Homer World Literature Analysis
Accepting an eighth century dating for composition of the Iliad and Odyssey, as most modern scholars do, logically raises questions regarding the appropriateness of the Homeric poems as historical testimony. Such questions do not grow substantially fewer by moving Homer’s century back to the ninth. Archaeological methods developed since Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations at the site of Troy in the 1870’s have set the dates for the historical Trojan War between 1194 and 1184 b.c.e. That would mean that Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey describe a historical period four or three hundred years anterior to his own. Since the Greek world was still at its preliterate stage (the ability to write existed, but the written language was not used for literary purposes), Homer had no written records upon which to rely. Even so, memory remains strong in preliterate societies. Mythic storytelling becomes a privileged art, one that does not tolerate deviation from elements considered essential. Descriptions of personalities, places, events, and outcomes must remain consistent. Numbers involved and chronological frames for these events assume considerably less importance. Given that classical Greek identifies all numbers above ten thousand as myría (myriad), no ancient reader would have expected a precise inventory of numbers in the “Catalogue of Ships and Heroes” that fills Iliad 2. In fact,...
(The entire section is 4943 words.)
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