A History of Ancient Greek Literature/Chapter 1

 

I

HOMER

Introductory

In attempting to understand the scope and development of Greek literature, our greatest difficulty comes from the fragmentary and one-sided nature of our tradition. There has perhaps never been any society in history so near to the highest side of our own as the Athens of Euripides and Plato. The spiritual vividness and religious freedom of these men, the genuineness of their culture and humanity, the reasoned daring of their social and political ideals, appeal to us almost more intimately than does our own eighteenth century. But between us and them there has passed age upon age of men who saw differently, who sought in the books that they read other things than truth and imaginative beauty, or who did not care to read books at all. Of the literature produced by the Greeks in the fifth century B.C., we possess about a twentieth part; of that produced in the seventh, sixth, fourth, and third, not nearly so large a proportion. All that has reached us has passed a severe and far from discriminating ordeal. It has secured its life by never going out of fashion for long at a time; by appealing steadily to the book-trade throughout a number of successive epochs of taste—fourth-century Greece, pre-Christian Alexandria, Augustan Rome, the great Hellenic revival of the Antonines, the narrower Attic revival of the later sophists.

After the death of Julian and Libanius, one is tempted to think that nobody was really interested in literature any more; but certain books had long been conventionally established in the schools as 'classics,' and these continued to be read, in ever-dwindling numbers, till the fall of Constantinople and the Renaissance. The eccentricities of the tradition would form material for a large volume. As in Latin it has zealously preserved Vergil and Avianus the fabulist, so in Greek it has multiplied the MSS. of Homer and of Apollonius the Kitian On Sprains. As in Latin it practically lost Lucretius save for the accident of a single MS., and entirely lost Calvus, so in Greek it came near to losing Æschylus, and preserved the most beautiful of the Homeric hymns only I by inadvertence. In general, it cared for nothing that was not either useful in daily life, like treatises on mechanics and medicine, or else suitable for reading in schools. Such writers as Sappho, Epicharmus, Democritus, Menander, Chrysippus, have left only a few disjointed fragments to show us what precious books were allowed to die through the mere nervelessness of Byzantium. But Rome and Alexandria in their vigour had already done some intentional sifting. They liked order and style; they did not care to copy out the more tumultuous writers. The mystics and ascetics, the more uncompromising philosophers, the ardent democrats and the enthusiasts generally, have been for the most part suppressed. We must remember that they existed, and try from the remains to understand them.


The Legendary Poets

But the first great gaps in the tradition are of a different nature. An immense amount of literature was never 'preserved ' at all. It is generally true that in any creative age the living literature is neglected. It is being produced every day; and why should any one trouble himself to have it copied on good material and put in a safe place? It is only that which can no longer be had for the asking that rouses men's anxiety lest it cease altogether. This is what happened among the Greeks in tragedy, in lyric poetry, in oratory, and in the first great movement of history. The greater part of each genus was already extinct by the time people bethought them of preserving it. Especially was it the case in the earliest form of composition known to our record, the hexameter epos.

The epos, as we know it, falls into three main divisions according to author and subject-matter. It is a vehicle for the heroic saga, written by 'Homêros'; for useful information in general, especially catalogues and genealogies, written by 'Hêsiodos'; and thirdly, for religious revelation, issuing originally from the mouths of such figures as 'Orpheus,' 'Musæeus,' and the 'Bakides.' This last has disappeared, leaving but scanty traces, and the poems of 'Homer and Hesiod ' constitute our earliest literary monuments.

All verse embodiments of the saga are necessarily less old than the saga itself. And more than that, it is clear that our Iliad, Odyssey, Erga, and Theogony are not the first, "nor the second, nor yet the twelfth," of such embodiments. These ostensibly primitive poems show a length and complexity of composition which can only be the result of many generations of artistic effort. They speak a language out of all relation to common speech, full of forgotten meanings and echoes of past states of society; a poet's language, demonstrably built up and conditioned at every turn by the needs of the hexameter metre. There must therefore have been hexameter poems before our Iliad. Further, the hexameter itself is a high and complex development many stages removed from the simple metres in which the sagas seem once to have had shape in Greece as well as in India, Germany, and Scandinavia. But if we need proof of the comparative lateness of our earliest records, we can find it in 'Homer' himself, when he refers to the wealth of poetry that was in the world before him, and the general feeling that by his day most great themes have been outworn.[1]

The personalities of the supposed authors of the various epics or styles of epos are utterly beyond our reach. There is for the most part something fantastic or mythical in them. Orpheus, for instance, as a saga-figure, is of Greek creation; as a name, he is one of the 'Ribhus,' or heroic artificers, of the Vedas, the first men who were made immortal. Another early bard, 'Linos,' is the very perfection of shadowiness. The Greek settler or exile on Semitic coasts who listened to the strange oriental dirges and caught the often-recurring wail 'Ai-leniû' ('Woe to us'), took the words as Greek, αἲ Λίνου ('Woe for Linos'), and made his imaginary Linos into an unhappy poet or a murdered prince. Homer's ancestors, when they are not gods and rivers, tend to bear names like 'Memory-son ' and 'Sweet-deviser'; his minor connections—the figures among whom the lesser epics were apt to be divided—have names which are sometimes transparent, sometimes utterly obscure, but which generally agree in not being Greek names of any normal type. The name of his son-in-law, 'Creophŷlus,' suggests a comic reference to the 'Fleshpot-tribe' of bards with their 'perquisites.' A poet who is much quoted for the saga-subjects painted on the 'Leschê' or 'Conversation Hall' at Delphi, is called variously 'Leschês,' 'Lescheôs,' and 'Leschaios'; another who sang of sea-faring, has a name 'Arctinos,' derived, as no other Greek name is, from the Pole-star. The author of the Têlegoncia,* which ended the Odysseus-saga in a burst of happy marriages (see p. 48), is suitably named 'Eugamon' or 'Eugammon.[2]

As for 'Homêros' himself, the word means 'hostage': it cannot be a full Greek name, though it might be an abbreviated 'pet name,' e.g. for 'Homêrodochos' ('hostage-taker'), if there were any Greek names at all compounded from this word. As it is, the fact we must start from is the existence of 'Homêridæ,' both as minstrels in general and as a clan. 'Homêros' must by all analogy be a primeval ancestor, invented to give them a family unity, as 'Dôros,' ' Iôn,' and 'Hellên' were invented; as even the League of the 'Amphictyones' or ' Dwellers-round [Thermopylae]' had to provide themselves with a common ancestor called 'Amphictyôn' or ' Dweller- round.' That explains 'Homêros,' but still leaves ' Homêridæ' unexplained. It may be what it professes to be, a patronymic ('Homer-sons'). It is easy to imagine a state of society in which the Sons of the Hostages, not trusted to fight, would be used as bards. But it may equally well be some compound (ὁμῆ, ἀρ—) meaning 'fitters together,' with the termination modified into patronymic form when the minstrels began to be a guild and to feel the need of a common ancestor.

It is true that we have many traditional 'lives' of the prehistoric poets, and an account of a 'contest'between Homer and Hesiod, our version being copied from one composed about 400 B.C. by the sophist Alkidamas, who, in his turn, was adapting some already existing romance. And in the poems themselves we have what purport to be personal reminiscences. Hesiod mentions his own name in the preface to the Theogony. In the Erga (I. 633 ff.), he tells how his father emigrated from Kymê to Ascra. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo ends in an appeal from the poet to the maidens who form his audience, to remember him, and ''when any stranger asks who is the sweetest of singers and who delights them most, to answer with one voice: 'Tis a blind man; he dwells in craggy Chios; his songs shall be the fairest for evermore." Unfortunately, these are only cases of personation. The rhapsode who recited those verses first did not mean that he was a blind Chian, and his songs the fairest for evermore; he only meant that the poem he recited was the work of that blind Homer whose songs were as a matter of fact the best. Indeed, both this passage and the preface to the Theogony are demonstrably later additions, and the reminiscence in the Erga must stand or fall with them. The real bards of early Greece were all nameless and impersonal; and we know definitely the point at which the individual author begins to dare to obtrude himself—the age of the lyrists and the Ionian researchers. These passages are not evidence of what Hesiod and Homer said of themselves; they are evidence of what the tradition of the sixth century fabled about them.

Can we see the origin of this tradition? Only dimly. There is certainly some historical truth in it. The lives and references, while varying in all else, approach unanimity in making Homer a native of Ionia. They concentrate themselves on two places, Smyrna and Chios; in each of these an Æolian population had been overlaid by an Ionian, and in Chios there was a special clan called 'Homeridæ.' We shall see that if by the 'birth of Homer' we mean the growth of the Homeric poems, the tradition here is true. It is true also when it brings Hesiod and his father over from Asiatic Kymê to Bœotia, in the sense that the Hesiodic poetry is essentially the Homeric form brought to bear on native Bœotian material.

Thus Homer is a Chian or Smyrnæan for historical reasons; but why is he blind? Partly, perhaps, we have here some vague memory of a primitive time when the able-bodied men were all warriors; the lame but strong men, smiths and weapon-makers; and the blind men, good for nothing else, mere singers. More essentially, it is the Saga herself at work. She loved to make her great poets and prophets blind, and then she was haunted by their blindness. Homer was her Demodocus, "whom the Muse greatly loved, and gave him both good and evil; she took away his eyes and gave him sweet minstrelsy." (θ, 63, 4). It is pure romance—the Italic textromance which creates the noble bust of Homer in the Naples Museum; the romance which one feels in Callimachus's wonderful story of the Bathing of Pallas, where it is Teiresias, the prophet, not the poet, who loses his earthly sight. Other traits in the tradition have a similar origin—the contempt poured on the unknown beggar-man at the Marriage Feast till he rises and sings; the curse of ingloriousness he lays on the Ky means who rejected him; the one epic (Cypria*) not up to his own standard, with which he dowered his daughter and made her a great heiress.


The Homeric Poems

If we try to find what poems were definitely regarded as the work of Homer at the beginning of our tradition, the answer must be—all that were 'Homeric' or 'heroic'; in other words, all that express in epos the two main groups of legend, centred round Troy and Thebes respectively. The earliest mention of Homer is by the poet Callinus (ca. 660 B.C.), who refers to the Thebais* as his work; the next is probably by Semonides of Amorgos (same date), who cites as the words of 'a man of Chios' a proverbial phrase which occurs in our Iliad, "As the passing of leaves is, so is the passing of men." It is possible that he referred to some particular Chian, and that the verse in our Iliad is merely a floating proverb assimilated by the epos; but the probability is that he is quoting our passage. Simonides of Keos (556-468 B.C.), a good century later, speaks of "Homer and Stesichorus telling how Meleagros conquered all youths in spear-throwing across the wild Anauros" This is not in our Iliad or Odyssey, and we cannot trace the poem in which it comes. Pindar, a little later, mentions Homer several times. He blames him for exalting Odysseus—a reference to the Odyssey—but pardons him because he has told "straightly by rod and plummet the whole prowess of Aias"; especially, it would seem, his rescue of the body of Achilles, which was described in two lost epics, the Little Iliad* and the Æthiopis.* He bids us "remember Homer's word: A good messenger brings honour to any dealing"—a word, as it chances, which our Homer never speaks; and he mentions the "Homêridæ, singers of stitched lays."

If Æschylus ever called his plays[3] "slices from the great banquets of Homer," the banquets he referred to must have been far richer than those to which we have admission. In all his ninety plays it is hard to find more than seven which take their subjects from our Homer, including the Agamemnon and Choëphoroi,[4] and it would need some spleen to make a critic describe these two as 'slices' from the Odyssey. What Æschylus meant by 'Homer' was the heroic saga as a whole. It is the same with Sophocles, who is called 'most Homeric,' and is said by Athenæus (p. 277) to "rejoice in the epic cycle and make whole dramas out of it." That is, he treated those epic myths which Athenæus only knew in the prose 'cycles' or handbooks compiled by one Dionysius in the second century B.C., and by Apollôdorus in the first. To Xenophanes (sixth century) 'Homer and Hesiod ' mean all the epic tradition, sagas and theogonies alike, just as they do to Herodotus when he says (ii. 53), that they two "made the Greek religion, and distributed to the gods their titles and honours and crafts, and described what they were like." There Herodotus uses the conventional language; but he has already a standard of criticism which is inconsistent with it. For he conceives Homer definitely as the author of the Iliad and Odyssey. He doubts if the Lay of the Afterborn* be his, and is sure (ii. 117) that the Cypria* cannot be, because it contradicts the Iliad. This is the first trace of the tendency that ultimately prevailed. Thucydides explicitly recognises the Iliad, the Hymn to Apollo, and the Odyssey as Homer's. Aristotle gives him nothing but the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the humorous epic Margites.* Plato's quotations do not go beyond the Iliad and the Odyssey; and it is these two poems alone which were accepted as Homer's by the great Alexandrian scholar Aristarchus (ca. 160 B.C.), and which have remained 'Homeric' ever since.

How was it that these two were originally selected as being 'Homer' in some special degree? And how was it that, in spite of the essential dissimilarities between them, they continued to hold the field together as his authentic work when so many other epics had been gradually taken from him? It is the more surprising when we reflect that the differences and inconsistencies between them had already been pointed out in Alexandrian times by the 'Chorizontes' or 'Separators,' Xenon and Hellanicus.


Iliad and Odyssey: The Panathenaic Recitation

A tradition comes to our aid which has been differently interpreted by various critics—the story of the recension by Pisistratus, tyrant of Athens, in the middle of the sixth century. Late writers speak much of this recension. "Vox totius antiquitatis" is the authority Wolf claims for it. It is mentioned in varying terms by Cicero, Pausanias, Ælian, Josephus; it is referred to as a well-known fact in a late epigram purporting to be written for a statue of "Pisistratus, great in counsel, who collected Homer, formerly sung in fragments." Cicero's account is that Pisistratus "arranged in their present order the books of Homer, previously confused." The Byzantine Tzetzes—the name is only a phonetic way of spelling Caecius—makes the tradition ludicrous by various mistakes and additions; his soberest version says that Pisistratus performed this task "by the help of the industry of four famous and learned men—Concylus, Onomacritus of Athens, Zopyrus of Heraclea, and Orpheus of Crotona." Unfortunately, the learned Concylus is also called Epiconcylus, and represents almost certainly the 'Epic Cycle,' ἐπικὸν κύκλον, misread as a proper name! And the whole commission has a fabulous air, and smacks of the age of the Ptolemies rather than the sixth century. Also it is remarkable that in our fairly ample records about the Alexandrian critics, especially Aristarchus, there is no explicit reference to Pisistratus as an editor.

It used to be maintained that this silence of the Alexandrians proved conclusively that the story was not in existence in their time. It has now been traced, in a less developed form, as far back as the fourth century B.C. It was always known that a certain Dieuchidas of Megara had accused Pisistratus of interpolating lines in Homer to the advantage of Athens—a charge which, true or false, implies that the accused had some special opportunities. It was left for Wilamowitz to show that Dieuchidas was a writer much earlier than the Alexandrians, and to explain his motive.[5] It is part of that general literary revenge which Megara took upon fallen Athens in the fourth century. "Athens had not invented comedy; it was Megara. Nor tragedy either; it was Sikyon. Athens had only falsified and interpolated!" Whether Dieuchidas accepted the Pisistratus recension as a fact generally believed, or whether he suggested it as an hypothesis, is not clear. It appears, however, that he could not find any un-Attic texts to prove his point by. When he wished to suggest the true reading he had to use his own ingenuity. It was he who invented a supposed original form for the interpolated passage in B, 671; and perhaps he who imagined the existence of a Spartan edition of Homer by Lycurgus, an uncontaminated text copied out honestly by good Dorians!

The theory, then, that Pisistratus had somehow 'interpolated Homer' was current before Alexandrian times. Why does Aristarchus not mention it? We cannot clearly say. It is possible that he took the fact for granted, as the epigram does. It is certain, at any rate, that Aristarchus rejected on some ground or other most of the lines which modern scholars describe as 'Athenian interpolations'; and that ground cannot have been a merely internal one, since he held the peculiar belief that Homer himself was an Athenian. Lastly, it is a curious fact that Cicero's statement about the recension by Pisisstratus seems to be derived from a member of the Pergamene school, whose founder. Crates, stood almost alone in successfully resisting and opposing the authority of Aristarchus. It is quite possible that the latter tended to belittle a method of explanation which was in particular favour with a rival school.

Dieuchidas, then, knows of Pisistratus having done to the poems something which gave an opportunity for interpolation. But most Megarian writers, according to Plutarch (Solon, 10), say it was Solon who made the interpolations; and a widespread tradition credits Solon with a special law about the recitation of 'Homer' at the Festival of the Panathenæa. This law, again, is attributed to Hipparchus in the pseudo-Platonic dialogue which bears his name—a work not later than the third century. Lycurgus the orator ascribes it simply to 'our ancestors,' and that is where we must leave it. When a law was once passed at Athens, it tended to become at once the property of Solon, the great 'Nomothetês.' If Pisistratus and Hipparchus dispute this particular law, it is partly because there are rumours of dishonest dealings attached to the story, partly because the tyrants were always associated with the Panathenæa.

But what was the law? It seems clear that the recitation of Homer formed part of the festal observances, and probable that there was a competition. Again, we know that the poems were to be recited in a particular way. But was it ἐξ ὑποβολῆς (by suggestion')—at any verse given? That is almost incredible. Or was it ἐξ ὑποληψέως ('one beginning where the last left off')? Or, as Diogenes Laertius airily decides, did the law perhaps say ἐξ ὑποβολῆς, and mean ἐξ ὑποληψέως?[6]

Our evidence then amounts in the first place to this: that there was a practice in Athens, dating at latest from early in the fifth century, by which the Homeric poems were recited publicly in a prescribed order; and that the origin of the practice was ascribed to a definite public enactment. We find further, that in all non-Athenian literature down to Pindar, 'Homer' seems to be taken as the author of a much larger number of poems than we possess—probably of all the Trojan and Theban epics—whereas in Attic literature from the fifth century onwards he is especially the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the other poems being first treated as of doubtful authorship, afterwards ignored. When we add that in the usage of all the authors who speak of this Panathenaic recitation, 'Homer' means simply, and as a matter of course, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the conclusion inevitably suggests itself that it was these two poems alone which were selected for the recitation, and that it was the recitation which gave them their unique position of eminence as the 'true' Homer.

Why were they selected? One can see something, but not much. To begin with, a general comparison of the style of the rejected epics with that of our two poems suggests that the latter are far more elaborately 'worked up' than their brethren. They have more unity; they are less like mere lays; they have more dramatic tension and rhetorical ornament. One poem only can perhaps be compared with them, the first which is quoted as ' Homer's' in literature, the Thebais:* but the glory of Thebes was of all subjects the one which could least be publicly blazoned by Athenians; Athens would reject such a thing even more unhesitatingly than Sikyon rejected the 'Homer' which praised Argos.[7]

We get thus one cardinal point in the history of the poems; it remains to trace their development both before and after. To take the later history first, our own traditional explanation of Homer is derived from the Alexandrian scholars of the third and second centuries B.C., Zenodotus of Ephesus (born 325?), Aristophanes of Byzantium (born 257?), and Aristarchus of Samothrace (born 215); especially from this last, the greatest authority on early poetry known to antiquity. Our information about him is mostly derived from an epitome of the works of four later scholars: Didymus On the Aristarchean Recension; Aristonicus On the Signs in the Iliad and Odyssey—i.e. the critical signs used by Aristarchus; Herodian On the Prosody and Accentuation of the Iliad, and Nicanor On Homeric Punctuation. The two first named were of the Augustan age; the epitome was made in the third century A.D.; the MS. in which it is preserved is the famous Venetus A of the tenth century, containing the Iliad but not the Odyssey.

We can thus tell a good deal about the condition of Homer in the second century B.C., and can hope to establish with few errors a text 'according to Aristarchus,' a text which would approximately satisfy the best literary authority at the best period of Greek criticism. But we must go much further, unless we are to be very unworthy followers of Aristarchus and indifferent to the cause of science in literature. In the first place, if our comments come from Aristarchus, where does our received text come from? Demonstrably not from him, but from the received text or vulgate of his day, in correction of which he issued his two editions, and on which neither he nor any one else has ultimately been able to exercise a really commanding influence. Not that he made violent changes; on the contrary, he seldom or never 'emended' by mere conjecture, and, though he marked many lines as spurious, he did not omit them. The greatest divergences which we find between Aristarchus and the vulgate are not so great as those between the quartos and the folios of Hamlet.

Yet we can see that he had before him a good many recensions which differed both from the vulgate and from one another. He mentions in especial three classes of such MSS.—those of individuals, showing the recension or notes of poets like Antimachus and Rhiânus, or of scholars like Zenodotus; those of cities, coming from Marseilles, Chios, Argos, Sinôpe, and in general from all places except Athens, the city of the vulgate; and, lastly, what he calls the 'vulgar' or 'popular' or 'more careless' texts, among which we may safely reckon 'that of the many verses' (ἡ πολύστιχος).

The quotations from Homer in pre-Alexandrian writers enable us to appreciate both the extent and the limits of this variation. They show us first that even in Athens the vulgate had not established itself firmly before the year 300 B.C. Æschines the orator, a man of much culture, not only asserts that the phrase φήμη δ'ἐς στρατὸν ἦλθε occurs 'several times in the Iliad,' whereas in our texts it does not occur at all; but quotes verbally passages from Θ and Ψ with whole lines quite different. And the third-century papyri bear the same testimony, notably the fragment of A in the Flinders-Petrie collection published in 1891 by Prof. Mahaffy, and the longer piece from the same book published by M. Nicole in the Revue de Philologie, 1894. The former of these, for instance, contains the beginnings or endings of thirty-eight lines of Λ between 502 and 537. It omits one of our lines; contains four strange lines; and has two others in a different shape from that in our texts: a serious amount of divergence in such a small space. On the other hand, the variations seem to be merely verbal, and the same applies to the rest of the papyrus evidence. There is no variation in matter in any fourth-century text.

The summing up of this evidence gives us the last two stages of the Homeric poems. The canonical statements of fact and the order of the incidents were fixed by a gradual process of which the cardinal point is the institution of the Panathenaic recitations; the wording of the text line by line was gradually stereotyped by continued processes of school repetition and private reading and literary study, culminating in the minute professional criticism of Zenodotus and his successors at the Alexandrian library.

If we go further back, it is impossible not to be struck by the phenomenon, that while the Homeric quotations in most fourth and fifth century writers, even in Aristotle, for instance, differ considerably from our text, Plato's quotations[8] agree with it almost word for word. One cannot but combine with this the conclusion drawn by Grote in another context, that Demetrius of Phalêrum, when summoned by Ptolemy I. to the foundation of the library at Alexandria, made use of the books bequeathed by Plato to the Academy.[9]

This analysis brings us again to the Panathenaic recitation. We have seen that its effects were to establish the Iliad and the Odyssey as 'Homer' par excellence; to fix a certain order of incidents in them; and, of course, to make them a public and sacred possession of Athens. Let us try to see further into it. When was it instituted? Was there really a law at all, or only a gradual process which the tradition, as its habit is, has made into one definite act?

As for the date, the establishment of the custom is sure not to be earlier than the last person to whom it is ascribed; that is, it took place not before, but probably after, the reign of Hipparchus. Now, to make the works of the great Ionian poet an integral part of the most solemn religious celebration of Athens, is a thing which can only have taken place in a period of active fraternising with Ionia. That movement begins for Athens with the Ionian revolt; before 500 B.C. she had been ashamed of her supposed kinsmen; even Cleisthenes had abolished the Ionian tribe names. The year 499 opens the great Pan-Ionic period of Athenian policy, in which Athens accepts the position of metropolis and protectress of Ionia, absorbs Ionian culture, and rises to the intellectual hegemony of Greece. Learning and letters must have fled from Miletus at the turn of the sixth century B.C., as they fled from Constantinople in the fifteenth A.D., and Athens was their natural refuge. We shall see later the various great men and movements that travelled at this time from Asia to Athens. One typical fact is the adoption of the Ionian alphabet at Athens for private and literary use.

The native Athenian alphabet was an archaic and awkward thing, possessing neither double consonants nor adequate vowel-distinctions. The Ionian was, roughly, that which we now use. It was not officially adopted in Athens till 404—the public documents liked to preserve their archaic majesty—but it was in private use there during the Persian Wars;[10] that is, it came over at the time when Athens accepted and asserted her position as the metropolis of Ionia, and adopted the Ionian poetry as a part of her sacred possessions. But a curious difficulty suggests itself. Homer in Ionia was of course already written in Ionic. Our tradition, however, backed by many explicit statements of the Alexandrians and by considerations of textual criticism,[11] expressly insists that the old texts of Homer were in the old Attic alphabet. If Homer came into the Panathenæa at the very same time as the new Ionian alphabet came to Athens, how was it that the people rewrote him from the better script into the worse? The answer is not hard to find; and it is also the answer to another question, which we could not solve before. Copies of Homer were written in official Attic, because the recitation at the Panathenæa was an official ceremony, prescribed by a legal enactment.

There was then a definite law, a symptom of the general Ionising movement of the first quarter of the fifth century. Can we see more closely what it effected?

It prescribed a certain order, and it started a tendency towards an official text. It is clear that adherence to the words of the text was not compulsory, though adherence to the 'story' was. It seems almost certain that the order so imposed was not a new and arbitrary invention. It must have been already known and approved at Athens; though, of course, it may have been only one of various orders current in the different Homeric centres of Ionia, and was probably not rigid and absolute anywhere. At any rate one thing is clear—this law was among the main events which ultimately took the epos for good out of the hands of the rhapsodes.

We know that the epos' in Ionia was in the possession of 'Homêridai' or 'rhapsôdoi'; and we have reason to suppose that these were organised in guilds or schools. We know roughly how a rhapsode set to work. He would choose his 'bit' from whatever legend it might be, as the bards do in the Odyssey.[12] He would have some lines of introduction—so much Pindar tells us, and the Homeric hymns or preludes show us what he meant—and probably some lines of finish. He would, if an ordinary human being, introduce bright patches and episodes to make his lay as attractive as others. He would object to a fixed text, and utterly abhor the subordination of parts to whole.

Now, our poems are full of traces of the rhapsode; they are developments from the recited saga, and where they fail in unity or consistency the recited saga is mostly to blame. For instance in Ε, the superhuman exploits of Diomêdes throw Achilles into the shade and upset the plot of the Iliad. But what did that matter to a rhapsode who wanted a good declamation, and addressed an audience interested in Diomêdes? The Doloneia (K), placed where it is, is impossible; it makes a night of such portentous length that Odysseus well deserves his three suppers. In a detached recitation it would be admirable. To take a different case, there is a passage describing a clear night, "when all the high peaks stand out, and the jutting promontories and glens; and above the sky the infinite heaven breaks open." This occurs in H, where the Trojan watch-fires are likened to the stars; it occurs also in Π, where the Greeks' despair is rolled back like a cloud leaving the night clear. Commentators discuss in which place it is genuine. Surely, anywhere and everywhere. Such lovely lines, once heard, were a temptation to any rhapsode, and likely to recur wherever a good chance offered. The same explanation applies to the multiplied similes of B, 455 ff. They are not meant to be taken all together; they are alternatives for the reciter to choose from.

And even where there is no flaw in the composition, the formulæ for connection between the incidents—"Thus then did they fight," "Thus then did they pray"—and the openings of new subjects with phrases like "Thus rose Dawn from her bed," and the like, suggest a new rhapsode beginning his lay in the middle of an epic whole, the parts before and after being loosely taken as known to the audience.

Nevertheless, the striking fact about our Homeric poems is not that they show some marks of the rhapsode's treatment, but that they do not show more. They are, as they stand, not suited for the rhapsode. They are too long to recite as wholes, except on some grand and unique occasion like that which the law specially contemplated; too highly organised to split up easily into detachable lengths. It is not likely that the law reduced them to their present state at one blow. All it insisted on was to have the 'true history' in its proper sequence. If it permitted rhapsodes at all, it had to allow them a certain freedom in their choice of ornament. It did not insist on adherence to a fixed wording.

The whole history of the text in the fourth century illustrates this arrangement, and the fact essentially is, that the poems as we have them, organic and indivisible, are adapted to the demands of a reading public. There was no reading public either in Athens or in Ionia by 470. Anaximander wrote his words of wisdom for a few laborious students to learn by heart; Xenophanes appealed simply to the ear; it was not till forty years later that Herodotus turned his recitations into book form for educated persons to read to themselves, and Euripides began to collect a library.

This helps us to some idea of the Ionian epos as it lived and grew before its transplanting. It was recited, not read; the incidents of the Iliad and the Odyssey were mostly in their present order, and doubtless the poems roughly of their present compass, though we may be sure there were Iliads without K, and Odysseys ending, where Aristarchus ended his, at Ψ 296, omitting the last book and a half. Much more important, the Iliad did not necessarily stop at the mere funeral of Hector. We know of a version which ran on from our last line—"So dealt they with the burying of Hector; but there came the Amazon, daughter of Ares, great-hearted slayer of men"—and which told of the love of Achilles for the Amazon princess, and his slaying of her, and probably also of his well-earned death. The death of Achilles is, as Goethe felt it to be, the real finish that our Iliad wants. When the enchanted steed, Xanthus, and the dying Hector prophesy it, we feel that their words must come true or the story lose its meaning. And if it was any of the finer 'Sons of Homer' who told of that last death-grapple where it was no longer Kebrionês nor Patroclus, but Acliilles himself, who lay "under the blind dust-storm, the mighty limbs flung miglitily, and the riding of war forgotten," the world must owe a grudge to those patriotic organisers who could not bear to leave the Trojan dogs with the best of it.

Of course in this Ionic Homer there were no 'Athenian interpolations,' no passages like the praise of Menestheus, the claim to Salamis, the mentions of Theseus, Procris, Phædra, Ariadne, or the account of the Athenians in N, under the name of 'long-robed Ionians,' acting as a regiment of heavy infantry. Above all, the language, though far from pure, was at least very different from our vulgate text; it was free from Atticisms.


The Epic Language

We must analyse this language and see the historical processes implied in its growth.

An old and much-scoffed-at division of Greek dialects spoke of Ionic, Æolic, Doric, and 'Epic' The first three denote, or mean to denote, real national distinctions; the last is, of course, an artificial name. But the thing it denotes is artificial too—a language that no Ionians, Dorians, or Æolians ever spoke; a 'large utterance,' rhythmic and emotional, like a complicated instrument for the expression of the heroic saga. As has already been remarked, it is a dialect conditioned at every turn by the Epic metre; its fixed epithets, its formulae, its turns of sentence-connection, run into hexameters of themselves. Artificial as it is in one sense, it makes the impression of Nature herself speaking. Common and random phrases—the torrents coming "down from the hills on their head;" the "high West wind shouting over a wine-faced sea;" "the eastern isle where dwells Eôs the Dawn-child, amid her palaces and her dancing-grounds, and the rising places of the Sun"—these words in Epic Greek seem alive; they call up not precisely the look or sound, but the exact emotional impression of morning and wind and sea. The expressions for human feeling are almost more magical: the anger of "what though his hands be as fire, and his spirit as burning iron"; or the steadfastness of "Bear, O my heart, thou hast borne yet a harder thing."

There is thus no disparagement to the Epic dialect in saying that, as it stands, it is no language, but a mixture of linguistically-incongruous forms, late, early, and primæval.

There are first the Atticisms. Forms like Τυδῆ, ἕως, νικῶντες, can only have come into the poems on Attic soil, and scarcely much before the year 500 B.C. At least, the fragments of Solon's Laws have, on the whole, a more archaic look. But for the purposes of history we must distinguish. There are first the removable Atticisms. A number of lines which begin with ἕως will not scan until we restore the Ionic form ἡος. That is, they are good Ionic lines, and the Attic form is only a mistake of the Attic copyist. But there are also fixed Atticisms—lines which scan as they stand, and refuse to scan if turned into Ionic; these are in the strict sense late lines; they were composed on Attic soil after Athens had taken possession of the epos.

Again, there are 'false forms' by the hundred— attempts at a compromise made by an Athenian reciter or scribe between a strange Ionic form and his own natural Attic, when the latter would not suit the metre. The Ionic for 'seeing' was ὁρέοντες, the Attic ὁρῶντες—three syllables instead of four; our texts give the false ὁροῶντες—i.e. they have tortured the Attic form into four syllables by a quaver on the ω. Similarly σπείους is an attempt to make the Attic σπέους fill the place of the uncontracted σπέεος, and εὐχετάασθαι is an elongated εὐχετᾶσθαι. Spelling, of course, followed pronunciation; the scribe wrote what the reciter chanted.

The historical process which these forms imply, can only have taken place when Athens looked nowhere outside herself for literary information, when there were no Ionic-speaking bards to correct the Attic bookseller. Some of them, indeed, can only have ceased to be absurd when the Koinê, the common literary language, had begun to blur the characters of the real dialects and to derive everything from the Attic standard. That is, they would date from late in the fourth century.

But to eliminate the Attic forms takes us a very little way; there is another non-Ionic element in 'Homer's' language which has been always recognised, though variously estimated, from antiquity onwards, and which seems to belong to the group of dialects spoken in Thessaly, Lesbos, and the Æolian coast of Asia including the Troad. Forms like Ἀτρείδαιο, Μουσάων, κέν for ἄν πίσυρες for τέσσαρες, intensitives in ἐρι-, adjectives in -εννος, and masses of verbal flexions are proved to be Æolic, as well as many particular words like πολυπάμμονος, Θερσίτης, ἄμυδις.

There is also another earlier set of 'false forms' neither Æolic nor Ionic, but explicable only as a mixture of the two. κεκληγῶτες is no form; it is an original Æolic κεκλήγοντες twisted as close as metre will allow it to the Ionic κεκληγότες; ἤπυτα τέττιξ, for 'singing cicada,' is the Æolic ἄπυτα brought as near as metre permits to the Ionic ἠπύτης. Most significant of all is the case of the Digamma or Vau, a W-sound, which disappeared in Ionic and Attic Greek, both medially (as in our Norwich, Berwick) and initially (as in who, and the Lancashire 'ooman). It survived, however, in Doric inscriptions, and in such of the Æolic as were not under Ionian influence, till the fifth and sometimes the fourth century. It is called in antiquity the 'Æolic letter.' Now there are 3354 places in the poems which insist on the restoration of this Vau—i.e. the lines will not scan without it; 617 places, on the other hand, where in ancient Æolic it ought to stand, but is metrically inadmissible. That is, through the great mass of the poems the habit and tradition of the Æolic pronunciation is preserved; in a small part the Ionic asserts itself.

These facts have been the subject of hot controversy; but the only effective way to minimise their importance is to argue that we have no remains of Æolic of the seventh century, and that the apparent Æolisms may be merely 'old Greek' forms dating from a period before the scattered townships on the coast of Asia massed themselves into groups under the names of Iônes and Aioleis—an historical hypothesis which leads to difficulties.

It is not disputed that the 'Æolic' element is the older. Philology and history testify to it, and weight must be allowed to the curious fact, that to turn the poems into Æolic produces the rhymes and assonances characteristic of primitive poetry in numbers far too large to be the result of accident.[13] And it holds as a general rule that when the Æolic and Ionic forms are metrically indifferent—i.e. when the line scans equally well with either—the Ionic is put; when they are not indifferent, then in the oldest parts of the poems the Æolic stands and the Ionic cannot, in the later parts the Ionic stands and the Æolic cannot. And further, where the two dialects denote the same thing by entirely different words, the Æolic word tends to stand in its native form; e.g λᾶος, 'people,' keeps its α, because the Ionic word was δῆμος. For a 'temple' the Ionic νὴος stands everywhere, but that is just because temples are a late development; the oldest worship was at altars in the open air.[14]

There are many exceptions to these rules. Dr. Fick of Göttingen, who has translated all the 'older parts' of Homer back to a supposed original Æolic, leaving what will not transcribe as either late or spurious, has found himself obliged to be inconsistent in his method; when Fιδέσθαι occurs without a F he sometimes counts it as evidence of lateness, sometimes alters it into ἱκέσθαι. In the same way a contraction like νικῶντες may represent an Æolic νίκαντες from νίκαμι, or may be a staring Atticism. When we see further that, besides the Ionisms which refuse to move, there are numbers of Æolisms which need never have been kept for any reason of metre, the conclusion is that the Ionising of the poems is not the result of a deliberate act on the part of a particular Ionic bard—Fick gives it boldly to Kynæthus of Chios—but part of that gradual semi-conscious modernising and re-forming to which all saga-poetry is subject. The same process can be traced in the various dialectic versions of the Nibelungenlied and the Chanson de Roland. A good instance of it occurs in the English ballad of Sir Degrevant, where the hero 'Agravain' has not only had a D put before his name, but sometimes rhymes with 'retenaunce' or 'chaunce' and sometimes with 'recreaunt' or 'avaunt.' It comes from an Anglo-Norman original, in which the Sieur d' Agrivauns formed his accusative d' Agrivaunt.[15]


The Subject-Matter of Homer

The evidence of language is incomplete without some consideration of the matter of the poems. What nationality, for instance, would naturally be interested in the subject of the Iliad? The scene is in the Troad, on Æolic ground. The hero is Achilles, from Æolic Thessaly. The chief king is Agamemnon, ancestor of the kings of Æolic Kymê. Other heroes come from Northern and Central Greece, from Crete and from Lycia. The lonians are represented only by Nestor, a hero of the second rank, who is not necessary to the plot.

This evidence goes to discredit the Ionian origin of the main thread of the Iliad; but does not the same line of argument, if pursued further, suggest something still more strange—viz., a Peloponnesian origin? Agamemnon is king of Argos and Mycenæ; Menelaos is king of Sparta; Diomêdes, by some little confusion, of Argos also; Nestor, of Pylos in Messenia. The answer to this difficulty throws a most striking light on the history of the poems. All these heroes have been dragged down to the Peloponnese from homes in Northern Greece.

Diomêdes, first, has no room in Argos; apart from the difficulty with Agamemnon, he is not in the genealogy, and has to inherit through his mother. A slight study of the local worships shows what he is, an idealised Ætolian. He is the founder of cities in Italy; the constant companion of Odysseus, who represents the North-West islands. He is the son of Tydeus, who ate his enemy's head, and the kinsman of Agrios ('Savage') and the 'sons of Agrios'—the mere lion-hero of the ferocious tribes of the North-West.

Agamemnon himself comes from the plain of Thessaly. He is king of Argos; only in a few late passages, of Mycenaæ. Aristarchus long ago pointed out that 'Pelasgian Argos' in Homer means the plain of Thessaly. But 'horse-rearing Argos' must be the same, for Argos of the Peloponnese was without cavalry even in historical times. And a careful treatment of the word 'Argos' shows its gradual expansion in the poems from the plain of Thessaly to Greece in general, and then its second localisation in the Peloponnese. Agamemnon is the rich king of the plain of Thessaly; that is why he is from the outset connected with Achilles, the poor but valiant chief from the seaward mountains; that is why he chooses Aulis as the place for assembling his fleet.

Aias in the late tradition is the hero of Salamis; but in the poems he has really no fixed home. He is the hero of the seven-fold shield, whose father is 'Shield-strap' (Telamon), and his son, 'Broad-buckler' (Eurysakes); if he has connections, we must look for them in the neighbourhood of his brother the Locrian, and his father's brother, Phôkos, who, although he was knocked on the head by the sea-shore, and had a mother called 'Sea-sand,' was perhaps originally as much a Phokian as a 'seal' (φωκή). So far we get a general conception of an original stage of the story in which the chiefs were all from Northern Greece. Where was the fighting?

Achilles and Agamemnon must be original; so must Hector and Ilion; so, above all, must Alexander-Paris and Helenê. But need Ilion be in Troia on the site of Hissarlik? It is worth observing that the scenery of the similes in the oldest parts of the poems is Thessalian, and not Asiatic; that Hector ('Upholder') is not connected in local legend with the historical Troy—its heroes are Æneas and one Dares;[16] that this Æneas, though afterwards identified with a hero at Hissarlik, seems to be in origin the tribal hero of the Æneânes in South Thessaly, just as Teukros ('Hitter'), the archer, gets in later tradition mixed up with Ilion, and the Ilion-men become Teukroi? Of course it is ultimately a myth that we have to deal with. The original battle for Helen was doubtless a strife of light and darkness in the sky, just as the Niblungs were cloud-men and Sigurd a sun-god, before they were brought down to Worms and Burgundy. But it looks as if the Helen-feud had its first earthly localisation, not in Troy, but on the southern frontier of those Thessalian bards who sang of it.

When Dr. Schliemann made his first dazzling discoveries at Mycenae and Hissarlik, he believed that he had identified the corpse of Agamemnon and recovered the actual cup from which Nestor drank, the pigeons still intact upon the handles. We all smile at this now; but it remains a difficult task to see the real relation which subsists between the civilisation described in the Homeric poems, and the great castles and walls, the graves and armour and pottery, which have now been unearthed at so many different sites in Greece.

Of the nine successive cities at Hissarlik, the sixth from the bottom corresponds closely with the civilisation of Mycenæ, a civilisation similar in many respects to that implied in the earliest parts of the Iliad. The Homeric house can be illustrated by the castle of Tiryns; the cornice of blue kyanos, a mystery before, is explained by the blue glass-like fragments found at Mycenae. The exhumed graves and the earliest parts of Homer agree in having weapons of bronze and ornaments of iron; they agree substantially in their armour and their works of art, the inlaid daggers and shields, the lion-hunts and bull-hunts by men in chariots, and in the ostensible ignorance of writing.

On the other hand, the similarity only holds good for the earliest strata of the poems, and not fully even for them. Mycenæ buried her dead; the men of the epos burnt theirs—a practice which probably arose during the Sea Migrations, when the wanderers had no safe soil to lay their friends in. Tiryns actually used stone tools to make its bronze weapons, whereas the earliest epos knows of iron tools; and in general we may accept E. Meyer's account that the bloom of the epos lies in a 'middle age' between the Mycenaean and the classical periods.

Thus the general evidence of the subject-matter conspires with that of the language, to show that the oldest strata have been worked over from an Æolic into an Ionic shape; that the later parts were originally composed in Ionia in what then passed as 'Epic'—that is, in the same dialect as then appeared in the rest of the poems, with an unconsciously stronger-tincture of Ionism; further, that the translation was gradual, and that the general development took centuries; and lastly, perhaps, that an all-important epoch in this development was formed by the great Race Migrations which are roughly dated about 1000 B.C. It seems to have been the Migrations that took the legendary war across the sea, when historical Æolians found themselves fighting in the Troad against Hissarlik, and liked to identify their own enemies with those of their ancestors; the Migrations, which drew down the Northern heroes to the Peloponnese, when a stream of Greeks from the Inachus valley met in Asia a stream from Thessaly. The latter contributed their heroic saga; the former brought the memory of the gigantic castles and material splendour of Tiryns and Mycenæ.

These Migrations present a phenomenon common enough in history, yet one which in romantic horror baffles a modern imagination: the vague noise of fighting in the North; the silly human amusement at the troubles of one's old enemies over the border; the rude awakening; the flight of man, woman, and child; the hasty shipbuilding; the flinging of life and fortune on unknown waters. The boats of that day were at the mercy of any weather. The ordinary villagers can have had little seamanship. They were lost on the waves in thousands. They descended on strange coasts and died by famine or massacre. At the best, a friendly city would take in the wives and children, while the men set off grimly to seek, through unknown and monster-peopled seas, some spot of clear land to rest their feet upon. Aristarchus put Homer at the 'Ionic Migration.' This must be so far true that the Migrations—both Æolic and Ionic—stirred depths of inward experience which found outlet by turning a set of ballads into the great epos, by creating 'Homer.' It was from this adventurous exile that Ionia rose; and the bloom of Ionia must have been the bloom of the epos.

 

Criteria of Age


As to determining the comparative dates of various parts of the poems, we have already noticed several possible clues. Bronze weapons are earlier than iron, open-air altars earlier than temples, leathern armour earlier than metal armour, individual foot-fighting (witness 'swift-footed Achilles') earlier than chariot-fighting, and this again than riding and the employment of columns of infantry. The use of 'Argos' for the plain of Thessaly is earlier than its vague use for Greece, and this than its secondary specialisation in the Peloponnese. But all such clues must be followed with extreme caution. Not only is it always possible for a late poet to use an archaic formula—even Sophocles can use χαλκὸς for a sword—but also the very earliest and most essential episodes have often been worked over and re-embellished down to the latest times. The slaying of Patroclus, for instance, contains some of the latest work in Homer; it was a favourite subject from the very outset, and new bards kept 'improving' upon it.

We find 'Hellas' and 'Achaia' following similar lines of development with Argos. They denote first Achilles's own district in Phthia, the home of those tribes which called their settlement in the Peloponnese 'Achaia,' and that in Italy 'Great Hellas.' But through most of the Iliad 'Achaioi' means the Greeks in general, while 'Hellas' is still the special district. In the Odyssey we find 'Hellas' in the later universal sense, and in B we meet the idea 'Panhellênes.' This is part of the expansion of the poet's geographical range: at first all the actors had really been 'Achaioi ' or 'Argeioi'; afterwards the old names 'Achaioi' and 'Argeioi' continued to be used to denote all the actors, though the actual area of the poems had widened far beyond the old limits and was widening still. The last parts of the Odyssey are quite familiar with Sicily and Kyrêne, and have some inklings of the interior of Russia, and perhaps of the Vikings of the far North.[17]

Another gradual growth is in the marriage-customs. Originally, as Aristotle noticed, the Greeks simply bought their wives; a good-looking daughter was valuable as being ἀλφεσίβοια, 'kine-winning,' because of the price, the ἕδνα, her suitors gave for her. In classical times the custom was the reverse; instead of receiving money for his daughter, the father had to give a dowry with her: and the late parts of the poems use ἕδνα in the sense of 'dowry.' There are several stages between, and one of the crimes of the suitors in the Odyssey is their refusal to pay ἕδνα.

Another criterion of age lies in the treatment of the supernatural. It is not only that the poems contain, as Rohde[18] has shown, traces of the earliest religion, ancestor-worship and propitiation of the dead, mixed with a later 'Ionic' spirit, daring and sceptical, which knows nothing of mysteries, and uses the gods for rhetorical ornament, or even for comic relief. There is also a marked development or degeneration in the use of supernatural machinery. In the earliest stages a divine presence is only introduced where there is a real mystery, where a supernatural explanation is necessary to the primitive mind. If Odysseus, entering the Phæacians' town at dusk, passes on and on safe and unnoticed, it seems as if Athena has thrown a cloud over him; if Achilles, on the very point of drawing his sword against his king, feels something within warn and check him, it seems to be a divine hand and voice. Later on the gods come in as mere ornaments; they thwart one another; they become ordinary characters in the poems. The more divine interference we get, the later is the work, until at last we reach the positively-marring masquerades of Athena in the Odyssey, and the offensive scenes of the gods fighting in E and Y. Not that any original state of the poems can have done without the gods altogether. The gods were not created in Asia; they are 'Olympian,' and have their characters and their formal epithets from the old home of the Achaioi.

The treatment of individual gods, too, has its significance—though a local, not a chronological one. Zeus and Hera meet with little respect. Iris is rather unpleasant, as in Euripides. Ares is frankly detested for a bloodthirsty Thracian coward. Aphrodite, who fights because of some echo in her of the Phœnician Ashtaroth, a really formidable warrior, is ridiculed and rebuked for her fighting. Only two gods are respectfully handled—Apollo, who, though an ally of Troy, is a figure genuinely divine; and Poseidon, who moves in a kind of rolling splendour. The reason is not far to seek: they are the real gods of the Ionian. The rest are, of course, gods; but they are 'other peoples' gods,' and our view of them depends a good deal on our view of their worshippers. Athena comes a good third to the two Ionians; in the Odyssey and K she outstrips them. Athens could manage so much, but not more: she could not make the Ionian poetry accept her stern goddess in her real grandeur; Athena remained in the epos a fighting woman, treacherous and bitter, though a good partisan. She will never be forgiven for the last betrayal of Hector.

Great caution must be used in estimating the significance of repetitions and quotations. For instance, the disguised Odysseus begins prophesying his return in τ, 303, with the natural appeal:—

"Zeus hear me first, of gods most high and great,
And brave Odysseus' hearth, where I am come."

But when he says the same in ξ, 158, not only is the prophecy imprudent when he does not mean to be recognised, but he is also not at his own hearth at all, and a slight surplusage in the first line betrays the imitator: "Zeus, hear me first of gods and thy kind board." The passage is at home in τ, and not at home in ξ.

Similarly, what we hear in κ, 136, is natural:—

"In the isle there dwelt
Kirkê fair-tress'd, dread goddess full of song."

Kirkê was essentially 'dread,' and her 'song' was magic incantation; but in μ, 448, it runs:—

"Calypso in the isle
Dwelleth fair-tress'd, dread goddess full of song."

Calypso was not specially 'dread' nor 'full of song,' except in imitation of Kirkê; and, above all, to 'dwell fair-tress'd,' the verb and adjective thus joined, is not a possible Homeric manner of behaviour, as to 'dwell secure' or to 'lie prostrate' would be.

In the same way the description of Tartarus in Theogony, 720—"As far 'neath earth as is the heaven above"—is natural and original. Homer's "As far 'neath hell as heaven is o'er the earth" (Θ, I6) is an imitation 'going one better.'

Yet, as a matter of fact, Calypso {Celatrix, 'She who hides') is probably original in the Odysseus-saga, and Kirkê secondary. There were other legends where Kirkê had an independent existence; and she had turned the Argonauts into bears and tigers before she was impressed to turn Odysseus' companions into pigs. And the Theogony, which is here quoted by the Iliad, itself quotes almost every part of both Iliad and Odyssey. The use of this criterion of quotation is affected by two things—first, all the passages in question may go back to an original which is now lost, sometimes to a definite passage in a lost epic, sometimes to a mere stock-in-trade formula; secondly, the big epics were so long in process of active growth that they all had plenty of time to quote one another. We have mentioned the Odyssean and Hesiodic phrases in the slaying of Patroclus (Π, 380-480). But the most striking instance of all is that the Hades scene in ω, the very latest rag of the Odyssey, gives an account of the Suitor-slaying which agrees not with our version, but with the earlier account which our version has supplanted (p. 40).

Besides verbal imitations, we have more general references. For instance, the great catalogues in Homer, that of ships in B, of myrmidons in Π, of women in λ, are almost without question extracts from a Bœotian or 'Hesiodic' source. Again, much of δ consists of abridged and incomplete stories about the Nostoi or Homecomings of Agamemnon, Aias the Less, and Menelaus. They seem to imply a reference to some fuller and more detailed original—in all probability to the series of lays called the Nostoi, which formed one of the rejected epics. The story in δ, 242 ff.) about Helen helping Odysseus in Troy, is definitely stated by Proclus—a suspected witness, it is true—to occur in the Little Iliad.* The succeeding one (271 ff.), makes Helen hostile to the Greeks, and cannot come from the same source. But it also reads like an abridgment. So does the story of Bellerophon in Z: "Proitos first sent him to slay the Chimaira: now she was a thing divine and not mortal, in front a lion, and behind a serpent, and in the middle a wild goat, breathing furious fire. Yet he slew her, obeying the signs of the gods." What signs, and how? And what is the meaning of the strange lines 200 f.? "But when he, too, was hated of all the gods, then verily down the Plain of Wandering alone he wandered, eating his heart, shunning the tread of men." The original poem, whatever it was, would have told us; the resumé takes all the details for granted.

Space does not allow more than a reference to that criterion of date which has actually been most used in the 'Higher Criticism'—the analysis of the story. It might be interesting to note that the wall round the ships in the Iliad is a late motive; that it is built under impossible circumstances; that it is sometimes there and sometimes not, and that it does not alter its conduct after Apollo has flattened it into the ditch; or that Achilles in Π speaks as if the events of I had not occurred; or that Odysseus' adventures in κ and μ, and perhaps in ι, seem to have been originally composed in the third person, not the first, while his supposed false stories in ξ and τ seem actually to represent older versions of the real Odysseus-legend; or that the poets of τ and the following books do not seem to know that Athena had transformed their hero in ν into a decrepit old man, and that he had consistently remained so to the end of σ. But in all such criticism the detail is the life. We select one point for illustration—the Suitor-slaying.

In our present version Odysseus begins with the bow, uses up all his arrows, puts down the bow, and arms himself with spear and shield and helmet, which Têlemachus has meanwhile brought (χ, 98). What were those fifty desperate men with their swords doing while he was making the change? Nearly all critics see here a combination of an old Bow-fight with a later Spear-fight. As to the former, let us start with the Feet-washing in τ. Odysseus is speaking with Penelope; she is accompanied by Eurycleia and the handmaids. Odysseus dare not reveal himself directly, because he knows that the handmaids are false. He speaks to his wife in hints, tells her that he has seen Odysseus, who is in Thesprotia, and will for certain return before that dying year is out! He would like to send the hand-maids away, but of course cannot. He bethinks him of his old nurse Eurycleia; and, when refreshment is offered him, asks that she and none other (τ, 343 seq.) shall wash his feet. She does so, and instantly (τ, 392) recognises him by the scar! Now, in our version, the man of many devices is taken by surprise at this; he threatens Eurycleia into silence, and nothing happens. The next thing of importance is that Penelope—she has just learnt on good evidence that Odysseus is alive, and will return immediately—suddenly determines that she cannot put off the suitors any longer, but brings down her husband's bow, and says she will forthwith marry the man who can shoot through twelve axe-heads with it! Odysseus hears her and is pleased! Is it not clear that in the original story there was a reason for Penelope to bring the bow, and for Odysseus to be pleased? It was a plot. He meant Eurycleia to recognise him, to send the maids away, and break the news to Penelope. Then husband and wife together arranged the trial of the bow. This is so far only a conjecture, but it is curiously confirmed by the account of the slaying given by the ghost of Amphimedon in ω. The story he tells is not that of our Odyssey: it is the old Bow-slaying, based on a plot between husband and wife (esp. 167).

As to the Spear-fight, there is a passage in π, 281-298, which was condemned by the Alexandrians as inconsistent with the rest of the story. There Odysseus arranges with Têlemachus to have all the weapons in the banquet hall taken away, only two spears, two swords, and two shields to be left for the father and son. This led up to a Suitor-slaying with spears by Odysseus and Têlemachus, which is now incorporated as the second part of our Suitor-slaying. Otto Seeck[19] has tried to trace the Bow-fight and the Spear-fight (which was itself modified again) through all the relevant parts of the Odyssey.

It is curious that in points where we can compare the myths of our poems with those expressed elsewhere in literature, and in fifth-century pottery, our poems are often, perhaps generally, the more refined and modern. In the Great Eoiai* the married pair Alkinoüs and Arêtê are undisguisedly brother and sister: our Odyssey explains elaborately that they were really only first cousins. When the shipwrecked Odysseus meets Nausicaa, he pulls a bough off a tree—what for? To show that he is a suppliant, obviously: and so a fifthcentury vase represents it. But our Odyssey makes him use the branch as a veil to conceal his nakedness! And so do the vases of the fourth century. A version of the slaying of Hector followed by Sophocles in his Niptra* made Achilles drag his enemy alive at his chariot wheels. That is the cruder, crueller version. Our poems cannot suppress the savage insult, but they have got rid of the torture. How and when did this humanising tendency come? We cannot say; but it was deliberately preferred and canonised when the poems were prepared for the sacred Athenian recitation.

This moral growth is one of the marks of the last working over of the poems. It gives us the magnificent studies of Helen and Andromache, not dumb objects of barter and plunder, as they once were, but women ready to take their places in the conception of Æschylus. It gives us the gentle and splendid chivalry of the Lycians, Sarpêdon and Glaucus. It gives us the exquisite character of the swineherd Eumæus; his eager generosity towards the stranger who can tell of Odysseus, all the time that he keeps professing his incredulity; his quaint honesty in feeding himself, his guest, and even Telêmachus, on the young inferior pork, keeping the best, as far as the suitors allow, for his master (ξ, 3, 80 ; π, 49); and his emotional breach of principle, accompanied with much apology and justification, when the story has entirely won him: "Bringforth the best of the hogs!" (ξ, 414). Above all, it seems to have given us the sympathetic development of Hector, The oldest poem hated Hector, and rejoiced in mangling him, though doubtless it feared him as well, and let him have a better right to his name 'Man-slayer' than he has now, when not only Achilles, but Diomedês, Aias, Idomeneus, and even Menelaus, have successively been made more than a match for him. In that aspect Hector has lost, but he has gained more. The prevailing sympathy of the later books is with him. The two most explicit moral judgments in the poems are against Achilles for maltreating him,[20] The gods keep his body whole, and rebuke his enemy's savagery. The scenes in Ζ, the parting with Andromache, the comforting of little Astyanax frightened at his father's plume, the calm acceptance of a battle which must be fatal, and of a cause which must be lost—all these are in the essence of great imagination; but the absolute masterpiece, one of the greatest feats of skill in imaginative literature, is the flight of Hector in Χ. It is simple fear, undisguised; yet you feel that the man who flies is a brave man. The act of staying alone outside the gate is much; you can just nerve yourself to it. But the sickening dread of Achilles' distant oncoming grows as you wait, till it simply cannot be borne. The man must fly; no one can blame him; it is only one more drop in the cup of divine cruelty, which is to leave Hector dead, Troy burned, Astyanax butchered, and Andromache her enemy's slave. If the old poet went with the conqueror, and exulted in Hector's shame, there has come one after him who takes all his facts and turns them the other way; who feels how far more intense the experience of the conquered always is, and in this case how far more noble.

The wonder is that Achilles is not spoilt for us. Somehow he remains grand to the end, and one is grieved, not alienated, by the atrocities his grief leads him to. The last touch of this particular spirit is where Achilles receives Priam in his tent. Each respects the other, each conquers his anguish in studied courtesy; but the name of Hector can scarcely be spoken, and the attendants keep the dead face hidden, lest at the sight of it Priam's rage should burst its control, "and Achilles slay him and sin against God" (Ω, 585). It is the true pathos of war: the thing seen on both sides; the unfathomable suffering for which no one in particular is to blame. Homer, because he is an 'early poet,' is sometimes supposed to be unsubtle, and even superficial. But is it not a marvel of sympathetic imagination which makes us feel with the flying Hector, the cruel Achilles, the adulterous Helen, without for an instant losing hold of the ideals of courage, mercifulness, and chastity?

This power of entering vividly into the feelings of both parties in a conflict is perhaps the most characteristic gift of the Greek genius; it is the spirit in which Homer, Æschylus, Herodotus, Euripides, Thucydides, find their kinship, and which enabled Athens to create the drama.


  1. Esp. θ, 74; μ, 70; α, 351. The books of the Iiad are denoted by the capital letters of the Greek alphabet, those of the Odyssey by the small letters
  2. Crusius, Philol. liv.
  3. Athenæus, 347 e.
  4. The others are the Achilles-trilogy (Myrmidons,* Nereides,* Phryges*), Penelope,* Soul-weighing.*
  5. Phil. Unters, vii. p. 240.
  6. One is tempted to add to this early evidence what Herodotus says (vii. 6) of the banishment of Onomacritus by Hipparchus; but he was banished for trafficking in false oracles, an offence of an entirely different sort from interpolating works of literature.
  7. Hdt v. 67.
  8. Counting Alcibiades II. as spurious.
  9. Grote, Plato, chap. vi.
  10. Kirchoff, Alphabet, Ed. iv. p, 92.
  11. See Cauer's answer to Wilaniowitz, Grundfragen der Homerkritik, p. 69 ff.
  12. θ, 73 ff., 500 ff.; α, 326.
  13. E.g. Fέρξομεν ἀθθανάτοισι τοι ὄρρανον εὒρυν ἔχουσι, χόλος δέ μιν ἄγριος ἄγρη (=ᾕρει), and ἀρέπυιαι ἀναρέψαντο.
  14. Cauer, Grutidfragen, p. 203.
  15. Thornton Romances, Camden Soc., 1844, esp. p. 289.
  16. Duncker, Greece, chap. xiii.
  17. The Laestrygones, especially κ, 82-86.
  18. Psyche, pp. 35 f.
  19. Quellen der Odyssee, 1887.
  20. Ψ; 24; Χ, 395; and Ψ, 176; Υ, 467.