Homer, His Art and His World 9780472083534, 0472083538

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Homer, His Art and His World
 9780472083534, 0472083538

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Hom.er HisArt and His World JoachimLatacz Translated by James P. Holoka


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Foreword for English edition and English translation copyright© by the University of Michigan 1996 Originally published in German by Artemis Verlag All rights reserved Published in the United States of America by The University of Michigan Press Manufactured in the United States of America 0 Printed on acid-free paper 1999 1998 1997 1996

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A CIP catalogrecordfor this bookis availablefrom the BritishLibrary

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Latacz, Joachim. [Erste Dichter des Abandlands. English] Homer, his art and his world / Joachim Latacz ; translated by James P. Holoka. P· cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN o-472-1o657-o (hardcover: alk. paper) - ISBN o-472-o8353-8 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Homer-Criticism and interpretation. 2. Epic poetry, GreekHistory and criticism. 3. Civilization, Homeric. I. Title. PA4037.436 1996 883'.01-dc20 95-42481 CIP

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Foreword Introduction The Immediacyof Homer

Homer'sLanguage A HistoricalSketchof HomericScholarship 1. The New Relevance of Homer TheIliadas the First Written Workof Art in the West

Homeras the Founderof WesternTextuality The PoeticQuality of the HomericEpics Homer'sNearness 2. The Person, Environment, Time, and Work of Homer

The SourceSituation:Nothing Authentic The HomerLegend:A FalseTrack Firm Ground:Homer'sIndirectSelf-Representation FurtherClarifications: Homer'sIdentification with His ForemostPublic,the Nobility An Approachto Homer'sAudience:Prosperity, Collapse,and Resurrectionof the GreekAristocracy HeroicSong as Self-Validation TheRenaissanceof the EighthCentury PlausibleHypotheses:Homer'sTime and Place Homer'sWork:When and How TheHomericIliadas the Poetryof Renewaland Self-Celebration Homer:A FeasiblePortrait 3. The Iliad

The Theme:The Wrathof Akhilleus The Frameworkof the Theme:The Troy Saga and the TrojanWar(Myth and History) The Developmentof the Theme:The Plan of Action

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15 15 17 20 21

23 23 24 30 32

35 48 52 56 59 65 66

71 71 82 90



The Executionof the NarrativePlan:"Akhilleid"and Iliad The Menis Theme The Themeof the ThetisPetition

1o6 122 125

4. The Odyssey The Homecomingof Odysseus:The Themeand Its Framework The Elaborationof the Theme The Programof the Poem The Firstand SecondMajor Segments:The Telemakhia The Third and FourthMajorSegments:The Phaiakis The Fifth Major Segment:Homecomingon lthaka The Recognitionof Odysseusand Penelope

135 135 139 141 143 145 149 151

Abbreviations and Works Cited by Author's Name and Date


Selected Bibliography







The First German Edition, 1985

A few years ago, the following comment appeared in a professional journal for teachers of ancient languages at the high school level: "In the scholarly bibliographies of recent years, there is hardly to be found a publication on Homer's Iliad or Odyssey that offers a synopsis of the actual epic and provides a comprehensive appreciation" (W. Klug in Anregung27, no. 1 (1981]: 30). In fact, Homeric scholarship for about the last three decades has been so preoccupied with working up new theories and discoveries-among others, the sensational decipherment of Linear B-that there was hardly time to catch one's breath and sum up. But if even teachers of Greek are complaining, perhaps a short guide to current perspectives on Homer will be of yet more interest to a wider public. Thus this book is directed less to my colleagues than to all who are lovers of Homer generally and to all who would like to be. For them, I will try to bring Homer out of the preserve of specialists. For that reason, many narrowly philological questions are deliberately avoided. Also the whole vast area of so-called Homeric realia (that is, the particulars of social structure, economics, commerce, warfare, religion, and so on) has been excluded. Its systematic treatment would have required at least another whole volume (as the citations in the selected bibliography make abundantly clear). The chief emphasis here lies on the delineation of Homer's historical background (on developments of the Homeric era) and on the Iliadand the Odysseyas poems. Underlying this selectivity is a desire to bring Homer closer to the modem audience as a poet and not as a historical source. This desire is sustained by the conviction that whoever sees Homer as representative of his epoch-that restless eighth century B.C., when the Greek people, after a long dormancy, gradually shifted to an ever accelerating dynamism-will most readily understand how to appreciate the sagacity, the artistry, and the charm of the poet. It is impossible in an introductory work to offer a thorough explica-



lion of the Iliad and the Odyssey with their approximately 28,ooo lines. Nothing more than a foundation can be given. Perhaps it may awaken in the reader a yearning to make for himself or herself a deeper journey of discovery into Homer, armed with the outline provided here. The needed translations and other sources that might prove useful are listed in the selected bibliography. To all the colleagues who were helpful to me in various ways (especially my colleague at Basel, Josef Delz, as well as the archaeologists Professor Sakellarakis in lraklion and Professor Korfmann in Tilbingen) I am deeply indebted. A special thanks is owed to my assistant Edzard Visser and to my student aides in the Basel Seminar fur Klassische Philologie, Martha Spiro and Renate Muller. May a little of our delight in Homer be transmitted to others! The Second German Edition, 1989

I am delighted that the title of my first chapter, "The New Relevance of Homer," has found confirmation in the surprisingly strong response that my book has drawn from the general public as well as from students and teachers in academia. For this new edition, I have corrected minor misprints and oversights and updated the citations of scholarship in both the text proper and the selected bibliography. The English Edition, 1996

It is a special joy to me that, following translations of this book into Italian (1990) and Dutch (1991), my views on Homer and his superb poems will now reach an English-speaking readership as well. Since 1928, Homeric scholarship in the United States and Great Britain-specifically, Milman Parry's theory of oral composition and Michael Ventris' decipherment of the Linear B script-has lent a decisive impetus to the quest for a better appreciation of Homer's epics. With this book, I hope on the one hand to demonstrate that German-speaking Homer scholars have been grateful for that impetus and have even here and there contributed to it a bit. On the other hand, I would be gratified if my exposition were to furnish proof that German-speaking scholars have left behind the era of stultifying disputes between Analysts and Unitarians; that they are now able to integrate appropriately an array of critical methodologies to make significant contributions precisely to the inter-



pretation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. A few years ago, I spoke of the "reservations" that "American (and to an extent British) Homer scholars [have] with regard to the traditional European interpretation of Homer" (Latacz 1991b, ix). It would be a source of particular satisfaction to me if the present book were to dismantle some of those reservations. I must thank the University of Michigan Press and especially Dr. Ellen Bauerle for the confidence they showed in me by undertaking to publish this book. I also thank a number of American friends for the encouragement they have shown me-above all, my old friend Ludwig Koenen, for the unstinting and selfless manner in which he has fostered cooperation between the Classics Departments at the Universities of Michigan and Basel; he also had a hand in the realization of this translation. Especially warm thanks go to James P. Holoka for his devotion to the project; with incredible efficiency and in cordial cooperation with me, he rendered the German original into a finely nuanced and, in my opinion, quite elegant English version. I am also thankful to him for helping to update citations of Homeric scholarship to 1994 and for expanding the bibliography to accommodate the needs of Englishspeaking readers. No one who writes about Homer can expect that his view of the origins of the poems or his understanding of their meaning will convince all readers. That has not been my intent here. Rather, my goal has been to make modern readers so familiar with a great poetic work of the past that they might better understand their own lives. Nietzsche was surely correct to say that learning as an end in itself is incomplete. To be complete, learning must serve life. Joachim Latacz




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