Daily Life in the Time of Homer

By Emile Mireaux; Iris Sells | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
WANDERERS AND EXPATRIATES

HOMERIC poetry is the poetry of adventure in far countries. The first of these miraculous masterpieces, which were to fix the destiny of Greek epic as a whole, were probably in the first instance, towards the end of the eighth century, addressed to a public of sailors and pioneers who were preparing to set sail for the conquest of barbarian coast-lands.1Two privileged ports of call had been chosen as the scenes of their fabulous and varied stories, both on the margin of the Greek world properly so-called: the entry to the Hellespont which gave access to the north-eastern seas, and on the other hand the two ports of Corcyra, in the isle of the Phaeacians, which was on the threshold of western navigation. The choice was significant and is no doubt revealing.

All or nearly all the heroes of these poems themselves figure as wanderers and even expatriates. At the point where the Iliad opens, it has been nearly ten years since the heroes, at the head of their followers, have left hearth and home; and after the final victory, Odysseus wanders over the seas for another ten years and returns to Ithaca only to set out on another adventure, at the bidding of Tiresias. Menelaus, whose ships had been thrown on to the coast of Crete, embarks on a new expedition, this time to Egypt and Phoenicia, and only returns to Sparta seven years later. How unsettled and mobile were all these heroes! Agamemnon, Menelaus, Aegisthus, Diomed, Ajax, Achilles and Alcinous are all grandchildren of exiles. Patroclus and Phoenix had been compelled to flee their country and take refuge with Peleus, as Theo

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1
See Emile Mireaux, Les Poèmes homériques et l'Histoire grecque, Vol. I, Homère de Chios et les Routes de l'Etain [the trade routes for the supply of tin].

-241-

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