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HOMER
Form: Gr. Homeros.
The poet, whose name is borne by the two oldest and at the same time grandest monuments of the Greek genius, the epic poems called the Iliad and the Odyssey. Concerning the personality of the poet, his country, and his time, we have no trustworthy information. Even the personal existence of the poet has been disputed, and it has often been attempted to prove, from the meaning of the name, that he was not an individual, but an ideal type. It has been held that Homer means either orderer or comrade, and it has been supposed that in the former case the name indicates the ideal representative of the epic poem in its unified and artistically completed form, whilst the other explanation is suggestive of an ideal ancestor and patron of an exclusive order of minstrels. But as Homer is a proper name, simply meaning hostage, without any connexion with poetry, there is nothing in the name itself to give occasion to any doubt as to the existence of Homer as an historical personage. In antiquity seven places contended for the honour of being his birthplace: Smyrna, Rhodes, Colophon, Salamis (in Cyprus), Chios, Argos, and Athens; yet there is no doubt that the Homeric poems originated on the west coast of Asia Minor, and the older tradition is fairly correct in fixing on the Aeolian Smyrna as his home, and on the Ionian island of Chios as the place where his poetry was composed. The Aeolc colouring of the Ionic dialect, which forms the foundation of Homeric diction, agrees with this; as also the fact that at Chios for centuries afterwards there was a family called the Homeridoe, who, called after his name, claimed descent from him and occupied themselves with the recitation of his poetry. As to the time when the poet lived, all the views of early investigators, founded on chronological considerations, differ widely from one another. However, this much seems certain, that the period in which epic poetry attained the degree of perfection to which Homer brought it does not fall either before B.C. 950 or after 900. Of the various traditions respecting Homer, we need only state, that his father's name was Meles, that in his old age he was blind, and that he died on the small island of Ios, where his grave was shown, and on it yearly, in the month called after him Homereon, a goat was sacrificed to the poet, who was worshipped as a hero. Perhaps the story of his blindness arose from fancying that Demodocus, the blind singer in the Odyssey, was a prototype of Homer. A trustworthy corroboration of this was supposed to be found in the fact that the author of the hymn to the Delian Apollo, which the voice of antiquity unhesitatingly described to Homer, represented him as blind and living on the island of Chios. The importance of Homer rests in the fact that, while using the fixed forms of poetic diction and metre which had been fashioned by his predecessors, he was able to raise epic song to the definite level of epic poetry with its systematic arrangement and its artistic elaboration. The two epics which bear his name, the Iliad and the Odyssey, both of which at a late period were divided into twenty-four books, deal with the legends of Troy. The Iliad traverses an interval of fifty-one days out of the tenth year of the Trojan War, according to a simple plan with a consecutive account of the events of the time. Beginning with the wrath of Achilles at being deprived of his captive, the maiden Briseis, at the command of Agamemnon, it narrates the ever-increasing distress which the indignant hero's withdrawal from the battle brings upon the Greeks in their fights on the Trojan plain, around the walls, and near the naval camp. This gives a suitable opportunity for describing the other heroes down to the fall of Patroclus, which is the turning-point of the poem. Then follows the reconciliation of Achilles, his avenging his slain friend by killing Hector, and the funeral games in honour of Patroclus. The poem comes to a tragical conclusion with the surrender and burial of the body of Hector. The Odyssey similarly deals with a multitude of incidents connected with the return of Odysseus to his home, all of which take place in the narrow interval of forty days, but according to a highly artistic and complex plan. In contrast to the two main portions of the Iliad, the Odyssey consists of four parts. The first describes the adventures of Telemachus, who is oppressed by the suitors of his mother Penelope, and sets off on a journey to Nestor at Pylos and Menelaus at Sparta, in quest of his father. Thus the poet finds occasion to give an account of the different fates of the Greek heroes on their return home. The second part describes the adventures of Odysseus in his voyage from Ogygia, the island of Calypso, his stay among the Phaeacians (connected with which is the hero's own account of his wanderings on his voyage from Troy down to his landing at Ogygia), and, lastly, his arrival at Ithaca. The third part contains his visit to the hut of the swineherd Eumaeus, his recognition by Telemachus (who has returned home) and by his faithful servant, and the planning of vengeance on the suitors. The fourth part contains the carrying out of the vengeance, and the whole is brought to a peaceful conclusion by the re-union of the hero with his wife Penelope and his aged father Laertes. By means of professional reciters, who went from city to city and were called rhapsodoi (q.v.), the Homeric poems found a rapid circulation, not only in their Asiatic home, but also in Greece and its western colonies. They were introduced into Sparta by Lycurgus [Plut., Lyc. 4], who learned their existence in his travels, at Samos, from the descendants of Creophylus, a poet reputed to have been a friend and relation of Homer. In 753 B.C., twenty-three years after the commencement of the Olympiads, they were, in fact, the common property of all Greeks. At the recitations given by the rhapsodoi at many places during festivals, the great bulk of the poems from the very first necessitated a regular division of the subject into suitable, portions, in order to give intervals of rest not only to the reciters, but also to the audience. Hence arose the division into separate lays called rhapsodies, with distinctive titles, which were still in use at a later date, when both poems were divided into twenty-four books. It soon became customary to recite single rhapsodies, some being especial favourites and considered more suitable than others for showing the special talents of individual rhapsodists to advantage. Thus it happened that some portions easily fell into oblivion and gaps arose in the oral tradition of the poems. On the other hand, the rhapsodists could not avoid giving a certain finish and completeness to their favourite pieces, and even permitted themselves to make alterations and additions where they saw fit. To Athens belongs the honour of having arrested the everincreasing confusion caused by these practices. Solon was the first to order that the rhapsodists at their public recitals should keep closely to the traditional text of the poems. Pisistratus (about B.C. 535) made, by means of a committee of several poets, headed by Onomacritus (q.v.), a collection of the scattered lays and a revision of the text, founded on extant copies and on the oral traditions of the rhapsodists. [Cic., De Orat. iii 137 and Pausanias, vii 26, are the earliest authorities for this vague and doubtful story.] Either Pisistratus or his son Hipparchus made the regulation that the rhapsodists, in their competitions at the Panathenaic festival, should recite in consecutive order and completeness the Homeric poems, which had been thus restored to their proper form. To this revision, which could only partially counteract the gradually increasing corruption of the text, we may probably trace the copies of the Homeric poems which were afterwards in existence in various parts of Greece. In course of time these also in their turn underwent many arbitrary alterations, chiefly at the hands of the learned who sought to improve the text. The first to do this were the Alexandrine scholars, who found in Homer a central point for their philological studies, and practised a methodical criticism of the text, for which they enjoyed both the means and the opportunity in the collection of ancient manuscripts of the poet in the Library of Alexandria. The beginning was made by ZENODOTUS of Ephesus, who was succeeded by ARISTOPHANES of Byzantium, whose pupil ARISTARCHUS (q.v.,) by his dition of Homer, reached the highest point that the ancients ever attained in philological criticism. The editions of these Alexandrine critics were founded on the redaction by Pisistratus, and are themselves the origin of our present text of the Homeric poems. From that time forward down to the latest times of Greek antiquity, Homer never ceased to be a theme for learned disquisition, which is attested for us by numerous remains still in existence. Even in ancient times scholars occupied themselves with the question whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed by the same poet. This question was fully justified by the fact that the name of Homer had long been recognised as a collective term, and had included a long series of epics formed on his model, the true authorship of which was only gradually discovered; and it did not escape observation that the Odyssey, in its more artistic design, as well as in relation to social, moral, and religious life, belonged to a more advanced stage of development than the Iliad. Thus, in ancient times, those who are known as Chorizontes (or "Separaters"), headed by the grammarians Xenon and Hellanious, probably belonging to the beginning of the Alexandrine period, held that the Odyssey was composed by a later poet. Even modem scholars have shared this view, while others, relying on the essential correspondence of tone, language, and metre, attribute less importance to the points of divergence, and explain them as due to the difference in the aim of the two poems as well as in the poet's time of life. With all our admiration of the art and beauty of the Homeric poems, it is not to be denied that they do not stand throughout on the same level of perfection, but that, by the side of the most magnificent passages, there are others which are dull and less attractive, and interruptions of the narrative and even contradictions are not wanting. Such blemishes did not escape the observation of the Alexandrine scholars, who met objections of this kind by assuming frequent interpolations, not only of single lines, but of whole passages; e.g. they held that the second half of the last book but one, and the whole of the last book of the Odyssey, were spurious. In modern times many explanations of these defects have been put forward. In the first place F. A. Wolf [1795] observed that in the time of Homer the art of writing was not yet practised to such an extent as to be employed for literary purposes; and held that it was impossible even for the highest genius, with the aid of memory alone, either to produce such comprehensive works, and to transmit them to others. On these grounds he held that the Iliad and Odyssey received their existing form, for the first time, in the time of Pisistratus, when the old lays on the Trojan War, which had hitherto been preserved by oral tradition alone, were fixed by means of writing, and collected and united into two great wholes. He has been followed by others who have endeavonred to dissect the Iliad in particular into its separate and originally independent lays. Others hold that Homer's two poems consisted of compositions of moderate length; the Wrath of Achilles and the Return of Odysseus, which, by amplifications, improvements, and alterations, have resulted in the existing Odyssey and Iliad. Others again, instead of assuming a larger number of single lays, assume a combination of small epic poems, an Achilleis and an Iliad, thus resulting in the present Iliad, and a Telemachia and a Return of Odysseus in the present Odyssey. On the other hand, many important authorities maintain that, granting the possibility of a utilization of previously existing lays, the Odyssey and Iliad, from the very beginning, respectively constituted a united whole; but that, soon after their first composition, they underwent manifold revision and amplification, until they received, before the beginning of the Olympiads, the essential form which they still retain. Certain it is that, after the first Olympiad, longer epic poems were composed on the model of the Iliad and Odyssey, and in continuation of them; and it cannot be denied that, long before this period, the art of writing had been extensively employed in Greece. It is also beyond contradiction that, apart from corruptions which arose from later alterations, dissimilarities in the treatment of the several parts, as well as many inconsistencies, may have existed in the poems even in their primitive form. In spite of such blemishes of detail, the Homeric poems remain unsurpassed as works of art, which have had an incalculable influence not only upon the development of literature and art, but also upon the whole life of the Greeks, who from the earliest times regarded them as the common property of the nation, and employed them as the foundation of all teaching and culture. Even now, after nearly 3,000 years, their influence remains unimpaired. Besides the Iliad and Odyssey, we still possess under the name of Homer: (a) A collection of Hymns: five of greater length on the Pytbian and Delian Apollo, Hermes, Aphrodite, and Demeter; and twenty-nine shorter poems on various gods. These are really prooemia, or introductions, with which the rhapsodists prefaced their recitations. Their object is to praise the god at whose festival the recitation took place, or who was specially honoured in the town where the rhapsodist presented himself. Perhaps even the choice of the introduction may have been influenced by the contents of the subsequent poem. If these poems did not originate with Homer, at any rate they are the compositions of rhapsodists of the Homeric school, called Homeridoe. Thus the rhapsodist Cynaethus of Chios (about B.C. 504) is named as the author of the hymn to the Delian Apollo. The collection appears to have been prepared for the use of the rhapsodists in Attica, with a view to selections being made from it at pleasure. (b) Sixteen small poems called Epigrammata, remains of an older poetry, two of which are lays in a popular style: the Kaminos, or "potter's oven" (in which the blessing of Athene is invoked on a batch of earthenware, when placed in the furnace), and a kind of begging song, called the Eiresione (lit. a harvest-wreath wound round with wool). (c) The Batrachoyomachia, the Battle of the Frogs and Mice, a parody of the Iliad, is generally attributed to Pigres, the brother of the Carian queen Artemisia, so well known in connexion with the Persian Wars. The ancient satirical epic poem called the Margites ("the dolt") has been lost. Its great antiquity may be inferred from its having been assigned to Homer as early as the time of Archi1ochus ob. 676 B.C.) [On Homer, see Prof. Jebb's Introduction]

Pictures and Media
BUST OF HOMER. (Sanssouci Palaae, Potsdam.)
APOTHEOSIS OF HOMER. (Relief found at Bovillae. Now in British Museum.)
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