BMCR 2009.05.58

Homer: der Mythos von Troia in Dichtung und Kunst

, , , , Homer: der Mythos von Troia in Dichtung und Kunst. München: Hirmer Verlag, 2008. 506. ISBN 9783777439655 $77.00.

“Homer: der Mythos von Troia in Dichtung und Kunst” (Homer: the Myth in Poetry and Art) was an exhibition shown at the Antikenmuseum and Sammlung Ludwig in Basle, Switzerland (March 16 – August 17, 2008) and at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim, Germany (September 13, 2008 – January 18, 2009). Its focus was on Homer, his times, and his reception throughout the ages. It drew quite a lot of attention with about 44,000 visitors in Basle and another 55,800 in Mannheim. The reviewer has seen the exhibition at Mannheim where he currently resides. However, this review will not comment on the exhibition display, but will focus on the catalogue which was designed to cover both locations. (The table of content listed below gives an impression of the great range of topics.) The Mannheim exhibition also ran parallel to another exhibition on the “dark centuries” in Greece at the Schloss in Karlsruhe1 which concentrated on the archaeological finds from 1200-700 BC in their historical context—the age generally associated with the “Homeric heroes”. The Homeric epics were given less coverage there.

More than seventy collections loaned objects for the display dating from the 9th century BC to the present and ranging from ancient art and archaeology to medieval manuscripts, early prints, old master paintings, and modern art. One of leading authorities on Homer, Joachim Latacz (Basle), was the chief coordinator for both the exhibition and the catalogue. The aim was to show Homer’s impact on the ancient world which through innumerous ramifications endures until the present day, as Latacz points out in the introduction. This huge book is divided into two parts—thematic articles and catalogue. The first (pp. 15-289) is in five sections—often with several chapters each—on the following themes: I. Homer and his times, II. The prehistory of Homeric poetry, III. Homer’s work: Iliad and Odyssey, IV. The transmission of Homer’s poetry, and V. The reception of Homer. All articles are lavishly illustrated with photos, charts or maps and contain various cross-references to the catalogue (pp. 290-471). The Appendix incudes bibliography, glossary, and short biographies of the authors of articles in part I. The catalogue contains numerous entries by additional contributors as well, who are not listed separately. There is no index.

Section I (pp. 19-69) starts with the question of Homer as a person in idealistic portraits and the ancient biographical tradition. The next chapters cover Greek western Asia Minor, the area of Homer’s roots (either from Smyrna or Chios), the architecture of the late Mycenaean Geometric periods and the beginnings of writing. Section II (pp. 71-111) examines the historic setting and the archaeological background of the “real” locations of the Iliad (Troy) and Odyssey (Ithaka, Pylos, Sparta). It also takes a closer look at the bards from the Late Bronze Age until Homer and (?)pre-Homeric epics.

Section III (pp. 114-179) concerns the Homeric epics themselves. Its content and structure are succinctly summarized—often enriched with many quotes. In a short article Arbogast Schmitt introduces the relations of gods and men in Homer and closes with a note on “Homer und Wir” (pp. 169-170)—a reflection on a personal god in later ages. Martin L. West, contributing the only chapter to section IV, gives an interesting overview of the transmission of the Homeric text from the 7th century BC to the present. He also draws attention to the fact that the addition of innumerable papyrus fragments has done little to improve our text, though sometimes they have helped to point out interpolations. The largest section of the book (V: pp. 195-289) deals with the literary and artistic reception of Homer. Six chapters alone on the classical world—including Etruria—cover this topic, followed by two chapters on the reception in Byzantium and Medieval Latin poetry. Three further essays relating to the modern age conclude section V. The first is on Homer in the arts and design (exemplified here by a photo of a French hairdryer named “Odyssée”) (p. 271) from the early Renaissance up to Max Beckmann’s “Odysseus” and Twonby’s rather abstract cycle “Fifty days at Ilium” from 1978. A summary on the modern literary reception from Winckelmann to Joyce comes next. Homer in merchandising and cinema is dealt with in the last chapter. A brief entry covers the modern use of Homeric terms and names including Trojan Horses, ballet shoes or boots named Penelope and Nausicaa, Homer Simpson or Duck Tales episodes as well as modern novels. The section on Homer in the movies is more detailed though far from being exhaustive.

The adjoining catalogue lists the 230 displayed objects with extensive commentary. Not surprisingly it begins with depictions of Homer in sculpture and coinage with the famous Munich head—a Roman copy of a Greek original from 460 BC. Many of the other artifacts that follow (pottery, bronzes, weaponry, and metallic vessels) are included as representative samples of the period covered. It is not until no. 70 that the theme returns to the Homeric epics—then with events prior to the Iliad. Most of the subsequent ancient objects directly related to Homeric themes are often shown alongside much later works. No. 103 may be singled out here: this painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (c. 1803) from Basle of the injured Aphrodite returning to Olympus is placed amidst fighting scenes on Greek vases.

Needless to say, a good catalogue is often a very useful and welcome supplement to a large exhibition. This applies to the Homer catalogue in particular. The editors as well as the contributors can be congratulated for their efforts. All the articles and entries reflect the current state of research. The size and quality of the excellent photographs—many of them fairly large—leaves nothing to be desired—and reflects the high standard of Hirmer, one of the finest art publishers in Germany. In itself the catalogue gives a fairly rounded overview of Homer, his work and reception. An exhaustive coverage is impossible even in such a big book and certainly not intended or necessary. The possible impact of ancient oriental literature on Greek epics, however, is avoided here. A chapter on the similarity of leitmotifs found in Mesopotamian texts might have enlarged the perspective.

Table of Contents:

Einführung: Warum Homer (J. Latacz) I Homer und seine Zeit
1. Homers Person
Homer-Darstellungen in der antiken Bildkunst (E. van der Meijden Zanoni)
Homer-Darstellungen in der antiken Literatur (J. Latacz)
2. Homers Lebensraum
Die mediterrane Welt und das griechische Westkleinasien zur Zeit Homers (A. Bigmasca)
3. Homers Zeit
Die griechische Renaissance des 8. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (J. Latacz)
Die Architektur—Häuser für Menschen und Götter (K. Reber)
Die Bildkunst in der Zeit Homers (P. Blome)
Der Beginn der Schriftlichkeit und Literatur (J. Latacz)

II Die Vorgeschichte der Homerischen Dichtung 1. Die Schauplätze
Griechenland, die Ägäis und das westliche Kleinasien (W.-D. Niemeier)
Der Schauplatz der Ilias: Troia (P. Jablonka)
Die realen Schauplätze der Odyssee: Ithaka, Pylos, Sparta (M. Guggisberg)
2. Die Besinger der Schauplätze zwischen der Spätbronzezeit und Homer: die Sänger (Aoiden)
Die vorhomerische Epik—Indizien und Wahrscheinlichkeiten (S. Deger-Jalkotzy)
Die Sänger aus musikarchäologischer Perspektive (S. Hagel)

III Homers Dichtung: Ilias und Odyssee Die Ilias: Inhalt und Aufbau (J. Latacz)
Die Odyssee: Inhalt und Aufbau (S. West)
Die Grossstruktur der Epen (E.-R. Schwinge)
Homers Erzählkunst (I. J.F. Jong)
Gott und Mensch bei Homer (A. Schmitt)
Die Abenteuer des Odysseus (A. Bierl)

IV Die Überlieferung der Homerischen Dichtung (M.L. West)

V Die Rezeption der Homerischen Dichtung 1. Die Rezeption in Griechenland
Die Rezeption der Homerischen Dichtung in der griechischen Bildkunst (P. Blome)
Die Rezeption der Homerischen Dichtung in der griechischen Literatur (A. Bierl)
Die Rezeption Homers durch die Philosophen (H. Flashar)
2. Die Rezeption in Etrurien
Zur Rezeption der Homerischen Dichtung in der frühen etruskischen Bildkunst (F.-W. von Hase)
3. Die Rezeption in Rom
Homer in der römischen Bildkunst (E. Simon)
Homer in der römischen Literatur (H. Harich-Schwarzbauer)
4. Die Rezeption in Byzanz
Die Homer Rezeption in Byzanz (C. Cupane)
5. Die Rezeption im Mittelalter
Die Rezeption der Homerischen Dichtung im lateinischen Mittelalter (F. Montanari)
6. Die Rezeption in der Neuzeit
Nähe und Ferne zu Homer: Die künsterische Rezeptions Homers in der Neuzeit (T. Greub)
Die literarische Rezeption Homers in der Neuzeit (B. Seidensticker)
Nenne mir Muse, den Vater der Massenkultur: Homer in Kommerz und Kino (M. M. Winkler)

Katalogteil Homer und seine Zeit
Die Person Homers
Die Kulturhöhe zur Zeit Homers
Geometrische Kunstwerke
Orientalisierende Kunstwerke
Die Schrift
Die Vorgeschichte der Homerischen Dichtung
Die mykenische Zeit (Spätbronzezeit)
Die Aufführungsorte
I. Homers Dichtung: Ilias und Odyssee
1.1 Darstellungen der vor der Ilias liegenden Ereignisse
1.2 Ilias: Handlungs-Darstellungen
1.3 Darstellungen der nach der Ilias liegenden Ereignisse
2. Odyssee: Handlungs-Darstellungen

VI. Überlieferung und Wirkung


1. Zeit der Helden. Die “dunklen Jahrhunderte” Griechenlands 1200-700 v. Chr. shown at the Badisches Landesmuseum Schloss Karlsruhe October 25 -February 15, 2009. Catalogue edited by Claus Hattler et al., Karlsruhe-Darmstadt 2008.