Homer was the first Geographer

The Greeks caught the Trojan spy Dolon and made him give away the Trojan’s line of battle …

To seaward, Carians … - inland, towards Thymbra, camp the Lycians …

From the sea to Thymbra. Strabo put Thymbra south of Ilium. This line covered attack from the southwest.

The Trojan lookout …

He (Polites) had kept a watch for the Trojans, posted atop old Aesyetes’ tomb and poised to sprint for home at the first sign of Argives charging from the ships.

and its place was known through tradition …

the tomb of Æsyetes, which exists at present on the road to Alexandreia, is distant five stadia from the citadel.

Alexandreia and its road are southwest of Troy. Yes, the Greeks were expected from the south-west. After he ran back with his warning, the Trojans gathered …

Now a sharp ridge rises out in front of Troy, all on its own and far across the plain with running-room around it, all sides clear. Men call it Thicket Ridge (Batieia), the immortals call it the leaping Amazon’s Myrine’s tomb, and there the Trojans and allies ranged their troops for battle.

The ridge with its thickets (Batieia means Thorn Hill) is still on the Trojan plane. The tumulus of Myrine on top of it is now called Pasa Tepe. It is just outside the southern wall of Troy, to the south-east, a good spot to gather to face a foe coming from the south-west.

The river Scamander runs west of Troy heading north to the Hellespont. Priam went to the Greek camp to fetch his son’s body and crossed the river to do so …

And now as soon as the two (Priam and his herald) drove past the great tomb of Ilus they drew rein at the ford to water mules and team. … once they reached the ford where the river runs clear and strong

All this says the Greeks approached Troy from the south-west.

But hold on, didn’t Homer say the argives reach the fleet and the Hellespont in rout, reached the ships and the Hellespont’s long shore, the warships moored at the Hellespont?

That’s north. The Hellespont is north of Troy. So the Greeks were north. Some geographer, that Homer! He had the Trojans defending to the south-west and sent old Priam that way but had the Greeks and their camp to the north.

It seems we cannot justly regard Homer as the founder of geographical science. So sloppy. After going to so much trouble to accurately describe the flow of rivers, the position of mountains and cities.

Strabo tried to save him. New Ilium does not seem to be the city meant by the poet. Homer’s Troy was nearly thirty stadia higher to the east, towards Ida. In other words, the lookout, Myrine’s tumulus, … were north of the true site of Troy. Begone south and west! But still, why did Priam cross a river to his west to get to Greeks sitting north of him. And then there’s modern archeology - it confirms Troy on the site of New Ilium. Ah well.

But wait! There is a solution, one that saves the Poet’s blushes. What if the plain of Troy changed between our time and his? Though he leaves it hanging, Strabo also notes …

he will be in error if he include (in the ancient) the present plain, which is all alluvial soil brought down by the rivers

Rivers building plain over time! And modern measurement lets us take away the silt and what does it show? A bay, curving south west of Troy before turning north to make the Sigeum ridge into a promontory. There, lay the Greeks. Yes they were off the Hellespont and north but they had to come south and then turn east to attack Troy. And the Trojans had to go south west and then turn north to get to them. The first geographer didn’t nod.

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