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Sleeping beneath the portico

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Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Adelheid » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:40 pm

In the Odyssey, Telemachos, both as a guest of Nestor and Menelaos, sleeps beneath a portico, so basically outside. (Book 3-399 , Book 4-297, ὑπ‘ αἰθούσῃ)

This struck me as odd and a bit inhospitable, but Middle Liddell states that this is the 'sleeping place of travellers'. Does anyone have more references to this portico sleeping?
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:03 pm

The point according to Stephanie West in the Oxford commentary is that the guests can be given shelter there without giving them access to every part of the house. Also, we'll have to remember that Greece is a warm country at least in the summer...

The Oxford commentary (Alfred Heubeck et al., 3 parts) is the basic "serious" reference work, but on this subject there doesn't seem to be much more there.

Interestingly, this scene - Telemachos and Peisistratos, unmarried boys sleeping together - has been interpreted as homosexual encounter. I once saw a book on the history of homosexuality on Amazon.com or somewhere, where this was taken an plain, unquestionable fact. I don't really believe this, I don't really see it in the Greek - it just says Peisistatos slept next to Telemachus. I don't think this interpretation can be absolutely excluded, but I think there's just not enough evidence. Anyway, I pointed this out because this the one thing I remember about this scene.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Adelheid » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:11 pm

I didn't recognize any reference to homosexuality, so I think people might be overreaching there. Was not sure about the season this episode takes place in, but I guess it can't have been winter. Still , it never occurred to me the ancient Greeks didn't have guest rooms.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:22 pm

Apparently West also considers it a bit surprising that even the splendid palace of Menelaus doesn't have guest rooms.

As to whether this and other architectural statements reflect a reality of Homer's own time or Mycenean times is a very difficult and controversial question. I have no idea...
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:41 pm

Not at all, we really oughtn't to be thinking of Mycenaean palaces when we read Homer, in the sense that its clear he doesn't have the descriptive vocabulary for that, indeed he seems to be thinking of a much larger, grander, hyperbolic version of the large archaic houses of chieftains, you know...big megaron, nice fence, gardens etc rather than several demarcated, specialised, chambers.

This behaviour too, guests on the portico, seems to be somewhat genuine from the archaic/classical eras if I recall. I don't know to what degree it would be uncomfortable since it wasn't a small piece of space but most likely large and sheltered and not very much different from the usual pallets.

There's no reason to see it as homosexual, what the hell at that book!?! I mean...whole families would have slept together in many cases. Were they all orgying it up? Were military expeditions one big gay orgy? I think not...
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:23 am

Probably the material culture, palaces and all, generally reflect Homer's time rather than Mycenean times. Also probably you're right that the palaces are more a "hyperbolic version of the large archaic houses of chieftains". But Homer might partly reflect also more ancient times, and to a certain point we may have an amalgam of different periods. Homer can be using some older concepts for archaism's sake, sometimes without fully understanding them. A lot has been written on the subject of chariot tactics in the Iliad I think. Also, think of such archaic features as Telamonian Aias' shield, the bear tusk helmet etc., which really seem to be reliques from Mycenean times. But I think there's a controversy about these things.

As for homosexuality in the passage in question, I don't really believe it. I mentioned it because I have seen it cropping up in many places, usually with a note of scepticism (E.g. The Homer Encyclopedia, article "Sexuality"; also Stephanie West in the Oxford commentary says Zenodotus athetized lines 400-1 and suspects it was because Zenodotus "may have suspected that the couplet had been added to introduce homosexual overtones".) Unfortunately, I don't remember what the book I mentioned earlier was; it was totally uncritical, obviously written by someone without knowledge of Greek who had taken it from somewhere else.

I don't think a homosexual theme in this passage can be completely excluded, only unlikely, because at least theoritically Homer could be suppressing an older, more explicit account of homosexuality here. He does seem to do this elsewhere: in the Iliad, Zeus abducts Ganymede just to serve wine, whereas in other sources he clearly makes him his lover.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:56 pm

The take on Homer suppressing homosexuality is an interesting one, certainly, I've never thought of it quite like that re: Ganymedes. To my mind such homosexually focused readings only really occurred during the classical period where we're starting to see significant changes in culture. Yet, despite my misgivings, I suspect you're right and this is an extension of Homeric tendencies to suppress and nullify/change and refashion other aspects of the epic tradition that are usually so prominent. Interesting, you've given me something to think on.

Homer and Mycenae: Complicated debate, not really controversial in the sense that those familiar with Homeric philology all fall into one camp (with its many shadings, of course) and those specialising in, say, Bronze Age archaeology produce very shallow, facile, readings which basically go like: found a bronze age cup, Homer mentions cup, therefore Homeric cup.

Basically I'd summarise it as its obvious the hexameter, whilst not the earliest Greek metre, has a long history and there are occasional lines which are best rendered with some older phonological features whether they be intervocalic /r/ or the /w/ or whatever have you, at any stage. In addition, obviously some content is reminiscent of earlier stages, but all that is natural in ANY epic tradition since these phrases and formula are passed down generation after generation and part and parcel of the deliberate archaising we can see throughout epic (the placement of tribes, the lack of iron etc etc). Basically the bulk of it seems to be roughly contemporaneous with Homer's time, but obviously he's singing in a tradition some centuries old. A bit like how modern north Indian singers constantly use Vedic/Sanskritic phraseology and characters etc, or the Slavic stuff goes back to an earlier stage but is not necessarily a direct representation so much as a highly developed artform.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:09 am

Scribo wrote:The take on Homer suppressing homosexuality is an interesting one, certainly, I've never thought of it quite like that re: Ganymedes. To my mind such homosexually focused readings only really occurred during the classical period where we're starting to see significant changes in culture. Yet, despite my misgivings, I suspect you're right and this is an extension of Homeric tendencies to suppress and nullify/change and refashion other aspects of the epic tradition that are usually so prominent. Interesting, you've given me something to think on.

The idea of Homer suppressing homosexuality isn't mine. For this passage, it remains speculative, because we don't have evidence outside Homer, unlike with Ganymedes.

Homer and Mycenae: Complicated debate, not really controversial in the sense that those familiar with Homeric philology all fall into one camp (with its many shadings, of course) and those specialising in, say, Bronze Age archaeology produce very shallow, facile, readings which basically go like: found a bronze age cup, Homer mentions cup, therefore Homeric cup.

I think you're right here. One thing is that philologists tended to be more optimistic before about Homer telling about Mycenean times. It can take decades before new ideas reach standard commentaries, and now the standard commentary for the Odyssey is over 20 years old. And people are still reading also Stanford's commentary, which is 60 years old. So it's easy to get the idea that there's a controversy when in fact there really isn't.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:01 pm

Indeed, I think it was more...the shock of the recent (then) discoveries which lead to such over optimistic thinking, we've since calmed down and a considerably more nuanced view of things. I mean, the progression of time has considerably re-wrote our understanding of epic and tradition and formula and history blah blah blah. Unfortunately, the memo has not reached the bronze age guys despite people like Chadwick speaking as early as the 70s on the tyranny of Homer. Wonderful phrase!

Saying that the updated commentary on the Iliad, the BK, is definitely on the optimistic side, but then that's because its edited by Latacz and is also firmly anti American oralist scholarship too, so. Swings and machetes.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:13 pm

Hey, I found out the book I mentioned earlier! I had put it in my Amazon cart, not that I was ever going to buy it, but to be able to find it again... The passage is to be found in the preview, pages 142-143. Pretty shallow to my taste.

James Neill: The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/078646 ... PDKIKX0DER

What do you think about new German Iliad commentary? Haven't really opened it, because my German is rusty. For me, anti-American oralist is not a pejorative term (anti-oralist that is, not that I'm anti-American...); Homer is oral poetry, but not a transcript of tape record, so the findings of analytical scholarship can't just be discarded. (ML West has written on the subject at least)
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:24 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:Hey, I found out the book I mentioned earlier! I had put it in my Amazon cart, not that I was ever going to buy it, but to be able to find it again... The passage is to be found in the preview, pages 142-143. Pretty shallow to my taste.

James Neill: The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/078646 ... PDKIKX0DER

What do you think about new German Iliad commentary? Haven't really opened it, because my German is rusty. For me, anti-American oralist is not a pejorative term (anti-oralist that is, not that I'm anti-American...); Homer is oral poetry, but not a transcript of tape record, so the findings of analytical scholarship can't just be discarded. (ML West has written on the subject at least)


I just got hold of a copy of the book here, flicked through the chapters on the Indo-Europeans (always a warning sign...) and Early Greece....well...what can I say? shallow argumentation, poor grasp of the source material and secondary scholarship, constant use of logical fallacy. This is the problem when one wants to argue from an ideological stand point rather than an academic one. Its just as bad, perhaps worse, than those books it castigates whose wont was to so fiercely deny any homosexual presence in these ancient cultures.

The German Commentary (BK) is overall absolutely indispensable. They use West's text, which is a god send, and provide some really good philological and cultural commentary throughout. There is a problem that it is too neoanalytical at times, that it seems to much concerned with the failure of oralist scholarship, that it is a bit too permitting of Mycenaean influence in certain areas and has a very...yes almost literary concept of the poem. But besides those points, it really is one hell of a tool.

I do largely agree with West's work and often find the work based in what is now known as hardcore American oralism to be shocking and fanciful, as well as too uncritical...no not every line is a performative alternation! and the evolutionary model goes against the bulk of evidence at positing such a late "crystalisation" to my mind. Regardless his latest book, is a little odd to say the least and if one removes the concept of tectonic expansions etc it does suddenly become very...illuminating. I guess I'm pretty central overall, not too exciting I know...

Saying that, best overall commentary on a book of Homer has to be A Kelly's OUP commentary on Iliad 8. The referential lexicon and apparatus are an amazing idea.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:24 pm

Scribo wrote:I do largely agree with West's work and often find the work based in what is now known as hardcore American oralism to be shocking and fanciful, as well as too uncritical...no not every line is a performative alternation! and the evolutionary model goes against the bulk of evidence at positing such a late "crystalisation" to my mind. Regardless his latest book, is a little odd to say the least and if one removes the concept of tectonic expansions etc it does suddenly become very...illuminating. I guess I'm pretty central overall, not too exciting I know...

With the latest book, I guess you mean The Making of the Iliad. I read the "disquisition" part of it sometime ago already, but didn't read the "commentary" part except here and there. It was some time ago already and I'm not completely sure what "tectonic expansions" means, so I'm not sure which part you found odd. For me, the idea was very convincing - that the Iliad was basically the work of one single writer, and all those little incongruities the Analysts have been making a fuss about are due to this writer making changes and expansions to his text afterwards. Because that's just the kind of thing that happens when anyone makes changes to a text of his own later on; also, we should remember that no one was supposed to be reading the Iliad, it was probably just some kind rehearsal aid to be used between performances.

As far I'm concerned, this is the first convincing account I've come across on how the Iliad came to be written down. Sure, for some people, even the idea that somebody wrote the Iliad is heresy, as if it could have come about by itself. When I started studying Homer, I was much more of an Oralist then; but I never understood (and still don't) how exactly we're supposed to imagine that the text came about - I think the scenario we're supposed to believe is that it was dictated in a couple of days or weeks from starting from Α and ending with Ω with the Poet making occasional slips and creating incongruities, mostly because he's told the story so many times before in different ways that he's forgetting which one he's telling at present; I'm sorry, but I'm not convinced. The problems of the text just aren't of the right kind to fit this scenario.

As for Nagy and crystalization, I believe it even less. But I haven't really read Nagy himself, because I find his writing style tedious.

With West like with any analytic scenario (maybe you shouldn't call him an Analyst, I don't know), the problem is that the more detailed the analysis gets, the more speculative it gets. But I think West's idea was in the main very convincing, the original author making long insertions into his text afterwards. Of course I've read the Iliad from beginning to end in Greek only twice (plus of course here and there now and then), so I'm not a real judge. Next time I read the Iliad (probably not too soon), I'm going to do it with West's commentary; then I hope I'll know better.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:34 pm

Well I once asked West if he thought of himself as a neo-analyst, he sort of shrugged. Its a shame he turned from writing a similar analytical and disquisition book on the Odyssey, but I know I will lustfully caress the commentary on the Epic Cycle when its out. In a recent conference on Stesikhoros, he gave an interesting paper we he showed once more how this idea of expansion would work using Odyssey VIII, it was very very interesting. I mean, as I say, I've my misgivings. I'm not really sure to what degree we're able to identify discrepancies, problems etc in the texts outside of glaring grammatical errors in the textual history. I mean how do we call something incongruous or superficial? So I'm not sure to what degree I stomach us detecting seams and fissures.

I'm still largely a Westian though, if only because I think some oral scholarship has went waaay too far with some of the stuff they're positing. You're right, its as if people expect a text to just suddenly...pop up out of nowhere. A text implies a lot of things in an ancient culture...

Nagy's work is certainly not negligible and there is a lot of good stuff there, I do often feel his work is unfairly neglected in Europe. In a way its the opposite of the Oxford school - massive emphasis on an impersonal tradition rather than a single authorative voice. For me, it has to be a mixture. obviously the tradition and peformance etc is important but traditional forms of performance tend to rely, occasionally, on supremely gifted individuals. I'm not happy with a supreme writing bard figure either. Colocovic has coined the term "post-traditional", which is interesting but I'm not sure it works for Homer either.

The other leading idea is that put forth by Janko and, most recently, Skafte-Jensen, about an oral dictated text. That itself is fascinating and the latter's latest book promises to be a treat though getting hold of it is nigh on impossible.

Actually this (finally free to access!) review is a cool overview: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article993731.ece
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:37 pm

Scribo wrote:Well I once asked West if he thought of himself as a neo-analyst, he sort of shrugged. Its a shame he turned from writing a similar analytical and disquisition book on the Odyssey, but I know I will lustfully caress the commentary on the Epic Cycle when its out. In a recent conference on Stesikhoros, he gave an interesting paper we he showed once more how this idea of expansion would work using Odyssey VIII, it was very very interesting. I mean, as I say, I've my misgivings. I'm not really sure to what degree we're able to identify discrepancies, problems etc in the texts outside of glaring grammatical errors in the textual history. I mean how do we call something incongruous or superficial? So I'm not sure to what degree I stomach us detecting seams and fissures.

Wow, you have actually met the guy... I am the only person I have physically met that has read Homer in Greek.

I would guess that with the Odyssey, it's even more complicated than with the Iliad. The question of the Pisistratean recension, Aristarchus' statement that the Odyssey ended originally somewhere in Book 23, I wonder what general conclusion he would draw out of all this.

As for discrepancies, I'm thinking about classical ones like the mix up of duals and plurals in the Embassy to Achilles in Iliad Book 9; another less known one in the Odyssey has been discussed by West in an article, as well as others, Odyssey 7.103-130, where a description of the Gardens of Alcinous suddenly changes from past tense to present, which is linguistically totally anomalous (no historic present in Homer). This sort of thing just can't be explained by a mistake in the transmission of the text (oops, I accidentally miscopied 30 lines of text and changed all past tenses to presents) and I think it would be just too easy to explain this by saying that oral poets don't use language consistently. I think meddling with a written text is just so much more credible in these cases, which are in plenty even if leave out the less glaring ones.
I'm still largely a Westian though, if only because I think some oral scholarship has went waaay too far with some of the stuff they're positing. You're right, its as if people expect a text to just suddenly...pop up out of nowhere. A text implies a lot of things in an ancient culture...

Nagy's work is certainly not negligible and there is a lot of good stuff there, I do often feel his work is unfairly neglected in Europe. In a way its the opposite of the Oxford school - massive emphasis on an impersonal tradition rather than a single authorative voice. For me, it has to be a mixture. obviously the tradition and peformance etc is important but traditional forms of performance tend to rely, occasionally, on supremely gifted individuals. I'm not happy with a supreme writing bard figure either. Colocovic has coined the term "post-traditional", which is interesting but I'm not sure it works for Homer either.

The other leading idea is that put forth by Janko and, most recently, Skafte-Jensen, about an oral dictated text. That itself is fascinating and the latter's latest book promises to be a treat though getting hold of it is nigh on impossible.

Actually this (finally free to access!) review is a cool overview: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article993731.ece

Janko I've read, his Iliad commentary is superb, but I can't agree with him in this. I should probably have a look at Skafte-Jensen; I've already read the review you linked to and it had left me a bit dubious, but probably she'll have some good points to say too. And probably Nagy has, too, but his arguments are always so convoluted that I find myself bored before getting anywhere...

Another thing, I don't remember reading this anywhere, but probably someone has said this before: If Homer and epic singers in general couldn't read and write and Homer had to dictate his text, who and what was it for, since he didn't have any use for it himself? People weren't reading books just for kicks then like they are now. But if he could read, it could have been some kind of rehearsal aid.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:00 am

Ha yes I have met him, rare instances since he was made emeritus before I even started my BA I think (or not long after I finished, can't recall...). He's amazing as a sheer didactic force.

Ah the Odyssey, yes, I mean one of the problems here is simply its relationship to the Ilias. One's position on that affects the entire approach here...

I think with discrepancies, yes, there is a difference between those clear and obvious ones like the problems of the duals and, say, the more subjective ones thrown up by later scholia and early German criticism. Obviously the former are something we need to work with, the latter are a more tetchy case and we always risk running into the subjectivity barrier.

Yeah Janko is good in general. Actually, there's a series of papers in the journal S. Osoloensis where Skafte-Jensen debates with others (including West, Janko, Nagy) about the book divisions in the Iliad which are well worth a read on all this stuff if you can access it.

"Another thing, I don't remember reading this anywhere, but probably someone has said this before: If Homer and epic singers in general couldn't read and write and Homer had to dictate his text, who and what was it for, since he didn't have any use for it himself? People weren't reading books just for kicks then like they are now. But if he could read, it could have been some kind of rehearsal aid."

Well I don't know, it depends on what the earliest texts looked like and how they were being used. I would think in general the sheer size of the poem points to a special circumstance, perhaps itself the dictation. Gods know, whenever anthropologists get songs dictated they tend to be massively expanded. I think in a sense simply having the text would bring some prestige. I don't feel the need to exclude a bard who can write in general though.

I don't really know where I land on these questions to be honest, I mean I've been writing a paper on something related for about 18 months now, and I'm still sort of...having difficulty nailing myself down enough to concretely answer my problems.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:07 pm

I'm continuing with this, because the Homeric question is one of the driving forces of my life... ;)
Scribo wrote:Nagy's work is certainly not negligible and there is a lot of good stuff there, I do often feel his work is unfairly neglected in Europe. In a way its the opposite of the Oxford school - massive emphasis on an impersonal tradition rather than a single authorative voice. For me, it has to be a mixture. obviously the tradition and peformance etc is important but traditional forms of performance tend to rely, occasionally, on supremely gifted individuals. I'm not happy with a supreme writing bard figure either. Colocovic has coined the term "post-traditional", which is interesting but I'm not sure it works for Homer either.


How is tradition or performance important in order to understand how the text came about? A performance is a performance and it won't leave any trace in the text. Parry of course showed that whoever created the Iliad & the Odyssey was native in the Kunstsprache, as well as how economical the formulaic system was etc; so the texts of Homer are written in a language that could essentially be a performance - but it's NOT. Its not a performance and I'd like to be explained just how performances should affect a written text. (Rhapsodic interpolations are interpolations and are so a different matter)

Traditions don't write poems, people do. Somebody wrote those epics. Maybe several people, but somebody did it. He/they were part of a tradition, but he/they wrote the epics and not the tradition. Or dictated, of course.

Many scholars seem to assume that the Iliad was first created and only afterwards written down, but what on earth does that mean? Hasn't it been showed that in an oral tradition, every performance is different - how could it still be the same Iliad? Did Homer make a 15000 verse mental draft he then performed at the Panathenaic festival or wherever and afterwards wrote or dictated the same story? It couldn't possibly have beem written down at the performance itself, I mean in those times writing equipment was just too clumsy to write fast enough.

Anyway, oral dictation theory just doesn't explain the kind of textual problems I mentioned earlier.

Gods know, whenever anthropologists get songs dictated they tend to be massively expanded

Yes, but I think they say those expanded songs are quite awful in quality, not at all like our carefully thought out Iliad.

For Nagy and crystalisation, we both agree I think it runs against the evidence - the preserved variants are just not varied enough.

Isn't West's idea just so much more elegant - an oral poet, himself a performer, decides to write down for some reason a longer, greater epic than the ones he usually performs, and takes many years to do so and makes insertions to his own story while creating it? I would gladly take one supreme writing bard figure (but let me first read that commentary of West's really thoroughly...). At least for the Iliad, I don't know about the Odyssey, it seems more likely to reworked by different hands.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:10 pm

Scribo wrote:I don't really know where I land on these questions to be honest, I mean I've been writing a paper on something related for about 18 months now, and I'm still sort of...having difficulty nailing myself down enough to concretely answer my problems.

Well, I think it would be much worse if you thought you had a definite answer to the Homeric question!
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:04 am

A tradition of performance is an important element for several reasons. On a bland methodological level its an important variable. More seriously, it dictates so many things; the style, format, length, even the genre of the "text". The role, and expectations, of both audience and patron and so on. It really is important. we have to try and establish something about the context from which these poems sprung. I agree that traditions don't write poems; but they dictate the type of poems being written, how and when they circulate. The problem is the epic tradition is the one we know the least about, frustratingly, we'll always know more about Stesikhoros or Pindar than a Homer or even a Peisandros.

"Many scholars seem to assume that the Iliad was first created and only afterwards written down, but what on earth does that mean? Hasn't it been showed that in an oral tradition, every performance is different...ktl"


Well technically in a living tradition even an exact reproduction would be "different" due to slight differences in intonation etc since its a performance. But, no not necessarily, I think the rubric of "ever changing" as established by Parry and Lord has long been shoved aside. I mean we know of traditions where exact reproduction is imperative, like with the Vedas. Actually this kind of subservience to a notional poet/group of poems would be just the kind of situation where written copies might be handy. In that sense the earliest texts might have belonged to groups like the Homeridai or the Kreophylidai, as attempts to control the text. Again though, there is a lack of evidence and it all depends on how productive you think the tradition is around the 6th century or so.

I do think it possible that the creation of the poem and the writing occured at different times though.

"Anyway, oral dictation theory just doesn't explain the kind of textual problems I mentioned earlier."

Well, again, how do we imagine the earliest text(s) to be used? Say we have an archetype, we can roughly guess that long/short vowels a, e, o weren't differentiated, no breathings, boustrophedon etc were attributes. Say it was taken down as via dictation, as other copies are made and circulated, other versions are sung, then of course the kind of problems like you highlight would be introduced. Perhaps enough to spur editorial activity like that of Zenodotos et al. Even if the poet wrote it out himself, he didn't make all subsequent copies and mistakes are bound to occur.

"Yes, but I think they say those expanded songs are quite awful in quality, not at all like our carefully thought out Iliad."

No, this is subjective. I mean we possess a certain aesthetic, itself heavily influenced by the Odyssey. Highly wrought literature can exist along different lines, look at the Mahabharata. Actually quite a lot of the dictated texts from India and Crete are pretty damn good. I basically reject the "argument from quality" as inherently flawed and defer to the oralists on this one.

"Isn't West's idea just so much more elegant ...ktl"


I think once we free ourselves from the earlier baggage of the oralist position, that a poet can have nothing to do with writing, that all poems are inherently alluvial, that they must represent single time events then we realise it doesn't have to be either/or. We need to entertain the posibility of oral poets who can deliberate, change and alter. God knows there is enough ethnographic evidence. My favourite being the Irish filid spending time in dark rooms to contemplate their songs. I just don't necessarily think this figure is also the writer. Possible, I just don't see the need for it.

"I'm continuing with this, because the Homeric question is one of the driving forces of my life..."

Dw, I literally have the same obsession. It is not a shameful one. :P

I know I'll never have a definitive answer, on the other hand I just wish I could for once feel safe making a statement without a dozen citations and bars and charts backing me up. I know, I know, it goes with the territory. Sometimes, I really wish I had just ended up pursuing tragedy instead....but it doesn't have the same lure does it? It doesn't have the same...incomparable... fervour to it!
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:29 am

Scribo wrote:
"Many scholars seem to assume that the Iliad was first created and only afterwards written down, but what on earth does that mean? Hasn't it been showed that in an oral tradition, every performance is different...ktl"


Well technically in a living tradition even an exact reproduction would be "different" due to slight differences in intonation etc since its a performance. But, no not necessarily, I think the rubric of "ever changing" as established by Parry and Lord has long been shoved aside. I mean we know of traditions where exact reproduction is imperative, like with the Vedas. Actually this kind of subservience to a notional poet/group of poems would be just the kind of situation where written copies might be handy. In that sense the earliest texts might have belonged to groups like the Homeridai or the Kreophylidai, as attempts to control the text. Again though, there is a lack of evidence and it all depends on how productive you think the tradition is around the 6th century or so.

I don't know much about the Vedas or Vedic scholarship. But aren't those quite a bit shorter hymns that had a definite position in the cult, in religious rituals? (A side note: is it really, really sure that they were passed only orally for like a 1000 years? And how can we know for sure they were passed unchanged anyway, if we don't have evidence of the early transmission?)

It's hard to imagine a situation where an epic like the Homeric ones would be seen as so sacrosanct that they had to be exactly fixed in wording right from the beginning, before they were even written down, since they don't seem to have be associated closely with religious or other rituals. I mean they are just stories. Of course, by the time they were part of the Panathenaic festival, they were fixed in wording, but then we had definitely a text as well.

If they were attempts to control the texts, I still don't see how that explains the kind of problems like the dual/plural mixup in Il. 9 or the presents in Od. 7. And these are many.

Somehow I feel we have situation here where scholars are forcing every possible finding in the field of oral poetics into Homer, when in fact they should deploy Occam's razor...

Also, isn't there an increasing tendency to think that actually the Cyclic poems might be closer to "traditional" Homeric poetry than Homer himself, who would be an innovator? To me, the sheer length of the epics could be one the most important innovations - they can't be performed within the space of one day, which I would think is definite limiting factor in truly oral tradition. Like you said, the text could have been just a prestige object beside being a rehearsal aid. Somebody (maybe West) has pointed out that the complete Homeric epics need not have even been performed in Homer's lifetime, and compared them to a similar situation with some of Bach's larger works.

I do think it possible that the creation of the poem and the writing occured at different times though.

I do think it quite unlikely... ;) But it depends on how you define "creation".
Well, again, how do we imagine the earliest text(s) to be used? Say we have an archetype, we can roughly guess that long/short vowels a, e, o weren't differentiated, no breathings, boustrophedon etc were attributes. Say it was taken down as via dictation, as other copies are made and circulated, other versions are sung, then of course the kind of problems like you highlight would be introduced.

Yes, but how would they be introduced, except by meddling with a written text? In this case different written versions would somehow interfere with each other and cause the textual problems. Possible but I don't see exactly how.

"Yes, but I think they say those expanded songs are quite awful in quality, not at all like our carefully thought out Iliad."

No, this is subjective. I mean we possess a certain aesthetic, itself heavily influenced by the Odyssey. Highly wrought literature can exist along different lines, look at the Mahabharata. Actually quite a lot of the dictated texts from India and Crete are pretty damn good. I basically reject the "argument from quality" as inherently flawed and defer to the oralists on this one.

I didn't say this very elegantly, I just meant the kind of situation where a Serbo-Croatian or other epic singer artificially prolongs his song because a scholar asks him to make the longest song possible. Do we have real, "natural" examples of exclusively oral songs that go on for 15000 verses? I don't know much about the Mahabharata, but it's not "exclusively" oral, it's a text; I mean I suppose exactly the same kind "Homeric" questions apply to it as to Homer.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 17, 2013 3:07 pm

"I don't know much about the Vedas or Vedic scholarship. But aren't those quite a bit shorter hymns that had a definite position in the cult, in religious rituals? (A side note: is it really, really sure that they were passed only orally for like a 1000 years? And how can we know for sure they were passed unchanged anyway, if we don't have evidence of the early transmission?)"


I'm not an expert either outside of the usual comp phil reasons but in short: Well they were certainly passed orally longer, linguistic data puts them somewhere between 1200 and 1500 bc, whilst we get quotations of them from around 300bc we don't get manuscripts until around 1500ad and the level of fidelity between the manuscripts and translations and the ever living illiterate oral performance is ridiculous. The Vedic tradition is an important example though of sings which are memorised/kept in high fidelity rather than constantly recreated. There are others, but nothing like the sheer size of the Vedic corpus.

Obviously Homer is not directly analogous, but there was indeed more than one tradition which rendered unto him some quasi patriarchal authority. The were various colleges of bards and actually we do have evidence of attempts to control the text, e.g the Scholia to Pindar Nem 2 with the kurfuffle over Kinaithos' meddling, the various traditions about "receiving Homer" and what not. This is before the editorial activity, obviously. Clearly several singers thought these poems were extra special, like a guild protecting its property. All before talk of recension and so on. Even if there was such an event in Athens, it requires there to be several disparate texts and/or performers.

"If they were attempts to control the texts, I still don't see how that explains the kind of problems like the dual/plural mixup in Il. 9 or the presents in Od. 7. And these are many.

Somehow I feel we have situation here where scholars are forcing every possible finding in the field of oral poetics into Homer, when in fact they should deploy Occam's razor..."

Again, I don't think there are that many problems when you look at the poems as a whole. Its like people taking vast linguistic divergences as evidence for different bards of a lengthy period of time. I do think such things can occur in textual transmission. Look at Ovid's Heroides. This sort of stuff happens when you have lots and lots of texts flying around, language change etc. There are problems, many problems, in assuming that these errors were assumed in an autograph. Obviously the poet could have re-read, or the recipient of the text, or anything. Its easier to just assume that regardless of origin, when the poem was rendered into text it was subject to the same problems as every other text.

"Also, isn't there an increasing tendency to think that actually the Cyclic poems might be closer to "traditional" Homeric poetry than Homer himself, who would be an innovator? To me, the sheer length of the epics could be one the most important innovations - they can't be performed within the space of one day, which I would think is definite limiting factor in truly oral tradition"


Well scholarship surrounding the kyklos is relatively in flux, I certainly think that they contain quite a lot of conservative features. The problem is how we account for the differences. I'm much more in line with Burgess' work than Griffins or even Aristotle's in this regard. Homer appears to be innovative, but we ought not to assume that innovation here = quality. But, not just the length, his vision over the past, his treatment of the Trojans etc is almost certainly markedly different.

Well as for length inhibiting performance, this goes back to what I said above about us needing to know more about the context. Taplin's Homeric Surroundings show how this might have happened. I'm unsure. For me I foresee something like an exemplary poet being invited to sing at longer and longer festivals, working on his song until eventually it is taken down. In expanded form like most dictations. Perhaps at the behest of a sponsor, or his students or whoever. As I said, this text is subject to the same things as every other texts. The things you're in consternation about are quite common in any text really, I gave the example of the Heroides as a thorny one. The Iliad is made more problematic in that there were evidentially still performances post textualisation.

"I didn't say this very elegantly, I just meant the kind of situation where a Serbo-Croatian or other epic singer artificially prolongs his song because a scholar asks him to make the longest song possible. Do we have real, "natural" examples of exclusively oral songs that go on for 15000 verses? I don't know much about the Mahabharata, but it's not "exclusively" oral, it's a text; I mean I suppose exactly the same kind "Homeric" questions apply to it as to Homer."


No, you do get quite a few good ones that seem natural. I chose India and Crete since you do get lengthy songs. The Mahabharata has problems which make Homeric scholarship seem facile, glad I don't have to work with it. Though, ironically, likewise with some of the Near Eastern stuff, Neo-Analysis works really well here....
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:03 pm

Scribo wrote:
"I don't know much about the Vedas or Vedic scholarship. But aren't those quite a bit shorter hymns that had a definite position in the cult, in religious rituals? (A side note: is it really, really sure that they were passed only orally for like a 1000 years? And how can we know for sure they were passed unchanged anyway, if we don't have evidence of the early transmission?)"


I'm not an expert either outside of the usual comp phil reasons but in short: Well they were certainly passed orally longer, linguistic data puts them somewhere between 1200 and 1500 bc, whilst we get quotations of them from around 300bc we don't get manuscripts until around 1500ad and the level of fidelity between the manuscripts and translations and the ever living illiterate oral performance is ridiculous. The Vedic tradition is an important example though of sings which are memorised/kept in high fidelity rather than constantly recreated. There are others, but nothing like the sheer size of the Vedic corpus.

The fact there are no surviving manuscripts doesn't mean that they never existed; what further proof is there that they were passed only orally? Were the relevant parts of India completely illiterate at the time? The fact that some or even most singers are illiterate and yet know their songs word for word isn't a proof to my mind that a parallel written tradition doesn't have stabilising effect on the oral one, so that in the end the written tradition is responsible for the apparent stability of the oral one. This is just a thought, I haven't studied the question of Vedic transmission.

Again, I don't think there are that many problems when you look at the poems as a whole. Its like people taking vast linguistic divergences as evidence for different bards of a lengthy period of time. I do think such things can occur in textual transmission. Look at Ovid's Heroides. This sort of stuff happens when you have lots and lots of texts flying around, language change etc. There are problems, many problems, in assuming that these errors were assumed in an autograph. Obviously the poet could have re-read, or the recipient of the text, or anything. Its easier to just assume that regardless of origin, when the poem was rendered into text it was subject to the same problems as every other text.

Latin poetry and Ovid is totally alien to me, so I can't compare to that.

I've been reading pretty recently some seriously analytic stuff like Denys Page's Homeric Odyssey and Dawe's Odyssey commentary; I must say that there's much of it that I find exaggerated. But beside the sort of grammatical problems mentioned before, there's also the question plot inconsistensies/discontinuities. Like the 11th song of the Odyssey. Basically, what starts there as a summoning of the dead suddenly changes into descent to Hades. I find it really hard to explain problems of this kind as some kind of natural inconsistensies of oral poetry. On the other hand, if you assume they are problems of textual transmission, the textual problems you're assuming are so big that basically you're adapting an analytic position.

I'm much more in line with Burgess' work than Griffins or even Aristotle's in this regard. Homer appears to be innovative, but we ought not to assume that innovation here = quality. But, not just the length, his vision over the past, his treatment of the Trojans etc is almost certainly markedly different.

In this we seem to agree, but I have only just begun my study of cyclic poetry...

Well as for length inhibiting performance, this goes back to what I said above about us needing to know more about the context. Taplin's Homeric Surroundings show how this might have happened. I'm unsure. For me I foresee something like an exemplary poet being invited to sing at longer and longer festivals, working on his song until eventually it is taken down. In expanded form like most dictations. Perhaps at the behest of a sponsor, or his students or whoever.

I got Taplin's book from the university library. I'll see... I agree that we don't really know enough about the original context.

Your idea of the poet isn't very different from West's, only he seems to think the writing of the poem happened parallely with traveling around and singing at festivals. He has written a short, kind of funny "Life of Homer" of his own. It's in German in a book called "Lag Troia in Kilikien?" It's really pretty funny and just a few pages, so you might want to check it...

No, you do get quite a few good ones that seem natural. I chose India and Crete since you do get lengthy songs.

How long is this stuff? Is this modern stuff, i.e. from tape recorder times? Can you give a reference?

Yeah Janko is good in general. Actually, there's a series of papers in the journal S. Osoloensis where Skafte-Jensen debates with others (including West, Janko, Nagy) about the book divisions in the Iliad which are well worth a read on all this stuff if you can access it.

Do you know whether this is the same stuff that was published in a book called "Relative chronology in Early Greek Epic Poetry"?

I find Janko's glottochronological dating of the different epics very unconvincing, however... I did even before I read that West and others agree with me.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:37 pm

Vedas: Well I'm not sure to what degree literacy was widespread in ancient/medieval India outside of accounts, ledgers and inscriptions. Or to what degree the various scripts were mutually intelligible. Anyway, there is an assumption here that if you have writing then you write [i]everything[i/] down. Its obviously much more nuanced than that. The best treatment of this phenomenon would be Rosalind Thomas' book on orality and writing in Greece. Its Greek focused but also deals with a huge amount of ethnographic evidence. Anyway, we know that the Brahmins responsible didn't write them down for ages and that the writing didn't influence the overall tradition, at least not for a few millenia.

"The fact that some or even most singers are illiterate and yet know their songs word for word isn't a proof to my mind that a parallel written tradition doesn't have stabilising effect on the oral one, so that in the end the written tradition is responsible for the apparent stability of the oral one"

Well is it word for word? formula for formula? purely based on phonology and rhythym? Like I said, there is a mental block for us. Don't forget these reciters even preserve insanely conservative phonological rules which would have died millenia ago. Its fascinating. Writing could have a stabilising role, but its not the only thing that can lend authority and its clear here that it didn't.

"In this we seem to agree, but I have only just begun my study of cyclic poetry..."

Its a great time to get into it, about to be a pretty nice explosion of material which is great stuff.

"Your idea of the poet isn't very different from West's, only he seems to think the writing of the poem happened parallely with traveling around and singing at festivals. He has written a short, kind of funny "Life of Homer" of his own. It's in German in a book called "Lag Troia in Kilikien?" It's really pretty funny and just a few pages, so you might want to check it..."


Yes which is what's worrying me, I mean most of my teachers were taught by W and I myself have learnt quite a bit from much less contact...so I don't know. OOh thanks, I'll check it out. I love these random little things Classicists do.

Modern stuff: Notopoulos is the best source for the Greek stuff, articles and even a brief CD, Harvard has the full collection. The Indian stuff is insanely varied, across hundreds of books, I'll try to find a specific one next time I grab an Indologist/Anthropologist / check my notes.

"Do you know whether this is the same stuff that was published in a book called "Relative chronology in Early Greek Epic Poetry"?

I find Janko's glottochronological dating of the different epics very unconvincing, however... I did even before I read that West and others agree with me."


No, different. Let me know if you don't have access to the Symbolae Osloensis...not for any illicit reason, you know...just curious as to how widespread it is...obviously. ;)

I dislike glottochronology, it rests on quite a few imo erroneous assumptions but I think overall the work is a helpful..hm... heuristic device?
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:05 pm

Janko would assert that he doesn't assign absolute dating to early Greek epic--just relative dating. I've read his book (more or less) and I'm still not entirely convinced, but at least he marshals evidence for his views. West doesn't like his work because it runs counter to West's view that Hesiod was earlier than Homer (or should I say, "Homer"). The Oslo book is an update, with Janko defending his views in response to criticism and some other issues, such as Aeolic phase vs. diffusion.

As for the duals in Iliad 9 and similar problems, after having rooted around in some of the scholarship on these issues, I don't think we'll ever arrive at a consensus or wholly satisfying explanation, especially since, when all is said and done, we just don't have a very good idea of how the Homeric poems originated or how their early history evolved. Were they composed orally by a "monumental" poet in the eighth century, transmitted orally for several generations, and then written down in the seventh or later (Kirk)? Were they dictated by an illiterate oral bard in the late eighth century (Janko and maybe Lord)? Were they composed in writing in the seventh century (West)? Were oral poems that were written down in the sixth century, maybe for the Pan-Athenaic festival (Skafte Jensen)? Were they part of a performance tradition that "stabilized" in the late sixth century but didn't become completely fixed until the Hellenistic era (Nagy)?

Maybe everyone should just back off and stop disputing these questions, which have certainly generated more than their share of odium philologicum. All of the conceivable arguments are on the table at this point, and none of them is completely satisfying. What we have are two wonderful, sublime and mysterious works of literature, and maybe that's enough!
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:43 pm

Scribo wrote:Vedas: Well I'm not sure to what degree literacy was widespread in ancient/medieval India outside of accounts, ledgers and inscriptions. Or to what degree the various scripts were mutually intelligible. Anyway, there is an assumption here that if you have writing then you write everything down. Its obviously much more nuanced than that. The best treatment of this phenomenon would be Rosalind Thomas' book on orality and writing in Greece. Its Greek focused but also deals with a huge amount of ethnographic evidence. Anyway, we know that the Brahmins responsible didn't write them down for ages and that the writing didn't influence the overall tradition, at least not for a few millenia.

I have a faint recollection I have read that book by Thomas... Or maybe it was another. Or someone else's...

Anyway, how do we know for sure that the Brahmins didn't write them down? I mean sure I know it's axiomatic, but I like to question unquestionable truths... ;)

Notopoulos is the best source for the Greek stuff, articles and even a brief CD, Harvard has the full collection. The Indian stuff is insanely varied, across hundreds of books, I'll try to find a specific one next time I grab an Indologist/Anthropologist / check my notes.

Thanks.

No, different. Let me know if you don't have access to the Symbolae Osloensis...not for any illicit reason, you know...just curious as to how widespread it is...obviously. ;)

Helsinki University doesn't have physical copies of that paper at least. A bit strange when you look at the map. I'll have to check Jstor next time I pay a physical visit to the library...
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:40 am

I didn't notice your post for some reason until now...
Qimmik wrote:Janko would assert that he doesn't assign absolute dating to early Greek epic--just relative dating. I've read his book (more or less) and I'm still not entirely convinced, but at least he marshals evidence for his views. West doesn't like his work because it runs counter to West's view that Hesiod was earlier than Homer (or should I say, "Homer"). The Oslo book is an update, with Janko defending his views in response to criticism and some other issues, such as Aeolic phase vs. diffusion.

The fundamental problem in Janko's approach is that he's comparing apples and oranges. Maybe glottochrology works if you're trying to find a relative chronology of similar works of a single author, or at most it might work if you're comparing very similar works of different authors with very similar backgrounds in confined linguistic setting. But Hesiod, Homer and the Hymns all have different authors from different regions (and "Homer" probably means at least two different authors, and not all works attributed to "Hesiod" are of the same author); a linguistic form that was archaic at a certain moment in one place could have still been quite current at another. So the linguistic criteria to determine what is archaic are arbitrary. Also, at the moment of composition, the authors could have been of different ages (a poet of 70 years would use a more archaic language than a poet of 30).

Maybe everyone should just back off and stop disputing these questions, which have certainly generated more than their share of odium philologicum. All of the conceivable arguments are on the table at this point, and none of them is completely satisfying. What we have are two wonderful, sublime and mysterious works of literature, and maybe that's enough!

No! I won't back off! You could tell me to stop breathing while you're at it! ;) Anyway, I suppose we all agree about the greatness of Homer, so there wouldn't be much to discuss then, would there?

I don't think all the conceivable arguments are necessarily on the table yet. Of course, probably there won't be any substantial new evidence - we're not likely to have a 6th century BC papyrus or anything like that. It's not like satellites are going to fall down because of flawed Homeric scholarship; but I think in this field as in any other there's a real ongoing accumulation of knowledge, although probably even a very good theory is never going to convince everybody. Anyway, there will always be lunatics who will ignore every serious piece of writing there is and claim that Homer's epics take place on the Baltic sea.

I must emphasize that I really think West's idea is genuinely new, as far as I know. I think it reconciles two lines of Homeric scholarship that are usually thought of as unreconcilable: Analysis on the one hand, and all those who argue for the fundamental unity of Homer on the other (Unitarians, Oralists, whatever). I'd compare this to quantum mechanics and relativity in physics; both are needed to explain real phenomena, but we still haven't been able to create a good theory theory that unifies them (or not at least when I was in high school...)

Analytical problems in Homer can't just be dismissed, not in the way Oralists are doing now. But what I find incredible in many analytical scenarios is that they're essentially trying to tell us there's no underlying plan behind those epics, or if there was, someone has been messing about and it's not there anymore. I think the greatness of Homer is just too obvious to accept this.

Of course the language of Homer is that of oral poetry; but that doesn't explain how they came to be written down. Like I've been trying to argue before, the analytical problems are evidence that the text has been worked on after it was written. Oralists, as many as I have read, dismiss those real problems much too summarily. Oral poetry is oral by definition, Homer is text.

I think West's book The Making of the Iliad is the closest thing to a Unifying Theory of Homer (or rather, of the Iliad) there is, or at least it's the only one I've seen that has real credibility. I'm not a professional scholar, just an amateur, but that's what I think. Anyway, since you seem to be pretty serious about Homer, I'd definitely recommend this book to you, if you haven't already read it.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:34 pm

Hesiod, Homer and the Hymns all have different authors from different regions (and "Homer" probably means at least two different authors, and not all works attributed to "Hesiod" are of the same author); a linguistic form that was archaic at a certain moment in one place could have still been quite current at another.


I agree with this assessment of Janko. As I mentioned, I'm not entirely convinced.

I do have West's Making of the Iliad, and I'm rereading the Iliad right now (mainly using West's edition) while trying to follow his arguments. I think he has an ingenious and novel idea about how the Iliad came into existence, especially the way he draws on 19th century analytical scholarship but attributes the poem to a single individual cutting and pasting over a long period (well, actually just pasting, without revising). I think his theory is very plausible, and of course he's in a much better position than I am to address these questions. I'm still not completely convinced, though, and I doubt I will ever be completely persuaded to abandon my agnosticism, short of the discovery of compelling new evidence.

I have a bigger quarrel with his text, though, for the reasons I've already stated-- and I'll state them again ad nauseam. His text represents his view of the origin of the Iliad. He applies the editorial techniques that are appropriate for later authors, but in my view aren't appropriate for a text whose origin and early history is so uncertain. I would prefer to see a more neutral text that doesn't attempt to impose a personal view of the origin and early history of the poems and doesn't restore forms that philologists believe would have been used in 7th century Ionia, that leaves cruxes (cruces?) as they are and doesn't admit conjectures. In my view, those belong in the apparatus, in commentaries or in treatises. Also, while some of the lines he brackets deserve to be bracketed, he brackets others on wholly arbitrary grounds.

This is supposed to be the standard edition of the Iliad from here on, but it runs the risk of becoming outdated like Fick's Aeolic versions of the Homeric poems in the 1880s. Fick thought the poems were originally written in Aeolic and then translated into Ionic, and tried to translate them back into Aeolic. We've learned since then that (1) not all the apparently Aeolic words and forms are specifically Aeolic: many of them go back to Mycenaean or in some cases even pre-Mycenaean Greek; and (2) the oral tradition (even West recognizes that the poems are the product of an oral tradition) has the capacity to preserve forms from different linguistic stages. Fick's reconstructed Aeolic poems are now seen as slightly ridiculous.

West's text, with its attempts to restore a 7th century Ionic text (which, incidentally, aren't consistently applied), runs the risk of going the way of Fick's. It smooths out problems that in my view should be left intact in the text and should be addressed in the apparatus or in a commentary.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:29 pm

Qimmik wrote:I do have West's Making of the Iliad, and I'm rereading the Iliad right now (mainly using West's edition) while trying to follow his arguments. I think he has an ingenious and novel idea about how the Iliad came into existence, especially the way he draws on 19th century analytical scholarship but attributes the poem to a single individual cutting and pasting over a long period (well, actually just pasting, without revising). I think his theory is very plausible, and of course he's in a much better position than I am to address these questions. I'm still not completely convinced, though, and I doubt I will ever be completely persuaded to abandon my agnosticism, short of the discovery of compelling new evidence.

Probably I sound very (too much?) enthousiastic about West's book. Maybe I am. I find the general picture very convincing, but the specifics are very difficult, technical questions, and I have read the commentary part of the book only here and there. Anyway, agnosticism is a good position in many things. I want to think of myself as an agnostic too! Certainly I'm open to any new ideas in my pursuit of the Homeric question. I gladly accept reading recommendations...

Anyway, I guess I'm going to reread the Iliad quite soon now, paying close attention to West's commentary...

As to what you think about his edition of the Iliad... I think that's a matter of taste, I like it, but your "conservative" point of view is understandable. I haven't studied orthographical issues much anyway, so I'm not easily offended by them...
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Ahab » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:51 am

Scribo wrote:The other leading idea is that put forth by Janko and, most recently, Skafte-Jensen, about an oral dictated text. That itself is fascinating and the latter's latest book promises to be a treat though getting hold of it is nigh on impossible.

Actually this (finally free to access!) review is a cool overview: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article993731.ece


Bryn Mawr Classical Review also has a good review of Jensens's book here:
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2012/2012-06-08.html.

As you said it is very difficult getting hold that book. I managed to pick up a new copy through abebooks.com a few weeks ago. So it might be worthwhile checking their periodically if one is really desirous of obtaining a copy.

Very interesting discussion by the way. Have really enjoyed reading the opinions being expressed. Have to admit I've also been bitten by the Homeric Question bug. :shock:

Though I am not a big fan of Nagy's views there is an interesting blog site providing info related to the Homer Multitext Project here:
http://homermultitext.blogspot.com/
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Qimmik » Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:54 am

The idea of an oral dictated text goes back to Lord. He induced one very accomplished Bosnian singer to compose a long poem and recorded it.
I think they say those expanded songs are quite awful in quality, not at all like our carefully thought out Iliad.
Actually, I think Lord and others in the oralist camp believe that the "quality" of the long Serbian poem is quite high (however that's judged), maybe even comparable to Greek epic, though I don't have first-hand knowledge.

Skafte Jensen's new book can be ordered from Denmark, if you're a hedge fund manager and can afford to pay Danish postage. Although both think the Iliad is an oral dictated text, her point of view is quite different from Janko's, in that Janko places the composition of the poems in the late seventh century, while she places it in the second half of the fifth century.

Here's a good summation of my own personal views: the Iliad "is likely to be the result of extremely complicated processes involving both orality and writing, which we can no longer reconstruct." This is from the Cambridge Green and Yellow edition of Iliad 6 by Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold, p. 56, and is quoted from an article by A.C. Cassio, "Early editions of the Greek epics and Homeric textual criticism," in Omero tremila anni dopo, edited by F. Montanari (Rome 2002). I think that's about all that can be said.

However, although I'm open to many views on the origins of the Homeric poems, I'm afraid I'm just not open-minded enough to accommodate this one:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Homer-Code-Unlocking-Civilization/dp/1456555243/ref=pd_sim_b_5

Amazon offers it together with the Baltic book as a special deal, if you're interested.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 28, 2013 9:11 am

Qimmik wrote:Here's a good summation of my own personal views: the Iliad "is likely to be the result of extremely complicated processes involving both orality and writing, which we can no longer reconstruct." This is from the Cambridge Green and Yellow edition of Iliad 6 by Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold, p. 56, and is quoted from an article by A.C. Cassio, "Early editions of the Greek epics and Homeric textual criticism," in Omero tremila anni dopo, edited by F. Montanari (Rome 2002). I think that's about all that can be said.


Sounds like a reasonable agnostic position. A lot better than saying that textual problems are irrelevant because you know, er, Orality. My problem with over-emphasizing the oral aspects of the epics is that many scenarios seem to imagine that writing them down was a simple business.
However, although I'm open to many views on the origins of the Homeric poems, I'm afraid I'm just not open-minded enough to accommodate this one:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Homer-Code-Unlocking-Civilization/dp/1456555243/ref=pd_sim_b_5

Amazon offers it together with the Baltic book as a special deal, if you're interested.

Wow! This just the kind of thing I want to waste my time and money in! Incidentally, I did some googling and found out the Baltic book had very good reviews in an online magazine that was also very keen on history books that seemed to be about... holocaust denial. Well it makes "sense", Homer's heroes = Nordic Aryans and stuff...

Ahab wrote: As you said it is very difficult getting hold that book. I managed to pick up a new copy through abebooks.com a few weeks ago. So it might be worthwhile checking their periodically if one is really desirous of obtaining a copy.

Funny thing, I walked out of the univ library yesterday with the book with no difficulty at all, and I can have it for the next 6 months...
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:42 am

Thanks Ahab, I was wondering when Bryn Mawr would put a review up. I know things there take...a while. I mean they barely bother chasing you up when you're already several months late with a promised review.. :lol:

Guys, you laugh! you laugh at such insanity! Yet most likely in a short while I shall have to done my robes and take on someone who ardently believes that the Iliad and Odyssey are astrologically revealed texts, amongst other things. It really is.....mental.

Origin of the Iliad/Odyssey: Well its important for this battle to be fought for Homeric studies en large. even though we all know it can't be won.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:16 am

Making a bit of fun with innocuous insanity never did any harm... Holocaust denial isn't funny any more however, but I think probably Felice Vinci has nothing to do with the ugly bunch of antisemites who are applauding his work. I'm not giving any links here because I don't think those people need any kind of free publicity...

Another thing: I always thought the Cambridge Green and Yellows are dark greek and light green. Am I the only one? Is there something wrong with my eyes?
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Scribo » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:31 am

Nope, hence Green and Yellow. :lol: Though I have a much faded copy of the Trachiniae which could pass as Green and...Lime? I was surprised recently to learn from some Americans that they call them Green and Golds, amongst other weird practices. So I guess I can see your point.

On a related note, a friend of mine kept talking about the Cambridge Reds or some such colours, it took me a while to realise he was talking about the Orange series. As in, what are clearly orange in colour and referred to as such. When he pulled out a copy from his satchel to try and demonstrate the redness I was like :shock: :o :) :lol:
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Ahab » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:00 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
Ahab wrote: As you said it is very difficult getting hold that book. I managed to pick up a new copy through abebooks.com a few weeks ago. So it might be worthwhile checking their periodically if one is really desirous of obtaining a copy.

Funny thing, I walked out of the univ library yesterday with the book with no difficulty at all, and I can have it for the next 6 months...


Yes, obviously if one has access to a university library many tomes can be accessed that poor autodidacts such as myself cannot. :)

In any case I would still need a personal copy as I plan to do a lot of marking and scribbling in the book.
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Re: Sleeping beneath the portico

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:52 pm

Ahab wrote:Yes, obviously if one has access to a university library many tomes can be accessed that poor autodidacts such as myself cannot. :)

In any case I would still need a personal copy as I plan to do a lot of marking and scribbling in the book.

I thought it was funny mainly because Scribo said it was difficult to get and he's at Oxford. My university is quite a provincial one at least for classics. But probably I got the book easily because Homer doesn't seem to be anyone's primary interest here. Actually, about half of the books in the Homer section of the library are at my place now, and nobody seems to be wanting them back... There are some loans I've been renewing for like years. :) Hush, don't tell anyone.

Btw, I'm an autodidact as well, I've never actually studied humanities at university.
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