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world of Greece anterior to the Olympiads: meaning the disclaimer to apply to anything like a general history - not to exclude rigorously every individual event.
The times which I thus set apart from the region of history are discernible only through a different atmosphere, — that of epic poetry and legend. To confound together these disparate matters is, in my judgment, essentially unphilosophical. I describe the earlier times by themselves, as conceived by the faith and feeling of the first Greeks, and known only through their legends - without presuming to measure how much or how little of historical matter these legends may contain. If the reader blame me for not assisting him to determine this if he ask me why I do not undraw the curtain and disclose the picture - I ,
- I reply, in the words of the painter Xeuxis, when the same question was addressed to him on exhibiting his masterpiece of imitative art: “ The curtain is the picture.” What we now read as poetry and legend was once accredited history, and the only genuine history which the first Greeks could conceive or relish of their past time. The curtain conceals nothing behind, and cannot by any ingenuity be withdrawn. I undertake only to show it as it stands - not to efface, still less to repaint it.
HOMER AND THE HOMERIO POEMS.
(From "History of Greece.) Wro or what was Homer? What date is to be assigned to him? What were his compositions ?
A person putting these questions to Greeks of different towns and ages would have obtained answers widely discrepant and contradictory. Since the invaluable labors of Aristarchus and the other Alexandrine critics on the text of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” it has indeed been customary to regard these two (putting aside the “Hymns ” and a few other minor poems) as being the only genuine Homeric compositions; and the literary men called “Chorizontes," or the “Separators,” at the head of whom were Xenon and Hellanikos, endeavored still further to reduce the number by disconnecting the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” and pointing out that both could not be the work of the same author. Throughout the whole course of Grecian antiquity the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” and the “Hymns” have been received as Homeric. But if we go back to the time of Herodotus, or still earlier, we find that several other epics also were ascribed to Homer, and there were not wanting critics earlier than the Alexandrine age who regarded the whole epic cycle, together with the satirical poem called “Margites,” the “Batrachomyomachia," and other smaller pieces, as Homeric works. The cyclic "Thebais " and the “ Epigoni (whether they be two separate poems or the latter a second part of the former) were in early days currently ascribed to Homer. The same was the case with the “Cyprian Verses.” Some even ascribed to him several other poems, — the “Capture of Echalia,” the "Lesser Iliad," the “Phokais," and the “Amazonia.” The title of the poem called “Thebais” to be styled Homeric depends upon evidence more ancient than any which can be produced to authenticate the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” for Kallius, the ancient elegiac poet (B. C. 640) mentioned Homer as the author of it; and his opinion was shared by many competent judges. From the remarkable description given by Herodotus of the expulsion of the Rhapsodes from Sikyon, by the despot Kleisthenes, in the time of Solon (about B. c. 580), we may form a probable judgment that the “Thebais” and the “Epigoni” were then rhapsodized at Sikyon as Homeric productions. And it is clear from the language of Herodotus that in his time the general opinion ascribed to Homer both the “Cyprian Verses” and the “Epigoni,” though he himself dissents. In spite of such dissent, however, that historian must have conceived the names of Homer and Hesiod to be nearly co-extensive with the whole of the ancient epic, otherwise he would hardly have delivered his memorable judgment that they two were the framers of Grecian theogony.
That many different cities laid claim to the birth of Homer (seven is rather below the truth, and Smyrna and Chios are the most prominent among them) is well known; and most of them had legends to tell respecting his romantic parentage, his alleged blindness, and his life of an itinerant bard, acquainted with poverty and sorrow. The discrepancies of statement respecting the date of his reputed existence are no less worthy of remark; for out of the eight different epochs assigned to him, the oldest differs from the most recent by a period of four hundred and sixty years.
Thus conflicting would have been the answers returned in different portions of the Grecian world to any questions respect
ing the person of Homer. But there was a poetical gens (fraternity or guild) in the Ionic isle of Chios, who, if the question had been put to them, would have answered in another man
To them Homer was not a mere antecedent man, of kindred nature with themselves, but a divine or semi-divine eponymus and progenitor, whom they worshipped in their gentile sacrifices, and in whose ascendant name and glory the individuality of every member of the gens was merged. The composition of each separate Homerid, or the combined efforts of many of them in conjunction, were the works of Homer. The name of the individual bard perishes, and his authorship is forgotten; but the common gentile father lives and grows in renown, from generation to generation, by the genius of his self-renewing sons.
Such was the conception entertained of Homer by the poetical gens called Homeridæ or Homerids; and in the general obscurity of the whole case I lean toward it as the most plausible conception. Homer is not only the reputed author of the various compositions emanating from the gentile members, but also the recipient of the many different legends and of the divine genealogy which it pleases their imagination to confer
Such manufacture of fictitious personality, and such perfect incorporation of the entities of religion and fancy with the real world, is a process familiar and even habitual in the retrospective vision of the Greeks.
It is to be remarked that the poetical gens here brought to view — the Homerids — are of indisputable authenticity. Their existence and their consideration were maintained down to the historical times in the island of Chios. If the Homerids were still conspicuous even in the days of Akusilaus, Pindar, Hellanikos, and Plato, when their positive production had ceased, and when they had become only guardians and distributers, in common with others, of the treasures bequeathed hy their predecessors, far more exalted must their position have been three centuries before, while they were still inspired creators of epic novelty, and when the absence of writing assured to them the undisputed monopoly of their own compositions.
Homer, then, is no individual man, but the divine or heroic father (the ideas of worship and ancestry coalescing, as they constantly did in the Grecian mind) of the gentile Homerids; and he is the author of the “ Thebais," the "Epigoni," the “Cyprian Verses,” the“ Proæms” or“Hymns,” and other poems, in the same