Long time no see! As always, I missed putting together this little newsletter for you last week—and I especially missed all the lovely reader-mail I get, inspiring me with questions and responses and new details I couldn’t have learned on my own.
But, as some of you may already know, I’ve been very busy with two big things! The first is, of course, this special project that we’ve all been such teases about! I promise we’ll be able to tell you more soon, so keep your eyes peeled! I’m really
excited about this project and the changes it means to CWW.
The second is…(dun dun dun!) my upcoming graduation. That’s right—in just a little under two months I’ll be (ceremoniously, at least) thrust out of the academic world.
This upcoming milestone has made me think a lot about my education as a whole, and what I’ve taken away from it. Studying the classics—reading them, discussing them with incredible professors, and getting to write about them for you—has, I really believed, changed my life for the better.
And they do that for you too, reader—every time you read something we recommend, read our articles, download our ebooks—you are broadening your understanding of the world, of human emotion and psychology, of culture, of history. You are enabling yourself to better tackle life (not to mention making yourself a more desirable candidate for a variety of different positions in life!).
That’s why this week, we’re giving you a little taste of just how much you can learn about the classics with Classical Wisdom Weekly.
Ready? School is in session!
Homer: Man or Myth?
The following is an excerpt from The Essential Greeks online humanities course from Classical Wisdom Weekly.
Note: enrollment for the rest of the course is open now!
Homer recites poetry to the crowd
PRESENTER: Hello, and welcome to Classical Wisdom Weekly's guide to the Essential Greeks. In this course we will be focusing on some of the greatest minds of ancient Greece; indeed some of the greatest minds there have ever been.
Men who have managed to attain epithets like 'The Father of Tragedy', 'The Father of Philosophy', 'The Father of History', 'The true Father of History' and so on and so forth.
Today, however, we will be looking at the father of them all. The founding father of all we know. A man we are culturally and literarily so indebted to that not only does he transcend time and space, but even knowledge. In other words we know the stories for which he is famous even if we have never taken the time to read them ourselves.
This man of course is the legend who is Homer.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
And legend is an appropriate term to use, as the only piece of universal concord in Homeric scholastic fields is that we know almost nothing about the man said to have shaped western civilization with his two epic poems The Iliad
and The Odyssey
We could comfortably spend this entire episode going back and forth over the arguments for and against Homer's true origin. However, an abridged version will suffice as a preface to the real business at hand, that of the epics themselves.
What We (May) Know
It is accepted by many, though by no means all, that Homer came from Chios, just off the coast of modern-day Turkey. And that The Iliad
came to us circa 750 BC, and The Odyssey
, twenty-five to fifty years later.
Even if we accept this as true thus far, we are still riddled with problems and controversies. Not least of which is the method of delivery.
It is widely thought that the stories in the epics, of the Trojan War and the wanderings of Odysseus, were handed down through the oral tradition.
The poetry was recited to music by skilled, perhaps travelling, bards.
Was Homer blind?
So the next question, which has never been satisfactorily answered, is: did Homer write? Or was he one such bard himself? Did he dictate to a scribe?
If he were blind, as some contest, then surely he must have done – the famous Roman politician and philosopher Cicero certainly thought he did. Additionally, was he creator or merely chronicler? And, most interestingly of all, was he really only one man?
Just One Man?
It is no new idea to think that the two poems may have been the work of many hands. Some consider the contrasting themes of the two epics too diverse to be consistent in the mind of one individual.
Others believe it is perfectly appropriate that the young Homer would have been preoccupied with the blood, guts and glory of wrath and warfare. Whilst the older, more reflective poem may have considered a homecoming to wife and child the natural topic for a man in his golden¬-years to write about.
Samuel Butler and Robert Graves, perhaps the two most famous classical scholars of recent times, even propounded the unlikely idea that the Odyssey
, with its emphasis on the end of war and the necessity to strive for domesticity, may have actually been written by a woman.
Regardless, the two works contain so many stylistic similarities that they were certainly intended to be seen as consecutive narratives.
And thus, whether he likes it or not, whether he really existed or not, Homer was born unto the world. And this, Homeric scholars do agree on, was a jolly good thing.
But now, to the works themselves...
To continue the course, click here.
All the best,
Classical Wisdom Weekly
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