Unification News for December 1998

Hellenic History

Paul Carlson

In this article we’ll discuss events in the distant past, far beyond living memory. These events have made a profound impact on our lives, much deeper than most people realize. We’re not talking about the Bible here, or any other religious text. It’s that "other" history, the legendary tales of the ancient Greeks and their neighbors.

For a long time these stories were regarded as "mythology," fascinating but having little to do with reality. However, for the past century or so, archaeologists have been uncovering evidence that many of the people, places and events described were quite real! This was first presented to the world by a German businessman named Schliemann, who in the late 1800s rediscovered the cities of Troy and its chief enemy Mycenae.

All this history was painted upon a remarkably small canvas. The region of the eastern Mediterranean is tiny by American standards, but during the Bronze Age it comprised its inhabitant’s entire world.

This author once crossed the whole of Macedonia in just a few hours, by car. (I’m told that Israel is even smaller.) At the time I was deeply aware that if history itself were visible, that sparse landscape would have looked more crowded than Manhattan.

In their hand-made wooden ships, it often took ancient travelers many days to cross even a narrow band of water—if the winds allowed them to move at all. Their world was small in other ways. When they reached another shore, chances were that the city-states they visited were ruled by a distant cousin, or perhaps a brother-in-law.

This rich tapestry underlies entire schools of scholarship. The Hellenic accounts emerge from sheer myth with the first "best seller" in world history: the Homeric epics of the Trojan War. They were probably written down by a poet named Homer, who lived around 700 BC. He recounts a series of events that took place around 1250 BC (some say 1150). These concern the abduction of Helen of Sparta by the Trojan prince Paris, and the resulting Greek siege that ended with the deaths of Achilles, Ajax, and so many other heroes—and the clever ruse of the Trojan Horse.

This history unfolded quite near Israel (and those other Old Testament players, Babylon and Egypt), yet for thousands of years their paths were relatively separate. Not until the time of Alexander the Great did they come into direct confrontation, culminating in the Greek/Macedonian conquest of Israel in 332 BC.


Students, both enrolled and self-taught, can no longer rely on "popular" accounts of history. The subject is hardly taught in America any more; a century ago the average eighth grader knew more about history than most college graduates do today!

These days "historical revisionists" rule the roost, busily altering textbooks to fit their ideology, and dominating the scholastic associations. Their mental contortions can be astonishing. For instance, one of the most enigmatic figures in the Trojan legends, the prophetess Cassandra, has been recast as a archetypal feminist!

Another example is as close as a bumper sticker you may have seen; the one that says: "Love Your Mother" (printed next to a drawing of the Earth). The primitive, animistic religions that preceded the "patriarchal" Greek pantheon have been raised to the exalted status of a "universal Goddess religion." According to modern Goddess believers, all was peaceful between fellow humans -and nature- until the warlike, horse riding Aryans swept the original matriarchy from the lands of Eurasia.

Worse yet, tenured "moral relativists" are denying the writings of eminent historians, and even the objectivity of history itself. After they get through, many of their students are afraid to state the basic facts of past events, much less pass judgment upon the participants. In the most extreme reported instance, a group of college students refused to swear to the actuality of, or to "blame the bad guys" for, epochs ranging from slavery and the Civil War to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.


Western European culture, for so long the focus of God’s Providence, has two "internal" bases. The Principle refers to these as Hellenism and Hebraism. These descend from Greece and Israel respectively, and their thread runs through the entire Providence, culminating in the ideologies that dominate our modern world.

The Hellenic thread, while "playing Cain" to Hebraism’s central pillar, has been very important to the spiritual progress of humanity. The Divine Principal names Socrates as a major Providential figure, even though he referred to God only dispassionately, and founded no religion.

Hellenism played a key role in the development of every major, western Providential nation. Often this influence was tied directly to the Trojan epics, which were well known.

The Greeks who fought at Troy were Mycenaean, differing in language and culture from their famous descendants like Socrates. Even so, the story of their victory in the Trojan War (which had, by Socrates’ time, taken place over seven hundred years earlier) was the binding cultural tie of the rising Classical Greeks.

Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great slept with a copy of Homer under his pillow, and as soon as he drove the Persians from the area of Troy (now in western Turkey) he bequeathed much wealth upon that city.

The Trojan epics were a founding theme of the Roman Empire. According to the Romans, a Trojan prince named Aeneas escaped the sack of his city and fled to Italy, where he established himself anew. All Roman school children learned of his (alleged) heroic deeds. Later, conquering Romans built their city of Novum Illium over the ruins of old Troy.

The Trojan legend seeped into the folks tales of many European and Near Eastern peoples, as far away as Celtic Ireland. It inspired Charlemagne; in seeking to lift up his barbaric Frankish people, he "discovered" a Trojan prince named Frankus to match the Roman’s Aeneas. The epics, newly translated and embellished, helped build Europe’s tradition of chivalry, and enriched Shakespeare’s works.

The Ottoman Turks, who were defeated in World War One, proudly harked back to Troy. Their greatest early leader, Sultan Mehmet II, conducted ceremonies at Troy. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, he drove westwards and conquered Greece. He proclaimed that, at long last, the Trojans were getting their revenge!

Decent historians (and Principle workshop graduates) know that the Greek, Roman, and Frankish (Holy Roman) empires stand at the very foundation of European history. Thanks to Alexander, not only European but Asian (from Asoka’s India westwards) and north African history. Remember that the famous Cleopatra was a Ptolomaic Greek ruler.

As Europe rose to dominance it colonized many continents. Thus, in recent centuries, the children of Troy have shaped the entire world.


Every one of the nations named in this article once rose to greatness. Some flourished for many centuries. All have vanished. Troy was literally buried, so completely that it took Herculean efforts to identify and dig out its ruins.

Earlier we mentioned Cassandra, a young Trojan princess. According to the legend she had the gift of prophecy, and could accurately foretell the future of men and nations. Tragically, she was also cursed, so that no one would believe her predictions. Troy fell despite her strident warnings.

In 146 BC, after a long and tangled conflict, the Romans closed in on the once-mighty empire of Carthage. The illustrious Cato declared: Carthago delenda est . (Carthage must be destroyed.) This was done. As the Roman General Scipio Aemilianus viewed the smoking ruins of their capital city, and laid a symbolic furrow of salt across its formerly lush fields, he remarked that his own Rome was rising to greatness—but might someday lie in similar ruin. His observation was, eventually, proven correct.

Subsequent history records the dark predictions of numerous Cassandras. Today there are many, many American doomsayers. Some exaggerate or blunder enough to discredit themselves, within a few years if not immediately. However, a few are genuine Cassandras who, once again, are being ignored . . .

The Principle says that the present day is a time of "intersection," when the Kingdom will arise just as the fallen world goes down all around it. We might assume that this process will not be entirely smooth. Worldwide, we Unificationists should remain united, and be as prepared as humanly (and Divinely!) possible. With God and True Parents in our hearts, let us build a better future, one that finally unites every culture.


Recreated Bronze Age seamanship: The Ulysses Voyage by Tim Severin.

A devastating look at Goddess scholarship: The Faces of the Goddess by Lotte Motz.

An overview of Trojan archaeology: In Search of the Trojan War by Michael Wood.

Trojan legends throughout history: The Legends of Troy in Art and Literature by Margaret R. Scherer, Phaidon, 1963.

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