Homer and the Bard

  • Penelope Murray


Fashions in Homeric scholarship come and go. The analysts and the Yugoslays have had their day: it is now the turn of the unitarians. Modern scholarship, it is clear, is devoting more and more attention to the unity of the Iliad and the Odyssey and to their sophistication as epics organised by a single mind with a single purpose in view — and rightly so. To many scholars the only quasi-biographical question that remains a puzzle is whether we suppose one Homer or two, each man of genius responsible for a separate and individual poem of genius. But Homer (and I use the word in either the singular or the dual), Homer too has his view of the poet. And the problem is to reconcile this view with the prevailing orthodoxy. One of the strengths of the analyst position was that it could point to Homer’s own description of the bard in its defence: the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed of separate lays, composed it may be by separate persons, or at least for separate occasions, and sung in the way that Homer describes, as entertainments at the banquets of the nobility. For example, in Odyssey 8, Odysseus praises the bard Demodocus for the song he has just sung and asks him to change to another theme — the wooden horse and its fashioning:


Compensatory Nature Single Mind Divine Knowledge Homeric Society Homeric Epic 
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  1. 2.
    H.M. and N.K. Chadwick, The Growth of Literature vol.I (Cambridge, 1932) pp.648–9.Google Scholar

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© Tom Winnifrith, Penelope Murray and K. W. Gransden 1983

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  • Penelope Murray

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