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Homeric Epithets for Troy

  • C. M. Bowra (a1)


The publication of the fourth volume on the excavations conducted at Troy by the University of Cincinnati in the years 1932–1938 enables us to review with more confidence the historical events which lie, no matter at how great a distance, behind the Iliad and to reconsider the Homeric epithets for Troy in the light of new knowledge. We may at the start agree with the writers that no other city in the Troad except Hisarlik has any reasonable claim to be the site of Troy, and it is now clear that Troy VI, which was gravely damaged by an earthquake c. 1275 B.C., was succeeded by Troy VIIa, which had a real continuity with VI and was largely a rebuilt version of it, until it perished itself from fire c. 1240 B.C. VIIa has thus a substantial claim to be the Homeric city, and the date of its destruction agrees with that given by Herodotus for the Trojan War as κατὰ ὀκτακόσια (ἔτεα) μάλιστα ἐς ἐμέ (ii 145.4). We may ask how relevant the Homeric epithets are to Troy as we now know it and when they may have been introduced into the oral tradition which Homer inherited and used in the eighth century. At the start we may say that, while all of them are at least adequate for a walled city on the site of Hisarlik, and some are much to the point, not all are equally individual, and we may classify them according to their use for cities in general and for Troy in particular. In doing this we must remember that in the Homeric poems cities need epithets as much as gods and heroes do, and that there is bound to be a certain overlap between one city and another in the epithets applied to it. Though we may postulate a pool of adjectives suitable for cities from which the poet draws those that meet his needs most adequately, there are some which are confined to Troy and others which are specially appropriate to it.



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1 Blegen, C. W., Boulter, C. D., Caskey, J. L., Rawson, M., Troy iv (Princeton, 1958).

2 Ibid. 11.

3 Troy iii 11.

4 Ibid. iv 11, 50, 90, 176.

5 Ventris, M. and Chadwick, J., Documents in Mycenaean Greek 233.

6 Troy iv 6, 48, 73, 88.

7 Troy iii 123, 136, 182, 188, etc.

8 Ibid. iv 51, 66, 70, 73, 92, 117, 123.

9 Ibid. iv 199.

10 Ibid. iii 10.

11 I owe this information to Professor C. Trypanis.

12 Leaf, W., Troy 150–1.

13 Troy iv 6–7.

14 Troy iv 48–51.

15 Ibid. iv 7.

16 Ibid. iii 38; iv 9.

17 Ibid. iv 145.

18 Ibid. iv 249.

19 Webster, T. B. L., From Mycenae to Homer 6490.

20 Bowra, C. M., Heroic Poetry 923.

21 Troy iii 102–4, 109–13. Cf. Leaf, W., Troy 156.

22 Troy iii 87; cf. Gray, D. in Myres, J. L., Homer and his Critics, 258.

23 Ventris–Chadwick 418.

24 Id. 182 (PY An20)

25 Id. 174 (PY An14).

26 Ventris–Chadwick 210 (KN Ca825).

27 Id. 306 (KN Fp1).

28 KN FP363.

29 I am grateful to Professor A. Andrewes and Mr W. G. G. Forrest for helpful criticism.

Homeric Epithets for Troy

  • C. M. Bowra (a1)


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