Homer and His Age
Andrew Lang

Part 1 out of 6

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[Illustration: ALGONQUINS UNDER SHIELD _Frontispiece_]



In _Homer and the Epic_, ten or twelve years ago, I examined
the literary objections to Homeric unity. These objections are
chiefly based on alleged discrepancies in the narrative, of which
no one poet, it is supposed, could have been guilty. The critics
repose, I venture to think, mainly on a fallacy. We may style it
the fallacy of "the analytical reader." The poet is expected to
satisfy a minutely critical reader, a personage whom he could not
foresee, and whom he did not address. Nor are "contradictory
instances" examined--that is, as Blass has recently reminded his
countrymen, Homer is put to a test which Goethe could not endure.
No long fictitious narrative can satisfy "the analytical reader."

The fallacy is that of disregarding the Homeric poet's audience.
He did not sing for Aristotle or for Aristarchus, or for modern
minute and reflective inquirers, but for warriors and ladies. He
certainly satisfied them; but if he does not satisfy microscopic
professors, he is described as a syndicate of many minstrels,
living in many ages.

In the present volume little is said in defence of the poet's
consistency. Several chapters on that point have been excised. The
way of living which Homer describes is examined, and an effort is
made to prove that he depicts the life of a single brief age of
culture. The investigation is compelled to a tedious minuteness,
because the points of attack--the alleged discrepancies in
descriptions of the various details of existence--are so minute as
to be all but invisible.

The unity of the Epics is not so important a topic as the methods
of criticism. They ought to be sober, logical, and self-
consistent. When these qualities are absent, Homeric criticism may
be described, in the recent words of Blass, as "a swamp haunted by
wandering fires, will o' the wisps."

In our country many of the most eminent scholars are no believers
in separatist criticism. Justly admiring the industry and
erudition of the separatists, they are unmoved by their arguments,
to which they do not reply, being convinced in their own minds.
But the number and perseverance of the separatists make on "the
general reader" the impression that Homeric unity is chose
_jugee_, that _scientia locuta est_, and has condemned
Homer. This is far from being the case: the question is still
open; "science" herself is subject to criticism; and new
materials, accruing yearly, forbid a tame acquiescence in hasty

May I say a word to the lovers of poetry who, in reading Homer,
feel no more doubt than in reading Milton that, on the whole, they
are studying a work of one age, by one author? Do not let them be
driven from their natural impression by the statement that Science
has decided against them. The certainties of the exact sciences
are one thing: the opinions of Homeric commentators are other and
very different things. Among all the branches of knowledge which
the Homeric critic should have at his command, only philology,
archaeology, and anthropology can be called "sciences"; and they
are not exact sciences: they are but skirmishing advances towards
the true solution of problems prehistoric and "proto-historic."

Our knowledge shifts from day to day; on every hand, in regard to
almost every topic discussed, we find conflict of opinions. There
is no certain scientific decision, but there is the possibility of
working in the scientific spirit, with breadth of comparison;
consistency of logic; economy of conjecture; abstinence from the
piling of hypothesis on hypothesis.

Nothing can be more hurtful to science than the dogmatic
assumption that the hypothesis most in fashion is scientific.

Twenty years ago, the philological theory of the Solar Myth was
preached as "scientific" in the books, primers, and lectures of
popular science. To-day its place knows it no more. The separatist
theories of the Homeric poems are not more secure than the Solar
Myth, "like a wave shall they pass and be passed."

When writing on "The Homeric House" (Chapter X.) I was
unacquainted with Mr. Percy Gardner's essay, "The Palaces of
Homer" (_Journal of Hellenic Studies_, vol. iii. pp. 264-
282). Mr. Gardner says that Dasent's plan of the Scandinavian Hall
"offers in most respects not likeness, but a striking contrast to
the early Greek hall." Mr. Monro, who was not aware of the
parallel which I had drawn between the Homeric and Icelandic
houses, accepted it on evidence more recent than that of Sir
George Dasent. Cf. his _Odyssey_, vol. ii. pp. 490-494.

Mr. R. W. Raper, of Trinity College, Oxford, has read the proof
sheets of this work with his habitual kindness, but is in no way
responsible for the arguments. Mr. Walter Leaf has also obliged me
by mentioning some points as to which I had not completely
understood his position, and I have tried as far as possible to
represent his ideas correctly. I have also received assistance
from the wide and minute Homeric lore of Mr. A. Shewan, of St.
Andrews, and have been allowed to consult other scholars on
various points.

The first portion of the chapter on "Bronze and Iron" appeared in
the Revue _Archeologique_ for April 1905, and the editor,
Monsieur Salomon Reinach, obliged me with a note on the bad iron
swords of the Celts as described by Polybius.

The design of men in three shields of different shapes, from a
Dipylon vase, is reproduced, with permission, from the British
Museum _Guide to the Antiquities of the Iron Age_; and the
shielded chessmen from Catalogue of Scottish Society of
Antiquaries. Thanks for the two ships with men under shield are
offered to the Rev. Mr. Browne, S.J., author of _Handbook of
Homeric Studies_ (Longmans). For the Mycenaean gold corslet I
thank Mr. John Murray (Schliemann's Mycenae and Tiryns), and for
all the other Mycenaean illustrations Messrs. Macmillan and Mr.
Leaf, publishers and author of Mr. Leaf's edition of the






























The aim of this book is to prove that the Homeric Epics, as
wholes, and apart from passages gravely suspected in antiquity,
present a perfectly harmonious picture of the entire life and
civilisation of one single age. The faint variations in the design
are not greater than such as mark every moment of culture, for in
all there is some movement; in all, cases are modified by
circumstances. If our contention be true, it will follow that the
poems themselves, as wholes, are the product of a single age, not
a mosaic of the work of several changeful centuries.

This must be the case--if the life drawn is harmonious, the
picture must be the work of a single epoch--for it is not in the
nature of early uncritical times that later poets should adhere,
or even try to adhere, to the minute details of law, custom,
opinion, dress, weapons, houses, and so on, as presented in
earlier lays or sagas on the same set of subjects. Even less are
poets in uncritical times inclined to "archaise," either by
attempting to draw fancy pictures of the manners of the past, or
by making researches in graves, or among old votive offerings in
temples, for the purpose of "preserving local colour." The idea of
such archaising is peculiar to modern times. To take an instance
much to the point, Virgil was a learned poet, famous for his
antiquarian erudition, and professedly imitating and borrowing
from Homer. Now, had Virgil worked as a man of to-day would work
on a poem of Trojan times, he would have represented his heroes as
using weapons of bronze. [Footnote: Looking back at my own poem,
_Helen of Troy_ (1883), I find that when the metal of a
weapon is mentioned the metal is bronze.] No such idea of
archaising occurred to the learned Virgil. It is "the iron" that
pierces the head of Remulus (_Aeneid_, IX. 633); it is "the
iron" that waxes warm in the breast of Antiphates (IX. 701).
Virgil's men, again, do not wear the great Homeric shield,
suspended by a baldric: AEneas holds up his buckler
(_clipeus_), borne "on his left arm" (X. 26 i). Homer,
familiar with no buckler worn on the left arm, has no such
description. When the hostile ranks are to be broken, in the
_Aeneid_ it is "with the iron" (X. 372), and so throughout.

The most erudite ancient poet, in a critical age of iron, does not
archaise in our modern fashion. He does not follow his model,
Homer, in his descriptions of shields, swords, and spears. But,
according to most Homeric critics, the later continuators of the
Greek Epics, about 800-540 B.C., are men living in an age of iron
weapons, and of round bucklers worn on the left arm. Yet, unlike
Virgil, they always give their heroes arms of bronze, and, unlike
Virgil (as we shall see), they do not introduce the buckler worn
on the left arm. They adhere conscientiously to the use of the
vast Mycenaean shield, in their time obsolete. Yet, by the theory,
in many other respects they innovate at will, introducing corslets
and greaves, said to be unknown to the beginners of the Greek
Epics, just as Virgil innovates in bucklers and iron weapons. All
this theory seems inconsistent, and no ancient poet, not even
Virgil, is an archaiser of the modern sort.

All attempts to prove that the Homeric poems are the work of
several centuries appear to rest on a double hypothesis: first,
that the later contributors to the _ILIAD_ kept a steady eye
on the traditions of the remote Achaean age of bronze; next, that
they innovated as much as they pleased.

Poets of an uncritical age do not archaise. This rule is
overlooked by the critics who represent the Homeric poems as a
complex of the work of many singers in many ages. For example,
Professor Percy Gardner, in his very interesting _New chapters
in Greek History_ (1892), carries neglect of the rule so far as
to suppose that the late Homeric poets, being aware that the
ancient heroes could not ride, or write, or eat boiled meat,
consciously and purposefully represented them as doing none of
these things. This they did "on the same principle on which a
writer of pastoral idylls in our own day would avoid the mention
of the telegraph or telephone." [Footnote: _Op. cit._, p.
142.] "A writer of our own day,"--there is the pervading fallacy!
It is only writers of the last century who practise this
archaeological refinement. The authors of _Beowulf_ and the
_Nibelungenlied_, of the Chansons de _Geste_ and of the
Arthurian romances, always describe their antique heroes and the
details of their life in conformity with the customs, costume, and
armour of their own much later ages.

But Mr. Leaf, to take another instance, remarks as to the lack of
the metal lead in the Epics, that it is mentioned in similes only,
as though the poet were aware the metal was unknown in the heroic
age. [Footnote: _Iliad_, Note on, xi. 237.] Here the poet is
assumed to be a careful but ill-informed archaeologist, who wishes
to give an accurate representation of the past. Lead, in fact, was
perfectly familiar to the Mycenaean prime. [Footnote: Tsountas and
Manatt, p. 73.] The critical usage of supposing that the ancients
were like the most recent moderns--in their archaeological
preoccupations--is a survival of the uncritical habit which
invariably beset old poets and artists. Ancient poets, of the
uncritical ages, never worked "on the same principle as a writer
in our day," as regards archaeological precision; at least we are
acquainted with no example of such accuracy.

Let us take another instance of the critical fallacy. The age of
the Achaean warriors, who dwelt in the glorious halls of Mycenae,
was followed, at an interval, by the age represented in the relics
found in the older tombs outside the Dipylon gate of Athens, an
age beginning, probably, about 900-850 B.C. The culture of this
"Dipylon age," a time of geometrical ornaments on vases, and of
human figures drawn in geometrical forms, lines, and triangles,
was quite unlike that of the Achaean age in many ways, for
example, in mode of burial and in the use of iron for weapons. Mr.
H. R. Hall, in his learned book, _The Oldest Civilisation of
Greece_ (1901), supposes the culture described in the Homeric
poems to be contemporary in Asia with that of this Dipylon period
in Greece. [Footnote: Op. cit., pp. 49, 222.] He says, "The
Homeric culture is evidently the culture of the poet's own days;
there is no attempt to archaise here...." They do not archaise as
to the details of life, but "the Homeric poets consciously and
consistently archaised, in regard to the political conditions of
continental Greece," in the Achaean times. They give "in all
probability a pretty accurate description" of the loose feudalism
of Mycenaean Greece. [Footnote: Op. cit., pp. 223, 225.]

We shall later show that this Homeric picture of a past political
and social condition of Greece is of vivid and delicate accuracy,
that it is drawn from the life, not constructed out of historical
materials. Mr. Hall explains the fact by "the conscious and
consistent" archaeological precision of the Asiatic poets of the
ninth century. Now to any one who knows early national poetry,
early uncritical art of any kind, this theory seems not easily
tenable. The difficulty of the theory is increased, if we suppose
that the Achaeans were the recent conquerors of the Mycenaeans.
Whether we regard the Achaeans as "Celts," with Mr. Ridgeway,
victors over an Aryan people, the Pelasgic Mycenaeans; or whether,
with Mr. Hall, we think that the Achaeans were the Aryan
conquerors of a non-Aryan people, the makers of the Mycenaean
civilisation; in the stress of a conquest, followed at no long
interval by an expulsion at the hands of Dorian invaders, there
would be little thought of archaising among Achaean poets.
[Footnote: Mr. Hall informs me that he no longer holds the opinion
that the poets archaised.]

A distinction has been made, it is true, between the poet and
other artists in this respect. Monsieur Perrot says, "The vase-
painter reproduces what he sees; while the epic poets endeavoured
to represent a distant past. If Homer gives swords of bronze to
his heroes of times gone by, it is because he knows that such were
the weapons of these heroes of long ago. In arming them with
bronze he makes use, in his way, of what we call "local
colour...." Thus the Homeric poet is a more conscientious
historian than Virgil!" [Footnote: La _Grete de l'Epopee_,
Perrot et Chipiez, p. 230.]

Now we contend that old uncritical poets no more sought for
antique "local colour" than any other artists did. M. Perrot
himself says with truth, "the _CHANSON DE ROLAND_, and all
the _Gestes_ of the same cycle explain for us the Iliad and
the Odyssey." [Footnote: op. cit., p. 5.] But the poet of the
_CHANSON DE ROLAND_ accoutres his heroes of old time in the
costume and armour of his own age, and the later poets of the same
cycle introduce the innovations of their time; they do not hunt
for "local colour" in the _CHANSON DE ROLAND_. The very words
"local colour" are a modern phrase for an idea that never occurred
to the artists of ancient uncritical ages. The Homeric poets, like
the painters of the Dipylon period, describe the details of life
as they see them with their own eyes. Such poets and artists never
have the fear of "anachronisms" before them. This, indeed, is
plain to the critics themselves, for they, detect anachronisms as
to land tenure, burial, the construction of houses, marriage
customs, weapons, and armour in the _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey_. These supposed anachronisms we examine later: if
they really exist they show that the poets were indifferent to
local colour and archaeological precision, or were incapable of
attaining to archaeological accuracy. In fact, such artistic
revival of the past in its habit as it lived is a purely modern

We are to show, then, that the Epics, being, as wholes, free from
such inevitable modifications in the picture of changing details
of life as uncritical authors always introduce, are the work of
the one age which they represent. This is the reverse of what has
long been, and still is, the current theory of Homeric criticism,
according to which the Homeric poems are, and bear manifest marks
of being, a mosaic of the poetry of several ages of change.

Till Wolf published his _Prolegomena_ to [blank space] (1795)
there was little opposition to the old belief that the
_ILIAD_ and Odyssey were, allowing for interpolations, the
work of one, or at most of two, poets. After the appearance of
Wolfs celebrated book, Homeric critics have maintained, generally
speaking, that the _ILIAD_ is either a collection of short
lays disposed in sequence in a late age, or that it contains an
ancient original "kernel" round which "expansions," made
throughout some centuries of changeful life, have accrued, and
have been at last arranged by a literary redactor or editor.

The latter theory is now dominant. It is maintained that the
_Iliad_ is a work of at least four centuries. Some of the
objections to this theory were obvious to Wolf himself--more
obvious to him than to his followers. He was aware, and some of
them are not, of the distinction between reading the _ILIAD_
as all poetic literature is naturally read, and by all authors is
meant to be read, for human pleasure, and studying it in the
spirit of "the analytical reader." As often as he read for
pleasure, he says, disregarding the purely fanciful "historical
conditions" which he invented for Homer; as often as he yielded
himself to that running stream of action and narration; as often
as he considered the _harmony_ of _colour_ and of
characters in the Epic, no man could be more angry with his own
destructive criticism than himself. Wolf ceased to be a Wolfian
whenever he placed himself at the point of view of the reader or
the listener, to whom alone every poet makes his appeal.

But he deemed it his duty to place himself at another point of
view, that of the scientific literary historian, the historian of
a period concerning whose history he could know nothing. "How
could the thing be possible?" he asked himself. "How could a long
poem like the _Iliad_ come into existence in the historical
circumstances?" [Footnote, exact place in paragraph unknown:
Preface to Homer, p, xxii., 1794.]. Wolf was unaware that he did
not know what the historical circumstances were. We know how
little we know, but we do know more than Wolf. He invented the
historical circumstances of the supposed poet. They were, he said,
like those of a man who should build a large ship in an inland
place, with no sea to launch it upon. The _Iliad_ was the
large ship; the sea was the public. Homer could have no
_readers_, Wolf said, in an age that, like the old hermit of
Prague, "never saw pen and ink," had no knowledge of letters; or,
if letters were dimly known, had never applied them to literature.
In such circumstances no man could have a motive for composing a
long poem. [Footnote: _Prolegomena to the Iliad_, p. xxvi.]

Yet if the original poet, "Homer," could make "the greater part
of the songs," as Wolf admitted, what physical impossibility stood
in the way of his making the whole? Meanwhile, the historical
circumstances, as conceived of by Wolf, were imaginary. He did not
take the circumstances of the poet as described in the Odyssey.
Here a king or prince has a minstrel, honoured as were the
minstrels described in the ancient Irish books of law. His duty is
to entertain the prince and his family and guests by singing epic
chants after supper, and there is no reason why his poetic
narratives should be brief, but rather he has an opportunity that
never occurred again till the literary age of Greece for producing
a long poem, continued from night to night. In the later age, in
the Asiatic colonies and in Greece, the rhapsodists, competing for
prizes at feasts, or reciting to a civic crowd, were limited in
time and gave but snatches of poetry. It is in this later civic
age that a poet without readers would have little motive for
building Wolfs great ship of song, and scant chance of launching
it to any profitable purpose. To this point we return; but when
once critics, following Wolf, had convinced themselves that a long
early poem was impossible, they soon found abundant evidence that
it had never existed.

They have discovered discrepancies of which, they say, no one sane
poet could have been guilty. They have also discovered that the
poems had not, as Wolf declared, "one 'harmony of colour" (_unus
color_). Each age, they say, during which the poems were
continued, lent its own colour. The poets, by their theory, now
preserved the genuine tradition of things old; cremation, cairn
and urn burial; the use of the chariot in war; the use of bronze
for weapons; a peculiar stage of customary law; a peculiar form of
semi-feudal society; a peculiar kind of house. But again, by a
change in the theory, the poets introduced later novelties; later
forms of defensive armour; later modes of burial; later religious
and speculative beliefs; a later style of house; an advanced stage
of law; modernisms in grammar and language.

The usual position of critics in this matter is stated by Helbig;
and we are to contend that the theory is contradicted by all
experience of ancient literatures, and is in itself the reverse of
consistent. "The _artists_ of antiquity," says Helbig, with
perfect truth, "had no idea of archaeological studies.... They
represented legendary scenes in conformity with the spirit of
their own age, and reproduced the arms and implements and costume
that they saw around them." [Footnote: _L'Epopee Homerique_,
p. 5; _Homerische Epos_, p. 4.]

Now a poet is an _artist_, like another, and he, too--no
less than the vase painter or engraver of gems--in dealing with
legends of times past, represents (in an uncritical age) the arms,
utensils, costume, and the religious, geographical, legal, social,
and political ideas of his own period. We shall later prove that
this is true by examples from the early mediaeval epic poetry of

It follows that if the _Iliad_ is absolutely consistent and
harmonious in its picture of life, and of all the accessories of
life, the _Iliad_ is the work of a single age, of a single
stage of culture, the poet describing his own environment. But
Helbig, on the other hand, citing Wilamowitz Moellendorff,
declares that the _Iliad_--the work of four centuries, he
says--maintains its unity of colour by virtue of an uninterrupted
poetical tradition. [Footnote: _Homerische Untersuchungen_,
p. 292; _Homerische Epos_, p. I.] If so, the poets must have
archaeologised, must have kept asking themselves, "Is this or that
detail true to the past?" which artists in uncritical ages never
do, as we have been told by Helbig. They must have carefully
pondered the surviving old Achaean lays, which "were born when the
heroes could not read, or boil flesh, or back a steed." By
carefully observing the earliest lays the late poets, in times of
changed manners, "could avoid anachronisms by the aid of
tradition, which gave them a very exact idea of the epic heroes."
Such is the opinion of Wilamowitz Moellendorff. He appears to
regard the tradition as keeping the later poets in the old way
automatically, not consciously, but this, we also learn from
Helbig, did not occur. The poets often wandered from the way.
[Footnote: Helbig, _Homerische Epos,_ pp. 2, 3.] Thus old
Mycenaean lays, if any existed, would describe the old Mycenaean
mode of burial. The Homeric poet describes something radically
different. We vainly ask for proof that in any early national
literature known to us poets have been true to the colour and
manners of the remote times in which their heroes moved, and of
which old minstrels sang. The thing is without example: of this
proofs shall be offered in abundance.

Meanwhile, the whole theory which regards the _Iliad_ as the
work of four or five centuries rests on the postulate that poets
throughout these centuries did what such poets never do, kept true
to the details of a life remote from their own, and also did not.

For Helbig does not, after all, cleave to his opinion. On the
other hand, he says that the later poets of the _Iliad_ did
not cling to tradition. "They allowed themselves to be influenced
by their own environment: _this influence betrays ITSELF IN THE
descriptions of DETAILS_.... The rhapsodists," (reciters,
supposed to have altered the poems at will), "did not fail to
interpolate relatively recent elements into the oldest parts of
the Epic." [Footnote: _Homerische Epos,_ p. 2.]

At this point comes in a complex inconsistency. The Tenth Book of
the _Iliad_, thinks Helbig--in common with almost all
critics--"is one of the most recent lays of the _Iliad_." But
in this recent lay (say of the eighth or seventh century) the poet
describes the Thracians as on a level of civilisation with the
Achaeans, and, indeed, as even more luxurious, wealthy, and
refined in the matter of good horses, glorious armour, and
splendid chariots. But, by the time of the Persian wars, says
Helbig, the Thracians were regarded by the Greeks as rude
barbarians, and their military equipment was totally un-Greek.
They did not wear helmets, but caps of fox-skin. They had no body
armour; their shields were small round bucklers; their weapons
were bows and daggers. These customs could not, at the time of the
Persian wars, be recent innovations in Thrace. [Footnote:
Herodotus, vii. 75.]

Had the poet of _ILIAD_, Book X., known the Thracians in
_this_ condition, says Helbig, as he was fond of details of
costume and arms, he would have certainly described their fox-skin
caps, bows, bucklers, and so forth. He would not here have
followed the Epic tradition, which represented the Thracians as
makers of great swords and as splendidly armed charioteers. His
audience had met the Thracians in peace and war, and would
contradict the poet's description of them as heavily armed
charioteers. It follows, therefore, that the latest poets, such as
the author of Book X., did not introduce recent details, those of
their own time, but we have just previously been told that to do
so was their custom in the description of details.

Now Studniczka [Footnote: _Homerische Epos, pp. 7-11, cf._
Note I; _Zeitschrift fur die Oestern Gymnasien_, 1886, p.
195.] explains the picture of the Thracians in _Iliad_, Book
X., on Helbig's _other_ principle, namely, that the very late
author of the Tenth Book merely conforms to the conventional
tradition of the Epic, adheres to the model set in ancient
Achaean, or rather ancient Ionian times, and scrupulously
preserved by the latest poets--that is, when the latest poets do
not bring in the new details of their own age. But Helbig will not
accept his own theory in this case, whence does it follow that the
author of the Tenth Book must, in his opinion, have lived in
Achaean times, and described the Thracians as they then were,
charioteers, heavily armed, not light-clad archers? If this is so,
we ask how Helbig can aver that the Tenth Book is one of the
latest parts of the _Iliad?_

In studying the critics who hold that the _Iliad_ is the
growth of four centuries--say from the eleventh to the seventh
century B.C.--no consistency is to be discovered; the earth is
never solid beneath our feet. We find now that the poets are true
to tradition in the details of ancient life--now that the poets
introduce whatever modern details they please. The late poets have
now a very exact knowledge of the past; now, the late poets know
nothing about the past, or, again, some of the poets are fond of
actual and very minute archaeological research! The theory shifts
its position as may suit the point to be made at the moment by the
critic. All is arbitrary, and it is certain that logic demands a
very different method of inquiry. If Helbig and other critics of
his way of thinking mean that in the _Iliad_ (1) there are
parts of genuine antiquity; other parts (2) by poets who, with
stern accuracy, copied the old modes; other parts (3) by poets who
tried to copy but failed; with passages (4) by poets who
deliberately innovated; and passages (5) by poets who drew
fanciful pictures of the past "from their inner consciousness,"
while, finally (6), some poets made minute antiquarian researches;
and if the argument be that the critics can detect these six
elements, then we are asked to repose unlimited confidence in
critical powers of discrimination. The critical standard becomes
arbitrary and subjective.

It is our effort, then, in the following pages to show that the
_unus_ color of Wolf does pervade the Epics, that recent
details are not often, if ever, interpolated, that the poems
harmoniously represent one age, and that a brief age, of culture;
that this effect cannot, in a thoroughly uncritical period, have
been deliberately aimed at and produced by archaeological
learning, or by sedulous copying of poetic tradition, or by the
scientific labours of an editor of the sixth century B.C. We shall
endeavour to prove, what we have already indicated, that the
hypotheses of expansion are not self-consistent, or in accordance
with what is known of the evolution of early national poetry. The
strongest part, perhaps, of our argument is to rest on our
interpretation of archaeological evidence, though we shall not
neglect the more disputable or less convincing contentions of
literary criticism.



A theorist who believes that the Homeric poems are the growth of
four changeful centuries, must present a definite working
hypothesis as to how they escaped from certain influences of the
late age in which much of them is said to have been composed. We
must first ask to what manner of audiences did the poets sing, in
the alleged four centuries of the evolution of the Epics. Mr.
Leaf, as a champion of the theory of ages of "expansion," answers
that "the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ are essentially, and
above all, Court poems. They were composed to be sung in the
palaces of a ruling aristocracy ... the poems are aristocratic and
courtly, not popular." [Footnote: Companion to the _Iliad_,
pp. 2,8. 1892.] They are not _Volkspoesie_; they are not
ballads. "It is now generally recognised that this conception is
radically false."

These opinions, in which we heartily agree--there never was such a
thing as a "popular" Epic--were published fourteen years ago. Mr.
Leaf, however, would not express them with regard to "our"
_Iliad_ and Odyssey, because, in his view, a considerable
part of the _Iliad_, as it stands, was made, not by Court
bards in the Achaean courts of Europe, not for an audience of
noble warriors and dames, but by wandering minstrels in the later
Ionian colonies of Asia. They did not chant for a military
aristocracy, but for the enjoyment of town and country folk at
popular festivals. [Footnote: Iliad, vol. i. p. xvi. 1900.] The
poems were _begun_, indeed, he thinks, for "a wealthy
aristocracy living on the product of their lands," in European
Greece; were begun by contemporary court minstrels, but were
continued, vastly expanded, and altered to taste by wandering
singers and reciting rhapsodists, who amused the holidays of a
commercial, expansive, and bustling Ionian democracy. [Footnote:
_Companion to the Iliad_, p. II.]

We must suppose that, on this theory, the later poets pleased a
commercial democracy by keeping up the tone that had delighted an
old land-owning military aristocracy. It is not difficult,
however, to admit this as possible, for the poems continued to be
admired in all ages of Greece and under every form of society. The
real question is, would the modern poets be the men to keep up a
tone some four or five centuries old, and to be true, if they were
true, to the details of the heroic age? "It is not beyond the
bounds of possibility that some part of the most primitive
_Iliad_ may have been actually sung by the court minstrel in
the palace whose ruins can still be seen in Mycenae." [Footnote:
Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. xv.] But, by the expansionist
theory, even the oldest parts of our _Iliad_ are now full of
what we may call quite recent Ionian additions, full of late
retouches, and full, so to speak, of omissions of old parts.

Through four or five centuries, by the hypothesis, every singer
who could find an audience was treating as much as he knew of a
vast body of ancient lays exactly as he pleased, adding here,
lopping there, altering everywhere. Moreover, these were centuries
full of change. The ancient Achaean palaces were becoming the
ruins which we still behold. The old art had faded, and then
fallen under the disaster of the Dorian conquest. A new art, or a
recrudescence of earlier art, very crude and barbaric, had
succeeded, and was beginning to acquire form and vitality. The
very scene of life was altered: the new singers and listeners
dwelt on the Eastern side of the Aegean. Knights no longer, as in
Europe, fought from chariots: war was conducted by infantry, for
the most part, with mounted auxiliaries. With the disappearance of
the war chariot the huge Mycenaean shields had vanished or were
very rarely used. The early vase painters do not, to my knowledge,
represent heroes as fighting from war chariots. They had lost
touch with that method. Fighting men now carried relatively small
round bucklers, and iron was the metal chiefly employed for
swords, spears, and arrow points. Would the new poets, in
deference to tradition, abstain from mentioning cavalry, or small
bucklers, or iron swords and spears? or would they avoid puzzling
their hearers by speaking of obsolete and unfamiliar forms of
tactics and of military equipment? Would they therefore sing of
things familiar--of iron weapons, small round shields, hoplites,
and cavalry? We shall see that confused and self-contradictory
answers are given by criticism to all these questions by scholars
who hold that the Epics are not the product of one, but of many

There were other changes between the ages of the original minstrel
and of the late successors who are said to have busied themselves
in adding to, mutilating, and altering his old poem. Kings and
courts had passed away; old Ionian myths and religious usages,
unknown to the Homeric poets, had come out into the light;
commerce and pleasure and early philosophies were the chief
concerns of life. Yet the poems continued to be aristocratic in
manners; and, in religion and ritual, to be pure from
recrudescences of savage poetry and superstition, though the
Ionians "did not drop the more primitive phases of belief which
had clung to them; these rose to the surface with the rest of the
marvellous Ionic genius, and many an ancient survival was
enshrined in the literature or mythology of Athens which had long
passed out of all remembrance at Mycenas." [Footnote: _Companion
to the Iliad_, p. 7.]

Amazing to say, none of these "more primitive phases of belief,"
none of the recrudescent savage magic, was intruded by the late
Ionian poets into the Iliad which they continued, by the theory.
Such phases of belief were, indeed, by their time popular, and
frequently appeared in the Cyclic poems on the Trojan war;
continuations of the _ILIAD_, which were composed by Ionian
authors at the same time as much of the _ILIAD_ itself (by
the theory) was composed. The authors of these Cyclic poems--
authors contemporary with the makers of much of the _ILIAD_--
_were_ eminently "un-Homeric" in many respects. [Footnote:
_Cf_. Monro, _The Cyclic Poets; Odyssey_, vol. ii, pp.
342-384.] They had ideas very different from those of the authors
of the _Iliad_ and _ODYSSEY_, as these ideas have
reached us.

Helbig states this curious fact, that the Homeric poems are free
from many recent or recrudescent ideas common in other Epics
composed during the later centuries of the supposed four hundred
years of Epic growth. [Footnote: _Homerische Epos_, p. 3.]
Thus a signet ring was mentioned in the _Ilias Puma_, and
there are no rings in _Iliad_ or _Odyssey_. But Helbig
does not perceive the insuperable difficulty which here encounters
his hypothesis. He remarks: "In certain poems which were grouping
themselves around the _Iliad and _Odyssey, we meet data
absolutely opposed to the conventional style of the Epic." He
gives three or four examples of perfectly un-Homeric ideas
occurring in Epics of the eighth to seventh centuries, B.C., and a
large supply of such cases can be adduced. But Helbig does not ask
how it happened that, if poets of these centuries had lost touch
with the Epic tradition, and had wandered into a new region of
thought, as they had, examples of their notions do not occur in
the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. By his theory these poems
were being added to and altered, even in their oldest portions, at
the very period when strange fresh, or old and newly revived
fancies were flourishing. If so, how were the _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey_, unlike the Cyclic poems, kept uncontaminated, as
they confessedly were, by the new romantic ideas?

Here is the real difficulty. Cyclic poets of the eighth and
seventh centuries had certainly lost touch with the Epic
tradition; their poems make that an admitted fact. Yet poets of
the eighth to seventh centuries were, by the theory, busily adding
to and altering the ancient lays of the _Iliad_. How did
_they_ abstain from the new or revived ideas, and from the
new _genre_ of romance? Are we to believe that one set of
late Ionian poets--they who added to and altered the Iliad--were
true to tradition, while another contemporary set of Ionian poets,
the Cyclics--authors of new Epics on Homeric themes--are known to
have quite lost touch with the Homeric taste, religion, and
ritual? The reply will perhaps be a Cyclic poet said, "Here I am
going to compose quite a new poem about the old heroes. I shall
make them do and think and believe as I please, without reference
to the evidence of the old poems." But, it will have to be added,
the rhapsodists of 800-540 B.C., and the general editor of the
latter date, thought, _we_ are continuing an old set of
lays, and we must be very careful in adhering to manners, customs,
and beliefs as described by our predecessors. For instance, the
old heroes had only bronze, no iron,--and then the rhapsodists
forgot, and made iron a common commodity in the _Iliad_.
Again, the rhapsodists knew that the ancient heroes had no
corslets--the old lays, we learn, never spoke of corslets--but
they made them wear corslets of much splendour. [Footnote: The
reader must remember that the view of the late poets as careful
adherents of tradition in usages and ideas only obtains
_sometimes_; at others the critics declare that
archaeological precision is _not_ preserved, and that the
Ionic continuators introduced, for example, the military gear of
their own period into a poem which represents much older weapons
and equipments.] This theory does not help us. In an uncritical
age poets could not discern that their genre of romance and
religion was alien from that of Homer.

To return to the puzzle about the careful and precise continuators
of the _Iliad_, as contrasted with their heedless
contemporaries, the authors of the Cyclic poems. How "non-Homeric"
the authors of these Cyclic poems were, before and after 660 B.C.,
we illustrate from examples of their left hand backslidings and
right hand fallings off. They introduced (1) The Apotheosis of the
Dioscuri, who in Homer (_Iliad_, III. 243) are merely dead
men (_Cypria_). (2) Story of Iphigenia _Cypria_. (3)
Story of Palamedes, who is killed when angling by Odysseus and
Diomede (Cypria).

Homer's heroes never fish, except in stress of dire necessity, in
the Odyssey, and Homer's own Diomede and Odysseus would never
stoop to assassinate a companion when engaged in the contemplative
man's recreation. We here see the heroes in late degraded form as
on the Attic stage. (4) The Cyclics introduce Helen as daughter of
Nemesis, and describe the flight of Nemesis from Zeus in various
animal forms, a Marchen of a sort not popular with Homer; an
Ionic Marchen, Mr. Leaf would say. There is nothing like this in
the Iliad and Odyssey. (5) They call the son of Achilles, not
Neoptolemus, as Homer does, but Pyrrhus. (6) They represent the
Achaean army as obtaining supplies through three magically gifted
maidens, who produce corn, wine, and oil at will, as in fairy
tales. Another Ionic non-Achaean Marchen! They bring in ghosts of
heroes dead and buried. Such ghosts, in Homer's opinion, were
impossible if the dead had been cremated. All these non-Homeric
absurdities, save the last, are from the Cypria, dated by Sir
Richard Jebb about 776 B.C., long before the Odyssey was put into
shape, namely, after 660 B. C. in his opinion. Yet the alleged
late compiler of the Odyssey, in the seventh century, never
wanders thus from the Homeric standard in taste. What a skilled
archaeologist he must have been! The author of the Cypria knew the
Iliad, [Footnote: Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. p. 354.] but his
knowledge could not keep him true to tradition. (7) In the
AEthiopis (about 776 B.C.) men are made immortal after death, and
are worshipped as heroes, an idea foreign to Iliad and Odyssey.
(8) There is a savage ritual of purification from blood shed by a
homicide (compare Eumenides, line 273). This is unheard of in
Iliad and Odyssey, though familiar to Aeschylus. (9) Achilles,
after death, is carried to the isle of Leuke. (10) The fate of
Ilium, in the Cyclic Little _Iliad_, hangs on the Palladium,
of which nothing is known in _Iliad_ or _Odyssey_. The
_Little Iliad_ is dated about 700 B.C. (11) The _Nostoi_
mentions Molossians, not named by Homer (which is a trifle); it
also mentions the Asiatic city of Colophon, an Ionian colony,
which is not a trivial self-betrayal on the part of the poet. He
is dated about 750 B.C.

Thus, more than a century before the _Odyssey_ received its
final form, after 660 B.C., from the hands of one man (according
to the theory), the other Ionian poets who attempted Epic were
betraying themselves as non-Homeric on every hand. [Footnote:
Monro, _Odyssey_, vol. ii. pp. 347-383.]

Our examples are but a few derived from the brief notices of the
Cyclic poets' works, as mentioned in ancient literature; these
poets probably, in fact, betrayed themselves constantly. But their
contemporaries, the makers of late additions to the
_Odyssey_, and the later mosaic worker who put it together,
never betrayed themselves to anything like the fatal extent of
anachronism exhibited by the Cyclic poets. How, if the true
ancient tone, taste, manners, and religion were lost, as the
Cyclic poets show that they were, did the contemporary Ionian
poets or rhapsodists know and preserve the old manner?

The best face we can put on the matter is to say that all the
Cyclic poets were recklessly independent of tradition, while all
men who botched at the _Iliad_ were very learned, and very
careful to maintain harmony in their pictures of life and manners,
except when they introduced changes in burial, bride-price,
houses, iron, greaves, and corslets, all of them things, by the
theory, modern, and when they sang in modern grammar.

Yet despite this conscientiousness of theirs, most of the many
authors of our _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ were, by the
theory, strolling irresponsible rhapsodists, like the later
_jongleurs_ of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in
mediaeval France. How could these strollers keep their modern
Ionian ideas, or their primitive, recrudescent phases of belief,
out of their lays, as far as they _did_ keep them out, while
the contemporary authors of the _Cypria_, _The Sack of Ilios_,
and other Cyclic poets were full of new ideas, legends, and
beliefs, or primitive notions revived, and, save when revived,
quite obviously late and quite un-Homeric in any case?

The difficulty is the greater if the Cyclic poems were long poems,
with one author to each Epic. Such authors were obviously men of
ambition; they produced serious works _de longue haleine_. It
is from them that we should naturally expect conservative and
studious adhesion to the traditional models. From casual strollers
like the rhapsodists and chanters at festivals, we look for
nothing of the sort. _They_ might be expected to introduce
great feats done by sergeants and privates, so to speak--men of
the nameless [Greek: laos], the host, the foot men--who in
Homer are occasionally said to perish of disease or to fall under
the rain of arrows, but are never distinguished by name. The
strollers, it might be thought, would also be the very men to
introduce fairy tales, freaks of primitive Ionian myth,
discreditable anecdotes of the princely heroes, and references to
the Ionian colonies.

But it is not so; the serious, laborious authors of the long
Cyclic poems do such un-Homeric things as these; the gay,
irresponsible strolling singers of a lay here and a lay there--
lays now incorporated in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_--
scrupulously avoid such faults. They never even introduce a signet
ring. These are difficulties in the theory of the _Iliad_ as
a patchwork by many hands, in many ages, which nobody explains;
which, indeed, nobody seems to find difficult. Yet the difficulty
is insuperable. Even if we take refuge with Wilamowitz in the idea
that the Cyclic and Homeric poems were at first mere protoplasm of
lays of many ages, and that they were all compiled, say in the
sixth century, into so many narratives, we come no nearer to
explaining why the tone, taste, and ideas of two such narratives--
Illiad and Odyssey--are confessedly distinct from the tone, taste,
and ideas of all the others. The Cyclic poems are certainly the
production of a late and changed age? [Footnote: For what manner
of audience, if not for readers, the Cyclic poems were composed is
a mysterious question.] The _Iliad_ is not in any degree--
save perhaps in a few interpolated passages--touched by the
influences of that late age. It is not a complex of the work of
four incompatible centuries, as far as this point is concerned--
the point of legend, religion, ritual, and conception of heroic



Whosoever holds that the Homeric poems were evolved out of the
lays of many men, in many places, during many periods of culture,
must present a consistent and logical hypothesis as to how they
attained their present plots and forms. These could not come by
accident, even if the plots are not good--as all the world held
that they were, till after Wolf's day--but very bad, as some
critics now assert. Still plot and form, beyond the power of
chance to produce, the poems do possess. Nobody goes so far as to
deny that; and critics make hypotheses explanatory of the fact
that a single ancient "kernel" of some 2500 lines, a "kernel"
altered at will by any one who pleased during four centuries,
became a constructive whole. If the hypotheses fail to account for
the fact, we have the more reason to believe that the poems are
the work of one age, and, mainly, of one man.

In criticising Homeric criticism as it is to-day, we cannot do
better than begin by examining the theories of Mr. Leaf which are
offered by him merely as "a working hypothesis." His most erudite
work is based on a wide knowledge of German Homeric speculation,
of the exact science of Grammar, of archaeological discoveries,
and of manuscripts. [Footnote: The Iliad. Macmillan & Co. 1900,
1902.] His volumes are, I doubt not, as they certainly deserve to
be, on the shelves of every Homeric student, old or young, and
doubtless their contents reach the higher forms in schools, though
there is reason to suppose that, about the unity of Homer,
schoolboys remain conservative.

In this book of more than 1200 pages Mr. Leaf's space is mainly
devoted to textual criticism, philology, and pure scholarship, but
his Introductions, Notes, and Appendices also set forth his mature
ideas about the Homeric problem in general. He has altered some of
his opinions since the publication of his _Companion to the
Iliad_(1892), but the main lines of his old system are, except
on one crucial point, unchanged. His theory we shall try to state
and criticise; in general outline it is the current theory of
separatist critics, and it may fairly be treated as a good example
of such theories.

The system is to the following effect: Greek tradition, in the
classical period, regarded the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ as
the work of one man, Homer, a native of one or other of the Ionian
colonies of Asia Minor. But the poems show few obvious signs of
origin in Asia. They deal with dwellers, before the Dorian
invasion (which the poet never alludes to), on the continent of
Europe and in Crete. [Footnote: If the poet sang after the tempest
of war that came down with the Dorians from the north, he would
probably have sought a topic in the Achaean exploits and sorrows
of that period. The Dorians, not the Trojans, would have been the
foes. The epics of France of the eleventh and twelfth centuries
dwell, not on the real victories of the remote Charlemagne so much
as on the disasters of Aliscans and Roncesvaux--defeats at Saracen
hands, Saracens being the enemies of the twelfth-century poets. No
Saracens, in fact, fought at Roncesvaux.] The lays are concerned
with "good old times"; presumably between 1500 and 1100 B.C. Their
pictures of the details of life harmonise more with what we know
of the society of that period from the evidence of buildings and
recent excavations, than with what we know of the life and the
much more rude and barbaric art of the so-called "Dipylon" period
of "geometrical" ornament considerably later. In the Dipylon age
though the use of iron, even for swords (made on the lines of the
old bronze sword), was familiar, art was on a most barbaric level,
not much above the Bed Indian type, as far, at least, as painted
vases bear witness. The human figure is designed as in Tommy
Traddles's skeletons; there is, however, some crude but promising
idea of composition.

The picture of life in the Homeric poems, then, is more like that
of, say, 1500-1100 B.C. than of, say, 1000-850 B.C. in Mr. Leaf's
opinion. Certainly Homer describes a wealthy aristocracy, subject
to an Over-Lord, who rules, by right divine, from "golden
Mycenae." We hear of no such potentate in Ionia. Homer's accounts
of contemporary art seem to be inspired by the rich art generally
dated about 1500-1200. Yet there are "many traces of apparent
anachronism," of divergence from the more antique picture of life.
In these divergences are we to recognise the picture of a later
development of the ancient existence of 1500-1200 B.C.? Or have
elements of the life of a much later age of Greece (say, 800-550
B.C.) been consciously or unconsciously introduced by the late
poets? Here Mr. Leaf recognises a point on which we have insisted,
and must keep insisting, for it is of the first importance. "It is
_a priori_ the most probable" supposition that, "in an
uncritical age," poets do _not_ "reproduce the circumstances
of the old time," but "only clothe the old tale in the garb of
their own days." Poets in an uncritical age always, in our
experience, "clothe old tales with the garb of their own time,"
but Mr. Leaf thinks that, in the case of the Homeric poems, this
idea "is not wholly borne out by the facts."

In fact, Mr. Leaf's hypothesis, like Helbig's, exhibits a come-
and-go between the theory that his late poets clung close to
tradition and so kept true to ancient details of life, and the
theory that they did quite the reverse in many cases. Of this
frequent examples will occur. He writes, "The Homeric period is
certainly later than the shaft tombs" (discovered at Mycenae by
Dr. Schliemann), "but it does not necessarily follow that it is
post-Mycenaean. It is quite possible that certain notable
differences between the poems and the monuments" (of Mycenae) "in
burial, for instance, and in women's dress may be due to changes
which arose within the Mycenaean age itself, in that later part of
it of which our knowledge is defective--almost as defective as it
is of the subsequent 'Dipylon' period. On the whole, the
resemblance to the typical Mycenaean culture is more striking than
the difference." [Footnote: Leaf, Iliad, vol. i. pp. xiii.-xv.

So far Mr. Leaf states precisely the opinion for which we argue.
The Homeric poems describe an age later than that of the famous
tombs--so rich in relics--of the Mycenaean acropolis, and earlier
than the tombs of the Dipylon of Athens. The poems thus spring out
of an age of which, except from the poems themselves, we know
little or nothing, because, as is shown later, no cairn burials
answering to the frequent Homeric descriptions have ever been
discovered--so relics corroborating Homeric descriptions are to
seek. But the age attaches itself in many ways to the age of the
Mycenaean tombs, while, in our opinion, it stands quite apart from
the post-Dorian culture.

Where we differ from Mr. Leaf is in believing that the poems, as
wholes, were composed in that late Mycenaean period of which, from
material remains, we know very little; that "much new" was not
added, as he thinks, in "the Ionian development" which lasted
perhaps "from the ninth century B.C. to the seventh." We cannot
agree with Mr. Leaf, when he, like Helbig, thinks that much of the
detail of the ancient life in the poems had early become so
"stereotyped" that no continuator, however late, dared
"intentionally to sap" the type, "though he slipped from time to
time into involuntary anachronism." Some poets are also asserted
to indulge in _voluntary_ anachronism when, as Mr. Leaf
supposes, they equip the ancient warriors with corslets and
greaves and other body armour of bronze such as, in his opinion,
the old heroes never knew, such as never were mentioned in the
oldest parts or "kernel" of the poems. Thus the traditional
details of Mycenaean life sometimes are regarded as "stereotyped"
in poetic tradition; sometimes as subject to modern alterations of
a sweeping and revolutionary kind.

As to deliberate adherence to tradition by the poets, we have
proved that the Cyclic epic poets of 800-660 B.C. wandered widely
from the ancient models. If, then, every minstrel or rhapsodist
who, anywhere, added at will to the old "kernel" of the
_Achilles_ was, so far as he was able, as conscientiously
precise in his stereotyped archaeological details as Mr. Leaf
sometimes supposes, the fact is contrary to general custom in such
cases. When later poets in an uncritical age take up and rehandle
the poetic themes of their predecessors, they always give to the
stories "a new costume," as M. Gaston Paris remarks in reference
to thirteenth century dealings with French epics of the eleventh
century. But, in the critics' opinion, the late rehandlers of old
Achaean lays preserved the archaic modes of life, war, costume,
weapons, and so forth, with conscientious care, except in certain
matters to be considered later, when they deliberately did the
very reverse. Sometimes the late poets devoutly follow tradition.
Sometimes they deliberately innovate. Sometimes they pedantically
"archaise," bringing in genuine, but by their time forgotten,
Mycenaean things, and criticism can detect their doings in each

Though the late continuators of the _Iliad_ were able,
despite certain inadvertencies, to keep up for some four centuries
in Asia the harmonious picture of ancient Achaean life and society
in Europe, critics can distinguish four separate strata, the work
of many different ages, in the _Iliad_. Of the first stratum
composed in Europe, say about 1300-1150 B.C. (I give a conjectural
date under all reserves), the topic was _THE Wrath of
ACHILLES_. Of this poem, in Mr. Leaf's opinion, (a) the First
Book and fifty lines of the Second Book remain intact or, perhaps,
are a blend of two versions. (b) The _Valour of Agamemnon_
and _Defeat of THE Achaeans_. Of this there are portions in
Book XI., but they were meddled with, altered, and generally
doctored, "down to the latest period," namely, the age of
Pisistratus in Athens, the middle of the sixth century B.C. (c)
The fight in which, after their defeat, the Achaeans try to save
the ships from the torch of Hector, and the _Valour of
Patroclus_ (but some critics do not accept this), with his
death (XV., XVI. in parts). (d) Some eighty lines on the _ARMING
OF ACHILLES_ (XIX.). (e) Perhaps an incident or two in Books
XX., XXI. (f) The _Slaying OF_by Achilles, in Books XXI.,
XXII. (but some of the learned will not admit this, and we shall,
unhappily, have to prove that, if Mr. Leaf's principles be
correct, we really know nothing about the _SLAYING OF HECTOR_
in its original form).

Of these six elements only did the original poem consist, Mr. Leaf
thinks; a rigid critic will reject as original even the _Valour
of Patroclus_ and the _DEATH OF HECTOR_, but Mr. Leaf
refuses to go so far as that. The original poem, as detected by
him, is really "the work of a single poet, perhaps the greatest in
all the world's history." If the original poet did no more than is
here allotted to him, especially if he left out the purpose of
Zeus and the person of Thetis in Book I., we do not quite
understand his unapproachable greatness. He must certainly have
drawn a rather commonplace Achilles, as we shall see, and we
confess to preferring the _Iliad_ as it stands.

The brief narrative cut out of the mass by Mr. Leaf, then, was the
genuine old original poem or "kernel." What we commonly call the
_ILIAD_, on the other hand, is, by his theory, a thing of
shreds and patches, combined in a manner to be later described.
The blend, we learn, has none of the masterly unity of the old
original poem. Meanwhile, as criticism of literary composition is
a purely literary question, critics who differ from Mr. Leaf have
a right to hold that the _Iliad_ as it stands contains, and
always did contain, a plot of masterly perfection. We need not
attend here so closely to Mr. Leaf's theory in the matter of the
First Expansions, (2) and the Second Expansions, (3) but the
latest Expansions (4) give the account of _The EMBASSY_ to
_Achilles_ with his refusal of _Agamemnon's
APOLOGY_(Book IX.), the [blank space] (Book XXIV.), the
Games_ of _Patroclus_ (XXIII.). In all these parts of the
poem there are, we learn, countless alterations, additions, and
expansions, with, last of all, many transitional passages, "the
work of the editor inspired by the statesman," that is, of an
hypothetical editor who really by the theory made our
_ILIAD_, being employed to that end by Pistratus about 540
B.C. [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. ii. pp. x., xiv. 1900.].

Mr. Leaf and critics who take his general view are enabled to
detect the patches and tatters of many ages by various tests, for
example, by discovering discrepancies in the narrative, such as in
their opinion no one sane poet could make. Other proofs of
multiplex authorship are discovered by the critic's private sense
of what the poem ought to be, by his instinctive knowledge of
style, by detection of the poet's supposed errors in geography, by
modernisms and false archaisms in words and grammar, and by the
presence of many objects, especially weapons and armour, which the
critic believes to have been unknown to the original minstrel.

Thus criticism can pick out the things old, fairly old, late, and
quite recent, from the mass, evolved through many centuries, which
is called the _Iliad_.

If the existing _ILIAD_ is a mass of "expansions," added at
all sorts of dates, in any number of places, during very different
stages of culture, to a single short old poem of the Mycenaean
age, science needs an hypothesis which will account for the
_ILIAD_ "as it stands." Everybody sees the need of the
hypothesis, How was the medley of new songs by many generations of
irresponsible hands codified into a plot which used to be reckoned
fine? How were the manners, customs, and characters, _unus
color_, preserved in a fairly coherent and uniform aspect? How
was the whole Greek world, throughout which all manner of
discrepant versions and incongruous lays must, by the theory, have
been current, induced to accept the version which has been
bequeathed to us? Why, and for what audience or what readers, did
somebody, in a late age of brief lyrics and of philosophic poems,
take the trouble to harmonise the body of discrepant wandering
lays, and codify them in the _Iliad_?

An hypothesis which will answer all these questions is the first
thing needful, and hypotheses are produced.

Believers like Mr. Leaf in the development of the _Iliad_
through the changing revolutionary centuries, between say 1200 and
600 B.C., consciously stand in need of a working hypothesis which
will account, above all, for two facts: first, the relatively
correct preservation of the harmony of the picture of life, of
ideas political and religious, of the characters of the heroes, of
the customary law (such as the bride-price in marriage), and of
the details as to weapons, implements, dress, art, houses, and so
forth, when these are not (according to the theory) deliberately
altered by late poets.

Next, the hypothesis must explain, in Mr. Leafs own words, how a
single version of the _Iliad_ came to be accepted, "where
many rival versions must, from the necessity of the case, have
once existed side by side." [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p.
xviii. 1900.]

Three hypotheses have, in fact, been imagined: the first suggests
the preservation of the original poems in very early written
texts; not, of course, in "Homer's autograph." This view Mr. Leaf,
we shall see, discards. The second presents the notion of one old
sacred college for the maintenance of poetic uniformity. Mr. Leaf
rejects this theory, while supposing that there were schools for
professional reciters.

Last, there is the old hypothesis of Wolf: "Pisistratus" (about
540 B.C.) "was the first who had the Homeric poems committed to
writing, and brought into that order in which we now possess

This hypothesis, now more than a century old, would, if it rested
on good evidence, explain how a single version of the various lays
came to be accepted and received as authorised. The Greek world,
by the theory, had only in various places various sets of
incoherent chants _orally_ current on the Wrath of The public
was everywhere a public of listeners, who heard the lays sung on
rare occasions at feasts and fairs, or whenever a strolling
rhapsodist took up his pitch, for a day or two, at a street
corner. There was, by the theory, no reading public for the
Homeric poetry. But, by the time of Pisistratus, a reading public
was coming into existence. The tyrant had the poems collected,
edited, arranged into a continuous narrative, primarily for the
purpose of regulating the recitals at the Panathenaic festival.
When once they were written, copies were made, and the rest of
Hellas adopted these for their public purposes.

On a small scale we have a case analogous. The old songs of
Scotland existed, with the airs, partly in human memory, partly in
scattered broadsheets. The airs were good, but the words were
often silly, more often they were Fescennine--"more dirt than
wit." Burns rewrote the words, which were published in handsome
volumes, with the old airs, or with these airs altered, and his
became the authorised versions, while the ancient anonymous chants
were almost entirely forgotten.

The parallel is fairly close, but there are points of difference.
Burns was a great lyric poet, whereas we hear of no great epic
poet in the age of Pisistratus. The old words which Burns's songs
superseded were wretched doggerel; not such were the ancient Greek
heroic lays. The old Scottish songs had no sacred historic
character; they did not contain the history of the various towns
and districts of Scotland. The heroic lays of Greece were
believed, on the other hand, to be a kind of Domesday book of
ancient principalities, and cities, and worshipped heroes. Thus it
was much easier for a great poet like Burns to supersede with his
songs a mass of unconsidered "sculdudery" old lays, in which no
man or set of men had any interest, than for a mere editor, in the
age of Pisistratus, to supersede a set of lays cherished, in one
shape or another, by every State in Greece. This holds good, even
if, prior to Pisistratus, there existed in Greece no written texts
of Homer, and no reading public, a point which we shall show
reasons for declining to concede.

The theory of the edition of Pisistratus, if it rested on valid
evidence, would explain "how a single version of the poems came to
be accepted," namely, because the poem was now _written_ for
the first time, and oral versions fell out of memory. But it would
not, of course, explain how, before Pisistratus, during four or
five centuries of change, the new poets and reciters, throughout
the Greek world, each adding such fresh verses as he pleased, and
often introducing such modern details of life as he pleased, kept
up the harmony of the Homeric picture of life, and character, and
law, as far as it confessedly exists.

To take a single instance: the poems never allude to the personal
armorial bearings of the heroes. They are unknown to or unnamed by
Homer, but are very familiar on the shields in seventh century and
sixth century vases, and AEschylus introduces them with great
poetic effect in [blank space]. How did late continuators,
familiar with the serpents, lions, bulls' heads, crabs, doves, and
so forth, on the contemporary shields, keep such picturesque and
attractive details out of their new rhapsodies? In mediaeval
France, we shall show, the epics (eleventh to thirteenth
centuries) deal with Charlemagne and his peers of the eighth
century A.D. But they provide these heroes with the armorial
bearings which came in during the eleventh to twelfth century A.D.
The late Homeric rhapsodists avoided such tempting anachronisms.

Wolf's theory, then, explains "how a single version came to be
accepted." It was the first _WRITTEN_ version; the others
died out, like the old Scots orally repeated songs, when Burns
published new words to the airs. But Wolf's theory does not
explain the harmony of the picture of life, the absence of post-
Homeric ideas and ways of living, in the first written version,
which, practically, is our own version.

In 1892 (_COMPANION TO THE Iliad_) Mr. Leaf adopted a
different theory, the hypothesis of a Homeric "school" "which
busied itself with the tradition of the Homeric poetry," for there
must have been some central authority to preserve the text intact
when it could not be preserved in writing. Were there no such body
to maintain a fixed standard, the poems must have ended by varying
indefinitely, according to the caprice of their various reciters.
This is perfectly obvious.

Such a school could keep an eye on anachronisms and excise them;
in fact, the Maori priests, in an infinitely more barbarous state
of society, had such schools for the preservation of their ancient
hymns in purity. The older priests "insisted on a critical and
verbatim rehearsal of all the ancient lore." Proceedings were
sanctioned by human sacrifices and many mystic rites. We are not
told that new poems were produced and criticised; it does not
appear that this was the case. Pupils attended from three to five
years, and then qualified as priests or _tohunga_ [Footnote:
White, _THE Ancient HISTORY OF THE Maori, VOL._ i. pp. 8-
13.]. Suppose that the Asiatic Greeks, like the Maoris and Zunis,
had Poetic Colleges of a sacred kind, admitting new poets, and
keeping them up to the antique standard in all respects. If this
were so, the relative rarity of "anachronisms" and of modernisms
in language in the Homeric poems is explained. But Mr. Leaf has
now entirely and with a light heart abandoned his theory of a
school, which is unsupported by evidence, he says.'

"The great problem," he writes, "for those who maintain the
gradual growth of the poems by a process of crystallisation has
been to understand how a single version came to be accepted, where
many rival versions must, from the necessity of the case, have
once existed side by side. The assumption of a school or guild of
singers has been made," and Mr. Leaf, in 1892, made the assumption
himself: "as some such hypothesis we are bound to make in order to
explain the possibility of any theory" (1892). [Footnote:
_COMPANION TO THE Iliad, pp. 20, 21._]

But now (1900) he says, after mentioning "the assumption of a
school or guild of singers," that "the rare mention of [Greek:
Homeridai] in Chios gives no support to this hypothesis, which
lacks any other confirmation." [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i.
xviii. p. xix.] He therefore now adopts the Wolfian hypothesis
that "an official copy of Homer was made in Athens at the time of
Solon or Pisistratus," from the rhapsodies existing in the memory
of reciters. [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p. xix.] But Mr.
Leaf had previously said [Footnote: _COMPANION TO THE Iliad_,
p. 190.] that "the legend which connects his" (Pisistratus's)
"name with the Homeric poems is itself probably only conjectural,
and of late date." Now the evidence for Pisistratus which, in
1892, he thought "conjectural and of late date," seems to him a
sufficient basis for an hypothesis of a Pisistratean editor of the
Iliad, while the evidence for an Homeric school which appeared to
him good enough for an hypothesis in 1892 is rejected as
worthless, though, in each case, the evidence itself remains just
what it used to be.

This is not very satisfactory, and the Pisistratean hypothesis is
much less useful to a theorist than the former hypothesis of an
Homeric school, for the Pisistratean hypothesis cannot explain the
harmony of the characters and the details in the _Iliad_, nor
the absence of such glaring anachronisms as the Cyclic poets made,
nor the general "pre-Odyssean" character of the language and
grammar. By the Pisistratean hypothesis there was not, what Mr.
Leaf in 1892 justly deemed essential, a school "to maintain a
fixed standard," throughout the changes of four centuries, and
against the caprice of many generations of fresh reciters and
irresponsible poets. The hypothesis of a school _was_ really
that which, of the two, best explained the facts, and there is no
more valid evidence for the first making and writing out of our
_Iliad_ under Pisistratus than for the existence of a Homeric

The evidence for the _Iliad_ edited for Pisistratus is
examined in a Note at the close of this chapter. Meanwhile Mr.
Leaf now revives Wolf's old theory to account for the fact that
somehow "a single version" (of the Homeric poems) "came to be
accepted." His present theory, if admitted, does account for the
acceptation of a single version of the poems, the first standard
_written_ version, but fails to explain how "the caprice of
the different reciters" (as he says) did not wander into every
variety of anachronism in detail and in diction, thus producing a
chaos which no editor of about 540 A.D. could force into its
present uniformity.

Such an editor is now postulated by Mr. Leaf. If his editor's
edition, as being _written_, was accepted by Greece, then we
"understand how a single version came to be accepted." But we do
not understand how the editor could possibly introduce a harmony
which could only have characterised his materials, as Mr. Leaf has
justly remarked, if there was an Homeric school "to maintain a
fixed standard." But now such harmony in the picture of life as
exists in the poems is left without any explanation. We have now,
by the theory, a crowd of rhapsodists, many generations of
uncontrolled wandering men, who, for several centuries,

"Rave, recite, and madden through the land,"

with no written texts, and with no "fixed body to maintain a
standard." Such men would certainly not adhere strictly to a
stereotyped early tradition: _that_ we cannot expect from

Again, no editor of about 540 B.C. could possibly bring harmony of
manners, customs, and diction into such of their recitals as he
took down in writing.

Let us think out the supposed editor's situation. During three
centuries nine generations of strollers have worked their will on
one ancient short poem, _The Wrath_ of _Achilles_. This
is, in itself, an unexampled fact. Poets turn to new topics; they
do not, as a rule, for centuries embroider one single situation
out of the myriads which heroic legend affords. Strolling reciters
are the least careful of men, each would recite in the language
and grammar of his day, and introduce the newly evolved words and
idioms, the new and fashionable manners, costume, and weapons of
his time. When war chariots became obsolete, he would bring in
cavalry; when there was no Over-Lord, he would not trouble himself
to maintain correctly the character and situation of Agamemnon. He
would speak of coined money, in cases of buying and selling; his
European geography would often be wrong; he would not ignore the
Ionian cities of Asia; most weapons would be of iron, not bronze,
in his lays. Ionian religious ideas could not possibly be
excluded, nor changes in customary law, civil and criminal. Yet,
we think, none of these things occurs in Homer.

The editor of the theory had to correct all these anachronisms and
discrepancies. What a task in an uncritical age! The editor's
materials would be the lays known to such strollers as happened to
be gathered, in Athens, perhaps at the Panathenaic festival. The
_repertoire_ of each stroller would vary indefinitely from
those of all the others. One man knew this chant, as modified or
made by himself; other men knew others, equally unsatisfactory.

The editor must first have written down from recitation all the
passages that he could collect. Then he was obliged to construct a
narrative sequence containing a plot, which he fashioned by a
process of selection and rejection; and then he had to combine
passages, alter them, add as much as he thought fit, remove
anachronisms, remove discrepancies, accidentally bring in fresh
discrepancies (as always happens), weave transitional passages,
look with an antiquarian eye after the too manifest modernisms in
language and manners, and so produce the [blank space]. That, in
the sixth century B.C., any man undertook such a task, and
succeeded so well as to impose on Aristotle and all the later
Greek critics, appears to be a theory that could only occur to a
modern man of letters, who is thinking of the literary conditions
of his own time. The editor was doing, and doing infinitely
better, what Lonnrot, in the nineteenth century, tried in vain to
achieve for the Finnish _Kalewala_. [Footnote: See
Comparetti, _The Kalewala_.]

Centuries later than Pisistratus, in a critical age, Apollonius
Rhodius set about writing an epic of the Homeric times. We know
how entirely he failed, on all hands, to restore the manner of
Homer. The editor of 540 B.C. was a more scientific man. Can any
one who sets before himself the nature of the editor's task
believe in him and it? To the master-less floating jellyfish of
old poems and new, Mr. Leaf supposes that "but small and
unimportant additions were made after the end of the eighth
century or thereabouts," especially as "the creative and
imaginative forces of the Ionian race turned to other forms of
expression," to lyrics and to philosophic poems. But the able
Pisistratean editor, after all, we find, introduced quantities of
new matter into the poems--in the middle of the sixth century;
that kind of industry, then, did not cease towards the end of the
eighth century, as we have been told. On the other hand, as we
shall learn, the editor contributed to the _Iliad_, among
other things, Nestor's descriptions of his youthful adventures,
for the purpose of flattering Nestor's descendant, the tyrant
Pisistratus of Athens.

One hypothesis, the theory of an Homeric school--which would
answer our question, "How was the harmony of the picture of life
in remote ages preserved in poems composed in several succeeding
ages, and in totally altered conditions of life?"--Mr. Leaf, as we
know, rejects. We might suggest, again, that there were written
texts handed down from an early period, and preserved in new
copies from generation to generation. Mr. Leaf states his doubt
that there were any such texts. "The poems were all this time
handed down orally only by tradition among the singers
(_sic_), who used to wander over Greece reciting them at
popular festivals. Writing was indeed known through the whole
period of epic development" (some four centuries at least), "but
it is in the highest degree unlikely that it was ever employed to
form a standard text of the Epic or _ANY_ part of it. There
can hardly have been any standard text; at best there was a
continuous tradition of those parts of the poems which were
especially popular, and the knowledge of which was a valuable
asset to the professional reciter."

Now we would not contend for the existence of any [blank space]
text much before 600 B.C., and I understand Mr. Leaf not to deny,
now, that there may have been texts of the _ODYSSEY_ and
_Iliad_ before, say, 600-540 B.C. If cities and reciters had
any ancient texts, then texts existed, though not "standard"
texts: and by this means the harmony of thought, character, and
detail in the poems might be preserved. We do not think that it is
"in the highest degree unlikely" that there were no texts. Is this
one of the many points on which every savant must rely on his own
sense of what is "likely"? To this essential point, the almost
certain existence of written texts, we return in our conclusion.

What we have to account for is not only the relative lack of
anachronisms in poems supposed to have been made through a period
of at least four hundred years, but also the harmony of the
_CHARACTERS_ in subtle details. Some of the characters will
be dealt with later; meanwhile it is plain that Mr. Leaf, when he
rejects both the idea of written texts prior to 600-540 B.C., and
also the idea of a school charged with the duty of "maintaining a
fixed standard," leaves a terrible task to his supposed editor of
orally transmitted poems which, he says--if unpreserved by text or
school--"must have ended by varying infinitely according to the
caprice of their various reciters." [Footnote: _Companion to the
Iliad, p. 21._]

On that head there can be no doubt; in the supposed circumstances
no harmony, no _unus_ color, could have survived in the poems
till the days of the sixth century editor.

Here, then, is another difficulty in the path of the theory that
the _Iliad_ is the work of four centuries. If it was, we are
not enabled to understand how it came to be what it is. No editor
could possibly tinker it into the whole which we possess; none
could steer clear of many absurd anachronisms. These are found by
critics, but it is our hope to prove that they do not exist.



It has been shown in the text that in 1892 Mr. Leaf thought the
story about the making of the _Iliad_ under Pisistratus, a
legend without authority, while he regarded the traditions
concerning an Homeric school as sufficient basis for an
hypothesis, "which we are bound to make in order to explain the
possibility of any theory." In 1900 he entirely reversed his
position, the school was abandoned, and the story of Pisistratus
was accepted. One objection to accepting any of the various
legends about the composing and writing out, for the first time,
of the _Iliad_, in the sixth century, the age of Pisistratus,
was the silence of Aristarchus on the subject. He discussed the
authenticity of lines in the _Iliad_ which, according to the
legend, were interpolated for a political purpose by Solon or
Pisistratus, but, as far as his comments have reached us in the
scholia, he never said a word about the tradition of Athenian
interpolation. Now Aristarchus must, at least, have known the
tradition of the political use of a disputed line, for Aristotle
writes (_Rhetoric_, i. 15) that the Athenians, early in the
sixth century, quoted _Iliad_, II. 558, to prove their right
to Salamis. Aristarchus also discussed _Iliad_, II. 553, 555,
to which the Spartans appealed on the question of supreme command
against Persia (Herodotus, vii. 159). Again Aristarchus said
nothing, or nothing that has reached us, about Athenian
interpolation. Once more, Odyssey, II. 631, was said by Hereas, a
Megarian writer, to have been interpolated by Pisistratus
(Plutarch.) But "the scholia that represent the teaching of
Aristarchus" never make any reference to the alleged dealings of
Pisistratus with the _Iliad_. The silence of Aristarchus,
however, affords no safe ground of argument to believers or
disbelievers in the original edition written out by order of

It can never be proved that the scholiasts did not omit what
Aristarchus said, though we do not know why they should have done
so; and it can never be proved that Aristarchus was ignorant of
the traditions about Pisistratus, or that he thought them unworthy
of notice. All is matter of conjecture on these points. Mr. Leaf's
conversion to belief in the story that our _Iliad_ was
practically edited and first committed to writing under
Pisistratus appears to be due to the probability that Aristarchus
must have known the tradition. But if he did, there is no proof
that he accepted it as historically authentic. There is not, in
fact, any proof even that Aristarchus must have known the
tradition. He had probably read Dieuchidas of Megara, for
"Wilamowitz has shown that Dieuchidas wrote in the fourth
century." [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p. xix.] But,
unluckily, we do not know that Dieuchidas stated that the
_Iliad_ was made and first committed to writing in the sixth
century B.C. No mortal knows what Dieuchidas said: and, again,
what Dieuchidas said is not evidence. He wrote as a partisan in a
historical dispute.

The story about Pisistratus and his editor, the practical maker of
the _Iliad_, is interwoven with a legend about an early
appeal, in the beginning of the sixth century B.C., to Homer as an
historical authority. The Athenians and Megarians, contending for
the possession of the island of Salamis, the home of the hero
Aias, are said to have laid their differences before the Spartans
(_cir._ 600-580 B.C.). Each party quoted Homer as evidence.
Aristotle, who, as we saw, mentions the tale (Rhetoric, i. 15),
merely says that the Athenians cited _Iliad_, II. 558: "Aias
led and stationed his men where the phalanxes of the Athenians
were posted." Aristarchus condemned this line, not (as far as
evidence goes) because there was a tradition that the Athenians
had interpolated it to prove their point, but because he thought
it inconsistent with _Iliad_, III. 230; IV. 251, which, if I
may differ from so great a critic, it is not; these two passages
deal, not with the position of the camps, but of the men in the
field on a certain occasion. But if Aristarchus had thought the
tradition of Athenian interpolation of II. 558 worthy of notice,
he might have mentioned it in support of his opinion. Perhaps he
did. No reference to his notice has reached us. However this may
be, Mr. Leaf mainly bases his faith in the Pisistratean editor
(apparently, we shall see, an Asiatic Greek, residing in Athens),
on a fragmentary passage of Diogenes Laertius (third century
A.D.), concerned with the tale of Homer's being cited about 600-
580 B.C. as an authority for the early ownership of Salamis. In
this text Diogenes quotes Dieuchidas as saying something about
Pisistratus in relation to the Homeric poems, but what Dieuchidas
really said is unknown, for a part has dropped out of the text.

The text of Diogenes Laertius runs thus (Solon, i. 57): "He
(Solon) decreed that the Homeric poems should be recited by
rhapsodists [Greek text: ex hypobolaes]" (words of disputed
sense), so that where the first reciter left off thence should
begin his successor. It was rather Solon, then, than Pisistratus
who brought Homer to light ([Greek text: ephotisen]), as Diogenes
says in the Fifth Book of his _Megarica_. And _the
lines_ were _especially these_: "They who held Athens,"
&c. (_Iliad_, II. 546-558), the passage on which the
Athenians rested in their dispute with the Megarians.

And _what_ "lines were especially these"? Mr. Leaf fills up
the gap in the sense, after "Pisistratus" thus, "for it was he"
(Solon) "who interpolated lines in the _Catalogue_, and not
Pisistratus." He says: "The natural sense of the passage as it
stands" (in Diogenes Laertius) "is this: It was not Peisistratos,
as is generally supposed, but Solon _who collected the scattered
Homer_ of _his_ day, for he it was who interpolated the
lines in the _Catalogue of the Ships_".... But Diogenes
neither says for himself nor quotes from Dieuchidas anything about
"collecting the scattered Homer of his day." That Pisistratus did
so is Mr. Leafs theory, but there is not a hint about anybody
collecting anything in the Greek. Ritschl, indeed, conjecturally
supplying the gap in the text of Diogenes, invented the words,
"Who _collected_ the Homeric poems, and inserted some things
to please the Athenians." But Mr. Leaf rejects that conjecture as
"clearly wrong." Then why does he adopt, as "the natural sense of
the passage," "it was not Peisistratos but Solon who
_collected_ the scattered Homer of his day?" [Footnote:
_Iliad_, vol. i. p. xviii.] The testimony of Dieuchidas, as
far as we can see in the state of the text, "refers," as Mr. Monro
says, "to the _interpolation_ that has just been mentioned,
and need not extend further back." "Interpolation is a process
that postulates a text in which the additional verses can be
inserted," whereas, if I understand Mr. Leaf, the very first text,
in his opinion, was that compiled by the editor for Pisistratus.
[Footnote: Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. pp. 400 410, especially pp.
408-409.] Mr. Leaf himself dismisses the story of the Athenian
appeal to Homer for proof of their claim as "a fiction." If, so,
it does not appear that ancient commentaries on a fiction are of
any value as proof that Pisistratus produced the earliest edition
of the _Iliad_. [Footnote: Mr. Leaf adds that, except in one
disputed line (_Iliad_, II. 558) Aias "is not, in the
_Iliad_, encamped next the Athenians." His proofs of this odd
oversight of the fraudulent interpolator, who should have altered
the line, are _Iliad_, IV. 327 ff, and XII. 681 ff. In the
former passage we find Odysseus stationed next to the Athenians.
But Odysseus would have neighbours on either hand. In the second
passage we find the Athenians stationed next to the Boeotians and
Ionians, but the Athenians, too, had neighbours on either side.
The arrangement was, on the Achaean extreme left, Protesilaus's
command (he was dead), and that of Aias; then the Boeotians and
Ionians, with "the picked men of the Athenians"; and then
Odysseus, on the Boeotolono-Athenian right; or so the Athenians
would read the passage. The texts must have seemed favourable to
the fraudulent Athenian interpolator denounced by the Megarians,
or he would have altered them. Mr. Leaf, however, argues that line
558 of Book II. "cannot be original, as is patent from the fact
that Aias in the rest of the _Iliad_ is not encamped next the
Athenians" (see IV. 327; XIII. 681). The Megarians do not seem to
have seen it, or they would have cited these passages. But why
argue at all about the Megarian story if it be a fiction? Mr. Leaf
takes the brief bald mention of Aias in _Iliad_, II. 558 as
"a mocking cry from Athens over the conquest of the island of the
Aiakidai." But as, in this same _Catalogue_, Aias is styled
"by far the best of warriors" after Achilles (II. 768), while
there is no more honourable mention made of Diomede than that he
had "a loud war cry" (II. 568), or of Menelaus but that he was
also sonorous, and while Nestor, the ancestor of Pisistratus,
receives not even that amount of praise (line 601), "the mocking
cry from Athens" appears a vain imagination.]

The lines disputed by the Megarians occur in the _Catalogue_,
and, as to the date and original purpose of the _Catalogue_,
the most various opinions prevail. In Mr. Leaf's earlier edition
of the _Iliad_ (vol. i. p. 37), he says that "nothing
convincing has been urged to show" that the _Catalogue_ is
"of late origin." We know, from the story of Solon and the
Megarians, that the _Catalogue_ "was considered a classical
work--the Domesday Book of Greece, at a very early date"--say 600-
580 B.C. "It agrees with the poems in being pre-Dorian" (except in
lines 653-670).

"There seems therefore to be no valid reason for doubting that it,
like the bulk of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, was composed
in Achaean times, and carried with the emigrants to the coast of
Asia Minor...."

In his new edition (vol. ii. p. 86), Mr. Leaf concludes that the
_Catalogue_ "originally formed an introduction to the whole
Cycle," the compiling of "the whole Cycle" being of uncertain
date, but very late indeed, on any theory. The author "studiously
preserves an ante-Dorian standpoint. It is admitted that there can
be little doubt that some of the material, at least, is old."

These opinions are very different from those expressed by Mr. Leaf
in 1886. He cannot now give "even an approximate date for the
composition of the _Catalogue_" which, we conceive, must be
the latest thing in Homer, if it was composed "for that portion of
the whole Cycle which, as worked up in a separate poem, was called
the _Kypria_" for the _Kypria_ is obviously a very late
performance, done as a prelude to the _Iliad_.

I am unable to imagine how this mutilated passage of Diogenes,
even if rightly restored, proves that Dieuchidas, a writer of the
fourth century B.C., alleged that Pisistratus made a collection of
scattered Homeric poems--in fact, made "a standard text."

The Pisistratean hypothesis "was not so long ago unfashionable,
but in the last few years a clear reaction has set in," says Mr.
Leaf. [Footnote: _Iliad_, i. p. XIX.]

The reaction has not affected that celebrated scholar, Dr. Blass,
who, with Teutonic frankness, calls the Pisistratean edition "an
absurd legend." [Footnote: Blass, Die _Interpolationen_ in
der _Odyssee_, pp. I, 2. Halle, 1904.] Meyer says that the
Alexandrians rejected the Pisistratean story "as a worthless
fable," differing here from Mr. Leaf and Wilamowitz; and he spurns
the legend, saying that it is incredible that the whole Greek
world would allow the tyrants of Athens to palm off a Homer on
them. [Footnote: Meyer, _Geschichte des Alterthums_, ii. 390,
391. 1893.]

Mr. T. W. Allen, an eminent textual scholar, treats the
Pisistratean editor with no higher respect. In an Egyptian papyrus
containing a fragment of Julius Africanus, a Christian
chronologer, Mr. Allen finds him talking confidently of the
Pisistratidae. They "stitched together the rest of the epic," but
excised some magical formulae which Julius Africanus preserves.
Mr. Allen remarks: "The statements about Pisistratus belong to a
well-established category, that of Homeric mythology.... The
anecdotes about Pisistratus and the poet himself are on a par with
Dares, who 'wrote the _Iliad_ before Homer.'" [Footnote:
_Classical Review_ xviii. 148.]

The editor of Pisistratus is hardly in fashion, though that is of
no importance. Of importance is the want of evidence for the
editor, and, as we have shown, the impossible character of the
task allotted to him by the theory.

As I suppose Mr. Leaf to insinuate, "fashion" has really nothing
to do with the question. People who disbelieve in written texts
must, and do, oscillate between the theory of an Homeric "school"
and the Wolfian theory that Pisistratus, or Solon, or somebody
procured the making of the first written text at Athens in the
sixth century--a theory which fails to account for the harmony of
the picture of life in the poems, and, as Mr. Monro, Grote,
Nutzhorn, and many others argue, lacks evidence.

As Mr. Monro reasons, and as Blass states the case bluntly,
"Solon, or Pisistratus, or whoever it was, put a stop, at least as
far as Athens was concerned, to the mangling of Homer" by the
rhapsodists or reciters, each anxious to choose a pet passage, and
not going through the whole _Iliad_ in due sequence. "But the
unity existed before the mangling. That this has been so long and
so stubbornly misunderstood is no credit to German scholarship:
blind uncritical credulity on one side, limitless and arbitrary
theorising on the other!" We are not solitary sceptics when we
decline to accept the theory of Mr. Leaf. It is neither bottomed
on evidence nor does it account for the facts in the case. That is
to say, the evidence appeals to Mr. Leaf as valid, but is thought
worse than inadequate by other great scholars, such as Monro and
Blass; while the fact of the harmony of the picture of life,
preserved through four or five centuries, appears to be left
without explanation.

Mr. Leaf holds that, in order to organise recitations in due
sequence, the making of a text, presenting, for the first time, a
due sequence, was necessary. His opponents hold that the sequence
already existed, but was endangered by the desultory habits of the
rhapsodists. We must here judge each for himself; there is no
court of final appeal.

I confess to feeling some uncertainty about the correctness of my
statement of Mr. Leaf's opinions. He and I both think an early
Attic "recension" probable, or almost certain. But (see'
"Conclusion") I regard such recension as distinct from the
traditional "edition" of Pisistratus. Mr. Leaf, I learn, does not
regard the "edition" as having "made" the _Iliad_; yet his
descriptions of the processes and methods of his Pisistratean
editor correspond to my idea of the "making" of our _Iliad_
as it stands. See, for example, Mr. Leaf's Introduction to
_Iliad_, Book II. He will not even insist on the early Attic
as the first _written_ text; if it was not, its general
acceptance seems to remain a puzzle. He discards the idea of one
Homeric "school" of paramount authority, but presumes that, as
recitation was a profession, there must have been schools. We do
not hear of them or know the nature of their teaching. The
Beauvais "school" of _jongleurs_ in Lent (fourteenth century
A.D.) seems to have been a holiday conference of strollers.



We now try to show that the Epics present an historical unity, a
complete and harmonious picture of an age, in its political,
social, legal, and religious aspects; in its customs, and in its
military equipment. A long epic can only present an unity of
historical ideas if it be the work of one age. Wandering
minstrels, living through a succession of incompatible ages,
civic, commercial, democratic, could not preserve, without flaw or
failure, the attitude, in the first place, of the poet of feudal
princes towards an Over-Lord who rules them by undisputed right
divine, but rules weakly, violently, unjustly, being subject to
gusts of arrogance, and avarice, and repentance. Late poets not
living in feudal society, and unfamiliar alike with its customary
law, its jealousy of the Over-Lord, its conservative respect for
his consecrated function, would inevitably miss the proper tone,
and fail in some of the many [blank space] of the feudal
situation. This is all the more certain, if we accept Mr. Leaf's
theory that each poet-rhapsodist's _repertoire_ varied from
the _repertoires_ of the rest. There could be no unity of
treatment in their handling of the character and position of the
Over-Lord and of the customary law that regulates his relations
with his peers. Again, no editor of 540 B.C. could construct an
harmonious picture of the Over-Lord in relation to the princes out
of the fragmentary _repertoires_ of strolling rhapsodists,
which now lay before him in written versions. If the editor could
do this, he was a man of Shakespearian genius, and had minute
knowledge of a dead society. This becomes evident when, in place
of examining the _Iliad_ through microscopes, looking out for
discrepancies, we study it in its large lines as a literary whole.
The question being, Is the _Iliad_ a literary whole or a mere
literary mosaic? we must ask "What, taking it provisionally as a
literary whole, are the qualities of the poet as a painter of what
we may call feudal society?"

Choosing the part of the Over-Lord Agamemnon, we must not forget
that he is one of several analogous figures in the national poetry
and romance of other feudal ages. Of that great analogous figure,
Charlemagne, and of his relations with his peers in the earlier
and later French mediaeval epics we shall later speak. Another
example is Arthur, in some romances "the blameless king," in
others _un roi faineant_.

The parallel Irish case is found in the Irish saga of Diarmaid and
Grainne. We read Mr. O'Grady's introduction on the position of
Eionn Mac Cumhail, the legendary Over-Lord of Ireland, the
Agamemnon of the Celts. "Fionn, like many men in power, is
variable; he is at times magnanimous, at other times tyrannical
and petty. Diarmaid, Oisin, Oscar, and Caoilte Mac Rohain are
everywhere the [Greek: kaloi kachotoi] of the Fenians; of them we
never hear anything bad." [Footnote: _Transactions of the
Ossianic_ Society, vol. iii. p. 39.]

Human nature eternally repeats itself in similar conditions of
society, French, Norse, Celtic, and Achaean. "We never hear
anything bad" of Diomede, Odysseus, or Aias, and the evil in
Achilles's resentment up to a certain point is legal, and not
beyond what the poet thinks natural and pardonable in his

The poet's view of Agamemnon is expressed in the speeches and
conduct of the peers. In Book I. we see the bullying truculence of
Agamemnon, wreaked first on the priest of Apollo, Chryses, then in
threats against the prophet Chalcas, then in menaces against any
prince on whom he chooses to avenge his loss of fair Chryseis,
and, finally, in the Seizure of Briseis from Achilles.

This part of the First Book of the _Iliad_ is confessedly
original, and there is no varying, throughout the Epic, from the
strong and delicate drawing of an historical situation, and of a
complex character. Agamemnon is truculent, and eager to assert his
authority, but he is also possessed of a heavy sense of his
responsibilities, which often unmans him. He has a legal right to
a separate "prize of honour" (geras) after each capture of spoil.
Considering the wrath of Apollo for the wrong done in refusing his
priest's offered ransom for his daughter, Agamemnon will give her
back, "if that is better; rather would I see my folks whole than
perishing." [Footnote: _Iliad_, I. 115-117.]

Here we note points of feudal law and of kingly character. The
giving and taking of ransom exists as it did in the Middle Ages;
ransom is refused, death is dealt, as the war becomes more fierce
towards its close. Agamemnon has sense enough to waive his right
to the girlish prize, for the sake of his people, but is not so
generous as to demand no compensation. But there are no fresh
spoils to apportion, and the Over-Lord threatens to take the prize
of one of his peers, even of Achilles.

Thereon Achilles does what was frequently done in the feudal age
of western Europe, he "renounces his fealty," and will return to
Phthia. He adds insult, "thou dog-face!" The whole situation, we
shall show, recurs again and again in the epics of feudal France,
the later epics of feudal discontent. Agamemnon replies that
Achilles may do as he pleases. "I have others by my side that
shall do me honour, and, above all, Zeus, Lord of Counsel" (I.
175). He rules, literally, by divine right, and we shall see that,
in the French feudal epics, as in Homer, this claim of divine
right is granted, even in the case of an insolent and cowardly
Over-Lord. Achilles half draws "his great sword," one of the long,
ponderous cut-and-thrust bronze swords of which we have actual
examples from Mycenae and elsewhere. He is restrained by Athene,
visible only to him. "With words, indeed," she says, "revile him
.... hereafter shall goodly gifts come to thee, yea, in threefold

Gifts of atonement for "surquedry," like that of Agamemnon, are
given and received in the French epics, for example, in the [blank
space]. The _Iliad_ throughout exhibits much interest in such
gifts, and in the customary law as to their acceptance, and other
ritual or etiquette of reconciliation. This fact, it will be
shown, accounts for a passage which critics reject, and which is
tedious to our taste, as it probably was tedious to the age of the
supposed late poets themselves. (Book XIX.). But the taste of a
feudal audience, as of the audience of the Saga men, delighted in
"realistic" descriptions of their own customs and customary law,
as in descriptions of costume and armour. This is fortunate for
students of customary law and costume, but wearies hearers and
readers who desire the action to advance. Passages of this kind
would never be inserted by late poets, who had neither the
knowledge of, nor any interest in, the subjects.

To return to Achilles, he is now within his right; the moral
goddess assures him of that, and he is allowed to give the: reins
to his tongue, as he does in passages to which the mediaeval epics
offer many parallels. In the mediaeval epics, as in Homer, there
is no idea of recourse to a duel between the Over-Lord and his
peer. Achilles accuses Agamemnon of drunkenness, greed, and
poltroonery. He does not return home, but swears by the sceptre
that Agamemnon shall rue his _outrecuidance_ when Hector
slays the host. By the law of the age Achilles remains within his
right. His violent words are not resented by the other peers. They
tacitly admit, as Athene admits, that Achilles has the right,
being so grievously injured, to "renounce his fealty," till
Agamemnon makes apology and gives gifts of atonement. Such,
plainly, is the unwritten feudal law, which gives to the Over-Lord
the lion's share of booty, the initiative in war and council, and
the right to command; but limits him by the privilege of the peers
to renounce their fealty under insufferable provocation. In no
Book is Agamemnon so direfully insulted as in the First, which is
admitted to be of the original "kernel." Elsewhere the sympathy of
the poet occasionally enables him to feel the elements of pathos
in the position of the over-tasked King of Men.

As concerns the apology and the gifts of atonement, the poet has
feudal customary law and usage clearly before his eyes. He knows
exactly what is due, and the limits of the rights of Over-Lord and
prince, matters about which the late Ionian poets could only pick
up information by a course of study in constitutional history--the
last thing they were likely to attempt--unless we suppose that
they all kept their eyes on the "kernel," and that steadily,
through centuries, generations of strollers worked on the lines
laid down in that brief poem.

Thus the poet of Book IX.--one of "the latest expansions,"--
thoroughly understands the legal and constitutional situation, as
between Agamemnon and Achilles. Or rather all the poets who
collaborated in Book IX., which "had grown by a process of
accretion," [Footnote: Leaf, Iliad, vol. i. p. 371.] understood
the legal situation.

Returning to the poet's conception of Agamemnon, we find in the
character of Agamemnon himself the key to the difficulties which
critics discover in the Second Book. The difficulty is that when
Zeus, won over to the cause of Achilles by Thetis, sends a false
Dream to Agamemnon, the Dream tells the prince that he shall at
once take Troy, and bids him summon the host to arms. But
Agamemnon, far from doing that, summons the host to a peaceful
assembly, with the well-known results of demoralisation.

Mr. Leaf explains the circumstances on his own theory of
expansions compiled into a confused whole by a late editor. He
thinks that probably there were two varying versions even of this
earliest Book of the poem. In one (A), the story went on from the
quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, to the holding of a
general assembly "to consider the altered state of affairs." This
is the Assembly of Book H, but debate, in version A, was opened by
Thersites, not by Agamemnon, and Thersites proposed instant
flight! That was probably the earlier version.

In the other early version (B), after the quarrel between the
chiefs, the story did not, as in A, go on straight to the
Assembly, but Achilles appealed to his mother, the fair sea-
goddess, as in our Iliad, and she obtained from Zeus, as in the
actual _Iliad_, his promise to honour Achilles by giving
victory, in his absence, to the Trojans. The poet of version B, in
fact, created the beautiful figure of Thetis, so essential to the
development of the tenderness that underlies the ferocity of
Achilles. The other and earliest poet, who treated of the Wrath of
the author of version A, neglected that opportunity with all that
it involved, and omitted the purpose of Zeus, which is mentioned
in the fifth line of the Epic. The editor of 540 B.C., seeing good
in both versions, A and B, "combined his information," and
produced Books I. and II. of the _ILIAD_ as they stand.
[Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 47.]

Mr. Leaf suggests that "there is some ground for supposing that
the oldest version of the Wrath of Achilles did not contain the
promise of Zeus to Thetis; it was a tale played exclusively on the
earthly stage." [Footnote: _Ibid_, vol. i. p. xxiii.] In that
case the author of the oldest form (A) must have been a poet very
inferior indeed to the later author of B who took up and altered


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