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The "Homeric Question" has vexed Classicists for generations. Was the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey a single individual who created the poems at a particular moment in history? Or does the name "Homer" hide the shaping influence of the epic tradition during a long period of oral composition and transmission? In this innovative investigation, Gregory Nagy applies the insights of comparative linguistics and anthropology to offer a new historical model for understanding how, when, where, and why the Iliad and the Odyssey were ultimately preserved as written texts that could be handed down over two millennia. His model draws on the comparative evidence provided by living oral epic traditions, in which each performance of a song often involves a recomposition of the narrative. This evidence suggests that the written texts emerged from an evolutionary process in which composition, performance, and diffusion interacted to create the epics we know as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Sure to challenge orthodox views and provoke lively debate, Nagy’s book will be essential reading for all students of oral traditions.
The Homeric Iliad and Odyssey are among the world’s foremost epics. Yet, millennia after their composition, basic questions remain about them. Who was Homer—a real or an ideal poet? When were the poems composed—at a single point in time, or over centuries of composition and performance? And how were the poems committed to writing? These uncertainties have been known as The Homeric Question, and many scholars, including Gregory Nagy, have sought to solve it. In Homeric Responses, Nagy presents a series of essays that further elaborate his theories regarding the oral composition and evolution of the Homeric epics. Building on his previous work in Homeric Questions and Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond and responding to some of his critics, he examines such issues as the importance of performance and the interaction between audience and poet in shaping the poetry; the role of the rhapsode (the performer of the poems) in the composition and transmission of the poetry; the “irreversible mistakes” and cross-references in the Iliad and Odyssey as evidences of artistic creativity; and the Iliadic description of the shield of Achilles as a pointer to the world outside the poem, the polis of the audience.
The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus
The Humblest Sparrow is a superbly illuminating study of one of the major Latin poets of late antiquity. Every chapter is marked by a thorough, accurate, and up to date knowledge of the historical and material setting of the Merovingian upper classes. As a deep treatment of Fortunatus' poetry, this book will surely appeal to readers with a serious interest in the Latin verse of late antiquity. ---William Klingshirn, Catholic University of America In The Humblest Sparrow, Michael Roberts illuminates the poetry of the sixth-century bishop and poet Venantius Fortunatus. Often regarded as an important transitional figure, Fortunatus wrote poetry that is seen to bridge the late classical and earlier medieval periods. Written in Latin, his poems combined the influences of classical Latin poets with a medieval tone, giving him a special place in literary history. Yet while interest has been growing in the early Merovingian period, and while the writing of Fortunatus' patron Gregory of Tours has been well studied, Fortunatus himself has often been neglected. This neglect is remedied by this in-depth study, which will appeal to scholars of late antique, early Christian, and medieval Latin poetry. Roberts divides Fortunatus' poetry into three main groups: poetry of praise, hagiographical poetry, and personal poetry. In addition to providing a general survey, Roberts discusses in detail many individual poems and proposes a number of theses on the nature, function, relation to social and linguistic context, and survival of Fortunatus' poetry, as well as the image of the poet created by his work. Michael Roberts is Robert Rich Professor of Latin at Wesleyan University. Jacket illustration: L. Alma Tadema, Venantius Fortunatus Reading his Poems to Radegonda VI AD 555. (Courtesy of Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum.) Also of Interest Abandoned Women: Rewriting the Classics in Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, by Suzanne Hagedorn The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton, by J. Christopher Warner Early Modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices, edited by Ronald Bedford, Lloyd Davis, and Philippa Kelly
Structure, Myth, and Meaning
Extending his distinctive analysis of Homeric epic to the Iliad, Bruce Louden, author of The "Odyssey": Structure, Narration, and Meaning, again presents new approaches to understanding the themes and story of the poem. In this thought-provoking study, he demonstrates how repeated narrative motifs argue for an expanded understanding of the structure of epic poetry. First identifying the "subgenres" of myth within the poem, he then reads these against related mythologies of the Near East, developing a context in which the poem can be more accurately interpreted. Louden begins by focusing on the ways in which the Iliad's three movements correspond with and comment on each other. He offers original interpretations of many episodes, notably in books 3 and 7, and makes new arguments about some well-known controversies (e.g., the duals in book 9), the Iliad's use of parody, the function of theomachy, and the prefiguring of Hektor as a sacrificial victim in books 3 and 6. The second part of the book compares fourteen subgenres of myth in the Iliad to contemporaneous Near Eastern traditions such as those of the Old Testament and of Ugaritic mythology. Louden concludes with an extended comparison of the Homeric Athena and Anat, a West Semitic goddess worshipped by the Phoenicians and Egyptians. Louden's innovative method yields striking new insights into the formation and early literary contexts of Greek epic poetry.
2009 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
The school of Greek philosopher Epicurus, which became known as the Garden, famously put great stock in happiness and pleasure. As a philosophical community, and a way of seeing the world, Epicureanism had a centuries-long life in Athens and Rome, as well as across the Mediterranean. The Invention and Gendering of Epicurus studies how the Garden's outlook on pleasure captured Greek and Roman imaginations---particularly among non-Epicureans---for generations after its legendary founding. Unsympathetic sources from disparate eras generally focus not on historic personages but on the symbolic Epicurean. And yet the traditions of this imagined Garden, with its disreputable women and unmanly men, give us intermittent glimpses of historical Epicureans and their conceptions of the Epicurean life. Pamela Gordon suggests how a close hearing and contextualization of anti-Epicurean discourse leads us to a better understanding of the cultural history of Epicureanism. Her primary focus is on sources hostile to the Garden, but her Epicurean-friendly perspective is apparent throughout. Her engagement with ancient anti-Epicurean texts makes more palpable their impact on modern responses to the Garden. Intended both for students and for scholars of Epicureanism and its response, the volume is organized primarily according to the themes common among Epicurus' detractors. It considers the place of women in Epicurean circles, as well as the role of Epicurean philosophy in Homer and other writers.
This is the eleventh volume in the Oratory of Classical Greece. This series presents all of the surviving speeches from the late fifth and fourth centuries BC in new translations prepared by classical scholars who are at the forefront of the discipline. These translations are especially designed for the needs and interests of today’s undergraduates, Greekless scholars in other disciplines, and the general public. Classical oratory is an invaluable resource for the study of ancient Greek life and culture. The speeches offer evidence on Greek moral views, social and economic conditions, political and social ideology, law and legal procedure, and other aspects of Athenian culture that have recently been attracting particular interest: women and family life, slavery, and religion, to name just a few. The orator Isaeus lived during the fourth century BC and was said to be the teacher of Demosthenes, Athens’ most famous orator. Of the fifty or more speeches he is believed to have written, eleven survive in whole, one as a large fragment, and others as smaller fragments. This volume presents all the surviving works of Isaeus. The speeches mainly deal with inheritances and are a vital source of information regarding Greek law in this important area. In addition to translating the speeches, Michael Edwards provides a general introduction to Isaeus and Athenian inheritance law, as well as specific introductions and notes for each speech.
This is the fourth volume in the Oratory of Classical Greece series. Planned for publication over several years, the series will present all of the surviving speeches from the late fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in new translations prepared by classical scholars who are at the forefront of the discipline. These translations are especially designed for the needs and interests of today’s undergraduates, Greekless scholars in other disciplines, and the general public. Classical oratory is an invaluable resource for the study of ancient Greek life and culture. The speeches offer evidence on Greek moral views, social and economic conditions, political and social ideology, and other aspects of Athenian culture that have been largely ignored: women and family life, slavery, and religion, to name just a few. This volume contains works from the early, middle, and late career of the Athenian rhetorician Isocrates (436–338). Among the translated works are his legal speeches, pedagogical essays, and his lengthy autobiographical defense, Antidosis. In them, he seeks to distinguish himself and his work, which he characterizes as "philosophy," from that of the sophists and other intellectuals such as Plato. Isocrates’ identity as a teacher was an important mode of political activity, through which he sought to instruct his students, foreign rulers, and his fellow Athenians. He was a controversial figure who championed a role for the written word in fourth-century politics and thought.
This is the seventh volume in the Oratory of Classical Greece. This series presents all of the surviving speeches from the late fifth and fourth centuries BC in new translations prepared by classical scholars who are at the forefront of the discipline. These translations are especially designed for the needs and interests of today’s undergraduates, Greekless scholars in other disciplines, and the general public. Classical oratory is an invaluable resource for the study of ancient Greek life and culture. The speeches offer evidence on Greek moral views, social and economic conditions, political and social ideology, law and legal procedure, and other aspects of Athenian culture that have been largely ignored: women and family life, slavery, and religion, to name just a few. The Athenian rhetorician Isocrates (436–338) was one of the leading intellectual figures of the fourth century. This volume contains his orations 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, and 14, as well as all of his letters. These are Isocrates’ political works. Three of the discourses—Panathenaicus, On the Peace, and the most famous, Panegyricus—focus on Athens, Isocrates’ home. Archidamus is written in the voice of the Spartan prince to his assembly, and Plataicus is in the voice of a citizen of Plataea asking Athens for aid, while in To Philip, Isocrates himself calls on Philip of Macedon to lead a unified Greece against Persia.