Great Books of the Western World - Volume 04 The Iliad of Homer The Odyssey

Author : Great Books of the Western World - Hutchins Robert Maynard
Title : Volume 04 The Iliad of Homer The Odyssey
Year : 1952

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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. HOMER. HOMER is not a man known to have existed, to whom the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey is imputed. Homer is the author of the Homeric poems, a hypothesis constructed to account for their existence and quality. There were several "Lives of Homer" in antiquity. Their date is uncertain, but the Homer they present is certainly a figure of romance and conjecture. Seven cities, though not always the same seven, are recorded as claiming to be the birth-place of Homer; six centuries are proposed as containing his birth-date. Homeric scholarship turns around the facts known about the existence of a written text of the Iliad and Odyssey. It is established that the works of Homer, "and no other poet," were recited at the Panathenaic festivals and that there was a fixed order for these recitations. It is accordingly inferred that there was some standard Athenian text by the second half of the sixth century B.C. If there was such a text, it did not maintain itself, because the quotations from Homer made in the fourth and third centuries B.C. show the texts then current to have been widely divergent. This disagreement in the texts does not appear to have been resolved until about 150 B.C., when the Alexandrian librarian, Aristarchus of Samothrace, published editions which were afterwards regarded as authoritative. It is not known whether Aristarchus prepared his edition from many, widely differing manuscripts or whether he had recourse to an impressive single text from earlier times. The modern vulgate text is thought to be derived from that of Aristarchus. Extrinsic evidence, then, does not reveal an Iliad or Odyssey, written poems, in anything like their present form, before 550 B.C. However, intrinsic evidence convinces scholars that such a date was a late stage in the history of "Homeric" poetry. To reconstruct that history has always been the Homeric problem. This reconstruction, when made by argument from the text of the present poems, has sometimes seemed to involve a denial of their artistic unity. Certain scholars have seen the epics as only imperfectly unified, resulting from accretion to an imagined short original or from a joining of several remembered songs. Further, the poems have been held to be neither of the same period, nor by the same author; Samuel Butler contended on this last point that the Odyssey was written by a woman. In recent times, although the inclusion of traditional material and the probability of later interpolation are admitted, most scholars seem to believe in one Iliad, one Odyssey, undated, and in one Homer, unknown, as author of them both. ...

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