Daily Life in the Time of Homer

By Emile Mireaux; Iris Sells | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
HOMER'S MESSAGE

A DESCRIPTION does not permit of a conclusion. We would simply point out that if we have completed our review of life in Homer's world with a picture of the movements of adventurers, of lonely or banished men, and even of reprobates, this has not been unintentional. Like all societies of men, the society we discover in Homer contained its own contradictions.

It was still -- and we have many times insisted on the fact -- essentially patriarchal and even feudal. It was still linked in many ways with its remotest sources, with the traditions of the Mediterranean and Aegean world, and also with those of the wandering Indo-European tribes who had been the last to reach the Greek lands. Homeric life was still impregnated with reminiscences of this immemorial past, which we can sometimes only reconstruct by induction.

This society was, on the other hand, deeply rooted in the soil. It was the possession of land that formed the social classes, regulated their distribution and controlled their relationships. It even in a large measure governed the structure of the family. Like all landholding communities, Homeric society was fundamentally traditional and traditionalistic.

All this is true; and perhaps the reading of the present work will often have conveyed the impression of a remarkably stable social order, a way of life almost unchangeable in its semi-ritual organization. Such an impression would be erroneous; yet it is the inevitable consequence of the genre, which requires a synthetic description to suggest a feeling of immobility.

The reading and study of the Homeric poems awaken, on the contrary, a very clear notion that the old social structures still reigning, the old feudal framework, were being visibly shaken by

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