Two Lives of Homer, One Rather Strange

The first ‘life’ of Homer listed below is extremely strange. The other is a rather short but typical variation on the others. For some additional “lives” see earlier posts.


Life of Homer 7 (Allen; Eustathius Comm. Ad. Od. 1713.17)

“Alexander the Paphian records that Homer was the son of Aithra and Dmasagoras, Egyptians and that his nurse was a prophetess, a certain daughter of Oros, a priest of Isis, from whose breasts once flowed honey into the child’s mouth. Then the child uttered nine voices during the night: a swallow’s, a peacock’s, a dove’s, a crow’s, a partridge’s, a water hen’s, a starling’s, a nightingale’s, and a blackbird’s.

The child was found playing with nine doves on his bed along with the Sybil who was being entertained among the child’s doves and had been inspired to improvise epic lines which began “Dmasagoras, man of much victory…” in which she also addressed Homer’s father as “very-famous” and “prince” and ordered him to build a temple for the nine Pierian Muses. And she was revealing the muses to him [Dmasagoras].Then he did that [what she ordered] and showed the accomplishment to the human child. And thus the poet reverenced the animals he played with as a child and he made the doves carry ambrosia to Zeus.”

᾿Αλέξανδρος δὲ ὁ Πάφιος ἱστορεῖ τὸν ῞Ομηρον υἱὸν Αἰγυπτίων Δμασαγόρου καὶ Αἴθρας· τροφὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ προφῆτίν τινα θυγατέρα ῎Ωρου ἱερέως ῎Ισιδος, ἧς ἐκ τῶνμαστῶν μέλι ῥεῦσαί ποτε εἰς τὸ στόμα τοῦ παιδίου. καὶ τὸ βρέφος ἐν νυκτὶ φωνὰς ἐννέα προέσθαι· χελιδόνος, ταῶνος, περιστερᾶς, κορώνης, πέρδικος, πορφυρίωνος, ψαρός, ἀηδόνος καὶ κοττύφου. εὑρεθῆναί τε τὸ παιδίον μετὰ περιστερῶν ἐννέα παῖζον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης, εὐωχουμένην δὲ παρὰ τοῖς τοῦ παιδὸς τὴν Σίβυλλαν ἐμμανῆ γεγονυῖαν ἔπη σχεδιάσαι, ὧν ἀρχὴ
Δμασαγόρα πολύνικε,

ἐν οἷς καὶ μεγακλεῆ καὶ στεφανίτην αὐτὸν προσειπεῖν, καὶ ναὸν κτίσαι κελεῦσαι ἐννέα Πιερίδων· ἐδήλου δὲ τὰς μούσας. τὸν δὲ καὶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι καὶ τῷ παιδὶ ἀνδρωθέντι ἐξειπεῖν τὸ πρᾶγμα. καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτω σεμνῦναι τὰ ζῷα οἷς βρέφος ὢν συνέπαιζε, καὶ ποιῆσαι αὐτὰ τῷ Διὶ τὴν ἀμβροσίαν κομίζοντα.


Life of Homer 4 (Allen; 8 Most, Vita Scorialensis 1)
“Homer, the poet, was the son of Maiôn and Hurnetho, according to some. According to others, he was the son of Melês. Others attribute his lineage to Kalliopê the Muse. They say that he was named Melêsigenes or Melianaks, but after he was blinded he was named Homer—for the Aeolians call blind people “Homers”. Some say his country was Smyrna, others say it was Khios; even others say Kolophôn and some claim it is Athens. He traveled around singing his poems. Later, Peisistratos gathered together his poems, as this epigram shows:

The people of Erektheus ran me out of town after I was a tyrant
Three times and took me back three times.
Peisistratos, tremendous in councils, who gathered up
all the Homer that was sung separately before.
That golden one is our citizen
If we believe that Athens founded Smyrna

They say that he died after starving himself due to grief on the island Ios because he could solve the riddle which was posed to him by the fishermen. When he encountered them he asked: “Fisherman from Arcadia, what do you have?”
And they answered: “However much we caught, we left behind; but whatever we didn’t, we bring.”

And written on his gravestome is:

Here the earth covers over this sacred head,
The master of heroic men, godly Homer.”

῞Ομηρος ὁ ποιητὴς υἱὸς ἦν κατὰ μέν τινας Μαίονος καὶ ῾Υρνηθοῦς, κατὰ δ’ ἐνίους Μέλητος τοῦ ποταμοῦ καὶ Κριθηίδος νύμφης. ἄλλοι δ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος εἰς Καλλιόπην τὴν Μοῦσαν ἀναφέρουσιν. φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν Μελησιγένη ἢ Μελησιάνακτα κεκλῆσθαι, τυφλωθέντα δ’ αὐτὸν ὕστερον ῞Ομηρον κληθῆναι· οἱ γὰρ Αἰολεῖς τοὺς τυφλοὺς ὁμήρους καλοῦσιν. πατρίδα δ’ αὐτοῦ οἱ μὲν Σμύρναν, οἱ δὲ Χίον, οἱ δὲ Κολοφῶνα, οἱ δ’ ᾿Αθήνας λέγουσιν. περιιὼν δὲ τὰς πόλεις ᾖδε τὰ ποιήματα. ὕστερον δὲ Πεισίστρατος αὐτὰ συνήγαγεν, ὡς τὸ ἐπίγραμμα τοῦτο δηλοῖ·

τρίς με τυραννήσαντα τοσαυτάκις ἐξεδίωξε
δῆμος ᾿Ερεχθῆος καὶ τρὶς ἐπηγάγετο,
τὸν μέγαν ἐν βουλαῖς Πεισίστρατον ὃς τὸν ῞Ομηρον
ἤθροισα σποράδην τὸ πρὶν ἀειδόμενον·
ἡμέτερος γὰρ κεῖνος ὁ χρύσεος ἦν πολιήτης
εἴπερ ᾿Αθηναῖοι Σμύρναν ἐπῳκίσαμεν.

φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν ἐν ῎Ιῳ τῇ νήσῳ διὰ λύπην ἀποκαρτερήσαντα τελευτῆσαι διὰ τὸ μὴ λῦσαι τὸ ζήτημα τὸ ὑπὸ τῶν ἁλιέων αὐτῷ προτεθέν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐπιστὰς ἤρετο·
ἄνδρες ἀπ’ ᾿Αρκαδίης ἁλιήτορες ἦ ῥ’ ἔχομέν τι;
οἱ δ’ ἀπεκρίναντο·
ὅσσ’ ἕλομεν λιπόμεσθ’, ὅσα δ’ οὐχ ἕλομεν φερόμεσθα.
ἐπιγέγραπται δ’ ἐν τῷ μνήματι αὐτοῦ
ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα, θεῖον ῞Ομηρον.

Homer Might Have Been Roman or Egyptian (Life of Homer, 6; Part 1)

(from the so-called “Roman Life of Homer”)

Asserting directly and precisely that Homer’s place of birth or city was a specific city or place instead of another is difficult–actually, I think it is impossible. It is necessary instead to list the cities that claim his origin and then to explain his contested genealogy.

Anaximenes, Damastes, and the lyric-poet Pindar declare Homer a Chian–and Theocritus claims the same in his Epigrams. Damastes says that he is a descendent of Mousaios (ten generations later). Hippias, however, and Ephoros locate him in Cymae; But Ephorus makes his forebear Khariphemos who settled Cyme. Timomachus and Aristotle think he is from Ios; according to Antimachus he is from Colophon; according to Stesimbrotus the Thasian he is from Smyrna; according to Philokhoros, he is Argive; and Kallikles says he is from Salamis.

Aristodemos of Nysa claims Homer is Roman based on certain characteristics that occur only among the Romans, such as the game of pessoi and the practice of lesser men willingly rising from their seats for betters. Such customs are practiced by the Romans to this day. Other scholars say that Homer is Egyptian because he has his heroes kiss one another with the mouth, a thing that is customary for Egyptians to do.

According to Stesimbrotus, Homer’s father was Maion the son of Apellis and his mother was Hyrnetho or Cretheis. Deinarchos says his father is Crethon; according to Democrines, he was Alemon. Most sources say Homer is the son of the river Meles near Smyrna, which flows well for a short bit until it issues into the nearby sea. Aristotle records the claim that Homer was born from a daimon who danced with the Muses.

Βίος ῾Ομήρου

Τὸ μὲν ἄντικρυς εἰπεῖν διισχυρισάμενον τήνδε τινὰ σαφῶς εἶναι τὴν ῾Ομήρου γένεσιν ἢ πόλιν χαλεπόν, μᾶλλον δὲ ἀδύνατον εἶναι νομίζω• ἀναγκαῖον δὲ καταριθμῆσαι τὰς ἀντιποιουμένας τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ πόλεις, τό τε γένος
ἐξειπεῖν τὸ ἀμφισβητήσιμον τοῦ ποιητοῦ.

᾿Αναξιμένης μὲν οὖν καὶ Δαμάστης καὶ Πίνδαρος ὁ μελοποιὸς Χῖον αὐτὸν ἀποφαίνονται καὶ Θεόκριτος ἐν τοῖς ἐπιγράμμασιν. ὁ δὲ Δαμάστης καὶ δέκατον αὐτὸν ἀπὸ Μουσαίου φησὶ γεγονέναι• ῾Ιππίας δ’ αὖ καὶ ῎Εφορος Κυμαῖον• ὁ δ’ ῎Εφορος καὶ εἰς Χαρίφημον ἀνάγει τὸ γένος αὐτοῦ, ὁ δὲ Χαρίφημος οὗτος Κύμην ᾤκησε• Τιμόμαχος δὲ καὶ ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐξ ῎Ιου τῆς νήσου. κατὰ δ’ ᾿Αντίμαχον Κολοφώνιος, κατὰ δὲ Στησίμβροτον τὸν Θάσιον Σμυρναῖος, κατὰ Φιλόχορον δ’ ᾿Αργεῖος, κατὰ Καλλικλέα δὲ τῆς ἐν Κύπρῳ Σαλαμῖνος.

᾿Αριστόδημος δ’ ὁ Νυσαεὺς ῾Ρωμαῖον αὐτὸν ἀποδείκνυσιν ἔκ τινων ἐθῶν παρὰ ῾Ρωμαίοις μόνον γινομένων, τοῦτο μὲν ἐκ τῆς τῶν πεσσῶν παιδιᾶς, τοῦτο δὲ ἐκ τοῦ ἐπανίστασθαι τῶν θάκων τοὺς ἥσσονας τῶν βελτί-στων ἑκόντας, ἃ καὶ νῦν ἔτι φυλάσσεται παρὰ ῾Ρωμαίοις ἔθη.

ἄλλοι δ’ Αἰγύπτιον αὐτὸν εἶπον διὰ τὸ † ἠ † παράγειν τοὺς ἥρωας ἐκ στόματος ἀλλήλους φιλοῦντας, ὅπερ ἐστὶν ἔθος τοῖς Αἰγυπτίοις ποιεῖν. πατρὸς δὲ κατὰ μὲν Στησίμβροτόν ἐστι Μαίονος τοῦ ᾿Απέλλιδος καὶ μητρὸς ῾Υρνηθοῦς ἢ Κρηθηίδος, κατὰ δὲ Δείναρχον Κρήθωνος, κατὰ δὲ Δημοκρίνην ᾿Αλήμονος, κατὰ δὲ τοὺς πλείστους Μέλητος τοῦ κατὰ Σμύρναν ποταμοῦ, ὃς ἐπ’ ὀλίγον ῥέων εὐθέως εἰς τὴν παρακειμένην θάλασσαν ἐκδίδωσιν. ᾿Αριστοτέλης δὲ ἱστορεῖν φησιν † λητὰς ἔκ τινος δαίμονος γεγενῆσθαι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ταῖς Μούσαις συγχορεύσαντος.

Poets Have to Make a Living Somehow: Homer Sang and Wrote for His Meals (Certamen, 15-16)

Most people who think of the “Contest of Homer and Hesiod” remember the fact that Homer and Hesiod competed and that there was a mixed verdict (with Hesiod taking the prize).  The account, however, also details legendary travels of Homer. Wherever he goes, he composes poems, almost pathologically.

Here is an excerpt:


“When the sons of king Midas, Xanthos and Gorgos, heard Homer’s poetry they commissioned him to compose an epigram for their father’s tomb which was marked by a bronze maiden mourning Midas’ death. Homer made this:

“I am a bronze girl, and I sit on the grave of Midas.
As long as water flows and trees grow long,
While the rivers fill and the sea resounds,
As long as the sun rises to shine and the bright moon too,
I will remain here on this much-wept mound
A sign to those who pass by that Midas here is buried.”

He received from them a silver cup, which he inscribed and dedicated at Delphi to Apollo:

“Lord Phoibos, I Homer give you this fine gift
in exchange for your wisdom. May you always grant me fame.”

Then he composed the Odyssey (which is 12,000 lines) when he had already finished the Iliad (15,500 lines). They say that he left there and was entertained in Athens at the house of the king of the Athenians, Medon. In the council chamber, when it was cold and there was a fire burning, the story is that he improvised these lines:

“A man’s crown is his children; the city has its towers;
Horses decorate a plain and ships are the jewels of the sea.
The people who sit in the agora are an adornment to be seen;
But when a fire burns it makes a house a prouder sight
On a winter’s day when Kronos’ son sends snow.”

ἀκούσαντες δὲ τῶν ἐπῶν οἱ Μίδου τοῦ βασιλέως παῖδες Ξάνθος καὶ Γόργος παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἐπίγραμμα ποιῆσαι ἐπὶ τοῦ τάφου τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν, ἐφ’ οὗ ἦν παρθένος χαλκῆ τὸν Μίδου θάνατον οἰκτιζομένη. καὶ ποιεῖ οὕτως•

χαλκῆ παρθένος εἰμί, Μίδου δ’ ἐπὶ σήματος ἧμαι.
ἔς τ’ ἂν ὕδωρ τε νάῃ καὶ δένδρεα μακρὰ τεθήλῃ
καὶ ποταμοὶ πλήθωσι, περικλύζῃ δὲ θάλασσα,
ἠέλιος δ’ ἀνιὼν φαίνῃ λαμπρά τε σελήνη,
αὐτοῦ τῇδε μένουσα πολυκλαύτῳ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ
σημανέω παριοῦσι Μίδης ὅτι τῇδε τέθαπται.

λαβὼν δὲ παρ’ αὐτῶν φιάλην ἀργυρᾶν ἀνατίθησιν ἐν Δελφοῖς τῷ ᾿Απόλλωνι, ἐπιγράψας

Φοῖβε ἄναξ δῶρόν τοι ῞Ομηρος καλὸν ἔδωκα
σῇσιν ἐπιφροσύναις• σὺ δέ μοι κλέος αἰὲν ὀπάζοις.

μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ποιεῖ τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν ἔπη μβ′, πεποιηκὼς ἤδη τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα ἐπῶν μεφ′. παραγενόμενον δὲ ἐκεῖθεν εἰς ᾿Αθήνας αὐτὸν ξενισθῆναί φασι παρὰ Μέδοντι τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων. ἐν δὲ τῷ βουλευτηρίῳ ψύχους ὄντος καὶ πυρὸς καιομένου σχεδιάσαι λέγεται τούσδε τοὺς στίχους•

ἀνδρὸς μὲν στέφανοι παῖδες, πύργοι δὲ πόληος,
ἵπποι δ’ αὖ πεδίου κόσμος, νῆες δὲ θαλάσσης,
λαὸς δ’ εἰν ἀγορῇσι καθήμενος εἰσοράασθαι.
αἰθομένου δὲ πυρὸς γεραρώτερος οἶκος ἰδέσθαι
ἤματι χειμερίῳ ὁπότ’ ἂν νείφῃσι Κρονίων.

Homer, Teacher and Parodist? The Vitae on the “Battle of Frogs and Mice”

We haven’t mentioned the Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice in a while—but we are actually still working on it. There was a tradition in the early Roman Imperial period that Homer had composed the poem either just for practice or for educating children (or a combination of both). Here are some passages:

Greek Anthology, Exhortative Epigrams 90

“Because he wanted to exercise his mind,
Homer made up the tale of frogs and mice,
Which he then gave to children to imitate.”

῞Ομηρος αὐτοῦ γυμνάσαι γνῶσιν θέλων,
τῶν βατράχων ἔπλασε καὶ μυῶν μῦθον
ἔνθεν παρορμῶν πρὸς μίμησιν τοὺς νέους.

The problematic biographies, the various Lives of Homer, include some similar information.

Vita Herodotea 332-4
“The man from Khios had children around the same age. They were entrusted to Homer for education. He composed these poems: the Kekropes, Batrakohmuomakia, Psaromakhia, Heptapaktikê, and Epikikhlides and as many other poems as were playful.”
ἦσαν γὰρ τῷ Χίῳ παῖδες ἐν ἡλικίῃ. τούτους οὖν αὐτῷ παρατίθησι παιδεύειν. ὁ δὲ ἔπρησσε ταῦτα· καὶ τοὺς Κέρκωπας καὶ Βατραχομυομαχίαν καὶ Ψαρομαχίην καὶ ῾Επταπακτικὴν καὶ ᾿Επικιχλίδας καὶ τἄλλα πάντα ὅσα παίγνιά ἐστιν.

Continue reading “Homer, Teacher and Parodist? The Vitae on the “Battle of Frogs and Mice””