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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia

 

Larissa (Troad) (Bronze Age)

Towards the end of the thirteenth century BC, the international system in the Near East began to break down. Communications between the many smaller states, especially in Syria and Canaan, and the kings of Babylonia, Egypt, Elam, the Hittites, Mitanni and the Assyrians, gradually broke down as events overwhelmed many of them.

Then climate-induced drought and a loss of crops did more damage in the thirteenth century BC. Food supplies dwindled and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who had also banded together greatly increased until, by about 1200 BC, this flood turned into a tidal wave which destroyed the Hittites and many Anatolian and Syrian cities and states. A dark age descended on the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Troad or Troas was the peninsula region at the far north-western corner of Anatolia, formed by the territory to the north of the island of Lesbos, eastwards to Mount Ida, and then roughly in a direct line north to the Dardanelles where it meets the Sea of Marmara, opposite the shores of Thrace.

FeatureMysia was also part of the region while the principle city in this part of Anatolia, Troy, was nearby, and Dardania could also be included within the Troad, along with its native population of Teucri. Wilusa in the thirteenth century was a member of the Assuwa (or Assua), a confederacy of local minor states which probably included the states of the Troad and which had traditionally been allied to the Hittites (see feature link). The city of Larissa was a 'deep-soiled' Pelasgian settlement which provided spearmen to Troy in the Trojan War.

The name 'Larissa' was a common one for Pelasgian towns or cities. This particular example was probably founded by wandering tribesmen who settled in different parts of the Anatolian coast prior to the war. The names of its rulers were thoroughly Hellenised, seemingly already by the time of Homer around the eighth century BC, so that no Pelasgian naming elements survived.

Strabo expressed the opinion that the Larissa which some sources quote for this city is not the one mentioned by Homer in The Iliad. That was said to have been far from Troy and not inside the Troad, so although the Larissa which is detailed here is not a Troad city, it remains connected to the Troad for convenience. In all likelihood, especially given the names of the city's rulers and their close familial links with the ruling family of Pelasgiotis, this Larissa was probably the Larissa of Thessaly, farther to the south.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Philistines and Other 'Sea Peoples' in Text and Archaeology, Ann E Killebrew (Society of Biblical Literature Archaeology and Biblical Studies, 2013), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from The Iliad, Homer (Translated by E V Rieu, Penguin Books, 1963), from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from Trojans and Their Neighbours: An Introduction (Ancient Peoples), Trevor Bryce (2005), from the Argonautica, Apollonius Rhodius (3rd century BC Greek epic poem), and from External Links: the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith (Ed, 1854), and DNA clue to origins of early Greek civilisation (BBC News), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals (Science).)

c.1210s? BC

The descendants of the mythical figure of Pelasgos are claimed by Hellicanus of Lesbos as the kings of Pelasgiotis in Thessaly. His great-grandson is Teutamides who likely rules around the 1220s-1200 BC.

Map of the Trojan War states c.1200 BC
Troy's various regional allies at the time of the Trojan War are shown here, many of which are only mentioned in later works by Homer, Herodotus, and other Greek chroniclers (click or tap on map to view full sized)

One of this king's own sons is Lethus, who becomes the first-known ruler of the Anatolian city of Larissa (probably not within the Troad). These personal names, first recorded in part by Homer around the eighth century BC, have already been thoroughly Hellenised, leaving no trace of their original nature (if the bearers of those names had existed at all, of course).

fl c.1200 BC

Lethus

Son of Teutamides of Pelasgiotis.

c.1180s BC

Hippothous

Son. Killed at Troy.

c.1180s BC

Pylaeus

Brother and co-ruler. Killed at Troy.

c.1193 - 1183 BC

As Mycenae declares war on Troy, Priam of Troy musters his multinational swathe of allies, many of which don't even speak the same tongue. These include contingents of Pelasgians from several locations in western Anatolia including Larissa. Even many Greek writers later label the Pelasgian language 'barbaric' and state that it is not Greek.

Two such Pelasgian heroes are Hippothous and Pylaeus, sons of Lethus whose own brother is Nasus, last Pelasgian king of Pelasgiotis. Hippothous is killed by Ajax during the fight for the body of Patroclus, and Pylaeus seemingly dies alongside him.

First Theatre of Larissa
The ruins of the third century BC theatre of Larissa are not Pelasgian as such, as there is little remaining which could categorically be attributed to them

In The Iliad, the Achaeans beach their ships in the final year of the conflict and set up camp near the mouth of the River Scamander (modern Karamenderes, five kilometres further inland than today, pouring into a bay). The city of Troy itself stands on a hill, across the plain of Scamander, which is where the battles of the Trojan War take place. After fighting to a stalemate, the Mycenaeans finally enter and sack Troy.

Increasing drought in the Near East has already resulted in famine and the subsequent movement of peoples who are in search of new food supplies. Collectively known by chroniclers as the Sea Peoples, various groups are raiding the Mediterranean coastline, attacking kingdoms and destroying cities and, in some cases, even settling in the conquered areas.

The Trojan War feeds into this ongoing chain of calamity and destruction. With Trojan refugees fleeing in all directions, and even the victorious Mycenaeans being pushed out of their territory by migrating Dorians, both peoples probably add to the pressure on the states of the eastern Mediterranean.

Artist's impression of Troy
This illustration is another artist's impression of an unspecified version of Troy, although it is believed to be based on the city which existed around the time of the Trojan War, shortly before its defeat and destruction

The age of the migratory Sea Peoples can only be said to be over by around 1100 BC, as the turmoil and chaos (such as during Egypt's 'Third Intermediate Period' or in Syria) gives way to an already-active dark age and a gradual rebuilding of civilisation. During this period, Anatolia's coastline largely becomes a possession of various Greek states and cities.

 
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