The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

52 GREEK LITERATURE.

seven-stringed lyre, the invention of Terpander, can not have been com­posed before the 30th Olympiad, relates the tricks of the new-born Mer­cury, who, having left his cradle, drove away the cattle of Apollo from their pastures in Pieria to Pylos, there killed two, and then invented the lyre, made of a tortoise-shell, with which he pacified the anger of Apollo.

VII. The hymn to Venus celebrates the birth of JEneas in a style not very different from that of Homer. The hymn to Ceres, first discovered in 1778, in Moscow, by Matthaei, and first published by Ruhnken in 1780, gives an account of Ceres's search after her daughter Proserpina, who had been carried away by Pluto. The goddess obtains from Jupiter that her daughter should pass only one third part of the year with Pluto, and return to her for the rest of the year. With this symbolical description of the corn, which, when sown, remains for some time under ground, and then springs up, the poet has connected the mythology of the Eleusinians, who hospitably received the goddess on her wanderings, afterward built her a temple, and were rewarded by instruction in the mysterious rites of Ceres.

VIII. Another poem, of quite a different nature from the hymns, was also erroneously ascribed to Homer. This was the Margites (Mapyirys), a poem which Aristotle regarded as the source of comedy, just as he called the Iliad and Odyssey the fountain of all tragic poetry. From this view of Aristotle we may judge of the nature of the poem. It ridiculed a man who was said " to know many things, and to know all badly." The sub­ject was nearly related to the scurrilous and satirical poetry of Archilo-chus and other contemporary iambographers, although in versification, epic tone, and language it imitated the Iliad. The iambic verses which are quoted from it by the grammarians were most likely interspersed by Pigres, brother of Artemisia, who is also called the author of this poem, and who interpolated the Iliad with pentameters in a similar manner.

IX. The same Pigres was perhaps the author of the Batrachomyomachia (Ba.TpaxopvoiJ.axia>), or the Battle of the Frogs and Mice,1 a poem frequent­ly ascribed by the ancients to Homer. It is a harmless, playful tale, without a marked tendency to sarcasm and satire, amusing as a parody, but without any great poetical merit which could justify its being ascribed to the author of the Iliad and Odyssey. Knight2 infers, from the employ­ment of the word SeAros as a writing tablet, instead of 8i<£0e'pa, a skin, which, according to Herodotus, was the material employed by the Asiatic Greeks for that purpose, that this poem was an offspring of Attic ingenu­ity ; and, moreover, that the familiar mention of the cock (v. 191) affords a strong argument in favor of its late origin.

X. Besides these poems there were a great many more, most of which we know only by name, which we find attributed to Homer with more or less confidence. But we have good reason for doubting all such state­ments concerning lost poems, whose claims we can not examine, when we see that even Thucydides and Aristotle considered as genuine not only such poems as the Margites, and some of the hymns, but also all those passages of the Iliad and Odyssey which are evidently interpolated, and

1 S-uid., s.v.; Plut., De Malign. Herod., 43. 2 Prolegom. in Homerum, t) 6.

Pages
About | Preface | Contents | Index

51

52

53
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.