A brief history of the concept of a Homer Multitext
Researchers who study ancient texts without knowing the facts of oral composition are not accustomed to thinking in terms of fluidity because they think of the text of any piece of poetic composition as something rigid and uniform. By contrast, researchers like Lord who studied living oral poetic traditions as well as ancient texts understood the differences between oral and textual composition. And the basic difference is this: oral composition, unlike textual composition, is fluid and multiform. In any piece of oral poetic composition, the act of composition and the act of its performance are aspects of the same process, so that every new performance is the occasion for a new composition, a recomposition.
In this same context, Zwettler notes that scribal mistakes “do not constitute a major source of variation.”
Multitext vs. “Urtext”
- (1) the editions of two pre-Aristarchean editors of Homer, namely, Zenodotus of Ephesus (third century BCE) and Aristophanes of Byzantium (second century BCE), as well as other texts derived from even earlier figures such as Rhianos of Crete (third century BCE) and Antimachus of Colophon (fifth/fourth centuries BCE)
- (2) the so-called politikai or ‘city editions’ stemming from Massalia (Marseille), Chios, Argos, Sinope, Cyprus, and Crete.
When I say “hupomnēmata” here, I mean a modern equivalent of the ancient commentaries produced by Aristarchus, in which he inventoried and analyzed all the textual variants known to him. It is such a modern equivalent that is one of the goals of the projected Commentary on the Homeric Iliad that I mentioned earlier (Frame, Muellner, and Nagy 2010+), within the overall framework of the Homer Multitext project (Dué and Ebbott 2009+). A related project is a multitext edition of and commentary on Book X of the Iliad (Dué and Ebbott 2010; see also their article on Book X under Classics@, https://chs.harvard.edu).
A general statement about the Homer Multitext Project
What is at stake
- (1) a vital online tool for classicists and for humanists in general, for specialists and non-specialists alike, and
- (2) a model for the online publishing of research that drives more research—and of research that drives teaching, which in turn drives more research.
About the shape of things to come
Here my letter stops.