Above: Sunset off Kythnos, Greece. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Adolfo Ruiz. License: Unsplash license.
Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
Homer | orality | rhapsodes | Homeridae | Epic Cycle | Greek hymns | Troy | Olympus | Achilles | Aeneas | Agamemnon | Aias | Andromache | Diomedes | Hector | Helen | Nestor | Paris | Patroclus | Priam | Alcinous | Calypso | Demodocus | Eumaeus | Odysseus | Penelope | Telemachus | Ithaca | Pylos | Sparta | Aeolus | Circe | Charybdis | Cyclopes | Lotus-eaters | Laestrygones | Scylla | Sirens
Marble bust depicting the poet Homer; 2nd/1st c. BCE Roman copy from a lost Greek original. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Unknown. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.
Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary. The Homeric Question – concerning by whom, when, where and under what circumstances the Iliad and Odyssey were composed – continues to be debated. Broadly speaking, modern scholarly opinion falls into two groups. One holds that most of the Iliad and (according to some) the Odyssey are the works of a single poet of genius. The other considers the Homeric poems to be the result of a process of working and reworking by many contributors, and that "Homer" is best seen as a label for an entire tradition. It is generally accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC, and were originally transmitted orally. From antiquity to the present day, the influence of Homeric epic on Western civilization has been enormous, inspiring many of its most famous works of art. The Homeric epics were also the single greatest influence on ancient Greek culture and education; to Plato, Homer was simply the one who "has taught Greece" – τὴν Ἕλλαδα πεπαίδευκεν.
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Translations into Modern English
"Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus / and its devastation." For sixty years, that's how Homer has begun the Iliad in English, in Richmond Lattimore's faithful translation—-the gold standard for generations of students and general readers. This long-awaited new edition of Lattimore's Iliad is designed to bring the book into the twenty-first century-—while leaving the poem as firmly rooted in ancient Greece as ever. Lattimore's elegant, fluent verses-—with their memorably phrased heroic epithets and remarkable fidelity to the Greek—-remain unchanged, but classicist Richard Martin has added a wealth of supplementary materials designed to aid new generations of readers. A new introduction sets the poem in the wider context of Greek life, warfare, society, and poetry, while line-by-line notes at the back of the volume offer explanations of unfamiliar terms, information about the Greek gods and heroes, and literary appreciation. A glossary and maps round out the book. The result is a volume that actively invites readers into Homer's poem, helping them to understand fully the worlds in which he and his heroes lived—-and thus enabling them to marvel, as so many have for centuries, at Hektor and Ajax, Paris and Helen, and the devastating rage of Achilleus.
A classic for the ages, the Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War—-and the obstacles he faces along the way to reclaim his throne, kingdom, and family in Ithaca. During his absence, his steadfast and clever wife, Penelope, and now teenaged son, Telemachus, have lived under the constant threat of ruthless suitors, all desperate to court Penelope and claim the throne. As the suitors plot Telemachus’ murder, the gods debate Odysseus’ fate. With help from the goddess Athena, the scattered family bides their time as Odysseus battles his way through storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops, the isle of witch-goddess Circe, the deadly Sirens’ song, a trek through the Underworld, and the omnipresent wrath of the scorned god Poseidon. An American poet and classicist, Richmond Lattimore’s translation of the Odyssey is widely considered among the best available in the English language.
Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox observes in his superb introduction that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it coexists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace. Combining the skills of a poet and scholar, Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, brings the energy of contemporary language to this enduring heroic epic. He maintains the drive and metric music of Homer’s poetry, and evokes the impact and nuance of the Iliad’s mesmerizing repeated phrases in what Peter Levi calls "an astonishing performance."
Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, presents us with Homer's best-loved and most accessible poem in a stunning modern-verse translation. "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." So begins Robert Fagles' magnificent translation of the Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in the New York Times Book Review hails as "a distinguished achievement." If the Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of an everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance. In the myths and legends retold here, Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery.
With her virtuoso translation, classicist and bestselling author Caroline Alexander brings to life Homer’s timeless epic of the Trojan War. Composed around 730 B.C., Homer’s Iliad recounts the events of a few momentous weeks in the protracted ten-year war between the invading Achaeans, or Greeks, and the Trojans in their besieged city of Ilion. From the explosive confrontation between Achilles, the greatest warrior at Troy, and Agamemnon, the inept leader of the Greeks, through to its tragic conclusion, the Iliad explores the abiding, blighting facts of war. Soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished, hero and coward, men, women, young, old—-the Iliad evokes in poignant, searing detail the fate of every life ravaged by the Trojan War. And, as told by Homer, this ancient tale of a particular Bronze Age conflict becomes a sublime and sweeping evocation of the destruction of war throughout the ages. Carved close to the original Greek, acclaimed classicist Caroline Alexander’s new translation is swift and lean, with the driving cadence of its source—-a translation epic in scale and yet devastating in its precision and power.
The first great adventure story in the Western canon, the Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty, and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home. In this fresh, authoritative version--the first English translation of the Odyssey by a woman--this stirring tale of shipwrecks, monsters, and magic comes alive in an entirely new way. Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, this engrossing translation matches the number of lines in the Greek original, thus striding at Homer's sprightly pace and singing with a voice that echoes Homer's music. Wilson's Odyssey captures the beauty and enchantment of this ancient poem as well as the suspense and drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, from the cunning goddess Athena, whose interventions guide and protect the hero, to the awkward teenage son, Telemachus, who struggles to achieve adulthood and find his father; from the cautious, clever, and miserable Penelope, who somehow keeps clamoring suitors at bay during her husband's long absence, to the "complicated" hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this translation as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.
"Gripping. . . . Lombardo's achievement is all the more striking when you consider the difficulties of his task. . . . [He] manages to be respectful of Homer's dire spirit while providing on nearly every page some wonderfully fresh refashioning of his Greek. The result is a vivid and disarmingly hardbitten reworking of a great classic." —Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review
"It is hard to overstate the attractions of this translation. In a rhythm sinewy and flexible, with language that is precise, lyrical and fresh, Lombardo's Iliad pulses with all the power and luminosity of the Greek. He shows extraordinary sensitivity to the images and aural effects of the ancient poem. There are brilliant touches on every page. . . . Altogether this is as good as Homer gets in English." —Richard P. Martin, Princeton University
"The most daring, rapid and colloquial translation of Homer's Iliad that I know. [Lombardo's] taut and punchy verse conveys admirably and accurately the excitement and desperation of the battle, the urgency of the commanders, the occasional flashes of humor, the passion of Homer's narrative and the vivid and subtle humanity of his characters." —Richard Janko, University College, London
"[Lombardo] has brought his laconic wit and love of the ribald. . . to his version of the Odyssey. His carefully honed syntax gives the narrative energy and a whirlwind pace. The lines, rhythmic and clipped, have the tautness and force of Odysseus' bow." —Chris Hedges, The New York Times Book Review
"Lombardo weaves his cherished idioms into important patterns of repetition and transformation so familiar to the telling of the Odyssey. . . Above all, such familiar phrases serve to remind us of the oral character of the original Odyssey, providing the reader with an uncanny immediacy and relevance." —Christina Zwarg, The Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Lombardo has the simple gift of summoning up a Homeric flavor wherever he turns. He may even blend contemporary colloquialisms with an antique epic grandeur, and the effect remains unimpaired. As Lombardo tells us, he recites and performs, he impersonates the poem as if he were the bard. We follow, we explore, plunging into 'medias res'. Homer arises before him as an encompassing reality. Lombardo moves at ease through this Homeric world, without artifice or rhetoric, attuning his verse to Homer's composition. Homer is here a vindication of poetry." —Paolo Vivante, McGill University
One of the oldest extant works of Western literature, the Iliad is a timeless epic poem of great warriors trapped between their own heroic pride and the arbitrary, often vicious decisions of fate and the gods. Renowned scholar and acclaimed translator Peter Green captures the Iliad in all its surging thunder for a new generation of readers. Featuring an enticingly personal introduction, a detailed synopsis of each book, a wide-ranging glossary, and explanatory notes for the few puzzling in-text items, the book also includes a select bibliography for those who want to learn more about Homer and the Greek epic. This landmark translation―specifically designed, like the oral original, to be read aloud―will soon be required reading for every student of Greek antiquity, and the great traditions of history and literature to which it gave birth.
The Odyssey is vividly captured and beautifully paced in this swift and lucid new translation by acclaimed scholar and translator Peter Green. Accompanied by an illuminating introduction, maps, chapter summaries, a glossary, and explanatory notes, this is the ideal translation for both general readers and students to experience the Odyssey in all its glory. Green's version, with its lyrical mastery and superb command of Greek, offers readers the opportunity to enjoy Homer's epic tale of survival, temptation, betrayal, and vengeance with all of the verve and pathos of the original oral tradition.
trans. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt, 1924
Here is a new Loeb Classical Library edition of Homer's stirring heroic account of the Trojan war and its passions. The eloquent and dramatic epic poem captures the terrible anger of Achilles, "the best of the Achaeans," over a grave insult to his personal honor and relates its tragic result‒a chain of consequences that proves devastating for the Greek forces besieging Troy, for noble Trojans, and for Achilles himself. The poet gives us compelling characterizations of his protagonists as well as a remarkable study of the heroic code in antiquity. The works attributed to Homer include the two oldest and greatest European epic poems, the Odyssey and the Iliad. These have been published in the Loeb Classical Library for three quarters of a century, the Greek text facing a faithful and literate prose translation by A. T. Murray. William F. Wyatt now brings the Loeb's Iliad up to date, with a rendering that retains Murray's admirable style but is written for today's readers.
trans. A.T. Murray, rev. George F. Dimock, 1919
Here is a new Loeb Classical Library edition of the resplendent epic tale of Odysseus's long journey home from the Trojan War and the legendary temptations, delays, and perils he faced at every turn. Homer's classic poem features Odysseus's encounters with the beautiful nymph Calypso; the queenly but wily Circe; the Lotus-eaters, who fed his men their memory-stealing drug; the man-eating, one-eyed Cyclops; the Laestrygonian giants; the souls of the dead in Hades; the beguiling Sirens; the treacherous Scylla and Charybdis. Here, too, is the hero's faithful wife, Penelope, weaving a shroud by day and unraveling it by night, in order to thwart the numerous suitors attempting to take Odysseus's place. The works attributed to Homer include the two oldest and greatest European epic poems, the Odyssey and Iliad. These texts have long stood in the Loeb Classical Library with a faithful and literate prose translation by A. T. Murray. George Dimock now brings the Loeb's Odyssey up to date, with a rendering that retains Murray's admirable style but is worded for today's readers. The two-volume edition includes a new introduction, notes, and index.
The walls of Bronze Age Troy at modern Hisarlik, Turkey. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: CherryX. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are the only early Greek heroic epics to have survived the transition to writing, even though extant evidence indicates that they emerged from a thriving oral culture. Among the missing are the songs of Boeotian Thebes. Homer’s Thebes examines moments in the Iliad and Odyssey where Theban characters and thematic engagements come to the fore. Rather than sifting through these appearances to reconstruct lost poems, Elton Barker and Joel Christensen argue that the Homeric poems borrow heroes from Thebes to address key ideas—about politics, time, and genre–that set out the unique superiority of these texts in performance. By using evidence from Hesiod and fragmentary sources attributed to Theban tradition, Barker and Christensen explore Homer’s appropriation of Theban motifs of strife and distribution to promote his tale of the sack of Troy and the returns home. As Homer’s Thebes shows, this Theban material sheds light on the exceptionality of the Homeric epics through the notions of poetic rivalry and Panhellenism.
The Iliad and the Odyssey are emotional powerhouses largely because of their extensive use of direct speech. Yet this characteristic of the Homeric epics has led scholars to underplay the poems’ use of non-direct speech, the importance of speech represented by characters, and the overall sophistication of Homeric narrative as measured by its approach to speech representation. In this pathfinding study, by contrast, Deborah Beck undertakes the first systematic examination of all the speeches presented in the Homeric poems to show that Homeric speech presentation is a unified system that includes both direct quotation and non-direct modes of speech presentation. Drawing on the fields of narratology and linguistics, Beck demonstrates that the Iliad and the Odyssey represent speech in a broader and more nuanced manner than has been perceived before, enabling us to reevaluate our understanding of supposedly “modern” techniques of speech representation and to refine our idea of where Homeric poetry belongs in the history of Western literature. She also broadens ideas of narratology by connecting them more strongly with relevant areas of linguistics, as she uses both to examine the full range of speech representational strategies in the Homeric poems. Through this in-depth analysis of how speech is represented in the Homeric poems, Beck seeks to make both the process of their composition and the resulting poems themselves seem more accessible, despite pervasive uncertainties about how and when the poems were put together.
The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle
Although the Iliad and Odyssey narrate only relatively small portions of the Trojan War and its aftermath, for centuries these works have overshadowed other, more comprehensive narratives of the conflict, particularly the poems known as the Epic Cycle. In The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, Jonathan Burgess challenges Homer's authority on the war's history and the legends surrounding it, placing the Iliad and Odyssey in the larger, often overlooked context of the entire body of Greek epic poetry of the Archaic Age. He traces the development and transmission of the Cyclic poems in ancient Greek culture, comparing them to later Homeric poems and finding that they were far more influential than has previously been thought.
Women in Greek epic are treated as objects, as commodities to be exchanged in marriage or as the spoils of warfare. However, women in Homeric epic also use objects to negotiate their own agency, subverting the male viewpoint by utilizing on their own terms the very form they themselves are thought by men to embody. Such female objects can transcend their physical limitations and be both symbolically significant and powerfully characterizing. They can be tools of recognition and identification. They can pause narrative and be used agonistically. They can send messages and be vessels for memory. This work offers a new and insightful approach to the Iliad and Odyssey, bringing together Gender Theory and the burgeoning field of New Materialisms, new to classical studies, and thereby combining an approach predicated on the idea of the woman as object with one which questions the very distinction between subject and object. This productive tension leads us to decentre the male subject and to put centre stage not only the woman as object but also the agency of women and objects. The volume comes at a turning point in the gendering of Homeric studies, with the publication of the first English translations by women of the Iliad in 2015 and the Odyssey in 2017, by Caroline Alexander and Emily Wilson respectively. It makes a significant contribution to scholarship by demonstrating that women in Homeric epic are not only objectified, but are also well-versed users of objects; this is something that Homer portrays clearly, that Odysseus understands, but that has often escaped many other men, from Odysseus' alter ego Aethon in Odyssey 19 to modern experts on Homeric epic.
The so-called "Mask of Agamemnon," a gold funerary mask discovered in the shaft graves at Mycenae; ca. 16th c. BCE. This mask depicts the imposing face of a bearded noble man. It is made of a gold sheet with repoussé details. Two holes near the ears indicate that the mask was held in place of the deceased's face with twine. The authenticity of the mask has been formally questioned due to the high level of detail, such as the beard and ears. No other mask of its type has a similar amount of detail. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Xuan Che. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
Epic Interactions: Perspectives on Homer, Virgil, and the Epic Tradition Presented to Jasper Griffin
ed. M.J. Clarke, B.G.F. Currie, and R.O.A.M. Lyne, 2006
This collection of essays, written by former pupils, celebrates the career of Jasper Griffin, one of the foremost modern scholars of classical epic. The volume surveys the epic tradition from the eighth century BC to the nineteenth century of our era. Individual chapters focus on: Homer and the oral epic tradition; Homer in his religious context; Herodotus and Homer; Hellenistic epic; Virgil in his literary context; Virgil in his political-cultural context; the Augustan poets and the Aeneid; Statius' Thebaid; Old English and Old Irish epic; Renaissance epic: Tasso and Milton; and the Victorians. The aim of the book is to situate writers of epic in their literary and cultural contexts--an enterprise captured in the term "interaction" in the title. The chapters singly offer insights into some of the foundational poems of the European epic tradition and together take a bold, holistic look at that tradition.
This collection of essays examines the various ways in which the Homeric epics have been responded to, reworked, and rewritten by women writers of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Beginning in 1914 with the First World War, it charts this understudied strand of the history of Homeric reception over the subsequent century up to the present day, analysing the extraordinary responses both to the Odyssey and to the Iliad by women from around the world. The backgrounds of these authors and the genres they employ - memoir, poetry, children's literature, rap, novels - testify not only to the plasticity of Homeric epic, but also to the widening social classes to whom Homer appeals, and it is unsurprising to see the myriad ways in which women writers across the globe have played their part in the story of Homer's afterlife. From surrealism to successive waves of feminism to creative futures, Homer's footprint can be seen in a multitude of different literary and political movements, and the essays in this volume bring an array of critical approaches to bear on the work of authors ranging from H.D. and Simone Weil to Christa Wolf, Margaret Atwood, and Kate Tempest. Students and scholars of not only classics, but also translation studies, comparative literature, and women's writing will find much to interest them, while the volume's concluding reflections by Emily Wilson on her new translation of the Odyssey are an apt reminder to all of just how open a text can be, and of how great a difference can be made by a woman's voice.
Rediscovering Homer: Inside the Origins of the Epic
Scholar Andrew Dalby delves into the world that first heard the Odyssey and the Iliad, asking new questions about the poet named Homer. Rediscovering Homer follows the growth of the legend of Troy from a kernel of historical truth into an unforgettable story that a succession of singers re-created for generations of audiences. Dalby asks why and how the two great epics crossed the frontier from song to writing while finding new approaches to the personality of Homer and showing how the earliest evidence has been misread. He makes a powerful case that both poems are the work of a single poet, but it is his conclusion that will surprise even serious classical scholars: Homer was most likely a woman.
The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception: A Companion
ed. Marco Fantuzzi & Christos Tsagalis, 2018
The poems of the Epic Cycle are assumed to be the reworking of myths and narratives which had their roots in an oral tradition predating that of many of the myths and narratives which took their present form in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The remains of these texts allow us to investigate diachronic aspects of epic diction as well as the extent of variation within it on the part of individual authors - two of the most important questions in modern research on archaic epic. They also help to illuminate the early history of Greek mythology. Access to the poems, however, has been thwarted by their current fragmentary state. This volume provides the scholarly community and graduate students with a thorough critical foundation for reading and interpreting them.
Sky, water, wake: the Aegean Sea at 6:30am. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Manos Gkikas. License: Unsplash license.
This book is a concise and penetrating account of the society that gave birth to the Iliad and the Odyssey--a book that provides a vivid picture of the Greek Dark Ages, its men and women, works and days, morals and values. Long celebrated as a pathbreaking achievement in the social history of the ancient world, M.I. Finley's brilliant study remains, as classicist Bernard Knox notes in his introduction to this new edition, "as indispensable to the professional as it is accessible to the general reader"--a fundamental companion for students of Homer and Homeric Greece.
In recent decades, the evidence for an oral epic tradition in ancient Greece has grown enormously along with our ever-increasing awareness of worldwide oral traditions. John Foley here examines the artistic implications that oral tradition holds for the understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey in order to establish a context for their original performance and modern-day reception. In Homer's Traditional Art, Foley addresses three crucially interlocking areas that lead us to a fuller appreciation of the Homeric poems. He first explores the reality of Homer as their actual author, examining historical and comparative evidence to propose that "Homer" is a legendary and anthropomorphic figure rather than a real-life author. He next presents the poetic tradition as a specialized and highly resonant language bristling with idiomatic implication. Finally, he looks at Homer's overall artistic achievement, showing that it is best evaluated via a poetics aimed specifically at works that emerge from oral tradition. Along the way, Foley offers new perspectives on such topics as characterization and personal interaction in the epics, the nature of Penelope's heroism, the implications of feasting and lament, and the problematic ending of the Odyssey. His comparative references to the South Slavic oral epic open up new vistas on Homer's language, narrative patterning, and identity. Homer's Traditional Art represents a disentangling of the interwoven strands of orality, textuality, and verbal art. It shows how we can learn to appreciate how Homer's art succeeds not in spite of the oral tradition in which it was composed but rather through its unique agency.
The Cambridge Companion to Homer
The Cambridge Companion to Homer is a guide to the essential aspects of Homeric criticism and scholarship, including the reception of the poems in ancient and modern times. Written by an international team of scholars, it is intended to be the first port of call for students at all levels, with introductions to important subjects and suggestions for further exploration. Alongside traditional topics like the Homeric Question, the divine apparatus of the poems, the formulae, the characters and the archaeological background, there are detailed discussions of similes, speeches, the poet as story-teller and the genre of epic both within Greece and worldwide. The reception chapters include assessments of ancient Greek and Roman readings as well as selected modern interpretations from the eighteenth century to the present day. Chapters on Homer in English translation and 'Homer' in the history of ideas round out the collection.
Homer in the Twentieth Century: Between World Literature and the Western Canon
ed. Barbara Graziosi & Emily Greenwood, 2007
This collection of essays explores the crucial place of Homer in the shifting cultural landscape of the twentieth century. It argues that Homer was viewed both as the founding father of the Western literary canon and as sharing important features with poems, performances, and traditions which were often deemed neither literary nor Western: the epics of Yugoslavia and sub-Saharan Africa, the keening performances of Irish women, the spontaneous inventiveness of the Blues. The book contributes to current debates about the nature of the Western literary canon, the evolving notion of world literature, the relationship between orality and the written word, and the dialogue between texts across time and space. Homer in the Twentieth Century contends that the Homeric poems play an important role in shaping those debates and, conversely, that the experiences of the twentieth century open new avenues for the interpretation of Homer's much-travelled texts.
Early modern manuscript of the opening of Book I of the Odyssey, 3rd quarter of the 15th c. CE. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Unknown. License: Public domain.
Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction
This book investigates the history of the ancient Greek tradition of oral epic poetry which culminated in the Iliad and Odyssey. These masterpieces did not exhaust the tradition, and poems were composed in the same style for several generations afterwards. One group of such poems is the 'Homeric Hymns', ascribed to Homer in antiquity. In fact the origins of these Hymns are as mysterious as those of the Homeric epics themselves with little external evidence to assist. This book will be of interest to scholars concerned with Greek philology and dialects, Homeric epic and Greek literature of the Archaic period. It should also find readers amongst specialists in other oral poetries and those using computers in the Humanities.
Offering a new, Plato-inspired reading of the Iliad and the Odyssey, this book traces the divergent consequences of love of honor and love of one’s own private life for human excellence, justice, and politics. Analyzing Homer’s intricate character portraits, Michelle M. Kundmueller concludes that the poet shows that the excellence or virtue to which humans incline depends on what they love most. Ajax’s character demonstrates that human beings who seek honor strive, perhaps above all, to display their courage in battle, while Agamemnon’s shows that the love of honor ultimately undermines the potential for moderation, destabilizing political order. In contrast to these portraits, the excellence that Homer links to the love of one’s own, such as by Odysseus and his wife, Penelope, fosters moderation and employs speech to resolve conflict. It is Odysseus, rather than Achilles, who is the pinnacle of heroic excellence. Homer’s portrait of humanity reveals the value of love of one’s own as the better, albeit still incomplete, precursor to a just political order. Kundmueller brings her reading of Homer to bear on contemporary tensions between private life and the pursuit of public honor, arguing that individual desires continue to shape human excellence and our prospects for justice.
A small island near Patmos, Greece. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Anastasia Dimitriadi. License: Unsplash license.
Albert B. Lord, ed. David F. Elmer, 2019
First published in 1960, Albert B. Lord’s The Singer of Tales remains the fundamental study of the distinctive techniques and aesthetics of oral epic poetry. Based upon pathbreaking fieldwork conducted in the 1930s and 1950s among oral epic singers of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, Lord analyzes in impressive detail the techniques of oral composition in performance. He explores the consequences of this analysis for the interpretation of numerous works of traditional verbal art, including―in addition to South Slavic epic songs―the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, Beowulf, the Chanson de Roland, and the Byzantine epic Digenis Akritas. A cardinal text for the study of oral traditions, The Singer of Tales also represents an exemplary use of the comparative method in literary criticism. This third edition offers a corrected text of the second edition and is supplemented by an open-access website (in lieu of the second edition’s CD-ROM), providing all the recordings discussed by Lord, as well as a variety of other multimedia materials.
Homeric Voices: Discourse, Memory, Gender
Homeric Voices is a study, from a compositional point of view, of the substantial speeches and exchanges of speech that Homer depicts in his songs. Drawing on research in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and cognitive psychology, Elizabeth Minchin considers the words that Homer attributes to his characters from two perspectives, as cognitive and as social phenomena. She asks how the poet worked with memory to generate the speech forms that he represents; and how Homeric speech constructs and reveals the social hierarchies that are bound up with age, status, and gender - with particular interest in gender - in the world of the poems.
Homer the Preclassic considers the development of the Homeric poems-in particular the Iliad and Odyssey-during the time when they were still part of the oral tradition. Gregory Nagy traces the evolution of rival “Homers” and the different versions of Homeric poetry in this pretextual period, reconstructed over a time frame extending back from the sixth century BCE to the Bronze Age. Accurate in their linguistic detail and surprising in their implications, Nagy's insights conjure the Greeks' nostalgia for the imagined “epic space” of Troy and for the resonances and distortions this mythic past provided to the various Greek constituencies for whom the Homeric poems were so central and definitive.
Bronze helmet of the Corinthian type, from a Greek workshop in southern Italy; ca. 500-490 BCE. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: MatthiasKabel. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond
This book is a comparative study of oral poetics in literate cultures, focusing on the problems of textual fluidity in the transmission of Homeric poetry over half a millennium, from the Archaic through the Hellenistic periods of ancient Greece. It stresses the role of performance and the performer in the re-creative process of composition-in-performance. It addresses questions of authority and authorship in the making of oral poetry, and it examines the efforts of ancient scholars to edit a definitive text of the "real" Homer.
Adam Nicolson sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as the foundation myths of Greek—and our—consciousness, collapsing the passage of 4,000 years and making the distant past of the Mediterranean world as immediate to us as the events of our own time. Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the poems themselves and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts." The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea, but emerging at a time around 2000 B.C. when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean. The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.
The Song of the Sirens: Essays on Homer
In this collection of his essays on Homer, some new and some appearing for the first time in English, the distinguished scholar Pietro Pucci examines the linguistic and rhetorical features of the poet's works. Arguing that there can be no purely historical interpretation, given that the parameters of interpretation are themselves historically determined, Pucci focuses instead on two features of Homer's rhetoric: repetition of expression (formulae) and its effects on meaning, and the issue of intertextuality.
Homer and the Poetics of Gesture is the first book of its kind to consider the epic formula in terms that are gestural as well as verbal. Drawing on studies from multiple disciplines, including movement theory, dance studies, phenomenology, and early film, it suggests new approaches for interpreting the relationship between repetition and embodiment in Homer. Through a series of dynamic close readings, Purves argues that the deep-seated habits and gestures of epic bodies are instrumental to our understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey, especially insofar as they attune us to the kinetic structures and sensibilities that shape the meaning of the poems. Each of the chapters isolates a scene in which a specific action, posture, or gesture (falling, running, leaping, standing, and reaching) emerges from the background of its other iterations in order to make larger claims about its poetic significance within the epics as a whole. Beginning from the premise that gestures are shared between characters and often identically repeated within the poems' formulaic system, the book reconsiders long-standing arguments about Homeric agency and character by focusing on those moments when a gesture diverges from its expected course, redirecting the plot or drawing the poem in new and surprising directions. Homer and the Poetics of Gesture not only affords new insights into the nature of epic repetition and poetic originality but also reveals unnoticed connections between Homeric structure and technique and the embodied habits and movements of the characters within the poems.
Below: Wooden writing tablet inscribed in ink with Book I, lines 468-473 of Homer's Iliad; Egypt, 6th c. CE. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Creator: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
The Shade of Homer: A Study in Modern Greek Poetry
In exploring the significance of Homer for the poetry of Modern Greece, Dr. Ricks is tackling a theme that has implications for the study of poetic influence in general. He takes the work of Sikelianos, Cavafy and Seferis and subjects a selection of poems that deal with specifically Homeric themes to a careful scrutiny. All Greek is translated, modern poets from outside Greece find their way into the discussion, and the reader has no need to be a specialist in Greek to find this study absorbing and instructive.
The Artistry of the Homeric Simile
The similes in Homer are treasure troves. They describe scenes of Greek life that are not presented in their simplest form anywhere else: landscapes and seascapes, storms and calm weather, fighting among animals, civic disputes, athletic contests, horse races, community entertainment, women involved in their daily tasks, men running their farms and orchards. These basic paratactic additions to the narrative show how the Greeks found and developed parallels between two scenes—each of which elucidated and interpreted the other—then expressed those scenes in effective poetic language. In The Artistry of the Homeric Simile, Scott explores the variations and modifications that Homer employs in order to make similes blend expressively with the larger context. This engaging study will help unlock the richness of Homer for the modern reader.
Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State
This is an exciting and entirely new synthesis, combining anthropology, political and social history, and a close reading of central Greek texts, to account for two of the most significant hallmarks in Homeric epic and Athenian tragedy: the representation of ritual, and codes of reciprocity. Both genres are pervaded by these features, yet each treats them in entirely different ways. In this book, Seaford shows that these differences cannot be accounted for in merely literary terms, but require a historical explanation. Challenging, thoroughly lucid, and at times controversial, this lively and original work is the first to attempt to understand the development of early Greek literature from the perspective of state-formation. It should interest all those concerned with the literature and history of classical Greece.
Homer and the Artists: Text and Picture in Early Greek Art
This is a study of the works of art from early Greece that have long been presented as "illustrations to Homer," but that are argued here to be nothing of the kind. Early Greek artists showed no preference for Homeric subjects and, when their interests did coincide with Homer's, treated his account as, at best, one of the possible variants. Close descriptive analysis of texts and pictures and of the artists' aims, together with statistical evidence, provide the basis for the argument.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905), Homer and His Guide (oil on canvas, 1874). Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Milwaukee Art Museum. License: Public domain.
While there have been many studies devoted to the major heroes and heroines of Homeric epic, among them Achilles, Odysseus, and Helen, the figure of Menelaus has remained notably overlooked in this strand of scholarship. This is the first book-length study of the Homeric character, taking a multidisciplinary approach to his depiction in archaic Greek poetry, art, and cult through detailed analysis of ancient literary, visual, and material evidence. The volume is divided into two parts, the first of which examines the portrayal of Menelaus in the Homeric poems as a unique 'personality' with an integral role to play in each narrative, as depicted through typical patterns of speech and action and through intertextual allusion. The second part explores his representation both in other poetry of the archaic period - including lyric poetry and Simonides' 'Plataea elegy ' - and also archaic art and local Sparta cult, drawing on the literary, archaeological, and inscriptional evidence for the cult of Menelaus with Helen at Therapne. The depiction of Menelaus in archaic art is a particular focal point: Chapter 4 provides a methodology for the interpretation of heroic narrative on archaic Greek vases through iconography and inscriptions and establishes his conventional visual 'identity' on black figure Athenian vases, while an annotated catalogue of images details those that fall outside the 'norm'. Menelaus emerges from this comprehensive study as a unique and likeable character whose relationship with Helen was a popular theme in both epic poetry and vase painting, but one whose portrayal evinced a significant narrative range, with an array of continuities and differences in how he was represented by the Greeks, not only within the archaic period but also in comparison to classical Athens.
English Translators of Homer: From George Chapman to Christopher Logue
Since Chapman made his famous translation at the end of the Elizabethan period, Homer and the translation of his works have had a central place in English literature. This book traces the great tradition of English translations of Homer, focusing in particular on the contributions of Chapman, Pope, E.V. Rieu and Christopher Logue - names which in themselves show the wide range of approaches which have been taken to Homer's original. Translation is often seen as an expression of its age, and the author examines each period's differing attitudes to Homer and to the translator's task. Finally, in the post-War period as the study of translation itself has moved to the forefront of literary and cultural studies, this book provides a brief introduction to the main lines of contemporary thinking in this area, and illustrates them by examples from the tradition of English Homers.
The Iliad and Odyssey do not cover the main story of the Trojan War. The whole saga, which includes Zeus' plan to reduce the world's population, the Judgment of Paris and seduction of Helen, the start of the campaign, the Wooden Horse, the fall of Achilles, the homecoming of Agamemnon, and the eventual death of Odysseus, was related in six other epics, dating from 630-560 BCE, that were influential for lyric poets, tragedians, and artists of the classical age but are known to us only through fragments and brief prose summaries. In this book Martin West presents all the source material and provides the first comprehensive commentary on it, making full use of iconographic as well as literary evidence. Discussing the individual fragments and testimonia, he endeavours to reconstruct the connections between them, so far as possible, and to build up a picture of the plan and course of each poem. In a substantial introduction he addresses general issues, including the nature and formation of the Epic Cycle, the status of the summaries of the Troy epics preserved under the name of Proclus, the validity of the attested ascriptions to particular poets, the reflexes of the Cycle in early art and literature, and its fortunes in and after the Hellenistic period.
From antiquity through the Renaissance, Homer’s epic poems – the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the various mock-epics incorrectly ascribed to him – served as a lens through which readers, translators, and writers interpreted contemporary conflicts. They looked to Homer for wisdom about the danger and the value of strife, embracing his works as a mythographic shorthand with which to describe and interpret the era’s intellectual, political, and theological struggles. Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes elegantly exposes the ways in which writers and thinkers as varied as Erasmus, Rabelais, Spenser, Milton, and Hobbes presented Homer as a great champion of conflict or its most eloquent critic. Jessica Wolfe weaves together an exceptional range of sources, including manuscript commentaries, early modern marginalia, philosophical and political treatises, and the visual arts. Wolfe’s transnational and multilingual study is a landmark work in the study of classical reception that has a great deal to offer to anyone examining the literary, political, and intellectual life of early modern Europe.
Marble seated harp player; Cycladic, 2800-2700 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0.