In this post we present two very interesting excerpts from Pindar, the lyric poet.
Olympionikos VII, Verses 54-58
Ancient Greek: “φαντὶ δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων παλαιαὶ ῥήσιες, οὔπω, ὅτε χθόνα δατέοντο Ζεύς τε καὶ ἀθάνατοι, φανερὰν ἐν πελάγει Ῥόδον ἔμμεν ποντίῳ, ἁλμυροῖς δ᾽ ἐν βένθεσιν νᾶσον κεκρύφθαι.”
English: “The ancient stories of men tell that when Zeus and the immortals were dividing the earth among them, Rhodes was not yet visible in the expanse of the sea, but the island was hidden in the salty depths.”
Olympionikos VII, Verses 64-72
Ancient Greek: “ἐκέλευσεν δ᾽ αὐτίκα χρυσάμπυκα μὲν Λάχεσιν χεῖρας ἀντεῖναι, θεῶν δ᾽ ὅρκον μέγαν μὴ παρφάμεν, ἀλλὰ Κρόνου σὺν παιδὶ νεῦσαι, φαεννὸν ἐς αἰθέρα νιν πεμφθεῖσαν ἑᾷ κεφαλᾷ ἐξοπίσω γέρας ἔσσεσθαι. τελεύταθεν δὲ λόγων κορυφαὶ ἐν ἀλαθείᾳ πετοῖσαι. βλάστε μὲν ἐξ ἁλὸς ὑγρᾶς νᾶσος, ἔχει τέ νιν ὀξειᾶν ὁ γενέθλιος ἀκτίνων πατήρ, πῦρ πνεόντων ἀρχὸς ἵππων”
English: “And he bid Lachesis of the golden headband raise her hands right away, and speak, correctly and earnestly, the great oath of the gods, and consent with the son of Cronus that that island, when it had risen into the shining air, should thereafter be his own prize of honor. And the essence of his words was fulfilled and turned out to be true. There grew from the waters of the sea an island, which is held by the birthgiving father of piercing rays, the ruler of fire-breathing horses.”
Source for the Greek text.
Source for the English text.
Now let us read some official Scientific information from NASA:
“Geologists now understand that our planet’s surface is composed of plates that move relative to each other. Rhodes sits in an active area, where the African Plate slides below the Aegean Plate, producing fairly strong earthquakes. Fossils found on Rhodes date back to the late Paleozoic Era before the dinosaurs evolved. The fossils are found in limestone, indicating that the island of Rhodes was once underwater. Around 15 million years ago, tectonic activity uplifted the whole region, but between 4 million and 3 million years ago, the land sank and left just the mountaintops above water.”
NovoScriptorium: What Pindar suggests is that not only humans existed at the time when Rhodes was underwater, but also they recorded –and preserved over the centuries- the tradition that the island of Rhodes was once found below sea level.
They claim that this was happening when Zeus and the immortals, the ‘gods’, divided the earth among them. As we have discussed several times before in our posts, for the Greeks the ‘gods’ have been ordinary humans (of great deeds) that lived at very old times. Consequently, here we might have an amazing record of things that took place millions of years ago.
It is indeed proved that the Aegean region and the Greek peninsula was inhabited by Hominids and Humans in the course of millions of years in a rather continuous Evolutionary Sequence (Please read the following posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). But, could “The ancient stories of men” really refer to those archaic Human types? We will never know.
However, there is also a second possible interpretation of this fragment (a much less exaggerated one). The names of the “gods”, as we have discussed in several previous posts, were also used by the ancient writers to present their scientific views. So here, we may have a record of such a scientific view. But, what could that be?
Our study in ancient Greek literature shows that Zeus has often been identified in the cosmological analyses of the ancients with the Sun, the star of our solar system. The rest of the ‘gods’ were often identified with elements of nature or with celestial bodies, such as the planets. It would not be unlikely that we deal with such an approach here.
If what we have here is a theory of the ‘historical’ times, it refers to an extremely old era and exposes the remarkable fact that the ancient Greeks were seriously engaged in the science of Geology, creating theories for things that happened millions of years before their time, just like we do today.
The phrases “the birthgiving father of piercing rays, the ruler of fire-breathing horses” and “when Zeus and the immortals were dividing the earth among them” seem to indicate some huge geological transformation, involving Water, Land and, of course, Heat (‘Sun’).
Indeed, Modern Science tends to support such a Geological Theory for the Mediterranean. We suggest a read of the following posts:
Of course, there are also many interesting publications on the issue, available on the Internet, too.
Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos & Philaretus Homerides