Whoosh! Issue 22 - July 1998

IAXS project #096
By Michael Martinez
Copyright © 1998 held by author
2477 words

Reconciling the Myths (01-19)
Confirmation of the Sources (20-25)

Xena In The Eyes Of The Historian

Why couldn't she use my GIANT KILLER scroll?

Gabrielle notices a piece of scroll "without much writing on it" is missing in A DAY IN THE LIFE.

Reconciling the Myths

[1] Nothing intrigues a historian more than to come across some "new" but obscure person about whom little is known, yet much is recorded. It is difficult to do this without the help of archaeology. You pretty much have to find a mound filled with clay tablets and old scrolls to unravel the mysteries of previously unresearched historical figures. In the case of Xena: Warrior Princess, we have the alleged Xena Scrolls to satisfy our curiosity, but they are d*mn*bly hard to find. In fact, they are impossible to find. The most satisfaction your curiosity may have in this department is to read the "dispatches" once posted on Universal's Xena web site [Note 01].

[2] So the task of tracking down Xena's history and assembling the pieces of the puzzle into a coherent picture is limited to the "secondary" source of watching the two television series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. The quality of research must be questioned at every step, and one must be cautious against reading too much into each story. The references to anachronistic figures such as Homer, Spartacus, and Julius Caesar (to name a few), are be weighed carefully.

[3] Why did they put these people into the story? If Xena lived, say, at the time of the Fall of Troy, she could not possibly have met and tumbled in the bilge with Julius Caesar -- or any Roman noble, for that matter. Some have suggested that this story is a fraud -- a forgery planted among the original scrolls and adapted by the producers for their own needs. After all, Suetonius tells us virtually the same story about Caesar and the Sicilian pirates.

[4] Of course, the argument could be made that Suetonius merely recorded an apocryphal story about Caesar, drawing on earlier material. The Romans were quite good (and sometimes quite bad) about reworking Greek mythology. Perhaps the Caesar story is nothing more than that, a story, and the producers, recognizing a germ of truth in the scroll, decided to play the Caesar angle to preserve the credibility of Suetonius. Maybe they were just having fun.

[5] How much can we deduce about Xena's world, though, from the series? How much of that can we use to picture a historical Xena? The opinions vary. There is no public confirmation that such a figure existed, but we have some information from the ancients which makes the World of Xena seem almost plausible.

[6] Her encounters with gods must be considered mythical. Myth to a scholar is not a pejorative term. One does not seriously dismiss a myth as an untrue story, a fabrication. Myth represents the understanding -- the world view -- of a people at a certain time in their past. The Greeks recorded many myths, but they did not necessarily create those myths. The myths were ancient, and they were intended to explain things that to primitive peoples were otherwise unexplainable. Thus, if Xena should have encountered a volcanic eruption, she might perhaps have dueled with the gods of the volcano in mythical terms. That she lived to tell someone of the eruption shows that something happened at some point in time.

[7] Therefore, even though we cannot give historical credence to Xena, we can postulate what her life and character might have been like had she lived.

[8] First, let us consider the time period that is most appropriate for Xena. We'll address the apparent anomalies, as we are required to. But we need to place her in time, and it seems fair to assume that Xena was indeed somehow connected with the city of Troy. What troubles some observers of the mythical Xena is the fact that Hercules, who died about fifty years prior to the fall of Troy, supposedly redeemed her.

[9] Perhaps the Troy of Homer's Iliad was not the Troy of Xena's encounter with Paris, Helen, and Deiphobus. Suppose Xena's story occurred earlier, in the time of Hercules? Then we must ask who got the names wrong, Homer or Xena's biographer? We do not have access to the Xena Scrolls so let us propose the useful fiction that the scrolls themselves are forgeries based on earlier, probably more truthful accounts. These forgeries made use of historical figures who appear in the poems and histories of Greece and Rome.

[10] Now we can place Xena more directly in the time of Hercules and the Argonauts, which is important for us. Xena, being a mythical figure, must live in a mythical age. The Trojan War has been removed to the very boundary of myth by archaeology, but that same archaeological record that confirms much of Homer's account tells us that there were earlier Troys. In fact, Homer's Troy (called VII or VIIa in the texts) is known to have been confused with its predecessor, which was destroyed in 1300 BCE (about 50 years before Troy VII was destroyed) [Note 02].

[11] Now we have something solid: an archaeological confirmation of a Troy, which was destroyed in the postulated time of Hercules and Xena. Hence, it is conceivable that Xena visited this earlier Troy and witnessed its destruction. But what about her other adventures? Could she possibly have encountered David and Goliath? They lived almost 300 years later. Some people even question whether Goliath could have lived at all.

We will settle this dispute with typical blooshed -- rugby.

Israelites and Philistines mix like oil and water in GIANT KILLER.

[12] But there are plenty of giants in Greek myth, and we have tentatively placed Xena in a time period, which is best known through Greek myth. If the story of David and Goliath is considered to be mythical, then perhaps the period of Hebrew myth is contemporary with Greek myth. The Hebrews are thought to have fled from Egypt sometime around 1275 BCE (about a generation before the fall of Troy VII) [Note 03], but references have been found to tribes in Palestine called "Habiru" or "Hapiru" who were contemporary with Troy VII (Xena's Troy, in this historical reconstruction) [Note 04]. What if the legend of Goliath was based on an earlier story, one that predated the Hebrews?

[13] This interpretation might be troubling to some, but the Old Testament records that there were giants in the land when Moses led the Israelites to Palestine, so the most reasonable guess is that Xena indeed encountered a giant, and aided some local tribes against coastal peoples.

[14] Our putative forger must have lived after the time of Julius Caesar, which means the scrolls were put into their present form no earlier than the 1st Century BCE -- the late first century BCE for that matter. At that time the story of David and Goliath had been translated into the Greek language and was available to scholars of the Hellenistic world [Note 05].

[15] Hence, Xena's visit to Palestine may have seemed rather unimportant to our nameless ancient editor, and she perhaps substituted names that were more familiar to her readers without considering the possible chronological discrepancies she was introducing into the myth.

Where *is* that hot dog vendor?

Caesar, Julius Ceasar, knows purple in WHEN IN ROME.

[16] But what about the Julius Caesar references? There could not possibly have been any Romans living in 1300 BCE. However, Rome has long been associated with Egypt through the stories of Caesar and Cleopatra, and, Antony and Cleopatra. In 1300 BCE, Egypt was a great power contending with the Hittites of Asia Minor for control of the region. It is quite conceivable that Xena encountered an Egyptian or Hittite prince who betrayed her and destroyed her first army. Crucifixion was not in use then, but the forger may have introduced a punishment more familiar to his audience to enhance the horror they would feel at the villain's betrayal.

[17] We must finally consider whether the forger had any reason to introduce Homer and Spartacus to the Xena legend. It is plausible to suggest that since old movies were being used in ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113) that Spartacus was merely a pleasant anachronism introduced by the producers. But perhaps our Homeric reference has some basis in ancient myth. Homer, after all, was not contemporary with Troy VII. He is thought to have composed The Iliad around 850 BCE, or about 400 years after the most important fall of Troy.

[18] We have already seen that Xena's Troy has easily been confused with Homer's Troy. Thus the motif of the Trojan Horse is explained by the forger's misunderstanding of the myths. The introduction of Homer himself to the myth could just as easily be a further misunderstanding on the forger's part. After 800 or more years, Homer must have seemed a very distant and mythical person, even to our obviously well-educated forger.

[19] So perhaps, Gabrielle, "the woman from Poteidaia" [Note 06], encountered a great poet at Athens who spoke of a slave rebellion in... Egypt. The oppressions inflicted on the Hebrews in the following generations would fit well with an undocumented slave revolt. Further, we can justify our identification of all things Roman in the Xena Scrolls with Egypt because it was at that time a great power, dominating an empire that stretched across the sea, and was built, in part, by the labor of a great caste of slaves.

Confirmation of the Sources

[20] According to the time line presented in Warfare in the Classical World, Troy VI was destroyed in 1300 BCE. The illustration of the arms and weapons of the period show a sword very similar to Xena's [Note 07]. The illustration is based on an actual weapon found at Mount Olympus. We see many leather helmets in the television series and Warry's book indeed describes similar helmets as being contemporary.

[21] Some of the mythical items referred to in the series may have foundation in archaeological artifacts. That is not to say we can prove they existed, but rather that such things were known to the ancient Greeks and their predecessors. The Larousse Encyclopedia Of Archaeology indicates that the Tree of Life is found imprinted on Minoan items (dating back nearly 1,000 years before Xena's time) [Note 08]. Therefore it is not implausible that the account of Hercules and Callisto in the Labyrinth of the Gods is a contemporary but less-well-known myth. A curious clay disk from Phaistos on the southern isle of Crete also contains strange images of a circular object with dots on it [Note 09]. Could this be a precursor of Xena's chakram?

Velasca shows the dangers of static electricity from brushing your hair too much

Amazons are about to fly courtesy "Air Velasca" in A NECESSARY EVIL.

[22] The athletic abilities of Xena, Gabrielle, and the Amazons are considered to be out-of-place in the historical world, but this is not necessarily the case. There is evidence in Minoan art found on Crete that the young men and women engaged in a sport called bull-leaping. According to Larousse, "Modern rodeo experts, when consulted on the subject, have declared it to be impossible, but the evidence of Cretan art is incontrovertible" [Note 10] Xena's incredible leaps and flips, therefore, are not unreasonably conveyed.

[23] The Amazons may indeed have existed. Archaeological finds dating back to the 1950s have documented graves of apparent warrior women which date to the early 1st millennium BCE in a region roughly equivalent to ancient Scythia: lands close to Thrace extending eastward well beyond the Caspian Sea. These are part of the lands traversed by Xena and Gabrielle.

[24] Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BCE, wrote a fascinating account of the Sauromatae, the forebears of the later Sarmatians. The Sauromatae were said to be descended of Scythian warriors and Amazons who had escaped their Greek captors after the war between the Greeks and the Amazons [Note 11]. In Xena's time the Amazons were not a great power, but they had not yet reached their zenith. By Herodotus' day they were only a memory. It is quite probable that the Amazons lived east of Troy in northern Asia Minor, along the southern shores of the Black Sea. The Amazons are said to have been defeated at the battle of Thermodon. The Thermodon River flowed into the Black Sea somewhere in Asia Minor.

[25] Most of the places mentioned in the stories of Xena are known or believed to have existed in her time. Corinth, Athens, Troy, Poteidaia, and Amphipolis were all quite ancient cities, some having been settled in Neolithic times. The Strymon River flowed down to Amphipolis, forming the border between the Thracians and Macedonians.

End of Part One

[26] In Part Two, we will examine Xena's history and attempt to construct a time line.


Note 01:
The dispatches were once posted at the Official XWP Web site but are no longer.
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Note 02:
Warfare in the Classical World. John Warry. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. Chronological chart, page 13.
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Note 03:
Ancient History. Revised Edition. Philip Van Ness Myers, Ginn & Company, Publishers, 1904. Page 30.

"It is the opinion of some scholars that this Rameses II was the oppressor of the children of Israel, the Pharaoh who 'made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service of the field' (Ex. i. 14), and that what is known as the Exodus took place in the reign of his son, Menepha (about 1275 B.C.)."
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Note 04:
The Bible As History. Werner Keller. New Revised Edition. Bantam, 1980. Page 142.
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Note 05:
Classical Greek antiquity is divided into two periods: Hellenic (circa 700 BCE - 323 BCE.) and Hellenistic (323 BCE onward), the latter period reflecting the influx of foreign influences in Greek history and culture. Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE.
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Note 06:
The early discussions of the Xena Scrolls on the Universal web site refers to Gabrielle as "the woman from Poteidaia"
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Note 07:
Warfare in the Classical World. Page 13. Note the form of the second sword in the collection labeled "Mycenaean weapons". Xena's sword in the series is more elaborate, but that may be deemed an artistic expression.
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Note 08:
Larousse Encyclopedia Of Archaeology. Gilbert Charles-Picard, Gen. Ed., Anne Ward, trans., Crescent Books, New York. Page 263.
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Note 09:
Ibid., page 252.
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Note 10:
Ibid., page 255.
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Note 11:
The Histories, Herodotus, Aubrey De Selincourt, Trans., Penguin Classics, Revised Edition, 1972. Pages 306-9.
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Michael Martinez Michael Martinez
Michael Martinez is a computer programmer who has been active in SF fandom for several years. He owns the Xenite.Org Domain, home of 50+ Web sites, including Xena Online Resources, The History of Xena: Warrior Princess, Michael's Kevin Sorbo Review, and Stars for Lucy and Renee. He has also studied the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and has been published in several Tolkien journals.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110)
Favorite line: Salmoneus: "Those legs, that leather, those boots -- Xena!" THE BLACK WOLF (11/111)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: THE TITANS (07/107)

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