Homeric Question

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Homeric Question


the totality of problems related to the person of Horner and the authorship of the ancient Greek narrative poems attributed to him, the Iliad and the Odyssey; in a broader sense, the totality of problems related to the origin and development of the ancient Greek epics.

Even in antiquity it was proposed that Homer had lived in the time before the adoption of alphabetic writing and that his poems had been passed on orally; there was a related report that the Athenian tyrant Pisi stratus had ordered the preparation of an official text of Homer’s poems. But the Homeric question was first seriously considered in relation to the interest in folk poetry that was current in the period of the Enlightenment. The German philologist F. A. Wolf in his Introduction to Homer (1795) arrived at the conclusion that the Iliad and the Odyssey were collections of various songs; in 1796 the German critic F. von Schlegel expressed the view that the Homeric epics were simply the fruit of the collective creativity of folk poets. The successors of Wolf, the so-called analysts, dealing with contradictions in the plot and stylistic differences within the poems, attempted to separate the component parts in the text itself. However, all such proposals turned out to be subjective and arbitrary. The opponents of Wolf, such as V. G. Belinskii, pointed outfeatures of artistic unity in each of the poems. The question of the actual history of the making of the Homeric poems with their indubitable features of unity and their equally indubitable internal contradictions remains controversial.

The study of the Homeric question in the broader sense of the term attained more positive results. The historical basis of the central portion of the legends of the Greek epics is the so-called Mycenaean period of the 16th to the 13th centuries B.C. The social structure and material culture depicted in the poems contain, in addition to Mycenaean features, those of later periods as well, even up to the eighth century B.C. Comparing the Homeric poems with the living epics of contemporary peoples, including the peoples of the USSR, reveals many traces in them of the level of song and semi-improvisation in epics; nevertheless, this comparison leads to the conclusion that what is being considered is not a record of a folkloric text, but literature that is already formed. The majority of scholars date the final form of the Iliad at the last third of the eighth century B.C. and the Odyssey somewhat later.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Using a quantitative approach borrowed from study of evolution, Santa Fe Institute External Professor Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at Reading University (UK), and his colleagues decided to ask what scholars refer to as "The Homeric Question."
But to pull off such a radical new take on the Trojan War requires three things: scholarly expertise that allows intimate knowledge of the Greek text of Homer, along with familiarity with thousands of scholarly books and articles that frame the age-old Homeric question of authenticity; a writer's flair for imagery and engaging prose; and a most non-academic willingness to experiment and endure pedantic criticism from fellow scholars who will resent such popularization and speculation.
Let us leave aside here the other main field of scholarship that is cultivated by the emerita professor of classical philology in Odense, Denmark: Homer and the Homeric question.
The Homeric Question, which refers to the mystery of Homer's existence, remains unanswered.
"'Reading the Texts': Archaeology and the Homeric Question," Antiquity 64, pp.
The utopian content question itself is a natural appendage to the "Homeric Question," for determining the purpose of these epics is surely as weighty a scholarly concern as their authorship and dating.
that effectively reframed the Homeric Question, highlighting neither a
Wolf's Prolegomena to Homer in 1795, generally considered the beginning of modern Homer scholarship, Homer studies have primarily focused on three general areas of study--authorship (the Homeric Question), oral poetry and literary interpretations of the Iliad and Odyssey.
So here, the issues of how faithful Penelope really was and when she actually recognized Odysseus seem to have been two of the many Homeric questions debated even among school boys in antiquity, if we can take Seneca's criticism of education as a measure.
27 Gregory Nagy, Homeric Questions (Austin, 1996), 70.
E Crielaard (ed.), Homeric Questions (Amsterdam, 1995), esp.
part II, and idem, Homeric Questions (Austin, 1996), esp.