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This article focuses on the interrelationship between two events taking place simultaneously in Odysseus’ megaron: Phemius’ performance and the conversation between Telemachus and Athena. I argue that at Hom. Od. 1.298–302 Athena, in her mention of Orestes’ kleos, refers directly to Phemius’ song that Telemachus can hear from where he is sitting. This reading sheds new light on the characters’ receptions of Phemius’ song. Between the well-known contrasting responses of the nearest and the farthest audiences – the suitors’ silence and Penelope's over-reaction – stands Athena's cognitively constructive use of it, by which the goddess attempts to establish a shared understanding with Telemachus, whose kleos is one of the main concerns of her visit to Ithaca.
Chapter 1 focuses on the social groups, the communicative constellations, and the media in which intentional history took shape. Texts in which the first-person plural, the collective ‘we’, was used, were particularly characteristic of this. In this way, they brought the historical events into a direct connection with the current audience. It is identical, as it were, with the past actors. These were his ancestors. The Greeks had countless poems and chants of this kind, which were found primarily in the epics of Homer and Hesiod. Especially among the elites who enjoyed such chants at their symposia, the idea prevailed that in this way their achievements would also be known in the future. As a result, the Greeks did not differentiate between mythical and (in our sense) historical events, and remembrance was also directed towards posterity. At the same time, the texts were firmly anchored in social and religious communication and thus part of life. This went so far that many citizens took part in performances of poetic works themselves (in choirs, for example), thus being themselves involved in the creation of intentional history.
In Essay Six of his Commentary on Plato's Republic, the Platonist Proclus offers a defence of the poetry of Homer and attempts to harmonize the Homeric epics, as inspired texts, with the philosophy of Plato as he interprets it. The tendency of late antique Platonists to turn to allegorical reading is well known, but in this instance Proclus interprets Achilles by other means. In particular, he is careful to place Achilles’ actions relative to what he sees as the correct position in the scale of virtues (at the level of the political virtues). In some further remarkable passages Proclus sees Achilles’ ritual activities as a kind of prefiguration of the theurgic practices embraced by the Platonic school of Proclus’ era.
In this concise but stimulating book on history and Greek culture, Hans-Joachim Gehrke continues to refine his work on 'intentional history', which he defines as a history in the self-understanding of social groups and communities – connected to a corresponding understanding of the other – which is important, even essential, for the collective identity, social cohesion, political behaviour and the cultural orientation of such units. In a series of four chapters Gehrke illustrates how Greeks' histories were consciously employed to help shape political and social realities. In particular, he argues that poets were initially the masters of the past and that this dominance of the aesthetic in the view of the past led to an indissoluble amalgamation of myth and history and lasting tension between poetry and truth in the genre of historiography. The book reveals a more sophisticated picture of Greek historiography, its intellectual foundations, and its wider social-political contexts.
At the climax of the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad, Achilles ponders whether to kill the king (1.191). The first half of the line, however, has received little attention, but the various interpretations that have been put forth have been unconvincing. This article proposes an interpretation that reveals an Achilles at least momentarily contemplating fomenting a revolt on the part of the army against Agamemnon's authority.
No translation can ever be the same as its original, but rather than seeing this in terms of a loss, it makes far more sense to think in terms of gain, for once a translation enters the receiving culture it sets out on a new path. Never is this clearer than in the practice of retranslating classical texts. The Iliad may have begun as an oral poem, but over the ages it has become a source for writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, video game creators, graphic artists – in short for creative artists across the world – and has consequently acquired new life in new languages and new forms. In the great interconnectedness of global textuality, the role played by translation, however we choose to define that term, is infinite.
Machiavelli criticizes Plato’s explicit celebration of the contemplative philosophic life over the active political life as harmful both to politics and to philosophy, he praises Homer as an effective teacher of political leaders or "princes," and he follows the example of Homer by hiding his own philosophic life under the guise of one who exclusively leads and admires the active political life. Machiavelli, however, responding to the Platonic and also Christian legacy of radically depreciating the political life during his own times, departs from Homer’s portrayal of the political life of virtue as tragic and therefore pointing beyond itself to the contemplative philosophic life, by portraying the political life of virtue, if properly understood, as one that leads to happiness and therefore does not so clearly point beyond itself to the contemplative philosophic life.
Plato criticizes Homer’s effort to promote religious skepticism through his portrayal of the gods for overestimating the power of human reason and underestimating the power of human passions, and he criticizes Homer’s education concerning human excellence for inadvertently glamorizing the passionate and tragic hero Achilles and all too effectively hiding his own example as a philosophic thinker behind the mask of the divinely inspired singer. Plato therefore replaces the Homeric education with a new, poetic, Platonic education that presents Socrates – the fearless, dispassionate, self-sufficient, apolitical philosopher who promulgates the pious, edifying, and reassuring doctrines of the separate Forms and the Immortality of the Soul – as an explicit object of admiration and model for imitation.
A study of Homer in conjunction with Plato, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche confirms that Homer was a philosophic thinker and that he plays an illuminating role in the thought of each of the three political philosophers. This study also shows that there are many ways of living a philosophic life; that philosophers may present themselves in different guises depending on the political, religious, and intellectual circumstances they may find themselves in; that their most fundamental choice is whether or not to present themselves explicitly as philosophers; and that therefore we must broaden our understanding of who a philosopher is beyond those who explicitly present themselves as philosophers and consider the possibility that a number of poets, statesmen, historians, and even theologians of the past may also be philosophers in their own right.
Homer plays an important but overlooked role in the history of political philosophy. Plato criticizes the philosophic tradition founded by Homer and establishes a new one in its place; Machiavelli and Nietzsche, two leading philosophic critics of Plato, invoke Homer in their arguments against Plato and his legacy.
Nietzsche criticizes Plato for having praised the philosophic life in such a way as to deprive the active political and military life of the honor and vitality it enjoyed in the Greek culture founded by Homer and therefore seems to call for a reversal of the moral and political legacy of Platonism and Christianity and a revival of Homeric culture. But Nietzsche ultimately criticizes Plato more seriously, not for explicitly celebrating the philosophic life as the best way of life for a human being, but rather for presenting the philosopher as a champion of morality and religion and thereby obscuring the skeptical nature of the philosopher and he therefore seeks, through his rhetorical presentation of philosophy as emphatically opposed to morality and religion, to reintroduce the radical moral and religious skepticism of philosophy to a world that has lost sight of it.
Homer first presents as a model of human excellence the hero Achilles, who lives a life of political and military virtue to the fullest, who becomes painfully aware of the limits of that way of life, and whose example as a tragic, suffering, questioning hero points to the contemplative singer Homer as the true model of human excellence in the Homeric poems. Through his explicit, skeptical judgments concerning gods and heroes; his scientific but compassionate accounts of death; and his similes, Homer points to himself as a philosophic thinker, but he deliberately hides his philosophic life in the poems to avoid incurring popular hostility and to encourage the most thoughtful members of his audience to discover the independent-minded life of philosophy on their own and for themselves.
Plato identifies Homer as the philosophic educator of Greece but severely criticizes the Homeric education for his portrayal of the gods, his portrayal of heroes as exemplars of human excellence, and his portrayal of himself. Homer reveals through his poems that nature limits the power of the gods and that the gods’ own immortal nature renders them incapable of understanding and caring for humans and hence incapable of providing for them.
In this book, Peter Ahrensdorf explores an overlooked but crucial role that Homer played in the thought of Plato, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche concerning, notably, the relationship between politics, religion, and philosophy; and in their debates about human nature, morality, the proper education for human excellence, and the best way of life. By studying Homer in conjunction with these three political philosophers, Ahrensdorf demonstrates that Homer was himself a philosophical thinker and educator. He presents the full force of Plato's critique of Homer and the paramount significance of Plato's achievement in winning honor for philosophy. Ahrensdorf also makes possible an appreciation of the powerful concerns expressed by Machiavelli and Nietzsche regarding that achievement. By uncovering and bringing to life the rich philosophic conversation among these four foundational thinkers, Ahrensdorf shows that there are many ways of living a philosophic life. His book broadens and deepens our understanding of what a philosopher is.
Plato’s philosophical thinking begins from views and assumptions that he presupposes in his readers or in himself, whether or not he states them explicitly. This chapter surveys the following influences: (1) Homer. (2) Political developments and the moral questions they raise. (3) The interactions of natural philosophy (‘Presocratic’ philosophy) and religion. (4) The epistemological questions arising from natural philosophy. (5) Sceptical tendencies in naturalist epistemology. (6) Sophistic and rhetoric and the intellectual and political tensions connected with them. (7) Plato’s reactions to natural philosophy, sophistic and rhetoric. (8) Socratic inquiry and its sources in drama and forensic oratory.
Scholarship on Early Greek housing has moved from creating fictional reconstructions based on Homeric poetry, through typological sorting of archaeological houses by shape and rooms, to analysing access patterns and functionalization. These more recent approaches have largely estranged epic poetry from archaeology. However, since they seek to understand domestic structures as experienced by living people, there is a way to build poetry back in by using it to explore the ways their inhabitants thought about domestic spaces. The phrase ‘in the halls’ is used abundantly in the Homeric and Hesiodic corpus as a metonymy for familial life and prosperity. The phrase should be read not as a reality to be sought in the archaeological record but abstractly as an indicator of the importance of physical space in a household’s formation and success. The link between prosperity, family and house can also be seen in the renovations and increasing complexities in some early Greek domestic architecture. Success and wealth modify and are expressed in the house. ‘In the halls’ thus refers to an important cultural idea, also seen in archaeology, linking house, home and family with prosperity.
The literary epigram is one of the most versatile ancient literary genres, and epigrammatists have often used it as a testing ground for the recollection and construction of their literary past. This chapter compares the corpus of Decimus Magnus Ausonius and Palladas of Alexandria, two eminent representatives of the epigrammatic genre from the later imperial period. Ausonius’ dialogue with the literary past is characterised by a discourse about the value, validity and reliability of classical authors and authorities from the Greek and the Roman world. For this purpose, Ausonius uses various techniques such as the juxtaposition of acknowledged and anonymous sources, the inclusion of ‘fake sources’, and a recurring discussion of Greek versus Roman authorities. In contrast, Palladas constructs a persona of himself which resorts to Greek authorities only and, especially, to Homer. Palladas appropriates Homer and the Homeric epics in order to construct his personal voice, whereas the actual discourse about classical authors and authorities remains comparatively flat and limited as compared to Ausonius.
This introduction has three goals: to locate this book’s arguments in contemporary scholarship on Parmenides, to outline its methodology and structure, and to establish the stakes of the project as a whole. The first considers Parmenides’ invention of extended deductive argumentation and the practice of demonstration – the central topic of this book – as a relic of the ‘Greek Miracle’ paradigm; it also addresses discussions of Parmenides’ use of poetry and his relationship to Homer. The second addresses distinctions between actors’ and observers’ categories and between reasoning and discourse, and explores the Foucauldian discourse analysis that anchors the book’s treatment of the relationship between Parmenides and Homer. The third requires setting out what this book does not intend to do in order to specify its main contribution: providing an account of how Parmenides’ use of the image of the hodos helps him invent extended deductive argumentation and the practice of demonstration. The Introduction sketches out the three axes of the book’s argument: an exploration of the physical reality of archaic and classical Greek roads, a discussion of the semantics of the word hodos, and an articulation of the relationship between Parmenides’ and Homer’s poems.
This chapter outlines the key methodological framework to be used to analyse Homer and Parmenides and detail the specifics of their relationship. I first set out the terms that Foucault develops in his Archaeology of Knowledge, and then detail the ways that these terms do and do not make contact with established topics of classical and Homeric scholarship, including text-types and discourse modes, A-B-C patterns, the oimē and theme, and catalogues and catalogic discourse. I use the hodos that Circe spells out in Odyssey 10 as a sample text to analyse according to this methodology; the result is a clearly defined textual architecture that the image of the hodos governs more generally.
This chapter applies the analysis of the preceding chapter to the hodos that Circe spells out in Odyssey 12, which I argue serves as a discursive template or blueprint for Parmenides in his ‘Route to Truth’. In addition to building on the notions of the rhetorical schema and types of dependence developed in Chapter 3, I extend my analysis of the discursive architecture governed by the hodos to include the krisis or exclusive, exhaustive disjunction which is a central feature of Od. 12.55–126. I also show how the hodos in Odyssey 12 has distinctive features – including the use of modally charged negation and unusually lengthy description sections followed by argumentatively rich units of text – which link it to Parmenides’ poem but differentiate it in crucial ways from other texts and phenomena, including general patterns of Homeric deliberation, polar expressions, the crossroads in Hesiod’s Works and Days, and the so-called Orphic gold tablets.