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Homer the Theologian

Homer the Theologian: Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 375
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  • Book Info
    Homer the Theologian
    Book Description:

    Here is the first survey of the surviving evidence for the growth, development, and influence of the Neoplatonist allegorical reading of theIliadandOdyssey.Professor Lamberton argues that this tradition of reading was to create new demands on subsequent epic and thereby alter permanently the nature of European epic. The Neoplatonist reading was to be decisive in the birth of allegorical epic in late antiquity and forms the background for the next major extension of the epic tradition found in Dante.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90920-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. I The Divine Homer and the Background of Neoplatonic Allegory
    (pp. 1-43)

    Our concern here will be to examine one among several traditions of the interpretation of Homer in antiquity: that characterized by the claims that Homer was a divine sage with revealed knowledge of the fate of souls and of the structure of reality, and that theIliadandOdysseyare mystical allegories yielding information of this sort if properly read. It will be necessary to omit from discussion the larger part of the history of the interpretation of Homer in antiquity¹ in order to look specifically at the tradition closing that history and looking forward to the Middle Ages and...

  7. II Middle Platonism and the Interaction of Interpretive Traditions
    (pp. 44-82)

    The tradition of mystical allegorical commentary on Homer has survived in substantial form only in the writings of the Neoplatonists, but evidence from the first two and a half centuries of the Christian era—before the great synthesis of Plotinus, which marks the beginning of Neoplatonism proper—indicates that this period was a crucial one in the development of that tradition. Félix Buffière’s insistence on the second century as the time of the birth of mystical allegory needs qualification, as the discussion of the role of the Pythagoreans has suggested, but this does not alter the fact that Numenius and...

  8. III Plotinian Neoplatonism
    (pp. 83-143)

    Though the history of Neoplatonism starts, properly speaking, with Plotinus (205–70),¹ what we have called the Neoplatonic reading of Homer had its sources in habits of thought developed long before the third century and found full expression not in Plotinus himself but in Porphyry and then in the later Neoplatonists. Plotinus never mentions the name of Homer² and is very little concerned with interpretation of texts and myths from the poets. In the relatively sparse echoes of Homer and other poetry in theEnneads,he does, however, make it clear that his knowledge of literature was substantial and his...

  9. IV The Interaction of Allegorical Interpretation and Deliberate Allegory
    (pp. 144-161)

    The emergence of allegorical writing on a large scale and the mystical allegorical interpretation of non-epic literature are both developments rooted in the period of the authors we have been discussing. Neither of these developments is well understood, and if neither has found its historian, it is doubtless because the evidence is sparse, difficult to interpret, and often difficult to date. My comments will be limited to a sampling of texts providing evidence that the tradition of allegorical reading we have been examining was, in fact, crucially important in generating patterns of thought about literature and responses to literature that...

  10. V Proclus
    (pp. 162-232)

    Proclus (ca. 410–85) stands near the end of the ancient Neoplatonic tradition and on the threshold of the Middle Ages. He was head of the Athenian school that traced its ancestry to Plato’s Academy—hence the title Diadochos, or Successor, often attached to his name. In 529, less than fifty years after his death, his own successors abandoned Athens when Justinian closed the pagan philosophical schools, and although they subsequently returned, they were able to carry on their work only as private individuals. Neither his immediate predecessors nor those who followed after him in Athens and in Alexandria left...

  11. VI The Transmission of the Neoplatonists’ Homer to the Latin Middle Ages
    (pp. 233-297)

    Up to this point, with the exception of a brief discussion of Prudentius, this study has been concerned exclusively with Greek literature and thought. In fact, much of what has been discussed has been of Italian origin, from the archaic Pythagoreanism of southern Italy to the teachings of Plotinus and Porphyry in Rome. Virtually all the material examined, however, has been Greek in language and tradition. Traces of the Platonized Homer can be found in Latin authors as early as Apuleius,¹ a contemporary of Numenius, but there is no single work in Latin that explores at length the conception of...

  12. AFTERWORD Preconception and Understanding: The Allegorists in Modern Perspective
    (pp. 298-305)

    What has been elaborated here is the history of perhaps the most powerful and enduring of the “strong misreadings” (to use Harold Bloom’s term) that make up our cultural heritage. I have avoided any attempt to hold that reading of Homer up against others, to affirm or to deny it, beyond occasional observations on analogies between these ancient interpretive critics and those of our own time. My reticence on this score reveals an implicit model of reading with similarities to Bloom’s, and no doubt in part derivative from it. Beyond his definition of the poles of interpretation as strong and...

  13. APPENDIX I An Interpretation of the Modest Chariclea from the Lips of Philip the Philosopher
    (pp. 306-311)
  14. APPENDIX II Proclus’s Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, 1.341.25—343.15
    (pp. 312-314)
  15. APPENDIX III A Sampling of Proclus’s Use of Homer
    (pp. 315-317)
  16. APPENDIX IV The History of the Allegory of the Cave of the Nymphs
    (pp. 318-324)
    (pp. 325-340)
    (pp. 341-352)
    (pp. 353-354)
    (pp. 355-363)