Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview

6

KIN-GROUPS IN THE HOMERIC EPICS
(SUMMARY)

Walter Donlan

Despite much effort to clarify them, the nature of kinship groupings in the Homeric epics and in the archaeology of the Iron Age (whatever the historical connection between the two) remains obscure. Evidence of supra-familial groups is negligible in the poems and there is uncertainty regarding the historical reality even of the abundantly attested family household (oikos). Certainty about these matters, however, inhered in the novel theories of the nineteenth-century social evolutionists, which provided both a prehistory for the Greeks and Romans, hitherto lacking, and a scientific explanation, drawn from comparative ethnography, of their progression from a 'social organisation' made up of primitive kinship units, clan (gens/genos) and tribe, to the 'political organisation' of the city-state based on territory, the monogamous family, private property, and law.

Walter Donlan's paper had two aims: First to explore the reasons why the nineteenth-century 'evolutionary paradigm' kept such a tenacious hold on the history of early Greece, for though the gentilic model underwent numerous permutations, its core tenets remained essentially intact from the 1860s until the 1970s. And second, to examine the instances of Homeric genos/geneê in their genealogical usage as recited patrilines, in light of the 'reformulated' concept of anthropological kinship developed within the last decade.

Walter Donlan's publications quoted by the authors of this volume are listed below:

(1982), 'The politics of generosity in Homer', Helios, 9, pp. 1–15.

(1985), 'The social groups of Dark Age Greece', Classical Philology, 80,
pp. 293–308.

(1989), 'The pre-state community in Greece', Symbolae Osloenses, 64,
pp. 5–29.

(1997), 'The relations of power in the pre-state and early state polities', in
Mitchell, L. G. and Rhodes, P. J. (eds), The Development of the Polis in
Archaic Greece
, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 39–48.

(1997) 'The Homeric economy', in New Companion, pp. 49–67.

(1999) The Aristocratic Ideal and Selected Papers, Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-
Carducci.

-111-

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