THE events described in the Homeric poems, so far as they are historical, took place for the most part round about 12.00 B.c. The poems themselves were probably written considerably later than that, 1 but they preserve traditions going back not merely to the Trojan war but a great deal earlier. As much as half a millenium may have elapsed between the earliest features mentioned in the poems and the date of their composition. During this period there took place a decline of the M ycenean civilisation, the Trojan war, the Dorian invasion and we know not how many other upheavals. The changes, social, political and linguistic, caused by these upheavals are reflected in the Homeric poems, but only very incoherently and not in such a way that we can form a connected piece of social, still less of literary history. We can, however, say that, while the whole long period is, as it were, telescoped, the emphasis is on the earlier part, say before 1000 B.c.; the period between 1ooo and Soo is one of the most obscure in all ancient history. Thus the poet consciously archaises without, of course, being completely successful or consistent-a common feature of Epic poetry. On the political side this archaising tendency is strong, with the result that we get a picture not of the immediate but of the remote antecedents of the city-state. In this respect our position does not differ greatly from that of a Greek of the Classical era; the Homeric poems and the traditional myths made up most of his knowledge of his early history. We have, however, the advantage of knowing that the period was a long one and of knowing, thanks to archaeology, considerably more about M ycenean civilisation than the classical
Greek. We are therefore on our guard against telescoping five centuries into one.