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Homer the Preclassic

Homer the Preclassic

Gregory Nagy
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 418
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  • Book Info
    Homer the Preclassic
    Book Description:

    Homer the Preclassicconsiders the development of the Homeric poems-in particular theIliadandOdyssey-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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95024-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    This book,Homer the Preclassic, which is based on the Sather Classical Lectures of spring 2002, covers the preclassical era of Homeric reception. It is complemented by a twin book,Homer the Classic(Nagy 2009), which covers the classical era. Between the two of them,Homer the ClassicandHomer the Preclassiccover six ages of Homeric reception. Here are the six ages, arranged in a sequence going backward in time:

    Homer the Classic in the Age of Virgil

    Homer the Classic in the Age of Callimachus

    Homer the Classic in the Age of Plato

    Homer the Classic in the...


    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 3-8)

      Thinking my way backward from the classical period of the fifth century b.c.e., I confront a preclassical period that I divide into two ages, the Dark Age and the Bronze Age. I start here in Part I with the Dark Age. Then, in Part II, I will proceed to the Bronze Age.

      The termDark Agerefers to discontinuities, real or perceived, after the time of the Bronze Age, which comes to an end sometime around the eleventh century b.c.e. There is much speculation about the nature of such discontinuities and about their causes. Such speculation, however, is not relevant...

    • 1 Homer and the Athenian Empire
      (pp. 9-28)

      I offer here an overview of what we know about the Athenian empire in the era of the democracy in the fifth century b.c.e. The basic facts can be found in the history of Thucydides, who highlights what gradually happened to Athens as a world power in the period extending from the end of the Persian War, with the establishment of the Delian League in 478 b.c.e., to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in the year 431: what had started as axummakhia‘alliance’ of the city of Athens with various other cities evolved into anarkhē‘rule’ by...

    • 2 Homer Outside His Poetry
      (pp. 29-58)

      So far, we have been considering the concept of Homer as defined by theHomeric Hymn to Apolloand by the epics attributed to Homer. Now we will see that there is further definition to be found outside this poetry, in a body of narratives known as theLives of Homer. In what follows, I offer an analysis of the evidence provided by theseLives.¹ TwoLivesstand out in my analysis. One of them isVita1, sometimes known as theHerodotean Life, and the other isVita2, theContest of Homer and Hesiod, which is sometimes called...

    • 3 Homer and His Genealogy
      (pp. 59-78)

      I return to the cursory reference to Chios as the setting for a quadrennialthusia‘festival’ honoring Homer in the narrative ofVita2 (307–8). As we saw, this reference is pertinent to the context of aHomeric Hymn to Apolloto be performed at Delos. In other words, it is pertinent to the festival of the Delia. It is also pertinent to the indirect reference made by the narrative ofVita1 to the quadrennialthusia‘festival’ of the Panathenaia in Athens. As we have already seen, Homer is pictured as composing both theIliadand theOdyssey...

    • 4 Homer in the Homeric Odyssey
      (pp. 79-102)

      When Thucydides quotes Homer, he imagines the Poet in the act of personally performing at the festival of the Delia in Delos. This historian’s view, as we have seen, is Athenocentric. To be contrasted is the view of Aristarchus, which is post-Athenocentric. For Aristarchus, the poet of theHomeric Hymn to Apollois a neoteric rhapsode, Kynaithos of Chios. For Thucydides, the performer of theHomeric Hymn to Apollois Homer himself, and the Poet’sHymn to Apollois aprooimionto whatever epic Homer will perform. Theoretically, theHymn to Apollomay be aprooimionto the HomericIliad...

    • 5 Iliadic Multiformities
      (pp. 103-128)

      We have seen that the ongoinghumnosof the stylized festival of the Phaeacians keeps getting stopped and restarted, and that in two cases the restarting activates a distinct hymnicprooimion. In the first case, the restarting leads to the second song of Demodokos, which activates a hymnicprooimionfeaturing the personified divine force ofPhilotēs‘Bonding’ as its hymnic subject. In the other case, the restarting leads to the third song of Demodokos, which activates a hymnicprooimionfeaturing Zeus himself as its implied hymnic subject. It does not follow, however, that each restarting of epic requires a distinct...


    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 129-132)

      Just as i redefined the dark age in Homeric terms as a transitional phase leading up to a notionally terminal phase of Homer the Classic, I now redefine the Bronze Age as the corresponding initial phase. In Homeric terms, this initial phase of Homer the Preclassic is marked by one central event, the Trojan War.

      The Trojan War is a primary temporal frame of reference for the stories of the HomericIliadandOdyssey—stories that tell how women and men like Andromache and Hector and Achilles and Odysseus lived out their heroic destinies as planned for them by an...

    • 6 Variations on a Theme of Homer
      (pp. 133-146)

      In theLife of Homertraditions we find explicit references to the dating of Homer, linked directly to the dating of the Trojan War. InVita3a (25–44), which draws upon Book 3 of Aristotle’sPoeticsas its source (F 76 ed. Rose), it is said that Homer was conceived by his mother on the island of Ios at the time of the so-called Ionian Migration, led by oneNēleus, son of King Kodros of Athens (3a.25–27).¹ InVita3b (17–22), we are told that Aristarchus and his followers at the Library of Alexandria likewise assigned Homer’s...

    • 7 Conflicting Claims on Homer
      (pp. 147-217)

      The Aeolians had their own motives for claiming the territory of Sigeion as their very own Iliadic space. The tomb of the hero Achilles was understood to be located in Aeolian territory, specifically in the environs of Sigeion. As we are about to see, the Aeolians connected this poetic territory, this Iliadic space, with epic references to the tomb of Achilles. And so too did the Athenians. Such conflicting claims on Iliadic space stemmed from conflicting claims on Homer himself.

      In order to make this argument, I need to start by returning to two points I stressed earlier:

      1. The city...

    • 8 Homeric Variations on a Theme of Empire
      (pp. 218-253)

      In the account of Herodotus, Miletus figures as the premier city in a federation of twelve cities that comprise the Ionian Dodecapolis. This privileging of Miletus reflects an early model of political dominance that shaped the later model that we know as the Athenian empire. To be contrasted is what we are told by Strabo: in his account, Ephesus figures as the premier city. Such privileging, as we are about to see, reflects an intermediate model. In the case of Miletus, its political dominance in the federation corresponded to its prominence at the festival of the Panionia; in the case...

    • 9 Further Variations on a Theme of Homer
      (pp. 254-272)

      The time has come to ask this fundamental question about the festive poetics of federal politics. How could Homeric poetry express the idea of a federal society? Or, to put it another way, how could a poetic figure like Homer serve as a spokesman for such a society? The answer, I propose, has to do with the meaning of the nameHomēros‘Homer’.¹

      I start by reviewing what we know so far about this name. As I argued in chapter 3, the name of Homer and the meaning of his name are linked to theHomēridaiof Chios, who were...

    • 10 Homer and the Poetics of Variation
      (pp. 273-310)

      We have seen how the technique of narrating the story about the presentation of a peplos to Athena in her temple at Troy corresponds to the technique of weaving the Panathenaic Peplos for presentation to Athena in her temple at Athens. And the occasion for presenting the woven Peplos, the festival of the Panathenaia, is also the occasion for presenting the narration of this story and all other Homeric stories. Narrating the story requires variation, just as weaving the Peplos requires variation. As I argue inHomer the Classic, the word that best captures the idea of variation in the...

  9. Epilegomena: A Preclassical Text of Homer in the Making
    (pp. 311-382)

    Till now I have been reconstructing Homer as a preclassic by working my way backward in time. Now I will attempt an overview by going forward in time. I start with the earliest possible point of departure, the so-called Bronze Age.

    For some, the Bronze Age is so obscure that it seems even darker than the so-called Dark Age. My thinking is different. For me the Bronze Age is perhaps the brightest of all the ages of Homer. In what follows, I will explain my reasons for applying the metaphor of brightness to this age.

    To start, let us consider...

    (pp. 383-402)
    (pp. 403-414)