Homerists Are a Quarrelsome Bunch (And Have been for A While: Pausanias, 9.30.3)

In his Description of Greece, Pausanias comes to the topic of the age of Homer and Hesiod and begs off discussing it, though he admits giving much thought to it, because of the character of people who work on such things:

“It would not be sweet for me to write about the relative age of Homer and Hesiod, even though I have worked on the problem as closely as possible. This is because I am familiar with the fault-finding character of others and not the least of those who dominate the study of epic poetry in my time.”

περὶ δὲ ῾Ησιόδου τε ἡλικίας καὶ ῾Ομήρου πολυπραγμονήσαντι ἐς τὸ ἀκριβέστατον οὔ μοι γράφειν ἡδὺ ἦν, ἐπισταμένῳ τὸ φιλαίτιον ἄλλων τε καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα ὅσοι κατ’ ἐμὲ ἐπὶ ποιήσει τῶν ἐπῶν καθεστήκεσαν.

(The more things change….)

According to the biographer of sophists, Diogenes Laertius, the 4th century Heraclides Ponticus wrote “Two books about the age of Homer and Hesiod” and “Two books about Archilochus and Homer” (Περὶ τῆς ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ἡλικίας α′ β′, Περὶ ᾿Αρχιλόχου καὶ ῾Ομήρου α′ β′; see Koning 2010, 40).

Of course, antiquity presented every possible opinion on this:

Suda s.v. ῾Ησίοδος

“He was according to some older than Homer; but according to others he was the same age. Porphyry and most others argue that he is one hundred years younger…”

ἦν δὲ ῾Ομήρου κατά τινας πρεσβύτερος, κατὰ δὲ ἄλλους σύγχρονος· Πορφύριος καὶ
ἄλλοι πλεῖστοι νεώτερον ἑκατὸν ἐνιαυτοῖς ὁρίζουσιν.

(You can probably expect more of this. Palaiophron and I are developing a fixtion with the silliness of the Suda. He has confessed to fantasizing and developing “a book of refutations titled Suda Says: Everything that Classicists Know is Wrong.”)

Like this kind of stuff? These books are good:

Barbara Graziosi. The Invention of Homer. Cambridge, 2002.

Hugo Koning. Hesiod: The Other Poet. Leiden, 2010.

Messing More with Homer: Megara, Salamis, Athens and Solon

A few weeks back we posted a passage from Plutarch implying that Athenians manipulated the Homeric epics to political ends. Here’s another accusation from Plutarch’s Life of Solon (10.2-3).

“Many report that the record of Homer was introduced into the contest by Solon. They say that he read this line he interpolated this line into the Catalogue of Ships at the trial

“Ajax led twelve ships from Salamis
And after he arrived he stationed his troops where the Athenians were”

But the Athenians themselves believe that this assertion [i.e. that Solon interpolated lines] is nonsense.”

οἱ μὲν οὖν πολλοὶ τῷ Σόλωνι συναγωνίσασθαι λέγουσι τὴν ῾Ομήρου δόξαν· ἐμβαλόντα γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔπος εἰς νεῶν κατάλογον ἐπὶ τῆς δίκης ἀναγνῶναι (Il. 2. 557)·

Αἴας δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν δυοκαίδεκα νῆας,
στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες.

αὐτοὶ δ’ ᾿Αθηναῖοι ταῦτα μὲν οἴονται φλυαρίαν εἶναι

The context of the anecdote is a trial over Athenian claims to the island of Salamis. Solon insisted that the Salaminian and Athenian contingents were together and thus had a shared history, justifying Athenian control over the island. For other versions of this ‘trial’, see Aristotle Rhet. 1335b26-30; Strabo 9.1.9-10; and Diogenes Laertius. 1.48.

Strabo’s version, in fact, gives the Megarians a Homeric response of their own:

“The Athenians seemed to have provided this kind of a testimony from Homer, but the Megarians sang in response that “Ajax, led ships from Salamis, Polikhnê, and from Aigeiroussê, Nisaia, and Tripodes”. These are Megarian lands, of which they say that “Tripodes” is the Tripodiskion where the marketplace of the Magarians is currently situated.”

οἱ μὲν δὴ ᾿Αθηναῖοι τοιαύτην τινὰ σκήψασθαι μαρτυρίαν παρ’ ῾Ομήρου δοκοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Μεγαρεῖς ἀντιπαρῳδῆσαι οὕτως „Αἴας „δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν νέας, ἔκ τε Πολίχνης, ἔκ τ’ „Αἰγειρούσσης Νισαίης τε Τριπόδων τε.” ἅ ἐστι χωρία Μεγαρικά, ὧν οἱ Τρίποδες Τριποδίσκιον λέγονται, καθ’ ὃ ἡ νῦν ἀγορὰ τῶν Μεγάρων κεῖται.

Here, the people of Megara claim that Ajax’s contingent included men from their lands. Thus, their connection is closer! For a great article on this exchange, see Carolyn Higbie. “The Bones of a Hero, the Ashes of a Politician: Athens, Salamis, and the Usable Past.” Classical Antiquity 16 (1997) 278-307.