The very nature of his verse may provide a substantial part of the answer. The style of the poems is formulaic; that is, they rely heavily on the use not only of stock epithets and repeated verses or groups of verses—which can also be found to a much lesser extent in a literate imitator like virgil —but also. The clearest and simplest instance is the so-called noun-epithet formulas. These constitute a veritable system, in which every major god or hero possesses a variety of epithets from which the choice is made solely according to how much of the verse, and which part of it, the singer desires to use. Odysseus is called divine Odysseus, many-counseled Odysseus, or much-enduring divine Odysseus simply in accordance with the amount of material to be fitted into the remainder of the hexameter (six-foot) verse. A ship is described as black, hollow, or symmetrical not to distinguish this particular ship from others but solely in relation to the qualities and demands of the rhythmical context. The whole noun-epithet system is both extensive and economical—it covers a great variety of subjects with very little exact reduplication or unnecessary overlap. It would seem that so refined and complex a system could not be the invention of a single poet but must have been gradually evolved in a long-standing tradition that needed both the extension and the economy for functional reasons—that depended on these fixed phrase.
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It has been one of the most important discoveries of Homeric scholarship, associated particularly with the name of an American scholar, milman Parry, that the homeric tradition was an oral one—that this was a kind of poetry made and passed down by word of mouth. Indeed Homers own term for a poet is aoidos, singer. The Odyssey describes two such poets in some detail: Phemius, the court singer in the palace of Odysseus in Ithaca, and Demodocus, who lived in the town of the semi-mythical Phaeacians and sang both for the nobles in Alcinous palace and for the assembled public. On this occasion he arms sings of the illicit love affair of Ares and Aphrodite in a version that lasts for exactly 100 Homeric verses. This and the other songs assigned to these singers—for example, that of the Trojan Horse, summarized in the Odyssey —suggest that ordinary aoidoi in the heroic tradition worked with relatively short poems that could be given completely on a single occasion. That is what one would expect, and it is confirmed by the habits of singers and audiences at other periods and in other parts of the world (the tradition of the poet-singers of Muslim Serbia has provided the most fruitful comparison so far). Whatever the favoured occasion for heroic song—whether the aristocratic feast, the religious festival, or popular gatherings in tavern or marketplace—a natural limitation on the length of a poem is imposed by the audiences available time and interest as well as by the singers own physique. Such relatively short songs must have provided the backbone of the tradition inherited by homer, and his portraits of Demodocus and Phemius are likely to be accurate in this respect. What Homer himself seems to have done is to introduce the concept of a quite different style of poetry, in the shape of a monumental poem that required more than a single hour or evening to sing and could achieve new and far more complex. It can be asked how one can be so confident in classing Homer himself as an oral singer, for if he differed from Phemius or Demodocus in terms of length, he may also have differed radically in his poetic techniques.
A different and perhaps more precise criterion is provided by datable objects and practices mentioned in the poems. Nothing, except for one or two probably Athenian additions, seems from this standpoint to be later than about 700; on the other hand, the role assigned in the Odyssey to the Phoenicians as traders, together with one or two other phenomena, suggests a date. A few passages in the Iliad may imply a new form of business fighting in close formation, dependent on the development of special armour for foot soldiers (hoplites) after about 750, and references to the gorgon mask as a decorative motif point in the same direction. It is true that the poems contain many traditional and archaic elements, and their language and material background are a compound of different constituents originating at different dates. It seems, nonetheless, plausible to conclude that the period of composition of the large-scale epics (as distinct from their much shorter predecessors) was the 9th or 8th century, with several features pointing more clearly to the 8th. The Odyssey may belong near the end of this century, the Iliad closer to its middle. It may be no coincidence that cults of Homeric heroes tended to spring up toward the end of the 8th century, and that scenes from the epic begin to appear on pots at just about the same time. But even if his name is known and his date and region can be inferred, homer remains primarily a projection of the great poems themselves. Their qualities are significant of his taste and his view of the world, but they also reveal something more specific about his technique and the kind of poet he was.
Such doubts began in antiquity itself and depended mainly on the difference of genre (the Iliad being martial and heroic, the Odyssey picaresque and often fantastic but they may be reinforced by subtle differences of vocabulary even apart from those imposed by different subjects. Aristotles conception of the Odyssey as a work of Homers old age is not impossible; but if the Iliad is the earlier of the two (as seems likely from its simpler structure and the greater frequency of relatively late linguistic forms in the Odyssey then. In any case the similarities of the two poems are partly due to the coherence of the heroic poetical tradition that lay behind both. The internal evidence of the poems is of some use in determining when Homer lived. Certain elements of the poetic language, which was an artificial amalgam never exactly reproduced in speech, indicate that the epics were not only post-Mycenaean in composition but also substantially later than the foundation of the first Ionian settlements in Asia minor of about 1000 bce. The running together of adjacent short vowels and the disappearance of the semivowel digamma (a letter formerly existing in the Greek alphabet ) are the most significant indications of this. At the other end of the time scale the development in the poems of a true definite article, for instance, represents an earlier phase than is exemplified in the poetry of the middle and late 7th century. Both stylistically and metrically, the homeric poems appear to be earlier than the hesiodic poems, which many scholars place not long after 700 bce.
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The idea that Homer had descendants known as Homeridae, and that they had taken over the preservation and propagation of his poetry, goes back at least to the early 6th century bce. Indeed, it was not long before a kind of Homeric scholarship began: Theagenes of Rhegium in southern Italy toward the end of the same century wrote the first of many allegorizing interpretations. By the 5th century biographical fictions were well under way; the Pre-socratic philosopher Heracleitus of Ephesus letting made use of a trivial legend of Homers death—that it was caused by chagrin at not being able to solve some boys riddle about catching lice—and the concept. The historian Herodotus assigned the formulation of Greek theology to homer and Hesiod and claimed that they could have lived no more than 400 years before his own time, the 5th century bce. This should be contrasted with the superficial assumption, popular in many circles throughout antiquity, that Homer must have lived not much later than the Trojan War about which he sang. The general belief that Homer was a native of Ionia (the central part of the western seaboard of Asia minor) seems a reasonable conjecture for the poems themselves are in predominantly ionic dialect. Although Smyrna and Chios early began competing for the honour (the poet Pindar, early in the 5th century bce, associated Homer with both and others joined in, no authenticated local memory survived anywhere of someone who, oral poet or not, must have been remarkable.
The absence of hard facts puzzled but did not deter the Greeks; the fictions that had begun even before the 5th century bce were developed in the Alexandrian era in the 3rd and 2nd centuries bce (when false scholarship as well as true abounded) into. The longest to have survived purports to be by herodotus himself; but it is quite devoid of objective truth. Modern inferences Modern scholars agree with the ancient sources only about Homers general place of activity. The most concrete piece of ancient evidence is that his descendants, the homeridae, lived on the ionic island of Chios. Yet an east Aegean environment is suggested for the main author of the Iliad by certain local references in the poem; that is, to the peak of Samothrace just appearing over the intervening mass of Imbros when seen from the plain of Troy, to the. East Aegean colouring is fainter in the Odyssey, which is set primarily in western Greece; but the poems vagueness over the position of Ithaca, for example, is not incompatible with the idea of a poet in Ionia elaborating materials derived from the farther side. Admittedly, there is some doubt over whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were even composed by the same main author.
He is also one of the most influential authors in the widest sense, for the two epics provided the basis of Greek education and culture throughout the Classical age and formed the backbone of humane education down to the time of the roman Empire and. Indirectly through the medium. Virgil s, aeneid (which was loosely molded after the patterns of the. Iliad and the, odyssey directly through their revival under. Byzantine culture from the late 8th century ce onward, and subsequently through their passage into. Italy with the Greek scholars who fled westward from the Ottomans, the.
Homeric epics had a profound impact on the renaissance culture of Italy. Since then the proliferation of translations has helped to make them the most important poems of the Classical European tradition. It was probably through their impact on Classical Greek culture itself that the. Iliad and the, odyssey most subtly affected Western standards and ideas. The Greeks regarded the great epics as something more than works of literature; they knew much of them by heart, and they valued them not only as a symbol of Hellenic unity and heroism but also as an ancient source of moral and even practical. Early references, implicit references to homer and"tions from the poems date to the middle of the 7th century bce. Archilochus, alcman, tyrtaeus, and Callinus in the 7th century and Sappho and others in the early 6th adapted Homeric phraseology and metre to their own purposes and rhythms. At the same time scenes from the epics became popular in works of art. The pseudo-homeric Hymn to Apollo of Delos, probably of late 7th-century composition, claimed to be the work of a blind man who dwells in rugged Chios, a reference to a tradition about Homer himself.
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Homer, (flourished 9th or 8th century bce?, ionia? Now in Turkey presumed author of the. Iliad and the, odyssey. Although these two great epic poems of ancient Greece have always been attributed to the shadowy figure of Homer, little is known of him beyond the fact that his was the name attached in antiquity by the Greeks themselves to the poems. That there was an epic poet called Homer and that he played the primary part in shaping the. Iliad and the, odyssey —so much may be said to be probable. If this resume review assumption is accepted, then Homer must assuredly be one of the greatest of the worlds literary artists.
What happens to all the unelite women? In the episode that Wilson calls one of the most horrible and haunting of the whole poem, Odysseus returns home to find that his palace has been overrun by suitors for his wifes hand. Though she has resisted them, the women in her palace have not. Odysseus, after slaying the suitors, tells his son, telemachus, to kill the women. It is an interesting injunction make from Odysseus, who himself, during his 10 years of wandering, was serially unfaithful. In Robert Fagless much-praised translation of the poem, telemachus says, before he executes the palace women on his fathers command: no clean death for the likes of them, by god! not from me — they showered abuse on my head, my mothers too! you sluts — the suitors whores!
Iliad, it is Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, a demigod almost invulnerable to death. Although the war is begun over a woman, helen, stolen from her Greek husband by a trojan, the Iliad is a poem about and presided over by men. Zeus is the poems prevailing god, and what men do, or are willing to do, in love and war and in the friendships that arise in war and its losses, are the poems preoccupations. In the Odyssey, preoccupations shift, radically. Zeus is replaced by Athena as the dominant god of the tale; the poem begins not with Odysseus but with his wife, penelope, who has been without him for 20 years, in a kingdom overrun by suitors for her hand, whom the conventions of hospitality. The reader doesnt even see odysseus until the fifth of the poems 24 books, where we learn that he has been living on an island with Calypso, a goddess, for seven years; that, earlier, he was detained by another goddess, circe, with whom he also. In the second-wave feminist scholarship in classics, wilson told me, people were very keen to try to read Penelope as, lets find Penelopes voice in the Odyssey, and lets celebrate her, because look, here she is being the hero in an epic in ways. I find thats a little simplistic.
And projecting all of that back on to the classics. This is what sweetness and light. Its describing a boys club. I think its very interesting thats biography still with. Those are the four? Its just the boys club. I do think that gender matters, wilson said later, and Im not going to not say its something Im grappling with.
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Most every engelsk homeric translation since has been scrutinized against his quartet of qualities. Wilson is not persuaded. These are not good criteria, wilson told. I think he was a terrible reader of poetry. Its not like he ever translated Homer. I think he had a good classics major undergraduate kind of Greek, but I think its all to do with a particular notion of aesthetics and class, the whole plainness and nobility. Its about noblesse oblige and youre going to be the kind of gentleman whos going to have gone to rugby and that will be the kind of language that we speak: the classy kind of language.