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Concerning Homer

Mushtaq Bhat


Part 2

The Titan Atlas

Homer & Western Civilization

HomerTrue, increased commerce and communication may have favored the Greek quantum leap from myth to logos as well as a rapid (truly gigantic!) growth in literacy. But I assume that all the pre­Socratikers may have to thank Homer and his works (no matter who edited, added or actually wrote the poems!) for their vocabulary, richness of language, verbal concepts and more important as a medium of communication and self-identification of the peoples, we call the Greeks, at the start of the great transformation, even when (as the pre-Socratikers inevitably always did) questioning their validity, content of truth or their relevance for their own times!

The Iliad did not have to be a best-seller, after the publication of its official edition by Peisistratos; there were still rhapsodists bringing Homer from city to city, from shore to shore, from home to home. Homer was probably not merely the unifying, cultural-identity-imparting, Greek- or Pan-Hellenic-communal-ego-creating agent, or just the encyclopedia of history and religion but of language itself, which of course, with such an amazing encyclopedic clout, ranging from cloudy Olympia, to nautical Mediterranean, to an almost eternal city of Troy was prerequisite (according to my personal view) and imperative to the quantum jump from myth to logos. Of course the Greek genius was undeniably involved; the adding of vowels to Phoenician script was an equally important prerequisite, but its impact would have been less, if there had not been earlier some very distinct culture-homogenizing influences at work. And here again, Homer, like the Bible, Plato and Aristotle in Europe later, may have accelerated the rapid growth of literacy in Greece.

Solon,  the first democratic Statesman

If not for Iliad and Odyssey, who knows the Greeks may have squandered their amazing culture either at Delphi or at Olympia. They had not much else in common except bitter strife, even at the times of Pericles and the great coalition of Delos. Maybe then we would have no Solon, no Thales, no Euclid, no Socrates, no Aeschylus, no Herodotus and lastly none of the two most influential teachers of mankind Plato and his student Aristotle. Pioneers and giants on whose shoulders Newton stood and the western and now the global civilization seems to be standing.

Rembrandt. Portrait of Aristotle 1653

Aristotle in front of the bust of Homer. 1653
Canvas. 143,5 x 136,5 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
photo reproduction digital manipulated.
Source : Rembrandt from Jonathan Jansen.

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