THE object of these introductory pages is to specify what we mean, and what should be understood, by 'the time of Homer', and very briefly to explain the data on which our knowledge is founded.
The Ancients were by no means agreed as to when Homer lived. Herodotus placed him in the first half of the ninth century B.C. The historian Theopompus, it seems, placed him at the beginning of the seventh. Modern critics have subjected the Homeric poems to peregrinations in time at least as extensive; but the limits of their present conjectures go scarcely beyond the eighth century on the one hand and the sixth on the other. Of the main solutions that have been offered, we will confine ourselves to the most recent.
Erich Bethe, one of the masters of the German analytical school, places the final form in which the Iliad and the Odyssey were written1 as late as the second half of the sixth century, in the time of Peisistratus. This draft was not, according to Bethe, the work of creative poets but only of poetical revisers who arranged material already in hand. They were drawing from a vast and ancient repertory of epic songs and little epics which had been invented by numerous earlier poets on two popular themes: the wrath of Achilles and the return of Odysseus. Thus the author of the Iliad threw into his crucible more than ten of these ancient poems; the author of the Odyssey was satisfied with six. These elementary compositions dated2 for the most part from the two preceding centuries.
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, who belongs also to the analytical school and has long and rightly been regarded as its leader, suggests a different system but one involving similar dates. He assigns____________________