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Homer the Preclassic

Gregory Nagy

Publication Year: 2012

Homer the Preclassic considers the development of the Homeric poems-in particular the Iliad and Odyssey-during the time when they were still part of the oral tradition. Gregory Nagy traces the evolution of rival "Homers" and the different versions of Homeric poetry in this pretextual period, reconstructed over a time frame extending back from the sixth century BCE to the Bronze Age. Accurate in their linguistic detail and surprising in their implications, Nagy's insights conjure the Greeks' nostalgia for the imagined "epic space" of Troy and for the resonances and distortions this mythic past provided to the various Greek constituencies for whom the Homeric poems were so central and definitive.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Sather Classical Lectures

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-9


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pp. v-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

There are two different publication dates for this book: 2009 for the published version that was “born digital” on the website of the Center for Hellenic Studies, and 2010 for the published version as printed by the University of California Press. (The online version contains updated annotations stemming from 2010 and thereafter. ...

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pp. 1-2

This book, Homer the Preclassic, which is based on the Sather Classical Lectures of spring 2002, covers the preclassical era of Homeric reception. It is complemented by a twin book, Homer the Classic (Nagy 2009), which covers the classical era. Between the two of them, Homer the Classic and Homer the Preclassic cover six ages of Homeric reception. ...

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Part I: A Preclassical Homer from the Dark Age

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pp. 3-8

Thinking my way backward from the classical period of the fifth century B.C.E., I confront a preclassical period that I divide into two ages, the Dark Age and the Bronze Age. I start here in Part I with the Dark Age. Then, in Part II, I will proceed to the Bronze Age. ...

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1. Homer and the Athenian Empire

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pp. 9-28

I offer here an overview of what we know about the Athenian empire in the era of the democracy in the fifth century B.C.E. The basic facts can be found in the history of Thucydides, who highlights what gradually happened to Athens as a world power in the period extending from the end of the Persian War, ...

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2. Homer Outside His Poetry

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pp. 29-58

So far, we have been considering the concept of Homer as defined by the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and by the epics attributed to Homer. Now we will see that there is further definition to be found outside this poetry, in a body of narratives known as the Lives of Homer. In what follows, I offer an analysis of the evidence provided by these Lives.1 ...

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3. Homer and His Genealogy

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pp. 59-78

I return to the cursory reference to Chios as the setting for a quadrennial thusia ‘festival’ honoring Homer in the narrative of Vita 2 (307–8). As we saw, this reference is pertinent to the context of a Homeric Hymn to Apollo to be performed at Delos. In other words, it is pertinent to the festival of the Delia. ...

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4. Homer in the Homeric Odyssey

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pp. 79-102

When Thucydides quotes Homer, he imagines the Poet in the act of personally performing at the festival of the Delia in Delos. This historian’s view, as we have seen, is Athenocentric. To be contrasted is the view of Aristarchus,which is post-Athenocentric. For Aristarchus, the poet of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo is a neoteric rhapsode, Kynaithos of Chios. ...

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5. Iliadic Multiformities

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pp. 103-128

We have seen that the ongoing humnos of the stylized festival of the Phaeacians keeps getting stopped and restarted, and that in two cases the restarting activates a distinct hymnic prooimion. In the first case, the restarting leads to the second song of Demodokos, which activates a hymnic prooimion featuring the personified divine force of Philotēs ‘Bonding’ as its hymnic subject. ...

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Part II. A Preclassical Homer from the Bronze Age

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pp. 129-132

Just as I redefined the Dark Age in Homeric terms as a transitional phase leading up to a notionally terminal phase of Homer the Classic, I now redefine the Bronze Age as the corresponding initial phase. In Homeric terms, this initial phase of Homer the Preclassic is marked by one central event, the Trojan War. ...

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6.Variations on a Theme of Homer

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pp. 133-146

In the Life of Homer traditions we find explicit references to the dating of Homer, linked directly to the dating of the Trojan War. In Vita 3a (25–44), which draws upon Book 3 of Aristotle’s Poetics as its source (F 76 ed. Rose), it is said that Homer was conceived by his mother on the island of Ios at the time of the so-called Ionian Migration, ...

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7. Conflicting Claims on Homer

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pp. 147-217

The Aeolians had their own motives for claiming the territory of Sigeion as their very own Iliadic space. The tomb of the hero Achilles was understood to be located in Aeolian territory, specifically in the environs of Sigeion. As we are about to see, the Aeolians connected this poetic territory, this Iliadic space, with epic references to the tomb of Achilles. ...

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8. Homeric Variations on a Theme of Empire

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pp. 218-253

In the account of Herodotus, Miletus figures as the premier city in a federation of twelve cities that comprise the Ionian Dodecapolis. This privileging of Miletus reflects an early model of political dominance that shaped the later model that we know as the Athenian empire. To be contrasted is what we are told by Strabo: ...

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9. Further Variations on a Theme of Homer

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pp. 254-272

The time has come to ask this fundamental question about the festive poetics of federal politics. How could Homeric poetry express the idea of a federal society? Or, to put it another way, how could a poetic figure like Homer serve as a spokesman for such a society? The answer, I propose, has to do with the meaning of the name Homēros ‘Homer’.1 ...

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10. Homer and the Poetics of Variation

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pp. 273-310

We have seen how the technique of narrating the story about the presentation of a peplos to Athena in her temple at Troy corresponds to the technique of weaving the Panathenaic Peplos for presentation to Athena in her temple at Athens. And the occasion for presenting the woven Peplos, the festival of the Panathenaia, ...

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pp. 311-382

Till now I have been reconstructing Homer as a preclassic by working my way backward in time. Now I will attempt an overview by going forward in time. I start with the earliest possible point of departure, the so-called Bronze Age. ...


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pp. 383-402

Index Locorum

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pp. 403-414

E-ISBN-13: 9780520950245
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520256927

Page Count: 418
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Sather Classical Lectures