Chapter Two: Homer outside his poetry

I 21. Homer in the Life of Homer traditions

I§55 So far, we have been considering the concept of Homer as defined by the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and by the epics attributed to Homer. Now we will see that there is further definition to be found outside this poetry, in a body of narratives known as the Lives of Homer. In what follows, I offer an analysis of the evidence provided by these Lives. [1] Two Lives stand out in my analysis. One of them is Vita 1, sometimes {29|30} known as the Herodotean Life, and the other is Vita 2, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, which is sometimes called the Certamen for short. [2]
I§56 The evidence of these Life of Homer traditions reveals traces of earlier as well as later concepts of Homer. While the later concepts correspond closely to the Panathenaic Homer of the Iliad and Odyssey, the earlier concepts predate this Homer of the Athenians. In effect, the Lives of Homer can be read as sources of information about the reception of both the earlier Homer and the later Panathenaic Homer. The information is varied and layered, requiring a combination of synchronic and diachronic analysis. [3] In the end, such a combined analysis yields a prehistory and history of Homeric reception from the Dark Age onward.
I§57 The Life of Homer traditions represent the reception of Homeric poetry by narrating a series of events featuring purportedly live performances by Homer himself. In the narratives of the Lives, Homeric composition is consistently being situated in contexts of Homeric performance. In effect, the Lives explore the shaping power of positive and even negative responses by the audiences of Homeric poetry in ad hoc situations of performance. To put it another way, the narrative strategy of the Lives is a staging of Homer’s reception.
I§58 My describing the Life of Homer traditions as a staging converges with my aim to show that the narratives of these Lives are myths, not historical facts, about Homer. To say that we are dealing with myths, however, is not at all to say that there is no history to be learned from the Lives. Even though the various Homers of the various Lives are evidently mythical constructs, the actual constructing of myths about Homer can be seen as historical fact. [4] These myths about Homer in the Lives can be analyzed as evidence for the various different ways in which Homeric poetry was appropriated by various different cultural and political centers throughout the ancient Greek-speaking world. And these myths, in all their varieties, have basically one thing in common: Homeric poetry is pictured as a medium of performance, featuring Homer himself as the master performer. {30|31}

I 22. The making of Homeric verse in the Life of Homer traditions

I§59 For analyzing diachronically as well as synchronically the reception of Homer as reflected in the Life of Homer traditions, I have built a model for the periodization of such reception. This model is meant to account for the accretive layering of narrative traditions contained within the final textual versions of these Lives. I posit three periods of ongoing reception, and I frame these periods in terms of a time line that tracks the city-state of Athens as a dominant political and cultural force in the history of Homeric reception. I call these three periods pre-Athenocentric, Athenocentric, and post-Athenocentric.
I§60 As we will see, the post-Athenocentric period of Homeric reception is characterized by the use of graphein ‘write’ in referring to Homer as an author. From the standpoint of this period, the performance of the Homeric poetry at the Panathenaia in Athens and at other festivals in other cities is no longer perceived as a factor in defining Homer as the author of this poetry. The use of graphein ‘write’ in the post-Athenocentric period needs to be distinguished from what we find in the Athenocentric and pre-Athenocentric periods, when Homer is said to poieîn ‘make’ whatever he composes, not to graphein ‘write’ it.
I§61 The post-Athenocentric period is exemplified by such relatively late sources as Plutarch and Pausanias, in whose writings Homer is already seen as an author who ‘writes’, graphei, whatever he composes. [5] The Athenocentric period, by contrast, is reflected in the usage of Plato, in whose writings we still see Homer as an artisan who ‘makes’, poieî, and who is not pictured as one who ‘writes’, graphei. [6]
I§62 I translate poieîn as ‘make’ in order to underline the fact that the direct object of {31|32} this verb is not restricted to any particular product to be made by the subject—if the subject of the verb refers to an artisan. In other words, poieîn can convey the producing of any artifact as the product of any artisan. It is not restricted to the concept of the song / poem as artifact or of the songmaker / poet as artisan. To cite an early example: in Iliad VII (222), the artisan Tukhios epoiēsen ‘made’ the shield of Ajax. By contrast with the verb poieîn, the derivative nouns poiētēs ‘songmaker, poet’ and poiēsis ‘songmaking, poetry’ are restricted, already in the earliest attestations, to the production of songs / poems. I note the exclusion of artifacts other than songs / poems or of artisans other than songmakers / poets. The noun poiēma ‘song, poem, poetic creation’ has likewise been restricted, though not completely; in the usage of Herodotus, for example, poiēma still designates artifacts that are not songs or poems (1.25.1, 2.135.3, 4.5.3, 7.85.1). As for the compound noun formant -poios, it is not at all restricted to song or to poetry (for example, agalmatopoios is ‘statue-maker’, as in Herodotus 2.46.2). [7]
I§63 In what follows, I will track usages of poieîn ‘make’ and graphein ‘write’ with reference to Homer in two Lives of Homer, Vita 1 (= the Herodotean Life) and Vita 2 (= Contest of Homer and Hesiod). I will also track the connected usages of nouns derived from poieîn: namely poiētēs, poiēsis, poiēma. In what I reconstruct as the Athenocentric and the pre-Athenocentric periods of Homeric reception as narrated in the Lives, we will see Homer pictured as an author but not as a writer. More precisely, Homer is an artisan who makes songs / poems that become activated in performance. To the extent that these songs / poems are attributed to him, Homer is an author, but the authorization of this author, as we will see, depends on the performance, not on the written text, of his songs / poems. [8] Moreover, as we will also see, the performer must be Homer himself.
I§64 In making this point, I am offering an adjustment to the theory that Homer is pictured as an absent author in the Lives of Homer. [9] According to this theory, stories about Homer as an author who ‘makes’ poems—as expressed by the verb poieîn—can be viewed as evidence for such an absent author: just as an artisan who epoiēse ‘made’ a vase (as signaled by countless vase inscriptions reading epoiēse plus the name of the maker of the vase) potentially becomes the absent author of the vase, so also Homer becomes the absent author of the songs / poems that he ‘made’. [10] This theory needs to be adjusted in the light of stories picturing Homer in contexts of performance. In such contexts, as we see in the Lives, the performance of the com- {32|33} position requires the real or notional presence of Homer for the purpose of making the performance authoritative. In the narrative logic of the Lives, Homer cannot afford to be an absent author. As we will see, Homer is an author only to the extent that his real or notional presence authorizes the occasion of performance. In the narrative logic of the Lives, Homer embodies the ongoing fusion of the composer with the performer. In other words, we see here a poetics of presence, not a poetics of absence.
I§65 In the case of other Life of Poets traditions, we see analogous patterns of narration. For example, we read in Herodotus (1.23) that Arion ‘makes’ (poieîn) dithyrambs, which are actualized when he ‘teaches’ (didaskein) them in Corinth; similarly in Herodotus (6.21.2), Phrynichus ‘makes’ (poieîn) the drama called The Capture of Miletus, which is actualized when he ‘teaches’ it in Athens. [11]
I§66 I need to add that oral composition can be metaphorized as written composition in the post-Athenocentric period, and, at least to that extent, we may think of Homer as a writer. Nevertheless, as we are about to observe, the Lives simply do not metaphorize performance as an act of performing written texts.
I§67 My point remains that the Lives require the real or notional presence of Homer for authorizing the performance of Homer. This narrative requirement holds up even in relatively late contexts—in what I reconstruct as the post-Athenocentric period of Homeric reception as narrated in the Lives. Even in such late contexts, where the poems attributed to Homer are described as his writings, the narrative still requires the notional performance of these poems, and the model performer must still be Homer himself.
I§68 Later on, when we look at post-Athenocentric contexts where the poems of Homer are pictured as texts written by Homer the writer, we will see that even in these contexts the poems must still be authorized by Homer the performer. Accordingly, although I concentrate on the reception of Homeric poetry as actual performance in the Athenocentric and pre-Athenocentric periods, the reception of Homeric poetry as notional performance in the post-Athenocentric period is also relevant.
I§69 What follows is an inventory of nineteen passages in the Lives of Homer where the words poieîn ‘make’ or graphein ‘write’ refer to the ‘making’ of Homeric song / poetry by Homer himself. All passages are taken from Vita 1 and Vita 2, and I list the passages in their order of occurrence within each of these two narratives. [12] {33|34}
I§70 The first example seems, at first sight, the most anomalous of all the examples found in Vita 1:
Iⓣ7 Vita 1.69–72 (passage 1)
καὶ ὅπου ἑκάστοτε ἀφίκοιτο πάντα τὰ ἐπιχώρια διεωρᾶτο, καὶ ἱστορέων ἐπυνθάνετο. εἰκὸς δέ μιν ἦν καὶ μνημόσυνα πάντων γράφεσθαι
And wherever he [= Homer] [13] went in his travels, he would see thoroughly, one by one, all the local things. He would make inquiries and thus find out. It is likely that he was having memorable parts written down [graphein] concerning all these things.
I§71 In all of Vita 1, this passage is the only case where graphein refers—however indirectly—to the making of Homeric poetry. The exceptional nature of this case—and the indirectness of the wording—may be due to the fact that the reference here involves not some event that is actually being narrated but merely an inference made by the narrator about events still to be narrated. In terms of the inference, Homer must have written down—or, to be more accurate, Homer must have had someone else write down (I note the middle voice)—all the things he saw that were memorable to him.
I§72 At this phase of the narrative, Homer is not yet blind—and he is not yet a songmaker. Born in the city of Smyrna and raised by his unwed mother (Vita 1.17–31), Homer has been adopted by a man called Phemios, a professional teacher of grammata ‘letters’ and of ‘other kinds of mousikē’ (1.36–38 παῖδας γράμματα καὶ τὴν ἄλλην μουσικὴν διδάσκων πᾶσαν). The wording here shows that grammata ‘letters’ are explicitly being equated with the performing arts. As for the use of mousikē in this context, I note that the same word is used in referring to the performing arts of rhapsodes, citharodes, and other performers who compete at the festival of the Panathenaia. [14]
I§73 After Phemios dies, Homer inherits the teaching legacy of his adoptive father (1.50–52). By implication, then, Homer himself becomes a teacher of grammata ‘letters’. Then, he joins a man named Mentes in embarking on a sea journey and gets to see the places that Odysseus had seen once upon a time, in the final phases of that hero’s homecoming in Ithaca (1.61–90). As Homer’s sightseeing comes to a close, he proceeds to travel back to the city of Smyrna, but, before arriving, he stops over at the city of Colophon, where he falls ill and becomes blind (1.90–92); {34|35} the narrative accepts this version of Homer’s blinding, as opposed to a version claimed by the people of Ithaca, who say that Homer was blinded on their island (1.84–87). Only after Homer comes back to Smyrna, already blind after his illness in Colophon, does he formally embark on a career of ‘songmaking’ or ‘creating poetry’, poiēsis (1.92–94): ἐκ δὲ τῆς Κολοφῶνος τυφλὸς ἐὼν ἀπικνέεται εἰς τὴν Σμύρναν καὶ οὕτως ἐπεχείρει τῇ ποιήσει ‘leaving Colophon, he arrives in Smyrna, now blind, and that is the way things are as he now tries his hand at the making of poetry [ poiēsis ]’.
I§74 By implication, the narrative of Vita 1 views Homer’s mnemonic sequencing of memorabilia during his journey in the realms of Ithaca and beyond as a process distinct from the process of actually composing a narrative based on these memorabilia. In terms of the narrator’s inference, there is a distinction between the process of composing and a previous process of remembering things to be put into a composition that has yet to happen. In effect, the narrative here is postponing the actual process of Homeric composition for later occasions, for later moments in the life of Homer. In terms of the narrator’s inference, the occasion of writing is not being linked directly with the occasions of Homeric composition, which are still just waiting to be narrated in Vita 1. Throughout the narrative of Vita 1, in fact, the act of composing is nowhere linked directly with the act of writing.
I§75 By contrast, as we are about to see in all the other relevant passages taken from Vita 1, the act of composition is everywhere linked with the act of performance. Nowhere in Vita 1 do we ever see Homer in the act of writing down what he is actually composing.
I§76 The next example shows Homer as a poet who makes humnoi, which I translate for the moment as ‘hymns’:
Iⓣ8 Vita 1.113–114 (passage 2)
τοὺς ὕμνους τοὺς ἐς θεοὺς πεποιημένους αὐτῷ
… the hymns [humnoi] to the gods that had been made [poieîn] by him [= Homer] … [15]
I§77 This reference concerns Homer’s ‘making’ (poieîn) of humnoi in an Aeolian city by the name of Neon Teikhos. In the same city, Homer also performs an epic about the deeds of Amphiaraos in the war against Thebes (1.113). [16] The narrative continues with an explicit reference to Homer’s performances of his compositions: {35|36}
Iⓣ9 Vita 1.119–122 (passage 3)
ἐδείκνυον δὲ οἱ Νεοτειχεῖς μέχρις ἐπ’ ἐμοῦ τὸν χῶρον ἐν ᾧ κατίζων τῶν ἐπέων τὴν ἐπίδειξιν ἐποιέετο, καὶ κάρτα ἐσέβοντο τὸν τόπον.
Even as recently as my own time, the people of Neon Teikhos used to show off the place where he [= Homer] used to sit and make [poieîn] performance [epideixis] of his verses [epos plural]. They venerated greatly this site. [17]
I§78 At Neon Teikhos, then, Homer formally performs his compositions by ‘making’ (poieîn) what is called his epideixis ‘performance’. Here we see that performance itself, even as a process, is something that can be ‘made’. It is not just the composition that is being ‘made’. In the narrative logic of Vita 1, the ‘making’ of Homeric verse is a combination of two processes, composition and performance.
I§79 Even the ‘making’ of Homeric epigrams is a matter of performance:
Iⓣ10 Vita 1.133–134 (passage 4)
ποιεῖ καὶ τὸ ἐπίγραμμα τόδε, τὸ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐπὶ τῆς στήλης τοῦ μνήματος τοῦ Γορδίεω ἐπιγέγραπται·
He [= Homer] made [poieîn] also this epigram [epigramma], which even to this day is found inscribed [epigraphesthai] on the stele of the memorial of the man from Gordion [= King Midas].
I§80 We see Homer here in the act of ‘making’ (poieîn) an epigram, to be inscribed on the tomb of King Midas of Phrygia. This report about the Midas Epigram of Homer is explicitly said to originate from a tradition native to the Aeolian city of Cyme (Vita 1.131). [18] In the Contest of Homer and Hesiod as well (Vita 2.261–264), we will see another reference to Homer’s ‘making’ (poieîn) the poem that becomes the Midas Epigram. [19] Later on, we will examine the performative aspects of both these references concerning Homer’s making of epigrams. For now, however, I will simply follow the thread of the story in Vita 1, continuing where we left off. In the next passage to be examined, Homer is still residing in the Aeolian city of Cyme: {36|37}
Iⓣ11 Vita 1.141–146 (passage 5)
κατίζων δὲ ἐν ταῖς λέσχαις τῶν γερόντων ἐν τῇ Κύμῃ ὁ Μελησιγένης τὰ ἔπεα τὰ πεποιημένα αὐτῷ ἐπεδείκνυτο, καὶ ἐν τοῖς λόγοις ἔτερπε τοὺς ἀκούοντας· καὶ αὐτοῦ θωυμασταὶ καθειστήκεσαν. γνοὺς δὲ ὅτι ἀποδέκονται αὐτοῦ τὴν ποίησιν οἱ Κυμαῖοι καὶ εἰς συνήθειαν ἕλκων τοὺς ἀκούοντας, …
Melēsigenēs [= Homer] [20] used to sit in the meeting-places [leskhai] of the elders in Cyme and perform [epideiknunai] the verses [epos plural] made [poieîn] by him. With his words he gave pleasure to his audiences [akouontes]. And they became his admirers [thaumastai]. But he, knowing that the people of Cyme accepted [apodekhesthai] his songmaking [poiēsis], and attracting [helkein] his audiences into a state of familiarization [sun-ētheia] …
I§81 We see here in the wording some precious indications of performer-audience interaction. During his stay in Cyme, Homer is said to have ‘performed’ (= epideiknunai = ‘made an epideixis of’ ) the verses or epē (= epos plural) that he had ‘made’ (poieîn). His audiences, ‘hearing’ (akouontes) him perform, ‘accepted’ (apodekhesthai) his songmaking (poiēsis). The ‘acceptance’ or reception by the audience is correlated with their familiarization (sunētheia) to the songmaking; this familiarization is in turn correlated with Homer’s drawing power or attraction. [21] The reception of Homer is conveyed by saying that his audiences in Cyme became overall thaumastai ‘admirers’ of Homer. At a later point, we will examine further this particular way of referring to Homeric reception.
I§82 After his stay in Cyme, about which I will have more to say later, Homer moves to the Ionian city of Phocaea. Impoverished and dependent on the subsidy of patrons, Homer makes a deal with a man called Thestorides, who turns out to be a rival performer. [22] Thestorides, whose profession is initially described as the teaching of grammata ‘letters’ to youths (195), makes Homer an offer: Homer will be provided with ample subsidy on the condition that he agrees to two things demanded by Thestorides. One, Thestorides will be allowed to possess written copies of the verses or epē (= epos plural) that Homer has ‘made’ (poieîn) and is ‘making’ (poieîn). And two, Homer will agree to ‘attribute’ (anapherein) these verses to Thestorides. Here is the relevant part of the narrative:
Iⓣ12 Vita 1.198–200 (passage 6)
… ἅ γε πεποιημένα εἴη αὐτῷ τῶν ἐπέων ἀναγράψασθαι καὶ ἄλλα ποιῶν πρὸς ἑωυτὸν ἀναφέρειν αἰεί …
{37|38} … [and if Homer would allow] a writing-up [ana-graphesthai] of the verses [epos plural] of his that he had made [poieîn] and of other verses that he was about to make [poieîn] and attribute them to him [= Thestorides] always …
I§83 In the logic of the wording in this passage, Homer’s own act of composing—past, present, and future—does not depend on someone else’s act of writing down his compositions.
I§84 Having accepted the deal offered by Thestorides, Homer stays in Phocaea and ‘makes’ the Little Iliad and the Phokais, while Thestorides has it all written down:
Iⓣ13 Vita 1.202–210 (passage 7)
διατρίβων δὲ παρὰ τῷ Θεστορίδῃ ποιεῖ Ἰλιάδα τὴν ἐλάσσω, ἧς ἡ ἀρχή
Ἴλιον ἀείδω καὶ Δαρδανίην ἐΰπωλον,
ἧς πέρι πολλὰ πάθον Δαναοί, θεράποντες Ἄρηος·
καὶ τὴν καλουμένην Φωκαΐδα, ἥν φασιν οἱ Φωκαεῖς Ὅμηρον παρ’ αὐτοῖσι ποιῆσαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ τήν τε Φωκαΐδα καὶ τἄλλα πάντα παρὰ τοῦ Ὁμήρου ὁ Θεστορίδης ἐγράψατο, διενοήθη ἐκ τῆς Φωκαίης ἀπαλλάσσεσθαι, τὴν ποίησιν θέλων τοῦ Ὁμήρου ἐξιδιώσασθαι
Spending his time in the house of Thestorides, he [= Homer] made [poieîn] the Little Iliad [literally, the ‘Smaller Iliad’ ], which begins this way:
I sing Troy and the land of the Dardanoi, famed for horses.
Many things for the sake of this land did the Danaoi suffer, those attendants [therapōn plural] of Ares. [23]
He [= Homer] also made the so-called Phokais, which the people of Phocaea say Homer had made [poieîn] in their city. And when Thestorides had the Phokais and all his [= Homer’s] other things written down [graphesthai] from Homer, he [= Thestorides] made plans to depart from Phocaea, wishing to appropriate the songmaking [= poiēsis] of Homer.
I§85 I note that the narrative treats the act of Homer’s ‘making’ (poieîn) and Thestorides’ ‘writing down’ (graphesthai) as separate events. Then, as we saw in the passage just quoted, Thestorides sails away from Phocaea. The narrative makes explicit the motive for this action: Thestorides intends to appropriate the poetry of Homer by performing it somewhere else, in the absence of Homer. But Homer refuses to let himself become an absent author, as we are about to see.
I§86 In the narrative that ensues (Vita 1.210 and following), Thestorides sails from Phocaea to the island of Chios, where he goes about performing (epideiknunai 1.215 and 222) the verses or epē (= epos plural) of Homer as if they were his own. Meanwhile, {38|39} back in Phocaea, Homer finds out about this misappropriation and angrily resolves to make every effort to travel to Chios in order to set things straight (1.224–225). He lives through many adventures while trying to make his way to Chios (1.225–275). After finally arriving on the island (1.275–276), Homer ‘makes’ (poieîn) new poems there (1.335). Thestorides hears about the presence of the composer and, to avoid being exposed as a pseudo-Homer, that is, as an unauthorized performer who claims the compositions of Homer, he abruptly leaves Chios (1.336–338). Throughout this narrative, the scripted performances of Thestorides are being contrasted with the unscripted compositions of Homer. Also, Thestorides is described as a teacher of grammata ‘letters’ (1.185, 223), whereas Homer becomes, once he is finally established in the city of Chios, a teacher of epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural; 1.341).
I§87 This distinction between a teacher of epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural) and a teacher of grammata ‘letters’ seems to elevate Homer from his former status as teacher of grammata in Smyrna—a status he inherits from Phemios in Vita 1.50–52, as we saw previously. This is not to say, however, that the word grammata implies, in and of itself, a distinction between written and oral. As we also saw previously (1.37–38), even the undifferentiated usage of grammata includes the performing arts, mousikē. In Vita 2 as well, we will see that Homer himself is again described as a teacher of grammata (2.16).
I§88 In this whole story of Homer in Phocaea, it is essential to note that the scripted performances of Thestorides are all unauthorized by Homer, and only the unscripted performances of the genuine composer are authorized. [24]
I§89 At this point the narrative lists the poetic activities of Homer while he is living in the countryside of the island of Chios:
Iⓣ14 Vita 1.332–335 (passage 8)
καὶ τοὺς Κέρκωπας καὶ Βατραχομυομαχίαν καὶ Ψαρομαχίην καὶ Ἑπταπακτικὴν καὶ Ἐπικιχλίδας καὶ τἄλλα πάντα ὅσα παίγνιά ἐστιν Ὁμήρου ἐνταῦθα ἐποίησε παρὰ τῷ Χίῳ ἐν Βολισσῷ
And he [= Homer] made [poieîn] there, in the house of the man from Chios, at Bolissos [on the island of Chios], the following: Kerkopes, the Battle of Frogs and Mice, the Psaromakhia, Heptapaktikē, the Epikikhlides, and all the other playful verses of Homer.
I§90 I draw attention to some details in the context of this passage: Homer is now on the island Chios in the house of someone called ‘the man from Chios’, and he is ‘making’ (poieîn) these playful poems in the countryside, before he moves to the city of Chios. The rustic compositions listed in this passage are the poems that initially establish Homer’s reputation on the island, and it is the news of these rustic poems that force Thestorides to flee from the city of Chios and from the island altogether (1.336–338). {39|40}
I§91 After his stay in the countryside of Chios, Homer moves to the city of Chios and becomes established there. His reception is conveyed by way of an expression we have already seen in an analogous context: Homer’s audiences throughout Chios become overall thaumastai ‘admirers’ of his (Vita 1.342). Later on, I will have more to say about this way of referring to Homeric reception.
I§92 While he stays in the city of Chios, Homer is composing the Odyssey:
Iⓣ15 Vita 1.350–352 (passage 9)
ποιήσας Ὀδυσσέα ὡς ἐς Τροίην ἔπλεε Μέντορι ἐπιτρέψαι τὸν οἶκον ὡς ἐόντι Ἰθακησίων ἀρίστῳ καὶ δικαιοτάτῳ …
… [Homer], having made [poieîn] [25] it happen that Odysseus, at the time when he was sailing off to Troy, placed Mentor in charge of his household, since he [= Mentor] was the best and most righteous man among the people of Ithaca …
I§93 In this description of Homer composing the Odyssey in Chios (Vita 1.347), the poet is described as ‘making’ (poieîn) special things take place inside the epic plot of the Odyssey. For example, Homer ‘fits’ (en-harmozein) into his ‘songmaking’ (poiēsis 1.349) the name of his own friend Mentor, and thus he ‘makes’ (poieîn) it happen that Odysseus places Mentor in charge of the hero’s household (1.350–352).
I§94 Still in the city of Chios, Homer is described as composing the ‘big’ Iliad:
Iⓣ16 Vita 1.379–384 (passage 10)
ἐμποιεῖ ἐς τὴν ποίησιν, ἐς μὲν Ἰλιάδα τὴν μεγάλην Ἐρεχθέα μεγαλύνων ἐν νεῶν καταλόγῳ τὰ ἔπεα τάδε
δῆμον Ἐρεχθῆος μεγαλήτορος, ὅν ποτ’ Ἀθήνη
θρέψε Διὸς θυγάτηρ, τέκε δὲ ζείδωρος ἄρουρα.
Iliad II 547–548
καὶ τὸν στρατηγὸν αὐτῶν Μενεσθέα αἰνέσας
He [= Homer] made [-poieîn of en-poieîn] the following verses [epos plural] [26] fit inside [en- of en-poieîn] his songmaking [= poiēsis]. Inside the big Iliad, glorifying Erekhtheus in the Catalogue of Ships, he made these verses [epos plural]:
… the district [dēmos] of Erekhtheus, the one with the great heart; him did Athena once upon a time
nurture, she who is the daughter of Zeus, but the life-giving earth gave birth to him.
Iliad II 547–548
{40|41} He [= Homer] also praised [aineîn] their [= the Athenians’] general, Menestheus. [27]
I§95 In this passage describing Homer as composing the ‘big’ Iliad, he is ‘making’ (poieîn) special things take place inside the epic plot of the Iliad. Specifically, Homer ‘makes’ the epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural) about Erekhtheus and Athens take place inside the Iliad; also he ‘makes’ verses about the leader of the Athenians, Menestheus, thereby glorifying or ‘praising’ him as well. [28]
I§96 At this point, the narrative surveys the achievements of Homer so far:
Iⓣ17 Vita 1.372–376 (passage 11)
Ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς ποιήσεως ταύτης εὐδοκιμεῖ Ὅμηρος περί τε τὴν Ἰωνίην καὶ ἐς τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἤδη περὶ αὐτοῦ λόγος ἀνεφέρετο· κατοικέων δὲ ἐν τῇ Χίῳ καὶ εὐδοκιμέων περὶ τὴν ποίησιν, ἀπικνεομένων πολλῶν πρὸς αὐτόν, συνεβούλευον οἱ ἐντυγχάνοντες αὐτῷ ἐς τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἀπικέσθαι·
From this songmaking [poiēsis] Homer achieved genuine fame around Ionia, and there was already talk about him that was making its way into Hellas. While he kept on maintaining his home in Chios and having genuine fame for his songmaking [poiēsis], many people came to visit [aphikneîsthai] him. [29] Upon encountering him, people kept on advising him to visit Hellas.
I§97 As a consequence of Homer’s poiēsis ‘songmaking’—and here poiēsis refers cumulatively to all the instances of Homer’s ‘making’ (poieîn) of verses just narrated—Homer’s fame in Ionia has already become widespread. At this point in the narrative, Homer is still in Chios. Only now does the narrative finally introduce the theme of Homer’s traveling to the mainland of Hellas. And yet, though Homer is described as by now eager to make a tour of all Hellas (Vita 1.376–377), he implicitly stays in Chios for a longer period as he continues to make verses that center on the glorification of Athens (1.378–399). The word that refers to Homer’s ‘making’ of verses continues to be poieîn: {41|42}
Iⓣ18 Vita 1.394 (passage 12)
ἐς δὲ τὴν Ὀδυσσείην τάδε ἐποίησεν
inside the Odyssey he made [poieîn] these verses …
Iⓣ19 Vita 1.399 (passage 13)
ἐμποιήσας δὲ ἐς τὴν ποίησιν ταῦτα …
… having made [poieîn] these verses take place inside [en- of en-poieîn] [30] his songmaking [= poiēsis] …
I§98 With the telling of these two further contexts, Homer has at long last finished his glorification of Athens by way of ‘making’ (poieîn) verses. He can now finally leave Chios and set sail to tour the rest of Hellas (Vita 1.400), and he arrives at the island of Samos as a transitional stopover (1.401). [31]
I§99 Up to now, the narrative of Vita 1 has maintained the status of Chios as a definitive setting for Homer’s glorification of Athens. As I will show later on, this association of Chios and Athens in Vita 1 reflects, however indirectly, the worldview of the Athenian empire.
I§100 Now I turn to the last remaining example of poieîn in Vita 1:
Iⓣ20 Vita 1.517–522 (passage 14)
Ὅτι δὲ ἦν Αἰολεὺς Ὅμηρος καὶ οὔτε Ἴων οὔτε Δωριεύς, τοῖς τε εἰρημένοις δεδήλωταί μοι καὶ δὴ καὶ τοῖσδε τεκμαίρεσθαι παρέχει. ἄνδρα ποιητὴν τηλικοῦτον εἰκός ἐστι τῶν νομίμων τῶν παρὰ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ποιοῦντα ἐς τὴν ποίησιν ἤτοι τὰ κάλλιστα ἐξευρόντα ποιέειν ἢ τὰ ἑωυτοῦ, πάτρια ἐόντα.
That Homer was an Aeolian and not an Ionian nor a Dorian is demonstrated by what has been said so far, and it can be proved even more decisively by way of the following: it is likely that a songmaker [poiētēs] who is of such ancient pedigree, and who draws upon ancestral customs prevalent among humans, would be making [poieîn] things take place inside his songmaking [poiēsis] that were either the most beautiful things he could ever make [poieîn] with his poetic invention or his very own things as he inherited them from his ancestors.
I§101 In the previous contexts of poieîn that we have examined up to this point, we have seen various aetiologies explaining various aspects of the Homeric tradition. Now, in this last example taken from Vita 1, we see an aetiology that is meant to explain the whole tradition. I draw attention to the fact that this aetiology specifies an Aeolic rather than Ionic genealogy for Homer. As we will see later on, this specification reflects the pre-Athenocentric outlook of Vita 1. {42|43}
I§102 Having now finished with Vita 1 (= the Herodotean Life), I turn to Vita 2 (= the Certamen). I start with this overall description of Homer’s activities in Asia Minor:
Iⓣ21 Vita 2.55–56 (passage 15)
ποιήσαντα γὰρ τὸν Μαργίτην Ὅμηρον περιέρχεσθαι κατὰ πόλιν ῥαψῳδοῦντα
Having made [poieîn] the Margites, Homer went wandering around [perierkhesthai] from city to city, performing in the manner of rhapsodes. [32]
I§103 The narrative here picks up where a previous phase of the narrative in Vita 2 (15–17) had left off. There, in the previous phase, it is said that Homer started his career of ‘poetry’ (poiēsis 2.17) in Colophon (2.15), having ‘made’ (poieîn 2.17) the Margites; here, in the present phase, it is said that Homer, having ‘made’ (poieîn 2.55) the Margites in Colophon, now goes wandering around other cities, performing poetry wherever he goes (2.55–56). The wording is compressed and elliptic: it is not specified what poem Homer performs in what city. I render the expression ῞Ομηρον περιέρχεσθαι κατὰ πόλιν (2.55–56) not as ‘Homer went wandering all around the city’ (of Colophon) but as ‘Homer went wandering around from city to city’, having left the city of Colophon, where he had ‘made’ the Margites. I will justify this interpretation as my argumentation proceeds.
I§104 In its elliptic reference to Homer’s poetic tour of multiple cities starting with Colophon in Asia Minor, the narrative of Vita 2 abruptly switches to the mainland of Hellas, to which I will refer, in a shorthand, as the Helladic mainland. Suddenly we find Homer at Aulis, in Boeotia (2.54–55). Aulis is said to be the setting for a competition between Homer and Hesiod (2.54–55); later on, the setting is said to be Chalkis in Euboea (2.68).
I§105 The act of Homeric composition, as signaled by the word poieîn ‘make’ (Vita 2.55) in the elliptic passage that refers, as I argue, to Homer’s poetic tour of multiple cities starting with Colophon in Asia Minor, is syntactically correlated with the act of Homeric performance, as signaled by the word rhapsōideîn ‘perform in the manner of rhapsodes’ (2.56) in the same passage. There are multiple performances to follow in multiple cities on the Helladic mainland. The same word rhapsōideîn recurs in a later part of the narrative, where Homer is shown performing his poiēmata ‘poetic creations’ in Corinth (2.286).
I§106 In terms of the overall narrative structure of Vita 2, the critical moment in Homer’s Life is his contest or Certamen with Hesiod. After he is defeated by Hesiod (2.254–255), Homer goes on with his life as a wandering performer: περιερχόμενος ἔλεγε τὰ ποιήματα ‘as he went wandering around (perierkhesthai), he was telling his poetic creations (poiēmata)’ (2.255). The wording here is parallel to the {43|44} wording in the previous part of the narrative, as I quoted it earlier: ποιήσαντα γὰρ τὸν Μαργίτην Ὅμηρον περιέρχεσθαι κατὰ πόλιν ῥαψῳδοῦντα ‘having made (poieîn) the Margites, Homer went wandering around (perierkhesthai) from city to city, performing in the manner of rhapsodes (rhapsōideîn)’ (2.55–56). Of special relevance is Plato’s passing reference to the myth of the Certamen: both Homer and Hesiod are pictured as ‘performing in the manner of rhapsodes’ (rhapsōideîn) as they ‘go wandering around’ (perierkhesthai) from city to city (Plato Republic 10.600d-e ῥαψῳδεῖνπεριιόντας).
I§107 Previously, we saw that Homer’s wanderings had taken him from Colophon to a variety of other stops. The first stop to be mentioned is Aulis, in Boeotia. Although the text of Vita 2 names Aulis as the setting for Homer’s contest with Hesiod at the start of Vita 2 (54–56), the setting shifts at a later part of the narrative to Chalkis, in Euboea (2.68). Whether or not we are dealing here with a conflation of two distinct versions is immaterial. After the contest with Hesiod, the next stop for Homer seems to be Thebes in Boeotia. At least, the narrative of Vita 2 implies that Homer goes to Thebes at this point: after the Margites in Colophon, the next Homeric composition to be mentioned by name in the narrative is the Thebaid (2.255–257), followed by the Epigonoi (2.258–260). Since Aulis is described as belonging to Boeotia (2.54–55), this description may be the sign of a narrative connection with Boeotian Thebes.
I§108 The next Homeric composition to be mentioned is the Midas Epigram. Homer is commissioned by the sons of Midas to compose an epigram for the dead king of Phrygia (2.260–270). I draw attention to the wording:
Iⓣ22 Vita 2.261–264 (passage 16)
οἱ Μίδου τοῦ βασιλέως παῖδες Ξάνθος καὶ Γόργος παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἐπίγραμμα ποιῆσαι ἐπὶ τοῦ τάφου τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν, ἐφ’ οὗ ἦν παρθένος χαλκῆ τὸν Μίδου θάνατον οἰκτιζομένη. καὶ ποιεῖ οὕτως …
The sons of King Midas, Xanthos and Gorgos, invited him [= Homer] to make [poieîn] an epigram [epigramma] on the tomb of their father, on top of which was a bronze maiden lamenting the death of Midas. And he [= Homer] made [poieîn] it [= the epigram] thus …
I§109 In Vita 2, this epigram is connected with another epigram, which in turn connects the Life of Homer to the cultural and political interests of the city-state of Athens. The point of entry for this connection is Apollo’s Delphi:
Iⓣ23 Vita 2.271–274 (passage 17)
λαβὼν δὲ παρ’ αὐτῶν φιάλην ἀργυρᾶν ἀνατίθησιν ἐν Δελφοῖς τῷ Ἀπόλλωνι, ἐπιγράψας
Φοῖβε ἄναξ δῶρόν τοι Ὅμηρος καλὸν ἔδωκα
σῇσιν ἐπιφροσύναις· σὺ δέ μοι κλέος αἰὲν ὀπάζοις.
Receiving from them [= the sons of Midas] a silver phialē he [= Homer] dedicated it in Delphi to Apollo, writing an epigram [epigraphein] on it … {44|45}
Lord Phoebus! I, Homer, have given you a beautiful gift,
with the help of your impulses of wisdom [epiphrosunai]. [33] And may you grant [opazein] [34] me fame [kleos] forever.
I§110 Homer’s visit to Delphi is handled differently at an earlier point in the text of Vita 2: there it is implied that Homer goes to Delphi sometime before his contest with Hesiod at Aulis, in Boeotia (2.56–58). But here, in the part of Vita 2 I just quoted, Homer goes to Delphi sometime after his contest with Hesiod at Chalkis in Euboea. After Chalkis, the first place Homer visits seems to be Thebes, as we have already seen (2.255–259); then, after Thebes, he composes the Midas Epigram in honor of the late king of Phrygia (2.260–271); then, after being rewarded with a silver phialē that he won as compensation for the Midas Epigram, he goes to Delphi, where he dedicates the silver phialē to Apollo after composing the Delphi Epigram that he inscribes on the phialē (2.271–274). [35]
I§111 Homer’s production of this epigram in Apollo’s Delphi marks the narrative point of transition to his authorization as the master poet of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey:
Iⓣ24 Vita 2.275 (passage 18)
μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ποιεῖ τὴν Ὀδύσσειαν ἔπη μ͵βʹ, πεποιηκὼς ἤδη τὴν Ἰλιάδα ἐπῶν μ͵εφʹ.
After this [= after making the Delphi Epigram] he [= Homer] made [poieîn] the Odyssey, 12,000 verses, having already made [poieîn] the Iliad, consisting of 15,500 verses.
I§112 In the sequence of the last three events we have just seen, the logic of the narrative is clarified. One event is Homer’s ‘making’ of the Midas Epigram, where the act of poetic creation is made explicit by way of the verb poieîn. The second event is Homer’s ‘making’ of the Delphi Epigram, where the act of poetic creation is not made explicit. And the third event is Homer’s ‘making’ of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, where the act of poetic creation is once again made explicit by way of the verb poieîn.
I§113 The reference to Homer’s ‘making’ of the Iliad and Odyssey combined is essentially a reference to the Panathenaic Homer, that is, to the Homer of the Athenians. As I have argued, the performance of this combination of epics was perceived as a distinctly Athenian institution. So it is significant that the narrative mentions the Iliad and Odyssey at precisely the moment when Homer comes to Athens. In other words, the narrative waits till the point where Homer comes to Athens before it shows him in the act of composing something that corresponds to Homer as he is actually known in Athens. And the signature, as it were, for this point in {45|46} the narration is Homer’s Delphi Epigram, which is Homer’s point of departure as he heads for Athens. As we have seen, Homer personally dedicates this epigram to Apollo at Delphi, and it is this action in the narrative sequence that leads to his coming ‘from there’ to Athens (Vita 2.276–277 παραγενόμενον δὲ ἐκεῖθεν εἰς Ἀθήνας).
I§114 Unfortunately for us, the narrative of Vita 2 fails to give any further details about the circumstances of Homer’s ‘making’ of the Iliad and Odyssey. (There is only one exception, which concerns something that seems obvious in terms of the internal logic of the overall narrative: it is said explicitly that the Iliad was ‘made’ before the Odyssey—though the narrative fails once again to give any further details.) But at least the narrative succeeds in being consequential about one, single overriding idea: that Homer’s arrival in Athens must be preceded by Homer’s ‘making’ of the Iliad and Odyssey combined.
I§115 By now I have examined every example of poieîn ‘make’ with reference to the life of Homer as narrated in Vita 2—except for the very last example. Before I turn to that example, I need to summarize the overall narrative sequence of Vita 2:
  • A) Homer starts his career of poetry in Colophon (2.15), having ‘made’ (poieîn) the Margites (2.17).
  • B) Having ‘made’ (poieîn) the Margites in Colophon, he now goes wandering around other cities, performing poetry wherever he goes (2.55–56).
  • C1) He goes to Aulis, in Boeotia (2.54–55). At Aulis he competes with Hesiod (2.54–55).
  • C2) Alternatively, he goes to Chalkis, in Euboea (2.68), where he competes with Hesiod and is defeated by him (2.68–211).
  • D) He now goes wandering around other cities, performing poetry wherever he goes (2.255).
  • E) He performs the epic called the Thebaid (2.255–257) and the epic called the Epigonoi (2.258–260). The venue seems to be Thebes.
  • F) He ‘makes’ (poieîn) the Midas Epigram (2.260–270). The venue seems to be Phrygia, though the narrative does not specify that Homer actually went there.
  • G) He goes to Delphi, taking with him the phialē he had received as compensation for ‘making’ the Midas Epigram, and he dedicates it, having composed his Delphi Epigram to be inscribed on it (2.270–274).
  • H) He ‘makes’ (poieîn) the Odyssey, having already ‘made’ (poieîn) the Iliad (2.275–276).
  • I) He goes from Delphi (‘from there’) to Athens, where he performs a riddle as he enters the building of the city council or bouleutērion (2.276–285). [36] {46|47}
  • J) He goes to Corinth, where he ‘performs in the mode of a rhapsode’ (rhapsōideîn) his ‘poetic creations’ (poiēmata) (2.286–287: ἐκεῖθεν δὲ παραγενόμενος εἰς Κόρινθον ἐρραψῴδει τὰ ποιήματα).
  • K) He goes to Argos (2.287–315), where he ‘speaks’ (legein) [37] verses that are taken from the Iliad (2.288: καὶ λέγει ἐκ τῆς Ἰλιάδος τὰ ἔπη τάδε).
  • L) After staying a while in Argos, he sails over to Delos (2.315–322), where he ‘speaks’ (legein) [38] the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (2.317 λέγει ὕμνον εἰς Ἀπόλλωνα).
  • M) After being celebrated in Delos with special honors that compensate him for his songmaking, Homer goes to the island of Ios, where he fails to understand a riddle and dies in a fit of depression (2.322–338)—but not before he ‘makes’ (poieîn) an epigram for his own tomb. In the passage that tells about Homer’s composition of this epigram, we see the last attestation of poieîn ‘make’ with reference to the life of Homer as narrated in Vita 2:
Iⓣ25 Vita 2.333 (passage 19)
ποιεῖ τὸ τοῦ τάφου αὑτοῦ ἐπίγραμμα
… he [= Homer] made [poieîn] his own tomb’s epigram [epigramma] …
I§116 With this passage, we come to the end of my inventory of nineteen passages showing forms of either poieîn ‘make’ or graphein ‘write’ with reference to the making of poetry by Homer. I conclude that the word poieîn ‘make’ is the standard term for referring to Homeric composition in both the pre-Athenocentric and the Athenocentric phase of the Lives of Homer. What Homer ‘makes’ in these Lives is not limited, however, to epic. As we saw in both Vita 1 (133–134) and Vita 2 (261–264), Homer also poieî ‘makes’ what is known as the Midas Epigram. These two references, then, show most clearly that ‘writing’, graphein, is not a prerequisite for the composing of an epigram by Homer. In both references, the ‘writing down’ of the epigram is not being connected directly with the actual composition of the epigram. From the standpoint of the pre-Athenocentric and the Athenocentric periods of Homeric reception, then, the physical process of inscribing the epigram is viewed as independent of the mental process of Homer’s ‘making’ (poieîn) the poem. [39] {47|48}

I 23. Homer the epigrammatist

I§117 I draw attention to the highlighting of Apollo at two opposite ends of the narrative sequence in the narrative of Vita 2. At both ends, the highlighting is achieved by way of a Homeric epigram. At one end, Homer leaves his signature, as it were, in Apollo’s Delphi as the author of the Delphi Epigram (2.271–274). It is at this point that the narrative makes its transition to Homer’s composition of the Iliad and Odyssey in their entirety (2.275). Then, toward the other end of the narrative, Homer leaves his signature in Apollo’s Delos as the author of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (2.315–322). And then, at the very end, he leaves his last signature on the Ionian island of Ios, in his capacity as the author of his own Homer Epigram (2.333). In what follows, I have more to say about this Homer Epigram.
I§118 In the Lives of Homer, we find two passages where it is said explicitly that Homer composed an epigram for his own tomb on the island of Ios, and that the epigram was inscribed on the tomb only after he died (Vitae 2.333 and 5.48–49). And the wording of the epigram of Homer for his own tomb, as given at Vita 1 (515–516) and Vita 2 (337–338; also at Vitae 3a.73–74, 4.24–25, 5.51–52, 6.63–64, 10.54–55 and 220–221), is also attested in the Greek Anthology (7.3).
I§119 Similarly, the epigram of Homer for the tomb of Midas, as given in Vita 1 (135–140) and Vita 2 (265–270), is also attested in the Greek Anthology (7.153). [40] In this case, however, the attribution to Homer is merely a variant: as the title of the epigram in the Greek Anthology (7.153) makes clear, the composition is attributed either to Homer or to Kleoboulos of Lindos. Among the sources that attribute the authorship of the epigram to Kleoboulos rather than Homer is Simonides (PMG 581; Diogenes Laertius 1.89). Such alternative attributions reflect an outlook that tends to restrict Homer to the authorship of epics, excluding epigrams. As my argumentation progresses, I will have more to say about such a pattern of restriction, which becomes intensified with the passage of time.

I 24. Homer’s reception in performance

I§120 As we have seen so far in the Life of Homer traditions, the Poet’s compositions come to life in performance, not in writing. The story of Homeric reception is the story of the ways in which Homer’s audiences respond to his performances. For a premier example, I return to the description of Homer’s reception at Cyme: καὶ αὐτοῦ θωυμασταὶ καθειστήκεσαν ‘they [= the people of Cyme] became his admirers [thaumastai]’ (Vita 1.143–144). The wording here needs to be compared with the wording that describes Homer’s earlier reception in the city of Smyrna: καὶ αὐτοῦ θωυμασταὶ καθειστήκεισαν οἵ τε ἐγχώριοι καὶ τῶν ξένων οἱ ἐσαπικνεόμενοι ‘they became his {48|49} admirers [thaumastai] – both the local people [= the people of Smyrna] and people from other cities who came visiting’ (1.55–57). In the second case, Homer’s reception by the local population is viewed in tandem with his reception by audiences from out of town. (The narrative then goes on to explain that Smyrna, as a busy seaport, attracted all kinds of visitors.) In the city of Cyme, the context of performance is ἐν ταῖς λέσχαις τῶν γερόντων ‘at gatherings of elders’ (1.142). What Homer does not receive in the city-state of Cyme is formal subsidy from the state (the expression for such state subsidy is δημοσίῃ τρέφειν 1.47). [41] As for Smyrna, the contexts of performance are explicitly informal: οἱ οὖν ξένοι, ὁκότε παύσοιντο τῶν ἔργων, ἀπεσχόλαζον παρὰ τῷ Μελησιγένει ἐγκαθίζοντες ‘visitors from out of town, whenever they were done with work, would spend their free time sitting [and listening] at the place of Melēsigenēs [= Homer]’ (1.59–60). [42] In Neon Teikhos, Homer performs an epic about the deeds of Amphiaraos in the war against Thebes (1.113) and ‘the hymns [humnoi] to the gods that he [= Homer] had composed [poieîn]’ (1.113–114); following up on these performances, he displays his poetic learning by responding to anything his audiences wanted to say, thus earning their admiration: καὶ περὶ τῶν λεγομένων ὑπὸ τῶν παρεόντων ἐς τὸ μέσον γνώμας ἀποφαινόμενος θωύματος ἄξιος ἐφαίνετο εἶναι τοῖς ἀκούουσι ‘by commenting in public concerning what was said by those attending his performances, he appeared to his listeners as someone most worthy of admiration [thauma]’ (1.114–116). [43] On the island of Chios, before he enters the city of Chios, Homer as performer is ‘held in admiration [thauma]’ by the rustic herdsman Glaukos: ἐν θωύματι εἶχεν αὐτόν (1.309–310). [44] In the city of Chios, once he is established as a teacher of epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural), Homer’s reception is described this way: καὶ πολλοὶ θωυμασταὶ αὐτοῦ καθειστήκεσαν ‘and many became his admirers [thaumastai]’ (1.342–343). In Samos, Homer’s reception gets the same sort of description: in the building of the Samian phrētrē ‘confraternity’ where Homer performs his poetry, his listeners ‘gave him honor [timē] and were in admiration [thauma] of him’ (αὐτὸν ἐτίμων καὶ ἐν θωύματι εἶχον 1.431). {49|50}
I§121 In Vita 2, we see references to successful Homeric performance as a way of imagining an absolutized Panhellenic reception: the ‘Hellenes’ as Homer’s audience universally ‘admire’ (thaumazein) him and ‘praise’ (epaineîn) him for his ability to fit his verses into context while he is performing in competition with Hesiod (θαυμάσαντες δὲ καὶ ἐν τούτῳ τὸν Ὅμηρον οἱ Ἕλληνες ἐπῄνουν 2.205–206). Both poets, Homer and Hesiod, competed ‘admirably [ thaumastōs ]’ (ἀμφοτέρων δὲ τῶν ποιητῶν θαυμαστῶς ἀγωνισαμένων 2.70–71). At a later point, we hear that the ‘golden verses’ of Homer are approved by all Hellenes: ῥηθέντων δὲ τούτων τῶν ἐπῶν, οὕτω σφοδρῶς φασι θαυμασθῆναι τοὺς στίχους ὑπὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὥστε χρυσοῦς αὐτοὺς προσαγορευθῆναι ‘when these verses [epos plural] were spoken [rēthēnai, aorist for legesthai], [45] it is said that the lines were so intensely admired [thaumazesthai] by the Hellenes that they were called golden’ (2.90–92). [46]
I§122 What immediately follows this detail in Vita 2 is a most striking parenthetical remark, which turns out to be central to the preoccupation of all these narratives with the audiences’ admiration of Homer-in-performance: καὶ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς θυσίαις πρὸ τῶν δείπνων καὶ σπονδῶν προκατεύχεσθαι πάντας ‘and even to this day, everyone makes a preliminary prayer, before feasting and libation, at sacrifices [thusiai] that are common [koinai] to all’ (2.92–94). As I will argue later, these prayers are being made to Homer himself as a cult hero.
I§123 I conclude this brief survey of Homeric reception as reported in the Life of Homer traditions by signaling the centrality of the word thusia ‘sacrifice’ in the parenthetical remark I just quoted. This word means not only ‘sacrifice’ but also, metonymically, ‘festival’. The use of thusia in the sense ‘festival’ is prominently attested in Plato Timaeus (26e), where the word actually refers to a Panhellenic festival: in this case, the referent is none other than the premier festival of Athens, the Panathenaia. [47] It was on this occasion, at the Feast of the Panathenaia, that the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey were formally performed in Athens. [48] The use of this word thusia in referring to the festival of the Panathenaia will be central to the rest of my overall argumentation. [49] {50|51}

I 25. Homer as a model performer at Panhellenic festivals

I§124 In the passage I just quoted from Vita 2 (92–94), we saw a reference to a custom of praying to Homer in the context of thusiai ‘sacrifices’ that are koinai ‘common’ to all Hellenes. In such a context, the word thusia conveys not only the notion of sacrifice but also the notion of a Panhellenic festival that frames a sacrifice. As I will now argue, the figure of Homer in the Life of Homer traditions is a personal representative of sacrifices that are koinai ‘common’ to all Hellenes in the context of Panhellenic festivals. A premier example is the use of the word koinos ‘common’ with reference to Homer himself in the context of his performance of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo at the Panhellenic festival of the Delia on the island of Delos:
Iⓣ26 Vita 2.315–322
ἐνδιατρίψας δὲ τῇ πόλει χρόνον τινὰ διέπλευσεν εἰς Δῆλον εἰς τὴν πανήγυριν. καὶ σταθεὶς ἐπὶ τὸν κεράτινον βωμὸν λέγει ὕμνον εἰς Ἀπόλλωνα οὗ ἡ ἀρχή
μνήσομαι οὐδὲ λάθωμαι Ἀπόλλωνος ἑκάτοιο.
ῥηθέντος δὲ τοῦ ὕμνου οἱ μὲν Ἴωνες πολίτην αὐτὸν κοινὸν ἐποιήσαντο, Δήλιοι δὲ γράψαντες τὰ ἔπη εἰς λεύκωμα ἀνέθηκαν ἐν τῷ τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος ἱερῷ. τῆς δὲ πανηγύρεως λυθείσης ὁ ποιητὴς εἰς Ἴον ἔπλευσε πρὸς Κρεώφυλον
After he [= Homer] stayed a while in the city [of Argos], he sailed over to Delos to the festival [panēguris] there. And, standing on the Altar of Horn he speaks the humnos to Apollo, the beginning of which is
I will keep in mind and not leave out of mind Apollo, who makes things work from afar.
Then, after the humnos was spoken, the Ionians made him [= Homer] their common citizen [koinos politēs]. And the people of Delos, writing down his verses [epos plural] on a white tablet [leukōma; in Latin, album], dedicated them in the sacred space of Artemis. Then, after the festival [panēguris] was declared to be finished, the Poet [poiētēs] sailed to Ios to meet Kreophylos. [50]
I§125 Just as the word koinai ‘common’ is appropriate for describing thusiai ‘sacrifices’ at Panhellenic festivals, koinos ‘common’ is appropriate for describing the role of Homer himself in the context of performing at such festivals.
I§126 As I note in the twin book Homer the Classic, the use of koinos ‘common’ in the passage I just quoted reflects the Athenocentric appropriation of Homer as a spokesman for the Delian League. [51] The idea is that all the Ionians who are assembled at the festival of the Delia on the island of Delos respond to Homer’s perfor-{51|52} mance of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo by acclaiming him as a politēs ‘citizen’ of all their cities—that is, as a citizen who is koinos ‘common’ to all Ionians in all their cities.
I§127 Such a universalizing appropriation of Homer can be seen elsewhere as well in the Life of Homer traditions. In the following passage, for example, the poetry of Homer is described as the koinon ‘common good’ of all Hellenes:
Iⓣ27 Michigan Papyrus 2754 lines 19–23
ταύτη[ν] οὖν αὐτῷ τῆς παιδιᾶς χάριν ἀ|ποδίδω[μεν ἀγ]ῶνος αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν ἄλλη[ν] ποί|ησιν δι’ ἀγ[χιστ]είας μνήμης τοῖς βουλομέ|νοις φιλοκαλεῖν τῶν Ἑλλήνων εἰς τὸ κοινὸν | παραδῶμεν
So let us pay him [= Homer] back for the favor [kharis] of the amusement of the Contest [of Homer and Hesiod] itself, and, as for the rest of his poiēsis [= the rest of Homer’s songmaking besides what is quoted in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod], let us hand it down, through our shared inheritance of memory, to those who wish to take part in love of the beautiful, for the common [koinon] good of the Hellenes.
I§128 We see in this passage what amounts to an aetiology of Homer himself as the model performer of poetry at Panhellenic festivals. As such, he serves the koinon ‘common good’ of all Hellenes. Similarly, as we saw in the previous passage, Homer is the koinos politēs, a member of society who is ‘common’ to all societies that take part in a given Panhellenic festival.
I§129 A moment ago, I applied the word aetiology to these two contexts where Homer is being described as the one single thing held in common by all Hellenes attending Panhellenic festivals. (I have in mind the working definition that I used earlier: an aetiology is a myth that motivates an institutional reality, especially a ritual.) Two primary examples of ritual are relevant, sacrifice and festival, both of which I view here exclusively within the context of ancient Greek traditions. Both concepts, sacrifice and festival, can be expressed by way of a single Greek word, thusia, which as we saw means not only ‘sacrifice’ but also, metonymically, ‘festival’. Two other Greek words of immediate relevance are panēguris and heortē, both meaning the ‘festival’ that serves as the setting for the thusia as ‘sacrifice’. The ritual dimension of these words thusia ‘sacrifice’ / ‘festival’, heortē ‘festival’, and panēguris ‘festival’ brings to life the ritual dimension of Homeric performances. If I am right in arguing that the Life of Homer traditions once served as aetiologies for the performances of Homer, it follows that the Lives themselves, as aetiologies, bring to life the ritual dimension of these performances.
I§130 A myth like the story about Homer in Delos, as narrated in Vita 2, is not only an aetiology of the festival of the Delia. My point is, this myth is also an aetiology of the reception of Homer himself as the model performer at that festival. As we will see, the myth about Homer in Delos motivates the institutional reality of Homeric reception, just as surely as it motivates the institutional reality of the festival that defines Homer. As we will also see, this formulation can be expanded even fur-{52|53} ther: in a larger sense, even the overall narratives of the Lives of Homer are aetiologies of Homeric reception. So, when I say that the figure of Homer in the Lives of Homer is a personal representative of sacrifices that are koinai ‘common’ to all Hellenes in the context of Panhellenic festivals, I am really saying that these Lives are aetiologies of Homer as the model performer of poetry at these festivals. In this connection, I note with interest that the birth of Homer himself is pictured as taking place on the occasion of a heortē ‘festival’ (Vita 1.28). Homer was born for performance at the festival. [52]
I§131 Here I return to the parenthetical remark that gave rise to this ongoing survey of references to Homer as the model performer at Panhellenic festivals:
Iⓣ28 Vita 2.92–94
καὶ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς θυσίαις πρὸ τῶν δείπνων καὶ σπονδῶν προκατεύχεσθαι πάντας
And even to this day, everyone makes a preliminary prayer [to Homer], before feasting and libation, at sacrifices [thusiai] that are common [koinai] to all.
I§132 An essential question remains. Why would all Hellenes make a preliminary prayer to Homer in the context of thusiai ‘festivals’ described as koinai ‘common’ to all? The answer emerges from further details that we find in the narrative of Vita 2. It turns out that Homer is honored as a cult hero by way of individual aetiologies motivating the reception of his performances in individual cities. A key is the word timē (noun) / timân (verb), meaning ‘honor’, which can be used in the sacral sense of ‘honor by way of cult’. [53] In the Contest of Homer and Hesiod tradition, Homer is acknowledged as worthy of hero cult in all Hellenic societies:
Iⓣ29 Michigan Papyrus 2754 lines 17–19
καὶ ζῶν | καὶ θανὼν τετίμηται παρὰ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώ|ποις
Living or dead, he [= Homer] is honored [timân] among all men.
I§133 References in the Lives of Homer to the various local traditions of various cities bear out this universalizing statement about Homer as the individual cult hero of individual cities. A case in point is the city of Corinth: Homer is ‘honored’ ( timân ) by the people of Corinth in return for his performing in their city (τιμηθεὶς δὲ μεγάλως 2.287). Another case in point is the city of the island-state of Samos. Vita 1 tells about the reception of Homer by a civic confraternity known as the phrētores {53|54} of Samos: καὶ αὐτὸν ἐτίμων καὶ ἐν θωύματι εἶχον ‘they [= the phrētores] honored [timân] him and held him in admiration [thauma]’ (1.431). In this context, Homer is performing for the phrētores, and it is specified that he is attending a festival: the phrētores in Samos had invited him to participate in the celebration of a heortē ‘festival’ (1.407–408 συνεορτάσοντα). It is further specified that the heortē is the Apatouria (1.401–402 ἔτυχον δὲ οἱ ἐκεῖσε τὸν τότε καιρὸν ἄγοντες ἑορτὴν Ἀπατούρια).
I§134 The festival of the Apatouria seems to be a traditional setting for the performance of epic poetry in Ionian cities, including Athens. There is an incidental reference to such a setting in Plato’s Timaeus (21a-b), where we find the figure of Critias reminiscing about his childhood and recalling an occasion when he and his little friends were ‘playing rhapsode’ (ἆθλα γὰρ ἡμῖν οἱ πατέρες ἔθεσαν ῥαψῳδίας 21b). It happened on the day of Koureotis, during the festival of the Apatouria, and it was also on this occasion that the supposedly original telling of the mock epic of Athens and Atlantis took place (21a-b). As I have argued elsewhere, the object of this childish game of playing rhapsode at the Apatouria was to win celebrity status as the star rhapsode of the Panathenaia. [54]
I§135 Returning to my list of examples showing Homer as cult hero, I turn to the last two examples. They are the city-state of Argos and the island-state of Chios. After hearing the performances of Homer, the people of Argos ‘honor’ (timân) him for glorifying them with his verses in their city, and they participate in two sets of seasonally recurring thusiai ‘sacrifices’, one of which takes place in Argos and the other in Chios:
Iⓣ30 Vita 2.303–308
αὐτὸν μὲν πολυτελέσι δωρεαῖς ἐτίμησαν, εἰκόνα δὲ χαλκῆν ἀναστήσαντες ἐψηφίσαντο θυσίαν ἐπιτελεῖν Ὁμήρῳ καθ’ ἡμέραν καὶ κατὰ μῆνα καὶ κατ’ ἐνιαυτὸν <καὶ> ἄλλην θυσίαν πενταετηρίδα εἰς Χίον ἀποστέλλειν. ἐπιγράφουσι δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς εἰκόνος αὐτοῦ …
They [= the people of Argos] honored [timân] him [= Homer] with costly gifts and, setting up a bronze statue to him, they decreed that sacrifice [thusia] should be offered to Homer on the right day and the right month, every year, and that another thusia should be delegated to Chios every four years. This is the epigram they inscribed on his statue [quotation follows] …
I§136 In this local Argive context, we see the usage of the word thusia in two senses. First, the people of Argos participate in a thusia ‘sacrifice’ to Homer as cult hero of performance; this sacrifice takes place in Argos on a seasonally recurring basis. Second, the people of Argos participate in a thusia ‘sacrifice’ to Homer that takes place in Chios on a seasonally recurring basis. This other sacrifice takes place on the occasion of a quadrennial festival in Chios, which is designated metonymically by the same word, thusia. The participants in this quadrennial festival, highlighted by a {54|55} sacrifice made to Homer, are evidently not only the people of Chios but also other people sent as delegates from their own cities. By implication, this quadrennial festival in honor of Homer in Chios is the setting for performances of Homeric poetry. I see here a prototype for the quadrennial festival of the Great Panathenaia in Athens, which is the premier setting for performances of Homeric poetry from the standpoint of the Athenian empire. I repeat what I have been saying from the start: thusia is the word of choice for designating the festival of the Panathenaia (Plato Timaeus 26e).

I 26. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo as an aetiology of Homeric performance at the Delia

I§137 The cursory reference to Chios as the setting for a quadrennial thusia ‘festival’ honoring Homer in the narrative of Vita 2 (307–308) is pertinent to a pointed reference to Chios in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo:
Iⓣ31 Homeric Hymn (3) to Apollo 156–178
          πρὸς δὲ τόδε μέγα θαῦμα, ὅου κλέος οὔποτ’ ὀλεῖται,
          κοῦραι Δηλιάδες Ἑκατηβελέταο θεράπναι·
          αἵ τ’ ἐπεὶ ἂρ πρῶτον μὲν Ἀπόλλων’ ὑμνήσωσιν,
          αὖτις δ’ αὖ Λητώ τε καὶ Ἄρτεμιν ἰοχέαιραν,
160    μνησάμεναι ἀνδρῶν τε παλαιῶν ἠδὲ γυναικῶν
          ὕμνον ἀείδουσιν, θέλγουσι δὲ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων.
          πάντων δ’ ἀνθρώπων φωνὰς καὶ κρεμβαλιαστὺν
          μιμεῖσθ’ ἴσασιν· φαίη δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕκαστος
          φθέγγεσθ’ · οὕτω σφιν καλὴ συνάρηρεν ἀοιδή.
165    ἀλλ’ ἄγεθ’ ἱλήκοι μὲν Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξύν,
          χαίρετε δ’ ὑμεῖς πᾶσαι· ἐμεῖο δὲ καὶ μετόπισθε
          μνήσασθ’, ὁππότε κέν τις ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
          ἐνθάδ’ ἀνείρηται ξεῖνος ταλαπείριος ἐλθών·
          ὦ κοῦραι, τίς δ’ ὔμμιν ἀνὴρ ἥδιστος ἀοιδῶν
170    ἐνθάδε πωλεῖται, καὶ τέῳ τέρπεσθε μάλιστα;
          ὑμεῖς δ’ εὖ μάλα πᾶσαι ὑποκρίνασθαι ἀφ’ ἡμέων· [55]
          τυφλὸς ἀνήρ, οἰκεῖ δὲ Χίῳ ἔνι παιπαλοέσσῃ,
          τοῦ πᾶσαι μετόπισθεν ἀριστεύουσιν ἀοιδαί.
          ἡμεῖς δ’ ὑμέτερον κλέος οἴσομεν ὅσσον ἐπ’ αἶαν
175    ἀνθρώπων στρεφόμεσθα πόλεις εὖ ναιεταώσας·
          οἱ δ’ ἐπὶ δὴ πείσονται, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐτήτυμόν ἐστιν.
          αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν οὐ λήξω ἑκηβόλον Ἀπόλλωνα
          ὑμνέων ἀργυρότοξον ὃν ἠΰκομος τέκε Λητώ. {55|56}
          And on top of that, there is this great thing of wonder [thauma], [56] the fame [kleos] of
               which will never perish:
          the Delian Maidens, attendants [therapnai] of the one who shoots from afar.
          So when they make Apollo their humnos first and foremost, [57]
          followed in turn by Leto and Artemis, shooter of arrows,
160    they keep in mind men of the past and women too, [58]
          as they sing the humnos , and they enchant all different kinds of humanity.
          All humans’ voices and rhythms
          they know how to re-enact [mimeîsthai]. And each single person would say that his own
          was their voice. That is how their beautiful song has each of its parts fitting in place.
165    But come now, may Apollo be gracious, along with Artemis;
          and you all also, hail [khairete] and take pleasure, all of you [Maidens of Delos]. Keep me,
               even in the future,
          in your mind, whenever someone, out of the whole mass of earthbound humanity,
          arrives here [to Delos], after arduous wandering, as a guest entitled to the rules of hosting,
               and asks this question:
          “O Maidens, who is for you the most pleasurable of singers
170    that wanders here? In whom do you take the most delight [terpesthai]?”
          Then you, all of you [Maidens of Delos], must very properly respond [hupokrinesthai] [59]
               about me: [60]
          “It is a blind man, and he dwells [oikeîn] [61] in Chios, a rugged land,
          and all his songs will in the future prevail as the very best.”
          And I [62] in turn will carry your fame [kleos] as far over the earth {56|57}
175    as I wander, throughout the cities of men, with their fair populations.
          And they will all believe—I now see [63] —since it is genuine [etētumon].
          As for me, I will not leave off [lēgein] [64] making far-shooting Apollo
          my humnos[65] the one with the silver quiver, who was borne by Leto of the fair tresses.
I§138 The Homeric Hymn to Apollo is saying here many of the same things said by the Life of Homer traditions. One thing stands out. The speaker of the Hymn says explicitly that his home is the island of Chios (171–173). This detail turns out to be a most explicit signature. For Ionians in general, the Chiote signature is a sign that the speaker is an Ionian singer from Chios. For the people of Chios in particular, the speaker is Homer, the ancestor of the Homēridai of Chios. As for the Athenians, the same signature is a sign of their ownership of Homer. In what follows, I will argue that the Homēridai of Chios authorize the performances of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey at the Panathenaia in Athens. So when Thucydides recognizes the speaker of the Hymn as Homer (3.104.4, 5, 6), he is thinking like an Athenian.
I§139 In the Life of Homer traditions, as we saw, the figure of Homer is pictured as a singer who wanders from city to city, performing his songs at festivals celebrated in the cities he visits. Festivals provide an occasion for the itinerant Homer to engage in performance, and the story of Homer’s mythical performance at a given festival can become an aetiology that explains the reality of seasonally recurring Homeric performances at that given festival. The performance of Homer at Delos, as narrated in Vita 2 (313–321), is a premier example of such an aetiology. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo, in and of itself, is another premier example of such an aetiology. We can see that it contains in its own right a compressed Life of Homer story, spoken by the figure of Homer himself as he performs at a festival sacred to Apollo, primary god of Delos. This compressed Life of Homer story is dramatized by the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, where the figure of Homer quotes the Delian Maidens in the act of prophesying his ultimate career as a singer whose songs will prevail throughout the Hellenic world.
I§140 Just as the Lives of Homer function as aetiologies of Homer, we see that the Ho-{57|58} meric Hymn to Apollo is an aetiology in its own right. It is an aetiology not only for the festival of the Delia but also for Homer as the spokesman for that festival. By Homer here I mean not only the notional speaker of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo but also the notional ancestor of the Homēridai of Chios, who are destined to become the authorizers of Homeric performance at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens.


[ back ] 1. I offer the following system for referring to these Lives, with page numbers as printed by Allen 1912:
Vita 1 = Vita Herodotea pp. 192–218
Vita 2 = Certamen pp. 225–238
Vita 3a = Plutarchean Vita pp. 238–244
Vita 3b = Plutarchean Vitapp. 244–245
Vita 4 = Vita quartapp. 245–246
Vita 5 = Vita quintapp. 247–250
Vita 6= Vita sexta (the “Roman Vita”)pp. 250–253
Vita 7= Vita septima, by way of Eustathiuspp. 253–254
Vita 8 = Vita by way of Tzetzespp. 254–255
Vita 9 = Vita by way of Eustathius (on Iliad IV 17) p. 255
Vita 10= Vita by way of the Suda pp. 256–268
Vita 11= Vita by way of Proclus pp. 99–102
Also relevant is a detail in Michigan Papyrus 2754, originally published in Winter 1925, which supplements what we read in the Certamen about a universalized reception for Homer. See also Vogt 1959, who confirms Winter’s reading of Homēros in line 17 of the Michigan Papyrus. Albert Henrichs (2002.05.07) kindly informs me that this reading was reconfirmed by Ludwig Koenen in September 1983, who re-examined the papyrus for him. For further confirmation, see now Colbeaux 2005:77. There is now also another system for numbering the Lives, introduced by West 2003a. Wherever I cite his work, I will produce his numbering as well as the numbering that follows the system of Allen 1912. There is a new edition of Vita 1 and Vita 2 by Colbeaux 2005.
[ back ] 2. There was evidently an intermediate phase that preceded the final phase of the text that has come down to us as the Certamen. The intermediate phase draws extensively from a lost work, the Mouseion of Alcidamas, who flourished in the first half of the fourth century BCE. For background on the problems of sorting out the compositional layers of the Certamen and the Mouseion, see O’Sullivan 1992 and Debiasi 2001. For a sketch, see West 2003a:298.
[ back ] 3. For my use of the words synchronic and diachronic, see HR 1, with reference to Saussure 1916:117.
[ back ] 4. I can make this point about Lives of Poets traditions in general: see BA2 Preface §7n (= p. ix) for further citations. For typological parallels in Iranian traditions, see Davidson 2001a.
[ back ] 5. See for example Plutarch On Affection for Offspring 496d, Table Talk 668d; Pausanias 3.24.11, 8.29.2.
[ back ] 6. For examples of expressions involving ‘Homer’ as the subject and poieîn as the verb of that subject, see Aristotle On the Soul 404a, Nicomachean Ethics 3.1116a and 7.1145a, On the Generation of Animals 785a, Poetics 1448a, Politics 3.1278a and 8.1338a, Rhetoric 1.1370b. Note especially the wording in Aristotle History of Animals 513b: καὶ Ὅμηρος ἐν τοῖς ἔπεσιν εἴρηκε ποιήσας and 575b διὸ καὶ Ὅμηρόν φασι πεποιηκέναι τινὲς ὀρθῶς ποιήσαντα. See also Plato Phaedo 94d, Hippias Minor 371a, Republic 2.378d. Note especially the wording in Plato Ion 531c-d: … καὶ περὶ τῶν οὐρανίων παθημάτων καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν ᾍδου, καὶ γενέσεις καὶ θεῶν καὶ ἡρώων; οὐ ταῦτά ἐστι περὶ ὧν Ὅμηρος τὴν ποίησιν πεποίηκεν; (I note with special interest the usage, here and elsewhere, of poiēsis as the inner object of poieîn). Of related interest is the use of ho poiētēs ‘the Poet’ to refer by default to Homer: the many examples include Plato Republic 3.392e (ὁ ποιητής φησι) and Aristotle On the Cosmos 400a (ὥσπερ ἔφη καὶ ὁ ποιητής). Note also such periphrastic expressions as we find in Plato Hippias Minor 364e: ὅτι πεποιηκὼς εἴη ὁ ποιητής. For an early example of poieîn with Homer as subject, see Herodotus 2.53.2: οὗτοι δέ εἰσι οἱ ποιήσαντες θεογονίην Ἕλλησι καὶ τοῖσι θεοῖσι τὰς ἐπωνυμίας δόντες καὶ τιμάς τε καὶ τέχνας διελόντες καὶ εἴδεα αὐτῶν σημήναντες. (Homer shares the role of subject here with Hesiod.)
[ back ] 7. For an overall survey of such usages, see Ford 2002:132–139.
[ back ] 8. On Homer as author, see PH 12§69 (= pp. 373–374); also PP 62–63, 70–74, 80–81, 86, 150, 220.
[ back ] 9. For an analysis of this theory, I cite the admirable book of Graziosi 2002. In view of my discussions of Homeric authorship, as cited immediately above, I hope it is clear that I am not ignoring the concept of Homer as author.
[ back ] 10. Graziosi 2002:42.
[ back ] 11. For more on the hermeneutics of ‘teaching’ (didaskein) as the authorization of a composition in performance, see PH 12§61n168 (= p. 371). A related example is Herodotus 4.35.3, where Olen ‘makes’ (poieîn) a humnos that is ‘learned’ (manthanein) by ‘islanders and Ionians’; Olen also ‘made’ other humnoi that are ‘sung’ (āidein) at Delos. (The narrative implies that Olen came to Delos for the performance.) For a slightly different interpretation of the Herodotean passages I have just cited, see Graziosi 2002:43.
[ back ] 12. There is an abbreviated version of this inventory in Nagy 2004e.
[ back ] 13. At this point in the narrative, Homer is called Melēsigenēs. Further on I will have more to say about the relationship between Homer’s supposedly earlier name Melēsigenēs and his later name Homēros.
[ back ] 14. Comparable is the agōn ‘competition’ in mousikē ‘craft of the Muses’ at the Panathenaia, where the word mousikē includes the tekhnē ‘craft’ of rhapsodes, not only of citharodes, aulodes, and so on. Supporting evidence comes from Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians (60.1), Plutarch Life of Pericles (13.9–11), Plato Ion (530a), and Isocrates Panegyricus (4.159).
[ back ] 15. The word humnoi here in Vita 1.113–114 may refer to Homeric Hymns such as we know them, which may be followed by performances of epics or of other forms of poetry, even of song. In other words, I think that we need not assume performances of a series of Homeric Hymns.
[ back ] 16. It can be argued that this epic performance is part of what we know as the Thebaid or Seven Against Thebes: Colbeaux 2005:254.
[ back ] 17. The theme of venerating a place that had made direct contact with Homer himself is characteristic of hero cult. On Homer as cult hero, see BA 17§9n3 (= p. 297), citing Brelich 1958:320–321; see also PP 113n34, with references to sites named after Homer in Chios, Smyrna, and Delos. Strabo 14.1.37 C646 emphasizes the special claim of Smyrna on Homer; he notes that the Smyrnaeans in his time have a bibliothēkē and a quadrangular stoa called the Homēreion, containing a neōs ‘shrine’ of Homer and a xoanon ‘wooden statue’ of him.
[ back ] 18. The special significance of Cymaean traditions will be explored further below.
[ back ] 19. According to the story of Homer’s Midas Epigram as told in Vita 1 (131–140), Homer is commissioned to compose the epigram while he is a resident of Cyme. According to Vita 2 (261–264), on the other hand, the commissioning happens sometime after the Contest of Homer and Hesiod in Chalkis. I will have more to say later about the sequence of events in Homer’s life as retold in Vita 1.
[ back ] 20. At this point in the narrative, Homer is called Melēsigenēs. I save for later my analysis of the myth about the change of Homer’s name from Melēsigenēs to Homēros.
[ back ] 21. On the implications of reception inherent in the word apodekhesthai ‘accept’, see PH 8§4 (= pp. 217–218) and §9 (= pp. 221–222). I interpret sunēthia in the sense ‘habituation to anomalies’.
[ back ] 22. What follows corresponds closely to what I published in Nagy 2004e on the story of Thestorides in Vita 1. For another study of this story, see Cassio 2003, whose interpretations differ from mine.
[ back ] 23. The generic warrior, by virtue of being the therapōn ‘attendant’ of Ares, is also his ‘ritual substitute’: see BA 2§8 (= p. 32), 17§§3–6 (= pp. 291–295).
[ back ] 24. More below on Thestorides as the purported author of the Little Iliad.
[ back ] 25. I draw attention to a detail in the syntax of Vita 1.350–352: the verb poieîn here takes an accusative-plus-infinitive construction, meaning ‘make it happen that’. This kind of usage, where Homer ‘makes’ (poieîn) it happen that characters should do or be what he wants them to do or be in the plot of the narrative, is attested also in Plato (Theaetetus 149a, etc.).
[ back ] 26. The ‘following verses’ include passages from both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The extract I am quoting here gives only the verses quoted from the Iliad.
[ back ] 27. After quoting these epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural) from the Iliad, the narrative goes on to quote epē ‘verses’ that Homer en-poieî ‘makes inside’ the Odyssey, which I do not include here in this extract.
[ back ] 28. On aineîn / epaineîn ‘praise’ as a rhapsodic equivalent of ‘perform’, see PR 27–28; also pp. 11, 33, 44. The actual ‘praise’ of Homer is both subjective (Homer as laudator) and objective (Homer as laudandus). On the objective praise of Homer, see especially Vita 2.205–206, where all the Hellenes ‘praise’ (epaineîn) Homer for his performance.
[ back ] 29. Here and elsewhere, the idea of ‘come to visit’ (aphikneîsthai) implies the idea of ‘come as an audience’. See also Vita 1.55–57: καὶ αὐτοῦ θωυμασταὶ καθειστήκεισαν οἵ τε ἐγχώριοι καὶ τῶν ξένων οἱ ἐσαπικνεόμενοι ‘they became his admirers [ thaumastai ]—both the local people [= the people of Smyrna] and people from other cities who came visiting’. I will have more to say later about the idea of thaumastai ‘admirers’ of Homer.
[ back ] 30. Previously, we saw an example of epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural) that Homer en-poieî ‘makes inside’ the Iliad.
[ back ] 31. I find it significant that the narrative places Samos as the point of transition for Homer’s journey to areas of Homeric reception that extend beyond Asia Minor. See further below.
[ back ] 32. On Homer as the author of the mock epic Margites, the prime testimony is that of Aristotle Poetics 1448b30.
[ back ] 33. In Odyssey v 437 there is a comparable context of epiphrosunē in the sense of an ‘impulse of wisdom’ that is given to a mortal by a helping divinity.
[ back ] 34. The usage here of opazein ‘grant’ is comparable to what we see in the coda of a hymnic prooimion, as in Homeric Hymn (31) to Helios 17. More on this later.
[ back ] 35. According to Vita 3a.61–62, by contrast, Homer goes from Delphi to Thebes.
[ back ] 36. I note that Homer’s songmaking here is described as ‘improvisation’ (σχεδιάσαι Vita 2.279). We may compare the setting of Homer’s performing his riddle in Athens, the bouleutērion, with the setting of Homer’s performing his corresponding riddle in Samos, the phrētrē (Vita 1.421). As we will see later, the phrētrē is the place where the phrētores of Samos hold their meetings.
[ back ] 37. I note the use of legein here in the sense ‘perform poetry’.
[ back ] 38. Again I note the use of legein here in the sense ‘perform poetry’.
[ back ] 39. On the conceptual separation of mentally composing an epigram and physically inscribing it, I refer again to my remarks at the beginning of Part I.
[ back ] 40. See also the other sources as listed by Allen 1912:198 at lines 135–140.
[ back ] 41. On the correlation of this detail concerning Homer’s lack of complete success in Cyme with the receding importance of Cyme as a city noted for the reception of Homeric poetry, see above.
[ back ] 42. On the name Melēsigenēs, I will have more to say later. Formally, as we have already seen, Homer in Smyrna does not even embark on a songmaking career until a later point in time (marked at Vita 1.93–94).
[ back ] 43. Homer here is performing what amounts to dialogic commentaries on his performances. For more on dialogic commentaries, see HC ch. 4, where I examine the performances of figures like Hippias of Elis and Ion of Ephesus.
[ back ] 44. Later on in the narrative (Vita 1.312), the herdsman Glaukos as solo audience of Homer is described this way: ἔκπληκτος ἦν ὁ Γλαῦκος ἀκούων ‘and, hearing him, he was bedazzled [= verb ekplēg ]’. On ekplēxis ‘bedazzlement’ as the audience’s response to Homeric performance, see especially Plato Ion 535b, with reference to the effects of the rhapsode’s re-enacting scenes of terror, as when Odysseus stands at the threshold, ready to shoot the suitors, or when Achilles lunges at Hector; also scenes of pity, concerning Andromache, Hecuba, and Priam. See also O’Sullivan 1992:74.
[ back ] 45. Again I note the use of legein here in the sense ‘perform poetry’.
[ back ] 46. See also θαυμασθῆν[αι] at line 30 of the third-century (BCE) Flinders Petrie Papyrus (Allen 1912:225).
[ back ] 47. PR 83. See also HC ch. 3.
[ back ] 48. PR 9–22. See also HC ch. 2 and ch. 3.
[ back ] 49. Relevant is the use of thuein ‘sacrifice’ with reference to the festival of the Heraia at Argos in Herodotus 1.31.5 (heortē at 1.31.2, panēguris at 1.31.3); also the use of thusia ‘sacrifice’ with reference to the festival sacred to Adrastos at Sikyon in Herodotus 5.67.4 (in collocation with heortē).
[ back ] 50. The identity of this Kreophylos will be explained later.
[ back ] 51. HC ch. 4 section 3.
[ back ] 52. The idea of a festival is implicit, I think, in the figure of Homer’s mother, Kretheis, who is described in Vita 1.39–41 as an accomplished woolworker. As we will see later, woolworking is central to a climactic moment at a festival like the Panathenaia, where a woven woolen robe is presented to Athena as the goddess who presides at the festival.
[ back ] 53. BA 7§1n2 (= p. 118).
[ back ] 54. PR 53–56 (especially p. 56).
[ back ] 55. Besides the variant ἀφ’ ἡμέων ‘about me’ as attested in the manuscript tradition of the Homeric Hymn (3) to Apollo, we have already also considered the variant ἀφήμως as attested in the quotation by Thucydides.
[ back ] 56. In the Lives of Homer, as we have seen, thauma ‘wonder’ marks the universal response to Homer’s poetry.
[ back ] 57. On the occasion of singing a humnos, the god who is being sung in the humnos—who is the subject of the humnos—is metonymically equated with the humnos itself: by metonymy, the god is the song.
[ back ] 58. The syntax of this verse re-enacts the meaning of the Homeric name Melēsigenēs, which as we see figures prominently in the Life of Homer narratives.
[ back ] 59. The ‘responsion’ conveyed by this verb hupokrinesthai is performative, not just interpersonal.
[ back ] 60. See the note on the Greek text of line 171.
[ back ] 61. In everyday contexts, of course, oikeîn means ‘dwell [in a house]’. On the other hand, this same word oikeîn is used in sacral contexts of hero cults to designate the ‘dwelling’ of a hero’s talismanic body inside the sacred ground where he or she is worshipped: documentation in PH 9§27n99 (= p. 269). Here in the Homeric Hymn (3) to Apollo 172, the implication of oikeîn is that the body of Homer – regardless of where he was reputed to have died—found its final resting place on the island of Chios, where a hero cult was established in his honor: see BA 17§9n3 (= p. 297) and PP 113n34, following Brelich 1958:320–321. From the standpoint of Life of Homer traditions, such a claim anchors Homer as the ancestor of the Homēridai of Chios, who are thus legitimated as the true ‘descendants of Homer’.
[ back ] 62. Literally, ‘we’.
[ back ] 63. The particle δή here has an “evidentiary” force, indicating that the speaker has just seen something, in other words, that the speaker has achieved an insight just a moment ago (‘Aha, now I see that …’ ). See Bakker 1997:74–80 and 2005:146.
[ back ] 64. As I noted earlier, the verb lēgein ‘leave off’ conveys a mentality of relay performance: one performer ‘leaves off’ in order for the next performer, waiting for his turn, to ‘take up’ (hupolambanein) where his predecessor ‘left off’. If a performer says that he will not ‘leave off’, this means that there is no chance for the successor to ‘take up’ the continuity.
[ back ] 65. On the occasion of singing a humnos, the god who is being sung in the humnos—who is the subject of the humnos—is metonymically equated with the humnos itself: by metonymy, the god is the song. We can see the same phenomenon at verse 158, earlier on in this same passage.