Winds of Change

'Winds of Change' is a History Blog by @SaranWolf7 and will post regular updates at AHF.


I would not say that the Luwians have been absent from history, or even deleted from history, but that they have been subordinated to it. They have been seen as vassals of the Hittites, or as city states of the ilk of Troy, but in modern times have been seen through the lens of either a Hittite chronology or a Mycenaean one.

A second millennium BC people, the Luwians are not a united or a single people - they may be ethnographically so, but they never had a single unified state. When they appear in history it is as a mass of different political entities, or sometimes as a federation.

Vassal states and federations were pretty much the norm in the Bronze Age - our maps may show great empires, but if you dig down then the empire consists of a core polity which dominates many smaller ones who are seen as vassals or allies. Maps like to show the whole as an empire, but in most respects it is a confederation, with a dominant centre and the other parts subordinated to it.

Incomers will build upon existing polities, using those which they can domiinate as a basis for manpower and economic strength. The Hittites would not only do this to the Luwians, but adopt their heiroglyphic writing system, so much so indeed that it was originally known as Hittite Hieroglyphics.

The Aegean Sea in the Bronze Age was not a barrier but a highway, so the idea that you can separate the history of the Greeks on one side, and the Luwian states on the other is ridiculous - even if you did not consider the Trojan War, and the Greek colonies on the Western Asia Minor shore, even perhaps as long ago as 1200 BC.

The Luwians have not been deleted from this history, but have been fragmented by it, given the names of their individual smaller polities, and made to seem bit-players for most of it. One does not say that the Greeks are not Greeks simply because Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, and Orchomenos are separate states. We call them all part of the Mycenaean culture, a unifier in its name for the Greek polities.

When we look at unifiers, for the Mycenaeans we can look at Linear B, and at the Trojan War, and at pottery and so on. The Luwians similarly had their hieroglyphic text, some 3 centuries before Linear B, and if you read The Iliad you can see that Troy did not stand alone but was part of a federation of Luwian states fighting back against the Greeks. This latter point is almost entirely overlooked, but it is there in the sources, and it is entirely logical in that Troy was not a stand-alone state but an integral part of its geopolitical situation.

Wilusa and Arzawa are names that you may have heard before - they are Luwian polities, and Wilusa is probably synonymous with Troy. They are not stand-alone entities, they are not weird stand-outs, they are an intregral part of the overall Luwian culture.

It is therefore not that the Luwians did not exist in historical retellings, or that they were being ignored, but that they were not being seen as a unified culture akin to the Mycenaean Greeks.

Nobody would say in the Middle Ages that the different German states were not German and that they did not have interests in common, or an identity in common, despite being fragmented into masses of individual polities. Similarly, one can say that the Luwians had a common identity, and common interests, despite being fragmented into many individual states and being rivals between each other.

But at the same time it is incorrect to talk about any idea of Luwian empire, or even Luwian territory - it is territory inhabited by Luwians, formed of many many states, some of which are direct vassals of other powers, and some of which are completely conquered and incorporated into the central polity of other powers, e.g. the Hittites. It is where they live, where their culture dominated, and where many individual polities were Luwian, but not all.

Real history does not do labels well - race, kingdom, culture, and so on are both fluid on the one hand, and subordinated on the other, as a race can be under a king of a different race, or a ruler of one race can absorb the culture from their subject people, and so on.

And what did they call themselves? We know the Hittites called them Luwians, but did they do so? We have decided to do so now, in recognising their collective identity. Just as the Greeks did not call themselves Greek, or Mycenaean, but instead Achaevoi (Achaeawa in Hittite, and Achaeans in Latin), we should look back towards what the Luwians called their common identity when they were not men of Troy, or Wilusa, or Arzawa.

But in the end, a name is a label, so we label them Luwians and this allows us to create unified study of their culture, not as adjuncts to the Hittites or the Greeks, but as a major culture in their own right.

Saran Wolf

The Origins of Rome - Guest Blog by Saran Wolf

My understanding of the archaeology of early Rome is that there were two early villages, one on the Quirinal and one on the Capitoline (I think) and that they merged and created a ditch/pallisade around both of them, thus creating a unified settlement.

The story of Romulus and Remus could thus be seen as an analogy, or as a garbled history, of this event. No doubt the two villages intended to lead jointly, but at some event the 'Roma' village would have come to dominate, perhaps bloodily, its federated neighbour. Maybe there even was a Remus jumping over the Roma side's ditch and saying it was not as good as their ditch, or maybe it is an anology for an attempt by the Remus side to take control of the joint project that went wrong. But there can be no doubt that the Roma village won, and gave its name to the whole site.

Personal names in ancient times were more fluid than they were today - in later Roman times agnomens were popular, an additional name tagged onto the end of your formal name to celebrate an achievement: Africanus onto the end of the member of the Scipio dynasty who defeated Carthage is one of the best known examples. Thus, Romulus whilst literally meaning "Man of Rome" might not just be an apocryphal figure of myth, but a named individual who took Romulus as his agnomen after creating the unified township.

Early Roman history is sometimes sighted through Etruscan lenses, or glimpsed at by Roman historians such as Livy, or the Emperor Claudius himself, who was a renowned scholar of the Etruscans. Much of the histories that were written from original sources have been lost, and these include whatever Claudius himself penned, and only fragments survive. Livy's great work best resembles that of the Medieval British monk Gerald of Wales who tried to create a cohesive history of Britain from decaying old manuscripts, and in the process whilst preserving lots of information, created a somewhat garbled and confused origin tale, because he himself did not know the facts. Later historians would have much preferred the exact replication of all of the original documents, just as later historians of Ancient Rome would have preferred Livy to have transcribed exactly everything that he was reading from. But that was not their purpose - both men intended to tell a cohesive story of their land, weaving into it a narrative tale that would be read for generations. And both men succeeded, but at what cost to history?

In the names of early kings of Rome, and in the identification Claudius would later make between some of them and other information he had, we can glimpse a history of internal power struggles, mixed with incomers, Etruscan exiles, and war with local Latin and Etruscan townships. Some of the names are no doubt true, and some of the tales put to these names, but until someone either digs up inscriptions which state unequivocally what happened (such as one might find on stone in Ancient Egypt) or someone strikes lucky, perhaps in Herculaneum, and comes across an original papyrus of one of the lost histories, any reconstruction of events into a coherent history must be fractional. We can go with Livy, or other ancient Romans, most of whose writings are in the main lost, or we can create our own from what we can see. But either way we are peering through shadows at something we can just make out the form of.

Whilst Rome's origins in pre-existing villages is proven by the archaeology, there is no reason to rule out that Rome became a magnet for dispossessed men who wanted a chance to make a new life for themselves. Indeed, if local Latin or Etruscan towns resented the newly combined villages-as-town, the leaders of Rome may well have encouraged as many of these exiles, wanderers and chancers as possible so as to provide for themselves a warband sufficient to see off any local threat. Thus, the idea that Rome was both a haven to criminals, exiles and so on and that these men came to greatly outnumber any available women can be seen to have a possible logical origin.

And so would the Rape of the Sabine women. If we assume that in fighting to secure Rome's continued existence as a unified town of pre-existing villages, Rome had alienated its neighbours, and that its neighbours forbade their women to marry into the greatly-enhanced male population of Rome, then a ruse like that with the Sabines would make sense from a practical perspective. And to kidnap enemy womenfolk it would be more logical to have them come to you, than to raid and try to steal them from a fortified enemy settlement, which action may also draw in other towns in the area.

It would certainly provide wives for the mass of menfolk who had come to fight for and live in the newly unified township, and thus provide a momentum for the growth and consolidation of the town of Rome. Later, very early, history of Rome would thus have it as one of a number of sustainable towns vying in the region for local political hegemony.

And all of this has been written without reference to Aeneas. What are we to make of Roman attempts to shoehorn the Trojan War into their origin myths? Even Roman scholars were perplexed by the issue, as they actually had a pretty good understanding of the relative chronology of the Trojan War in relation to the Foundation of Rome, and could see that there were several hundred years in between.

The complication in simply saying it was a myth created by educated Romans once they were educated in ancient Greek history, is that some sense of the myth of Aeneas and Rome also appears in Greek writings of the 4th century BC, and is certainly well established in Roman mythology by the 1st century BC, well before Virgil put together his great work, the Aeneid. Later Romans squared the circle by having Aeneas not founding Rome, as such, but nearby settlements, including the one that Romulus and Remus, in the long story, are supposed to have been scions of, left to drown by the Tiber by servants of their uncle, the king of this Alba Longa.

This squaring of the circle might have a certain potential, albeit one would currently be impossible to trace. The question that arises are: who were the Etruscans, and when did they settle in Tuscany?

History Wanderer