Homer as history

Greeks and others in a Dark Age

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Understanding that Homeric epic is the product of a long-standing oral tradition facilitates its use as a source for early Greek history. Oral tradition constantly evolves as poets interact with their audiences, retaining only such intangible elements of culture and society as remain relevant to its contemporary world. Although Homeric epic is of limited utility for understanding the Late Bronze Age, the Iliad and Odyssey constitute an invaluable source for the beliefs, institutions, and ideologies of the eighth century B.C. Homeric epic illuminates, for example, the beginnings of Panhellenism. Built through the extension of local identities, proto-Panhellenism was aggregative in nature. Yet it was oppositional in origin, spurred by intensifying contact between Greeks and the outside world. Homeric proto-Panhellenism reflected the cosmopolitan worldview of eighth century elites at the expense of the more parochial outlook of "middling farmers" like Hesiod. Such insights into the "Dark Age" would be impossible without recourse to Homeric epic as a historical source.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading Homer
Subtitle of host publicationfilm and text
EditorsKostas Myrsiades
Place of PublicationCranbury, USA
PublisherFairleigh Dickinson University Press
Pages21-57
Number of pages37
ISBN (Print)9780838642191
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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