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The Catalogue of Ships

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The Catalogue of Ships

Postby Qimmik » Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:18 pm

Standing near to the beginning of the Iliad, the Catalogue announces that this is a pan-Hellenic poem, embracing the traditions of the entire Greek community. For Greeks in the archaic period, and throughout antiquity and into modern times, the Catalogue's progress through the Greece of the Heroic Age would have been a stirring evocation of their heritage. Especially In performance, but even in reading, the hypnotic repetitiousness itself must have contributed to the cumulative power of the Catalogue.

To appreciate the Catalogue, you need to put yourself in the shoes of an Ionian Greek in seventh-century Asia Minor, where the Iliad probably originated. You're aware of your ancestors' displacement from mainland Greece in post-Mycenaean times. Taking you on a grand tour through your ancestral homeland in the heroic past, the Catalogue reaffirms your bond with the entire community of your people and connects you with its proud heritage.

If you can allow your imagination to transport you to that time and place, maybe the Catalogue won't be quite so tedious. Following the path through mainland Greece with the interactive map would help, too.

http://ships.lib.virginia.edu/neatline-editions/271
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Re: The Catalogue of Ships

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:52 pm

I agree with you guys, really. I would gladly give up 10 plays by Euripides, the whole corpus of Latin literature, three fingers (not my thumbs though) and one kidney for an extra entry in the catalogue of ships. For the lost original Athenian entry (it there ever was one) I'd even add one of the shorter Homeric Hymns. :)

No, my point was really the effect the catalogue has on you at first contact. Once you're properly immersed in the Homeric world, they are fascinating, and not only from a geographical point of view. And if we consider how common catalogues of this sort were (just look at the Bible, for instance), it's obvious that they had a strong appeal on people who lived in a more oral society than our own. Actually I even read whole book on this subject a few years ago, with a long chapter on the catalogue of ships, but I'm not sure which book it was. Maybe this one?
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Re: The Catalogue of Ships

Postby cb » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:38 pm

hi, it's super cool to look up all the places in the catalogue of ships on google earth, to actually find the old mycenaean hilltops where these towns were located one by one. i did it a few years ago and i put little markers of some sort into google earth for myself, i don't know if they were shared or not. the catalogue then becomes a mental tour in the imagination whenever you read it again, i personally really like this section for that reason and also because it might have been the first place where reading homer became as natural as reading english due to the heavy repetition of verse structures concentrated in that part, and it's full of lots of little interesting stories. i never skip it but instead really like it when i come to that part. i tend to take little mental trips through my memories of my walks through places, like through the roman forum and up onto the palatine, walking through the athenian agora, etc, and seeing how much detail is mapped in my imagination and where the blanks are, and the mental tour i take when i come to the catalogue is just like that but based on the memory of past google earth flying around and zooming on hilltops rather than actually going to these places myself. cheers, chad
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Re: The Catalogue of Ships

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Mar 19, 2014 7:23 pm

You brought to my mind what the Iliad poet said at another place:

ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἂν ἀΐξῃ νόος ἀνέρος, ὅς τ᾽ ἐπὶ πολλὴν
γαῖαν ἐληλουθὼς φρεσὶ πευκαλίμῃσι νοήσῃ
ἔνθ᾽ εἴην ἢ ἔνθα, μενοινήῃσί τε πολλά,
ὣς κραιπνῶς μεμαυῖα διέπτατο πότνια Ἥρη

All of this makes me believe what M. L. West and others have said: that Homer himself had travelled widely.
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