Homer between History and Fiction in Imperial Greek Literature (Greek Culture in the Roman World)
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Did Homer tell the 'truth' about the Trojan War? If so, how much, and if not, why not? The issue was hardly academic to the Greeks living under the Roman Empire, given the centrality of both Homer, the father of Greek culture, and the Trojan War, the event that inaugurated Greek history, to conceptions of Imperial Hellenism. This book examines four Greek texts of the Imperial period that address the topic - Strabo's Geography, Dio of Prusa's Trojan Oration, Lucian's novella True Stories, and Philostratus' fictional dialogue Heroicus - and shows how their imaginative explorations of Homer and his relationship to history raise important questions about the nature of poetry and fiction, the identity and intentions of Homer himself, and the significance of the heroic past and Homeric authority in Imperial Greek culture.
been the most mythical (t¼ muqwdstaton) thing said by the poet was not spoken foolishly (oÉ mthn . . . lecqn), but he hinted at the truth (a«nixamnou tn lqeian) when he called Aeolus ‘lord of the winds’ (tam©an tän nmwn [cf. Od. 10.21]).” Similarly, Polybius presents a long disquisition on the effects of the Strait’s current on tunnyfish and the method of hunting swordfish developed by Sicilian fisherman there, eventually drawing a parallel between these fishing methods and Homer’s
Dio’s project and career as a large-scale attempt to intervene in the 6 7 8 9 Blomqvist (1989), 116–17; Swain (2000b), 18–19. So von Arnim (1898), 169; Lemarchand (1926), 54–6; Jones (1978), 17: “his most sophistic [oration].” Cf. Anderson (1993), 175: “His contradictions of the poet [Homer] require little comment.” On the theory of Dio’s ‘conversion’ from sophist to philosopher following his exile (a notion promulgated by Dio himself ), see Moles (1978) and the more nuanced view of Whitmarsh
and then to give 55 The proper use of signs, and arguments from signs, or clues, or evidence, constituted a fundamental portion of rhetorical training. See Manetti (1993). Homer the liar 107 them only a cursory treatment are the narrative analogues of “blushes,” the textual manifestations of “faltering speech.” This parallelism between how liars construct their lies and the composition of a narrative can only be valid if Dio imagines the text of the Iliad to be a written manifestation of
(pnu d sqenäv kaª piqnwv). At one point the hero is fighting with a river,97 at another he is threatening Apollo and pursuing him – from all these things, one can see Homer’s virtual aporia (por©an). For he is not so implausible or unpleasant in the true episodes (oÉ gr stin n to±v lhqsin oÌtwv p©qanov oÉd hdv). (106–7) The scene where Achilles finally kills Hector is similarly ridiculed – Hector circles the city in flight when he could have entered it, Achilles is unable to catch
Armed with his new ‘truths’, Lucian condemns Homeric scholarship as a waste of time: “I accused the grammarians Zenodotus, Aristarchus, and their students of [promoting] a great deal of nonsense (polln tn yucrolog©an).” In this respect, Lucian indulges in the Second Sophistic fantasy of discovering a pure and uncorrupted representative of the past, in this case Homer before his work had been mutilated by scholars and subjected to all sorts of fanciful interpretation. The joke here is that the