How much of the *Iliad* was confirmed scientifically?

How much of the *Iliad* was confirmed scientifically?

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Obviously, one of the central facts of Homer's Iliad was confirmed when archaeologists found Troy.

But were there any other details of Iliad (such as existance of Atreidae dynasty, Agamemnon actually having a military attack on Troy, existance of Odysseus as a ruler of Ithaca, etc… ) that were confirmed scientifically - e.g. from reliable independent historical sources, archaeological finds, or other branches of sciences [1]

[1] - as a generic example of "other branches", astronomical confirmation of some celestial event mentioned, or some geological finds.

This subject is treated in detail in the 1959 book History and the Homeric Iliad by Denys Lionel Page (Sather classical lectures, volume 31).

This book, among other things, summarizes the extremely detailed information on the "Catalog of Ships" collated by the German classicist, Viktor Burr: Neon katalogos. Untersuchungen zum homerischen Schiffs-Katalog. Dieterich, Leipzig 1944.

The ship catalog is the study of the places and kings named in Homer. In general, over half of the named places are authenticated historically. The nature of the catalog is such that it appears impossible that it was fabricated, therefore, Page draws the conclusion that Homer's description must have accurately depicted Mycenaean Greece.

Archaeologically speaking, the main find (besides the remains of Troy) is that the Mycenaean megarons described by Homer have been confirmed as an actual architectural type and are well documented.

In the story of the Trojan War, if not necessarily in the text of Homer's Iliad, Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra learns of the fall of Troy via a relay of fire beacons. In Aeschylus' Agamemnon, she's said to have received the news in Mycenae (approximately 400 miles away) the very same night that Troy fell, and Aeschylus describes the path of the transmitted message. Two men in the 20th century, one a German historian and the other a communications engineer, each traced that path and deemed the relay as being feasible. This is briefly mentioned in James Gleick's The Information and described in somewhat greater detail here (see the section "Fire Beacons").

This may not meet the definition of scientific or archaeological confirmation, but it does lend some additional credence to the ancient texts.

Who Was Briseis in The Iliad?

In the Warner Bros. movie "Troy," Briseis plays the love interest of Achilles. Briseis is portrayed as a war prize given to Achilles, taken by Agamemnon, and returned to Achilles. Briseis is a virgin priestess of Apollo. The legends say slightly different things about Briseis.

In the legends, Briseis was the wife of King Mynes of Lyrnessus, an ally of Troy. Achilles slew Mynes and the brothers of Briseis (children of Briseus), then received her as his war prize. Even though she was a war prize, Achilles and Briseis fell in love with each other, and Achilles may have gone to Troy intending to spend much time in his tent with her, as was portrayed in the movie. But then Agamemnon took Briseis from Achilles. Agamemnon did this not merely to make an arbitrary statement about his superior power—as shown in the movie, but because he had been obliged to return his own war prize, Chryseis, to her father. Chryses, the father of Chryseis, was a priest of Apollo. In the movie, Briseis is a priestess of Apollo. After Chryses learned of his daughter's abduction, he tried to ransom her. Agamemnon refused. The gods responded . The seer Calchas told Agamemnon that the Greeks were suffering from a plague sent by Apollo because he wouldn't return Chryseis to Chryses. When, reluctantly, Agamemnon agreed to return his prize, he decided he needed another one to replace his loss, so he took Achilles' and said to Achilles:

Achilles was enraged and refused to fight for Agamemnon. He wouldn't fight even after Agamemnon had returned Briseis—untouched (as was shown in the movie). But when Achilles' friend Patroclus died, killed by Hector, Achilles went mad and determined to get revenge, which meant going to war.

Homer as an oral poet

But even if his name is known and his date and region can be inferred, Homer remains primarily a projection of the great poems themselves. Their qualities are significant of his taste and his view of the world, but they also reveal something more specific about his technique and the kind of poet he was. It has been one of the most important discoveries of Homeric scholarship, associated particularly with the name of an American scholar, Milman Parry, that the Homeric tradition was an oral one—that this was a kind of poetry made and passed down by word of mouth and without the intervention of writing. Indeed Homer’s own term for a poet is aoidos, “singer.” The Odyssey describes two such poets in some detail: Phemius, the court singer in the palace of Odysseus in Ithaca, and Demodocus, who lived in the town of the semi-mythical Phaeacians and sang both for the nobles in Alcinous’ palace and for the assembled public at the games held for Odysseus. On this occasion he sings of the illicit love affair of Ares and Aphrodite in a version that lasts for exactly 100 Homeric verses. This and the other songs assigned to these singers—for example, that of the Trojan Horse, summarized in the Odyssey—suggest that ordinary aoidoi in the heroic tradition worked with relatively short poems that could be given completely on a single occasion. That is what one would expect, and it is confirmed by the habits of singers and audiences at other periods and in other parts of the world (the tradition of the poet-singers of Muslim Serbia has provided the most fruitful comparison so far). Whatever the favoured occasion for heroic song—whether the aristocratic feast, the religious festival, or popular gatherings in tavern or marketplace—a natural limitation on the length of a poem is imposed by the audience’s available time and interest as well as by the singer’s own physique and the scope of his repertoire. Such relatively short songs must have provided the backbone of the tradition inherited by Homer, and his portraits of Demodocus and Phemius are likely to be accurate in this respect. What Homer himself seems to have done is to introduce the concept of a quite different style of poetry, in the shape of a monumental poem that required more than a single hour or evening to sing and could achieve new and far more complex effects, in literary and psychological terms, than those attainable in the more anecdotal and episodic songs of his predecessors.


Homer (c. 750 BCE) is perhaps the greatest of all epic poets and his legendary status was well established by the time of Classical Athens. He composed (not wrote, since the poems were created and transmitted orally, they were not written down until much later) two major works, the Iliad and the Odyssey other works were attributed to Homer, but even in antiquity their authorship was disputed. In conjunction with Hesiod, Homer acts as a great pool of information for the Greeks about their gods. Homer is the earliest poet in Western culture whose works have survived intact.

The Iliad

The Iliad is composed of 15,693 hexameters (lines of verse), and is divided into 24 books corresponding to each letter of the Greek alphabet - alpha to omega, a system that was already in place by the time of Herodotus. The Iliad traces the anger of Achilles (“Sing Muse, of the wrath of Achilles” Iliad.1.1) and takes place over 51 days during the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. The poem takes its name from the city of Troy, which is also known as Ilium.


Highlights include: the lengthy Catalogue of Ships of the Greek invading forces, the death of Patroclus and the description of him being carried away by the twins Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), the description of the shield of Achilles, the reconciliation between Achilles and Priam, perhaps one of the most moving scenes in Western literature, and several set-piece battles between pairs of Greek heroes, most famously the fight between Achilles and Hektor. In all of these events the intervention of the Greek gods, especially Athena on the side of the Greeks and Apollo for the Trojans, is instrumental in the outcome of all of the human actions during the war.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey is composed of 12,109 hexameters and is also divided into 24 in the same manner as the Iliad. Whereas war and anger were the themes of the Iliad, the Odyssey takes place after the Trojan War has been won by the Achaeans, as the Greeks are referred to by Homer. The Odyssey is concerned with the nostos (journey) of the Greek hero Odysseus (the protagonist after whom the poem is named) and the troubles that he faces on his way home from Troy, foiled on his way by godly interventions, especially those of Poseidon. Highlights include Odysseus' famous encounters with the Sirens, with the Cyclops Polyphemus, and the slaying of his wife Penelope's suitors upon his return to Ithaca.


Unlike Hesiod, who mentions his family and life within his works, this is not really the case for Homer, and since writing is generally believed to have started around 700 BCE, there is no contemporary source on him either, but there are various later Hellenistic and even Roman descriptions of his life (and also the Contest of Homer and Hesiod). Because the dialect of Homer's works is composed in an archaic form of Ionian Greek and he displays a familiarity with the geography of Asia Minor in the Iliad, there could be some element of truth to claims that Homer's birthplace was Smyrna, Chios, or Ios.

A Single Homer?

There have always been debates as to the 'person' of Homer: many places claim to be his birthplace. It is even debated whether or not the two great works were written by the same person: the ancients called those who thought this the chorizontes the separatists. Some even doubt if one single person was behind these works, and that leads to 'the Homeric Question', the idea that the poems are a compilation of layers rolled into one story, which could explain inconsistencies in the narrative and the formulaic language used. According to this school of thought, the poems would most likely have been sung episodically by rhapsodes. This idea was first argued by F. A. Wolf in his 1795 CE work Prolegomena ad Homerum.

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Nevertheless, whether Homer was a 'she', a 'he', or a 'they' does not diminish the greatness of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and this can be seen by the fact that the two poems have come down to us in a continuous tradition. The poems were first compiled, organised, and edited under the Athenian Peisistratus, but the Greek text that we have survives from such Alexandrian scholars as Zenodotus and Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus and their comments on the texts. The first printed editions of Homer were in 1488 CE in Florence by Chalcondyles of Athens. Homer's work was hugely influential on Greek culture, and scenes from his works appeared in Greek sculpture, on Greek pottery, and in Greek tragedy and comedy. He was studied as part of Greek education, and the legends within his work would influence Hellenistic culture, Roman culture, and far beyond, so that Homer's lasting legacy is that his works are still studied to this day.

How much of the *Iliad* was confirmed scientifically? - History

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Despite assumptions to the contrary, archaeological work of the new Troy project has not been performed for the purpose of understanding Homer's Iliad or the Trojan War. For the past 16 years, more than 350 scholars, scientists, and technicians from nearly 20 countries have been collaborating on the excavations at the site in northwestern Turkey that began as an Early Bronze Age citadel in the third millennium B.C. and ended as a Byzantine settlement before being abandoned in A.D. 1350. However, as current director of the excavations, I am continually asked if Homer's Trojan War really happened.

Troy appears to have been destroyed around 1180 B.C. (this date corresponds to the end of our excavation of levels Troy VIi or VIIa), probably by a war the city lost. There is evidence of a conflagration, some skeletons, and heaps of sling bullets. People who have successfully defended their city would have gathered their sling bullets and put them away for another event, but a victorious conqueror would have done nothing with them. But this does not mean that the conflict was the war--even though ancient tradition usually places it around this time. After a transitional period of a few decades, a new population from the eastern Balkans or the northwestern Black Sea region evidently settled in the ruins of what was probably a much weakened city.

The main argument against associating these ruins with the great city described in the Iliad has been that Troy in the Late Bronze Age was a wholly insignificant town and not a place worth fighting over. Our new excavations and the progress of research in southeastern Europe has changed such views regarding Troy considerably.

It appears that this city was, by the standards of this region at that time, very large indeed, and most certainly of supraregional importance in controlling access from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and from Asia Minor to southeast Europe and vice versa. Its citadel was unparalleled in the wider region and, as far as hitherto known, unmatched anywhere in southeastern Europe. Troy was also evidently attacked repeatedly and had to defend itself again and again, as indicated by repairs undertaken to the citadel's fortifications and efforts to enlarge and strengthen them.

German archaeologist Manfred Korfmann of the University of Tübingen has led the excavations at the site of Hisarl l k/Troy in northwestern Turkey for the past 16 years. (Troia Projekt) [LARGER IMAGE]

A spectacular result of the new excavations has been the verification of the existence of a lower settlement from the seventeenth to the early twelfth centuries B.C. (Troy levels VI/VIIa) outside and south and east of the citadel. As magnetometer surveys and seven excavations undertaken since 1993 have shown, this lower city was surrounded at least in the thirteenth century by an impressive U-shaped fortification ditch, approximately eleven and a half feet wide and six and a half feet deep, hewn into the limestone bedrock. Conclusions about the existence and quality of buildings within the confines of the ditch have been drawn on the basis of several trial trenches and excavations, some of them covering a very large surface area. The layout of the city was confirmed by an intensive and systematic pottery survey in 2003. We have also discovered a cemetery outside the ditch to the south. The most recent excavations have determined that Troy, which now covers about seventy-five acres, is about fifteen times larger than previously thought.

The Setting of the Iliad

Homer took for granted that his audience knew a war had been fought for what was alternately called Ilios or Troy. The bard was mainly concerned with describing the wrath of Achilles and its consequences. He used Troy and the war as a poetic setting for a conflict between men and gods. From the archaeologist's point of view, however, the Iliad can be interpreted as a "setting" in an entirely different sense. One may see Homer or his informants as eyewitnesses to Troy and the landscape of Troy at the close of the eighth century B.C., the period when scholars generally agree Homer composed his epic.

Troy was largely a ruined site in Homer's day, but the remains of Troy VI/VIIa, both the citadel and the lower city, were still impressive. Contemporary audiences and later ones from the area around the city were supposed to be able to recognize the general outlines of places where the action happened from descriptive references in the Iliad. They could visualize it, for instance, whenever they climbed up a slope to a sanctuary in "holy Ilios." "Holy Ilios" is the most frequently repeated epithet in the Iliad, and one would expect to see a sacred building in such a place. We can make a convincing case for a sanctuary or sanctuaries, maybe in the form of a wooden building, from the early seventh century B.C. at the latest--roughly contemporary with Homer--on this site, which subsequently served as a cult center into the late Roman Empire. There is nothing in the archaeological record to contradict the assertion that Troy and the surrounding countryside formed the setting for Homer's Iliad in 700 B.C.

Evidence from Homer by Joachim Latacz
Recent Homeric scholarship has shown that the Iliad is the culmination of a protracted oral transmission of past events, transmitted by epic poetry improvised and performed by singers. More.

The Hittite Connection

Although Troy is in Anatolia, Carl Blegen, who directed excavations at the site in the 1930s, regarded Troy VI/VIIa as a Greek settlement. The idea of a Greek Troy, one that had also been entertained by Schliemann, became firmly established. These excavators had come from Greece to Troy, both literally and figuratively, and later returned to Greece, and were biased, most likely unconsciously, in their outlook. However, until the 1930s there was very little archaeologically within Anatolia that might have been compared with Troy, and certainly not in western Anatolia.

We know today, from our own excavations and even from earlier ones, that in all main respects, Bronze Age Troy had stronger ties with Anatolia than with the Aegean. We've learned this from the tons of local pottery and small finds, such as a seal with a local hieroglyphic inscription, as well as the overall settlement picture, mud-brick architecture, and cremation burials. Research by Anatolian specialists has shown that what we today call Troy was in the Late Bronze Age the kingdom of Wilusa, powerful enough to conclude treaties with the Hittite Empire even the Egyptians seem to have been familiar with the city. Furthermore, according to Hittite records, there were political and military tensions around Troy precisely during the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries B.C.--the supposed time of Homer's Trojan War.

Evidence from Hittite Records by J.D. Hawkins
The Hittites were a powerful civilization that controlled most of Anatolia in the second millennium B.C. More.

Was There A Trojan War?

Computer-modeling specialists have enabled the excavators of Troy to transform their raw data into a reconstruction of the citadel and lower city at the time of the Trojan War. (Troia Projekt) [LARGER IMAGE]

On the basis of my years of experience and knowledge of Troy, I feel the question ought to be: "Why should the scholars who won't rule out a possible degree of historicity in the basic events in the Iliad have to defend their position?" In light of the remarkable amount of discovery that has taken place over the last ten to fifteen years, the onus to defend positions should now be on those who believe there is absolutely no historical association between what happened at Late Bronze Age Troy and the events in the Iliad. On what basis, for instance, are claims made that Troy in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. was a third-class city, unworthy of foreign invasion and ultimately of Homer's attention? We expect that doubters will finally take note of the new archaeological facts of the case and the findings of a really interdisciplinary approach to Troy research.

According to the archaeological and historical findings of the past decade especially, it is now more likely than not that there were several armed conflicts in and around Troy at the end of the Late Bronze Age. At present we do not know whether all or some of these conflicts were distilled in later memory into the "Trojan War" or whether among them there was an especially memorable, single "Trojan War." However, everything currently suggests that Homer should be taken seriously, that his story of a military conflict between Greeks and the inhabitants of Troy is based on a memory of historical events--whatever these may have been. If someone came up to me at the excavation one day and expressed his or her belief that the Trojan War did indeed happen here, my response as an archaeologist working at Troy would be: Why not?

Manfred Korfmann is director of excavations at Troy and a professor of archaeology at the University of Tübingen.

&aposThe Iliad&apos and &aposThe Odyssey&apos

Homer&aposs two epic poems have become archetypal road maps in world mythology. The stories provide an important insight into early human society, and illustrate, in some aspects, how little has changed. Even if The Iliad itself seems unfamiliar, the story of the siege of Troy, the Trojan War and Paris’ kidnapping of Helen, the world’s most beautiful woman, are all familiar characters or scenarios. Some scholars insist that Homer was personally familiar with the plain of Troy, due to the geographical accuracy in the poem.

The Odyssey picks up after the fall of Troy. Further controversy about authorship springs from the differing styles of the two long narrative poems, indicating they were composed a century apart, while other historians claim only decades –the more formal structure of The Iliad is attributed to a poet at the height of his powers, whereas the more colloquial, novelistic approach in The Odyssey is attributed to an elderly Homer.

Homer enriched his descriptive story with the liberal use of simile and metaphor, which has inspired a long path of writers behind him. His structuring device was to start in the middle–in medias res– and then fill in the missing information via remembrances.

The two narrative poems pop up throughout modern literature: Homer’s The Odyssey has parallels in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and his tale of Achilles in The Iliad is echoed in J.R.R. Tolkien&aposs The Fall of Gondolin. Even the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? makes use of The Odyssey.

Other works have been attributed to Homer over the centuries, most notably the Homeric Hymns, but in the end, only the two epic works remain enduringly his.

Archeological Evidence of Homer’s Trojan War Found : History: Researchers show that city was large enough to withstand the epic battle described in ‘The Iliad.’

Archeologists have uncovered strong evidence that the Trojan War described by the poet Homer in “The Iliad,” one of the first and most important books in Western literature, actually occurred.

The research also shows that Troy and its successors had a unique strategic importance in the ancient world because they dominated a major trade route through the Dardanelles strait and thereby obtained unprecedented wealth and power.

The findings indicate that ancient Troy was much larger than believed, and may have been the largest city of its era, which stretched from 1700 BC to about 1250 BC.

Troy’s power and strategic importance--and not the kidnaping of Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, by Paris, the son of the king of Troy--were probably the cause of the epic war described by Homer, experts say.

The importance of the Dardanelles--which provide access to the Danube, Don and Dnieper river basins--has also been the cause of other major battles that have continued through modern times, culminating in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, in which 130,000 Allied and Turkish soldiers perished.

The new evidence, from the first excavations at the fabled city of Troy in nearly 50 years, is to be described this week at symposiums in Washington, New York and Troy, Ohio.

Researchers discovered remains of ancient fortifications and buildings outside the much smaller citadel, which was previously all that was known to be left of Troy. The new evidence suggests for the first time that the city was large enough to withstand the 10-year siege and to mount the types of battles described in the literary classic.

The new excavations have revealed 15 fortifications. “It (Troy) was always important and always had to be protected,” said archeologist Manfred Korfmann of the University of Tubingen in Germany. “We shouldn’t talk about The Trojan War, but about a whole series of Trojan wars.”

The research has also revealed new insights into the links between Troy, which was in what is now western Turkey, and Rome at the time of the emperor Augustus Caesar, who reigned from 31 BC to AD 14. Historians have long known that Augustus and his successors emphasized their patriarchal ties to the warrior Aeneas--the son of the goddess Aphrodite who escaped Troy after its fall--as a way of legitimizing their descent from the gods.

But the Romans did more than celebrate Troy, said archeologist C. Brian Rose of the University of Cincinnati. The new excavations reveal that the Romans rebuilt Troy as a cultural and religious shrine, a mecca for Romans celebrating their illustrious origins and a tourist trap for the affluent.

At Troy, Rose has discovered what he has identified as a Roman council house, temple, glass factory and a theater that may well have featured performances of the play “The Trojan Women” by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus. They have also discovered a religious sanctuary that dates from the 8th Century BC and might have been visited by Homer or one of his informants.

“We have really had no idea what the city was like during the period of classical antiquity that witnesses the foundation of Western civilization,” Rose said. “We’re trying to find out what kind of city it was and what happened to the site after it (‘The Iliad’) was written. These are questions that no one has really tried to answer before.”

The international team carrying out the excavation has produced some “very exciting information,” said archeologist Getzel Cohen of the University of Cincinnati, who helped organize the expedition but did not participate. What they are learning about the city is “really very gratifying,” he said.

Until the last century, most historians believed Troy to be entirely mythical. But in the 1870s, German merchant Heinrich Schliemann identified what he believed to be its site, a large mound on the Anatolian Peninsula about 15 miles from the modern city of Canakkale. The mound, about 600 feet long, 450 feet wide and more than 100 feet tall, is called Hisarlik (Place of Fortresses) and is accepted as the site of Troy.

Archeologists know that the mound contains nine principal layers representing successive cities dating from before 3000 BC to the 13th Century.

The level known as Troy VI, Homer’s Troy, was excavated by Cincinnati archeologist Carl Blegen in the 1930s. He unearthed a splendid walled city, tiered in concentric terraces and protected by stone walls 16 feet thick, 13 feet high and topped by brick ramparts--the “beetling towers” of Homer.

But archeologists from Blegen’s generation and later ones argued that the citadel was too small to be the Homeric Troy. “People believed there was a kernel of truth in the (Homeric) story, but the citadel was too small to be an important place,” Korfmann said.

“But this place has grown considerably as a result of our last two years of research,” he said.

The key finding by Korfmann’s international team, which includes more than 80 researchers, was the discovery of what appears to be a mud-brick wall, four to six yards thick. It encompasses an area nearly nine times as large as the citadel and dates from Troy VI. “This is an enormous area,” Rose said. Between the citadel and the wall is an organized network of streets and dwellings that suggests a wealthy and bustling city.

“Homer might have written down his story while viewing this ruins of this city,” Korfmann said. “The ruins available in this landscape could have been the stage for an epic.”

Korfmann’s team has literally only scratched the surface in excavating this extended city, but they have discovered extensive samples of Mycenaean pottery, dwellings and many other artifacts. They hope to piece together a comprehensive picture of what life might have been like in the city.

“The architecture is astonishingly identifiable,” said archeologist Machteld Mellink of Bryn Mawr University. “There are vast buildings with stone foundations, made of timber and mud brick. . . . This will really refine our knowledge of the nature of the citadel.”

Meanwhile, Rose and his colleagues have been excavating post-Bronze Age Troy in the era of the Roman emperors. Troy was destroyed by the Roman general Fimbria in 85 BC during the Mithridatic Wars, which consumed much of the Aegean region. Rose has found much evidence of that destruction, including the charred remains of a man who was burned alive when a flaming roof collapsed on him.

After Augustus consolidated his power in the region, he began a reconstruction of the city, Rose has found. Roof tiles from the new city are stamped Ilion, the Roman name for Troy. “The people living there clearly thought they were living at the site where the battle occurred,” Rose said.

There is ample evidence, he said, of Greek and Roman emperors visiting there because they thought it was the site of “The Iliad” as well as of Virgil’s “Aeneid,” which charted the wanderings of Aeneas before he founded the Latin people.

Among other things, Rose has excavated the stage and first four rows of seats of a Roman theater at the site. On the stage is a relief of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, “to remind everyone of the close connection to Rome,” he said.

The ongoing excavations could provide a completely new view of Troy, Mellink said.

“It was a prosperous area with good agriculture and animal husbandry,” she said. “They were very important traders, judging from the wealth they collected. This should tell us how that international (trade) network developed and how early.”

According to Homer, the Trojan War began when the Trojan prince Paris kidnaped Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Grecian armies under the command of Menelaus’ brother Agamemnon converged on Troy and laid siege for 10 years. With the war stalemated, the Greeks conceived the idea of pretending to withdraw, leaving behind a large wooden horse as a peace offering. The Trojans took the horse into their city.

The horse was filled with Greek soldiers. They emerged during the night, conquered the city, slew the men and took the women and children into slavery, thereby ending the reign of King Priam and Queen Hecuba.

Excavations at the site are scheduled to last for another 10 years. It is unlikely that they will find the horse because it was made of wood and would not have survived the centuries.

Korfmann also plans to restore the site and turn the largely undeveloped area into a major tourist attraction.

History of Anthrax

Throughout history, from biblical times to modern day, many sicknesses have been described with symptoms that resemble anthrax. Although we cannot know for sure whether these earliest reports of illness were, in fact, anthrax, many researchers believe that they were.

Naturally Occurring Anthrax

Moschophoros (Calf Bearer), a statue by Phaidimos

Anthrax is thought to have originated in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Many scholars think that in Moses&rsquo time, during the 10 plagues of Egypt, anthrax may have caused what was known as the fifth plague, described as a sickness affecting horses, cattle, sheep, camels and oxen.

Ancient Greece and Rome were also well acquainted with anthrax, and this is illustrated in many of the ancient writings of the most famous scholars from those times. For example, many scholars think anthrax was depicted by Homer in The Iliad, written around 700 BC, and in poems by Virgil, who lived from 70-19 BC. Some even suggest that anthrax may have contributed to the fall of Rome.

The first clinical descriptions of cutaneous anthrax were given by Maret in 1752 and Fournier in 1769. Before this, anthrax had only been described through historical accounts.

Bacteriologist Robert Koch in his laboratory

Scientist Robert Koch studied Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. He discovered that the bacteria formed spores and were able to survive for very long periods of time and in many different environments. Koch decided to use anthrax bacteria in one of his most important historical experiments, in which he isolated and grew Bacillus anthracis in pure culture and injected animals with the bacteria. Using what he observed in this study, he described how the microbe he injected into the animals caused the disease. From these studies, he was also able to determine the life cycle of the anthrax bacteria, and was able to demonstrate what became known as Koch&rsquos postulates, which demonstrate a causal relationship between a specific microorganism and a disease.

Art depicting sequence of wool production

During the 1800s, doctors saw cases of anthrax but did not yet have a diagnosis for the disease. During this time, the organism that causes anthrax had not yet been discovered, but doctors had noticed a link between the disease and the animal hair industry. Because of this, the disease became known as &ldquowool sorters disease.&rdquo By the middle of the century, early researchers had associated the disease with the presence of rod-shaped bodies that were seen in the blood of infected animals. These bodies were eventually identified as bacteria and given the name Bacillus anthracis.

French Chemist Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur, another prominent scientist, took Koch&rsquos work a step further, trying to fully prove how anthrax was spread and how it made people or animals sick. Pasteur also worked to create a vaccine for anthrax. In his experiment, Pasteur gave 25 animals two shots of an anthrax vaccine he had created with weakened anthrax bacteria. After he gave both rounds of the vaccine to these animals, he injected them with live anthrax bacteria. He also injected live bacteria into 25 other animals that had not been vaccinated. Each of the vaccinated animals survived, while the 25 that were not vaccinated died.

Much knowledge was gained about anthrax in the 1800s. As a result, animal and human cases of anthrax in the United States, Britain, and Germany were well documented in the early 1900s. However, there were still places where anthrax cases hadn&rsquot been documented, such as Russia, Asia, India and Africa. Because of the high number of contaminated animal products imported from these countries, however, it was known that anthrax had to be widespread in these regions.

Max Sterne successfully created the anthrax live spore vaccine for animals. This vaccine is still used in animals in most countries. Because of the introduction of routine vaccination of animals against anthrax and the improvements in animal product processing procedures, the number of cases of anthrax in humans declined. This decline was so significant that during the entire 20th century there were only 18 cases of inhalation anthrax in the United States.

Penicillin had been discovered in 1928, but it wasn&rsquot until 1944 when it was first used to treat anthrax. Penicillin became the drug of choice for treating anthrax, and it replaced all previous therapies, such as serum therapies and chemotherapies.

The first anthrax vaccine for humans was created. This anthrax vaccine was tested in a group of goat hair mill workers. Volunteers were given either the vaccine or a placebo (a shot that does not have the vaccine in it). The volunteers were then followed over a 2-year period. This study determined that the vaccine was 92.5% effective in preventing cutaneous anthrax. After the study, the vaccine was made available to people working in goat hair processing mills in the United States.

An updated human anthrax vaccine was released, replacing the 1950s vaccine. This is essentially the same vaccine used today.

A drum-maker from New York City got sick while on tour with a dance troupe in Pennsylvania. He had just returned from Africa with four goat skins that he planned to use to make drums. He said that when he processed the goat skins to remove the hair, he did not use chemicals on the skins to kill germs or wear protection while handling the skins. He also reported that while he processed the skins, hair and dust particles floated into the air. Four days after he last had contact with the goat skins, he began having breathing problems and was hospitalized. Five days later he was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax. Public health investigators determined he had been exposed to anthrax while processing the goat skins he brought home from Africa. When he scraped the hair from the skins, the anthrax spores were released into the air and he breathed them in. The spores got into his lungs and caused him to become ill. It was the first time in 30 years that a case of naturally acquired anthrax was reported in the United States.

A woman in Connecticut was diagnosed with gastrointestinal anthrax. Public health investigators learned that the woman had participated in a drumming event the day before she became ill. The drums used at the event and the event space were all tested for contamination with anthrax spores. Two animal skin drums were found to have anthrax spores on them, and spores were also found in the room where the drumming took place, and in other rooms in the building. Investigators determined that the spores were released into the air while the contaminated drums were played. After 2 months in the hospital, the woman recovered and was released from the hospital.

Early in 2010, a small outbreak of anthrax occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. All of the patients who came to the hospital were illicit drug users who had used heroin before having symptoms. Anthrax in these patients did not look like typical cutaneous anthrax. Many had swelling and infection of the deeper layers of skin but they didn&rsquot have a raised sore with a black center &ndash the tell-tale sign of cutaneous anthrax. Doctors recognized this anthrax as a new type of anthrax, calling it injection anthrax. Doctors wondered where the anthrax spores came from and how they were injected into the drug users. While no anthrax was found in the heroin itself, the evidence gathered by epidemiologists strongly suggested there was anthrax in the heroin. Public health officials believe that the anthrax spores were in the heroin and that when the patients injected the drug into their bodies, they also injected anthrax spores.

Dan Anders had a close-call with inhalation anthrax. His wife, Anne (in the background) calls him &ldquoMiracle Man.&rdquo Photo courtesy of the Star Tribune/Minneapolis-St. Paul, 2013

A retired Florida man and his wife traveled for 3 weeks on a cross-country trip that took them through Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. They visited many state parks. The man got sick when they arrived in Minnesota. He went to the emergency room complaining of flu-like symptoms and was originally diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia. A doctor, who had grown up on a cattle farm and was familiar with anthrax, felt that this diagnosis was not right and ordered more tests. The tests found bacteria in his blood that looked like anthrax bacteria. The samples of his blood were then sent to the Minnesota Public Health laboratory, where his anthrax illness was confirmed.

Because the doctors at the hospital were able to quickly diagnose anthrax, the patient got treatment immediately, including a specialized antitoxin (anthrax immunoglobulin) rushed in by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After 3 weeks in the hospital, the patient fully recovered and was sent home.

A case of naturally occurring inhalation anthrax is very rare in the United States, so to rule out any possible bioterrorism threats, the FBI was called in to investigate the case. The FBI determined that the man had inhaled the anthrax spores in a natural environment and there was no threat to anyone else.

Anthrax Used as a Biological Weapon

The work of scientist Robert Koch in the 1800s led to the development of more modern microbiology experiments. This increase in more sophisticated experiments also created the knowledge of how to grow and produce large stocks of specific germs.

The first deliberate uses of anthrax as an act of aggression were recorded in the early decades of the 1900s, during World War I.

There is evidence that the German army used anthrax to secretly infect livestock and animal feed traded to the Allied Nations by neutral partners. An example of this undercover biological warfare was the infection of Argentinian livestock intended for trade with the allied forces, resulting in the death of 200 mules in 1917 and 1918.

After the many chemical and biological horrors of WWI, a diplomatic attempt was made to limit the use and creation of this kind of warfare. The Geneva Protocol for the Prevention of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases and Bacteriological Methods of Warfare was created. This treaty was a great step in trying to stop the use of biologic agents during war. However, it did not specifically outlaw the research or production of biologic agents. Many countries agreed to the treaty but then created amendments to allow for use of biologic weapons during retaliation. After the Geneva Convention, interest in anthrax mostly focused on preventing disease in livestock and on improving the Pasteur vaccine.

Japan began producing anthrax to be used as a weapon and conducted research with biological weapons in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. During this time, prisoners were infected with anthrax and other deadly diseases. It was later discovered that during this program, the Japanese attacked at least 11 Chinese cities with anthrax and other biological agents by spraying them directly onto homes from aircraft.

A bioweapons program was started in the United States. The United States conducted experiments with anthrax, among other biologic agents, at testing sites in Mississippi and Utah. More than 5,000 bombs were filled with anthrax in preparation for a response to any possible attacks from Germany.

Great Britain also began to experiment with anthrax for bioweapons on a small island off the coast of Scotland called Gruinard Island. They tested the widespread release of anthrax by releasing bombs containing the germ over the island, where 80 sheep had been placed. All of the sheep died from anthrax. One of the most important findings from this experiment was how long anthrax stays in the environment after a release. The island remained uninhabitable until 1986, when Great Britain decided to decontaminate it by killing all of the anthrax spores. After a year of soaking the island in a mixture of formaldehyde and seawater, the island was considered disinfected.

During the Korean War, U.S. bioweapon programs were expanded. This expansion included the creation of a program to develop vaccines and treatments to protect troops against biological agents.

By 1960, the United States possessed a large collection of bioweapons, including many types of bacteria, fungi, and toxins. During the late 1960s, there was growing concern, internationally, about the use of biological weapons and the ineffectiveness of the Geneva Protocol. In July of 1968, Great Britain submitted a proposal to the Committee on Disarmament of the United Nations, which would prohibit the development, production, and stockpiling of biological agents. This proposal also outlined the need for inspections for alleged violators. Several months later, The Warsaw Pact nations submitted a similar proposal. In 1969, President Nixon terminated the U.S. bioweapons program through an executive order. This executive order stopped offensive bioweapon research and production of the weapons, and it also called for destruction of the arsenal. The United States also adopted the policy to never use any biological or toxic weapons under any circumstances. After this, research efforts in the United States became solely directed toward the creation of defensive methods like vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests for potential biologic threats.

The 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Biological and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction was later created after the proposals of Great Britain and the Warsaw Pact nations. This treaty prohibited the development, possession, and stockpiling of pathogens or toxins. The treaty also required parties to destroy stockpiles of bioweapons within 9 months of signing the treaty. The treaty was ratified in April of 1972, with more than 100 nations signing it, including Iraq, the United States, and the Soviet Union.

Between 1971 and 1972, the United States destroyed pathogens and stockpiles of biologic weapons. Small amounts of certain pathogens were kept so they could be used to test new treatments and vaccines.

In April and May of 1979, an unusual outbreak of anthrax was reported in the city of Sverdlovsk, USSR. However, reports of this outbreak did not begin to surface in Western news until early 1980. Later that year, articles in Soviet medical, veterinary, and legal journals described the outbreak as naturally occurring in livestock, causing 96 cases of anthrax in humans. Of these cases, 79 were described as gastrointestinal anthrax, and 17 of them were cutaneous anthrax. Soviet officials reported that 64 of these 96 people died from gastrointestinal anthrax.

Internationally, there was a great debate about the data presented from this outbreak and its accuracy. Some speculated that the outbreak was not naturally occurring among livestock, but that it resulted from activities banned by the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 (Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Biological and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction). All of the cases occurred within 4 kilometers (about 2½ miles) downwind from a Soviet military microbiology facility, and it was suspected that the cases were from the accidental airborne release of anthrax spores. Years later, Western analysts were permitted to review the outbreak to address the speculation. These analysts used data to determine that the anthrax outbreak did occur from the microbiology facility and was the largest outbreak of inhalation anthrax in history. Despite these findings, the Soviet Union maintained that the outbreak was from meat contaminated with anthrax spores. In 1992, then-president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, admitted that the outbreak was exactly what Western analysts had determined. He stated that the air filters at the biologic facility had not been properly installed the morning of the release, allowing anthrax spores to spew out of the facility.

Before 2001, the last case of inhalation anthrax reported in the United States was in 1976. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, letters filled with a white powder containing anthrax spores were mailed to two U.S. Senators&rsquo offices and news media agencies along the East Coast. Authorities recovered four letters, postmarked September 18, 2001, and October 9, 2001. The powder form allowed the anthrax to float in the air and for it to be breathed in. The powder from these letters contaminated the postal facilities they were processed through as well as the buildings where they were opened.

Until the first few people became ill with anthrax, Americans were unaware of this attack. The first case of inhalation anthrax was diagnosed on October 4, 2001. During October and November of 2001, there were a total of 11 confirmed cases of inhalation anthrax and 11 confirmed cases of cutaneous anthrax. Of the 11 cases of inhalation anthrax, seven of the cases were postal workers who handled the letters or worked in a postal facility where the letters were processed. Two cases were from the AMI Publishing Company, where a photo editor received a contaminated letter. The last two cases were the hardest in which to determine exposure: a 94-year old Connecticut woman and a New York City hospital employee. Investigators thought that the Connecticut women&rsquos mail may have been cross-contaminated in a mail facility however, no anthrax spores were ever found in her home. The exposure source of the New York City hospital employee is still unknown.

Of the 22 people who got sick with anthrax in 2001, five of them died. All of the people who died had inhalation anthrax, the most serious form of the disease. In all, 43 people tested positive for exposure to anthrax, and 10,000 more people were considered at risk of possible exposure to anthrax.

Before this event, there had never been an intentional release of anthrax in the United States. The FBI conducted an intense 7-year investigation into who may have sent the contaminated letters. Many years after the attacks, advancements in genetic testing allowed the FBI to conduct more complex testing of the spores used in the attack. Once the spores were analyzed, it was determined they came from a strain called the Ames strain and from a single spore batch known as RMR-1029, from a specific research lab. The attack and the subsequent investigation came to be known as Amerithrax. The FBI officially concluded the Amerithrax investigation on February 19, 2010.


Blaney D, Lehman M (2012). Multi-agency investigation of inhalation anthrax&mdashUnited States, 2011 [Powerpoint slides].

Brachman PS (2002). Bioterrorism: an update with a focus on anthrax. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155(11), 981-987.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). A medical victory remains a medical mystery In: NCEZID: Our Work, Our Stories 2011&ndash2012. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at pdf icon pdf icon [PDF &ndash 27.8MB]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Inhalation anthrax associated with dried animal hides&mdashPennsylvania and New York City, 2006. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 55(10)280-282. Available at

Christopher GW, Cieslak TJ, Pavlin JA, and Eitzen Jr EM (1997). Biological warfare: a historical prospective. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(5), 412-417.

Inglesby TV, Henderson DA, Bartlett JG, Ascher MS, Eitzen E, Friedlander AM, Hauer J, McDade J, Osterholm MT, O&rsquoToole T, Parker G, Perl TM, Russell PK, Tonat K (1999). Anthrax as a biological weapon, medical and public health management. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281(18), 1735-1963.

Jernigan JA, Stephens DS, Ashford DA, Omenaca C, Topiel MS, Galbraith M, Tapper M, Fisk TL, Zaki S, Popovic T, Meyer RF, Quinn CP, Harper SA, Fridkin SK, Sejvar SJ, Shepard CW, McConnell M, Guarner J, Shieh W-J, Malecki JM, Gerberding JL, Hughes JM, Perkins BA, and members of the Anthrax Bioterrorism Investigation Team (2001). Bioterrorism-related inhalational anthrax: the first 10 cases reported in the United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7(6), 933-944.

Knox D, Murray G, Millar M, Hamilton D, Connor M, Ferdinand RD, Jones, GA (2011). Subcutaneous anthrax in three intravenous drug users. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, 93-B(3), 414-417.

Lehman MW, Traxler R, Blaney D, Shadomy S, Gomez T, Rubin C, Snippes Vagnone P, Lees C, Miller T, Kightlinger L, Horan V, Murphy T, Amuso P, Schmitz A, Wong D, Treadwell T, Lynfield R (2012). Utilizing partnerships for enhanced surveillance following a case of inhalation anthrax. In: 61st Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference, April 16&ndash20, 2012, Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meselson M, Guillemin J, Hugh-Jones M, Langmuir A, Popova I, Shelokov A, Yampolskaya O (1994). The Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak of 1979. Science Magazine, 266, 1202-1207.

Turnbull PCB, Shadomy SV (2010). Anthrax from 5000BC to AD 2010. In: Bacillus anthracis and Anthrax. NH Bergman, ed., Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sternbach G (2003). The history of anthrax. Journal of Emergency Medicine, 24(4), 463-467.

Early references

Implicit references to Homer and quotations from the poems date to the middle of the 7th century bce . Archilochus, Alcman, Tyrtaeus, and Callinus in the 7th century and Sappho and others in the early 6th adapted Homeric phraseology and metre to their own purposes and rhythms. At the same time scenes from the epics became popular in works of art. The pseudo-Homeric “Hymn to Apollo of Delos,” probably of late 7th-century composition, claimed to be the work of “a blind man who dwells in rugged Chios,” a reference to a tradition about Homer himself. The idea that Homer had descendants known as “Homeridae,” and that they had taken over the preservation and propagation of his poetry, goes back at least to the early 6th century bce . Indeed, it was not long before a kind of Homeric scholarship began: Theagenes of Rhegium in southern Italy toward the end of the same century wrote the first of many allegorizing interpretations. By the 5th century biographical fictions were well under way the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heracleitus of Ephesus made use of a trivial legend of Homer’s death—that it was caused by chagrin at not being able to solve some boys’ riddle about catching lice—and the concept of a contest of quotations between Homer and Hesiod (after Homer the most ancient of Greek poets) may have been initiated in the Sophistic tradition. The historian Herodotus assigned the formulation of Greek theology to Homer and Hesiod and claimed that they could have lived no more than 400 years before his own time, the 5th century bce . This should be contrasted with the superficial assumption, popular in many circles throughout antiquity, that Homer must have lived not much later than the Trojan War about which he sang.

The general belief that Homer was a native of Ionia (the central part of the western seaboard of Asia Minor) seems a reasonable conjecture for the poems themselves are in predominantly Ionic dialect. Although Smyrna and Chios early began competing for the honour (the poet Pindar, early in the 5th century bce , associated Homer with both), and others joined in, no authenticated local memory survived anywhere of someone who, oral poet or not, must have been remarkable in his time. The absence of hard facts puzzled but did not deter the Greeks the fictions that had begun even before the 5th century bce were developed in the Alexandrian era in the 3rd and 2nd centuries bce (when false scholarship as well as true abounded) into fantastic pseudobiographies, and these were further refined by derivative scholars under the Roman Empire. The longest to have survived purports to be by Herodotus himself but it is quite devoid of objective truth.

No elegant solutions

Many of the UFO sightings that AATIP investigated were recorded by members of the military in restricted airspace. Among them were three mid-air encounters that U.S. Navy pilots captured on video in 2004 and in 2015 the footage was officially declassified and released online on April 27. Other instances involved UAPs flying at what appeared to be hypersonic speeds — more than five times the speed of sound.

None of the objects had visible wings or other means of propulsion. What's more, they appeared to be performing maneuvers that would have subjected them to as much as 700 times the normal pull of gravity, or 700 Gs, Elizondo said. (Of course, there is no way to confirm those estimates, as the sightings were so fleeting and much of the obvious documentation is not readily available.) To put that into perspective, airplane cockpits can withstand only about 18 Gs before cracking, and people can typically endure just a few seconds at 9 Gs before losing consciousness, as gravity draws blood into the extremities and oxygen ceases to flow to the brain, according to PBS.

"It would be my hope that we can find elegant solutions to what these things are," he said. "If you can show me one technology that mankind has ever been able to build that does that, great! But so far no one's been able to show that, to me or anybody in the U.S. government."

The new season of "Unidentified: Inside America's UFO Investigation" begins July 11 on the History Channel at 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT.

Originally published on Live Science.

Hello, just read a book, stop reading the articles from news. "uninformed" people read short articles writen by CIA and private-funded dis-in-formants, the others get context and expertise from real knowledge:

Ex-military investigators seek answers about where UFOs come from and what their intentions might be, in a History Channel documentary series.

Are UFOs a threat? We need to investigate, says former head of secret US program : Read more

Ex-military investigators seek answers about where UFOs come from and what their intentions might be, in a History Channel documentary series.

Are UFOs a threat? We need to investigate, says former head of secret US program : Read more

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