Many of the books available on myths and legends are written for children, and even books written for an adult audience are usually collections of myths.
An analysis of the structure and vocabulary of the Iliad and Odyssey shows that the poems contain many regular and repeated phrases; indeed, even entire verses are repeated. Thus according to the theory, the Iliad and Odyssey may have been products of oral-formulaic compositioncomposed on the spot by the poet using a collection of memorized traditional verses and phases.
Milman Parry and Albert Lord have pointed out that such elaborate oral tradition, foreign to today's literate cultures, is typical of epic poetry in an exclusively oral culture.
The crucial words here are "oral" and "traditional". Parry starts with the former: Parry calls these chunks of repetitive language "formulas". As Albert Lord notes in his book The Singer of Talespoets within an oral tradition, as was Homer, tend to create and modify their tales as they perform them.
Although this suggests that Homer may simply have "borrowed" from other bards, he almost certainly made the piece his own when he performed it. In response to his landmark effort, Geoffrey Kirk published a book entitled The Songs of Homer, in which he questions Lord's extension of the oral-formulaic nature of Serbian epic poetry in Bosnia and Herzegovina the area from which the theory was first developed to Homeric epic.
He holds that Homeric poems differ from those traditions in their "metrical strictness", "formular system[s]" and creativity. Kirk argued that Homeric poems were recited under a system that gave the reciter much more freedom to choose words and passages to achieve the same end than the Serbian poet, who was merely "reproductive".
Havelock 's book Preface to Plato revolutionized how scholars looked at Homeric epic by arguing not only that it was the product of an oral tradition but that the oral-formulas contained therein served as a way for ancient Greeks to preserve cultural knowledge across many different generations.
It is identical to the Greek word for "hostage". It has been hypothesized that his name was back-extracted from the name of a society of poets called the Homeridaewhich literally means "sons of hostages", i. As these men were not sent to war because their loyalty on the battlefield was suspect, they would not be killed in conflicts, so they were entrusted with remembering the area's stock of epic poetry, to remember past events, from the time before literacy came to the area.
It has also been suggested by Pseudo-Plutarch that the name comes from a word meaning "to follow" and another meaning "blind". Other sources connect Homer's name with Smyrna for several etymological reasons. The traditional solution is the "transcription hypothesis", wherein a non-literate singer dictates the poem to a literate scribe in the 6th century BC or earlier.
Sources from antiquity are unanimous in declaring that Peisistratusthe tyrant of Athensfirst committed the poems of Homer to writing and placed them in the order in which we now read them. The modern debate began with the Prolegomena of Friedrich August Wolf According to Wolf, the date of writing is among the first questions in the textual criticism of Homer.
Having satisfied himself that writing was unknown to Homer, Wolf considers the real mode of transmission, which he purports to find in the Rhapsodistsof whom the Homeridae were an hereditary school. Wolf reached the conclusion that the Iliad and Odyssey could not have been composed in the form in which we know them without the aid of writing.
They must therefore have been, as Bentley has said, a sequel of songs and rhapsodies, loose songs not collected together in the form of an epic poem until about years after their original composition.
This conclusion Wolf supports by the character attributed to the Cyclic poems whose want of unity showed that the structure of the Iliad and Odyssey must be the work of a later timeby one or two indications of imperfect connection, and by the doubts of ancient critics as to the authenticity of certain parts.
This period, which ranged from approximately to BC, is estimated to have been immediately preceded by the historical counterpart to Homer's Trojan War. The composition of the Iliad, on the other hand, is placed immediately following the Greek Dark Age period.
It seems that the latter was composed at a later date than the former because the works' differing characterizations of the Phoenicians align with differing Greek popular opinion of the Phoenicians between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, when their skills began to hurt Greek commerce.
Whereas Homer's description of Achilles 's shield in the Iliad exhibits minutely detailed metalwork that characterized Phoenician crafts, they are characterized in the Odyssey as "manifold scurvy tricksters". The effect of Wolf's Prolegomena was so overwhelming, and its determination so decisive, that, although a few protests were made at the time, the true Homeric controversy did not begin until after his death in In the earlier part of his MetetemataNitzsch took up the question of written or unwritten literature, on which Wolf's entire argument turned, and showed that the art of writing must be anterior to Peisistratus.
In the later part of the same series of discussionsand in his chief work Die Sagenpoesie der Griechen,he investigated the structure of the Homeric poems, and their relation to the other epics of the Trojan cycle.
The confusion which previous scholars had made between the ancient post-Homeric poets such as Arctinus of Miletus and Lesches and the learned mythological writers like the scriptor cyclicus of Horace was first cleared up by Welcker.
Wolf had argued that, had the cyclic writers known the Iliad and Odyssey which we possess, they would have imitated the unity of structure which distinguishes these two poems. The aim of Welcker's work was to show that the Homeric poems had influenced both the form and the substance of epic poetry.
Regarding the use of writing, too, they were not unanimous. The first important steps in that direction were taken by Johann Gottfried Jakob Hermannchiefly in two dissertations, De interpolationibus Homeri Leipzig, and De iteratis apud Homerum Leipzig,called forth by the writings of Nitzsch.
As the word "interpolation" implies, Hermann did not maintain the hypothesis of a conflation of independent lays. Feeling the difficulty of supposing that all ancient minstrels sang of the wrath of Achilles or the return of Odysseus leaving out even the capture of Troy itselfhe was led to assume that two poems of no great compass, dealing with these two themes, became so famous at an early period as to throw other parts of the Trojan story into the background and were then enlarged by successive generations of rhapsodists.
Some parts of the Iliad, moreover, seemed to him to be older than the poem on the wrath of Achilles; and thus, in addition to the Homeric and post-Homeric matter, he distinguished a pre-Homeric element. The first book, for instance, consists of a lay on the anger of Achilles 1—and two continuations, the return of Chryseis — and the scenes in Olympus —, —The Homeric Question concerns the doubts and consequent debate over the identity of Homer, the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and their historicity (especially concerning the Iliad).The subject has its roots in classical antiquity and the scholarship of the Hellenistic period, but has flourished among Homeric scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Homeric Question concerns the doubts and consequent debate over the identity of Homer, the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and their historicity (especially concerning the Iliad).The subject has its roots in classical antiquity and the scholarship of the Hellenistic period, but has flourished among Homeric scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Go to: Distributed Proofreaders. The Homeric Question concerns the doubts and consequent debate over the identity of Homer, the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and their historicity (especially concerning the Iliad).The subject has its roots in classical antiquity and the scholarship of the Hellenistic period, but has flourished among Homeric scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries.