Bob Carlton

Bob Carlton

Bob Carlton lives and works in Leander, Texas, USA.

For the Defense of Pylos


       Dawn arrived first on the purpling waves before coming over the ridge to find the men encamped along the shore. The only sounds were the breakers crashing beyond the point and the cries of gulls.
       Their assignment had been simple enough: stand watch on the shoreline, and in the event they receive a signal from one of the beacons, they were to send riders inland to alert the troops gathered at Oichalia. Spread out, man the beacons, observe and report; no need to engage. Word had gone out of a sighting two days ago now, and Alektruon Etewoklewehios, attendant to the regiment commanded by Klumenio, was still awaiting a response. Now, with the rising sun at his back, he could see a fleet of sails, rounding the far arm of the bay, coming into view. When, shortly thereafter, Atiyawas came riding back into camp alone, Alektruon was both relieved and apprehensive. He had thought at least a small squadron of reinforcements would return with the messenger.
       “Are the troops on their way?” Alektruon asked. Atiyawas shook his head.
       “The main force has been sent in defense of the palace,” he replied.
       “South? But the landing is here,” Alektruon said, the foreign ships quickly coming into focus behind him in confirmation. Atiyawas again shook his head.
       “No one is coming to help.”
       Suddenly, Alektruon Etewoklewehios understood the enormity of what was happening. He looked across the bay they were far too few to defend, knowing the fate of himself and his companions.
       “Well then,” he said, “this is where we’ll make our stand.”
       Looking south toward the capital, he saw the smoke from distant fires and knew that what was coming to pass here had already passed elsewhere, and would continue on until everything was swept away. He thought of an age already gone, and of his father, a great warrior and wanax who had won fame doing battle in distant eastern lands, and here he was, on the western shore of a crumbling kingdom, standing at the head of a handful of troops. He turned once more to face them.
       “The watchers are guarding the coast,” he announced, and the men charged seaward together, their battle cries resounding off the rugged terrain as if they were a hundred-thousand strong.
* * *

Note: Based on the so-called o-ka tablets from Bronze Age Pylos, translation/commentary by L.R. Palmer, 1956.


The Votive Prayers of Puduhepa

Note: A religious approach, in the face of failed military/diplomatic solutions, to the problem of unrest in western Anatolia, mid 13th century B.C.


The Queen went to Izziya,
to the Sea,
made a vow
to the Sea:

If you, the Sea,
give Piyamaradu to me
so he does not elude my grasp,
I will give offerings prepared
for the ritual of the Sea,
will grind grain
for thick loaves of bread.



And again,
in the town of Kummanni:

If you seize Piyamaradu
I will give to the god
gold, a gold bird,
a symbol of a unit of time
in gold, gold
for that god
in this precise matter.


III, the Aftermath
  From a letter, Tudhaliya IV, King of Hatti and son of Puduhepa, to Tarkasnawa, King of Mira, in western Anatolia. Late 13th, early 12th century B.C.

  Pi-ya-ma-ra-du-us ku-wa-p[i…]
(at the time) when Piyamaradu…

The erasures of time
grant the isolated fragment
freed of the constraints
of context
the weight
of mystery and myth.
The gods themselves
stay silent,
their only answer lost
in crumbling clay.


Poetry in this post: © Bob Carlton
Published with the permission of Bob Carlton