Flogging Homer

Plato, Hippias Major 285d

Hippias: “Socrates, people listen most sweetly to genealogies of heroes and mortals and of settlements—how cities were founded long ago–and, in short, to every kind of ancient story [arkhaiologia]. As a result, I am compelled both to learn and frequently practice these kinds of things.”

ΙΠ. Περὶ τῶν γενῶν, ὦ Σώκρατες, τῶν τε ἡρώων καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ τῶν κατοικίσεων, ὡς τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἐκτίσθησαν αἱ πόλεις, καὶ συλλήβδην πάσης τῆς ἀρχαιολογίας ἥδιστα ἀκροῶνται, ὥστ’ ἔγωγε δι’ αὐτοὺς ἠνάγκασμαι ἐκμεμαθηκέναι τε καὶ ἐκμεμελετηκέναι πάντα τὰ τοιαῦτα.

Xenophanes, Fr. 9

“From the beginning, according to Homer, since everyone has learned [from him…]

ἐξ ἀρχῆς καθ’ ῞Ομηρον, ἐπεὶ μεμαθήκασι πάντες …


Heraclitus, fr. 42

“He used to say that Homer was worthy of being expelled from the contests and whipped along with Archilochus too.”

— —τόν τε ῞Ομηρον ἔφασκεν ἄξιον ἐκ τῶν ἀγώνων ἐκβάλλεσθαι καὶ ῥαπίζεσθαι καὶ ᾿Αρχίλοχον ὁμοίως [vgl.


Plato, Ion 532 a4-a7

Socrates: “So you would say that Homer and the rest of the poets—among whom we would count Archilochus and Hesiod—speak about the same things, but not in the same way…that Homer does it well and the others worse?”

ΣΩ. Οὐκοῦν σὺ φῂς καὶ ῞Ομηρον καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ποιητάς, ἐν οἷς καὶ ῾Ησίοδος καὶ

᾿Αρχίλοχός ἐστιν, περί γε τῶν αὐτῶν λέγειν, ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὁμοίως, ἀλλὰ τὸν μὲν εὖ γε, τοὺς δὲ χεῖρον;


Diogenes Laertius, 8.21 (Lives of the Sophists)

“Hieronymos says that when Pythagoras went down into Hades he saw the ghost of Hesiod bound to a bronze pillar, squeaking, and that Homer’s ghost was hanging from a tree surrounded by snakes. They were being punished for the things they said about the gods. And in addition he saw men who were not willing to have sex with their own wives. This is the reason, that Pythagoras was honored by the inhabitants of Croton. Aristippos of Cyrene in his work Peri Physiologoi says that Pythagoras was given his name because he spoke the truth publically [agoreuô] no less than the Pythian oracle.”

φησὶ δ’ ῾Ιερώνυμος (Hiller xxii) κατελθόντα αὐτὸν εἰς ᾅδου τὴν μὲν ῾Ησιόδου ψυχὴν ἰδεῖν πρὸς κίονι χαλκῷ δεδεμένην καὶ τρίζουσαν, τὴν δ’ ῾Ομήρου κρεμαμένην ἀπὸ δένδρου καὶ ὄφεις περὶ αὐτὴν ἀνθ’ ὧν εἶπον περὶ θεῶν, κολαζομένους δὲ καὶ τοὺς μὴ θέλοντας συνεῖναι ταῖς ἑαυτῶν γυναιξί· καὶ δὴ καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τιμηθῆναι  ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Κρότωνι. φησὶ δ’ ᾿Αρίστιππος ὁ Κυρηναῖος ἐν τῷ Περὶ φυσιολόγων Πυθαγόραν αὐτὸν ὀνομασθῆναι ὅτι τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠγόρευεν οὐχ ἧττον τοῦ Πυθίου.

2 thoughts on “Flogging Homer

  1. The Heraclitus fragment made me think of that scene from A Confederacy of Dunces, in which Ignatius is watching a pop-music/dancing program on TV:

    “Oh, my God!” Ignatius bellowed from the front of the house. “What an egregious insult to
    good taste.”
    “The children on that program should all be gassed,” Ignatius said as he strode into the kitchen
    in his nightshirt. Then he noticed the guest and said coldly, “Oh.”

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