Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.09.75

F. Montanari (ed.), Omero tremila anni dopo. Atti del congresso di Genova 6-8 luglio 2000. Con la collaborazione di Paola Ascheri. Storia e Letteratura 210.   Rome:  Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2002.  Pp. xvii, 722.  ISBN 88-8498-059-3.  €76.00.  

Reviewed by Margalit Finkelberg, Tel Aviv University (
Word count: 1881 words

[I apologize to the editors and readers of BMCR for the delay in submitting this review.]


IL TESTO: FORME DELL'ESPRESSIONE E FORME DEL CONTENUTO: Georg Danek, "Traditional Referentiality and Homeric Intertextuality" (3-19); Mario Cantilena, "Sul discorso diretto in Omero" (21-39); Rainer Friedrich, "Oral Composition-by-theme and Homeric Narrative. The exposition of the epic action in Avdo Medjedovic's Wedding of Meho and Homer's Iliad" (41-71); Jenny Strauss Clay, "Odyssean Animadversions" (73-83); Seth L. Schein, "Mythological Allusion in the Odyssey" (85-101).

LA TRANSMISSIONE DEL TESTO: MANUSCRITTI ED ESEGESI ANTICA: Albio Cesare Cassio, "Early Editions of the Greek Epics and Homeric Textual Criticism in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BC" (105-36); Martin L. West, "Zenodotus' Text" (137-42); Antonios Rengakos, "The Hellenistic Poets as Homeric Critics" (143-57); Martin Schmidt, "The Homer of the Scholia: what is explained to the reader?" (159-83); Robert Lamberton, "Homeric Allegory and Homeric Rhetoric in Ancient Pedagogy" (185-205).

IL CONTESTO: ARCHEOLOGIA E STORIA: Manfred Korfmann, "Ilios, ca 1200 BC - Ilion, ca 700 BC. Report of findings from Archaeology" (209-25); Vassos Karageorghis, "Homeric Cyprus" (227-37); Jan Paul Crielaard, "Past or Present? Epic poetry, aristocratic self-representation and the concept of time in the eighth and seventh centuries BC" (239-95); Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp, "Ptolis and agore. Homer and the archaeology of the city-state" (297-342); Mario Benzi, "Anatolia and the Eastern Aegean at the Time of the Trojan War" (343-405).

SHORT PAPERS: Maria Lucia Aliffi, "Le espressioni dell'agente e dello strumento nei processi di 'morte violenta'" (409-23); Peter Grossardt, "The Place of Homer in the Epic Tradition. The case of the myth of the Calydonian hunt" (425-30); Bruce Heiden, "Hidden Thoughts, Open Speech: some reflections of discourse analysis in recent Homeric studies" (431-44); René Nünlist, "Some Clarifying Remarks on 'Focalization'" (445-53); Roberto Nicolai, "I veleni di Efira. A proposito di Od.1.259 e 2.328" (455-70); Patrizia Laspia, "Chi dà le ali alle parole? Il significato articolatoria di ἔπεα πτερόεντα" (471-88); Maria Noussia, "Olympus, the Sky, and the History of the Text of Homer" (489-503); Rocco Schembra, "Il ruiso cristiano del modello omerico negli Homerocentones" (505-10); Maria Vasiloudi, "Citazioni dall'Iliade e dall'Odissea nella Vita Homeri Herodotea" (511-21); Richard Whitaker, "Translating Homer in an African Context" (523-33); David Bouvier, "Présence ou absence d'armes dans les tombes héroiques" (535-45); Sotera Fornaro, "Omero cattivo stgorico: l'Orazione XI di Dione Crisostomo" (547-60); Alessandro Greco, "Aiace Telamonio e Teucro. Le techniche di combattimento nella Grecia micenea dell'età delle tombe a fossa" (561-78); Marco Martin, "Omero come archetipo culturale nell'etnografia celtica di Posidonio d'Apamea (con un confronto con l'etnografia britannica di Timeo di Tauromenio)" (579-623); Marek Wecowski, "Homer and the Origins of the Symposion" (625-37); Folake Onayemi, "'Who Sacrifices?': an explanation to the Greek question from a Yoruba point of view" (639-47).



There is more than one reason why this volume, the Proceedings of a major conference under the same name that was held in Genoa in 2000, should not be seen as yet another item in the rapidly growing industry of Companions to Homer. First, along with the three sections -- Text, Transmission, Context, each consisting of five papers -- purporting to deal systematically with the main aspects of Homeric scholarship and featuring some of the most distinguished scholars in the field, the volume offers sixteen contributions by younger scholars (Short Papers) that are not constrained by this format. Second, although its scope is broad enough, the volume under review does not (and apparently does not aim to) represent the whole gamut of interests of contemporary Homeric scholarship (more on this below). Third, rather than providing comprehensive assessments of the status quaestionis in their respective fields, many contributors have chosen to present the fruits of their individual research. To sum up, while it would make a welcome addition to a Homeric scholar's bookshelf, Omero tremila anni dopo is certainly not the kind of book to appear on an undergraduate's reading list.

I. TEXT. No less than three contributions to this section approach Homer from the standpoint of what, notwithstanding more up-to-date terminologies used by the authors, can still be defined as Quellenforschung. In drawing a clear distinction between the repetition of generic models on the one hand and references to individual stories and episodes on the other, DANEK demonstrates that, contrary to the old oralist axiom, neither allusion nor even quotation are alien to Homer. That Homer makes allusions to other versions and traditions of the Iliad and the Odyssey is taken for granted by STRAUSS CLAY, who takes this conclusion several steps further in posing the following question: "How can we know whether an allusion is rejecting a tradition or incorporating it?" (76). Finally, the main argument of SCHEIN's paper, which focuses on the story of Odysseus' bow and the Odyssey's allusions to Heracles, is that "in an oral poetic tradition, an allusion can function as a quotation does in written literature, referring the audience not only to a specific character or event, but to a recognizable poetic representation or treatment of that character or event" (85). Each of these papers unarguably makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion of the degree to which Homer consciously makes use of epic traditions outside the Iliad and the Odyssey. One may wonder, at the same time, what was the rationale behind the decision to dedicate three of the five papers of the section dealing with the text of Homer to what is essentially the same subject. Unsurprisingly, this comes at the expense of other, no less important topics. The absence of a detailed discussion of the oral formulaic hypothesis is especially regrettable. It is true that CANTILENA's excellent paper on direct speech in the Iliad and the Odyssey culminates in the conclusion that, contrary to what is usually assumed, the abundance of speeches in Homer is a characteristic feature of oral rather than written poetry. It is also true that in his criticism of the indiscriminate use of the term "theme" and especially in his hypothesis of post-oral Homer FRIEDRICH throws out a challenge to the oralists. Yet the voice of the latter is not heard: oral formulaic theory, justifiably placed by one of the participants at the top of "the distinctive and characteristic contributions of 20th-century Homeric scholarship" (Lamberton, 185), is conspicuous by its absence in Omero tremila anni dopo.

II. TRANSMISSION. The section on transmission opens with CASSIO's thorough discussion of the early textual tradition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Cassio's conclusion is that the remarkable textual uniformity of the Homeric poems is due to the fact that these poems, first stabilized in East Ionia by the late seventh century B.C., gradually acquired their standard form in sixth- and fifth-century Athens: "Psilotic recitations based on East Ionic texts may have competed with Attic versions at least throughout the fifth century BC; later on the latter became the standard, and Attic manuscripts played a central role in the subsequent tradition" (131). This is followed by two contributions dealing with Alexandrian scholarship. According to WEST's hypothesis, the full version of which can be found in his Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad (2001), the well-known "eccentric" features of the text of Zenodotus are due to the fact that it was based on a fourth-century Ionian rhapsode's copy: it is likely, therefore, that "it derives from an Ionian tradition separate from the Attic tradition which was the basis of the Alexandrian vulgate in general" and preserves "some good, old readings that were otherwise lost" (142). RENGAKOS, drawing on his 1993 monograph Der Homertext und die hellenistischer Dichter, uses the evidence of Hellenistic poets to argue that, contrary to the view that has become popular in recent years (cf. West's contribution to this volume), the Alexandrian scholars' readings were based on the collation of manuscripts rather than on conjectures. SCHMIDT's paper is one of the most comprehensive treatments of the Homeric scholia available in English. Especially good is his discussion of the distinction between the historically-oriented A-scholia, which go back to Aristarchus and his school, and the reader-oriented and "modernizing" (or should we say "presentist"?) attitude of the bT, or exegetical, scholia, representative of the alternative trend in ancient Homeric scholarship. The world of the latter comes to the fore in LAMBERTON's contribution. Lamberton focuses his attention on the pseudo-Plutarchan treatise De Homero (probably the second century AD), a thorough treatment of the Homeric poems as the ultimate source of all knowledge, arguing convincingly that "this text can supply us with the information for the Greek schools of the Roman Empire that we lack for earlier periods" (193).

III. CONTEXT. Most papers of the section addressing the historical and archaeological context of the Iliad and the Odyssey focus on the Homeric Age. KORFMANN argues that the topography of early Iron Age Ilion as it emerges from the recent excavations corresponds almost exactly to Homer's descriptions of Troy and its surroundings. KARAGEORGHIS draws attention to the similarities in "heroic" life style and burial customs in Cyprus and mainland Greece of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. CRIELAARD focuses on the same period and comes to the conclusion that "[e]lements of the so-called heroic past were juxtaposed with elements of the contemporary world or even recreated in the present. In this manner, the elite created a 'supra-quotidian' world and a timeless order that transcended the differences between past and present" (283-4). In a similar manner, HÖLKESKAMP emphasizes that the Homeric epics are not so much about the past as about the present: "the world the poets and their audiences lived in and tried to make sense of was centred on the polis or rather specific, already quite complex ideas and normative ideals of the polis. These ideas and ideals are, however, different from those which inspire the Aristotelian notion of the polis as a community of free and equal citizens ..." (327). BENZI's comprehensive account of the available evidence bearing on the much-vexed question of the historicity of the Trojan War is the only contribution dealing with the Bronze Age. The issues addressed are the identification of Priam's Troy; the dating of its destruction; history and geography of Western Anatolia in Hittite documents; the Ahhiyawa problem; and the archaeological evidence.

Some of the so-called Short Papers make up for lacunae in the preceding sections. HEIDEN on discourse analysis and NÜNLIST on narratology are especially to be recommended in this respect. Others, such as NOUSSIA on Zenodotus or NICOLAI on the traditions alternative to Homer, offer valuable additions to the topics treated in the first part of the collection. Generally speaking, assigning to these papers (some of which are actually longer than those in the preceding sections) the unenviable position of an appendix to the main corpus neither does justice to the high quality of many of them nor works well in terms of the organization of the material: perhaps a two-volume format should have been considered instead. In the Concluding Remarks (649-73) Richard Janko and Wolfgang Kullmann do their best to provide a synthesis of this rich and multi-faceted collection. This is followed by the Indices of the modern and of the ancient authors and of the Homeric passages referred to in the volume. On the whole, the volume is carefully produced, but not a few of the English contributions would have benefited from an editor's review.

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