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Lecture 6

CLA230 Lecture 6 Notes.

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University of Toronto St. George
Dimitri Nakassis

CLA230 Lecture 6 Notes Homeric Poetry - oral poetry – not written - didactic hexameter – meter in which epics are written - poetry is composed in performance – an improvised musical format - Homeric bars would likely have been sung - formulae in poetry – set phrases – such as the epithets used for heros • Odysseus of the many wiles • Achilles of the swift feet • the earth-shaker Poseidon • Thetis the silver-footed - formulae used to end the line – fill out the meter - Homeric poetry is economical – each epithet has a certain metrical shape – no repetition of meter in epithets - epithets are more as a functional tool and not a descriptive verse of that exact moment • Odysseus of the many wiles – even at his most stupid • swift ships that are not moving - therefore orality cannot be entirely accurate – example of Chanson de Roland Orality and History - erosion of oral accuracy ovethtime - Chanson de Roland – 12 century A.D. epic – the true story is of the Franks vs. Basques, but the story is told of Basques vs. Muslim Saracens - there is no incentive for Homeric poets to be accurate – storytelling is more important than keeping facts straight Homer and History - Homeric poetry presents its audience with a fictional world, with “epic distance” - monsters, deities – fictional world - world of heroes – men are better, stronger – epic past - at some level, this world must have made sense to the audience - audience can follow the narrative, therefore no explanations are given - therefore Homer can tell us about the society of his audience, and tell us about his current time – Greek society - can tell us more about what the audience took for granted than actual historical fact When Was Homer Written? - no agreement in antiquity about when Homer lived – ancient sources not useful - Morris and Powell – 8 century B.C. – most common time - Powell – theory that writing was invented in order to write down Homer’s works – unlikely theory however - other possibility that Homer was written much later - Plato’s Hipparchas: “Pisistratus’s son Hipparchus [died 514 BC], who was the eldest and wisest of Pisistratus’s sons, and who, among the many goodly proofs of wisdom that he showed, first brought the poems of Homer into this country of ours, and compelled the rhapsodes at the Panathenaea to recite them in relay, one man following on another, as they still do now.” - Panathenaea – all Athenian festival to Athena in Athens - typical oral context – 1-2 hours - The Iliad and The Odyssey are very long poems, even by epic standards – about 24 hours to recite – did not make sense - if at a religious festival – rhapsodes told poem over multiple days in relay – some script might be necessary to maintain continuity - in festival context – it makes sense for an oral poem to become much longer and more fixed – and eventually written down - therefore, Homer purports to describe events in the late Bronze Age – and is part of a fluid oral tradition that goes back to the Bronze Age – eventually written down, as early as the 8th century B.C., and as late as the 6th century B.C. - some formulae may be very old – does not make sense for the 8 century BC. th But in Bronze Age – oral fluid tradition goes back to the Bronze Age, but dating cannot be before the 8 century B.C. because there was no script before then Homeric Society - aristocrats – called besileis - there may be many besileis in one city – but one basileus that has more authority - assembly of male citizens – often do not speak but can show assent by making noise - women did not attend - workers – often share-cropping or paid - slaves – often seized in war - basic unit – self-sufficient household – called oikos - household without outer community – not possible in Greek view - institutions – no specific offices – not highly institutionalized in Homeric world – more fluid - scenes in The Odyssey and The Iliad – depict values in society that may have been taken for granted – underworld between Odysseus and Achilles - quote by Achilles to Odysseus: “O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying. I would rather follow the plough as a day-labourer to another man, one with no land allotted him and not much to live on, than be a king over all the perished dead.” - Achilles would rather be a proud labourer to a share-cropper – the lowest of the low – as un-self-sufficient as possible – than be dead - importance of being a member of oikos - the Homeric “social contract” – Sarpedon to Glaucas - quote: “Glaukos, why is it you and I are honoured before others with pride of place, and choice meats and the filled wine cups in Lycia, and all men look on us as if we were immortals, and we are appointed a great piece of land…? Therefore it is our duty in the forefront of the Lycians to take our stand, and bear our part of the blazing of battle, so that a man of the close-armoured Lycians may say of us: “Indeed, these are no ignoble men who are lords of Lycia… since indeed there is strength of valour in them, since they fight in the forefront of the Lycians.” - aristocrats expect certain benefits at home but also expected to be at the front in battle - more dangerous but also more glorious - earn glory
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