Ancient accounts of Homer
The ancient accounts of Homer include many passages in archaic and classical Greek poets and prose authors that mention or allude to
Homer, and ten biographies of Homer, often referred to as "Lives".
Date of Homer
Establishing an accurate date for Homer's life presents significant difficulties. No documentary record of the man's life is known to have existed. All accounts are based on tradition. Only one explicit date exists.
Herodotus[Book II Section 53.] maintains that Hesiodand Homer lived not more than 400 years before his own time, consequently not much before 850 BC. Herodotus admits that this is his own opinion. He was not sure of the dates of some of the poets believed in his time to have been earlier, but he relies on the priestess of Dodonain asserting that they were actually later. Modern opinion is that the priestess was right; the poets were later.
A less opinionated indirect date does exist. Artemon of
Clazomenae, an annalist, gives Arctinus of Miletus, a pupil of Homer, a birth date of 744 BC. Received opinion generally dates him approximately between 750 and 700 BC. [Homer; Rieu, EV (translator); Rieu, DCH (editor); Jones, Peter (editor): "The Odyssey" (Penguin, 2003), p. "i".]
The lives and the epigrams
The extant lives of Homer are ten in number. Eight of these are edited in Westermann's "Vitarum Scriptores Graeci minores", [cite book|first=Antonius|last=Westermann|title=ΒΙΟΓΡΑΦΟΙ: Vitarum Scriptores Graeci Minores|location=Brunsvigae|publisher=Georgius Westermann|date=1845 Downloadable Google Books.] ) including a piece called the "
Contest of Hesiod and Homer". [Westermann, pages 33-45. Greek language text.] The longest "Life of Homer" is written in the Ionic dialect, and claims to be the work of Herodotus, but is certainly spurious (pseudo-Herodotus). [Westermann, pages 1-20. Greek language text. An English translation can be found at cite book|first=Theodore Alois|last=Buckley|title=The Odyssey of Homer: with the Hymns, Epigrams, and Battle of the Frogs and Mice: Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes|publisher=George Bell and Sons|location=London|date=1891|pages=pages vi-xxxii Downloadable Google Books] In all probability it belongs to the time which was fruitful beyond all others in literary forgeries; viz, the 2nd century AD. The other lives are certainly not more ancient.
The lives preserve some curious short poems or fragments of verse attributed to Homer, the so-called "Epigrams", which used to be printed at the end of editions of Homer. They are numbered as they appear in Pseudo-Herodotus. These are easily recognized as Popular Rhymes, a form of folklore to be met with in most countries, treasured by the people as a kind of
In the Homeric epigrams the interest turns sometimes on the characteristics of particular localities
Smyrnaand Cyme, [Epigrams 1, 2, 4, Buckley pages 427-428.] Erythrae, [Epigram 8, Buckley page 429.] Mt Ida; [Epigram 10, Buckley page 429.] others relate to certain trades or occupations: potters, [Epigram 14, Buckley page 431.] sailors, fishermen, goat herds, etc. Some may be fragments of longer poems, but evidently they are not the work of any one poet. The fact that they were all ascribed to Homer merely means that they belong to a period in the history of the Ionian and Aeolian colonies when Homer was a name which drew to itself all ancient and popular verse.
Again, comparing the epigrams with the legends and anecdotes told in the Lives of Homer, one can hardly doubt that they were the chief source from which these Lives were derived. Thus Epigram 4 mentions a blind poet, a native of Aeolian
Smyrna, through which flows the water of the sacred Meles. Here is doubtless the source of the chief incident of the Herodotean Life, the birth of Homer, named Son of the Meles to conceal a scandalous affair between his mother and an older man who had been appointed her guardian. The epithet "Aeolian" implies high antiquity, inasmuch as according to Herodotus Smyrna became Ionian about 688 BC. Naturally the Ionians had their own version of the story, a version which made Homer come out with the first Athenian colonists.
The minor poems
The same line of argument may be extended to the Hymns, and even to the works of the so-called
Cyclic poets, the lost early epics some of which formed the Epic Cycleand Theban Cycle. Thus:
#The hymn to the Delian
Apolloends with an address of the poet to his audience. When any stranger comes and asks who is the sweetest singer, they are to answer with one voice, "the blind man that dwells in rocky Chios; his songs deserve the prize for all time to come." Thucydides, who quotes this passage to show the ancient character of the Delian festival, seems to have no doubt of the Homeric authorship of the hymn. Hence we may most naturally account for the belief that Homer was a Chian.
Margites", a humorous poem which kept its ground as the reputed work of Homer down to the time of Aristotle, began with the words, "There came to Colophon an old man, a divine singer, servant of the Muses and Apollo." Hence doubtless the claim of Colophonto be the native city of Homer, a claim supported in the early times of Homeric learning by the Colophonian poet and grammarian Antimachus.
#The poem called the "
Cypria" was said to have been given by Homer to his son-in-law Stasinus of Cyprusas dowry. The connection with Cyprusappears further in the predominance given in the poem to Aphrodite.
Little Iliad" and the " Phocais", according to the pseudo-Herodotean life, were composed by Homer when he lived at Phocaeawith a certain Thestorides, who carried them off to Chios and there gained fame by reciting them as his own. The name Thestorides occurs in Epigr.5.
#A similar story was told about the poem called the "Capture of Oechalia", the subject of which was one of the exploits of
Heracles. It passed under the name of Creophylus of Samos, a friend or (as some said) a son-in-law of Homer, and was sometimes said to have been given to Creophylus by Homer in return for hospitality.
#Finally, the "Thebaid" was confidently counted as the work of Homer. As to the "Epigoni", which carried on the Theban story, there was less certainty.
These indications render it probable that the stories connecting Homer with different cities and islands grew up after his poems had become known and famous, especially in the new and flourishing colonies of Aeolis and Ionia. The contention for Homer, in short, began at a time when his real history was lost, and he had become a sort of mythical figure, an anonymous hero, or personification of a great school of poetry.
Arctinus of Miletus
An interesting confirmation of this view from the negative side is furnished by the city which ranked as chief among the Asiatic colonies of Greece, viz.
Miletus. No legend claims for Miletus even a visit from Homer, or a share in the authorship of any Homeric poem. Yet Arctinus of Miletuswas said to have been a disciple of Homer, and was certainly one of the earliest and most considerable of the Cyclic poets. His "Aethiopis" was composed as a sequel to the Iliad; and the structure and general character of his poems show that he took the Iliad as his model. Yet in his case we find no trace of the disputed authorship which is so common with other Cyclic poems. How has this come about? Why have the works of Arctinus escaped the attraction which drew to the name of Homer such epics as the Cypria, the Little Iliad, the Thebaid, the Epigoni, the Taking of Oechalia and the Phocais? The most obvious account of the matter is that Arctinus was never so far forgotten that his poems became the subject of dispute. We seem through him to obtain a glimpse of an early post-Homeric age in Ionia, when the immediate disciples and successors of Homer were distinct figures in a trustworthy tradition when they had not yet merged their individuality in the legendary Homer of the Epic Cycle.
Life of Homer (Pseudo-Herodotus)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Homer — This article is about the Greek poet Homer and the works attributed to him. For other meanings, see Homer (disambiguation). Homeric redirects here. For other uses, see Homeric (disambiguation). See also: English translations of Homer … Wikipedia
Ancient Greek literature — refers to literature written in the Greek language until the 4th century AD. Classical and Pre Classical Antiquity This period of Greek literature stretches from Homer until the 4th century BC and the rise of Alexander the Great. Alfred North… … Wikipedia
ancient Rome — ▪ ancient state, Europe, Africa, and Asia Introduction the state centred on the city of Rome. This article discusses the period from the founding of the city and the regal period, which began in 753 BC, through the events leading to the… … Universalium
Ancient Greek phonology — is the study of the phonology, or pronunciation, of Ancient Greek. Because of the passage of time, the original pronunciation of Ancient Greek, like that of all ancient languages, can never be known with absolute certainty. Linguistic… … Wikipedia
ancient Greek civilization — ▪ historical region, Eurasia Introduction the period following Mycenaean civilization, which ended in about 1200 BC, to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BC. It was a period of political, philosophical, artistic, and scientific… … Universalium
Ancient Macedonians — The expansion of ancient Macedon up to the death of King Philip II (r. 359–336 BC). The Macedonians (Greek: Μακεδόνες, Makedónes) originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers … Wikipedia
Ancient literature — History of Literature Bronze Age literature … Wikipedia
Ancient Olympic Games — The Olympic Games (Ancient Greek: τὰ Ὀλύμπια – ta Olympia; Modern Greek: Ὀλυμπιακοὶ Ἀγῶνες (Katharevousa), Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες (Dimotiki) – Olympiakoi Agones) were a series of athletic competitions held for representatives of various city states of … Wikipedia
History of ancient Tunisia — The present day Republic of Tunisia, al Jumhuriyyah at Tunisiyyah , has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west. Tunis is the… … Wikipedia
Contest of Homer and Hesiod — The Contest of Homer and Hesiod (Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi ) or simply Certamen is a Greek narrative that expands a remark made in Hesiod s Works and Days to recount an imagined poetical agon between Homer and Hesiod, in which Hesiod bears … Wikipedia