The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.


origin, and significant of his work of uniting songs,1 was the one individual who conceived in mind the lofty idea of that poetical unity which we can not help acknowledging and admiring. What were the peculiar excel­lencies which distinguished this one Homer among a great number of contemporary poets, and saved his works alone from oblivion, we do not venture to determine; but the conjecture ofMiiller2 is not improbable, that Homer first undertook to combine into one great unity the scattered and fragmentary poems of earlier bards, and that it was this task which established his great renown.

V. We can now judge of the probability that Homer was an Ionian, who in Smyrna, where lonians and J^olians were mixed together, be­came acquainted with the subject of his poems, and moulded them into the form which was suited to the taste of his Ionian countrymen. But as a faithful preservation of these long works was impossible in an age unacquainted with, or, at least, not versed in the art of writing, it was a natural consequence that, in the lapse of ages, the poems should not only lose their purity, but should also become more and more dismembered, and thus return into their original state of loose, independent songs. Their public recitation became more and more fragmentary, and the time at festivals and musical contests, formerly occupied by epic rhapsodists exclusively, was encroached upon by the rising lyric performances and players on the flute and lyre.

VI. Yet the knowledge of the unity of the different Homeric rhapso­dies was not. entirely lost. Solon, himself a poet, directed the attention of his countrymen toward it; and Pisistratus at last raised a lasting monument to his high merits, in fixing the genuine Homeric poems by the indelible marks of writing, as far as was possible in his time and with his means. That, previous to the famous edition of Pisistratus, parts of Homer, or the entire poems, were committed to writing in other towns of Greece or Asia Minor is not improbable, but we do not possess suffi­cient testimonies to prove it. We can, therefore, safely affirm that from the time of Pisistratus the Greeks had a written Homer, a regular text, the source and foundation of all subsequent editions.3

1 Welcker, Ep. CycL, vol. i., p. 125,128 ; Ilgen, Hymn. Horn., prsef., p. 23 ; Heyne ad IL, vol. viii., p. 795, &c.

2 Hist. Gr. Lit., p. 47. Compare Nitzsch, Anm.,vol. ii., p. 26.

3 The following list of the principal authors who have advocated, in whole or for the most part, the doctrines of Wolf, may not be unacceptable to the student. It is from Mure (Hist. Crit., vol. i., p. 202), and will be found complete enough for all ordinary pur­poses : C. F. Franceson, Essai sur la question, si Homere, &c.; F. Schlegel, Gesch. der Ep. Dichtk., viii.; Heyne, Obs. ad II. (who claims, however, the right of prior discovery) ; W. Miiller, Homer. Vorschule; B. Thiersch, Urgestalt der Odyssee; Hermann, Opusc.,\ol. v., p. 52, seqq.; vol. vi., p. 70, seqq.; Ritschl, Die Alexandrin. Biblioth.; Lachmann, Be-trachtungen uber die Ilias; Grote, History of Greece, vol, ii., ch, 21.

The following are such as have entertained middle or opposite views : Ste. Croix, Ref­utation, $c., de M. Wolf; Hug, Erfindung der Buchstabenschrift; Kreuser, Vorfragen uber Homer; Clinton, Fast. Hell., vol. i., p. 366, seqq.; Coleridge, Introd. to the Study of the Gr. Classics; Quarterly Review, vol. xliv., p. 121, seqq. (article by Milman) ; Welcker, Der Epische Cyclus, vol. i., p. 122, seqq.; K. O. Mutter, Hist, of Gr. Lit.; Ihne (Smith's Diet Biogr.}; Thirlwall, Hist, of Greece, appendix to vol. i., 2d ed.; Payne Knight, Prokgom in Horn.; Nitzsch, De Hist. Homeri (and other works already cited by us).

About | Preface | Contents | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.