On Homer’s Poverty and Lies

Dio Chrysosthom, Oration 11. 15-19

“First, men claim that Homer was a beggar in Greece because of poverty and lack of means. But they believe that this sort of a man is incapable of lying for the sake of those who gave him things, that he would not say the sorts of things he would intend only to please them! Yet people say that beggars today say nothing credible, no one ever provides one as a witness on anything, nor do they ever accept praise from them as something true. For they know that beggars say everything to manipulate, by necessity. And then they say that some people gave money to a beggar while others gave money to a madman and that they think the people then decided he was crazy when he was speaking truth rather than lying. Really, I am not so much rebuking Homer in these things. For nothing prevents a wise man from begging or seeming insane. But I am saying that, according to the belief people hold about Homer and these sort of men, nothing they say is believable.”

“Furthermore, they do not believe that lying is in Homer’s nature or that he employs this sort of thing at all. Yet he makes Odysseus lie the most, a man he praises, and he says that Autolykos even breaks an oath and that this was granted to him by Hermes! Nearly everyone agrees that Homer says nothing true about the gods, even those who praise him, and they try to offer various defenses, that he does not say these things because he means them but because he is riddling and using metaphor. What keeps him from speaking this way about men too? For, whoever speaks nothing manifestly true about the gods, but so much to the contrary that that people who encounter them take them as lies—and which bring no help to the singer—how would he hesitate to utter any kind of falsehood about men too? Many have previously noted that he has created gods grieving and groaning, wounded and nearly dying, and has added divine adulteries, bonding, and vows. I don’t wish to prosecute Homer, only to show what the truth was. I will also defend the matters as they seem to me. I say that he showed no hesitation in lying and did not think it a shame. I will move now to consider whether he was right or not.”

πρῶτον μὲν οὖν φασι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ὑπὸ πενίας τε καὶ ἀπορίας προσαιτεῖν ἐν τῇ ῾Ελλάδι· τὸν δὲ τοιοῦτον ἀδύνατον ἡγοῦνται ψεύσασθαι πρὸς χάριν τῶν διδόντων, οὐδ’ ἂν τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγειν ὁποῖα ἔμελλεν ἐκείνοις καθ’ ἡδονὴν ἔσεσθαι· τοὺς δὲ νῦν πτωχοὺς οὐδέν φασιν ὑγιὲς λέγειν, οὐδὲ μάρτυρα οὐδεὶς ἂν ἐκείνων οὐδένα ποιήσαιτο ὑπὲρ οὐδενός, οὐδὲ τοὺς ἐπαίνους τοὺς παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀποδέχονται ὡς ἀληθεῖς. ἴσασι γὰρ ὅτι πάντα θωπεύοντες ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης λέγουσιν. ἔπειτα δὲ εἰρήκασι τοὺς μὲν ὡς πτωχῷ, τοὺς δὲ ὡς μαινομένῳ ἀπάρχεσθαι, καὶ μᾶλλον οἴονται τοὺς τότε καταγνῶναι αὐτοῦ μανίαν τἀληθῆ λέγοντος ἢ ψευδομένου. οὐ μὴν ὅσον γε ἐπὶ τούτοις ψέγω ῞Ομηρον· κωλύει γὰρ οὐθὲν ἄνδρα σοφὸν πτωχεύειν οὐδὲ μαίνεσθαι δοκεῖν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων δόξαν, ἣν ἔχουσι περὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ περὶ τῶν τοιούτων, εἰκός ἐστι μηθὲν ὑγιὲς εἶναι τῶν εἰρημένων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

οὐ τοίνυν οὐδὲ τόδε νομίζουσιν, οὐκ εἶναι ἐν τῇ ῾Ομήρου φύσει τὸ ψεῦδος οὐδὲ ἀποδέχεσθαι αὐτὸν τοιοῦτον <οὐδέν>· πλεῖστα γοῦν τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πεποίηκε ψευδόμενον, ὃν μάλιστα ἐπῄνει, τὸν δὲ Αὐτόλυκον καὶ ἐπιορκεῖν φησι, καὶ τοῦτ’ αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ ῾Ερμοῦ δεδόσθαι. περὶ δὲ θεῶν πάντες, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ὁμολογοῦσι μηθὲν ἀληθὲς λέγειν ῞Ομηρον καὶ οἱ πάνυ ἐπαινοῦντες αὐτόν, καὶ τοιαύτας ἀπολογίας πειρῶνται πορίζειν, ὅτι οὐ φρονῶν ταῦτ’ ἔλεγεν, ἀλλ’ αἰνιττόμενος καὶ μεταφέρων. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι; ὅστις γὰρ περὶ θεῶν οὐ φανερῶς τἀληθῆ φησιν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον οὕτως ὥστε τὰ ψευδῆ μᾶλλον ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας, καὶ ταῦτα μηδὲν ὠφελούμενος, πῶς ἂν περί γε ἀνθρώπων ὀκνήσειεν ὁτιοῦν ψεῦδος εἰπεῖν; καὶ ὅτι μὲν πεποίηκεν ἀλγοῦντας τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ στένοντας καὶ τιτρωσκομένους καὶ ἀποθνῄσκοντας σχεδόν, ἔτι δὲ μοιχείας καὶ δεσμὰ καὶ διεγγυήσεις θεῶν, οὐ λέγω, πρότερον εἰρημένα πολλοῖς. οὐδὲ γὰρ βούλομαι κατηγορεῖν ῾Ομήρου, μόνον δὲ ἐπιδεῖξαι τἀληθὲς ὡς γέγονεν· ἐπεί τοι καὶ ἀπολογήσομαι περὶ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἐμοὶ δοκοῦντα. ὅτι δὲ τὸ ψεῦδος οὐκ ὤκνει πάντων μάλιστα οὐδὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐνόμιζε, τοῦτο λέγω· πότερον δὲ ὀρθῶς ἢ μὴ παρίημι νῦν σκοπεῖν.

 

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Trojan-War Truther Types on Tablet

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