Featured Article - Identifying the Teresh of The Sea Peoples
Author: Petros Koutoupis
Originally published on Ancient Origins (11 August, 2014) but revised.
It has long been suggested that the Teresh, an ethnic group listed among the Sea Peoples in Egyptian sources, were one and the same as the Tyrrhenians (also referred to as Tyrsenians in other Greek sources). According to the Greek geographer, Strabo (ca. 64 BCE–24 CE), the label, Tyrrhenian, referred to the Etruscans, for whom the Tyrrhenian Sea is named. It has also been suggested that these Teresh were Trojan refugees, escaping the destruction that befell their homeland, at the hands of the Mycenaean Greeks (i.e. the Ahhiyawa, Homer’s Achaeans), and eventually settling in the regions of what is now Tuscany, in Italy; lending credence to the migrations of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid. However, in my latest research, at least one of these claims is challenged.
The Teresh are documented as being part of a larger coalition of migrants threatening Egyptian shores during the reigns of Pharaohs Merneptah (reigned ca. 1213–1203 BCE) and Ramesses (reigned ca. 1186–1155 BCE). We do not know much about them, only that they were the Teresh of the Sea ; which meant that they came from an island and not Anatolia, dismissing the Trojan hypothesis. Oddly enough, we may come to a proper identification when analyzing non-Egyptian sources.
Prior to the disappearance of the Mycenaean Greeks in the Late Bronze Age ca. 1200 BCE, writing was utilized in all of the Aegean to record inventories and transactions. The Mycenaean script is referred to as Linear B; an adaptation of the earlier Minoan Linear A. Linear A and B comprise hundreds of signs that represent syllabic, ideographic, and semantic values. To date, Linear B has been the only deciphered script (translated by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick between 1951–1953), providing insight into the more archaic form of Greek spoken by the Mycenaeans.
I suggest that the Teresh were from the Aegean; more specifically, native Cretans from a province referred to in the Classical period (and later) as Tylissos. Among the scattered Linear B inscriptions, there are multiple references to the toponym, tu-ri-so. This was the ancient name of the same location. Its inhabitants were referred to as tu-ri-si-ja and tu-ri-si-jo. Tylissos is located on the northern shores of central Crete.
While this seems to be yet another piece to this puzzle, we cannot say without reasonable doubt that the Teresh are one and the same with the tu-ri-si-ja. Aside from similarities to the name of the location and its peoples, the only other clue is that they came from the sea ; that is an island in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea.
This does bring to mind the Homeric epic, the Odyssey and an episode commonly referred to as the Cretan Lie . When in the court of Alcinous in the land of the Phaeacians, Odysseus deceives his hosts by stating that he was a Cretan serving under the command of Idomeneus. After the Trojan War, and desiring new adventures, he led a group of men on a raid into Egypt. They would raid the delta but upon reaching the Egyptian capital were immediately defeated. Odysseus begged the Egyptian king for mercy and remained on Egyptian soil for seven years. Is there some historical truth to this lie? Does it preserve a historical event, possibly in relation to the Teresh? Also, what happened to these migrants after the Egyptians drove them off of their land? Did they go on to find Etruria? Possibly. As much as we would like to believe it, the archaeological record has yet to make these connections.
Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B. New York: Cambridge UP, 1958. [Print]
Homer. The Odyssey, XIV, 199–359.
Ventris, Michael and John Chadwick. Documents in Mycenaean Greek . 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge UP, 1973. [Print]