Daily Life in the Time of Homer

By Emile Mireaux; Iris Sells | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE BACKGROUND AND SETTING HOMER'S WORLD

IT is a commonplace to say that in the last four centuries our vision of the universe has been profoundly modified. Our speculations now extend to embrace the infinite; and, whether we are aware of it or no, our daily life has taken its tone and colour from this tremendous revolution in our outlook. We have only to open our eyes to the cosmic scene for the dolorous cry of Pascal to echo in our hearts and awaken a similar sensation of anguish; from which the humblest intelligence amongst us is not immune.

At the same time we view this colossal world as organized according to some marvellous scheme with a material structure subject to the norms of reason and in the grip of an inexorable mechanism. In those cases, for example in the domain of the infinitely little, when this inexorable determinism seems to yield slightly, the indeterminacy remains subject to the laws of mathematics, with results calculable according to the law of majorities. How different from this grand and logical interpretation was the world as it appeared to the Greeks of Homer's day!


THE SMALLNESS OF HOMER'S WORLD

Homer's world appears to us today as something diminutive. Homer imagined the earth as a disc, with a radius of some two thousand kilometres and an area of about twelve and a half million square kilometers; that is, about twenty-three times the size of France.

Greece, naturally, was in the centre of the disc, so that the sanctuary of Delphi, which was regarded as being the centre of Greece, came to be referred to as the 'navel of the world'. The terrestrial

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