her father Chryses was a Trojan priest of god Apollo the foremost of all bowmen. He offers the Achaeans much wealth for the return of his daughter. Agamemnon refuses. Chryses prays for Apollo's help, and Apollo shoots many of the Achaeans with his arrows. Achilles, the foremost warrior among the Achaeans, calls an assembly to solve the problem. Under pressure, Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis to her father, but also decides to take Achilles's captive, Briseis, as compensation. Achilles declares that he and his men will no longer fight for Agamemnon. Ulysses takes a ship and brings Chryseis to her father, whereupon Apollo ends his attack. In the meantime, Agamemnon's messengers take Briseis away. Achilles mother, a goddess, ask Zeus (Jove) to plot against Agamemnon so that they know the value of Achilless as a great warrior. Jove agrees.

Book 2: Agamemnon's Dream

Zeus sends a dream to Agamemnon, urging him to attack the city. Agamemnon heeds the dream but decides to first test the morale of the Achaean army by telling them to go home. The plan backfires, and only the intervention of Ulysses (Odysseus), inspired by Minerva (Athena), stops the rout. Odysseus confronts and beats Thersites, a common soldier who voices discontent at fighting Agamemnon's war. After a meal, the Achaeans deploy in companies upon the Trojan plain. The poet takes the opportunity to describe each Achaean / Danaan contingent. When news of the Achaean deployment reaches king Priam, the Trojans too sortie upon the plain. In a similar list to that for the Achaeans, the poet describes the Trojans and their allies.

Book 3: Dual between Paris and Menelaus

The armies approach each other on the plain, but before they meet, Paris offers to end the war by fighting a duel with Menelaus, to the advice and will of his brother and head of the Trojan army, Hector. While Helen tells Priam about the Achaean commanders from the walls of Troy, both sides swear a truce and promise to abide by the outcome of the duel. Paris is beaten, but Venus (Aphrodite) rescues him and leads him to bed with Helen before Menelaus could kill him.

Book 4: The War Begins

Pressured by (Juno (Hera's) hatred of Troy, Zeus arranges for the Trojan Pandaros to break the truce by wounding Menelaus with an arrow. Agamemnon rouses the Achaeans, and battle is joined.

Book 5: Diomedes fights Aeneas

In the fighting, Diomedes kills many Trojans and defeats Aeneas, whom again Venus (Aphrodite) rescues, but Diomedes attacks and wounds the goddess. Apollo faces Diomedes, and warns him against warring with gods. Many heroes and commanders join in, including Hector, and the gods supporting each side try to influence the battle. Emboldened by Athena, Diomedes wounds Ares and puts him out of action.

Book 6 : Diomedes befriends Glaukos

Hector rallies the Trojans and stops a rout; the Achaean Diomedes and the Trojan Glaukos find common ground and exchange unequal gifts. Hector enters the city, urges prayers and sacrifices, incites Paris to battle, bids his wife Andromache and son Astyanax farewell on the city walls, and rejoins the battle.

Book 7: Hector fights Ajax

Hector duels with Ajax, but nightfall interrupts the fight and both sides retire. The Achaeans agree to burn their dead and build a wall to protect their ships and camp, while the Trojans quarrel about returning Helen. Paris offers to return the treasure he took, and give further wealth as compensation, but without returning Helen, and the offer is refused. A day's truce is agreed for burning the dead, during which the Achaeans also build their wall and trench.

Book 8: Achaeans defeated

The next morning, Zeus prohibits the gods from interfering, and fighting begins anew. The Trojans prevail and force the Achaeans back to their wall while Juno (Hera) and Minerva (Athena) are forbidden from helping. Night falls before the Trojans can assail the Achaean wall. They camp in the field to attack at first light, and their watchfires light the plain like stars.

Book 9: Agememnon tries to pacify Achilles

Meanwhile, the Achaeans / Danaans are desperate. Agamemnon admits his error, and sends an embassy composed of Odysseus, Ajax, Phoenix, and two heralds to offer Briseis and extensive gifts to Achilles, who has been camped next to his ships throughout, if only he would return to the fighting. Achilles and his companion Patroclus receive the embassy well, but Achilles angrily refuses Agamemnon's offer, and declares that he would only return to battle if the Trojans reach his ships and threaten them with fire. The embassy returns empty-handed.

Book 10: Ulysses and Diomedes fights in the night

Later that night, Ulysses (Odysseus) and Diomede venture out to the Trojan lines, kill the Trojan Dolon, and wreak havoc in the camps of some Thracian allies of Troy.

Book 11: Achilles sends Patroclus to battle

In the morning, the fighting is fierce and Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus are all wounded. Achilles sends Patroclus from his camp to inquire about the Achaean casualties, and while there Patroclus is moved to pity by a speech of Nestor.

Book 12: Achaeans defeated again

The Trojans assault the Achaean wall on foot. Hector, ignoring an omen, leads the terrible fighting. The Achaeans are overwhelmed in rout, the wall's gate is broken, and Hector charges in.

Book 13: Advise of Polydames

Many fall on both sides. The Trojan seer Polydamas urges Hector to fall back and warns him about Achilles, but is ignored.

Book 14: Interference of Poseidon

Hera seduces Zeus and lures him to sleep, allowing Neptune (Poseidon) to help the Achaeans, and the Trojans are driven back onto the plain.

Book 15: Achaeans retreat to the ships

Zeus awakes and is enraged by Poseidon's (Neptune's) intervention. Against the mounting discontent of the Achaean-supporting gods, Zeus sends Apollo to aid the Trojans, who once again breach the wall, and the battle reaches the ships.

Book 16: Patroclus killed by Hector

Patroclus can stand to watch no longer, and begs Achilles to be allowed to defend the ships. Achilles relents, and lends Patroclus his armor, but sends him off with a stern admonition to not pursue the Trojans, lest he take Achilles's glory. Patroclus leads the Myrmidons to battle and arrives as the Trojans set fire to the first ships. The Trojans are routed by the sudden onslaught. Patroclus, ignoring Achilles's command, pursues and reaches the gates of Troy, where Apollo himself stops him. Patroclus is set upon by Apollo and Euphorbos, and is finally killed by Hector.

Book 17: Fight for Patraclus's body

Hector takes Achilles's armor from the fallen Patroclus, but fighting develops around Patroclus' body.

Book 18: Achilles mourns Patroclus's death

Achilles is mad with grief when he hears of Patroclus's death, and vows to take vengeance on Hector; his mother Thetis grieves, too, knowing that Achilles is fated to die if he kills Hector. Achilles is urged to help retrieve Patroclus' body, but has no armour. Made brilliant by Athena, Achilles stands next to the Achaean wall and roars in rage. The Trojans are dismayed by his appearance and the Achaeans manage to bear Patroclus' body away. Again Polydamas urges Hector to withdraw into the city, again Hector refuses, and the Trojans camp in the plain at nightfall. Patroclus is mourned, and meanwhile, at Thetis' request, Hephaistos fashions a new set of armor for Achilles, among which is a magnificently wrought shield.

Book 19: Agamemnon returns Briseis to Achilles

In the morning, Agamemnon gives Achilles all the promised gifts, including Briseis, but he is indifferent to them. Achilles fasts while the Achaeans take their meal, and straps on his new armor, and heaves his great spear. His horse Xanthos prophesies to Achilles his death. Achilles drives his chariot into battle.

Book 20: Achilles enters into battle

Zeus lifts the ban on the gods' interference, and the gods freely intervene on both sides. The onslaught of Achilles, burning with rage and grief, is terrible, and he slays many.

Book 21: Achilles advances to Skamandros river

Driving the Trojans before him, Achilles cuts off half in the river Skamandros and proceeds to slaughter them and fills the river with the dead. The river, angry at the killing, confronts Achilles, but is beaten back by Hephaistos' firestorm. The gods fight among themselves. The great gates of the city are opened to receive the fleeing Trojans, and Apollo leads Achilles away from the city by pretending to be a Trojan.

Book 22: Achilles kills Hector

When Apollo reveals himself to Achilles, the Trojans had retreated into the city, all except for Hector, who, having twice ignored the counsels of Polydamas, feels the shame of rout and resolves to face Achilles, in spite of the pleas of Priam and Hecuba, his parents. When Achilles approaches, Hector's will fails him, and he is chased around the city by Achilles. Finally, Athena tricks him to stop running, and he turns to face his opponent. After a brief duel, Achilles stabs Hector through the neck. Before dying, Hector reminds Achilles that he is fated to die in the war as well. Achilles takes Hector's body and dishonors it.

Book 23: The dream of Achilles

The ghost of Patroclus comes to Achilles in a dream and urges the burial of his body. The Achaeans hold a day of funeral games, and Achilles gives out the prizes.

Book 24: Funeral of Hector's body

Dismayed by Achilles's continued abuse of Hector's body, Zeus decides that it must be returned to Priam. Led by Mercury (Hermes), Priam takes a wagon out of Troy, across the plains, and enters the Achaean camp unnoticed. He grasps Achilles by the knees and begs to have his son's body. Achilles is moved to tears, and the two lament their losses in the war. After a meal, Priam carries Hector's body back into Troy. Hector is buried, and the city mourns.

Gods and Goddesses

In Iliad gods and goddesses are integral part of the narration, playing an active part in the Trojan war. This is much different from Mahabharata and Ramayana. In Mahabharata, the gods (Devas) are described as nothing more than passive spectators. Divine interference is much less. Only in war preparation stage do we see Indra interfering by taking away the armor of Karna in exchange of a weapon, to help his son (mytholocical attribution) Arjuna, the enemy of Karna. In Ramayana too there are no direct interference of the Devas, except India again giving his chariot to Rama before the commencement of his dual fight with Ravana. No god is mentioned as fighting for or against any party in the war described in Mahabharata and Ramayana. But in Iliad we see many gods and goddesses mentioned as fighting in favor of Achaeans or Trojans.

Possible explanations

Poetic Imagination?

One theory is that the acts of gods (and goddesses) described in Iliad are all poetic imaginations. This is also the stand adopted by a recent Hollywood movie named Troy, where only actions of men are considered as historical and discarding all actions of gods as pure fiction. This is a valid stand point.

Extraterrestrials?

Another possibility is that the gods and goddesses were some extraterrestrial tribes who had interest in humanity and activities of human individuals. They took sides with their own favorite individuals and may even fight against themselves to promote these human individuals chosen by them.

Gandharvas, Devas and Danavas?

A third possibility is that the gods and goddesses were some superior human tribe who taught warfare and technology to the Greeks. Who were this tribe is unknown but all indications point to ancient India, which had higher technology and knowledge in all fields including warfare preceding the Trojan war at least by a millennium. Analysis reveal that the characteristics of Greek gods and goddesses were derived from the Vedic gods and goddesses. However they indeed have a Greek character. The actions and characteristics of the best men and women who were the first to make Greece as their native place, were mapped to this Greek gods and goddesses. These early settlers could be a branch of the Vedic people (especially the Gandharvas, Devas, Danavas and the Daityas, and very particularly the Danavas) who reached Greece after migrating from the Vedic Sarasvati region in ancient India.

Indic Connections

Apollo

The description of Apollo resembles a skilled archer portrayed in Mahabharata, like Karna and Arjuna and in Ramayana like Rama. Karna is described as the son of Sun god. Rama is described as a descendant of Sun god. Apollo too has sun-god like characteristics. The musical skills of Apollo coupled with his skills in archery make him resemble a Gandharva. Gandharvas inhabited the Gandhara territories that lied close to Kashmir and Punjab to the west. This same region was the source of origin of Ionians, Achaeans, Danaans and Dardanians who inhabited Greece and Turkey. They were well versed in martial arts (especially archery) and art music and dance. The word 'Apa' in Apollo indicate association with water (Apa). Gandharvas too were associated with protection of sacred waters.

Artemis

Diana

The twin of Apollo, the goddess Artemis derive her name from Madra (a territory close to Gandhara) whose rulers adopted the name Artayani, meaning 'those who traverse the path of truth' (Arta, or Rta means truth). The women of Madra kingdom too were equal to men and good archers and huntresses and carried bows and arrows. They also had dogs in their household, unlike the eastern kingdoms of ancient India.

Zeus and Hera

Jupiter and Juno

The goddess name Hera (Juno) resembles Hera, the warrior goddess of ancient India, who was also known as Durga, Parvati, Uma and Sakthi the goddess of Power. She was sometimes mentioned as the wife of god Shiva. The great god Shiva was also known as Rudra, the god of the gods and as the great god (Mahadeva), a title which make him identical with Indra the king of the gods, much like Zeus (Jove or Jupiter). Even the name Zeus is derived from the Vedic Dyaus (the sky god).

Hermes and Ares

Mercury and Mars

Hermes (Mercury) is identified with Rigvedic Sarama (deification of hunting dogs). The war-god Ares (Mars) is identifiable with Arya (the Kshatriya warriors of ancient India).

Athena and Aphrodite

Minerva and Venus

Athena (Minerva) seems to be a patron goddess of ancient Greece. No connection with any Indian goddess of same name is found. However she was portrayed as a goddess of knowledge, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and music which make here similar to goddess Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, crafts and music.

Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love, beauty and fertility seems to have connection with goddess Diti (the mother of the Daityas). She seems to be a descendant of Diti. The word 'Ap' signifies water (Apa) and she could have formerly a water goddess (Apsara). The word 'aphros' in Homeric-Greek means 'sea foam', which again signifies water. The Daityas (sons of Diti) were good at sea navigation, and probably would have influenced the Danaans / Danavas in Greece through sea-trade.

In the post-Vedic age, goddess Diti lost prominence and that position is taken by Lakshmi, hailed in the Puranas as goddess of wealth, beauty and fertility. The origin of Lakshmi too was from water (sea) like Aphrodite. Goddess Sarasvati continued to be revered as the goddess of knowledge. There is no mention of any kind of animosity between Lakshmi and Sarasvati like those described in the Iliad between Athena and Aphrodite, except in the youngest Puranas. Even these too, are figurative or symbolic to address the question of superiority of wealth and beauty over knowledge and wisdom or vice versa.

The Goddess Triad

In the Vedic literature of India we had three goddesses forming a triad viz. Bharati (power), Ila (beauty & opulence) and Sarasvati (knowledge, arts & crafts). Similarly in the post-Vedic, Puranic literature of India, we have three goddesses forming a triad, viz. Durga (power), Lakshmi (beauty & opulence) and Sarasvati (knowledge, arts & crafts). A similar triad is found in Iliad, as Hera (Juno), Aphrodite (Venus) and Athena (Minerva). Similar goddess triads are found in many other cultures like in Arabia where we had Manat, Al-Lat and Al-Ussa. Thus these triads could be parts of a global goddess worship cult that existed since ancient periods, coexisting with the Vedic Indo-European culture.

Chronous, Ouranous, Posideon and Hedes

Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto

Chronous as the name indicate is the god of time, a function identified with Mahakala (the great god of Time), viz. Rudra-Siva. Thus both Chronous and Zeus are mapped to Rudra-Siva. However another Rig Vedic god viz. Yama too does the function of time. Ouranous (Uranus) is identified with the Rig Vedic Varuna, the lord of the celestial sea (sky). Posideon (Neptune) is identified with the Rig Vedic Pusan (Pusa-deva:- Posideon) and Hedas (Pluto) with the Rig Vedic Yama (the god of time, justice and later the god of the underworld). the Roman god Neptune is also identified with the Vedic Apam-Napat (a god of the sacred waters (Apa)).

War Heroes and other People

Since the gods and goddesses were much ancient than the war heroes of the Trojan war, they have more Vedic roots. However several war heroes mentioned in Iliad have a Vedic Sanskrit etymology for their names. However this does not exclude for these names to have a different set of etymology based on Homeric Greek language. A sample set is shown below as a table:-

Iliad Vedic Meaning
Abantes Avanti The name of a Vedic kingdom and its people
Achelous Achala the unmoved; name of a Gandhara prince; a Kurukshetra warrior;
Ajax Ajaksha Aja-aksha (aja:goat, aksha:eye:- the goat eyed)
Ajax Ajaksha Aja-aksha (aja:goat, aksha:chariot-axis:- the having goat driven chariot)
Agasthenes Agastya name of a sage, a Vedic tribe
'Andros' in Alexandrus, Andromache etc Indra Andros (Gk.) 'of man'; (Skt.) 'of Indra'
Argos city, person Arjuna the white one; Arjuna, son of Indra; like Argos the son of Zeus; Indra :- Zeus:- king of gods
Atreus, Otreus Atreyas the descendants of sage Atri
Axius Aksha the axis
Bias vipasa Bias, Beas is the Greek name of Vipasa, a river in Punjab, India
Cadmus Kardama a sage and originator of the tribe of Kardamas
Calesius Kala Kala is mentioned as a sister of Danu in Mahabharata; here descendants were called Kaleyas / Kalakeyas, who were grouped together with Daityas and Danavas
Danaans Danavas one among the ancient tribes that includes Daityas, Adityas and Danavas, who migrated westwards from ancient India
Dardanians Daradas a tribe existed in the north, north-west of Kashmir, India
Dares Daruka a charioteer mentioned in Mahabharata
Dexius Daksha the originator of a tribe, mentioned in the Vedas
Dryas Drahyu the originator of the Drahyu tribe
Eumedes Sumedhas one with beautiful body
Eurydamas Sura-Dama divine person
Hercules Heracles Hari-kulesha the god of the tribe of Hari / Hara / Hera;
Ionians Yavanas a tribe who took part in Kurukshetra war, who later got established at Ionia in Greece, through sea and land trade
Minos Matsyas a tribe which derive its name from fish (Mina, Matsya)
Ulysses (Odysseus) Odra-desi hailing from Odra-desa, Odisa (Orissa, India). A Yavana port-city in Odra-Kalinga regions is mentioned in Mahabharata
Pandion Pandya a southern tribe
Pelasgi Pulaha one among the seven sage tribes
Perseus Parasu Parasus, Parasikas, a branch of the Bhrigu tribe who migrated to west
Phegeus Bhaga name of a god
Phrygians Bhrigus one among the seven sage-tribes founded by Bhrigu; also known as Bhargavas
Rhadamanthus Radha-madhu? a clan of the Yadavas
Sarpedon Sarpas (Nagas) a clan of the Nagas (snake worshippers; Sarpa: snake)
Sintians Sindhus a tribe who lived on the banks of Indus
Sthenelus Sthanaka ruler of a place (Sthana), a tribe named Sthanakas
Trojans Tra-jana protected people

The names used to denote humanity, like andros, man, human, manushya, purusa were all ancient tribal names. Andros:- descendants of Indra; Man, Manushya, Human :- descendants of Manu; Purusha:- descendants of Puru.

Place Names

Similar to names of heroes some place names (names of cities, rivers, mountain and regions) too have faint Vedic etymologies. This does not mean that these places were located in India. They were indeed located in Greece and surrounding areas but their names bear mark of Vedic culture.

Iliad Vedic Meaning
Aesopus river Ashvapatha Ashva-patha (ashva:horse, patha:path:- horse way (along the river)
Aetolia city Atala a region described as remote and subterranean, where Daitya Danavas live
Argos city Arjuna Arjuna, the white, silvery, shining one; son of Indra and the foremost warrior of Kurukshetra
Ascania Ashvaka Desa Vedic name of Afganistan; the land of horses (Ashvas)
Cardamyle city Kardama a sage who originated a tribe of Kardamas
Crete island Kratu one among the seven great sages
Gonoessa Gana-Desa territory of united tribes
Hypereia Upari-Desa elevated land
Ida, Ilius Ida, Ila-region a region mentioned in Indic texts; Ila-river; Ilaspada region
Practius Prachya eastern regions (Prachya: eastern)

Danava / Danaan culture

Information from Indic texts

There are several references to the three principal tribes, viz. the Adityas, Daityas and Danavas in Indic texts viz. the Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas. The Adityas were often described favorably while Daityas and Danavas were described as hostile tribes, though there are many exceptions to this rule. Probably the Indic people predominantly descended from the Adityas.

Mahabharata describes the Danavas to be a tribe of beatuful men and women, but strongly critisize them along with the Daityas for their lack of adherence to Dharma. The Puranas critisize them for the lack of compassion (Daya) towards their own tribessmen and towards members of other tribes, their extreme cruelty in war and their practice of keeping women and children (in the enemy side) as captives where they live the rest of their lives in bondage and suffering. In the Vedas, Danu is described as a goddess associated with water (Apa) and seven of her children are mentioned as Danavas, who Indra defeated and sent to the ocean. In Mahabharata and the Puranas Indra is described as the king of the gods (like Zeus, in Iliad). Here the Daityas and Danavas with many other minor tribes were togather described as the Asuras who were enemies of the Adityas (gods). In these later texts, especially in the Puranas, Danu is mentioned as a goddess of bondage and suffering.

Information from Avestan texts

The Avestan texts like Vendidad, indicates that the Daityas who settled around the Daitya river (Kashmir-Afganistan) and later migrated to Iran were the originators of Avestan texts. The Homeric Greek texts like Iliad and Odyssey indicates that the Danavas who lived in the same regions (North-Western India, Eastern Afganistan) migrated to the territories in and around Greece by sea and by land, as Danaans.

Information from Iliad

The characteristics of the Danaans described in Iliad matches with the Epic-Puranic description of the Danavas, as a tribe of beautiful people, but with no concept of Dharma. They were very cruel in warfare and kept the women and children of their enemies captive. There are several specific examples. The Trojan women Briseis was held captive by Achilles and Agamemnon. Andromache, the wife of Hector, was held captive by the Danaans after sacking Troy. Her son Astyanax was brutally killed by Danaan warriors in front of her eyes, who threw the child down from the city walls.

Danavas in ancient India

Many Danava kings were mentioned as ruling in ancient India as per narrations in Mahabharata and the Puranas. King Naraka who ruled at Prakjyotisha is mentioned as an Asura (Daitya or Danava), who took the wives of the kings he defeated as captive. Krishna is mentioned as rescuing around 16,000 women who were thus held captive by king Naraka. Many kings like Jarasandha and Kamsa came under the influence of Danava / Daitya culture and did similar deeds. Kamsa killed the sons of her own sister, fearing that they would become future rulers after killing him. Jarasandha held all the kings defeated by him as captives in his city. They were freed by Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima after Bhima killed Jarasandha.

Concept of Dharma

In the wars that occurred between Indic tribes, as revealed by the Epics and Puranas, harming anyone other than the enemy-warriors was considered as Adharma (against Dharma). Children and wives of the enemies were not harmed. The enemy cities and villages were not sacked but would continue enjoy their normal life except with a change of rulership. In other cases, the victor only collects some tribute or tax and leaves the enemy territory. In many cases, the sons of the enemy king were even allowed to continue as the new rulers. Examples include, Krishna installing Jarasandha's son Sahadeva as the ruler, after slaying Jarasandha; Rama installing Ravana's brother Vibhishana as the ruler after slaying Ravana; Rama installing Angada as the heir apparent after slaying his father Vali. Similarly, the warriors fleeng battle were not killed. In Iliad narrations, we see that many warriors were killed while they were fleeing from battle.

Thus, the notions of Dharma was not developed among the Danaans. Homer who narrated these incidents indeed had some rudimentary concept of Dharma or righteosuness, but was not able to articulate it like Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata and like Valmiki the auther of Ramayana.

Further Reading

Internal Sources

  1. Iliad Wiki - A full text Wiki for Iliad with 24 books and 1200 nouns
  2. Nouns in Iliad, Alphabetical - Alphabetical list of nouns
  3. Nouns in Iliad, Frequency-wise - Frequency spectral analysis of nouns
  4. Odyssey
  5. Avesta
  6. Danava - Rigveda
  7. Danavas as a beautiful tribe - a Danavi ( female Danava) is considered as very beautiful
  8. Danava - Ramayana
  9. Danava - Mahabharata
  10. Danava - Vishnu Purana
  11. Danavas in Mahabharata
  12. Aja - Yajur Veda
  13. Aja - Atharva Veda
  14. Aja - Ramayana
  15. Aja - Mahabharata
  16. Aja - Vishnu Purana
  17. Ajamidha - Mahabharata
  18. Ajamidha - Mahabharata - 2
  19. Ajamida - Mahabharata
  20. Ajamida - Mahabharata - 2
  21. Ajamidha - Vishnu Purana
  22. Ajamila - Mahabharata
  23. Vishnu Purana
  24. Goddess Ila described in Rig Veda
  25. Ila - Atharva Veda
  26. Ila - Ramayana
  27. Ila - Mahabharata
  28. Ila - Vishnu Purana
  29. Aila - Mahabharata
  30. Ailas - Mahabharata
  31. Atri - Rig Veda
  32. Atri - Yajur Veda
  33. Atri - Atharva Veda
  34. Atri - Ramayana
  35. Atri - Mahabharata
  36. Atri - Vishnu Purana
  37. Atreya - Mahabharata
  38. Atreyas - Mahabharata
  39. Atreyas - Vishnu Purana

External Sources

  1. Iliad English Translation by Samuel Butler - sacred-text
  2. Iliad in Greek Original - sacred-text
  3. Historical and Geographical Context of Iliad
  4. Vedic Family names in Pre-Historic Greece - AncientVoice
  5. Iliad - Wikipedia

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 16 Sep 2011 09:23 and updated at 07 Oct 2011 09:32

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