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Pharology - Lighthouses of Antiquity - The Helladic Period

A20: Lights of the Helladic Period

Zemke [3] reported that the remains of two structures were found in Piraeus, the port of Athens. These were interpreted as lightstructures and dated to about 400 BC. Piraeus was inside the great fortified area of ancient Athens, and it is quite likely that the Athenians, relying heavily upon the use of sea power in their struggles for dominance of the Aegean and Black Sea areas, also used lightstructures for navigational purposes. However, Zemke expressed confidence that other lightstructures already existed in the Hellespont region, and cited the many references of ancient Greek writers in support of his conclusion. The fact that lightstructures may have existed in the Classical Greek period from 480 BC onwards is irrelevant if we accept that Homer was working in the Archaic period, and himself referring to a period 500 years earlier than that. We are faced with the inevitable conclusion that around 1,300 BC, in the region of Troy and the Hellespont, the inhabitants of the region were using lightstructures as navigational aids.

The geographic and strategic significance of Troy (Ilium) located close to the Hellespont is of prime importance in this discussion. It seems highly probable that lightstructures would be used here by any culture that had maritime interests. Not only had there been a major centre of culture here since at least 3,000 BC, but the level of sophistication of the culture achieved during the continuous period from Troy VI through the years from 1,700 BC onwards, should have given rise to the use of lightstructures for navigational aids. This concept was absorbed into the folklore and mythology that eventually became part of the classic Greek texts.