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This essay examines Simone Weil’s interpretation of the Iliad – found in her “The Iliad or the Poem of Force” – as a strongly critical meditation on the dehumanizing effects of force, violence, and war in human affairs.
The Byzantine interpretative framework through which Homeric and Homerizing literature was approached in the Middle Ages survived in the Greek world until its last vestiges were cast away in the early nineteenth century with the creation of an independent Greek state and the establishment of a national educational curriculum modeled after the Bavarian one. The reception of Homer in Greece and the Balkans during the nineteenth century was shaped by the key position of epic poetry in the development of romantic nationalism. Nineteenth-century Greek poets writing about the military struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire cast prominent figures as successors to the Homeric heroes. This conception of the past generated a desire to translate Homer into Balkan languages and translations of Homer’s epics into Ottoman Turkish, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Serbian were made by non-Greek graduates of Greek schools. Although the translators of Homer in the Balkans and in the Middle East had different motivations, their works collectively indicate a desire to become directly acquainted with literary works considered foundational to Western European modernity.
Jean de Sponde’s commentary of Homeric poems, published in Basel (1583), appears as a defense of Homer against Jules César Scaliger’s criticisms, by showing the Greek poet as a master of both virtue and rhetoric.
Dante did not read Homer but thanks to the Latin tradition valued him highly: for Dante, Homer was such a paragon of poetic achievement that, in the Divine Comedy, he stands out even amongst Limbo’s “virtuous pagans” (including Dante’s own poetic master, Virgil). That complex reception is crystallized in Dante’s depiction of Ulysses (Odysseus), a sinner who is yet a “grand shade” described in language otherwise applied only to the spur of Dante’s spiritual journey, Beatrice.
This essay presents a short biography of Carl Blegen, who excavated at Troy and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, and who formulated ideas that still have a significant impact on the study of the Aegean Bronze Age today.
If we look beyond the unusual circumstances that prevail in both the Iliad and Odyssey, we find a fragmented world in which relatively small-scale local communities are the norm. In this chapter we reconstruct what Homeric communities look like and how they function, considering their basic social, political, economic, and religious structures. If we wish to link this picture to a specific archaeological period, the degree of settlement and community organization of Homeric communities seems fairly comparable to that of the Early Archaic period.
Athens by the Classical period had taken possession of the Iliad and Odyssey, but because of the nature of the evidence and the generally Athenocentric view of Greece and Greek culture that the ancient sources give us we should keep in mind that other poleis also asserted their own claims of special relationship to the poet.
In the Homeric epics, “mind” and “body” did not exist as a binary opposition. Instead, several overlapping Greek terms were used to define functions that we associate with mental and somatic faculties.
Doubtless the most read and so the most influential of Greek authors (with the possible exception of Homer himself), Plutarch provides an important index of the reception of Homer in the high Roman Empire.
The Homeric representation of divinities and divine power, often mistakenly assumed to represent some kind of universal Greek belief, blends literary and religious interests in a way that has challenged many readers.
This essay surveys key editions and translations of the Homeric corpus in the two centuries after the advent of print and also studies the evolution of Homeric commentaries and scholarly apparatus during the European Renaissance. Examining both Latin and vernacular translations, the essay identifies key trends as well as idiosyncrasies in the era’s attempts to render Homer’s Greek readable to a wide audience and also examines some of the ways in which Homer’s poems were interpreted and repurposed, ranging from discussions of Homeric emotion and the theological implications of the Homeric gods to the circulation of Homeric verses in maxims and sententiae.
The heroes of the Homeric poems own many slaves, whose condition and legal status did not essentially differ from slaves in Greece during the Classical and Hellenistic periods. The labor of these slaves provided the basileis of the Iliad and Odyssey the surplus they needed to maintain their leading position in society.