Homer Makes You Better, One Way or Another

“The ancient Greeks revered Homer as the healer of the soul” (Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam, 1994: 188)

Aristotle,  Poetics 1448a 8-14

“In the way it is possible to develop stylistic contrasts in dance, flute-playing, and kithara-playing, so too in the art using speeches and recited poetry, for example Homer makes men who are better than people are, Kleophôn renders men who are equal, Hêgêmôn of Thasos who created parody makes them worse and so does Nikokharês who wrote the Deiliad.

καὶ γὰρ ἐν ὀρχήσει καὶ αὐλήσει καὶ κιθαρίσει ἔστι γενέσθαι ταύτας τὰς ἀνομοιότητας, καὶ [τὸ] περὶ τοὺς λόγους δὲ καὶ τὴν ψιλομετρίαν, οἷον ῞Ομηρος μὲνβελτίους, Κλεοφῶν δὲ ὁμοίους, ῾Ηγήμων δὲ ὁ Θάσιος τὰς παρῳδίας ποιήσας πρῶτος καὶ Νικοχάρης ὁ τὴν Δειλιάδα χείρους•

Xenophon, Symposium 3.5

“And what about you, Nikêratos—what kind of knowledge do you cherish?” And he said “My father, because he wished for me to be a good man, compelled me to memorize all of Homer. And now I can recite the whole Iliad andOdyssey.” Antisthenes said “Has it escaped you that all the rhapsodes know these epics too?”

ἀλλὰ σὺ αὖ, ἔφη, λέγε, ὦ Νικήρατε, ἐπὶ ποίᾳ ἐπιστήμῃ μέγα φρονεῖς. καὶ ὃς εἶπεν· ῾Ο πατὴρ ὁ ἐπιμελούμενος ὅπως ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γενοίμην ἠνάγκασέ με πάντα τὰ ῾Ομήρου ἔπη μαθεῖν· καὶ νῦν δυναίμην ἂν ᾿Ιλιάδα ὅλην καὶ ᾿Οδύσσειαν ἀπὸ στόματος εἰπεῖν. ᾿Εκεῖνο δ’, ἔφη ὁ ᾿Αντισθένης, λέληθέ σε, ὅτι καὶ οἱ ῥαψῳδοὶ πάντες ἐπίστανται ταῦτα τὰ ἔπη;

3 thoughts on “Homer Makes You Better, One Way or Another

  1. Not always. I have known a few who can recite Homer, Hesiod and Herodotus, but that only made them more pedantic, unfortunately. 🙂

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