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Introduction to Homer

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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 1000
Shauna Burke

Epic Poetry: • grandness in every respect • convey important cultural moments • preserve language through poetry • tragedy doesn’t have to be about kings • anything memorable is going to be preserved in a structured form • tradition: what you want to hand over to the next generation Homer: • essential to greek education • corner stone of the way that you educate young kids • first songs, sentences, composition, etc. • take poem but recreate his work • greek painters- battle scenes from Homer • great singers- songs about Homer tragedians- plays about Homer • • moral lessons • heard song about Trojan War & created own improvised song- invasion of Greeks in a big horse led by king of city, Troy, to win back wife of brother leading expedition; only presents slices about Trojan War came up with these poems when Greek alphabet was coming into effect • • Homer depicting event from 400 years earlier • all believe Trojan War was a historical event • everyone listened to Homer, bards became less popular, singers began singing Homer’s poems Homeric Question: • pic: Isra Pound; reworked Homer’s poems • difficult to say if Homer is accurate: - singer of 8th century, storehouse of languages from previous 400 years - some things= right but not for time period spoken of - making people do things during the time periods that wouldn’t be able to be done until later on - layers of language, impossible to translate unless you lived in time period, invented own lyrics - poems: mishmash of centuries and different regions (ex. Egypt to Spain) - content/themes/depiction of heroes= coherent - Achilles: deep anger permeates every aspect of the poem American scholar talked to oral bards who lived in Europe- almost all were illiterate, singers, • no memorized text, all improvised, had to be in perfect rhythm, knew certain points that could be hit, made up words, not story Homeric World: • historically valuable, but what’s the beauty? pre-literate culture- poems take long time to make a point (slow pace) • • poems were written to make no appeal to listeners • representation of ancient cultural practice • value=great tradition • lives by own code • self-worth: greatest warriors coming together Anger of Achilles: • given slave girl for great valor, but she is taken away, abstains from battle after having slave girl taken away, king comes back & tells him he’ll give him a wife, swords, rewards, palaces, Achilles says NO • psychologically turns against the whole world • refuses to fight, Patroclus is killed by Hector • loses all semblance of humanity, talks about eating flesh of enemies • kills Hector for killing Patroclus • Greeks took it as a bible on how a man should act • force people to recognize that you are
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