Thinking out loud

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Did that really happen?

I was watching "Troy" for the hundredth time today when it struck me. Did Achilles ever really think that his name would go down in history and hence he should fight at Troy? Or was it only Homer's imagination that created this surreal hero? A thousand years after something is written, how do we tell fact from fiction. It is hard enough even if something was written a year ago. A hundred years from now, how would someone reading "False Impression" (by Archer) tell if there really was an Anna Petrescu, an Olga Krantz or a Lady Victoria Wentworth with a priceless collection of paintings? All the records would show that there indeed was a 9/11 attack on NYC. Would they, the then citizens of the world (of course provided there isn't another ice age by then), make movies showing Anna (or Krantz) as an epic herione? (For all you know we'll make one ourselves).

The point is, how does one tell fact from fiction so far away in time? A more important question perhaps is, does it even matter?


  • an important feature of historical accounts which hold credibility is the first hand knowledge of the author. He describes only those things he has seen, done and takes care to mention that the rest are only stories he has 'heard'. Like Fa Hien (or Huen Tsang?) for instance. Holmer's Troy of course isnt first hand information. He surely cudnt have been present in every situation described in the story:P So while there may have been an achilles, if he actually said all that is, ummm, doubtful at best.

    By Blogger Prashant Pawan, at 8:19 PM  

  • Even if Homer was indeed present in every situation described in the story, he still wouldn't know. Legend has it that Homer was blind :D

    By Blogger Parijat, at 11:36 AM  

  • Thanks for bringing this point up. Isn't this precisely the same thing that plagues the whole hypothesis of the Da Vinci code? All that stuff about the Knight's Templar and the grail and King Arthur and stuff related to it is essentially present only in documented manuscript form - and not in the form of physical structures like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal, both of which have long legends attached to them. History by default can never be verified. It is by definition a conjecture. The conjecture is stronger if the amount time we have to go back is not long. When we go back eons in time, we are left with only uncorrelated pieces of evidence through which we have to "weave a story" to give them correlation and context. Such a context is stronger if the evidence is not only in the form of documents but in the form of fossils, ruins, monuments and other such stuff. Simply documented stuff- like Roman and Greek legends (Medusa's hair full of snakes) and our own Ramayan Mahabharat (with all its surreal stuff like a monkey with a infinite tail who carries a mountain from the Himalaya to Lanka, and an eagle who is sent to save a princess) is in my opinion more passable as fiction than as fact. More passable as a product of man's great creativity than of nature's surreality.

    By Anonymous Ankur, at 12:04 PM  

  • I think stories like Ramayan and Mahabharat are just fiction, created in order for man-kind to follow the right path. I am surprised how many people believe in this and create their own beliefs and value. It is all for the good. But when one realises the truth it is easy to walk the righteous path.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:35 PM  

  • I reckon there may be some (tiny, trace) elements of truth in the stories - havent they recently discovered evidence of a bridge linking south india to northern sri lanka?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:33 AM  

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