The Hurrian Tasmisu and The Hellenic Hermes: Brothers of Another… Er… Parent?

In the book Hittite Myths as translated by Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. (second edition) there is a section on Hurrian Myths. In tablet one of “The Song of Ullikummi” it says:

“When Kumarbi [had formed] a clever plan [in his mind], he promptly arose from his chair. In his hand he took a staff; [on his feet] like winged [shoes] he put the winds” (4.Ai 11-15).

And later in tablet 3:

“When Tasmisu heard Tessub’s words, he quickly arose, [took] a staff in hand, put the winds on his feet – like winged shoes, and went up on the hightowers” (48.Aii 1-2).

Kumarbi is trying to dethrone Tessub (sometimes translated as Teshub), who is currently king of the gods. Tasmisu is Tessub’s vizier (he and Tessub are both “sons,” of a sort, of Kumarbi). Actually, the Anu, Kumarbi, Tessub storyline has a lot of parallels to the Kronos, Ouranos, Zeus story… Ahem. Anyway. That would be for a different day. We’re going to set aside Kumarbi for right now and look at the vizier, Tasmisu.


Kumarbi is on the left, Tessub on the right

Tasmisu is acting as a messenger. He grabs his staff and puts the wind on his feet, or, basically, his winged shoes. Who else has a staff and winged shoes? Specifically, in the Hellenic world? But of course! Hermes! Tasmisu also, later on in the story, leads Tessub to visit Allani, “the lady” who ruled the underworld (known as Lelwani to the Hittites, and possibly connected to the Sumerian Ereshkigal ). Hermes is also a cthonic deity who is able to go freely from the underworld and back and acts as a psychopomp, leading people safely to the underworld.

It makes me wonder if all of these stories of gods putting winged shoes on their feet and wandering around to the underworld eventually morphed into the Hellenic Hermes? There seems to be some sort of kinship there.


Tasmisu on the left, Hermes on the right

(to see the inspiration for Teshub click HERE.) There is also more information about Hittite/Hurrian mythology. Just remember that mythology is not always kid friendly, as it were.

To read The Story of Laodike Click HERE.

Hittite Prayers & Terror and Panic

A few Mondays ago I got a book in the mail entitled Hittite Prayers by Itamar Singer, as part of the Writings From the Ancient World Series. (Which was very exciting. I almost stopped breathing trying to explain to my mum how excited I was because, yes, I am that much of a nerd.) While reading it today (in between editing pictures, because my editing program is so ridiculously slow) I came across this line:

“You stride through the four eternal corners. The Fears run on your right, the Terrors run on your left” (No. 4c, 6.i-61).

This, of course, reminding me of The Iliad  when the Trojans and Achaeans are facing off to battle after Menelaus is wounded:

“Behind them, Ares, as behind the Greeks/ The goddess Athena with sea-grey eyes,/ And on both sides Terror and Panic” (Lombardo, 4.471-3).


I doubt that there’s any true connection there between the Hittite equivalent of Shamash (a sun god) striding around with Terror and Panic and two Greek gods running around with Terror and Panic, but it intrigues me, especially because I am interested in the Hittite underlining of this Greek epic.IMG_2898.jpg

*Those on the right should be recognizable as Panic, Terror, Athena, and Ares. On the left we have Shamash wearing his epic hat and holding something that I’m sure is important in his hands. Next to him are the two viziers Bunene and Misharu both of whom I want to do more research on.

A Note on Source Material

Before we get too much farther into this re-telling of The Iliad I would like to take a moment to talk about Sources. There are many, many, many translations of The Iliad. My understanding of ancient Greek languages is pretty basic, so I am not reading the original text. One day I will be able to do that – – but not this day. This means I have to trust a translator to help me along.

The translation I own, and which I am heavily inspired by, is Stanley Lombardo’s version. I love it. I think he does a great job of keeping a sense of humour throughout the work and it just begs to be read out loud.

I have also read most of Robert Fagles’ version, and occasionally I reference my copy from The Great Works collection (the version translated by Samuel Butler, which is not my favourite because I prefer the poetic translations, but it has its uses). If you are looking for an online version to read all you have to do is internet search it. Most likely you will find Samuel Butler’s version, but there are others.

While I do not know what translation could be considered “the best,” I will say that I enjoy the Lombardo translation, and if you do not own The Iliad yet and want to purchase a version, I highly recommend his.

Anyway! Now you know what my source material is. See you on Sunday for the next installment *mwahahahahaha*

To Read Nestor Advises to No Avail Click HERE.

Potentials for Miscommunication & Problems of Author Bias

Last time we talked about Homer and whether or not he really existed. HOWEVER, whether or he was real or merely a legend, we are left with the same problem when viewing the text. In fact, everything in this post will be applicable for pretty much any of the Greek or Roman texts that I will reference in the future, so this post is not only relevant for The Iliad, but for other ancient texts as well.

These texts have a very different bias than we do (or, at least, it most likely does, unless you are a rare and mysterious individual) and therefore there are some major Potentials For Miscommunication. Some of these PFM’s are listed below:

  1. Time. These epics were created and written down many, many years before I was born, and therefore, many, many year before you were born (unless you are a time-traveling doctor or a girl named Julianna, who is secretly thousands of years old). The way people lived back then was very different from how we live now (especially to us living in the modern Western world). Even how we view the concept of time may be different. Consider, for example, the Mesoamericans and their quadripartite concept of time — very few people will even know what that means, but for a pre-conquest Mesoamerican it was just a part of life. So too might the Greeks or Romans view time conceptually different than however you do.
  2. Place. None of us are living in Ancient Greece or on the Ionian Coast. Most of you are not even living in Greece or Turkey. (If you are: while this PFM is not as terrible for you, the landscape has still changed quite a bit since the Stone/Bronze/Iron Age.) The Mediterranean world is different geographically from, say, the Hudson or Wyoming Valleys. Therefore, the land you are looking at and living in is not the same land Agamemnon would have looked at or lived in. [A person’s Sense of Place and the Significance of Place is something I will probably go into more detail later.]
  3. Language. These were written in an old form of Greek (or Latin) that no one actively speaks anymore. You will most likely be reading a translated text. Every time you translate something, you re-make it. Every translator is going to bring their own views and vocabulary to the text. It’s impossible not to. So even if you are reading the original text it is still a translation, because YOU are translating it. You are not an ancient Greek, and therefore no matter what you do you will have to translate this text and in the translating of it, re-make it.
  4. Poetic Language. Not only is The Iliad written in old time Greek , but the text uses poetic devices all over the place. It uses a whole lot of symbolism, metaphor, epic simile, and more. It talks about pastoral images a lot (like leaves and fields and leopards), which seems really weird when you read it the first time. The poem has a specific rhythm and meter and all that (which I will NOT explain because poetic forms is not my forte). It repeats a lot of phrases, because this is what poets used to help them remember what came next in the poem. That’s why Athena is often spoken of as “grey-eyed” and the sea is “wine-dark.” These phrases not only fit the meter of the poem, BUT also helped the poet remember where he was in the poem when he was dramatically reciting to the masses.
  5. Repetition. Because Homer’s poems were recited out loud to crowds there is a WHOLE lot of repetition, just in case someone wanders around the campfire/into the crowd and doesn’t know what happened yet; or in case someone dozed off; or in case some poor child was fighting desperately to focus but, really?, couldn’t. Also, #becausepoetry. (That is the only explanation you’re going to get out of me, because I am that bad at poetic vocabulary/definitions.)
  6. Values, Ethics, and Moral Ideals. Some of the ancient Greek/Roman values and ethics will overlap with our modern ones; some of them definitely won’t. Don’t be quick to judge, but try to think of the world through their eyes. They don’t have phones or fancy magic devices, they barely have swords. They don’t have burger fast food places, they have fields of barley and a whole lot of drought. No cars, but difficult seas that sometimes stranded you for three months because of the currents and the weather. Their world is going to be different than ours, so their values are going to reflect that. Also, they live in a different time period, in a different land, with a different religious outlook (unless you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist of some sort, in which case, the differences religiously won’t be as bad). Even if they didn’t live in such a different time/place, remember: your values, ethics, and moral ideals could be different from your next-door neighbors values, ethics, and moral ideals, so it’s important to be able to understand and be aware of this PFM in particular, because it is something that will show up in your day to day life.

Some other points to remember when considering authorship, particularly with ancient Greek or Roman works, is that the person who created/wrote it was:

  1. Male. (Unless possibly Sappho). It is sad, but true. Until you get to Anna of Byzantium, outside of some poetry, it’s all males all the time, and that bias shows, sometimes like #WHAT.
  2. Educated. You don’t write things down if you aren’t educated. Mostly because you can’t write things down if you don’t know how words or alphabets work. #thisshouldbeobvious
  3. Probably middle/upper class. You don’t get educated if you don’t have monies.
  4. Sexist. Women are poetic devices at best. Some authors are less sexist than others, but yeah. The Greek and Roman world is INCREDIBLY male-centric/phallo-centric, whatever fancy term you want to use to describe it. Sometimes this is painful. I try to be fair, because that is the world they grew up in, but sometimes my own bias will come out in a roar, so be prepared for that.
  5. Polytheist. Whether hardcore, fairly agnostic, meh, or more atheistic, the polytheist view is going to color EVERYTHING in the Greek/Roman world. If you are used to a monotheistic viewpoint, I promise you, some things in these texts just won’t jive and will leave you flummoxed. Do your best.
  6. Ethnicity/Race. Greeks are VERY pro-Greek everyone else is stupid/barbaric/uncivilized/a cannibal. Romans are VERY pro-Roman everyone else is stupid/barbaric/uncivilized/not as good as us. The Greek worldview is very anti-anyone else (part of their hatred of Thrace). The Romans are very We Are The Most Awesome HAHAHAHA, which is why they downplay the importance of Etruria like #WHAT. So whenever a Greek/Roman author is talking about someone/a group that isn’t part of their group, BE AWARE, a bias is happening.

There are other lenses that authors look through that create their bias, of course. These are just some basic things to keep in mind. A future post delving into ancient Greek ethics/values may happen one day, and at that time will be linked to HERE. But not this day.

ALSO: Obviously, I am an author so I have a bias. All of these categories also relate to what I’m writing. While I do try my best to be accurate and fair, sometimes I, like Herodotus, exaggerate/gossip/re-invent because it makes a story, quite simply, better. Keep this in mind and forgive me my re-interpretations of text, as I forgive those who re-interpreted before me.

To Begin By Reading The Prologue Click HERE.

Who the Heck is Homer?

He was a man who may or may not have existed.

The story: he was a blind poet who was freaking awesome and created both The Illiad and The Odyssey and one day some sycophant wrote it all down for him.

The more probable truth: The Illiad and The Odyssey were oral tales told by wandering poets for generations and one day someone or someones decided to write them down for posterity.

Why is this more likely? Two reasons!

  1. Because both of Homer’s epic poems mix references to both The Stone Age and The Bronze Age. They cannot decide where in time they actually are.
  1. This is what happened with the Finnish Kalevala, giving us a historical precedent and all that. The Kalevala was an oral tradition and was later written down by Elias Lönnrot.

Maybe Homer was the Elias Lönnrot of the ancient Greek world, maybe not. HOWEVER: a random blind poet living in a cave is way more amusing, so we’re just going to pretend like he exists.


Question: Why was Homer a blind poet?

Answer: There are a collection of poems called The Homeric Hymns which were not all written by Homer (and maybe none of them were) but for quite some time people thought they WERE all written by Homer. In one of the poems, “Hymn 3 To Apollon” lines 171-173 to be exact, it says:

“Do tell him in unison that I am he,/a blind man, dwelling on the rocky island of Chios,/whose songs shall all be the best in time to come.”

[I am quoting Apostolos N. Athanassakis’s version, which is the one I own and highly recommend.]

This made people think that Homer is telling his audience that he is this blind man living on an island, which means it must be true, obvs.


There you have it! Now you know who the heck Homer is. Or. Um. Who he allegedly is. We still don’t know if he… actually… was. AHEM. Next time we will talk about The Problems of Author Bias.

IN THE MEANTIME: Here is a link to a picture of an idealized bust of Homer — which is hilarious to me, but probably isn’t supposed to be.

PLUS: My version of Homer…

Just chillin’ in his cave, singing about destruction and xenia.*

*Xenia: a Greek concept we’ll learn about more in the future.*

ALSO To Learn About Potentials for Miscommunication and Problems of Author Bias Click HERE.

Where the Mediterranean Are We?

I’m glad you asked! If you look at a map of the Mediterranean world you will see a stretch of water between Greece and modern day Turkey. This is called the Aegean Sea and it is littered with all sorts of islands, including Salamis, Delos, Melos, Samos, and etc. South of these islands is an island vaguely resembling a slug (in my opinion), which is called Crete. Crete is important because of Minoan Civilization, which you will not learn about here. North of these islands a traveler would find such places as Thrace. Thrace is only important because Greeks don’t love them.
On the left of the Aegean Sea is Greece-Land. This includes the upper part where you can find places like Thessaly and Athens and the Oracle chillin’ out at Delphi. On the lower hand-shaped part (called the Peloponnesus) you will find places like Sparta where they basically live in mud huts and have two kings, some of whom are slightly deranged.

On the right of the Aegean Sea you will find a beautiful stretch of coast that the Greeks infected settled. This is known as the Ionian Coast. This area and the land East of it is also known as Anatolia and Asia Minor, but don’t worry about that right now, or possibly ever.

On the Ionian coast you will find, starting in the South and moving Northwards, towns like Halicarnassus (home to Herodotus), Miletus (which gets attacked All The Time), and Sardis (home to Croesus).

Continuing North you will eventually bump into Troy (if you have traveled back in time, that is, which is the assumption I’m going to be going off of, which should be obvious). Troy is right by the Hellaspont where you would have to jump over the Strait of Dardenelles (which I don’t recommend) in order to go from Turkey, up around to Thrace and Macedonia, and down to Greece. This is important if you’re reading Herodotus’ Histories or if you are a Persian king named Xerxes, but not really important if you’re reading The Illiad, so we will end here with a picture of one of my Not to Scale maps.


Obviously Crete is farther South. But the rest of it is EXACTLY like real life. Hahahaha… Um. No. This is useful for generalities, but maybe look at a real map and don’t use this to study for a test? In fact, I will link you to real maps, just in case you need ones.

For a Map of the Mediterranean World Click Here
For a WHOLE BUNCH of Ancient Maps with ALL SORTS of Info Click Here
For a Map of the Collapse of the Bronze Age Click Here

To Find Out Who the Heck is Homer Click HERE.