Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY
The Trojan War could not have been fought after 1150 B.C.—when all of the splendid Mycenaean cities lay in ruins. And for the next 400 years, Greece experienced a Dark Age, from which little or no writing survives. Homer’s epics, then, could not have been written down until Greek culture again became literate in the eighth century B.C., when the Greek alphabet was invented, according to many scholars. (In “Who Invented the Alphabet,” on p. 44 of this issue, Barry Powell suggests that the Greek alphabet was invented precisely to record Homer’s oral poetry in writing.) To author Carol Thomas, Homer’s epics reached their final form around the end of the eighth century B.C.—and include information about Homer’s own day, material from the Dark Age, and perhaps even memories of a late Bronze Age war fought at Troy.