Homer as History

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Transcript Homer as History

Homer as History
Remnants of Mycenaean Epic?
Dark Age: ca. 1200-ca. 750 BCE
 Sub-Mycenaean: ca. 1125-1050 BCE
 Protogeometric: ca. 1050-900 BCE
 Geometric Greece: ca. 900-700 BCE (Homeric
Epics, Iliad and Odyssey)
Archaic Period: ca. 750-ca. 480 BCE
Sub-Mycenaean Vase
Kerameikos Cemetery (Athens)
Dark Age and Geometric Greece
Post-Mycenaean World (1050-700 BCE)
Palace Centers Destroyed (ca. 1200-1150 BCE)
Colonization of Asia Minor Coast
 Crete (cf. Odyssey, 19.172-3; Cyprus)
Rudimentary Material Culture on Mainland
 non-literate society based on villages
 approximate 75% population decline (?)
 disruption of trade, disappearance of imports
Post-Mycenaean Movements
Language Map of Post-Mycenaean World
Discontinuities with Mycenaean Past
Cremation instead of Inhumation
Introduction of Iron-Working (from Cyprus)
Emergence of Athens (embarkation point for
colonizers; leader in proto-geometric pottery ca. 1050900 BCE; continuity of habitation (?); continuous
series of graves in Kerameikos from sub-Mycenaean
Disappearance of Literacy: Iliad 6.168: “baleful signs”
(semata lugra)
Oral Poetic Tradition and Dactylic Hexameter
Homer, Iliad 6.168
To slay him he withheld, for his soul had awe of that; but he
sent him to Lycia, and gave him baneful tokens, engraving in
a folded tablet many signs and deadly, and bade him show
these to his own wife's father, that he might be slain.
Troy and Asia Minor
Geometric panel
Trojan Horse
Geometric Amphora
Homeric Poems and Geometric
Folk Memory of Bronze Age Greece
Iliad and Odyssey: conservative nature of oral epic poetry
Discovery: Milman Parry and Serbo-Croatian epic
Reappearance of Writing in Greece ca. 800-750 BCE:
Homeric epic and a society in transition
Mycenaean Survivals in Homer
King is wanax, not basileus
King is chief judge, priest, and warlord
Place names of no importance in Geometric period (Iliad 2,
“Catalogue of Ships”)
Palace-controlled society
Dark Age
Homeric World
Anachronisms: Homeric World
as Composite World
Spear is thrown in Homer; Myceneans used thrusting spear
Crete an Achaean island in Homer
Cremation in Homer; no mention of tholos tombs
Homer has no knowledge of palace bureaucracies (Linear B)
Iron used for tools and implements; importance of Boeotia
Who Was Homer?
Does It Matter?
Historical Personage?: “Homer was a man’s name, not the Greek
equivalent of “Anonymous”, and that is the one certain fact about
him” ~ M.I. Finley, World of Odysseus, 15
Circularity of the Biographical Tradition (Lefkowitz); Homer=“he
who weaves together”? (Vermeule)
Representation of Homer
Homeric Influences: Homeric Ethics and the
Competitive Excellences of the Warrior (Aristoi)
Akhilleus as Model: Individual over Community?
Glorification of War?
Aristocratic Privilege (cf. Thersites at Iliad 2.211-77)
Status and the Gift (Briseis in Iliad 1): zero-sum
Apthniton Kleos; Arete
Homer’s Authority:
 Thucydides on Trojan War (1.9-11)
 Athenian/Megarian War, ca. 600 BCE (Plutarch,
Solon, 10)
Thucydides, 1.9.4
The strength of his navy is shown by the fact that his own was the largest
contingent, and that of the Arcadians was furnished by him; this at least is
what Homer says, if his testimony is deemed sufficient. Besides, in his
account of the transmission of the scepter, he calls him
Of many an isle, and of all Argos king.
[Homer, Iliad 2.108]
Now Agamemnon's was a continental power; and he could not have been
master of any except the adjacent islands (and these would not be many), but
through the possession of a fleet.
Plutarch, Solon 10.1
Notwithstanding all this, the Megarians persisted in their opposition,
and both sides inflicted and suffered many injuries in the war, so
that finally they made the Spartans arbiters and judges of the strife.
Accordingly, most writers say that the fame of Homer favored the
contention of Solon; for after himself inserting a verse into the
Catalogue of Ships, he read the passage at the trial thus:-Ajax from Salamis brought twelve ships,
And bringing, stationed them near the Athenian hosts.