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Homerus (Homeros). The ancient Greeks never doubted the historical existence of Homer. He was to them "the poet" (ho poietes) in a special sense, but they knew nothing of him as a person. Eight Greek biographies of him are still extant-- one under the name of Plutarch, another falsely ascribed to Herodotus--but none of them have any historic value; most of them belong to the Christian era. The early Greeks had no more interest in literary biography than the English contemporaries of Chaucer, and later generations supplied the lack of knowledge from vague tradition and from uncertain indications in the works attributed to the poet. They did not require scientific accuracy of statement, and enjoyed a good story too well to question its truth. A large variety of manifestly fictitious genealogical trees is presented for Homer, in many of which he is brought into some connection with Hesiod. Some made him a descendant of Orpheus. He was called by some Melesigenes, as the son of the river-god Meles, near Smyrna. Others called him Maeonides, either as the son of Maeon or the son of Maeonia (Lydia). A well-known epigram emphasizes the uncertainty with regard to his birthplace. More than seven cities claimed him as their own. Some thought he was born at Smyrna, and near that city a grotto was shown in which they said he composed his poems. Simonides called him a Chian, doubtless partly on the strength of the verse in the Hymn to Delian Apollo, 172, tuphlos aner, oikei de Chioi eni paipaloessei, which is quoted by Thucydides --a verse which at least supported the popular belief in the poet's blindness. The great critic Aristarchus thought him an Athenian, basing his arguments upon characteristics of the Homeric dialect. Aristodemus of Nyssa believed him to be a Roman, because of the similarity of certain Roman customs with those described by the poet. Others would make an Ithacan of him. Others thought him an Aegyptian. Lucian called him a Babylonian, but doubtless in merry jest. It was reserved for an English scholar, however, to suggest that if Homer's name were read backwards, in Hebrew style, OMEROS would become SOREMO, which was only another form for Solomon; thus the Homeric poems were ascribed to the Hebrew king. He was generally assumed to have lived about a century or a century and a half after the Trojan War (B.C. 1183). Others made him flourish about B.C. 976. He was set by Herodotus not more than four hundred years before his time, or B.C. 850. The church fathers, Clemens Alexandrinus and Tatian, inclined to set the date of his birth as late as possible, in order to sustain their claim that the wisdom of the Greeks was derived from the Hebrews.
Scholars no longer ask where Homer was born or when he lived, but in what regions and tribes of Greece epic poetry was perfected, and in what centuries the Iliad and Odyssey received their present form. Not that all would deny that any poet Homer ever lived to whom we owe the Iliad or Odyssey, or both, but all authentic information regarding him has perished beyond recovery. Even in his poems his personality is kept entirely in the background.
The meaning of the name Homer is uncertain. Many stories were invented to account for it as meaning "a hostage." Half a century ago it was explained as "the uniter" (homou ararisko), and thus it was made to sustain the view that the poems are only a conglomeration of distinct and independent lays. Georg Curtius showed that, according to analogy, the name should mean "the united," not "the uniter." The plural Homeroi would then be used of the members of a guild of poet-singers. The next generation would be Homeridai, and from this patronymic an assumption was made of an original Homeros. This process has been playfully but fairly illustrated by the succession in English: "fellows" (homeroi), "the fellows' guild" (homeridai), "the Fellows guild" (Homeridai), which last assumes a Mr. Fellows (Homeros) as its founder. But very possibly the name had nothing to do with the profession of song.
Homer was to the early Greeks the personification of epic poetry. All the old epic poems were attributed to him, as all great achievements were assigned to Heracles--not only what are extant, but also what are known as the cyclic poems: the Cypria (ta Kupria, in eleven books, of the judgment of Paris, the rape of Helen, and other events which immediately preceded the Trojan War--ascribed by others to Stasinus of Cyprus), the Aethiopis and Iliupersis (Aithiopis, in five books, of the arrival of the Amazons and the Aethiopian Memnon, the defence of Troy, and the death of Achilles; and Iliou Persis, in two books, of the device of the wooden horse and the capture of the city --generally ascribed to Arctinus of Miletus), the Little Iliad (Ilias Mikra, in four books, in which Philoctetes and Achilles' son Neoptolemus were brought to the help of the Greeks--by Lesches of Mitylene), the Nosti (Nostoi, in five books, of the adventures of the Greeks on their return from Troy--by Agias of Troezen), and the Telegonia (Telegonia, in two books, a sort of conclusion of the story of the Odyssey--by Eugammon of Cyrene).
When Aeschylus said that his tragedies were but crumbs from the rich feast of Homer (Athen. viii. 347 E, tas hautou tragoidias temache einai elege ton Homerou megalon deipnon), he probably had in mind not only the Iliad and Odyssey, but also the other poems of the Trojan cycle, from which he borrowed suggestions, as is seen from the titles of his plays. Herodotus was the first, so far as is known, to deny the Homeric authorship of the Cypria. This he did on the ground of the inconsistency that the poet of the Cypria made Paris reach Troy on the third day from Sparta, while the poet of the Iliad represented him as driven on a devious course to Sidon; and the historian remarks that nowhere else does Homer contradict himself (oudamei allei anepodise heouton). Thucydides seems to have acknowledged or assumed the Homeric authorship of the so-called Homeric Hymns. Plato and Xenophon mean our Iliad and Odyssey when they speak of Homer; but Aristotle quotes from the Margites (hosper Homeros phesin en toi Margitei). The earliest Alexandrian editor of Homer, Zenodotus, seems to have assigned to him only the Iliad and Odyssey.
Among the minor poems of Homer are generally placed the Hymns, Battle of the Frogs and Mice (Batrachomuomachia), Jests (paignia), and Margites. The Hymns are not hymns in the modern sense of the term; they are rather epic than lyric. They number thirty-four in all, but ten are brief, having only three to six lines each. The first two, to Apollo, were counted as one until the critic Rhunken in 1749 convinced scholars that the first was in praise of Delian (178 verses) and the second of Pythian Apollo (368 verses). The latest editor endeavours again to show that the two are simply parts of one. The third Hymn (580 verses) tells of the birth of Hermes and the exploits and tricks of the new-born babe: how he found a tortoise and invented the seven-stringed lyre (phorminx), how he stole the cattle of Apollo and then returned to his cradle, finally appeasing Apollo's wrath by the gift of the lyre. This and the one immediately following are distinctly secular, not religious, in their character. The fourth Hymn (293 verses) tells of Aphrodite and her love for Anchises. The fifth Hymn (495 verses), to Demeter, has a more serious tone than the preceding. It seems to have been intended to state the mythical foundation for the Eleusinian Mysteries. It tells how Persephone, Demeter's daughter, was carried off by Hades as she was plucking flowers ("herself a fairer flower"), and of the disconsolate wanderings of the mother in search of her daughter until she found a temporary home at Eleusis; on her departure thence a temple was built in her honour, and at last the mother and daughter were united. No one of the other Hymns has more than sixty verses. They are “introductions,” proems (prooimia), intended to be sung before the rhapsodist's recital of some other lay (perhaps at some rhapsodic contest), as a sort of "grace before meat"--in the same spirit which made every Greek festivity sacred to some divinity. No external evidence exists for the date of these Hymns. They contain many Homeric formulas and tags of verses which give an antique flavour even to what is comparatively modern. Parts of the poems may go back to a remote antiquity; the Hymn to Demeter may have been composed about B.C. 650; more date from the fifth and sixth centuries. After the fifth century, the interest in epic recitations was so slight that these proems would not be composed.
The Batrachomyomachia is a comic epic poem of 303 verses, giving a burlesque account of the battle between the frogs and mice, when Puff-cheek (Phusignathos), king of the frogs, caused the death of Crumb-snatcher (Psicharpax), a promising young mouse, inviting him and bearing him on his back to visit his home, but deserting him in the midst of the waters on the approach of a water-snake. The story is composed with humour and some ingenuity, but is a light production. It was ascribed to Pigres, son of Lygdamis and nephew of the Artemisia who distinguished herself in the battle of Salamis; but if it were composed by him, it was interpolated and worked over later. Very possibly it was composed in the Alexandrian period, in mockery of the revival of epic poetry after the ancient spirit was lost. The epigrams and jests are entirely insignificant, both in quantity and quality. The only one of any note is the answer of Arcadian fishers to the question as to their luck: "All that they took, they left; what they did not take, they brought with them"(hoss helomen, lipomesth <*> hosa d ouch helomen pheromestha). The Margites was a comic poem of considerable fame in antiquity, part in dactylic hexameter and part in iambic trimeter verse, with the story of a stupid (margos), bashful fellow, who had all manner of ridiculous adventures and attempted many things which were beyond his powers. As long as critics are not agreed as to what works are rightly attributed to Chaucer, and even as to the authorship of some of the plays which have been ascribed to Shakespeare, no one can wonder that little is known of the history of the incunabula of Greek poetry, composed in the imaginative age, long before the classical period.
The Iliad and the Odyssey contain the story of parts of the Trojan cycle of myths.
The Iliad opens with a scene in the last of the ten years of the Siege of Troy, and the action of the poem continues for only seven weeks. With great ingenuity (as it would seem) just enough incidental indications are given of the early history of the war to supply the needed basis for an intelligent appreciation of the story. As Horace says, Homer semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res, non secus ac notas auditorem rapit. The judgment of Paris and the assignment of the prize of beauty to the Goddess of Love are referred to in the Homeric poems but once, and that in a doubtful passage, xxiv. 29, 30. Paris (his Greek name Alexander is more frequent in the poems), the voluptuous son of Priam, king of Ilios (the later Ilium), in the Trojan land, on the south western shore of the Hellespont, had sailed to Lacedaemon and carried away Helen, the beautiful wife of Menelaus, the king, and many of her possessions. In order to avenge this insult and to recover the woman and her treasures, Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, gathered an army at Aulis, and with 1186 ships (and perhaps 100,000 men) set sail for the plain of Troy. For ten years they besiege the city. They bring with them no supplies, and spend much of their time in making forays on the neighbouring districts and more formal expeditions against the adjoining towns. The captured men are slain or sold to distant islands; the women are kept as slaves. The Trojans are not closely barred within their walls, but they are unable to cultivate their fields and are obliged to send their treasures to their neighbours, in order to buy provisions and to hire mercenaries. The loss of men does not seem to have been very great on either side in the early years of the war. At the opening of the Iliad, an old priest of Apollo, Chryses, comes to the Greek camp to ransom his daughter, who had been captured by the Greeks and given as a prize of honour to Agamemnon. The king refuses the request, and Apollo avenges the slight to his priest by sending a pestilence upon the Greek camp. After nine days an assembly of the army is called, and the seer Calchas declares the cause of the god's anger. The rude language used by Achilles, the mightiest of the Greek warriors, arouses the wrath of Agamemnon, and a quarrel follows. Achilles "sulks in his tent," while his mother, the goddess Thetis, persuades Zeus to grant victory to the Trojan arms. The action of the Iliad includes only four days of battle. In the first, ii.-vii. 380, neither side gains any great advantage; in the second, viii., the tide of battle often turns and the gods interfere again and again, but at last the Trojans drive the foe to their camp, and bivouac on the plain, near the Greek watchfires. In the third day of battle, xi.-xviii., the Trojans break into the Greek camp and begin to set fire to the fleet; but as soon as Achilles sees the flickering flame he sends his comrade Patroclus with his Myrmidons, enjoining upon him to drive the Trojans from the camp, but not to attempt to capture the city. Patroclus forgets the warning of his chief, and filled with the spirit of the combat presses on too far; Apollo strikes him (the only instance in the poems of such direct interference of a divinity), and Hector slays him. Achilles now becomes more angry at Hector than he had been at Agamemnon, and takes an active part in the fourth day of battle, xix.--xxii., in which he drives the Trojans in confusion into their city, and slays Hector. The twenty-third book is devoted to the funeral games in honour of Patroclus, in accordance with the curious ancient custom of honouring the dead with horse-races and foot-races and contests in wrestling, boxing, putting the shot, and shooting the bow. In the twenty-fourth book old Priam comes to the Greek camp and ransoms the body of Hector from Achilles, who here appears in a gentler mood. The poem closes very simply: "Thus these were busy with the burial of Hector." After the action of the Iliad, the Aethiopian Memnon comes with his men to the help of Troy, while Philoctetes with the bow of Heracles and Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, after his father's death, come to aid the Greeks. The alliance of the Amazons with the Trojans is not mentioned in the poems. Odysseus plans the Wooden Horse, by which the city is captured. Athene's wrath is kindled against the Greeks by their conduct after the capture of the city, and she sends upon them a storm, which scatters their fleets. Menelaus is driven to Crete and Egypt, and with Helen reaches his home in Sparta only in the eighth year of their wandering. Odysseus is driven first to the land of the lotus-eaters, then to the island of the Cyclopes, where Polyphemus slays and devours six of his comrades (and is blinded by him), thence to the land of the Laestrygonians (where all but one of his ships are destroyed), and to Circe's island, where he passes a year. He then visits Hades, in order to consult the soul of the blind Theban seer, Teiresias. In Hades he sees the shade of his mother and those of many of the Greek heroes. On his return the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis are met. His comrades slay one of the cattle of the Sun, and their boat is wrecked. Odysseus himself is borne to the island of the sea-nymph Calypso, who cares for him tenderly, and would make him immortal and her husband. The scene of the Odyssey opens in the tenth year after the close of the Trojan War and the twentieth after the departure of Odysseus from his home on Ithaca. He has been absent so long that no expectation is entertained of his return. His home is filled by more than a hundred young princes, each eager to win the hand of the faithful and prudent wife, Penelope; and thus to become the king of the realm. The goddess Athene pities Odysseus, who is weary of his sojourn in the grotto of Calypso and longing for his home, and secures the decree of Zeus for his return. Meanwhile she sends his son Telemachus to Nestor and Menelaus, asking for tidings of his father. Odysseus sets out from Calypso's island, eighteen days' sail to the west, but as he approaches Greece he is wrecked by the sea-god Poseidon, whose son Polyphemus he had blinded, and is cast on the shore of the Phaeacians (identified by the ancients with Corcyra, the modern Corfu), who convey him to his home. Finding his palace in the possession of haughty suitors, he returns in the guise of a beggar, but with the help of his son and two faithful servants (and Athene) he slays the suitors and regains his kingdom and faithful wife.
The action of the Odyssey covers only six weeks --less even than that of the Iliad--yet the events of the ten years of wandering are comprised in the stories which are put into the mouth of Nestor, Menelaus, and Odysseus himself. This device of introducing a full account of events which are not included in the time of the proper action of the poem was followed by Vergil in his account of the capture of Troy (as told by Aeneas), and by Milton in his account of the war in heaven (told by Raphael). Many matters which are merely touched upon in the poem were discussed more fully in the lesser epic poems, and the question has been raised whether these brief mentions in the Iliad and Odyssey were allusions to the fuller accounts, already familiar to the hearer, or rather were the fruitful germs which were later developed into the Cypria, the Nosti, etc. In some cases the latter alternative seems certain--e. g. on the death of Hector, his wife Andromache despairs of safety for herself and her son Astyanax; "he will either accompany her into slavery, or some Greek will seize him by the arm and hurl him from the wall." This seems to have suggested to a later poet the detailed description of such a death for the boy.
The influence of the Homeric poems upon the Greeks was very great. Pindar says that Odysseus had more fame than he deserved because of the sweet-voiced Homer (Nem. vii. 20, ego de pleon elpomai logon Odusseos e pathan dia ton haduepe genesth Homeron). Herodotus even asserts that Homer and Hesiod fixed the theogony of the Greeks, distributing to the gods their epithets, arts, and honours. Appeal was made to the Homeric poems to settle questions of precedence and of title to territory. These poems were in large measure the basis of the Greek youth's education. A fragment of a play of Aristophanes shows us a father examining his son, to prove his diligence in school, on the meaning of certain obsolete Homeric words: ti kalousi korumba; ti kalous amenena karena; In the Symposium of Xenophon, Niceratus says that his father, the noted Athenian general Nicias, in his desire to make a good man of him, compelled him to learn all the poems of Homer, and that he could repeat the entire Iliad and Odyssey from memory. At the Panathenaic festival from the time of Solon early in the sixth century, for at least two hundred years the recitation of portions of the Homeric poems had a prominent place. The Platonic dialogue Ion reports a conversation between Socrates and the Ephesian rhapsode Ion, who visits Athens after taking the prize in the Homeric recitation at Epidaurus, and expects the same honour from the Panathenaic festival. This Ion was a Homeric specialist; he claimed no unusual familiarity with Hesiod and Archilochus, but asserted that no one equalled him as an interpreter of Homer. Such men naturally magnified their office and represented the poet as the teacher of much occult wisdom--finding in his works the best maxims for war and for peace, for the statesman, the philosopher, and the general. Even Aristophanes represents Aeschylus as saying, "From what has divine Homer received his fame except from his most excellent instructions with regard to tactics, brave deeds, and the arming of men?" (Frogs, 1034, ho de theios Homeros | apo tou timen kai kleos eschen plen toud hoti chrest edidaxen | taxeis aretas hopliseis andron). The words of Horace are familiar: at Praeneste he read again Homer, who taught what was base and what was honourable more fully and better than the Stoic Chrysippus or the Academic philosopher Crantor (Epist. i. 2. 1, Troiani belli scriptorem . . . relegi; | qui quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non, | plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit). Plato refutes the view that Homer had special wisdom in regard to "ars, generalships, administration of cities, and the education of men," thus showing the prevalence of that belief.
According to an uncertain story, Pythagoras was said to have seen Homer in Hades, suffering torments in return for his statements about the gods. But the first definite criticism of Homer, so far as is known, was that of Xenophanes, at the close of the sixth century B.C., that Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods all actions which are regarded as shameful by men. Heraclitus, Xenophanes' contemporary, would have Homer driven from the musical contests. Plato, in his Republic, enters into a detailed examination of the moral effect exerted by the Homeric poems, and declares that the youths who are in process of training to be the guardians of his ideal State must not be rendered impious by hearing what would degrade the gods in their eyes; lest they should fear death more than defeat and flight, they must not hear Zeus lamenting the death of Sarpedon, and Achilles declaring that he would rather serve a poor man on earth than rule over all the dead in the home of Hades; they must not be taught insubordination and insolence to commanding officers by hearing Achilles call Agamemnon a coward; and they must not learn to give free rein to their passions from the wantonness of Zeus and from Odysseus' enjoyment of food and drink. Thus, although with much regret because of his old regard and affection for the poet, the works of Homer are not allowed in Plato's ideal State. The reader is at a loss to know how seriously he is to understand these words of the philosopher, who is fond of clinching an argument or giving a higher literary flavour to a sentence by a quotation from the "inspired poet." Allegory was already employed in the interpretation of the most offensive passages, but Plato says that the young person cannot distinguish between what is allegorical and what is not. In the Phaedrus he playfully suggests that the poet may have lost his sight because of his false statements with regard to the gods. Plutarch, in his treatise on "How a young man should study poetry," makes a formal reply to Plato without naming him, urging that the young should be taught to discriminate between what is admirable in itself and what is an admirable imitation of the offensive or even base. The rhetorician Zoilus received the nickname of Homer's Scourge (Homeromastix) because of his severe criticisms on the poet; but these were meant very likely merely as a paradox, just as other rhetoricians showed their ingenuity in maintaining the guilt of Socrates, the innocence of Busiris, and the advantages of fever and vermin.
The old Greek commentaries (scholia, scholia) on Homer mention editions by Antimachus of Colophon (himself an epic poet, a contemporary of Plato), and by Aristotle, who was said to have prepared an edition expressly for the use of his distinguished pupil, Alexander the Great. Athenian school-masters prepared also lists of obsolete Homeric words. The critical study of Homer, however, began at Alexandria, in connection with the great library and "Museum” which were established by the Ptolemies. These kings of Egypt had abundant means with which to encourage the arts and sciences, and desired by the help of Greek civilization to break down the barriers which existed between the different races of their subjects and to exalt their kingdom. They gathered men of literary talent from all lands and set apart a portion of the palace for a great library. Strenuous efforts were made to secure copies of all works of Greek literature, and, in fact, of all literature, including, according to the story, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus (who reigned B.C. 285-247), the library was said to contain 400,000 volumes (rolls)--perhaps equal to about 40,000 modern octavo volumes--such a collection as had never existed before. It possessed copies of Homer from Marseilles, Chios (the seat of the Homeridae), Sinope on the Black Sea, Argos, Cyprus, Crete. The Homeric poems formed the centre of the literary studies of the Alexandrian scholars. The first careful editor and reviser of the Homeric text was Zenodotus, the earliest of the librarians. He had before him copies of the poems with variations which extended over whole verses and clauses, as well as to words and forms. A critical procedure was necessary. Even the same manuscript must have shown marked inconsistencies of grammatical forms. The first critical edition, in the nature of the case, must have been an experiment. The editor can have had no fixed principles with regard to the formation of words and the characteristics of the Homeric dialect. Zenodotus is thought to have been the first to divide the Iliad and the Odyssey each into twenty-four books. In earlier times this division was unknown. So, for example, Herodotus speaks of Iliad vi. 289-292 as en Diomedeos aristeiei. Aelian writes in detail of this ancient custom of reference by the subject of each particular portion of the poems. The ancient titles are preserved, though with some possible inaccuracies and no definite authority, as the headings of the books in ordinary editions of the poems. The division into books became necessary at this particular time, because then parchment was replaced by papyrus as the ordinary writing material. The comparatively frail papyrus was not suited for long rolls. Hence the works of Plato, Xenophon, Thucydides, and Herodotus were divided, also. Zenodotus seems to have composed no commentary to accompany his edition of the poems, but tradition preserved his views of certain passages. He was not led to reject or change for grammatical reasons, but seems to have been guided in many changes rather by a sense of propriety. Thus he rejected Il. iii. 424, where Aphrodite took a chair and set it for Helen, for the goddess to do menial service was aprepes in his eyes; verses Il. i. 28-30 were unworthy of a king; in Il. i. 260, where Nestor says, "I have been associated with better men than you" (areiosin ee per humin), Zenodotus read "than we" (hemin), in order to make the expression more courteous. But the work of this critic is coming to honour, and it is at present fashionable in some quarters to praise him at the expense of Aristarchus.
The edition of Zenodotus formed the basis of that of his successor, Aristophanes of Byzantium, a little after B.C. 200, who is noteworthy as the first to introduce to general use the marks of accentuation and the signs of quantity, which are still in use. His chief work was in lexicography.
Unquestionably the greatest of the literary critics of Alexandria was Aristarchus, who was born in the island of Samothrace, but came to Alexandria and studied under Aristophanes, whom he succeeded in the care of the library. He prepared two revised editions of the Homeric text, with critical marks in the margin, and wrote eight hundred tracts on many subjects, largely connected with our poet. He founded a school of critics which continued active until the time of the early Roman emperors. Many of his notes have been preserved to us in the Greek scholia, and prove his learning and his caution. The watchword and battle-cry of his school was analogy, opposed to the rival school of the Stoic Crates at Pergamum, who was more free in the admission of anomalies in the construction of sentences and in the formation and meaning of words. Crates indulged in allegorical interpretation, paying little attention to grammatical studies, and making Homer a philosopher and an orator, while Aristarchus was more conservative and sober in his views.
The basis of our scholia to the Iliad is an epitome made about A.D. 200, of four works. Of these the most important was a work by Didymus (called Chalkenteros and Bibliolathas from his unwearied industry and literary productivity), of the time of Augustus, in which Didymus aimed at giving a full report of the readings of the editions of Aristarchus, in so far as they varied from others. Next in importance was a work by an earlier contemporary, Aristonicus, who endeavoured to explain the use of the critical signs of Aristarchus, and the reasons for their employment in each case. Less full and important were the extracts from a treatise by Herodian on Accentuation (he Iliake Prosoidia) and one by Nicanor on Punctuation (Peri Stigmes). The epitome of these four works has suffered serious losses in its transmission to the present time, and considerable additional matter of little value and authority has been added. The component parts of these scholia have been carefully analyzed and separated, and scholars no longer speak of the statement of the scholiast, but of that of Didymus, of Nicanor, etc. The extant scholia to the Odyssey are far less extensive and important than those to the Iliad.
The Homeric text of the MSS. does not seem to be so distinctly under the control of the text of Aristarchus as was to be expected. In many particulars it differs from his editions--so widely that it seems that the vulgate text was only indirectly and slightly influenced by his work. Many scholars now regard the restoration of the Aristarchean text as the ultimate, or at least the immediate, aim of Homeric text-criticism. But Bekker's edition of 1858 attempted to present the text as it was sung--not as it stood in the old MSS.--inserting the lost vau where the editor believed it had once been pronounced. Bekker had been preceded by a wholly unscientific attempt of the same kind in 1820, by R. Payne Knight, who inserted vaus with more zeal than discretion, printing as the title of the Iliad WIDWIAS, and Tydeus as TUWDEWS, but who with many absurdities had many ideas which have been confirmed by modern investigations. Bekker has been followed by others, notably Nauck, who has made a scientific edition of Homer such as he believes the poems to have been before the forms were subjected to later Attic influence.
That the Homeric text of Plato and Aristotle was not exactly like that of the present day is extremely probable, but these seem to have quoted so freely that exact inferences are difficult. The view that they quoted from memory is strengthened by the fact that each of the two makes a careless reference to the Homeric story: Plato speaks of Eurypylus where he means Machaon, confusing two similar incidents in the same book of the Iliad; and Aristotle puts into the mouth of Calypso a command of Odysseus which was given in accordance with advice of Circe. In the summer of 1891 the British Museum published a collation of several very ancient papyrus texts of the Iliad, containing fragments of several hundred lines. With the exception of two or three details, the most important teaching of these MSS., one of which is from the very beginning of our era, is that the ordinary texts of to-day are rather more accurate and intelligible than those of two thousand years ago, but certain verses may not have been recognized as Homeric then which are in modern texts.
For the last century the vexed and ever-burning Homeric Question has been with regard to the composition and original form of the Homeric poems--whether they were the creations of one poetic genius or the remnants of the songs of many bards; whether their composition was organic or atomic; whether they can be compared with Vergil's Aeneid and Milton's Paradise Lost, or whether they were at first only short, scattered songs, grouped around central personages and events, and gradually developed into longer poems with unity. The heat and length of the discussion have made clear the fact that the question is difficult, and no hypothesis has been presented free from grave objections. Scholars are more nearly agreed than half a century ago, however. Probably no one who has a right to an opinion on the subject now holds to the strict unity of the poems in the old sense--that all of the Iliad and Odyssey was composed by one man--yet comparatively few would deny a certain unity in the poems, however it was secured. The ancient Alexandrians had their Separatists (chorizontes), Xeno and Hellanicus, who denied that the Odyssey was composed by the author of the Iliad, and Perizonius in 1684 called attention to the late use of writing for literary purposes. The great Bentley in 1713 said that "Homer wrote a sequel of songs and rhapsodies to be sung by himself for small earnings and good cheer, at festivals and other days of merriment; the Iliad he made for the men, and the Odysseis for the other sex. These loose songs were not collected together in the form of an epic poem till about five hundred years after." Vico of Naples in 1725 expressed his view that Homer never existed--that he was the personification of the early songs of the Greeks. Robert Wood, in An Essay on the Original Genius of Homer (1769), declared his belief that the art of writing was not known to Homer. But the modern discussion of the Homeric Question dates from the Prolegomena ad Homerum of Friedrich August Wolf, published in 1795. The Prolegomena excited much attention, and probably has had greater influence than any other work on the methods of historical and philological study, although its ideas were not wholly novel. The poet Herder and the philologist Heyne each claimed that his thunder had been stolen. The book owed its great success largely to its clear and attractive presentation of the subject, and it is more valuable now for its method than for its particular arguments. Wolf planned to give a critical history of the Homeric poems through six periods, the first of which extended from the composition of the poems (about B.C. 950, according to him) to the age of Pisistratus, tyrant of Athens in the sixth century B.C., who, according to an uncertain tradition, first collected and arranged them in their present form; the second period extended from Pisistratus to Zenodotus, the earliest of the Alexandrian critics. Wolf never completed his work beyond these first two periods. He attempted to show (a) that the Homeric poems were not committed to writing by the poet, but were intrusted to the memory of the rhapsodes, who were gathered in schools, like the Hebrew prophets; thus before the poems were written they were exposed to many and unintentional changes--from lapse of memory, and from a singer's desire to improve a passage or suit it more perfectly to a special occasion. Writing was unknown in Greece in Homer's time, and no class of readers existed for whom a poem should be written. (b) After the poems had been committed to writing, many more additional changes were made in them, in order to remove inconsistencies and to give them the polish of an age advanced in culture and poetic art. (c) The Iliad and Odyssey in their present form are due not to the poetic genius of Homer, but to the intelligence of a later age--to the united efforts of Pisistratus and the poets of his court. (d) The songs themselves, of which the Iliad and Odyssey are composed, are not by the same poet. These last two theses were never publicly discussed by Wolf in detail. He only urged that if the poems were not to be committed to writing at the time when they were composed, the sougs were not originally parts of one long work; no one would have thought of making a poem which could not be read and which was too long to be sung or recited at a single sitting. A bond of union would be valueless between lays which were to be sung in no regular order on different occasions. The Homeric poems unquestionably possess a certain unity beyond what is found in Hesiod or in the late poet Quintus Smyrnaeus, but this unity must be due to the editors of the Pisistratean age. Discrepancies are found which could not occur in a single poem, but might very well be overlooked in the combination of independent lays. Entire rhapsodies (e. g. Iliad x.) seem to be due to some other than the poet of the greater part of the Iliad.
The views of Wolf were received with intense interest, but with varied approval. The poet Schiller said that the man was a barbarian who would tear asunder the Homeric poems and believe that they were put together long after their composition. Goethe, while at first an enthusiastic admirer of the Prolegomena, soon declared that he believed in the unity of the Iliad more heartily than ever. On the whole, however, the work of Wolf was convincing, at least in large part, to most scholars of Germany. Theologians received it with special interest, on account of the applications of Wolf's principles to the study of the Old Testament. But a reaction took place. Opponents urged that the use of writing in Greece was much earlier than Wolf claimed; but they made the fatal concession that such long poems would be impossible without the aid of writing. Both sides claimed too much. Writing was certainly known in Greece earlier than Wolf allowed, but was not used for extensive literary purposes until long after the time alleged by his opponents. The power of the human memory to retain accurately long poems had been underrated. The external arguments against the original unity of the Homeric poems have yielded rather than advanced since Wolf's time. The evidence in support of the story of the work of Pisistratus in collecting and arranging the scattered Homeric poems is considered weak, as well as that for the existence of schools of rhapsodists corresponding to the schools of the prophets.
Only a beginning had been made of the attempt to disprove the unity of the Homeric poems from internal evidence when Lachmann, of Berlin, in 1837, applied to the Iliad the analysis which had been applied not much earlier to the Nibelungenlied. He set to work to discover contradictions and inconsistencies which would indicate the different authorship of different parts. The discussion of the unity of the poems was conducted mainly on his principles for half a century, and no one now lays stress on the external evidence, one way or the other. In the first book of the Iliad he determined an original lay, complete in itself, and two independent and inconsistent continuations. The beginning of the second book (he says) cannot have been part of the same lay as the close of the first book; at the close of book i., Zeus sleeps, with Hera by his side, while at the beginning of book ii., Zeus cannot sleep and has an interview with the Dream God, in which he tells much that he would not have Hera know. In the third day of battle, which begins book xi. 1 and continues through book xviii. 240, the sun comes twice to the zenith. The twenty-third book of the Iliad cannot have been intended to follow immediately upon the twenty-second--the one ending, "Thus she spake weeping, and the women groaned in response," while the next begins, "Thus these were groaning throughout the city." Following such indications, Lachmann marked out the boundaries of eighteen distinct lays in the Iliad. Kochly, following in Lachmann's footsteps, published in 1851 an edition of the Iliad, in sixteen lays --not agreeing with Lachmann in the divisions so well as in the number of the songs. The advocates of the theory that the Homeric poems are but a conglomeration of independent lays have not succeeded in coming to essential agreement with regard to the original songs. Their lines of cleavage do not agree. Contradictions certainly exist: Odysseus' hair is blonde, but black. Diomed and Odysseus are seriously wounded and retire from the conflict, but two days later take part in the games in honour of Patroclus--Odysseus wrestling with Telamonian Ajax, and winning the prize in the foot-race. Most noted of all is the case of Pylaemenes; he is slain at Il. v. 576, but follows the corpse of his son from the battle. Some inconsistencies may be considered as trifles about which the poet did not concern himself; he was composing for hearers rather than for critical readers who can turn backward and forward, and compare statements. Other inconsistencies may have been caused by interpolations; the incident of Pylaemenes in Il. xiii. 658 may have been added by a later poet in order to give increased pathos to the scene. Possibly the Homeric Greeks were not so much disturbed as some moderns at such inconsistencies. Similar discrepancies are found in the works of Vergil and other poets.
In 1846, the historian Grote, declaring that "the idea that a poem as we read it grew out of atoms not originally designed for the places which they now occupy, involves us in new and inextricable difficulties when we seek to elucidate either the mode of coalescence or the degree of existing unity," proposed the theory that the present Iliad was made up by the combination of an original Iliad with an Achilleid. This latter poem on the Wrath of Achilles gives all that is "really necessary to complete the programme in the opening proem of the poem."
In 1878, Professor Geddes of Aberdeen, following in Grote's footsteps, declared that "the Homeric corpus of Iliad and Odyssey falls asunder into two great sections, on the one hand the Achilleid, and on the other the non-Achilleid, plus the Odyssey.""A poet, who is also the author of the Odyssey, has engrafted on a more ancient poem, the Achilleid, splendid and vigorous saplings of his own, transforming and enlarging it into an Iliad." This view was maintained by many indications: Achilles is more gentle in the Odyssean books; Helen is not mentioned in the Achilleid; the dog is more honoured in the Odyssean books, the horse in the Achilleid, etc.
Organic development from a brief epic poem was claimed for the Odyssey by Kirchhoff of Berlin, Bankes in 1859. He considers the original part to be the old Return (Nostos) of Odysseus, of just 1200 verses; to this simple story was added a longer story of 3560 verses, narrating the adventures of Odysseus after his return to Ithaca; still later were added (7185 verses) the Telemachia, or account of the journey of Telemachus to Pylus and Sparta, the experiences of Odysseus in Phaeacia, and his adventures in the cave of Polyphemus, in the island of Circe, in the realm of Hades, etc.
Christ of Munich published in 1884 an edition of the Iliad in which he divided the poem into forty lays, and indicated by the use of four different styles of Greek type his view of the relative order of composition of the different parts of the poem. Immediately after the first book he places the eleventh, the Bravery of Agamemnon, believing that the intermediate books were composed after the poet saw what a rich vein he had struck, and to what a magnificent growth his germ might be developed. He holds that most of the poem proves a poet revolving a great plan in his mind, and arranging the parts to form a whole.
Von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff published in 1884 an important work on this subject, Homerische Untersuchungen, dedicated to the well-known Biblical scholar Wellhausen. Just as Wolf's Prole- gomena stimulated the investigation of the historical sources and of the age of the Old Testament Scriptures, so the method of the recent analysis of the Pentateuch has been applied to the Homeric poems. Wilamowitz rejects Lachmann's lays as being fragments, unintelligible when separated. He bases his work upon that of Kirchhoff, yet rejects many of the latter's views. He follows him in putting the Odyssey in the front of the discussion. Until Kirchhoff, no scholar had seriously attempted the critical dissection of this poem, of which the artistic plan was not doubted. Two of Wilamowitz's conclusions are that the Telemachia was composed in Asia Minor, and that the Odyssey was brought into its present form in Greece proper --probably near Corinth or in Euboea.
The Homeric Question is clearly full of difficulties. No theory has been proposed which meets with general acceptance. The poems doubtless contain a great mass of very ancient material. Professor Percy Gardner writes, in his New Chapters in Greek History (1892), "There is a broad line dividing mythical from political Hellas, a line which seems to coincide with the great break made in the continuity of Hellas by the Dorian invasion. . . . The Homeric poetry may have been reduced to form after the splendour of the Ionian and Achaean chiefs had passed away. . . . In using the name of Homer, we do not, of course, assert that the Homeric poems had a single author. But we do assert the antiquity of those poems. Homer reflects the pre-historic age of Greece as truly as does Herodotus the Greece of the Persian Wars, or Pausanias the Greece of the age of the Antonines." The poet does not profess to have seen Priam's Troy; he is clearly conscious that he belongs to a degenerate age, and that he is dependent on the muse for his information. No one supposes that the poems are an accurate record of a particular war. The recent excavations, however, establish the fact that at Mycenae, the home of the Homeric Agamemnon, and on the shore of the Hellespont, the home of the Homeric Priam, stood at the same period, flourishing from about B.C. 1400 to about B.C. 1000, cities of wealth and power, of similar culture. A war between these cities, which may have suggested the Homeric story, is by no means an impossibility. The details, however, and perhaps every name of a person, are due to the poet's imagination. The view that the poems were essentially in their present condition before the historical period in Greece began, early in the eighth century B.C., is moderate.
The Homeric dialect is artificial--that is, such as was never spoken by any Greek tribe. It contains many ancient elements, but is far from being the ancestor of all the later historical dialects. It is not even the source of the Attic or Ionic dialects. The Aeolic element in it is so strong as to suggest to Fick the view that the older parts of the poems were composed in the Aeolic dialect and were afterwards translated into that of the Ionic. The formulaic character of many of the Aeolic words and phrases, the large number of Homeric proper names found in historical times in Northern Greece, the traditions with regard to the seats of the Pierian Muses, and the prominence given to the Thessalian hero, Achilles, make probable the view that epic poetry was first cultivated by the Aeolians in Northern Greece, but was afterwards brought to perfection by the Ionians in Asia Minor. The dialect certainly indicates a long course of development. Obsolete words and forms were retained by the poets in certain connections after they had been dropped from the ordinary speech of the people. Certain late forms appear in the ordinary texts in sufficient number to suggest to Paley the theory that the poems were brought into their present form in the age of Pericles at Athens; but most of these forms can be explained easily as the work of a careless copyist, who substituted a form which he heard every day for one which was found only in old poems--just as a halfeducated man would do to-day in copying the works of Chaucer, unless he were specially warned and trained to be accurate in this matter. If the Homeric poems were thoroughly worked over, revamped, in the time of Solon or of Pericles, some clear trace would have been left of the culture and political relations of that time. A strong indication of the falsity of the story that Pisistratus gathered the poems and caused interpolations to be made to the glory of Athens, is the simple fact that Athens is so insignificant in the Iliad and Odyssey. If the unity of the poems were really due to Pisistratus, and he ordered the poets of his court to insert passages which would honour Athens, we should find greater distinction given to Athenian heroes and more myths of the Attic cycle. The two or three verses assigned by the ancient critics to Athenian interpolators are absolutely trifling.
Fortunately the Homeric poems exist, even though scholars have not settled the question when and how they came into being. Destructive criticism has not been able to disturb the fact that they remain the greatest epic poems the world has seen-- admired by many ages and peoples of different civilizations. They stand unrivalled. In comparison with them the vast epics of India are as shapeless as the Hindoo idols, and are in their luxuriance like to a tropical jungle; while the work of Vergil and of Milton, who take Homer as their master, is artificial and unnatural in comparison with his--the "clearest-souled of men."
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Homerus (Homeros). The poems of Homer formed the basis of Greek literature. Every
Greek who had received a liberal education was perfectly well acquainted with
them from his childhood, and had learnt them by heart at school; but nobody could
state any thing certain about their author. In fact, the several biographies of
Homer which are now extant afford very little or nothing of an authentic history.
The various dates assigned to Homer's age offer no less a diversity than 500 years
(from B. C. 1184-684). Crates and Eratosthenes state, that he lived within the
first century after the Trojan war; Aristotle and Aristarchus make him a contemporary
of the Ionian migration, 140 years after the war; the chronologist, Apollodorus,
gives the year 240, Porphyrius 275, the Parian Marble 277, Herodotus 400 after
that event; and Theopompus even makes him a contemporary of Gyges, king of Lydia
(Nitzsch, Melet. de Histor. Hom. fasc. ii., de Hist. Hom.). The most important
point to be determined is, whether we are to place Homer beforee or after the
lonian migration. The latter is supported by the best authors, and by the general
opinion of antiquity, according to which Homer was by birth an Ionian of Asia
Minor. There were indeed more than seven cities which claimed Homer as their countryman;
for if we number all those that we find mentioned in different passages of ancient
writers, we have seventeen or nineteen cities mentioned as the birth-places of
Homer; but the claims of most of these are so suspicious and feeble, that they
easily vanish before a closer examination. Athens, for instance, alleged that
she was the metropolis of Smyrna, and could therefore number Homer amongst her
citizens. Many other poems were attributed to Homer besides the Iliad and Odyssey.
The real authors of these poems were forgotten, but their fellow-citizens pretended
that Homer, the supposed author, had lived or been born among them. The claims
of Cyme and Colophon will not seem entitled to much consideration, because they
are preferred by Ephorus and Nicander. who were citizens of those respective towns.
After sifting the authorities for all the different statements, the claims of
Smyrna and Chios remain the most plausible, and between these two we have to decide.
Smyrna is supported by Pindar, Scylax. and Stesimbrotus ; Chios by Simonides,
Acusilaus, Hellanicus, Thucydides, the tradition of a family of Homerids at Chios,
and the local worship of a hero, Homeros. The preference is now generally given
to Smyrna. Smyrna was first founded by Ionians from Ephesus, who were followed,
and afterwards expelled, by Aeolians from Cyme : the expelled Ionians fled to
Colophon, and Smyrna thus became Aeolic. Subsequentlyy the Colophonians drove
out the Aeolians from Smyrna, which from henceforth was a purely Ionic city. The
Aeolians were originally in possession of the traditions of the Trojan war, which
their ancestors had waged, and in which no Ionians had taken part. Homer therefore.
himself an Ionian, who had come from Ephesus, received these traditions from the
new Aeolian settlers, and when the lonians were driven out of Smyrna, either he
himself fled to Chios, or his descendants or disciples settled there, and formed
the famous family of Homerids. Thus we may unite the claims of Smyrna and Chios,
and explain the peculiarities of the Homeric dialect, which is different from
the pure Ionic, and has a large mixture of Aeolic elements. According to this
computation, Homer would have flourished shortly after the time of the Ionian
migration, a time best attested, as we have seen, by the au thorities of Aristotle
and Aristarchus. But this result seems not to be reconcilable with the follow
1. Placing Homer more than a century and a half after the Trojan war, we have a long period which is apparently quite destitute of poetical exertions. Is it likely that the heroes should not have found a bard for their deeds till more than a hundred and fifty years after their death? And how could the knowledge of these deeds be preserved without poetical traditions and epic songs, the only chronicles of an illiterate age?
2. In addition to this, there was a stirring active time between the Asiatic settlements of the Greeks and the war with Troy. Of the exploits of this time, certainly nowise inferior to the exploits of the heroic age itself, we should expect to find something mentioned or alluded to in the work of a poet who lived during or shortly after it. But of this there is not a trace to be found in Homer.
3. The mythology and the poems of Homer could not have originated in Asia. It is the growth of a long period, during which the ancient Thracian bards, who lived partly in Thessaly, round Mount Olympus, and partly in Boeotia, near Helicon, consolidated all the different and various local mythologies into one great mythological system. If Homer had made the mythology of the Greeks, as Herodotus (ii. 53) affirms, he would not have represented the Thessalian Olympus as the seat of his gods, but some mountain of Asia Minor; his Muses would not have been those of Olympus, but they would have dwelt on Ida or Gargaros. Homer, if his works had first originated in Asia, would not have compared Nausicaa to Artemis walking on Tayyetus or Erymanthus (Od. vi. 102); and a great many other allusions to European countries, which show the poet's familiar acquaintance with them, could have found no place in the work of an Asiatic. It is evident that Homer was far better acquainted with European Greece than lie was with Asia Minor, and even the country round Troy. Sir W. Cell, and other modern travellers, were astonished at the accuracy with which Homer has described places in Peloponnesus, and particularly the island of Ithaca. It has been observed, that nobody could have given these descriptions, except one who had seen the country himself. How shall we, with all this, maintain our proposition, that Homer was an Ionian of Asia Minor? It is indispensable, in order to clear up this point, to enter more at large into the discussion concerning the origin of the Homerie poems.
The whole of antiquity unanimously viewed the Iliad and the Odyssey as the productions of a certain individual, called Homer. No doubt of this fact ever entered the mind of any of the ancients; and even a large number of other poems were attributed to thesame author. This opinion continued unshaken down to the year 1795, when F. A. Wolf wrote his famous Prolegomena, in which he endeavoured to show that the Iliad and Odyssey were not two complete poems, but small, separate, independent epic songs, celebrating single exploits of the heroes, and that these lays were for the first time written down and united, as the Iliad and Odyssey, by Peisistratus, the tyrant of Athens. This opinion, startling and paradoxical as it seemed, was not entirely new. Casaubon had already doubted the common opinion regarding Homer, and the great Bentley had said expressly "that Homer wrote a sequel of songs and rhapsodies. These loose songs were not collected together in the form of an epic poem till about 500 years after" (Letter by Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, 7). Some French writers, Perrault and Hedelin, and the Italian Vico, had made similar conjectures, but all these were forgotten and overborne by the common and general opinion, and the more easily, as these bold conjectures had been thrown out almost at hazard, and without sound arguments to support them. When therefore Wolf's Prolegomena appeared, the whole literary world was startled by the boldness and novelty of his positions. His book, of course, excited great opposition, but no one has to this day been able to refute the principal arguments of that great critic, and to re-establish the old opinion, which he overthrew. His views, however, have been materially modified by protracted discussions, so that now we can almost venture to say that the question is settled. We will first state Wolf's principal arguments, and the chief objections of his opponents, and will then endeavour to discover the most probable result of all these inquiries.
In 1770, R. Wood published a book on the original Genius of Homer, in which he mooted the question whether the Homeric poems had originally been written or not. This idea was caught up by Wolf, and proved the foundation of all his inquiries. But the most important assistance which he obtained was from the discovery and publication of the famous Venetian scholia by Villoison (1788). These valuable scholia, in giving us some insight into the studies of the Alexandrine critics, furnished materials and an historical basis for Wolf's inquiries. The point from which Wolf started was, as we have said. the idea that the Homeric poems were originally not written. To prove this, he entered into a minute and accurate discussion concerning the age of the art of writing. He set aside, as groundless fables, the traditions which ascribed the invention or introduction of this art to Cadmus, Cecrops, Orpheus, Linus, or Palamedes. Then, allowing that letters were known in Greece at a very early period, he justly insists upon the great difference which exists between the knowledge of the letters and their general use for works of literature. Writing is first applied to public monuments, inscriptions, and religious purposes, centuries before it is employed for the common purposes of social life. This is still more certain to be the case when the common ordinary materials for writing are wanting, as they were among the ancient Greeks. Wood, lead, brass, stone, are not proper materials for writing down poems consisting of twenty-four books. Even hides, which were used by the Ionians, seem too clumsy for this purpose, and, besides, we do not know when they were first in use (Herod. v. 58). It was not before the sixth century B. C. that papyrus became easily accessible to the Greeks, through the king Amasis, who first opened Egypt to Greek traders. The laws of Lycurgus were not committed to writing; those of Zaleucus, in Locri Epizephyrii, in the 29th 01. (B. C. 664), are particularly recorded as the first laws that were written down (Scymn. Perieg. 313; Strab. vi.). The laws of Solon, seventy years later, were written on wood and boustrophedon. Wolf allows that all these considerations do not prove that no use at all was made of the art of writing as early as the seventh and eighth centuries B. C., which would be particularly improbable in the case of the lyric poets, such as Archilochus, Aleman, Pisander, and Aion, but that before the time of the seven sages, that is, the time when prose writing first originated, the art was not so common that we can suppose it to have been employed for such extensive works as the poems of Homer. Wolf alleges the testimony of Josephus (c. Apion. i. 2): Opse Kai molis egnosan hoi Hellenes phusin grammaton..Kai phasin oude touton (i.e. Homerum) en grammasi ten autou poiesin katalpein, alla diamnemoneuomenen ek ton aismaton husteron suntethenai (Besides Schol. ap. Villois. Anecd. Gr. ii.). But Wolf draws still more convincing arguments from the poems themselves. In II. vii. 175, the Grecian heroes decide by lot who is to fight with Hector. The lots are marked by each respective hero, and all thrown into a hellnet, which is shaken till one lot is jerked out. This is handed round by the herald till it reaches Ajax, who recognises the mark he had made on it as his own. If this mark had been any thing like writing, the herald would have read it at once, and not have handed it round. In Il. vi. 168, we have the story of Bellerophon, whom Proetus sends to Lycia:
poren d hoge semata lugra,
Grapsas en pinaki ptuktoi Dumophthora polla
Deixai d' enogei hoi pentheroi, ophr apoloito.
Wolf shows that semata lugra are a kind of conventional marks, and not letters, and that this story is far from proving the existence of writing. Throughout the whole of Homer every thing is calculated to be heard, nothing to be read. Not a single epitaph, nor any other inscription, is mentioned ; the tombs of the heroes are rude mounds of earth; coins are unknown. In Od. viii. 163, an overseer of a ship is mentioned, who, instead of having a list of the cargo, must remember it; he is phortou mnemon. All this seemed to prove, without the possibility of doubt, that the art of writing was entirely unknown at the time of the Trojan war, and could not have been common at the time when the poems were composed.
Among the opponents of Wolf, there is none superior to Greg. W. Nitzsch, in zeal, perseverance, learning, and acuteness. He wrote a series of monographies (Quaestion. Homeric. Specim. i. 1824; Indagandae per Odyss. Interpolationis Praeparatio, 1828; De Hist. Homeri, fascic. i. 1830; De Aristotele contra Wolfianos, 1831; Patria et Aetas Hom) to refute Wolf and his supporters. and he has done a great deal towards establishing a solid and well-founded view of this complicated question. Nitzsch opposed Wolf's conclusions concerning the later date of written documents. He denies that the laws of Lycurgus were transmitted by oral tradition alone, and were for this purpose set to music by Terpander and Thaletas, as is generally believed, on the authority of Plutarch (de Mus. 3). The Spartan nomoi, which those two musicians are said to have composed, Nitzsch declares to have been hymns and not laws, although Strabo calls Thaletas a nomothetikos oner (by a mistake, as Nitzsch ventures to say). Writing materials were, according to Nitzsch, not wanting at a very early period. He maintains that wooden tablets, and the hides (diphtherai) of the Ionians were employed, and that even papyrus was known and used by the Greeks long before the time of Amasis, and brought into Greece by Phoenician merchants. Amasis, according to Nitzsch, only rendered the use of papyrus more general (6th century B. C.), whereas formerly its use had been confined to a few. Thus Nitzsch arrives at the conclusion that writing was common in Greece full one hundred years before the time which Wolf had supposed, namely, about the beginning of the Olympiads (8th century B. C.), and that this is the time in which the Homeric poems were committed to writing. If this is granted, it does not follow that the poems were also composed at this time. Nitzsch cannot prove that the age of Homer was so late as the eighth century. The best authorities, as we have seen, place Homer much earlier, so that we again come to the conclusion that the Homeric poems were composed and handed down for a long time without the assistance of writing. In fact, this point seems indisputable. The nature of the Homeric language is alone a sufficient argument, but into this consideration Nitzsch never entered (Hermann, Opusc. vi. 1, 75; Giese, d. Aeol. Dialect.). The Homeric dialect could never have attained that softness and flexibility, which render it so well adapted for versification--that variety of longer and shorter forms, which existed together-that freedom in contracting and resolving vowels, and of forming the contractions into two syllables-if the practice of writing had at that time exercised the power, which it necessarily possesses, of fixing the forms of a language. The strongest proof is the Aeolic Digamma, a sound which existed at the time of the composition of the poems, and had entirely vanished from the language when the first copies were made.
It is necessary therefore to admit Wolf's first position, that the Homeric poems were originally not committed to writing. We proceed to examine the conclusions which he draws from these premises.
However great the genius of Homer may have been, says Wolf, it is quite incredible that, without the assistance of writing, he could have conceived in his mind and executed such extensive works. This assertion is very bold. "Who can determine", says Mueller (Hist. of Greek Lit.), "how many thousand verses a person thoroughly impregnated with his subject, and absorbed in the contemplation of it, might produce in a year, and confide to the faithful memory of disciples devoted to their master and his art"? We have instances of modern poets, who have composed long poems without writing down a single syllable, and have preserved them faithfully in their memory, before committing them to writing. And how much more easily could this have been done in the time anterior to the use of writing, when all those faculties of the mind, which had to dispense with this artificial assistance, were powerfully developed, trained, and exercised. We must not look upon the old bards as amateurs, who amused themselves in leisure hours with poetical compositions, as is the fashion now-a-days. Composition was their profession. All their thoughts were concentrated on this one point, in which and for which they lived. Their composition was, moreover, facilitated by their having no occasion to invent complicated plots and wonderful stories; the simple traditions, on which they founded their songs, were handed down to them in a form already adapted to poetical purposes. If now, in spite of all these advantages, the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey was no easy task, we must attribute some superiority to the genius of Homer, which caused his name and his works to acquire eternal glory, and covered all his innumerable predecessors, contemporaries, and followers, with oblivion.
The second conclusion of Wolf is of more weight and importance. When people neither wrote nor read, the only way of publishing poems was by oral recitation. The bards therefore of the heroic age, as we see from Homer himself, used to entertain their hearers at banquets, festivals, and similar occasions. On such occasions they certainly could not recite more than one or two rhapsodies. Now Wolf asks what could have induced any one to compose a poem of such a length, that it could not be heard at once ? All the charms of an artificial and poetical unity, varied by episodes, but strictly observed through many books, must certainly be lost, if only fragments of the poem could be heard at once. To refute this argument, the opponents of Wolf were obliged to seek for occasions which afforded at least a possibility of reciting the whole of the Iliad and Odyssey. Banquets and small festivals were not sufficient; but there were musical contests (agones), connected with great national festivals, at which thousands assembled, anxious to hear and patient to listen. "If", says Mueller, "the Athenians could at one festival hear in succession about nine tragedies, three satyric dramas, and as many comedies, without ever thinking that it might be better to distribute this enjoyment over the whole year, why should not the Greeks of earlier times have been able to listen to the Iliad and Odyssey, and perhaps other poems, at the same festival? Let us beware of measuring by our loose and desultory reading the intention of mind with which a people enthusiastically devoted to such enjoyments, hung with delight on the flowing strains of the minstrel. In short, there was a time when the Greek people, not indeed at meals, but at festivals, and under the patronage of their hereditary princes, heard and enjoyed these and other less excellent poems, as they were intended to be heard and enjoyed, viz. as complete wholes". This is credible enough, but it is not quite so easy to prove it. We know that, in the historical times, the Homeric poems were recited at Athens at the festival of the Panathenaea (Lycurg. c. Leoer.); and that there were likewise contests of rhapsodists at Sicyon in the time of the tyrant Cleisthenes (Herod. v. 67), in Syracuse, Epidaurus, Orchomenus,Thespiae, Acraephia, Chios, Teos, Olympia (See the authors cited by Mueller). Hesiod mentions musical contests (Op. 652, and Frag. 456), at which he gained a tripod. Such contests seem to have been ever anterior to the time of Homer, and are alluded to in the Homeric description of the Thracian bard Thamyris (Il. ii. 594), who on his road from Eurytus, the powerful ruler of Oechalia, was struck blind at Dorium by the Muses, and deprived of his entire art, because he had boasted of his ability to contend even with the Muses (Comp. Diog. Laert. ix. 1). It is very likely that at the great festival of Panionium in Asia Minor such contests took place (Heyne, Exc. ad Il. vol. viii.; Welcker, Ep. Cycl.; Heinrich, Epimenides); but still, in order to form an idea of the possible manner in which such poems as the Iliad and Odyssey were recited, we must have recourse to hypotheses, which have at best only internal probability, but no external authority. Such is the inference drawn from the later custom at Athens, that several rhapsodists followed one another in the recitation of the same poem (Welcker, Ep. Cycl.), and the still bolder hypothesis of Nitzsch, that the recitation lasted more than one day (Vorr. z. Anm. z. Od. vol. ii.). But, although the obscurity of those times prevents us from obtaining a certain and positive result as to the way in which such long poems were recited, yet we cannot be induced by this circumstance to doubt that the Iliad and Odyssey, and other poems of equal length, were recited as complete wholes, because they certainly existed at a time anterior to the use of writing. That such was the case follows of necessity from what we know of the Cyclic poets (See Proclus, Chrestomathia in Gaisford's Hephaestion). The Iliad and Odyssey contained only a small part of the copious traditions concerning the Trojan war. A great number of poets undertook to fill up by separate poems the whole cycle of the events of this war, from which circumstance they are commonly styled the Cyclic poets. The poem Cypria, most probably by Stasinus, related all the events which preceded the beginning of the Iliad fiom the birth of Helen to the ninth year of the war. The Aethiopis and Iliupersis of Arctinus continued the narrative after the death of Hector, and related the arrival of the Amazons, whose queen, Penthesileia, is slain by Achilles, the death and burial of Thersites, the arrival of Memnon with the Aethiopians, who kills Antilochus, and is killed in return by Achilles, the death of Achilles himself by Paris, and the quarrel between Ajax and Ulysses about his arms. The poem of Arctinus then related the death of Ajax, and all that intervened between this and the taking of Troy, which formed the subject of his second poem, the Ilinpersis. These same events were likewise partly treated by Lesches, in his Little Ilias, with some differences in tone and form. In this was told the arrival of Philoctetes, who kills Paris, that of Neoptolemus, the building of the wooden horse, the capture of the palladium by Ulysses and Diomede, and, finally, the taking of Troy itself. The interval between the war and the subject of the Odyssey is filled up by the return of the different heroes. This furnished the subject for the Nostoi by Agias, a poem distinguished by great excellencies of composition. The misfortunes of the two Atreidae formed the main part, and with this were artfully interwoven the adventures of all the other heroes, except Ulysses. The last adventures of Ulysses after his return to Ithaca were treated in the Telegonia of Eugammon. All these poems were grouped round those of Homer, as their common centre. "It is credible", says Mueller (Ibid. p. 64), "that their authors were Homeric rhapsodists by profession (so also Nitzsch, Hall. Encycl. s. v. Odyss.), to whom the constant recitation of the ancient Homeric poems would naturally suggest the notion of continuing them by essays of their own in a similar tone. Hence too it would be more likely to occur that these poems, when they were sung by the same rhapsodists, would gradually acquire themselves the name of Homeric epics". Their object of completing and spinning out the poems of Homer is obvious. It is necessary therefore to suppose that the Iliad and Odyssey existed entire, i.e. comprehending the same series of events which they now comprehend, at least in the time from the first to the tenth Olympiad, when Arctinus, Agias (Thiersch, Act. Monac. ii. 583), and probably Stasinus, lived. This was a time when nobody yet thought of reading such poems. Therefore there must have been an opportunity of reciting in some way or another, not only the Homeric poems, but those of the Cyclic poets also, which were of about equal length (Nitzsch, Vorr. z. Anmerk. vol. ii.). The same result is obtained from comparing the manner in which Homer and these Cyclic poets treat and view mythical objects. A wide difference is observable on this point, which justifies the conclusion, that as early as the period of the composition of the first of the Cyclic poems, viz. before the tenth Olympiad, the Homeric poems had attained a fixed form, and were no longer, as Wolf supposes, in a state of growth and development, or else they would have been exposed to the influence of the different opinions which then prevailed respecting mythical subjects. This is the only inference we can draw from an inquiry into the Cyclic poets. Wolf, however, who denied the existence of long epic poets previous to the use of writing, because he thought they could not be recited as wholes, and who consequently denied that the Iliad and Odyssey possessed an artificial or poetical unity, thought to find a proof of this proposition in the Cyclic poems, in which he professed to see no other unity than that which is afforded by the natural sequence of events. Now we are almost unable to form an accurate opinion of the poetical merits of those poems, of which we possess only dry prosaic extracts; but, granting that they did not attain a high degree of poetical perfection, and particularly, that they were destitute of poetical unity, still we are not on this account at liberty to infer that the poems of Homer, their great example, are likewise destitute of this unity. But this is the next proposition of Wolf, which therefore we must now proceed to discuss.
Wolf observes that Aristotle first derived the laws of epic poetry from the examples which he found laid down in the Iliad and Odyssey. It was for this reason, says Wolf, that people never thought of suspecting that those examples themselves were destitute of that poetical unity which Aristotle, from a contemplation of them, drew up as a principal requisite for this kind of poetry. It was transmitted, says Wolf, by old traditions, how once Achilles withdrew from the battle; how, in consequence of the absence of the great hero, who alone awed the Trojans. the Greeks were worsted; how Achilles at last allowed his friend Patroclus to protect the Greeks; and how, finally, he revenged the death of Patroclus by killing Hector. This simple course of the story Wolf thinks would have been treated by any other poet in very much the same manner as we now read it in the Iliad; and he maintains that there is no unity in it except a chronological one, in so far as we have a narration of the events of several days in succession. Nay, he continues, if we examine closely the six last books, we shall find that they have nothing to do with what is stated in the introduction as the object of the poem,--namely, the wrath of Achilles. This wrath subsides with the death of Patroclus, and what follows is a wrath of a different kind, which does not belong to the former. The composition of the Odyssey is not viewed with greater favour by Wolf. The journey of Telemachus to Pylos and Sparta, the sojourn of Ulysses in the island of Calypso, the stories of his wanderings, were originally independent songs, which, as they happened to fit into one another, were afterwards connected into one whole, at a time when literature, the arts, and a general cultivation of the mind began to flourish in Greece, supported by the important art of writing.
These bold propositions have met with almost universal disapprobation. Still this is a subject on which reasoning and demonstration are very precarious and almost impossible. The feelings and tastes of every individual must determine the matter. But to oppose to Wolf's sceptical views the judgment of a man whose authority on matters of taste is as great as on those of learning, we copy what Mueller says on this subject:
"All the laws which reflection and experience can suggest for the epic form are observed (in Homer) with the most refined taste; all the means are employed by which the general effect can be heightened. The anger of Achilles is an event which did not long precede the final destruction of Troy, inasmuch as it produced the death of Hector, who was the defender of the city. It was doubtless the ancient tradition, established long before Homer's time, that Hector had been slain by Achilles in revenge for the slaughter of his friend Patroclus, whose fall in battle, unprotected by the son of Thetis, was explained by the tradition to have arisen from the anger of Achilles against the other Greeks for an affront offered to him, and his consequent retirement from the contest. Now the poet seizes, as the most critical and momentous period of the action, the conversion of Achilles from the foe of the Greeks into that of the Trojans: for as on the one hand the sudden revolution in the fortunes of war, thus occasioned, places the prowess of Achilles in the strongest light, so, on the other hand, the change of his firm and resolute mind must have been the more touching to the feelings of the hearers. From this centre of interest there springs a long preparation and gradual developement, since not only the cause of the anger of Achilles, but also the defeats of the Greeks occasioned by that anger, were to be narrated; and the display of the insufficiency of all the other heroes at the same time offered the best opportunity for exhibiting their several excellencies. It is in the arrangement of this preparatory part and its connection with the catastrophe, that the poet displays his perfect acquaintance with all the mysteries of poetical composition ; and in his continual postponement of the crisis of the action, and his scanty revelations with respect to the plan of the entire work, he shows a maturity of knowledge which is astonishing for so early an age. To all appearance, the poet, after certain obstacles have been first overcome, tends only to one point, viz. to increase perpetually the disasters of the Greeks, which they have drawn on themselves by the injury offered to Achilles; and Zeus himself, at the beginning, is made to pronounce, as coming from himself, the vengeance and consequent exaltation of the son of Thetis. At the same time, however, the poet plainly shows his wish to excite, in the feelings of an attentive hearer, an anxious and perpetually increasing desire not only to see the Greeks saved from destruction, but also that the unbearable and more than human haughtiness and pride of Achilles should be broken. Both these ends are attained through the fulfilment of the secret counsel of Zeus, which he did not communicate to Thetis, and through her to Achilles (who, if he had known it, would have given up all enmity against the Achaeans), but only to Hera, and to her not till the middle of the poem; and Achilles, through the loss of his dearest friend, whom he had sent to battle not to save the Greeks, but for his own glory, suddenly changes his hostile attitude towards the Greeks, and is overpowered by entirely opposite feelings. In this manner the exaltation of the son of Thetis is united to that almost imperceptible operation of destiny, which the Greeks were required to observe in all human affairs. To remove from this collection of various actions, conditions, and feelings any substantial part, as not necessarily belonging to it, would in fact be to dismember a living whole, the parts of which would necessarily lose their vitality. As in an organic body life does not dwell in one single point, but requires a union of certain systems and members, so the internal connection of the Iliad rests on the union of certain parts; and neither the interesting introduction describing the defeat of the Greeks up to the burning of the ship of Protesilaus, nor the turn of affairs brought about by the death of Patroclus, nor the final pacification of the anger of Achilles, could be spared from the Iliad, when the fruitful seed of such a poem had once been sown in the soul of Homer, and had begun to develop its growth" (Hist. of Gr. Lit. p. 48, &c.).
If we yield our assent to these convincing reflections, we shall hardly need to defend the unity of the Odyssey, which has always been admired as one of the greatest masterpieces of Greek genius, against the aggressions of Wolf, who could more easily believe that chance and learned compilers had produced this poem, by connecting loose independent pieces, than that it should have sprung from the mind of a single man. Nitzsch (Hall. Encyclop. s. v. Odyssee, and Anmerk. z. Odyss. vol. ii. pref.) has endeavoured to exhibit the unity of the plan of this poem. He has divided the whole into four large sections, in each of which there are again subdivisions facilitating the distribution of the recital for several rhapsodists and several days.
1. The first part treats of the absent Ulysses (books i.--iv.). Here we are introduced to the state of affairs in Ithaca during the absence of Ulysses. Telemachus goes to Pylos and Sparta to ascertain the fate of his father.
2. The song of the returning Ulysses (books v.-xiii. 92) is naturally divided into two parts; the first contains the departure of Ulysses from Calypso, and his arrival and reception in Scheria; the second the narration of his wanderings.
3. The song of Ulysses meditating revenge (book xiii. 92--xix). Here the two threads of tile story are united; Ulysses is conveyed to I thaca, and is met in the cottage of Eumaeus by his son, who has just returned from Sparta.
4. The song of the revenging and reconciled Ulysses (xx.--xxiv.) brings all the manifold wrongs of the suitors and the sufferings of Ulysses to the desired and long-expected conclusion.
Although we maintain the unity of both the Homeric poems, we cannot deny that they have suffered greatly from interpolations, omissions, and alterations; and it is only by admitting some original poetical whole, that we are able to discover those parts which do not belong to this whole. Wolf, therefore, in pointing out some parts as spurious, has been led into an inconsistency in his demonstration, since lie is obliged to acknowledge something as the genuine centre of the two poems, which he must suppose to have been spun out more and more by subsequent rhapsodists. This altered view, which is distinctly pronounced in the preface to his edition of Homer, appears already in the Prolegomena, and has been subsequently embraced by Hermann and other critics. It is, as we have said, a necessary consequence from the discovery of interpolations. These interpolations are particularly apparent in the first part of the Iliad. The catalogue of the ships has long been recognised as a later addition, and can be omitted without leaving the slightest gap. The battles from the third to the seventh book seem almost entirely foreign to the plan of the Iliad. Zeus appears to have quite forgotten his promise to Thetis, that he would honour her son by letting Agamemnon feel his absence. The Greeks are far from feeling this. Diomede fights successfully even against gods; the Trojans are driven back to the town. In an assembly of the gods, the glory of Achilles is no motive to deliver Troy from her fate; it is not till the eighth book that Zeus all at once seems mindful of his promise to Thetis. The preceding five books are not only loosely connected with the whole of the poem, but even with one another. The single combat between Menelaus and Paris (hook iii.), in which the former was on the point of despatching the seducer of his wife, is interrupted by the treacherous shot of Pandarus. In the next book all this is forgotten. The Greeks neither claim Helen as the prize of the victory of Menelaus, nor do they complain of a breach of the oath: no god revenges the perjury. Paris in the sixth book sits quietly at home, where Hector severely upbraids him for his cowardice and retirement from war; to which Paris makes no reply, and does not plead that he had only just encountered Menelaus in deadly fight. The tenth book, containing the nocturnal expedition of Ulysses and Diomede, in which they kill the Thracian king Rhesus and take his horses, is avowedly of later origin (Schol. Ven. ad II. x. 1). No reference is subsequently made by any of the Greeks or Trojans to this gallant deed. The two heroes were sent as spies, but they never narrate the result of their expedition; not to speak of many other improbabilities. To enumerate all those passages which are reasonably suspected as interpolated, would lead us too far. Muller (lbid. p. 50) very judiciously assigns "two principal motives for this extension of the poem beyond its original plan, which might have exercised an influence on the mind of Homer himself but had still more powerful effects upon his successors, the later Homerids. In the first place, it is clear that a design manifested itself at an early period to make this poem complete in itself, so that all the subjects, descriptions, and actions which could alone give an interest to a poem on the entire war, might find a place within the limits of this composition. For this purpose, it is not improbable that many lays of earlier bards, who had sung single adventures of the Trojan war, were laid under contribution, and that the finest parts of them were adopted into the new poem, it being the natural course of popular poetry propagated by oral tradition, to treat the best thoughts of previous poets as common property, and to give them a new life by working them up in a different context". Thus it would be explained why it is not before the ninth year of the war that the Greeks build a wall round their camp, and think of deciding the war by single combat. For the same reason the catalogue of the ships could find a place in the Iliad, as well as the view of Helen and Priam from the walls (Teichoskopia), by which we become acquainted with the chief heroes along the Greeks, who were certainly not unknown to Priam till so late a period of the war. "The other motive for the great extension of the preparatory part of the catastrophe may, it appears, be traced to a certain conflict between the plan of the poet and his own patriotic feelings. An attentive reader cannot fail to observe that, while Homer intends that the Greeks should be made to suffer severely from the anger of Achilles, he is yet, as it were, retarded in his progress towards that end by a natural endeavour to avenge the death of each Greek by that of a yet more illustrious Trojan, and thus to increase the glory of the numerous Achaean heroes, so that even on the days in which the Greeks are defeated, more Trojans than Greeks are described as being slain".
The Odyssey has experienced similar extensions, which, far from inducing
us to believe in an atomistical origin of the poem, only show that the original
plan has been here and there obscured. The poem opens with an assembly of the
gods, in which Athene complains of the long detention of Ulysses in Ogygia; Zeus
is of her opinion. She demands to send Hermes to Calypso with an order from Zeus
to dismiss Ulysses, whilst she herself goes to Ithaca to incite young Telenmachus
to determined steps. But in the beginning of the fifth book we have almost the
same proceedings, the same assembly of the gods, the same complaints of Athene,
the same assent of Zeus, who now at last sends his messenger to the island of
Calypso. Telemachus refuses to stay with Menelaus; he is anxious to return home;
and still, without our knowing how and why, he remains at Sparta for a time which
seems disproportionably long; for on his return to Ithaca he meets Ulysses, who
had in the meantime built his ship, passed twenty days on the sea, and three days
with the Phaeacians.
Nitzsch has tried to remove these difficulties, but he does not deny extensive interpolations, particularly in the eighth book, where the song of Demodocos concerning Ares and Aphrodite is very suspicious; in the nineteenth, the recognition of Ulysses by his old nurse, and, most of all, some parts towards the end. All that follows after xxiii. 296 was declared spurious even by the Alexandrine critics Aristophanes and Aristarchus. Spohn (Comment. de extrem. Odysseae Parte, 1816) has proved the validity of this judgment almost beyond the possibility of doubt. Yet, as Mueller and Nitzsch observe, it is very likely that the original Odyssey was concluded in a somewhat similar manner; in particular, we can hardly do without the recognition of Laertes, who is so often alluded to in the course of the poem, and without some reconciliation of Ulsses with the friends of the murdered suitors. The second Necyia (xxiv. init.) is evidently spurious, and, like many parts of the first Necyia (xi.), most likely taken from a similar passage in the Nostoi, in which was narrated the arrival of Agamemnon in Hades (Paus. x. 23.4..)
Considering all these interpolations and the original unity, which has only been obscured and not destroyed by them, we must come to the concluston that the Homeric poems were originally composed as poetical wholes, but that a long oral tradition gave occasion to great alterations in their original form.
We have hitherto considered only the negative part of Wolf's arguments. He denied, 1st, the existence of the art of writing at the time when the Homeric poems were composed; 2d. the possibility of composing and delivering them without that art; and, 3rdly, their poetical unity. From these premises he came to the conclusion, that the Homeric poems originated as small songs, unconnected with one another, which, after being preserved in this state for a long time, were at length put together. The agents, to whom he attributed these two tasks of composing and preserving on the one hand, and of collecting and combining on the other, are the rhapsodists and Peisistratus.
The subject of the rhapsodists is one of the most complicated and difficult of all; because the fact is, that we know very little about them, and thus a large field is opened to conjecture and hypothesis. Wolf derives the name of rhapsodist from rhaptein, oiden, which he interprets breviora carmina modo et ordine publicae recitationi apto connectere. These breviora carmina are the rchapsodies of which the Iliad and Odyssey consist, not indeed containing originally one book each, as they do now, but sometimes more and sometimes less. The nature and condition of these rhapsodists may be learned from Homer himself, where they appear as singing at the banquets, games, and festivals of the princes, and are held in high honour (Od. iii. 267, xviii. 383). In fact, the first rhapsodists were the poets themselves, just as the first dramatic poets were the first actors. Therefore Homer and Hesiod are said to have rhapsodised. (Plat. Rep. x.; Schol. ad Pind. Nem. ii. 1). We must imagine that these minstrels were spread over all Greece, and that they did not confine themselves to the recital of the Homeric poems. One class of rhapsodists at Chios, the Homerids (Harpocrat. s. v. Homeridai), who called themselves descendants of the poet, possessed these particular poems, and transmitted them to their disciples by oral teaching, and not by writing. This kind of oral teaching was most carefully cultivated in Greece even when the use of writing was quite common. The tragic and comic poets employed no other way of training the actors than this oral didaskalia, with which the greatest accuracy was combined. Therefore, says Wolf, it is not likely that, although not committed to writing, the Homeric poems underwent very great changes by a long oral tradition; only it is impossible that they should have remained quite unaltered. Many of the rhapsodists were not destitute of poetical genius, or they acquired it by the constant recitation of those beautiful lays. Why should they not have sometimes adapted their recitation to the immediate occasion, or even have endeavoured to make some passages better than they were?
We can admit almost all this, without drawing from it Wolf's conclusion. Does not such a condition of the rhapsodists agree as well with the task which we assign to them, of preserving and reciting a poem which already existed as a whole? Even the etymology of the name of rhapsodist, which is surprisingly inconsistent with Wolf's general view, favours that of his adversaries. Wolf's fundamental opinion is, that the original songs were unconnected and singly recited. How then can the rhapsodists have obtained their name from connecting poems ? On the other hand, if the Homeric poems originally existed as wholes, and the rhapsodists connected the single parts of these wholes for public recitation, they might per haps be called "connecters of songs". But this etymology has not appeared satisfactory to some, who have thought that this process would rather be a keeping together than a putting together. They have therefore supposed that the word was derived from rhabdos, the staff or ensign of the bards (Hes. Theog. 30); an etymology which seemed countenanced by Pindar's (Isthm. iii. 5) expression rhabdon thespesion epeon. But Pindar in another passage gives the other etymology (Nem. ii. 1) ; and, besides, it does not appear how rhapsoidos could be formed from rhabdos, which would make rhabdoidos. Others, therefore, have thought of rhapis (a stick), and formed rhapisoidos, rhapsoidos. But even this will not do; for leaving out of view that rhatis does not occur in the signification of rhabdos the word would be rhapidoidos. Nothing is left, therefore, but the etymology from rhaptein oidas, which is only to be interpreted in the proper way. Mueller (Ibid. p. 33) says that rhapsoidein "signifies nothing more than the peculiar method of epic recitation", consisting in some high-pitched sonorous declamations, with certain simple modulations of the voice, not in singing regularly accompanied by an instrument, which was the method of reciting lyrical poetry. "Every poem", says Mueller, "can be rhapsodised which is composed in an epic tone, and in which the verses are of equal length, without being distributed into correspond ing parts of a larger whole, strophes, or similar systems. Rhapsodists were also not improperly called dtichoidoi , because all the poems which they recited were composed in single lines independent of each other (stichoi)". He thinks, therefore, that rhaptein oiden denotes the coupling together of verses without any considerable divisions or pauses; in other words, the even, continuous, and unbroken flow of the epic poem. But oide does not mean a verse ; and besides a reference to the manner of epic recitation, as different from that of lyrical poetry, could only be imparted to the word rhapsoidos at a time when lyrical composition and recitation originated, that is, not before Archilochus. Previous to that time the meaning of rhapsodist must have been different. In fine, we do not see why rhaptein oidas should not have been used in the signification of planning and making lays, as rhaptein kaka is to plan or make mischief. But whatever may be the right derivation of the word, and whatever may have been the nature and condition of the rhapsodists, so much is evident that no support can be derived from this point for Wolf's position. We pass on, therefore, to the last question -the collection of the Homeric poems ascribed to Peisistratus.
Solon made the first step towards that which Peisistratus accomplished. Of him Diogenes Laertius (i. 57) says, ta Homeronu ech hupoboles egrapse rhapsoideideisthai, i. e., according to Wolf's interpretation, Solon did not allow the rhapsodists to recite arbitrarily, as they had been wont to do, such songs successively as were not connected with one another, but he ordered that they should rehearse those parts which were according to the thread of the story suggested to them. Peisistratus did not stop here. The unanimous voice of antiquity ascribed to him the merit of having collected the disjointed and confused poems of Homer, and of having first committed them to writing (Cic. de Or. iii. 34; Paus. vii. 26; Joseph, c. Ap. i. 2 ; Aelian, V. H. xiii. 14; Liban. Paneg. in Julian. i.)
In what light Wolf viewed this tradition has been already mentioned. He held it to have been the first step that was taken in order to connect the loose and incoherent songs into continued and uninterrupted stories, and to preserve the union which he had thus imparted to these poems by first committing them to writing. Pausanias mentions associates (hetairoi) of Peisistratus, who assisted him in his undertaking. These associates Wolf thought to have been the diaskeuastai mentioned sometimes in the Scholia; but in this he was evidently mistaken. Diaskeuastai are, in the phraseology of the Scholia, interpolators, and not arrangers (Heinrich, de Diask. Homericis ; Lehrs, Aristarchi stud. Hom.). Another weak point in Wolf's reasoning is, that he says that Peisistratus was the first who committed the Homeric poems to writing; this is expressly stated by none of the ancient writers. On the contrary, it is not unlikely that before Peisistratus, persons began in various parts of Greece, and particularly in Asia Minor, which was far in advance of the mother-country, to write down parts of the Iliad and Odyssey, although we are not disposed to extend this hypothesis so far as Nitzsch, who thinks that there existed in the days of Peisistratus numbers of copies, so that Peisistratus only compared and revised them, in order to obtain a correct copy for the use of the Athenian festivals. Whom Peisistratus employed in his undertaking Wolf could only conjecture. The poet Onomacritus lived at that time at Athens, and was engaged in similar pursuits respecting the old poet Musaeus. Besides him, Wolf thought of a certain Orpheus of Croton ; but nothing certain was known on this point, till Professor Ritschl discovered, in a MS. of Plautus at Rome, an old Latin scholion translated from the Greek of Tzetzes (published in Cramer's Anecdota). This scholion gives the name of four poets who assisted Peisistratus, viz. Onomacritus, Zopyrus, Orpheus, and a fourth, whose name is corrupted, Concylus (Ritschl, de Alex. Bibl. u. d. Sammlung d. Hom. Gedichte durch Peisistr. 1838; Id. Corollar. Disput. de Bibl. Alex. deque Peisistr. Curis Hom. 1840). These persons may have interpolated some passages, as it suited the pride of the Athenians or the political purposes of their patron Peisistratus. In fact, Onomacritus is particularly charged with having interpolated Od. xi. 604 (Schol. Harlei. ed. Porson. ad loc.). The Athenians were generally believed to have had no part in the Trojan war; therefore Il. ii. 547, 552-554, were marked by the Alexandrine critics as spurious, and for similar reasons Od. vii. 80, 81, and Od. iii. 308. But how unimportant are these alterations in comparison with the long interpolations which must be attributed to the rhapsodists previous to Peisistratus ! It must be confessed that these four men accomplished their task, on the whole, with great accuracy. However inclined we may be to attribute this accuracy less to their critical investigations and conscientiousness, than to the impossibility of making great changes on account of the general knowledge of what was genuine, through the number of existing copies; and although we may, on the whole, be induced, after Wolf's exaggerations, to think little of the merits of Peisistratus, still we must allow that the praise bestowed on Peisistratus by the ancient writers is too great and too general to allow us to admit of Nitzsch's opinion, that he only compared and examined various MSS. If, then, it does not follow, as Wolf thought, that the Homeric poems never formed a whole before Peisistratus, it is at the same time undeniable that to Peisistratus we owe the first written text of the whole of the poems, which, without his care, would most likely now exist only in a few disjointed fragments. Some traditions attributed to Hipparchus, the son and successor of Peisistratus, regulations for the recital of the Homeric poems of a kind similar to those which had been already made by Solon (Plat. Hipp.). He is said to have obliged the rhapsodists ech hupolepseos hepheches ta Homerou diienai. The meaning of the words ech hupolepseos, and their difference from hech hupoboles, which was the manner of recitation, ordained by Solon, has given rise to a long controversy between Bockh and Hermann (comp Nitzsch, Melet. ii.); to enter into which would be foreign to the purpose of this article.
Having taken this general survey of the most important arguments for and against Wolfs hypothesis concerning the origin of the poems of Homer, the following may be regarded as the most probable conclusion. There can be no doubt that the seed of the Homeric poems was scattered in the time of the heroic exploits which they celebrate, and in the land of the victorious Achaeans, that is, in European Greece. An abundance of heroic lays preserved the records of the Trojan war. It was a puerile idea, which is now completely exploded, that the events are fictitious on which the Iliad and Odyssey are based, that a Trojan war never was waged, and so forth. Whoever would make such a conclusion from the intermixture of gods in the battles of men, would forget what the Muses say (Hes. Theog. 27):
*)/Idmen yeu/dea polla\ le/gein e)tu/moisin o(moi=a,
*)/Idmen d', eu)=t' e)qe/lwmen, a)lhqe/a muqh/sasqai.
and he would overlook the fact, that these songs were handed down a long time before they attained that texture of truth and fiction which forms one of their peculiar charms. Europe must necessarily have been the country where these songs originated, both because here the victorious heroes dwelt, and because so many traces in the poems still point to these regions. It was here that the old Thracian bards had effected that unity of mythology which, spreading all over Greece, had gradually absorbed and obliterated the discrepancies of the old local myths, and substituted one general mythology for the whole nation, with Zeus as the supreme ruler, dwelling on the snowy heights of Olympus. Impregnated with this European mythology, the heroic lays were brought to Asia Minor by the Greek colonies, which left the mother-country about three ages after the Trojan war. In European Greece a new race gained the ascendancy, the Dorians, foreign to those who gloried in having the old heroes among their ancestors. The heroic songs, therefore, died away more and more in Europe; but in Asia the Aeolians fought, conquered, and settled nearly in the same regions in which their fathers had signalised themselves by immortal exploits, the glory or which was celebrated, and their memory still preserved by their national bards. Their dwelling in the same locality not only kept alive the remesmbrance of the deeds of their fathers, but gave a new impulse to their poetry, just as in the middle ages in Germany the foundation of the kingdom of the Hungarians in the East, and their destructive invasions, together with the origin of a new empire of the Burgundians in the West, awakened the old songs of the Niebelungen, after a slumber of centuries. (Gervinus, Poetical Lit. of Germ. vol. i.)
Now the Homeric poems advanced a step further. From unconnected songs, they were, for the first time, united by a great genius, who, whether he was really called Homer, or whether the name be of later origin and significant of his work of uniting songs (Welcker, Ep. Cycl.; Ilgen, Hymn. Hom. praef.; Heyne, ad Il. vol. viii.), was the one individual who conceived in his mind the lofty idea of that poetical unity which we cannot help acknowledging and admiring. What were the peculiar excellencies which distinguished this one Homer among a great number of contemporary poets, and saved his works alone from oblivion, we do not venture to determine ; but the conjecture of Mueller (Greek Lit.; see also Nitzsch, Anm. vol. ii.), is not improbable, that Homer first undertook to combine into one great unity the scattered and fragmentary poems of earlier bards, and that it was a task which established his great renown. We can now judge of the probability that Homer was an Ionian, who in Smyrna, where Ionians and Aeolians were mixed, became acquainted with the subject of his poems, and moulded them into the form which was suited to the taste of his Ionian countrymen. But as a faithful preservation of these long works was impossible in an age unacquainted with, or at least not versed in the art of writing, it was a natural consequence, that in the lapse of ages the poems should not only lose the purity with which they proceeded from the mind of the poet, but should also become more and more dismembered, and thus return into their original state of loose independent songs. Their public recitation became more and more fragmentary, and the time at festivals and musical contests formerly occupied by epic rhapsodists exclusively was encroached upon by the rising lyrical performances and players of the flute and lyre. Yet the knowledge of the unity of the different Homeric rhapsodies was not entirely lost. Solon, himself a poet, directed the attention of his countrymen towards it; and Peisistratus at last raised a lasting monument to his high merits, in fixing the genuine Homeric poems by the indelible marks of writing, as far as was possible in his time and with his means. That previous to the famous edition of Peisistratus parts of Homer, or the entire poems, were committed to writing in other towns of Greece or Asia Minor is not improbable, but we do not possess sufficient testimonies to prove it. We can therefore safely affirm that from the time of Peisistratus, the Greeks had a written Homer, a regular text, the source and foundation of all subsequent editions.
Having established the fact, that there was a Homer, who must be considered as the author of the Homeric poems, there naturally arises another question, viz. which poems are Homeric? We have seen already that a great number of cyclic poems were attributed to the great bard of the Anger of Achilles. Stasinus, the author of the Cypria, was said to have received this poem from Homer as a dowry for his daughter, whom he married. Creophylus is placed in a similar connection with Homer. But these traditions are utterly groundless; they were occasioned by the authors of the cyclic poems being at the same time rhapsodists of the Homeric poems, which they recited along with their own. Nor are the hymns, which still bear the name of Homer, more genuine productions of the poet of the Iliad than the cyclic poems. They were called by the ancients prooimia, i. e. overtures or preludes, and were sung by the rhapsodists as introductions to epic poems at the festivals of the respective gods, to whom they are addressed. To these rhapsodists the hymns most probably owe their origin. "They exhibit such a diversity of language and poetical tone, that in all probability they contain fragments from every century from the time of Homer to the Persian war" (Mueller, Ibid.). Still most of them were reckoned to be Homeric productions by those who lived in a time when Greek literature still flourished. This is easily accounted for; being recited in, connection with Hmeric poems, they were gradually attributed to the same author, and continued to be so regarded more or less generally, till critics, and particularly those of Alexandria, discovered the differences between their style and that of Homer. At Alexandria they were never reckoned genuine, which accounts for the circumstance that none of the great critics of that school is known to have made a regular collection of them (Wolf, Proleg.). Of the hymns now extant five deserve particular attention on account of their greater length and mythological contents; they are those addressed to the Delian and Pythian Apollo, to Hermes, Demeter, and Aphrodite. The hymn to the Delian Apollo, formerly regarded as part of the one to the Pythian Apollo, is the work of a Homerid of Chios, and approaches so nearly to the true Homeric tone, that the author, who calls himself the blind poet, who lived in the rocky Chios, was held even by Thucydides to be Homer himself. It narrates the birth of Apollo in Delos, but a great part of it is lost. The hymn to the Pythian Apollo contained the foundation of the Pythian sanctuary by the god himself, who slays the dragon, and, in the form of a dolphin, leads Cretan men to Crissa, whom he established as priests of his temple. The hymn to Hermes, which, on account of its mentioning the seven-stringed lyre, the invention of Terpander, cannot have been composed before the 30th olympiad, relates the tricks of the newborn Hermes, who, having left his cradle, drove away the cattle of Apollo from their pastures in Pieria to Pylos, there killed them, and then invented the lyre, made of a tortoise-shell, with which he pacified the anger of Apollo. The hymn to Aphrodite celebrates the birth of Aeneas in a style not very different from that of Homer. The hymn to Demeter, first discovered 1778, in Moscow, by Mathaei, and first published by Ruhnken, 1780, gives an account of Demeter's search after her daughter, Persephone, who had been carried away by Hades. The goddess obtains from Zeus, that her daughter should pass only one third part of the year with Hades, and return to her for the rest of the year. With this symbolical description of the corn, which, when sown, remains for some time under ground, and then springs up, the poet has connected the mythology of the Eleusinians, who hospitably received the goddess on her wanderings, afterwards built her a temple, and were rewarded by instruction in the mysterious rites of Demeter.
Beside the cyclic epics and the hymns, we find poems of quite a different nature erroneously ascribed to Homer. Such was the case with the Margites, a poem, which Aristotle regarded as the source of comedy, just as he called the Iliad and Odyssey the fountain of all tragic poetry. From this view of Aristotle, we may judge of the nature of the poem. It ridiculed a man who was said "to know many things, and to know all badly". The subject was nearly related to the scurrilous and satirical poetry of Archilochus and other contemporary iambographers, although in versification, epic tone, and language, it imitated the Iliad. The iambic verses which are quoted from it by grammarians were most likely interspersed by Pigres, brother of Artemisia, who is also called the author of this poem, and who interpolated the Iliad with pentameters in a similar manner.
The same Pigres was perhaps the author of the Batrachomyomachia, the Battle of the Frogs and Mice (Suid. s. v.; Plut. de Malign. Herod. 43), a poem frequently ascribed by the ancients to Homer. It is a harmless playful tale, without a marked tendency to sarcasm and satire, amusing as a parody, but without any great poetical merit which could justify its being ascribed to Homer.
Besides these poems, there are a great many more, most of which we know only by name, and which we find attributed to Homer with more or less confidence. But we have good reasons for doubting all such statements concerning lost poems, whose claims we cannot examine, when we see that even Thucydides and Aristotle considered as genuine not only such poems as the Margites and some of the hymns, but also all those passages of the Iliad and Odyssey which are evidently interpolated, and which at the present day nobody would dream of ascribing to their reputed author (Nitzsch, Anm. z. Od. vol. ii.) The time in which Greek literature flourished was not adapted for tracing out the poems which were spurious and interpolated. People enjoyed all that was beautiful, without caring who was the author. The task of sifting and correcting the works of literature was left to the age in which the faculties of the Greek mind had ceased to produce original works, and had turned to scrutinise and preserve former productions. Then it was not only discovered that the cyclic poems and the hymns had no title to be styled " Homeric" but the question was mooted and warmly discussed, whether the Odyssey was to be attributed to the author of the Iliad. Of the existence of this interesting controversy we had only a slight indication in Seneca (de Brevit. Vitae, 13) before the publication of the Venetian Scholia. From these we know now that there was a regular party of critics, who assigned the Iliad and Odyssey to two different authors, and were therefore called Chorizontes (Chorizontes), the Separaters. Their arguments were probably not very convincing, and might fairly be considered to be entirely refuted by such reasonings as Longinus made use of, who affirmed (just as if he had heard it from Homer himself) that the Iliad was composed by Homer in the vigour of life, and the Odyssey in his old age. With this decision all critics were satisfied for centuries, till, in modern times, the question has been opened again. Traces have been discovered in the Odyssey which seemed to indicate a later time; and although this is a difficult and doubtful point, because we do not know in many cases whether the discrepancies in the two poems are to be considered as genuine parts or as interpolations, yet there is so much in the one poem which cannot be reconciled with the whole tenor of the other, that a later origin of the Odyssey seems very probable (Nitzsch in Hall. Encycl.). We cannot lay much stress on the observation, that the state of social life in the Odyssey appears more advanced in refinement, comfort, and art, than in the Iliad, because this may be regarded as the result of the different nature of the subjects. The magnificent palaces of Menelaus and Alcinous, and the peaceful enjoyments of the Phaeacians, could find no place in the rough camp of the heroes before Troy. But a great and essential difference, which pervades the whole of the two poems, is observable in the notions that are entertained respecting the gods. In the Iliad the men are better than the gods; in the Odyssey it is the reverse. In the latter poem no mortal dares to resist, much less to attack and wound a god; Olympus does not resound with everlasting quarrels; Athene consults humbly the will of Zeus, and forbears offending Poseidon, her uncle, for the sake of a mortal man. Whenever a god inflicts punishment or bestows protection in the Odyssey. it is for some moral desert; not as in the Iliad, through mere caprice, without any consideration of the good or bad qualities of the individual. In the Iliad Zeus sends a dream to deceive Agamemnon; Athene, after a general consultation of the gods, prompts Pandarus to his treachery; Paris, the violator of the sacred laws of hospitality, is never upbraided with his crime by the gods; whereas, in the Odyssey, they appear as the awful avengers of those who do not respect the laws of the hospitable Zeus. The gods of the Iliad live on Mount Olympus; those of the Odyssey are further removed from the earth; they inhabit the wide heaven. There is nothing which obliges us to think of the Mount Olympus. In the Iliad the gods are visible to every one except when they surround themselves with a cloud; in the Odyssey they are usually invisible, unless they take the shape of men. In short, as Benjamin Constant has well observed (de la Relig. iii.), there is more mythology in the Iliad, and more religion in the Odyssey. If we add to all this the differences that exist between the two poems in language and tone, we shall be obliged to admit, that the Odyssey is of considerably later date than the Iliad. Every one who admires the bard of the Iliad, with whom are connected all the associations of ideas which have been formed respecting Homer, feels naturally inclined to give him' credit for having composed the Odyssey also, and is unwilling to fancy another person to be the author who would be quite an imaginary and uninteresting personage. It is no doubt chiefly owing to these feelings that many scholars have tried in various ways to prove that the same Homer is the author of both the poems, although there seem sufficient reasons to establish the contrary. Thus Mueller says: "If the completion of the Iliad and Odyssey seems too vast a work for the lifetime of one man, we may perhaps have recourse to the supposition, that Homer, after having sung the Iliad in the vigour of his youthful years, in his old age communicated to some devoted disciple the plan of the Odyssey, which had long been working in his mind, and left it to him for completion". Nitzsch (Anmerk. z. Od. vol. ii.) has found out another expedient. He thinks, that in the Iliad Homer has followed more closely the old traditions, which represented the former and ruder state of society; whilst, in the Odyssey, he was more original, and imprinted upon his own inventions his own ideas concerning the gods.
The history of the Homeric poems may be divided conveniently into two great periods: one in which the text was transmitted by oral tradition, and the other of the written text after Peisistratus. Of the former we have already spoken: it therefore only remains to treat of the latter. The epoch from Peisistratus down to the establishment of the first critical school at Alexandria, i. e. to Zenodotus, presents very few facts concerning the Homeric poems. Oral tradition still prevailed over writing for a long time; though in the days of Alcibiades it was expected that every schoolmaster would have a copy of Homer with which to teach his boys (Plut. Alcib.). Homer became a sort of ground-work for a liberal education, and as his influence over the minds of the people thus became still stronger, the philosophers of that age were naturally led either to explain and recommend or to oppose and refute the moral principles and religious doctrines contained in the heroic tales. It was with this practical view that Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Heracleitus, condemned Homer as one who uttered falsehoods and degraded the majesty of the gods; whilst Theagenes, Metrodorus, Anaxagoras, and Stesimbrotus, expounded the deep wisdom of Homer, which was disguised from the eyes of the common observer under the veil of an apparently insignificant tale. So old is the allegorical explanation, a folly at which the sober Socrates smiled, which Plato refuted, and Aristarchus opposed with all his might, but which, nevertheless, outlived the sound critical study of Homer among the Greeks, and has thriven luxuriantly even down to the present day.
A more scientific study was bestowed on Homer by the sophists of Pericles' age, Prodicus, Protagoras, Hippias, and others. There are even traces which seem to indicate that the aporiai and luseis, such favourite themes with the Alexandrian critics, originated with these sophists. Thus the study of Homer increased, and the copies of his works must naturally have been more and more multiplied. We may suppose that not a few of the literary men of that age carefully compared the best MSS. within their reach, and choosing what they thought best made new editions (diorthoseis). The task of these first editors was not an easy one. It may be concluded from the nature of the case, and it is known by various testimonies, that the text of those days offered enormous discrepancies, not paralleled in the text of any other classical writer. There were passages left out, transposed, added, or so altered, as not easily to be recognised; nothing, in short, like a smooth vulgate existed before the time of the Alexandrine critics. This state of the text must have presented immense difficulties to the first editors in the infancy of criticism. Yet these early editions were valuable to the Alexandrians, as being derived from good and ancient sources. Two only are known to us through the scholia, one of the poet Antimachus, and the famous one of Aristotle (he ek tou narthekos), which Alexander the Great used to carry about with him in a splendid case (narthex) on all his expeditions. Besides these editions, called in the scholia hai kat' andra, there were several other old diorthoseis at Alexandria, under the name of hai kata poleis, or hai ek poleon, or hai politikai. We know six of them, those of Massilia, Chios, Argos, Sinope, Cyprus, and Crete. It is hardly likely that they were made by public authority in the different states, whose names they bear; on the contrary, as the persons who had made them were unknown, they were called, just as manuscripts are now, from the places where they had been found. We are acquainted with two more editions, the aiolike, brought most likely from some Aeolian town, and the kuklike, which seems to have been the copy of Homer which formed part of the series of cyclic poems in the Alexandrian library.
All these editions, however, were only preparatory to the establishment of a regular and systematic criticism and interpretation of Homer, which began with Zenodotus at Alexandria. For such a task the times after Alexander were quite fit. Lite had fled from the literature of the Greeks; it was become a dead body, and was very properly carried into Egypt, there to be embalmed and safely preserved for many ensuing centuries. It was the task of men, who, like Aristarchus, could judge of poetry without being able to write any themselves, to preserve carefully that which was extant, to clear it from all stains and corruptions, and to explain what was no longer rooted in and connected with the institutions of a free political life, and therefore was become unintelligible to all but the learned. Three men, who stand in the relation of masters and pupils, were at the head of a numerous host of scholars, who directed their attention either occasionally or exclusively to the study and criticism of the Homeric poems. Zenodotus laid the foundation of systematic criticism, by establishing two rules for purifying the corrupted text. He threw out, 1st, whatever was contradictory to, or not necessarily connected with, the whole of the work; 2d, what seemed unworthy of the genius of the author. To these two rules his followers, Aristophanes and Aristarchus, added two more; they rejected, 3d, what was contrary or foreign to the customs of the Homeric age, and 4th, what did not agree with the epic language and versification. It is not to be wondered at that Zenodotus, in his first attempt, did not reach the summit of perfection. The manner in which he cut out long passages, arbitrarily altered others, transposed and, in short, corrected Homer's text as he would have done his own, seemed shocking to all sober critics of later times, and would have proved very injurious to the text had not Aristophanes, and still more Aristarchus, acted on sounder principles, and thus put a stop to the arbitrary system of Zenodotus. Aristophanes of Byzantium, a man of vast learning, seems to have been more occupied with the other parts of the Greek literature, particularly the comic poets, than with Homer. He inserted in his edition many of the verses which had been thrown out by Zenodotus, and in many respects laid the foundations for what his pupil Aristarchus executed. The reputation of the latter as the prince of grammarians was so great throughout the whole of antiquity, that before the publication of the Venetian scholia by Villoison, we hardly knew how to account for it. But these excellent scholia, which have chiefly enabled us to understand the origin of the Homeric poems, teach us also to appreciate their great and unrivalled interpreter, and have now generally led to the conclusion, that the highest aim of the ambition of modern critics with respect to Homer is to restore the edition of Aristarchus, an under-taking which is believed to be possible by one of the most competent judges, chiefly through the assistance afforded by these scholia (Lehrs, de Aristarchi Studiis Homericis, 1883). Lehrs has discovered the sources from which these scholia are derived. 1. Aristonicus, Peri semeion ton tes Hiliados kai Odusseias. These semeia are the critical marks of Aristarchus, so that from Aristonicus we learn a great many of the readings of Aristarchus. 2. Didymus, Peri tes Aristarchou diorthoseos. 3. Herodian, nrpoowyla Peri tes Aristarchou : the word prosody contained, according to the use of those grammarians, not merely what is called prosody now, but the rules of accentuation, contraction, spiritus, and the like. 4. Nicanor, Peri stigmes, on the stoppings. On Aristarchus we need not say much here: we will only add, that the obelos, one of the critical marks used by Aristarchus, and invented, like the accents, by his master, Aristophanes, was used for the athetesis i. e. to mark those verses which seemed improper and detrimental to the beauty of the poem, but which Aristarchus dared not throw out of the text, as it was impossible to determine whether they were to be ascribed to an accidental carelessness of the author, or to interpolations of rhapsodists. Those verses which Aristarchus was convinced to be spurious he left out of his edition altogether. Aristarchus was in constant opposition to Crates of Mallus, the founder of the Pergamene school of grammar. This Crates had the merit of transplanting the study of literature to Rome. With regard to Homer, he zealously defended the allegorical explication against his rival Aristarchus. In the time of Augustus the great compiler, Didymus, wrote most comprehensive commentaries on Homer, copying mostly the works of preceding Alexandrian grammarians, which had swollen to an enormous extent. Under Tiberius, Apollonius Sophista lived, whose lexicon Homericum is very valuable (ed. Bekker, 1833). Apion, a pupil of Didymus, was of much less importance than is generally believed, chiefly on the authority of Wolf: he was a great quack, and an impudent boaster (Lehrs, Quaest. Epicae, 183). Longinus and his pupil, Porphyrius, of whom we possess some tolerably good scholia, were of more value. The Homeric scholia are dispersed in various MSS. Complete collections do not exist, nor are they desirable, as many of them are utterly useless. The most valuable scholia on the Iliad are those which have been referred to above, which were published by Villoison from a MS. of the tenth century in the library of St. Mark at Venice, together with the scholia to the Iliad previously published, Ven. 1788, fol. These scholia were reprinted with additions, edited by I. Bekker, Berlin, 1825, with an appendix, 1826, which collection contains all that is worth reading. A few additions are to be found in Bachmann's Scholia ad Homeri Iliadem, Lips. 1835. The most valuable scholia to the Odyssey are those published by Buttmann, Berl. 1821, mostly taken from the scholia originally published by A. Mai from a MS. at Milan in 1819. The extensive commentary of Eustathius is a compilation destitute of judgment and of taste, but which contains much valuable information from sources which are now lost. The old editions of Homer, as well as the MSS., are of very little importance for the restoration of the text, for which we must apply to the scholia. The Editio Princeps by Demetrius Chalcondylas, Flor. 1488, was the first large work printed in Greek (one psalm only and the Batrachomyomachia having preceded). This edition was frequently reprinted. Wolf reckons scarcely seven critical editions from the Editio Princeps to his time. That of H. Stephanus, in Poet. Graec. Princ. her. Carm., Paris, 1566, was one of the best. In England the editions of Barnes, Cantab., 1711, and of Clarke, who published the Iliad in 1729, and the Odyssey in 1740, were generally used for a long time, and often reprinted. The latter was published with additions by Ernesti, Lips. 1759-1764.. This edition was reprinted at Glasgow, with Wolf's Prolegomena, in 1814, and again at Leipzig in 1824.
A new period began with Wolf's second edition (Homeri et Homeridarum Op. et Rel. Halis, 1794), the first edition (1784 and 1785) being merely a copy of the vulgate. Along with the second edition were published the Prolegomena. A third edition was published from 1804-1807. It is very much to be regretted that the editions of Wolf are without commentaries or critical notes, so that it is impossible to know in many cases on what grounds he adopted his readings, which differ from the vulgate. Heyne began in 1802 to publish the Iliad, which was finished in eight volumes, and was most severely and unsparingly reviewed by Wolf, Voss, and EichstΓ¤dt, in the Jenaer Literatur Zeitung, 1803. A ninth volume, containing the Indices, was published by Grofenhan in 1822. A curious and most ridiculous attempt was made by Payne Knight, who published (London, 1820) the Homeric text cleared of all interpolations, so far at least as his judgment reached, and well crammed (by way of compensation) with digammas, it being the intention of the editor to restore the genuine spelling. This edition is a palpable confirmation of the fact, that to restore the edition of Aristarchus is all which modern critics can attempt to achieve. The best recension of the text is that by I. Bekker, Berlin, 1843. A very good edition of the Iliad, with critical notes, was published by Spitzner, Gotha, 1832-1836, but the author did not live to publish his explanatory commentary. There is an excellent commentary to the two first books of the Iliad by Freytag, Petersburgh, 1837; but the best of all commentaries which have yet appeared on the Homeric poems are those of Nitzsch on the Odyssey, Hannov. 1825, &c., of which the three volumes now published extend only as far as the twelfth book. The most valuable of the separate editions of the Hymns are those by Ilgen, Hal., 1791, and Hermann, Lips. 1806. The Lexicon Novum Homericum (et Pindaricum) of Damm, originally published at Berlin in 1765, and reprinted, London, 1827, is still of some value, though the author was destitute of all sound principles of criticism; but a far more important work for the student is Buttmann's Lexilogus, Berlin, 1825 and 1837, translated by Fishlake, Lond. 1840, 2nd edition.
Homer has been translated into almost all the modern European languages. Of these translations the German one by Voss is the best reproduction of the great original: the English translations by Chapman, Pope, and Cowper must be regarded as failures.
The most important works on the Homeric poems and the controversy respecting their original have been mentioned in the course of this article. A complete account of the literature of the Homeric poems will be found in the Bibliotheca Homerica, Halis, 1837, and in the notes to the first volume of Bode's Geschichte der Hellenischen Dichtkunst. An account of the present state of the controversy is given in an appendix to the first volume of the new edition of Thirlwall's Hist. of Greece, London, 1845.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
The e-texts of the works by Homer are found in Greece (ancient country) under the category Ancient Greek Writings.
A Homeric Dictionary, Georg Autenrieth
(1) Greek. Many indications point to the fact that the oldest poetry of the Greeks was connected with the worship of the gods, and that religious poetry of a mystical kind was composed by the priests of the Thracians, a musical and poetical people, and diffused in old times through Northern Greece. The worship of the Muses was thus derived from the Thracians, who in later times had disappeared from Greece Proper; and accordingly the oldest bards whose names are known to the Greeks-- Orpheus, Musaeus, Eumolpus, Thamyris--are supposed to have been Thracians also. The current ideas of the nature and action of the gods tended more and more to take the form of poetical myths respecting their birth, actions, and sufferings. Hence, these compositions, of which an idea may be derived from some of the so-called Homeric Hymns, gradually assumed an epic character. In course of time the epic writers threw off their connection with religion, and struck out on independent lines. Confining themselves no longer to the myths about the gods, they celebrated the heroic deeds both of mythical antiquity and of the immediate past. Thus, in the Homeric descriptions of the epic age, while the bards Phemius and Demodocus appear as favourites of the gods, to whom they are indebted for the gift of song, they are not attached to any particular worship. The subjects of their song are not only stories about the gods, such as the loves of Ares and Aphrodite, but the events of recent times, the conquest of Troy by means of the wooden horse, and the tragic return of the Achaeans from Troy. Singers like these, appearing at public festivals, and at the tables of princes, to entertain the guests with their lays, must have existed early in Greece Proper. It was, however, the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor who first fully developed the capacities of epic poetry. By long practice, extending probably through centuries, a gradual progress was probably effected from short lays to long epic narratives; and at the same time a tradition delivered from master to scholar handed on and perfected the outer form of style and metre. Thus, about B.C. 900, epic poetry was brought to its highest perfection by the genius of Homer, the reputed author of the Iliad and Odyssey. After Homer it sank, never to rise again, from the height to which he had raised it.
It is true that in the following centuries a series of epics, more or less comprehensive, were composed by poets of the Ionic school in close imitation of the style and metre of Homer. But not one of them succeeded in coming even within measurable distance of their great master. The favourite topics of these writers were such fables as served either to introduce, or to extend and continue, the Iliad and Odyssey. They were called Cyclic Poets perhaps because the most important of their works were afterwards put together with the Iliad and Odyssey in an epic cycle, or circle of lays. The Cyprian poems (ta Kupria), of Stasinus of Salamis in Cyprus (B.C. 776), formed the introduction to the Iliad. These embraced the history of the period between the marriage of Peleus and the opening of the Iliad. At about the same time Arctinus of Miletus composed his Aethiopis in five books. This poem started from the conclusion of the Iliad, and described the death of Achilles, and of the Ethiopian prince Memnon, the contest for the arms of Achilles, and the suicide of Aias. The Destruction of Ilium, by the same author, was in two books. By way of supplement to the Homeric Iliad, Lesches of Mitylene, either about B.C. 708 or 664, wrote a Little Iliad, in four books. This embraced the contest for the arms of Achilles, the appearance of Neoptolemus and Philoctetes, and the capture of the city. The transition from the Iliad to the Odyssey was formed by the five books of Nostoi (The Return of the Heroes), written by Agias of Troezen. The Telegonia, by Eugammon of Cyrene (about 570), continued the Odyssey. This was in two books, embracing the history of Odysseus from the burial of the suitors until his death at the hands of his son Telegonus. These poems and those of the other cyclics were, after Homer, the sources from which the later lyric and dramatic poets drew most of their information. But only fragments of them remain. See Cyclic Poets below.
A new direction was given to epic poetry in Greece Proper by the didactic and genealogical poems of Hesiod of Ascra, about a hundred years after Homer. Hesiod was the founder of a school, the productions of which were often attributed to him as those of the Ionic school were to Homer. One of these disciples of Hesiod was Eumelus of Corinth (about B.C. 750), of the noble family of the Bacchiadae. But his poems, like those of the rest, are lost.
The most notable representatives of mythical epic poetry in the following centuries are Pisander of Camirus (about B.C. 640), and Panyasis of Halicarnassus (during the first half of the fifth century). In the second half of the fifth century Choerilus of Samos wrote a Perseis on the Persian Wars, the first attempt in Greece at an historical epic. His younger contemporary, Antimachus of Colophon, also struck out a new line in his learned Thebais, the precursor and model of the later epic of Alexandria. The Alexandrians laid great stress on learning and artistic execution in detail, but usually confined themselves to poems of less magnitude. The chief representatives of the Alexandrian school are Callimachus (about B.C. 250), Rhianus, Euphorion, and Apollonius of Rhodes. The last made a futile attempt to return to the simplicity of Homer. His Argonautica is, with the exception of the Homeric poems, the only Greek epic which has survived from the ante-Christian era. In the 200 years between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D., the mythical epic is represented by Quintus Smyrnaeus, Nonnus, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, Musaeus, and the apocryphal Orpheus. Nonnus, Colluthus, and Tryphiodorus were Egyptians. Nonnus and Musaeus, alone among these writers, have any claim to distinction. The talent of Nonnus is genuine, but undisciplined; Musaeus knows how to throw a charm into his treatment of a narrow subject. The whole series is closed by the Iliaca of Joannes Tzetzes, a learned but tasteless scholar of the twelfth century A.D. .
As Homer was the master of the mythical, so Hesiod was the master of the didactic epic. After him this department of poetry was best represented by Xenophanes of Colophon, Parmenides of Elea, and Empedocles of Agrigentium, in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. In the Alexandrian period, didactic poetry was much taken up, and employed upon the greatest possible variety of subjects. But none of its representatives succeeded in writing more than poetic prose, or in handling their intractable material with the mastery which Vergil shows in his Georgics. The period produced the astronomical epic of Aratus of Sicyon (about B.C. 275), and two medical poems by Nicander of Colophon (about 150). Under the Roman Empire more didactic poetry was produced by the Greek writers. Maximus and the so-called Manetho wrote on astrology. Dionysius Periegetes on geography, Oppian on angling, and an imitator of Oppian on hunting. The Alexandrian period also produced didactic poems in iambic senarii, as, e. g., several on geography bearing the names of Dicaearchus and Scymnus, which still survive.
(2) Roman. The Romans possibly had songs of an epic character from the earliest times; but these were soon forgotten. They had, however, a certain influence on the later and comparatively artificial literature, for both Livius Andronicus in his translation of the Odyssey, and Naevius in his Punic War, wrote in the traditional Italian metre, the versus Saturnius. Naevius was, it is true, a national poet, and so was his successor Ennius, but the latter employed the Greek hexameter metre, instead of the rude Saturnian. To follow the example of Ennius, and celebrate the achievements of their countrymen in the form of the Greek epic, was the ambition of several poets before the fall of the Republic. A succession of poets, as Hostius, the tragedian Attius, and Furius were the authors of poetical annals. Here it is proper also to mention cicero's epics on Marius and on his own consulship, besides the poem of Terentius Varro of Atax (Atacinus) on Caesar's war with the Sequani (Bellum Sequanicum). Latin epics on Greek mythical subjects seem to have been rare in the republican age. At least we know of only a few translations, as that of the Iliad by Mattius and Ninnius Crassus, and of the Cypria by Laevinus. Toward the end of the republican age it was a favourite form of literary activity to write in free imitation of the learned Alexandrians. Varro of Atax, for example, followed Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica; others, like Helvius Cinna and the orator Licinius Calvus, preferred the shorter epics so much in favour with the Alexandrians. Only one example in this style is completely preserved, the quasi epithalamium (lxiv.) of Catullus. This is the only example we possess of the narrative epic of the Republic.
But in the Augustan Age both kinds of epic, the mythic and the historical, are represented by a number of poets. Varius Rufus, Rabirius, Cornelius Severus, and Pedo Albinovanus treated contemporary history in the epic style; Domitius Marsus and Macer turned their attention to the mythology. The Aeneid of Vergil, the noblest monument of Roman epic poetry, combines both characters. Of all the epic productions of this age, the only ones which are preserved intact are the Aeneid, a panegyric on Messala, which found its way into the poems of Tibullus, and perhaps two poems, the Culexand Ciris, both often attributed to Vergil.
In the first century A.D. we have several examples of the historical epic: the Pharsalia of Lucan, the Punica of Silius Italicus, a Bellum Civile in the satirical romance of Petronius, and an anonymous panegyric on Calpurnius Piso, who was executed for conspiracy under Nero, A.D. 65. The heroic style is represented by the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus, and the Thebais and Achilleis of Statius, to which we may add the metrical epitome of the Iliad by the so-called Pindarus Thebanus. The politico-historical poems of the succeeding centuries, by Publius Porfirius Optatianus in the fourth century, Claudianus, Merobaudes, Sidonius Apollinaris in the fifth, Priscian, Corippus, and Venantius Fortunatus in the sixth, are entirely panegyric in character, and intended to do homage to the emperor or men of influence. Of all these poets, Claudianus is the most important. He and Dracontius (towards the end of the fifth century) are among the last who take their subjects from mythology.
Didactic poetry, which suited the serious character of the Romans, was early represented at Rome. In this the Romans were in many ways superior to the Greeks. Appius Claudius Caecus and the elder Cato were authors of gnomic poetry. Ennius, the tragedian Attius, and several of his contemporaries wrote didactic pieces; the satires of Lucilius and Varro were also in part didactic. It was, however, not till the end of the republican period that the influence of Greek literature gave predominance to the Greek epic form. It was then adopted by Varro of Atax, by M. Cicero, and above all by Lucretius, whose philosophical poem De Rerum Natura is the only didactic poem of this period that has been preserved intact, as it is one of the most splendid monuments of Roman genius. In the Augustan Age many writers were active in this field. Valgius Rufus and Aemilius Macer followed closely in the steps of the Alexandrians. Grattius wrote a poem on hunting, a part of which still survives; Manilius, an astronomical poem which survives entire. But the Georgics of Vergil throw all similar work, Greek or Latin, into the shade. Ovid employs the epic metre in his Metamorphoses and Halieutica, the elegiac in his Fasti.
In the first century A.D. Germanicus translated Aratus. Columella wrote a poem on gardening; an unknown author (often called Lucilius), the Aetna. The third century produced the medical poem of Sammonicus Serenus, and that of Nemesianus on hunting. In the fourth we have Ausonius, much of whose work is didactic; Palladius on agriculture; an adaptation of Aratus and of Dionysius Periegetes by Avienus, with a description of the sea-coasts of the known world in iambics; in the fifth, besides some of Claudianus's pieces, a description by Rutilius Namatianus in elegiacs of his return home. The book of Dionysius Periegetes was adapted by Priscian in the sixth century. A collection of proverbs, bearing the name of Cato , belongs to the fourth century. In most of these compositions the metrical form is a mere set off; and in the school verses of the grammarians, as in those by Terentianus Maurus on metres, and in those by an anonymous author on rhetorical figures, and on weights and measures, there is no pretence of poetry at all.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Cyclic Poets. A name given by the ancient grammarians to a class of minor poets, who selected, for the subjects of their productions, events occurring as well during the Trojan War as before and after, and who, in treating of these subjects, confined themselves within a certain round or cycle (kuklos, circulus) of fable. In order to understand the subject more fully, we must observe that there was both a Mythic and a Trojan cycle. The former of these embraced the whole series of fable, from the genealogies of the gods down to the time of the Trojan War; the latter comprised the fables that had reference to, or were in any way connected with, the Trojan War. Of the first class were Theogonies, Cosmogonies, Titanomachies, and the like; of the second, the poems of Arctinus, Lesches, Agias, Eugammon, Stasinus, and others. (See Homeric Question.) At a later period the term cyclic was applied, as a mark of contempt, to two species of poems--one, where the poet confined himself to a trite and hackneyed round (kuklos) of particulars (cf. Horace, Ars Poet. 132); the other, where, from an ignorance of the true nature of epic poetry, he indulged in an inordinate and tiresome amount of detail, going back to the remotest beginnings of a subject. The most celebrated of the Cyclic poems were the Cypria, the Aethiopis of Arctinus, the Little Iliad (Ilias Mikra) of Pausanias, the Nostoi of Agias, the Telegonia of Eugammon, the Batrachomyomachia, and the Margites of Pigres.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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