WHAT PEOPLE PRODUCED THE OBJECTS CALLED MYCENAEAN?
WILLIAM RIDGEWAY (1858-1926) was a British scholar of ancient Greece and the Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University. At the end of the nineteenth century, a class of archaeological artifacts known as "Mycenaean" had come to light, and scholars struggled to place them in the history of Greece. Heinrich Schliemann, who found the ruins of Troy and excavated Mycenae assumed they were the remains of the generation of the Trojan War. Others quickly recognized them as a distinct, pre-Greek civilization. Without the benefit of Linear B texts or materials outside Greek myth, it was an open question whether these people were ancestors of the Greeks or those driven out by them. In this excerpt from an 1896 article from the Journal of Hellenic Studies, Ridgeway took the view that the Mycenaeans were identical with the mythic race of the Pelasgians, a somewhat obscure group in Greek myth who inhabited Greece before the Greeks. While this conclusion is incorrect, this article does represent one of the earliest attempts to combine archaeology and mythology to understand the pre-Greek past, something used to much greater effect three decades later by Martin P. Nilsson.
III. Boeotia and Thessaly
We now come to Boeotia and Thessaly, which can be treated together with greater convenience.
We shall first deal with Orchomenos known to Homer as the Minyan and as 'rich in gold,' in contrast to the Arcadian Orchomenos called 'rich in sheep.'
Our object is (1) to identify the Minyans of Orchomenos with the Minyans of Thessaly, (2) to prove both to be Pelasgians. Orchomenos derived its name from Orchomenos, son of Minyas, who was the son of Eteocles, who was the son of Andreus. The latter was said to have been the first occupant of this part of Boeotia, having come thither from Thessaly. He was one of the indigenous race of that region, for he was the son of the river Peneus.
The Minyan genealogy is thus connected with the coast of Thessaly between Iolcos and Peneus, the very district with which is indissolubly linked the history of the Minyae who appear as the first navigators from any part of Greece to the Euxine Sea. E. Curtius says: 'The race which in consequence of this life-bringing contact with the nations beyond the sea first issues forth with a history of its own from the dark background of the Pelasgian people is that of the Minyi.'
The Minyae likewise appear in Peloponnesus. They dwelt in Triphylia, where they settled after driving out the Epeians, the original possessors, from a portion of their country. The Eleans in later days occupy another portion of this country. These Minyae we shall prove to be Pelasgians from Iolcus. That there was a close connection between the Minyae of Orchomenos and the Minyae of Iolcus is strengthened by the statements of Strabo that the Minyae of Iolcus were a colony from Orchomenos. Though this reverses the other story that the Minyans of Orchomenos came from Thessaly, it maintains the relationship between them. We have seen that the Minyae of Iolcus dwelt in the Pelasgic Argos, and were therefore probably a Pelasgian tribe. If we can prove them to be such, the proof will likewise hold good for the Minyae of Orchomenos. I have already mentioned Minyae who occupied six towns in Triphylia in the Peloponnesus, living beside the older tribe of the Epeians, and the later settled Eleans. According to Pausanias, Neleus, the father of Nestor, conquered Pylus, having come with the Pelasgians from Iolcus! These can be no other than the Minyae of Iolcus, who probably under the pressure of Achaean advance had to leave their old homes in Pelasgic Argos. The fact that Nestor's mother was Chloris, a Minyan from Orchomenos in Boeotia, helps to confirm the identification of the Minyae of Orchomenos with those of Iolcus at the same time.
We have now proved (1) the connection of the Minyans of Orchomenos in Boeotia (a) with the inhabitants of the Pelasgic Argosin Thessaly, (b) with the Minyans of Iolcus on the Pagasaean Gulf, the very district of the ancient Pelasgic Argos in which stands the tomb of Volo; (2) that these Minyans of Iolcus are Pelasgians, being so termed by Pausanias when he describes the settlement of Neleus at Pylus, where later on we find the Minyae with the Epeians and Elcans forming the three tribes which gave its name to Triphylia.
The Argo and her voyage are well known to the Homeric poet. She alone of all ships had escaped from Scylla and Charybdis. Evenus, the son of Jason, whom Hypsipyle bore to him when the Argonauts touched at Lemnos, is reigning in that island at the time of the siege of Troy and is a wealthy trader, trafficking with the Phoenicians, with the Achaeans, whom he supplied with wine, and with the Trojans.
From other sources we hear that the Argonauts went up the Black Sea to its Eastern end in their search for the Golden Fleece, which Strabo has well explained as arising from the practice in that region of collecting gold dust by placing fleeces across the beds of mountain torrents, to catch the particles of gold brought down by the stream.
The Argonauts mounted even the Caucasus, aud heard the groans of Prometheus agonized in his adamantine bondage by the gnawings of the vulture. That early voyages were made in Mycenean times to that region gets a curious piece of confirmation from the fact that the only gem of lapis lazuli (of known provenance) as yet found in Mycenean graves is that discovered in the beehive tomb at Volo in Thessaly. If such gems had been found in Crete, Mycenae, or Vaphio, we could say that they came from Egypt, but the fact of their absence in Southern Hellas, and the presence of one in Thessaly, points rather to direct trade with the only region which furnished the stone. For Persia supplied it all, until in modern times South America and Siberia have also furnished it.
Pelasgian Argos is mentioned by Homer and Strabo, as we have already seen; the latter tells us that it was the territory extending from the mouths of the river Peneus to Thermopylae (in the Malian Gulf). This region was also known as Pelasgiotis. It of course comprised within it the Pagasaean gulf, and Iolcus, so associated with the sailing of the Argo, and Mount Pelion, Jason's home, with timber from which the Argo was built.
On the Peneus lay the city of Larissa, the old Pelasgic capital, which still retains its name and pre-eminence. In Homer the Pelasgi had been but recently driven out from it, among the allies of the Trojans are 'the tribes of the Pelasgians who used to dwell in Larissa and those who dwelt in Pelasgic Argos.' The Minyae may then be regarded as one of the Pelasgic tribes. They are certainly not Achaean, for the pedigree of Jason shows no connection with Hellen and his sons. Down to the time of Perseus the Pelasgians are still in possession of this region, for he and his mother went there, when it was still known as Pelasgiotis.
It is important to notice that Hera is the goddess who takes special care of Jason and his Argonauts, and according to Callimachus (Cer. 26) Pelasgians planted in Dorian territory near Lake Boebis in Thessaly a grove in honour of Demeter, a fact which links this region with the Pelasgian Demeter of Argos, and with Phigaleia in Arcadia.
We have seen that Andreus, the founder of the Orchomenos dynasty, came from the Peneus, so the Pelasgic origin of the Minyans of Orchomenos might be assumed from that circumstance alone. But there are other points. , The name Minyan itself links them with the Minyans of Iolcus, the name Orchomenos with the Pelasgians of Orchomenos in Arcadia, who in turn are closely connected with the Minyae of Thessaly. For Ancaeus, king of Tegea, is one of the crew of the Argo. Again Orchomenos in Boeotia was a member of that ancient amphictyony which met for the worship of Poseidon in the island of Calaureia, of which Nauplia was also a member as well as Athens. Finally Orchomenos was the seat of a most ancient cultus of the Charites.
Now Herodotus believed that Hera, Themis, and the Charites were purely Pelasgian deities. The existence then of an immemorial fane of the Charites at Orchomenos stamps the Minyans as Pelasgian.
Source: William Ridgeway, "Who Produced the Objects Called Mycenaean?", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 16 (1896): 105-107.