Your Jokes Killed Homer!

John Tzetzes, Allegories of the Iliad, (Prolegomena 113-132):

Since you now know well the chronology of Homer’s life, learn too in what way he died. He remained a beggar, and became blind in old age; he wandered through all of the lands of Greece, reciting his poems, and being honorably received. As he came to Arcadia, he was offered hospitality there by a certain Kreophylos.

Homer remained there enjoying the hospitality for several days, when he took a little stroll down to the beach. There he came upon some fishermen who had not caught any fish, but sat there picking lice off themselves and killing them. When Homer heard the fishermen chatting among themselves, he asked, ‘Well my Arcadian fishermen, do we have anything?’ They responded to him, joking about the lice, ‘We do not have those which we have caught, but we still have the ones we have not caught.’

Not understanding the joke, Homer was afflicted by a rather disproportionate sadness, and turned back to the house where he was staying. Because it was muddy, he slipped, struck a rock, and broke a rib. Three days later, he died.


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