West of Laconia and separated from it by the high and steep Mount Taygetus is Messenia, but the boundaries of this province toward the north are not so neatly fixed as those of Laconia. In historical times they varied not a little. 1 Triphylia, the coastal district north of Messenia between Neda and Alpheus, was long a province in its own right, and thus can hardly be reckoned as part of one of the great provinces until the Eleans subjugated it together with the district of Olympia, Pisatis, in the middle of the fifth century B.C. Later the Arcadians laid claim on Triphylia. We have to turn to archaeology and mythology in order to see what parts of the southwestern Peloponnese are to be reckoned with in the early age.
That we are able to discern the traces of Mycenaean settlements in Messenia better than we previously could is to a great extent due to the strenuous work which Dr. Valmin through several years has devoted to this province, together with the earlier explorations of other scholars. Contrary to its expansion in Argolis, Boeotia, and Attica, Mycenaean civilization in the western Peloponnese
clings to the coast, with one exception, which will be discussed below. This is unparalleled elsewhere in Mycenaean Greece except in southern Thessaly. A nice tholos tomb was found at Kampos on the eastern side of the Messenian gulf. The seven cities which Agamemnon promised to Achilles are not identified, with two exceptions, but relying upon these identified places scholars believe them all to have been situated around the gulf. Some Mycenaean sherds, but as yet very few, have been found in sites near this coast, at Samarina, Pidima, and Karteroli. The upper plain is as yet devoid of Mycenaean remains. 2 On the western coast a few Mycenaean finds were made at Mothone and at Cyparissia. A really important Mycenaean site was that Pylus near which the island of Sphacteria is situated. A little toward the north at Tragana are a prehistoric acropolis and two tholos tombs, of which one has been excavated and has yielded beautiful late Mycenaean vases. Near by at Osman Aga are other tholos tombs. 3
The place in the western Peloponnese where the most important discoveries from the Mycenaean age have been made is the village of Kakovatos on the coast about six miles north of the mouth of the Neda and the boundary of Messenia. Here are an acropolis with remains of walls, a palace, Mycenaean sherds, and three tholos tombs of fair size; though they
have been robbed, enough remains to show that they once were very rich. Especially notable are the beautiful ceramics belonging to the second Mycenaean period. To the same period belong also the ceramics found in the tholus tomb of the Messenian Pylos, and others from Kleidi, which is on the coast somewhat north of Kakovatos, near Samikon, and which Professor Dörpfeld identifies with the Homeric Arene. 4 Following certain ancient authors who sought the Homeric Pylos in this neighborhood, he put forward the opinion that the Mycenaean site at Kakovatos is to be identified with the Homeric Pylos, the city of Nestor. This view has attracted attention to this place and is widely accepted, but is also contested.
To the west of the Upper Messenian plain is the plain of Sulima through which the railway to Cyparissia now passes. Here Dr. Valmin made interesting discoveries. 5 The two plains are separated by a ridge now called Malthi. On this ridge was a Mycenaean settlement built upon an earlier Helladic one, with an apsidal house. A Mycenaean house of fairly large proportions has been excavated. In the plain below this ridge are two tholos tombs of which one has been excavated, and a little farther toward the west near Kopanaki four others have been discovered, of which one has been cleared. The tombs excavated had been thoroughly plundered so that the finds were poor; they belong to
the Late Mycenaean period, thus proving that the Mycenaean settlement in the Sulima plain is decidedly later than that on the western coast. The great number of tholos tombs shows that this district in the interior but not far from the western coast had a certain importance in the Late Mycenaean age.
This tract, viz., westernmost Messenia and Triphylia, was thus much more covered with Mycenaean settlements than any other in the western Peloponnese, while finds from the Mycenaean age are elsewhere very scarce. It appears that the Mycenaean settlers came over the sea, first taking possession of some suitable points on the coast and only at a late period proceeding along the river of Cyparissia upward to the Sulima plain. The settlers in this plain cannot have come from the south or east, for the Upper Messenian plain shows no traces of Mycenaean habitation.
This fairly dense Mycenaean population on the western coast of the Peloponnese cannot but be brought into relation with the Homeric tradition of the dominion of Nestor, king of Pylos. Dr. Leaf passed over this dominion in his suggestive book on Homer and History, but it is worth an inquiry since archaeological discoveries have lent color to the old tradition and to the fragments of a Pylian epos incorporated into Homer. But here the perplexing question arises: Which site was Nestor's Pylos? Professor Dörpfeld holds it to be identical with Kakovatos, but many scholars adhere to the old opinion that it was the Messenian Pylos. The settlements of the Sulima plain are separated by a considerable distance from those on the coast and hardly
contribute to the solution of this problem; access to them may be a little more difficult from the Messenian Pylos than from Kakovatos-Pylos.
It is of course a good argument in support of Professor Dörpfeld's opinion that the site of Kakovatos was evidently the most important in this region, to judge from the number, size, and richness of its tholos tombs; it is moreover, according to the finds, earlier than the Messenian Pylos. The journey of Telemachus in a carriage from Pylos to Sparta, described in the Odyssey, has been vigorously discussed in this connection; 6 I pass over it because the question cannot be solved with certainty; I think that too much importance has been attached to it. Dörpfeld's other arguments, drawn from the Pylian epos incorporated into Homer, a source which ought to possess far better local information than the late poem of the Telemachia, seem to be irrefutable. The war with the Epeans or Eleans on the borders of the river of Alpheus, the situation of the town besieged by the Elean foes of the Pylians--Thryoessa, far-off at Alpheus in the extreme part of the sandy Pylos 7--prove that the Pylian dominion extended to this river and included Triphylia and Pisatis. There was also friendly intercourse with the Eleans; Nestor was victorious in the funeral games of Amarynceus, an Epean prince. 8 That the Pylians had intercourse principally with the Eleans or Epeans makes it more probable that Kakovatos rather than the distant Messenian Pylos was Nestor's Pylos. Even the war with the Arcadians 9 is better suited for the Triphylian
[paragraph continues] Pylos than for the Messenian. The latter town may have belonged to the dominion but the capital was Kakovatos-Pylos.
Thus the extent of the dominion of Pylos is determined except for the problem involved in the much discussed verses of the Iliad in which Agamemnon promises to give to Achilles, if he lets himself be appeased, along with the hand of his daughter, seven towns all near the sea at the extreme of the sandy Pylos. 10 Most of these towns were unknown in historical times and their situation is uncertain, but Cardamyle is situated on the eastern side of the Messenian gulf and Pherae is identified with Pharai near the innermost recess of the gulf. Consequently the inference is that the other towns also were situated around the gulf, 11 and from this the further conclusion is deduced that the dominion of Pylos included the whole of the historical province of Messenia. It seems, however, not certain that the word "extreme," νέαται Πύλου, necessarily is to be understood "in the extreme part of the dominion of Pylos," as it certainly must be in the case of Thryoessa. The translation "at the confines of the dominion of Pylos" is also possible, and if this is adopted nothing is said of the political situation of the seven towns. This may certainly have varied. For if Agamemnon promises to give away the seven towns they must needs be in his hands; he cannot give away what is in the possession of a vassal, the prince of Pylos. This passage implies that the seven towns on the Messenian gulf did not belong
to the dominion of Pylos but bordered on it. Only the latter interpretation can be admitted here, if it is not to be surmised that the poet has taken over the phrase carelessly from the Pylian epos.
In view of this discussion it is comprehensible that scholars have thought according to the usual geographical units and have identified the dominion of Pylos with the historical province of Messenia in general, perhaps with the addition of Triphylia. But this has, in my opinion, vitiated the problem. The boundaries were not the same in the Mycenaean age as in the historical age. The fact that the Mycenaean civilization at the beginning of its second period gained a foothold on the coast and only much later spread inward to the plain of Sulima proves that the Mycenaeans came oversea. Both the Messenian and the Triphylian Pylos are typical Viking towns founded at suitable places near the coast far from the base of emigration. 12 Thence the Mycenaeans spread inward at a later time only. The fact that a denser Mycenaean habitation is found only in the Sulima plain, the Upper Messenian plain showing no traces of Mycenaean settlements, proves that the Mycenaean center was on the western coast. In the beginning the Mycenaean Vikings may have passed the Messenian gulf without stopping, if they did not perhaps come from the Corinthian
gulf. Later on they tried to gain a foothold even on the coasts of the Messenian gulf, and this is reflected in the Homeric passage concerning the seven Messenian towns.
The fact that the Mycenaean civilization came to the western Peloponnese oversea is retained by the mythical tradition according to which the Minyans immigrated to these parts. Much has been written about the Minyans of Orchomenus and we must recur to them and their relations with Pylos at length in a later chapter. Here I only state that the tradition cannot be disregarded and that its reliability is proved by the mention in the Iliad of a river, Minyeios, in the district of Pylos. 13 Discussing its identity, Strabo proposes that it got its name either from the Minyans who came with Neleus' wife, Chloris, from Orchomenus in Boeotia, or from the Minyans who were descendants of the Argonauts and from Lemnos were expelled to Laconia and from there to Triphylia. 14 His theories are in themselves of no value, being only attempts to explain the persistent tradition of Minyans in Triphylia. This tradition is corroborated by genealogies which seem not to be idle inventions, nor does it seem to be an idle tradition that the descendants of Neleus and the Pylians emigrated to Ionia. Since it is possible to treat this tradition fully only in connection with the problem of the Minyans, we shall recur to it in another chapter. 15 Here I add only the observation that it appears in the Pylian epos, of which fragments were incorporated into Homer, that the situation of the Pylians was precarious.
We have to consider what is left of this Pylian epos 16. Its contents are extremely little concerned with mythology, for its character is more historical, as is frequently the case with epics. Professor Robert thinks that even if the episodes in Homer are derived from an Ionian epos, the myths originally belonged to the Pylians whose natural foes were the Arcadians. 17 Professor Wilamowitz gives voice to another opinion. 18 He calls attention to the Pylian origin of the Colophonians and thinks that the Pylian epos originated in the town of Colophon in Asia Minor. In order to disprove its Pylian origin he proceeds to point to some geographical impossibilities and errors in the description of the war and the march of the troops, drawing the inference that the situation of Pylos was undetermined. The name Pylos, he thinks, designated, originally, the entrance of the Nether World, then the western part of the Peloponnese, and finally a certain locality but never a town.
Certainly the Gate of the Underworld and Nestor's Pylos were mixed together in a myth to which we shall recur presently, but that does not prove that Nestor's Pylos was originally that Gate. That would be the same mythological point of view which once made Troy the castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Pylos appears in the epos as a
real town, and the geographical inconsistencies are not good arguments, for as Professor Wilamowitz himself remarks, epics are always careless in regard to geography and distances; but it ought to be added that this carelessness does not disprove the real existence of the places and the original connections of the myths with them. It is unlikely that such inconsistencies prove that the epos originated among people who were ignorant of the actual geography of the places mentioned; blunders were sure to creep in during the repeated rehandling of the epics.
I cannot but think that the Pylian epos originated, as epics usually do, among people who were concerned with the events described, viz., among the Pylians themselves; that with them it came to Ionia, where parts were incorporated into the Iliad; and that its contents are historical traditions subjected to epical and mythical remodeling. At all events they are not mere fiction. 19
The story is remarkable that Heracles, evidently at the head of the Epeans or in their company, had dealt severe blows to the Pylians and killed eleven sons of Neleus, only the youngest one, Nestor, being left. 20 That is no glorious tradition and consequently we may believe that it has some real foundation; viz., that the Pylians had been very severely dealt with by their foes in Elis. The story must, however, be compared with another often
quoted episode; viz., that Heracles wounded Hades, fighting with him at Pylos among the Dead. 21 It is justly recognized, and we shall have more to say of it when we come to Heracles, 22 that this Pylos is the Gate of the Underworld and that the myth is an old form of Heracles' victory over Death. Because of the resemblance of the names it was applied to the city of Pylos and thus Heracles became the foe of the Pylians. It is the oldest of his Deeds and the starting point for these, and has perhaps given rise to the idea that Heracles was a leader and a hero of the Dorians.
The Pylian epos which, in fact, glorified the last struggles of the old Viking empire against the invaders was certainly not conceived in a foreign country by people to whom the Pylians were mythical figures only. To quote Professor Robert, its mythical contents are extraordinarily small. But even if Professor Wilamowitz' view is accepted, the fact remains that epical traditions of a certain richness cling to the western coast of the Peloponnese and that the same tract is the only one on this side of the peninsula which is comparatively rich in Mycenaean remains. The traditions may be more historical than mythical; if so, their value is the same or still greater for our purpose. For the traditions here treated are such as are handled by epics. Epical traditions and Mycenaean remains cover the same district.
79:1 For the latest discussion see N. Valmin, Études topographiques sur la Messénie ancienne (Dissertation, Lund 1930), pp. 5 et seq.
80:2 Another very remarkable fact is that no Geometric ceramics are found in Messenia.
80:3 Excavated by Professor Kourouniotes, see Ephemeris archaiologike, 1914, p. 99 et seq.; cp. Bulletin de correspondence hellénique, L (1926), pp. 552 et seq. The tombs must be dated to LH III, not with Kourouniotes to LH II.
81:4 Athen. Mittheilungen, XXXIII (1908), p. 321.
81:5 See his dissertation quoted n. 1, pp. 103 and 112 et seq. and his papers, "Two Tholos Tombs at Bodia in Eastern Triphylia," Bulletin of the R. Society of Letters of Lund, 1926-27, pp. 53 et seq.; also his "Continued Explorations in Eastern Triphylia," ibid., 1927-28, pp. 171 et seq.
83:6 Od. iii. vv. 447 et seq.; the journey back, xv. vv. 182 et seq.
83:7 Il. xi. vv. 670 et seq.
83:8 Il. xxiii. v. 630.
83:9 Il. vii. v. 133.
84:10 Il. xi. vv. 291 et seq.
84:11 The last discussion in Valmin's dissertation, pp. 206 et seq.
85:12 N. Gardiner, Olympia, p.35, believes that the invaders came overland from Argolis, because Kakovatos is harborless; but he remarks, p. 38, that nowhere else has such a quantity of amber been found as was found here, and sees herein an unmistakable evidence of a trade route from the head of the Adriatic. The two statements seem to contradict each other somewhat, but I should be more inclined to agree with the latter. The best harbor in an early age is a fine sand shore on which the ships can be drawn up, such as exists at the "sandy" Pylos.
86:13 Il. xi. v. 722.
86:14 Strabo, viii. p. 347.
86:15 Below pp. 143 et seq.
87:16 A. Lörcher, Wie, wo, wann ist die Ilias entstanden? (1920), attributes great importance to the many passages concerning Nestor and gives the title "Die Nestoris" to one of his chapters. But the inference that this preference given to Nestor and the Pylians came about because the Iliad was conceived at Olympia at the games is very unlikely.
87:17 C. Robert, Die griech. Heldensage, p. 191.
87:18 Wilamowitz, Die Ilias and Homer (1916), pp. 207 et seq.
88:19 It is not to be wondered at that the Pylians are called Achaeans, for they were pre-Dorians, or that their foes are called both Epeans and Eleans; Epeans is the name of a tribe, Elis of a province (Ἦλις Lat. vallis, ϝαλις, ϝαλειοι are the native forms); i.e., a local name from which that of the inhabitants was derived.
88:20 Il. xi. vv. 689 et seq.
89:21 Il. v. vv. 395 et seq.
89:22 Below pp. 203 et seq. For the evidence see E. Drerup, Das fünfte Buch der Ilias (1913), p. 180 et seq.