Tradition and Design in the Iliad

By C. M. Bowra | Go to book overview

XII
HOMER'S TIME AND PLACE

THE date of the Iliad, as of most Greek poetry before Aeschylus, is matter for conjecture. The Homeric controversy has of course affected views about it, but the problem is really outside the limits of the proper Homeric question. For the problem is simple: when did the Iliad, excluding small and obvious interpolations, reach its final form? And this question is as important for the unitarian as for the advocate of multiple authorship.

In antiquity, despite great divergences of detail, there were three main views of Homer's date. The first, held apparently by Hecataeus and repeated by Eratosthenes and other late writers, made him either a contemporary of the events which he described or within a century of them, thus placing him in the twelfth or eleventh century before Christ.1 The second view was that held by Herodotus, that Homer lived not more than four hundred years before himself, that is, in the latter half of the ninth century.2 A third view held by Theopompus placed him even later, making him a contemporary of Gyges and of Archilochus.3 Allowing for some divagations these three views still hold the field. Andrew Lang4 and the stricter unitarians hold that Homer lived at the end of the Mycenean Age, and that he records the world he knew. Mr. Allen5 and Mr. Scott6 place him about 900. The third view seems to be held in an advanced form by Professor Murray, who regards the final form of the Iliad as the work of the rhapsode Cynaethus who lived in the sixth century.7 Roughly, the question of date is the question of choosing between these three alternatives.

That Homer lived in the Mycenean world seems on the face of things improbable. The details of the life which he describes are not Mycenean except in a few points which he may well have learned from the saga. On the other hand

____________________
1
Proclus, Vit. Hom., p. 25. 17; Diodorus vii. 2; Ps. Plut. Vit. Hom. 5.
2
ii. 53. 2.
3
Ed. Grenfell and Hunt, fr. 194; cf. Tatian ad Graec. 31.
4
The World of Homer, p. 33.
5

The Homeric Catalogue, p. 21.

6
The unity of Homer, p. 3.
7
The Rise of the Greek Epic, p. 308.

-251-

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Tradition and Design in the Iliad
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - Tradition and Design 1
  • II - The Origins of the Epic 27
  • III - The Hexameter 53
  • IV - Some Primitive Elements 67
  • V - Repetitions and Contradictions 87
  • VI - The Similes 114
  • VII - The Language 129
  • VIII - The Historical Background 156
  • IX - The Characters 192
  • XI - Homer and the Heroic Age 234
  • XII - Homer's Time and Place 251
  • Index 275
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