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Homer - The writer of two Epic Poems – the Iliad and the Odyssey

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Presentation on theme: "Homer - The writer of two Epic Poems – the Iliad and the Odyssey"— Presentation transcript:

1 Homer - The writer of two Epic Poems – the Iliad and the Odyssey
- Venerated through all western history since it was written - Tradition says he was blind, and from Ionia (Asia minor - Turkey) Composed in 8th Century BCE (700’s) relating events that occurred in 14th Century BCE Long – each 24 books of average 500 lines each (12,000 lines) narrative (tells a story) – not about feelings emotions hymns etc - about lofty characters – heroes and gods

2 WHO/WHAT WAS HOMER a single writer? -Traditionally thought to be
-Shows a unity of poetic vision & style OR Compiled from many shorter poems by many poets? Lack unity Inconsistencies about continuity etc Repetitions of v. similar episodes

3 MORE LIKELY Evolved orally over generations before being compiled and written down by the bard we call Homer - dactylic hexameter: (6 beats – sung/chanted – like ‘rap’) - Dialect of the poem is unique, and a blend that existed over time in a variety of places. - Repeated formulaic epithets (descriptions) “swift footed Achilles”, “grey eyed Athena”, “God-like Odysseus” which are common building blocks in oral traditions. - Repeated whole speeches. - Repeated formulaic discriptions of certain scenes (e.g. putting on armour, sacrifice scenes, serving food to guests) - Still a SINGLE POETIC GENIUS in its final formulation.

4 How might it have happened?
Here is an example of an episode from World War I (by Robert Service) Note it is Heroic (larger than ordinary life in its subject – self-sacrifice) Set to verse to aid memory (8 beats rather than Homer’s 6) Sung/chanted (very simple 3-3 note sequence) Uses extended images which make visualising the picture easy .

5 This modern story borrows from Homer’s epic conventions
This begins with an extended introduction “oh ye whose hearts are resonant…. oh hearken let me try to tell the tale of Jean Desprez” as do both Iliad and Odyssey The story, believed to be true, circulated for years after the 1st world war – though this song wasn’t written till 1970 – 50 yrs later It has higher language than would be chosen if you just told the story in conversation both words (“lost to hope am I”) and content (“Spirit of the french”). Extended descriptions – the childhood delights of the french contryside (homeric similes) Epithets (descriptive ) eg “wolves of war” and rythmn/rhyme would make it much easier to remember long poems Suspense – teh hero, Jean Desprez doesn’t even enter the story till the second half. The song – almost a chant - simple rythmn and v simple tune – thought to be how epics were recited by the ancient bards If Jean Desprez had gone on to become a national figure with many stories, this might have been one episode in a long epic song about him. .


7 Trojan War Epic cycle Many smaller poems by other bards existed, recording much of the story (for example the wooden horse is not told by Homer) but they are not EXTANT (no longer exists) Zeus fell in love with a sea nymph, Thetis, but a prophesy said that her son would become greater than his father. So on his orders she was betrothed to a human king, Peleus, one of the Argonauts (other were Heracles, Jason, Theseus, Laertes -Odysseus’ dad, Nestor – wise king in the Odyssey.) All of the gods were invited to the wedding except Eris "Discord"). Insulted, she threw from the door a golden apple inscribed “to the fairest” which Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite all claimed & they disputed for years. Eventually to settle the dispute Zeus chose the handsome Paris, a prince of Troy Unaware of his ancestry, he’d been raised as a shepherd because it was prophesied that he’d be the downfall of Troy. The goddesses bribed him with wisdom & success in battle (Athena), dominion over Asia (Hera), and the love of the world’s most beautiful woman – Helen of Sparta (Aphrodite). Being a lover not a fighter Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite, and, after several adventures, returned to Troy, where he was recognized by his Father, King Priam.

8 ACHILLES Meanwhile, Peleus and Thetis’ had a son Achilles. A prophesy said either he’d live a long life without fame & glory, or die young – a great hero. His mother, to make Achilles immortal bathed Achilles in the River Styx, the river that runs to the under world, making him invulnerable wherever he had touched the water. But because she had held him by the heel, it was not immersed during the bathing and thus the heel remained mortal and vulnerable to injury. (He grew up to be the greatest of all mortal warriors, a short glorious life – of which he comments in the Odyssey.) Thetis, unsuccessfully tried to save him from the war by disguising him as a girl, & later at a crucial point in the war, she assists her son by providing weapons divinely forged by Hephaestus. Helen HELEN Helen, one of the daughters of Leda wife of Tyndareus King of Sparta, and Zeus who had either raped or seduced her in the form of a swan. Two sets of twins were born - Castor and Pollux (when Castor died he was made immortal - Gemini), Clytemnestra (became Agamemnon’s wife, and killer) and Helen. Helen’s father couldn’t choose her husband fearing violent reaction form other suitors. Finally, suitor Odysseus of Ithica, proposed (in return for the hand of his niece Penelope) that Tyndareus require all of Helen's suitors to promise that they would defend the marriage of Helen, regardless of whom he chose. They swore and Tyndareus chose Menelaus (a political choice). He had promised Aphrodite a sacrifice of 100 oxen, if he won Helen, but forgot about it and earned her wrath. Menelaus inherited Tyndareus' throne of Sparta with Helen as his queen.

Paris, under the guise of a supposed diplomatic mission, went to Sparta to get Helen and bring her back to Troy. Before Helen could look up, to see him enter the palace, she was shot with an arrow from Eros, & fell in love when she saw him, as promised by Aphrodite. He abducted her back to Troy, which kicked off the war. Paris' abduction of Helen had several precedents, all without retribution, so Paris wouldn’t have expected hell to break out. But it did – the vow of Helen’s suitors brought most of the kingdoms of Achaeans to Troy where they battled for 10 years without result. Homer’s ILIAD (named after Troy’s other name – ILIUM) is about Achilles’ rage at Gk leader Agamemnon who steals his war-prize Briseis after 9 years of the war. He takes to his tent refusing to fight, & the Greeks begin to loose. His closest friend Patroclus takes the field dressed as Achilles, but is killed by Priam’s son Hector. Mad with grief, Achilles takes up arms and kills and defiles Hector’s body, dragging it around the walls of troy - with his dying breath Hector foretells that Paris will kill Achilles. The Iliad ends with Hecotr’s funeral. Finally Odysseus idea of the Trojan horse allows Greeks to gain entry to defeat Troy He was eventually killed by Paris by being shot in his Achilles heal, and his bones buried with Patroclus.

Many stories of the difficulties the heroes had after the fall of Troy Most famous Odysseus (told in the Odyssey) Circe the witch, Cyclops, Lotus eaters, wife’s suitors, Reunited with his son Telemachus. Aeneas - a Trojan – son of Aphrodite - escapes with his father and son Eventually founds Rome – Caesar traced descent from him (told in Virgil’s Aeneid) UNIVERSAL THEMES -What motivates heroic behaviour -Individual’s duty to society -Cooperation verses competition and conflict -Place of fate in men’s live -Interaction of the gods (God) in human affairs. -How should mortals live their lives esp in the face of imminent death

11 SOME SAMPLES Bk1 line 1:the rage of Achilles
Sing, Goddess, sing of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus— that murderous anger which condemned Achaeans to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies carrion food for dogs and birds— all in fulfilment of the will of Zeus.

12 SOME SAMPLES bk1/158 Achilles & Agamemnon
“You insatiable creature, quite shameless. How can any Achaean obey you willingly— join a raiding party or keep fighting with full force against an enemy? I didn’t come to battle over here because of Trojans. I have no fight with them. They never stole my bulls or horses or razed my crops in fertile Phthia, where heroes grow. Many shady mountains and the roaring sea stand there between us. But you, great shameless man, we came with you, to please you, to win honour from the Trojans— for you, dog face, and for Menelaus. You don’t consider this, don’t think at all.

13 SOME SAMPLES bk 4/473 Ajax kills Simoisious
Then Ajax, son of Telamon, hit Simoeisius, Anthemion’s son, a fine young warrior. He was born on the banks of the river Simoeis, while his mother was coming down Mount Ida, accompanying her parents to watch their flocks. That’s why the people called him Simoeisius. But he did not repay his fond parents for raising him. His life was cut short on great Ajax’s deadly spear. As he was moving forward with the men in front, Ajax struck him in the chest, by the right nipple. The bronze spear went clean through his shoulder. He collapsed in the dust, like a poplar tree, one growing in a large well-watered meadow, from whose smooth trunk the branches grow up to the top, until a chariot builder’s bright axe topples it, bends the wood, to make wheel rims for a splendid chariot, letting the wood season by the riverbank. That’s how godlike Ajax chopped down Simoeisius, son of Anthemion.

14 SOME SAMPLES bk 5/860, 889 Ares wounded & insulted
“Father Zeus, aren’t you incensed at this barbarity? We gods are always suffering dreadfully at each other’s hands, when we bring men help. We all lay the blame for this on you. Scowling at him, cloud-gatherer Zeus replied: “You hypocrite, don’t sit there whining at me. Among the gods who live on Mount Olympus, you’re the one I hate the most. For you love war, constant strife and battle. Your mother, Hera, has an implacable, unyielding spirit. It’s hard for me to control how she reacts to what I say. You’re suffering because of her, through her conniving, that’s what I think. But I’ll leave you in pain no longer. You’re my child—your mother and I made you. But if you’d been born from any other god, by now you’d be lower than the sons of Ouranos—you’re so destructive.”

15 SOME SAMPLES bk6/441,466 Hector’s leaving family
With these words, glorious Hector stretched his hands out for his son. The boy immediately shrank back against the breast of the finely girdled nurse, crying out in terror to see his own dear father, scared at the sight of bronze, the horse-hair plume nodding fearfully from his helmet top. The child’s loving father laughed, his noble mother, too. Glorious Hector pulled the glittering helmet off and set it on the ground. Then he kissed his dear son and held him in his arms. He prayed aloud to Zeus and the rest of the immortals.

16 SOME SAMPLES: bk23/70 Ghost of Patroclus
I’ll say one more thing, one last request, if you will listen. Achilles, don’t lay your bones apart from mine. Let them remain together.” So let the same container hold our bones, that gold two-handled jar your mother gave you.” Swift-footed Achilles then said in reply: “Dear friend, why have you come to me here, telling me everything I need to do? I’ll carry out all these things for you, attend to your request. But come closer. Let’s hold each other one short moment more, enjoying a shared lament together.” Saying this, Achilles reached out with his arms, but he grasped nothing. The spirit had departed, going underground like vapour, muttering faintly. Achilles jumped up in amazement, clapped his hands, and then spoke out in sorrow: “How sad! It seems that even in Hades’ house, some spirit or ghost remains, but our being is not there at all. The ghost spoke to Achilles, saying: “You’re asleep, Achilles. You’ve forgotten me. While I was alive, you never did neglect me. But now I’m dead. So bury me as quickly as you can. Then I can pass through the gates of Hades. The spirits, ghosts of the dead, keep me away. They don’t let me join them past the river. So I wander aimlessly round Hades’ home by its wide gates. Give me your hand, I beg you, for I’ll never come again from Hades, once you’ve given me what’s due, my funeral fire. We’ll no more sit together making plans, separated from our dear companions. The jaws of dreadful Fate are gaping for me, ready to consume me—my destiny from the day that I was born. You, too, godlike Achilles, you have your own fate, to die under the walls of wealthy Troy.

17 MAC RAP in dactylic octameter  not exactly heroic –
but shows the hopnotic effect of rhyme and rythmn in story telling

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