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Homer and His Age by Andrew Lang

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Of all Books in the [blank space] Book X., called the
_Doloneia_, is most generally scouted and rejected. The Book,
in fact, could be omitted, and only a minutely analytic reader
would perceive the lacuna. He would remark that in Iliad, IX. 65-
84, certain military preparations are made which, if we suppress
Book X., lead up to nothing, and that in _Iliad_, XIV. 9-11,
we find Nestor with the shield of his son, Thrasymedes, while
Thrasymedes has his father's shield, a fact not explained, though
the poet certainly meant something by it. The explanation in both
cases is found in Book X., which may also be thought to explain
why the Achaeans, so disconsolate in Book IX., and why Agamemnon,
so demoralised, so gaily assume the offensive in Book XI. Some
ancient critics, Scholiast T and Eustathius, attributed the
_DOLONEIA_ to Homer, but supposed it to have been a separate
composition of his added to the _Iliad_ by Pisistratus. This
merely proves that they did not find any necessity for the
existence of the _DOLONEIA_. Mr. Allen, who thinks that "it
always held its present place," says, "the _DOLONEIA_ is
persistently written down." [Footnote: _Classical Review_,
May 1906, p. 194]

To understand the problem of the _DOLONEIA_, we must make a
summary of its contents. In Book IX. 65-84, at the end of the
disastrous fighting of Book VIII, the Achaeans, by Nestor's
advice, station an advanced guard of "_the young men_"
between the fosse and wall; 700 youths are posted there, under
Meriones, the squire of Idomeneus, and Thrasymedes, the son of
Nestor. All this is preparation for Book X., as Mr. Leaf remarks,
[Footnote: _Companion_, p. 174.] though in any case an
advanced guard was needed. Their business is to remain awake,
under arms, in case the Trojans, who are encamped on the plain,
attempt a night attack. At their station the young men will be
under arms till dawn; they light fires and cook their provisions;
the Trojans also surround their own watchfires.

The Achaean chiefs then hold council, and Agamemnon sends the
embassy to Achilles. The envoys bring back his bitter answer; and
all men go to sleep in their huts, deeply discouraged, as even
Odysseus avowed.

Here the Tenth Book begins, and it is manifest that the poet is
thoroughly well acquainted with the Ninth Book. Without the
arrangements made in the Ninth Book, and without the despairing
situation of that Book, his lay is impossible. It will be seen
that critics suppose him, alternately, to have "quite failed to
realise the conditions of life of the heroes of whom he sang"
(that is, if certain lines are genuine), and also to be a
peculiarly learned archaeologist and a valuable authority on
weapons. He is addicted to introducing fanciful "touches of heroic
simplicity," says Mr. Leaf, and is altogether a puzzling personage
to the critics.

The Book opens with the picture of Agamemnon, sleepless from
anxiety, while the other chiefs, save Menelaus, are sleeping. He
"hears the music of the joyous Trojan pipes and flutes" and sees
the reflected glow of their camp-fires, we must suppose, for he
could not see the fires themselves through the new wall of his own
camp, as critics very wisely remark. He tears out his hair before
Zeus; no one else does so, in the _Iliad_, but no one else is
Agamemnon, alone and in despair.

He rises to consult Nestor, throwing a lion's skin over his
_chiton_, and grasping a spear. Much noise is made about the
furs, such as this lion's pelt, which the heroes, in Book X.,
throw about their shoulders when suddenly aroused. That sportsmen
like the heroes should keep the pelts of animals slain by them for
use as coverlets, and should throw on one of the pelts when
aroused in a hurry, is a marvellous thing to the critics. They
know that fleeces were used for coverlets of beds (IX. 661), and
pelts of wild animals, slain by Anchises, cover his bed in the
Hymn to Aphrodite.

But the facts do not enlighten critics. Yet no facts could be more
natural. A scientific critic, moreover, never reflects that the
poet is dealing with an unexampled situation--heroes wakened and
called into the cold air in a night of dread, but not called to
battle. Thus Reichel says: "The poet knows so little about true
heroic costume that he drapes the princes in skins of lions and
panthers, like giants.... But about a corslet he never thinks."
[Footnote: Reichel, p.70.]

The simple explanation is that the poet has not hitherto had to
tell us about men who are called up, not to fight, on a night that
must have been chilly. In war they do not wear skins, though
Paris, in archer's equipment, wears a pard's skin (III. 17).
Naturally, the men throw over themselves their fur coverlets; but
Nestor, a chilly veteran, prefers a _chiton_ and a wide,
double-folded, fleecy purple cloak. The cloak lay ready to his
hand, for such cloaks were used as blankets (XXIV. 646; Odyssey,
III. 349, 351; IV. 299; II. 189). We hear more of such bed-
coverings in the Odyssey than in the merely because in the
_ODYSSEY_ we have more references to beds and to people in
bed. That a sportsman may have (as many folk have now) a fur
coverlet, and may throw it over him as a kind of dressing-gown or
"bed-gown," is a simple circumstance which bewilders the critical
mind and perplexed Reichel.

If the poet knew so little as Reichel supposed his omission of
corslets is explained. Living in an age of corslets (seventh
century), he, being a literary man, knew nothing about corslets,
or, as he is also an acute archaeologist, he knew too much; he
knew that they were not worn in the Mycenaean prime, so he did not
introduce them. The science of this remarkable ignoramus, in
_this_ view, accounts for his being aware that pelts of
animals were in vogue as coverlets, just as fur dressing-gowns
were worn in the sixteenth century, and he introduces them
precisely as he leaves corslets out, because he knows that pelts
of fur were in use, and that, in the Mycenaean prime, corslets
were not worn.

In speaking to Nestor, Agamemnon awakens sympathy: "Me, of all
the Achaeans, Zeus has set in toil and labour ceaselessly." They
are almost the very words of Charlemagne in the _Chanson de
Roland: "Deus, Dist li Reis, si peneuse est ma vie."_ The
author of the _Doloneia_ consistently conforms to the
character of Agamemnon as drawn in the rest of the _Iliad_.
He is over-anxious; he is demoralising in his fits of gloom, but
all the burden of the host hangs on him--sipeneuse _est ma

To turn to higher things. Menelaus, too, was awake, anxious about
the Argives, who risked their lives in his cause alone. He got up,
put on a pard's skin and a bronze helmet (here the poet forgets,
what he ought to have known, that no bronze helmets have been
found in the Mycenaean graves). Menelaus takes a spear, and goes
to look for Agamemnon, whom he finds arming himself beside his
ship. He discovers that Agamemnon means to get Nestor to go and
speak to the advanced guard, as his son is their commander, and
they will obey Nestor. Agamemnon's pride has fallen very low! He
tells Menelaus to waken the other chief with all possible formal
courtesy, for, brutally rude when in high heart, at present
Agamemnon cowers to everybody. He himself finds Nestor in bed, his
_shield_, two spears, and helmet beside him, also his
glittering _zoster_. His corslet is not named; perhaps the
poet knew that the _zoster_, or broad metallic belt, had been
evolved, but that the corslet had not been invented; or perhaps he
"knows so little about the costume of the heroes" that he is
unaware of the existence of corslets. Nestor asks Agamemnon what
he wants; and Agamemnon says that his is a toilsome life, that he
cannot sleep, that his knees tremble, and that he wants Nestor to
come and visit the outposts.

There is really nothing absurd in this. Napoleon often visited his
outposts in the night before Waterloo, and Cromwell rode along his
lines all through the night before Dunbar, biting his lips till
the blood dropped on his linen bands. In all three cases hostile
armies were arrayed within striking distance of each other, and
the generals were careworn.

Nestor admits that it is an anxious night, and rather blames
Menelaus for not rousing the other chiefs; but Agamemnon explains
and defends his brother. Nestor then puts on the comfortable cloak
already described, and picks up a spear, [blank space] _in HIS

As for Odysseus, he merely throws a shield over his shoulders. The
company of Diomede are sleeping with their heads on their shields.
Thence Reichel (see "The Shield") infers that the late poet of
Book X. gave them small Ionian round bucklers; but it has been
shown that no such inference is legitimate. Their spears were
erect by their sides, fixed in the ground by the _sauroter_,
or butt-spike, used by the men of the late "warrior vase" found at
Mycenae. To arrange the spears thus, we have seen, was a point of
drill that, in Aristotle's time, survived among the Illyrians.
[Footnote: _Poetics_, XXV.] The practice is also alluded to
in _Iliad_, III 135. During a truce "the tall spears are
planted by their sides." The poet, whether ignorant or learned,
knew that point of war, later obsolete in Greece, but still extant
in Illyria.

Nestor aroused Diomede, whose night apparel was the pelt of a
lion; he took his spear, and they came to the outposts, where the
men were awake, and kept a keen watch on all movements among the
Trojans. Nestor praised them, and the princes, taking Nestor's
son, Thrasymedes, and Meriones with them, went out into the open
in view of the Trojan camp, sat down, and held a consultation.

Nestor asked if any one would volunteer to go as a spy among the
Trojans and pick up intelligence. His reward will be "a black ewe
with her lamb at her foot," from their chiefs--"nothing like her
for value"--and he will be remembered in songs at feasts,
_or_ will be admitted to feasts and wine parties of the
chiefs. [Footnote: Leaf, Note on X. 215.] The proposal is very
odd; what do the princes want with black ewes, while at feasts
they always have honoured places? Can Nestor be thinking of
sending out any brave swift-footed young member of the outpost
party, to whom the reward would be appropriate?

After silence, Diomede volunteers to go, with a comrade, though
this kind of work is very seldom undertaken in any army of any age
by a chief, and by his remark about admission to wine parties it
is clear that Nestor was not thinking of a princely spy. Many
others volunteer, but Agamemnon bids Diomede choose his own
companion, with a very broad hint not to take Menelaus. _HIS_
death, Agamemnon knows, would mean the disgraceful return of the
host to Greece; besides he is, throughout the _ILIAD_, deeply
attached to his brother.

The poet of Book X., however late, knows the _ILIAD_ well,
for he keeps up the uniform treatment of the character of the
Over-Lord. As he knows the _ILIAD_ well, how can he be
ignorant of the conditions of life of the heroes? How can he dream
of "introducing a note of heroic simplicity" (Mr. Leaf's phrase),
when he must be as well aware as we are of the way in which the
heroes lived? We cannot explain the black ewes, if meant as a
princely reward, but we do not know everything about Homeric life.

Diomede chooses Odysseus, "whom Pallas Athene loveth"; she was
also the patroness of Diomede himself, in Books V., VI.

As they are unarmed--all of the chiefs hastily aroused were
unarmed, save for a spear there or a sword here--Thrasymedes gives
to Diomede his two-edged sword, _his_ shield, and "a helm of
bull's hide, without horns or crest, that is called a skull-cap
(knap-skull), and keeps the heads of strong young men." All the
advanced guard were young men, as we saw in Book IX. 77.
Obviously, Thrasymedes must then send back to camp, though we are
not told it, for another shield, sword, and helmet, as he is to
lie all night under arms. We shall hear of the shield later.

Meriones, who is an archer (XIII. 650), lends to Odysseus his bow
and quiver and a sword. He also gives him "a helm made of leather;
and with many a thong it was stiffly wrought within, while without
the white teeth of a boar of flashing tusks were arrayed, thick
set on either side well and cunningly... ." Here Reichel perceives
that the ignorant poet is describing a piece of ancient headgear
represented in Mycenaean art, while the boars' teeth were found by
Schliemann, to the number of sixty, in Grave IV. at Mycenae. Each
of them had "the reverse side cut perfectly flat, and with the
borings to attach them to some other object." They were "in a
veritable funereal armoury." The manner of setting the tusks on
the cap is shown on an ivory head of a warrior from Mycenae.
[Footnote: Tsountas and Manatt, 196-197.]

Reichel recognises that the poet's description in Book X. is
excellent, "_ebenso klar als eingehend_." He publishes
another ivory head from Spata, with the same helmet set with
boars' tusks. [Footnote: Reichel, pp. 102-104] Mr. Leaf decides
that this description by the poet, wholly ignorant of heroic
costume, as Reichel thinks him, must be "another instance of the
archaic and archaeologising tendency so notable in Book X."
[Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. ii. p. 629.]

At the same time, according to Reichel and Mr. Leaf, the poet of
Book X. introduces the small round Ionian buckler, thus showing
his utter ignorance of the great Mycenaean shield. The ignorance
was most unusual and quite inexcusable, for any one who reads the
rest of the _Iliad_ (which the poet of Book X. knew well) is
aware that the Homeric shields were huge, often covering body and
legs. This fact the poet of Book X. did not know, in Reichel's
opinion. [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 575]

How are we to understand this poet? He is such an erudite
archaeologist that, in the seventh century, he knows and carefully
describes a helmet of the Mycenaean prime. Did he excavate it? and
had the leather interior lasted with the felt cap through seven
centuries? Or did he see a sample in an old temple of the
Mycenaean prime, or in a museum of his own period? Or had he heard
of it in a lost Mycenaean poem? Yet, careful as he was, so
pedantic that he must have puzzled his seventh-century audience,
who never saw such caps, the poet knew nothing of the shields and
costumes of the heroes, though he might have found out all that is
known about them in the then existing Iliadic lays with which he
was perfectly familiar--see his portrait of Agamemnon. He was well
aware that corslets were, in Homeric poetry, anachronisms, for he
gave Nestor none; yet he fully believed, in his ignorance, that
small Ionian bucklers loveth; (which need the aid of corslets
badly) were the only wear among the heroes!

Criticism has, as we often observe, no right to throw the first
stone at the inconsistencies of Homer. As we cannot possibly
believe that one poet knew so much which his contemporaries did
not know (and how, in the seventh century, could he know it?), and
that he also knew so little, knew nothing in fact, we take our own
view. The poet of Book X. sings of _a_ fresh topic, a
confused night of dread; of young men wearing the headgear which,
he says, young men _do_ wear; of pelts of fur such as
suddenly wakened men, roused, but not roused for battle, would be
likely to throw over their bodies against the chill air. He
describes things of his own day; things with which he is familiar.
He is said to "take quite a peculiar delight in the minute
description of dress and weapons." [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_,
vol. i. p. 423.] We do not observe that he does describe weapons
or shields minutely; but Homer always loves to describe weapons
and costume--scores of examples prove it--and here he happens to
be describing such costume as he nowhere else has occasion to
mention. By an accident of archaeological discovery, we find that
there were such caps set with boars' tusks as he introduces. They
had survived, for young men on night duty, into the poet's age. We
really cannot believe that a poet of the seventh century had made
excavations in Mycenaean graves. If he did and put the results
into his lay, his audience--not wearing boars' tusks--would have
asked, "What nonsense is the man talking?"

Erhardt, remarking on the furs which the heroes throw over their
shoulders when aroused, says that this kind of wrap is very late.
It was Peisander who, in the second half of the seventh century,
clothed Herakles in a lion's skin. Peisander brought this costume
into poetry, and the author of the _Doloneia_ knew no better
than to follow Peisander. [Footnote: _Die Enstehung der
Homerischen Gedichte_, pp. 163-164.] The poet of the
_Doloneia_ was thus much better acquainted with Peisander
than with the Homeric lays, which could have taught him that a
hero would never wear a fur coverlet when aroused--not to fight--
from slumber. Yet he knew about leathern caps set with boars'
tusks. He must have been an erudite excavator, but, in literature,
a reader only of recent minor poetry.

Having procured arms, without corslets (_with_ corslets,
according to Carl Robert)--whether, if they had none, because the
poet knew that corslets were anachronisms, or because spies
usually go as lightly burdened as possible--Odysseus and Diomede
approach the Trojan camp. The hour is the darkest hour before
dawn. They hear, but do not see, a heron sent by Athene as an
omen, and pray to the goddess, with promise of sacrifice.

In the Trojan camp Hector has called a council, and asked for a
volunteer spy to seek intelligence among the Achaeans. He offers
no black ewes as a reward, but the best horses of the enemy. This
allures Dolon, son of a rich Trojan, "an only son among five
sisters," a poltroon, a weak lad, ugly, but swift of foot, and an
enthusiastic lover of horses. He asks for the steeds of Achilles,
which Hector swears to give him; and to be lightly clad he takes
merely spear and bow and a cap of ferret skin, with the pelt of a
wolf for covering. Odysseus sees him approach; he and Diomede lie
down among the dead till Dolon passes, then they chase him towards
the Achaean camp and catch him. He offers ransom, which before
these last days of the war was often accepted. Odysseus replies
evasively, and asks for information. Dolon, thinking that the
bitterness of death is past, explains that only the Trojans have
watch-fires; the allies, more careless, have none. At the extreme
flank of the host sleep the newly arrived Thracians, under their
king, Rhesus, who has golden armour, and "the fairest horses that
ever I beheld" (the ruling passion for horses is strong in Dolon),
"and the greatest, whiter than snow, and for speed like the

Having learned all that he needs to know, Diomede ruthlessly slays
Dolon. Odysseus thanks Athene, and hides the poor spoils of the
dead, marking the place. They then creep into the dark camp of the
sleeping Thracians, and as Diomede slays them Odysseus drags each
body aside, to leave a clear path for the horses, that they may
not plunge and tremble when they are led forth, "for they were not
yet used to dead men." No line in Homer shows more intimate
knowledge and realisation of horses and of war. Odysseus drives
the horses of Rhesus out of the camp with the bow of Meriones; he
has forgotten to take the whip from the chariot. Diomede, having
slain King Rhesus asleep, thinks whether he shall lift out the
chariot (war chariots were very light) or drag it by the pole; but
Athene warns him to be going. He "springs upon the steeds," and
they make for their camp. It is not clearly indicated whether they
ride or drive (X., 5 I 3, 527-528, 541); but, suppose that they
ride, are we to conclude that the fact proves "lateness"? The
heroes always drive in Homer, but it is inconceivable that they
could not ride in cases of necessity, as here, if Diomede has
thought it wiser not to bring out the chariot and harness the
horses. Riding is mentioned in _Iliad_, XV. 679, in a simile;
again, in a simile, _Odyssey_, V. 37 I. It is not the custom
for heroes to ride; the chariot is used in war and in travelling,
but, when there are horses and no chariot, men could not be so
imbecile as not to mount the horses, nor could the poet be so
pedantic as not to make them do so.

The shields would cause no difficulty; they would be slung
sideways, like the shields of knights in the early Middle Ages.
The pair, picking up Dolon's spoils as they pass, hurry back to
the chiefs, where Nestor welcomes them. The others laugh and are
encouraged (to encourage them and his audience is the aim of the
poet); while the pair go to Diomede's quarters, wash off the blood
and sweat from their limbs in the sea, and then "enter the
polished baths," common in the _Odyssey_, unnamed in the
Iliad. But on no other occasion in the Iliad are we admitted to
view this part of heroic toilette. Nowhere else, in fact, do we
accompany a hero to his quarters and his tub after the day's work
is over. Achilles, however, refuses to wash, after fighting, in
his grief for Patroclus, though plenty of water was being heated
for the purpose, and it is to be presumed that a bath was ready
for the water (_Iliad_, XXIII. 40). See, too, for Hector's
bath, XXII. 444.

The two heroes then refresh themselves; breakfast, in fact, and
drink, as is natural. By this time the dawn must have been in the
sky, and in Book XI. men are stirring with the dawn. Such is the
story of Book X. The reader may decide as to whether it is
"_Very_ late; barely Homeric," or a late and deliberate piece
of burlesque, [Footnote: Henry, _Classical Review_. March
1906.] or whether it is very Homeric, though the whole set of
situations--a night of terror, an anxious chief, a nocturnal
adventure--are unexampled in the poem.

The poet's audience of warriors must have been familiar with such
situations, and must have appreciated the humorous, ruthless
treatment of Dolon, the spoiled only brother of five sisters. Mr.
Monro admitted that Dolon is Shakespearian, but added, "too
Shakespearian for Homer." One may as well say that Agincourt, in
Henry V., is "too Homeric for Shakespeare."

Mr. Monro argued that "the Tenth Book comes in awkwardly after the
Ninth." Nitzsche thinks just the reverse. The patriotic warrior
audience would delight in the _Doloneia_ after the anguish of
Book IX.; would laugh with Odysseus at the close of his adventure,
and rejoice with the other Achaeans (X. 505).

"The introductory part of the Book is cumbrous," says Mr. Monro.
To us it is, if we wish to get straight to the adventure, just as
the customary delays in Book XIX., before Achilles is allowed to
fight, are tedious to us. But the poet's audience did not
necessarily share our tastes, and might take pleasure (as I do) in
the curious details of the opening of Book X. The poet was
thinking of his audience, not of modern professors.

"We hear no more of Rhesus and his Thracians." Of Rhesus there was
no more to hear, and his people probably went home, like
Glenbuckie's Stewarts after the mysterious death of their chief in
Amprior's house of Leny before Prestonpans (1745). Glenbuckie was
mysteriously pistolled in the night. "The style and tone is unlike
that of the Iliad ... It is rather akin to comedy of a rough
farcical kind." But it was time for "comic relief." If the story
of Dolon be comic, it is comic with the practical humour of the
sagas. In an isolated nocturnal adventure and massacre we cannot
expect the style of an heroic battle under the sunlight. Is the
poet not to be allowed to be various, and is the scene of the
Porter in _Macbeth_, "in style and tone," like the rest of
the drama? (_Macbeth_, Act ii. sc. 3). Here, of course,
Shakespeare indulges infinitely more in "comedy of a rough
practical kind" than does the author of the _Doloneia_.

The humour and the cruelty do not exceed what is exhibited in many
of the _gabes_, or insulting boasts of heroes over dead foes
in other parts of the _Iliad_; such as the taunting
comparison of a warrior falling from his chariot to a diver after
oysters, or as "one of the Argives hath caught the spear in his
flesh, and leaning thereon for a staff, methinks that he will go
down within the house of Hades" (XIV. 455-457). The _Iliad_,
like the sagas, is rich in this extremely practical humour.

Mr. Leaf says that the Book "must have been composed before the
_Iliad_ had reached its present form, for it cannot have been
meant to follow on Book IX. It is rather another case of a
parallel rival to that Book, coupled with it only in the final
literary redaction," which Mr. Leaf dates in the middle of the
sixth century. "The Book must have been composed before the
_Iliad_ had reached its present form," [Footnote:
_Iliad_, vol. i. p. 424.] It is not easy to understand this
decision; for, as Mr. Leaf had previously written, about Book IX.
60-68, "the posting of the watch is at least not necessary to the
story, and it has a suspicious air of being merely a preparation
for the next Book, which is much later, and which turns entirely
upon a visit to the sentinels." [Footnote: _Companion,_

Now a military audience would not have pardoned the poet of Book
IX. if, in the circumstances of defeat, with a confident enemy
encamped within striking distance, he had not made the Achaeans
throw forth their outposts. The thing was inevitable and is not
suspicious; but the poet purposely makes the advanced guard
consist of young men under Nestor's son and Meriones. He needs
them for Book X. Therefore the poet of Book IX. is the poet of
Book X. preparing his effect in advance; or the poet of Book X. is
a man who cleverly takes advantage of Book IX., or he composed his
poem of "a night of terror and adventure," "in the air," and the
editor of 540 B.C., having heard it recited and copied it out,
went back to Book IX. and inserted the advanced guard, under
Thrasymedes and Meriones, to lead up to Book X.

On Mr. Leafs present theory, [Footnote: Iliad, vol. i. p.424.]
Book X., we presume, was meant, not to follow Book IX., but to
follow the end of Book VII, being an alternative to Book VIII.
(composed, he says, to lead up to Book IX.) and Book IX. But Book
VII. closes with the Achaean refusal of the compromise offered by
Paris--the restoration of the property but not of the wife of
Menelaus. The Trojans and Achaeans feast all night; the Trojans
feast in the city. There is therefore no place here for Book X.
after Book VII, and the Achaeans cannot roam about all night, as
they are feasting; nor can Agamemnon be in the state of anxiety
exhibited by him in Book X.

Book X. could not exist without Book IX., and _must_ have
been "meant to follow on it." Mr. Leaf sees that, in his preface
to Book IX., [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 371.] "The
placing of sentinels" (in Book IX. 80, 84) "is needed as an
introduction to Book X. but has nothing to do with this Book"
(IX.). But, we have said, it was inevitable, given the new
situation in Book IX. (an Achaean repulse, and the enemy camped in
front), that an advanced guard must be placed, even if there
proved to be no need of their services. We presume that Mr. Leaf's
literary editor, finding that Book X. existed and that the
advanced guard was a necessity of its action, went back to Book
IX. and introduced an advanced guard of young men, with its
captains, Thrasymedes and Meriones. Even after this the editor had
much to do, if Book IX. originally exhibited Agamemnon as not in
terror and despair, as it now does.

We need not throw the burden of all this work on the editor. As
Mr. Leaf elsewhere writes, in a different mind, the Tenth Book "is
obviously adapted to its present place in the _Iliad_, for it
assumes a moment when Achilles is absent from the field, and when
the Greeks are in deep dejection from a recent defeat. These
conditions are exactly fulfilled by the situation at the end of
Book IX." [Footnote: _Companion_, p. 190.]

This is certainly the case. The Tenth Book could not exist without
the Ninth; yet Mr. Leaf's new opinion is that it "cannot have been
meant to follow on Book IX." [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p.
424.] He was better inspired when he held the precisely opposite

Dr. Adolf Kiene [Footnote: Die _Epen des Homer, Zweiter
Theil,_ pp. 90-94. Hanover, 1884.] accepts Book XI. as
originally composed to fill its present place in the _Iliad._
He points out the despondency of the chiefs after receiving the
reply of Achilles, and supposes that even Diomede (IX. 708) only
urges Agamemnon to "array before the ships thy folk and horsemen,"
for defensive battle. But, encouraged by the success of the night
adventure, Agamemnon next day assumes the offensive. To consider
thus is perhaps to consider too curiously. But it is clear that
the Achaeans have been much encouraged by the events of Book X.,
especially Agamemnon, whose character, as Kiene observes, is very
subtly and consistently treated, and "lies near the poet's heart."
This is the point which we keep urging. Agamemnon's care for
Menelaus is strictly preserved in Book X.

Nitzsche (I 897) writes, "Between Book IX. and Book XI there is a
gap; that gap the _Doloneia_ fills: it must have been
composed to be part of the _ILIAD_." But he thinks that the
_Doloneia_ has taken the place of an earlier lay which filled
the gap. [Footnote: Die _Echtheit der Doloneia,_ p. 32.
Programme des K. K. Staats Gymnasium zu Marburg, 1877.] That the
Book is never referred to later in the _Iliad_, even if it be
true, is no great argument against its authenticity. For when
later references are made to Book IX., they are dismissed as
clever late interpolations. If the horses of Rhesus took part, as
they do not, in the sports at the funeral of Patroclus, the
passage would be called a clever interpolation: in fact, Diomede
had better horses, divine horses to run. However, it is certainly
remarkable that the interpolation was not made by one of the
interpolators of critical theory.

Meanwhile there is, we think, a reference to Book X. in Book XIV.
[Footnote: This was pointed out to me by Mr. Shewan, to whose
great knowledge of Homer I am here much indebted.]

In _Iliad_, XIV. 9-11, we read that Nestor, in his quarters
with the wounded Machaon, on the day following the night of
Dolon's death, hears the cry of battle and goes out to see what is
happening. "He took the well-wrought shield of his son, horse-
taming Thrasymedes, which was lying in the hut, all glistening
with bronze, but _the son had the shield of his father_."

Why had Thrasymedes the shield of his father? At about 3 A.M.
before dawn the shield of Nestor was lying beside him in his own
bedroom (Book X. 76), and at the same moment his son Thrasymedes
_was_ on outpost duty, and had his own shield with him (Book
IX. 81).

When, then, did father and son exchange shields, and why? Mr. Leaf
says, "It is useless to inquire why father and son had thus
changed shields, as the scholiasts of course do."

The scholiasts merely babble. Homer, of course, meant
_something_ by this exchange of shields, which occurred late
in the night of Book IX. or very early in the following day, that
of Books XI-XVI.

Let us follow again the sequence of events. On the night before
the day when Nestor had Thrasymedes' shield and Thrasymedes had
Nestor's, Thrasymedes was sent out, with shield and all, in
command of one of the seven companies of an advanced guard, posted
between fosse and wall, in case of a camisade by the Trojans, who
were encamped on the plain (IX. 81). With him in command were
Meriones and five other young men less notable. They had supplies
with them and whatever was needed: they cooked supper in bivouac.

In the _Doloneia_ the wakeful princes, after inspecting the
advanced guard, go forward within view of the Trojan ranks and
consult. With them they take Nestor's son, Thrasymedes, and
Meriones (X. 196). The two young men, being on active service, are
armed; the princes are not. Diomede, having been suddenly roused
out of sleep, with no intention to fight, merely threw on his
dressing-gown, a lion's skin. Nestor wore a thick, double, purple
dressing-gown. Odysseus had cast his shield about his shoulders.
It was decided that Odysseus and Diomede should enter the Trojan
camp and "prove a jeopardy." Diomede had no weapon but his spear;
so Thrasymedes, who is armed as we saw, lends him his bull's-hide
cap, "that keeps the heads of stalwart youths," his sword (for
that of Diomede "was left at the ships"), and his shield.

Diomede and Odysseus successfully achieve their adventure and
return to the chiefs, where they talk with Nestor; and then they
go to Diomede's hut and drink. The outposts remain, of course, at
their stations.

Meanwhile, Thrasymedes, having lent his shield to Diomede, has
none of his own. Naturally, as he was to pass the night under
arms, he would send to his father's quarters for the old man's
shield, a sword, and a helmet. He would remain at his post (his
men had provisions) till the general _reveillez_ at dawn, and
would then breakfast at his post and go into the fray. Nestor,
therefore, missing his shield, would send round to Diomede's
quarters for the shield of Thrasymedes, which had been lent
overnight to Diomede, would take it into the fight, and would
bring it back to his own hut when he carried the wounded Machaon
thither out of the battle. When he arms to go out and seek for
information, he picks up the shield of Thrasymedes.

Nothing can be more obvious; the poet, being a man of imagination,
not a professor, sees it all, and casually mentions that the son
had the father's and the father had the son's shield. His
audience, men of the sword, see the case as clearly as the poet
does: only we moderns and the scholiasts, almost as modern as
ourselves, are puzzled.

It may also be argued, though we lay no stress on it, that in Book
XI. 312, when Agamemnon has been wounded, we find Odysseus and
Diomede alone together, without their contingents, because they
have not separated since they breakfasted together, after
returning from the adventure of Book X., and thus they have come
rather late to the field. They find the Achaeans demoralised by
the wounding of Agamemnon, and they make a stand. "What ails us,"
asks Odysseus, "that we forget our impetuous valour?" The passage
appears to take up the companionship of Odysseus and Diomede, who
were left breakfasting together at the end of Book X. and are not
mentioned till we meet them again in this scene of Book XI., as if
they had just come on the field.

As to the linguistic tests of lateness "there are exceptionally
numerous traces of later formation," says Mr. Monro; while Fick,
tout _contraire,_ writes, "clumsy Ionisms are not common,
and, as a rule, occur in these parts which on older grounds show
themselves to be late interpolations." "The cases of agreement"
(between Fick and Mr. Monro), "are few, and the passages thus
condemned are not more numerous in the _Doloneia_ than in any
average book." [Footnote: Jevons, _Journal of Hellenic
Studies_, vii. p. 302.] The six examples of "a post-Homeric use
of the article" do not seem so very post-Homeric to an ordinary
intelligence--parallels occur in Book I.--and "Perfects in
[Greek: ka] from derivative verbs" do not destroy the impression
of antiquity and unity which is left by the treatment of
character; by the celebrated cap with boars' tusks, which no human
being could archaeologically reconstruct in the seventh century;
and by the Homeric vigour in such touches as the horses unused to
dead men. As the _Iliad_ certainly passed through centuries
in which its language could not but be affected by linguistic
changes, as it could not escape from _remaniements_,
consciously or unconsciously introduced by reciters and copyists,
the linguistic objections are not strongly felt by us. An
unphilological reader of Homer notes that Duntzer thinks the
_Doloneia_ "older than the oldest portion of the Odyssey,"
while Gemoll thinks that the author of the _Doloneia_. was
familiar with the _Odyssey_. [Footnote: Duntzer, _Homer.
Abhanglungen_, p. 324. Gemoll, _Hermes_, xv. 557 ff.]

Meanwhile, one thing seems plain to us: when the author of Book
IX. posted the guards under Thrasymedes, he was deliberately
leading up to Book X.; while the casual remark in Book XIV. about
the exchange of shields between father and son, Nestor and
Thrasymedes, glances back at Book X. and possibly refers to some
lost and more explicit statement.

It is not always remembered that, if things could drop into the
interpolations, things could also drop out of the _ILIAD,_
causing _lacunae_, during the dark backward of its early

If the _Doloneia_ be "barely Homeric," as Father Browne
holds, this opinion was not shared by the listeners or readers of
the sixth century. The vase painters often illustrate the
_Doloneia;_ but it does not follow that "the story was fresh"
because it was "popular," as Mr. Leaf suggests, and "was treated
as public property in a different way" (namely, in a comic way)
"from the consecrated early legends" (_Iliad,_ II 424, 425).
The sixth century vase painters illustrated many passages in
Homer, not the _Doloneia_ alone. The "comic way" was the
ruthless humour of two strong warriors capturing one weak coward.
Much later, wild caricature was applied in vase painting to the
most romantic scenes in the Odyssey, which were "consecrated"



That several of the passages in which Nestor speaks are very late
interpolations, meant to glorify Pisistratus, himself of Nestor's
line, is a critical opinion to which we have more than once
alluded. The first example is in _Iliad,_ II. 530-568. This
passage "is meant at once to present Nestor as the leading
counsellor of the Greek army, and to introduce the coming
_Catalogue_." [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad,_ vol. i. p. 70.]
Now the _Catalogue_ "originally formed an introduction to the
whole Cycle." [Footnote: Ibid., vol. i. p. 87.] But, to repeat an
earlier observation, surely the whole Cycle was much later than
the period of Pisistratus and his sons; that is, the compilation
of the Homeric and Cyclic poems into one body of verse, named "The
Cycle," is believed to have been much later.

It is objected that Nestor's advice in this passage, "Separate thy
warriors by tribes and clans" ([Greek: phyla, phraetras]), "is out
of place in the last year of the war"; but this suggestion for
military reorganisation may be admitted as a mere piece of
poetical perspective, like Helen's description of the Achaean
chiefs in Book III, or Nestor may wish to return to an obsolete
system of clan regiments. The Athenians had "tribes" and "clans,"
political institutions, and Nestor's advice is noted as a touch of
late Attic influence; but about the nature and origin of these
social divisions we know so little that it is vain to argue about
them. The advice of Nestor is an appeal to the clan spirit--a very
serviceable military spirit, as the Highlanders have often proved
--but we have no information as to whether it existed in Achaean
times. Nestor speaks as the aged Lochiel spoke to Claverhouse
before Killiecrankie. Did the Athenian army of the sixth century
fight in clan regiments? The device seems to belong to an earlier
civilisation, whether it survived in sixth century Athens or not.
It is, of course, notorious that tribes and clans are most
flourishing among the most backward people, though they were
welded into the constitution of Athens. The passage, therefore,
cannot with any certainty be dismissed as very late, for the words
for "tribe" and "clan" could not be novel Athenian inventions, the
institutions designated being of prehistoric origin.

Nestor shows his tactics again in IV. 303-309, offers his
"inopportune tactical lucubrations, doubtless under Athenian
(Pisistratean) influence." The poet is here denied a sense of
humour. That a veteran military Polonius should talk as
inopportunely about tactics as Dugald Dalgetty does about the
sconce of Drumsnab is an essential part of the humour of the
character of Nestor. This is what Nestor's critics do not see; the
inopportune nature of his tactical remarks is the point of them,
just as in the case of the laird of Drumthwacket, "that should
be." Scott knew little of Homer, but coincided in the Nestorian
humour by mere congruity of genius. The Pisistratidze must have
been humourless if they did not see that the poet smiled as he
composed Nestor's speeches, glorifying old deeds of his own and
old ways of fighting. He arrays his Pylians with chariots in
front, footmen in the rear. In the [blank space] the princely
heroes dismounted to fight, the chariots following close behind
them. [Footnote: _Iliad_, XI. 48-56.] In the same way during
the Hundred Years' War the English knights dismounted and defeated
the French chivalry till, under Jeanne d'Arc and La Hire, the
French learned the lesson, and imitated the English practice. On
the other hand, Egyptian wall-paintings show the Egyptian
chariotry advancing in neat lines and serried squadrons. According
to Nestor these had of old been the Achaean tactics, and he
preferred the old way. Nestor's advice in Book IV. is _not_
to dismount or break the line of chariots; these, he says, were
the old tactics: "Even so is the far better way; thus, moreover,
did men of old time lay low cities and walls." There was to be no
rushing of individuals from the ranks, no dismounting. Nestor's
were not the tactics of the heroes--they usually dismount and do
single valiances; but Nestor, commanding his local contingent,
recommends the methods of the old school, [Greek: hoi pretoroi].
What can be more natural and characteristic?

The poet's meaning seems quite clear. He is not flattering
Pisistratus, but, with quiet humour, offers the portrait of a
vain, worthy veteran. It is difficult to see how this point can be
missed; it never was missed before Nestor's speeches seemed
serviceable to the Pisistratean theory of the composition of the
_ILIAD_. In his first edition Mr. Leaf regarded the
interpolations as intended "to glorify Nestor" without reference
to Pisistratus, whom Mr. Leaf did not then recognise as the master
of a sycophantic editor. The passages are really meant to display
the old man's habit of glorifying himself and past times.
Pisistratus could not feel flattered by passages intended to
exhibit his ancestor as a conceited and inopportune old babbler. I
ventured in 1896 to suggest that the interpolator was trying to
please Pisistratus, but this was said in a spirit of mockery.

Of all the characters in Homer that of Nestor is most familiar to
the unlearned world, merely because Nestor's is a "character
part," very broadly drawn.

The third interpolation of flattery to Pisistratus in the person
of Nestor is found in VII. 125-160. The Achaean chiefs are loath
to accept the challenge of Hector to single combat. Only Menelaus
rises and arms himself, moved by the strong sense of honour which
distinguishes a warrior notoriously deficient in bodily strength.
Agamemnon refuses to let him fight; the other peers make no
movement, and Nestor rebukes them. It is entirely in nature that
he should fall back on his memory of a similar situation in his
youth; when the Arcadian champion, Ereuthalion, challenged any
prince of the Pylians, and when "no man plucked up heart" to meet
him except Nestor himself. Had there never been any Pisistratus,
any poet who created the part of a worthy and wordy veteran must
have made Nestor speak just as he does speak. Ereuthalion "was the
tallest and strongest of men that I have slain!" and Nestor, being
what he is, offers copious and interesting details about the
armour of Ereuthalion and about its former owners. The passage is
like those in which the Icelandic sagamen dwelt lovingly on the
history of a good sword, or the Maoris on the old possessors of an
ancient jade _patu_. An objection is now taken to Nestor's
geography: he is said not to know the towns and burns of his own
country. He speaks of the swift stream Keladon, the streams of
Iardanus, and the walls of Pheia. Pheia "is no doubt the same as
Pheai" [Footnote: Monro, Note on Odyssey, XV. 297.] (Odyssey, XV.
297), "but that was a maritime town not near Arkadia. There is
nothing known of a Keladon or Iardanus anywhere near it." Now
Didymus (Schol. A) "is said to have read [Greek: Phaeraes] for
[Greek: Pheias]," following Pherekydes. [Footnote: Leaf,
_Iliad_, vol. i. 308.] M. Victor Berard, who has made an
elaborate study of Elian topography, says that "Pheia is a cape,
not a town," and adopts the reading "Phera," the [Greek: Pherae]
of the journey of Telemachus, in the Odyssey. He thinks that the
[Greek: Pherae] of Nestor is the Aliphera of Polybius, and
believes that the topography of Nestor and of the journey of
Telemachus is correct. The Keladon is now the river or burn of
Saint Isidore; the Iardanus is at the foot of Mount Kaiapha.
Keladon has obviously the same sense as the Gaelic Altgarbh, "the
rough and brawling stream." Iardanus is also a stream in Crete,
and Mr. Leaf thinks it Semitic--"_Yarden_, from yarad to
flow"; but the Semites did not give the _Yar_ to the
_Yarrow_ nor to the Australian _Yarra Yarra_.

The country, says M. Berard, is a network of rivers, burns, and
rivulets; and we cannot have any certainty, we may add, as the
same river and burn names recur in many parts of the same country;
[Footnote: Berard, _Les Pheniciens et L'Odyssee,_ 108-113,
1902] many of them, in England, are plainly prae-Celtic.

While the correct geography may, on this showing, be that of
Homer, we cannot give up Homer's claim to Nestor's speech. As to
Nestor's tale about the armour of Ereuthalion, it is manifest that
the first owner of the armour of Ereuthalion, namely Are'ithous,
"the Maceman," so called because he had the singularity of
fighting with an iron _casse-tete,_ as Nestor explains (VII.
138-140), was a famous character in legendary history. He appears
"as Prince Areithous, the Maceman," father (or grand-father?) of
an Areithous slain by Hector (VII. 8-10). In Greece, it was not
unusual for the grandson to bear the grandfather's name, and, if
the Maceman was grand-father of Hector's victim, there is no
chronological difficulty. The chronological difficulty, in any
case, if Hector's victim is the son of the Maceman, is not at all
beyond a poetic narrator's possibility of error in genealogy. If
Nestor's speech is a late interpolation, if its late author
borrowed his vivid account of the Maceman and his _casse-
tete_ from the mere word "maceman" in VII. 9, he must be
credited with a lively poetic imagination.

Few or none of these reminiscences of Nestor are really
"inapplicable to the context." Here the context demands
encouragement for heroes who shun a challenge. Nestor mentions an
"applicable" and apposite instance of similar want of courage,
and, as his character demands, he is the hero of his own story.
His brag, or _gabe,_ about "he was the tallest and strongest
of all the men I ever slew," is deliciously in keeping, and
reminds us of the college don who said of the Czar, "he is the
nicest emperor I ever met." The poet is sketching an innocent
vanity; he is not flattering Pisistratus.

The next case is the long narrative of Nestor to the hurried
Patroclus, who has been sent by Achilles to bring news of the
wounded Machaon (XI. 604-702). Nestor on this occasion has useful
advice to give, namely, that Achilles, if he will not fight,
should send his men, under Patroclus, to turn the tide of Trojan
victory. But the poet wishes to provide an interval of time and of
yet more dire disaster before the return of Patroclus to Achilles.
By an obvious literary artifice he makes Nestor detain the
reluctant Patroclus with a long story of his own early feats of
arms. It is a story of a "hot-trod," so called in Border law; the
Eleians had driven a _creagh_ of cattle from the Pylians, who
pursued, and Nestor killed the Eleian leader, Itymoneus. The
speech is an Achaean parallel to the Border ballad of "Jamie
Telfer of the Fair Dodhead," in editing which Scott has been
accused of making a singular and most obvious and puzzling blunder
in the topography of his own sheriffdom of the Forest. On Scott's
showing the scene of the raid is in upper Ettrickdale, not, as
critics aver, in upper Teviotdale; thus the narrative of the
ballad would be impossible. [Footnote: In fact both sites on the
two Dodburns are impossible; the fault lay with the ballad-maker,
not with Scott.]

The Pisistratean editor is accused of a similar error. "No doubt
he was an Asiatic Greek, completely ignorant of the Peloponnesus."
[Footnote: _Iliad_. Note to XI. 756, and to the
_Catalogue_, II. 615-617.] It is something to know that
Pisistratus employed an editor, or that his editor employed a
collaborator who was an Asiatic Greek!

Meanwhile, nothing is less secure than arguments based on the
_Catalogue_. We have already shown how Mr. Leaf's opinions as
to the date and historical merits of the _Catalogue_ have
widely varied, while M. Berard appears to have vindicated the
topography of Nestor. Of the _Catalogue_ Mr. Allen writes,
"As a table, according to regions, of Agamemnon's forces it bears
every mark of venerable antiquity," showing "a state of things
which never recurred in later history, and which no one had any
interest to invent, or even the means for inventing." He makes a
vigorous defence of the _Catalogue,_ as regards the dominion
of Achilles, against Mr. Leaf. [Footnote: _Classical Review,_
May 1906, pp. x94-201.] Into the details we need not go, but it is
not questions of Homeric topography, obscure as they are, that can
shake our faith in the humorous portrait of old Nestor, or make us
suppose that the sympathetic mockery of the poet is the
sycophantic adulation of the editor to his statesman employer,
Pisistratus. If any question may be left to literary
discrimination it is the authentic originality of the portrayal of



Though comparison is the method of Science, the comparative study
of the national poetry of warlike aristocracies, its conditions of
growth and decadence, has been much neglected by Homeric critics.
Sir Richard Jebb touched on the theme, and, after devoting four
pages to a sketch of Sanskrit, Finnish, Persian, and early
Teutonic heroic poetry and _SAGA,_ decided that "in our
country, as in others, we fail to find any true parallel to the
case of the Homeric poems. These poems must be studied in
themselves, without looking for aid, in this sense, to the
comparative method." [Footnote: _Homer_, p. 135.] Part of
this conclusion seems to us rather hasty. In a brief manual Sir
Richard had not space for a thorough comparative study of old
heroic poetry at large. His quoted sources are: for India, Lassen;
for France, Mr. Saintsbury's Short History of _FRENCH
LITERATURE_ (sixteen pages on this topic), and a work unknown
to me, by "M. Paul"; for Iceland he only quoted _THE
Encyclopedia BRITANNICA_ (Mr. Edmund Gosse); for Germany,
Lachmann and Bartsch; for the Finnish _Kalewala,_ the
_ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA_ (Mr. Sime and Mr. Keltie); and for
England, a _PRIMER OF ENGLISH LITERATURE_ by Mr. Stopford

These sources appear less than adequate, and Celtic heroic romance
is entirely omitted. A much deeper and wider comparative criticism
of early heroic national poetry is needed, before any one has a
right to say that the study cannot aid our critical examination of
the Homeric problem. Many peoples have passed through a stage of
culture closely analogous to that of Achaean society as described
in the _Iliad_ and Odyssey. Every society of this kind has
had its ruling military class, its ancient legends, and its
minstrels who on these legends have based their songs. The
similarity of human nature under similar conditions makes it
certain that comparison will discover useful parallels between the
poetry of societies separated in time and space but practically
identical in culture. It is not much to the credit of modern
criticism that a topic so rich and interesting has been, at least
in England, almost entirely neglected by Homeric scholars.

Meanwhile, it is perfectly correct to say, as Sir Richard
observes, that "we fail to find any true parallel to the case of
the Homeric poems," for we nowhere find the legends of an heroic
age handled by a very great poet--the greatest of all poets--
except in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. But, on the other
hand, the critics refuse to believe that, in the _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey,_ we possess the heroic Achaean legends handled by
one great poet. They find a composite by many hands, good and bad,
and of many ages, they say; sometimes the whole composition and
part of the poems are ascribed to a late _litterateur_. Now
to that supposed state of things we do find several "true
parallels," in Germany, in Finland, in Ireland. But the results of
work by these many hands in many ages are anything but "a true
parallel" to the results which lie before us in the _Iliad_
and _ODYSSEY_. Where the processes of composite authorship
throughout many _AGES_ certainly occur, as in Germany and
Ireland, there we find no true parallel to the Homeric poems. It
follows that, in all probability, no such processes as the critics
postulate produced the _Iliad_ and Odyssey, for where the
processes existed, beyond doubt they failed egregiously to produce
the results.

Sir Richard's argument would have been logical if many efforts by
many hands, in many ages, in England, Finland, Ireland, Iceland,
and Germany did actually produce true parallels to the Achaean
epics. They did not, and why not? Simply because these other races
had no Homer. All the other necessary conditions were present, the
legendary material, the heroic society, the Court minstrels, all--
except the great poet. In all the countries mentioned, except
Finland, there existed military aristocracies with their courts,
castles, and minstrels, while the minstrels had rich material in
legendary history and in myth, and _Marchen_, and old songs.
But none of the minstrels was adequate to the production of an
English, German, or Irish _ILIAD_ or _ODYSSEY_, or even
of a true artistic equivalent in France.

We have tried to show that the critics, rejecting a Homer, have
been unable to advance any adequate hypothesis to account for the
existence of the _ILIAD_ and _ODYSSEY_. Now we see that,
where such conditions of production as they postulate existed but
where there was no great epic genius, they can find no true
parallels to the Epics. Their logic thus breaks down at both ends.

It may be replied that in non-Greek lands one condition found in
Greek society failed: the succession of a reading age to an age of
heroic listeners. But this is not so. In France and Germany an age
of readers duly began, but they did not mainly read copies of the
old heroic poems. They turned to lyric poetry, as in Greece, and
they recast the heroic songs into modern and popular forms in
verse and prose, when they took any notice of the old heroic poems
at all.

One merit of the Greek epics is a picture of "a certain phase of
early civilisation," and that picture is "a naturally harmonious
whole," with "unity of impression," says Sir Richard Jebb.
[Footnote: Homer, p. 37.] Certainly we can find no true parallel,
on an Homeric scale, to this "harmonious picture" in the epics of
Germany and England or in the early literature of Ireland. Sir
Richard, for England, omits notice of _Beowulf_; but we know
that _Beowulf_, a long heroic poem, is a mass of
anachronisms--a heathen legend in a Christian setting. The hero,
that great heathen champion, has his epic filled full of Christian
allusions and Christian morals, because the clerical redactor, in
Christian England, could not but intrude these things into old
pagan legends evolved by the continental ancestors of our race. He
had no "painful anxiety," like the supposed Ionic continuators of
the Achaean poems (when they are not said to have done precisely
the reverse), to preserve harmony of ancient ideas. Such
archaeological anxieties are purely modern.

If we take the _Nibelungenlied_, [Footnote: See chapter on
the _Nibelungenlied_ in Homer _AND the Epic_, pp. 382-
404.] we find that it is a thing of many rehandlings, even in
existing manuscripts. For example, the Greeks clung to the
hexameter in Homer. Not so did the Germans adhere to old metres.
The poem that, in the oldest MS., is written in assonances, in
later MSS. is reduced to regular rhymes and is retouched in many
essential respects. The matter of the _Nibelungenlied_ is of
heathen origin. We see the real state of heathen affairs in the
Icelandic versions of the same tale, for the Icelanders were
peculiar in preserving ancient lays; and, when these were woven
into a prose saga, the archaic and heathen features were retained.
Had the post-Christian prose author of the _Volsunga_ been a
great poet, we might find in his work a true parallel to the
_Iliad_. But, though he preserves the harmony of his picture
of pre-Christian princely life (save in the savage beginnings of
his story), he is not a poet; so the true parallel to the Greek
epic fails, noble as is the saga in many passages. In the German
_Nibelungenlied_ all is modernised; the characters are
Christian, the manners are chivalrous, and _Marchen_ older
than Homer are forced into a wandering mediaeval chronicle-poem.
The Germans, in short, had no early poet of genius, and therefore
could not produce a true parallel to _ILIAD_ or Odyssey. The
mediaeval poets, of course, never dreamed of archaeological
anxiety, as the supposed Ionian continuators are sometimes said to
have done, any more than did the French and late Welsh handlers of
the ancient Celtic Arthurian materials. The late German
_bearbeiter_ of the _Nibelungenlied_ has no idea of
unity of plot--_enfin_, Germany, having excellent and ancient
legendary material for an epic, but producing no parallel to
_ILIAD_ and Odyssey, only proves how absolutely essential a
Homer was to the Greek epics.

"If any inference could properly be drawn from the Edda" (the
Icelandic collection of heroic lays), says Sir Richard Jebb, "it
would be that short separate poems on cognate subjects can long
exist as a collection _without_ coalescing into such an
artistic whole as the Iliad or the Odyssey." [Footnote: Homer, p.

It is our own argument that Sir Richard states. "Short separate
poems on cognate subjects" can certainly co-exist for long
anywhere, but they cannot automatically and they cannot by aid of
an editor become a long epic. Nobody can stitch and vamp them into
a poem like the _ILIAD_ or Odyssey. To produce a poem like
either of these a great poetic genius must arise, and fuse the
ancient materials, as Hephaestus fused copper and tin, and then
cast the mass into a mould of his own making. A small poet may
reduce the legends and lays into a very inartistic whole, a very
inharmonious whole, as in the _Nibelungenlied_, but a
controlling poet, not a mere redactor or editor, is needed to
perform even that feat.

Where a man who is not a poet undertakes to produce the
coalescence, as Dr. Lonnrot (1835-1849) did in the case of the
peasant, not courtly, lays of Finland, he "fails to prove that
mere combining and editing can form an artistic whole out of
originally distinct songs, even though concerned with closely
related themes," says Sir Richard Jebb. [Footnote: Homer, p. 134-

This is perfectly true; much as Lonnrot botched and vamped the
Finnish lays he made no epic out of them. But, as it is true, how
did the late Athenian drudge of Pisistratus succeed where Lonnrot
failed? "In the dovetailing of the _ODYSSEY_ we see the work
of one mind," says Sir Richard. [Footnote: Homer, p. 129.] This
mind cannot have been the property of any one but a great poet,
obviously, as the _Odyssey_ is confessedly "an artistic
whole." Consequently the disintegrators of the Odyssey, when they
are logical, are reduced to averring that the poem is an
exceedingly inartistic whole, a whole not artistic at all. While
Mr. Leaf calls it "a model of skilful construction," Wilamowitz
Mollendorff denounces it as the work of "a slenderly-gifted
botcher," of about 650 B.C., a century previous to Mr. Leaf's
Athenian editor.

Thus we come, after all, to a crisis in which mere literary
appreciation is the only test of the truth about a work of
literature. The Odyssey is an admirable piece of artistic
composition, or it is the very reverse. Blass, Mr. Leaf, Sir
Richard Jebb, and the opinion of the ages declare that the
composition is excellent. A crowd of German critics and Father
Browne, S.J., hold that the composition is feeble. The criterion
is the literary taste of each party to the dispute. Kirchhoff and
Wilamowitz Mollendorff see a late bad patchwork, where Mr. Leaf,
Sir Richard Jebb, Blass, Wolf, and the verdict of all mankind see
a masterpiece of excellent construction. The world has judged: the
_Odyssey_ is a marvel of construction: therefore is not the
work of a late botcher of disparate materials, but of a great
early poet. Yet Sir Richard Jebb, while recognising the
_Odyssey_ as "an artistic whole" and an harmonious picture,
and recognising Lonnrot's failure "to prove that mere combining
and editing can form an artistic whole out of originally distinct
songs, even though concerned with closely related themes," thinks
that Kirchhoff has made the essence of his theory of late
combination of distinct strata of poetical material from different
sources and periods, in the _Odyssey_, "in the highest degree
probable." [Footnote: Homer, p. 131.]

It is, of course, possible that Mr. Leaf, who has not edited the
_Odyssey,_ may now, in deference to his belief in the
Pisistratean editor, have changed his opinion of the merits of the
poem. If the _Odyssey,_ like the _Iliad_, was, till
about 540 B.C., a chaos of lays of all ages, variously known in
various _repertoires_ of the rhapsodists, and patched up by
the Pisistratean editor, then of two things one--either Mr. Leaf
abides by his enthusiastic belief in the excellency of the
composition, or he does not. If he does still believe that the
composition of the _Odyssey_ is a masterpiece, then the
Pisistratean editor was a great master of construction. If he now,
on the other hand, agrees with Wilamowitz Mollendorff that the
_Odyssey_ is cobbler's work, then his literary opinions are



Sir Richard Jebb remarks, with truth, that "before any definite
solution of the Homeric problem could derive scientific support
from such analogies" (with epics of other peoples), "it would be
necessary to show that the particular conditions under which the
Homeric poems appear in early Greece had been reproduced with
sufficient closeness elsewhere." [Footnote: Homer, pp. 131, 132.]
Now we can show that the particular conditions under which the
Homeric poems confessedly arose were "reproduced with sufficient
closeness elsewhere," except that no really great poet was
elsewhere present.

This occurred among the Germanic aristocracy, "the Franks of
France," in the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries
of our era. The closeness of the whole parallel, allowing for the
admitted absence in France of a very great and truly artistic
poet, is astonishing.

We have first, in France, answering to the Achaean aristocracy,
the Frankish noblesse of warriors dwelling in princely courts and
strong castles, dominating an older population, owing a
practically doubtful fealty to an Over-Lord, the King, passing
their days in the chace, in private war, or in revolt against the
Over-Lord, and, for all literary entertainment, depending on the
recitations of epic poems by _jongleurs_, who in some cases
are of gentle birth, and are the authors of the poems which they

"This national poetry," says M. Gaston Paris, "was born and mainly
developed among the warlike class, princes, lords, and their
courts.... At first, no doubt, some of these men of the sword
themselves composed and chanted lays" (like Achilles), "but soon
there arose a special class of poets ... They went from court to
court, from castle ... Later, when the townsfolk began to be
interested in their chants, they sank a degree, and took their
stand in public open places ..." [Footnote: _Literature
Francaise au Moyen Age_, pp. 36, 37. 1898.]

In the _Iliad_ we hear of no minstrels in camp: in the
_Odyssey_ a prince has a minstrel among his retainers--
Demodocus, at the court of Phaeacia; Phemius, in the house of
Odysseus. In Ionia, when princes had passed away, rhapsodists
recited for gain in marketplaces and at fairs. The parallel with
France is so far complete.

The French national epics, like those of the Achaeans, deal mainly
with legends of a long past legendary age. To the French authors
the greatness and the fortunes of the Emperor Charles and other
heroic heads of great Houses provide a theme. The topics of song
are his wars, and the prowess and the quarrels of his peers with
the Emperor and among themselves. These are seen magnified through
a mist of legend; Saracens are substituted for Gascon foes, and
the great Charles, so nobly venerable a figure in the oldest
French epic (the _Chanson de Roland, circ._ 1050-1070 in its
earliest extant form), is more degraded, in the later epics, than
Agamemnon himself. The "machinery" of the gods in Homer is
replaced by the machinery of angels, but the machinery of dreams
is in vogue, as in the Iliad and _Odyssey_. The sources are
traditional and legendary.

We know that brief early lays of Charles and other heroes had
existed, and they may have been familiar to the French epic poets,
but they were not merely patched into the epics. The form of verse
is not ballad-like, but a series of _laisses_ of decasyllabic
lines, each _laisse_ presenting one assonance, not rhyme. As
time went on, rhyme and Alexandrine lines were introduced, and the
old epics were expanded, altered, condensed, _remanies_, with
progressive changes in taste, metre, language, manners, and ways
of life.

Finally, an age of Cyclic poems began; authors took new
characters, whom they attached by false genealogies to the older
heroes, and they chanted the adventures of the sons of the former
heroes, like the Cyclic poet who sang of the son of Odysseus by
Circe. All these conditions are undeniably "true parallels" to
"the conditions under which the Homeric poems appeared." The only
obvious point of difference vanishes if we admit, with Sir Richard
Jebb and M. Salomon Reinach, the possibility of the existence of
written texts in the Greece of the early iron age.

We do not mean texts prepared for a _reading_ public. In
France such a public, demanding texts for reading, did not arise
till the decadence of the epic. The oldest French texts of their
epics are small volumes, each page containing some thirty lines in
one column. Such volumes were carried about by the
_jongleurs_, who chanted their own or other men's verses.
They were not in the hands of readers. [Footnote: _Epopees
Francaises_, Leon Gautier, vol. i. pp. 226-228. 1878.]

An example of an author-reciter, Jendeus de Brie (he was the maker
of the first version of the _Bataille Loquifer_, twelfth
century) is instructive. Of Jendeus de Brie it is said that "he
wrote the poem, kept it very carefully, taught it to no man, made
much gain out of it in Sicily where he sojourned, and left it to
his son when he died." Similar statements are made in _Renaus de
Montauban_ (the existing late version is of the thirteenth
century) about Huon de Villeneuve, who would not part with his
poem for horses or furs, or for any price, and about other poets.
[Footnote: _Epopees Francaises, Leon Gautier_, vol. i. p.
215, Note I.]

These early _jongleurs_ were men of position and distinction;
their theme was the _gestes_ of princes; they were not under
the ban with which the Church pursued vulgar strollers, men like
the Greek rhapsodists. Pindar's story that Homer wrote the
_Cypria_ [Footnote: _Pindari Opera_, vol. iii. p. 654.
Boeckh.] and gave the copy, as the dowry of his daughter, to
Stasinus who married her, could only have arisen in Greece in
circumstances exactly like those of Jendeus de Brie. Jendeus lived
on his poem by reciting it, and left it to his son when he died.
The story of Homer and Stasinus could only have been invented in
an age when the possession of the solitary text of a poem was a
source of maintenance to the poet. This condition of things could
not exist, either when there were no written texts or when such
texts were multiplied to serve the wants of a reading public.

Again, a poet in the fortunate position of Jendeus would not teach
his Epic in a "school" of reciters unless he were extremely well
paid. In later years, after his death, his poem came, through
copies good or bad, into circulation.

Late, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we hear of a
"school" of _jongleurs_ at Beauvais. In Lent they might not
ply their profession, so they gathered at Beauvais, where they
could learn _cantilenae_, new lays. [Footnote: _Epopees
Francaises_, Leon Gautier, vol. ii. pp. 174, 175.] But by that
time the epic was decadent and dying?

The audiences of the _jongleurs_, too, were no longer, by
that time, what they had been. The rich and great, now, had
library copies of the epics; not small _jongleurs'_ copies,
but folios, richly illuminated and bound, with two or three
columns of matter on each page. [Footnote: Ibid., vol. i. p. 228.
See, too, photographs of an illuminated, double-columned library
copy in _La Chancun de Willame_., London, 1903.]

The age of recitations from a text in princely halls was ending or
ended; the age of a reading public was begun. The earlier
condition of the _jongleur_ who was his own poet, and
carefully guarded his copyright in spite of all temptations to
permit the copying of his MS., is regarded by Sir Richard Jebb as
quite a possible feature of early Greece. He thinks that there was
"no wide circulation of writings by numerous copies for a reading
public" before the end of the fifth century B.C. As Greek
mercenaries could write, and write well, in the seventh to sixth
centuries, I incline to think that there may then, and earlier,
have been a reading public. However, long before that a man might
commit his poems to writing. "Wolf allows that some men did, as
early at least as 776 B.C. The verses might never be read by
anybody except himself" (the author) "or those to whom he
privately bequeathed them" (as Jendeus de Brie bequeathed his poem
to his son), "but his end would have been gained." [Footnote:
_Homer_, p. 113.]

Recent discoveries as to the very early date of linear non-
Phoenician writing in Crete of course increase the probability of
this opinion, which is corroborated by the story of the
_Cypria_, given as a dowry with the author's daughter. Thus
"the particular conditions under which the Homeric poems appeared"
"been reproduced with sufficient closeness" in every respect, with
surprising closeness, in the France of the eleventh to thirteenth
centuries. The social conditions are the same; the legendary
materials are of identical character; the method of publication by
recitation is identical; the cyclic decadence occurs in both
cases, the _monomanie cyclique_. In the Greece of Homer we
have the four necessary conditions of the epic, as found by M.
Leon Gautier in mediaeval France. We have:--

(1) An uncritical age confusing history by legend.

(2) We have a national _milieu_ with religious uniformity.

(3) We have poems dealing with--

"Old unhappy far-off things
And battles long ago."

(4) We have representative heroes, the Over-Lord, and his peers or
paladins. [Footnote: _Epopees Francaises_, Leon Gautier, vol.
i. pp. 6-9]

It may be added that in Greece, as in France, some poets adapt
into the adventures of their heroes world-old _Marchen_, as
in the Odyssey, and in the cycle of the parents of Charles.

In the French, as in the Greek epics, we have such early traits of
poetry as the textual repetition of speeches, and the recurring
epithets, "swift-footed Achilles," "Charles of the white beard,"
"blameless heroes" (however blamable). Ladies, however old, are
always "of the clear face." Thus the technical manners of the
French and Greek epics are closely parallel; they only differ in
the exquisite art of Homer, to which no approach is made by the
French poets.

The French authors of epic, even more than Homer, abound in
episodes much more distracting than those of the _Iliad_. Of
blood and wounds, of course, both the French and the Greek are
profuse: they were writing for men of the sword, not for modern
critics. Indeed, the battle pieces of France almost translate
those of Homer. The Achaean "does on his goodly corslet"; the
French knight "_sur ses espalles son halberc li colad_." The
Achaean, with his great sword, shears off an arm at the shoulder.
The French knight--

"_Trenchad le braz,
Parmi leschine sun grant espee li passe_."

The huge shield of Aias becomes _cele grant targe duble_ in
France, and the warriors boast over their slain in France, as in
the _Iliad_. In France, as in Greece, a favourite epic theme
was "The Wrath" of a hero, of Achilles, of Roland, of Ganelon, of
Odysseus and Achilles wrangling at a feast to the joy of
Agamemnon, "glad that the bravest of his peers were at strife."
[Footnote: Odyssey, VIII. 75-7s [sic].]

Of all the many parallels between the Greek and French epics, the
most extraordinary is the coincidence between Charles with his
peers and Agamemnon with his princes. The same historical
conditions occurred, at an interval of more than two thousand
years. Agamemnon is the Bretwalda, the Over-Lord, as Mr. Freeman
used to say, of the Achaeans: he is the suzerain. Charles in the
French epics holds the same position, but the French poets regard
him in different lights. In the earliest epic, the _Chanson_
de Roland, a divinity doth hedge the famous Emperor, whom Jeanne
d'Arc styled "St. Charlemagne." He was, in fact, a man of thirty-
seven at the date of the disaster of Roncesvaux, where Roland fell
(778 A.D.). But in the tradition that has reached the poet of the
_chanson_ he is a white-bearded warrior, as vigorous as he is
venerable. As he rules by advice of his council, he bids them
deliberate on the proposals of the Paynim King, Marsile--to
accept or refuse them. Roland, the counterpart of Achilles in all
respects (Oliver is his Patroclus), is for refusing: Ganelon
appears to have the rest with him when he speaks in favour of
peace and return to France out of Spain. So, in the _Iliad_
(II.), the Achaeans lend a ready ear to Agamemnon when he proposes
the abandonment of the siege of Troy. Each host, French and
Achaean, is heartily homesick.

Ganelon's advice prevailing, it is necessary to send an envoy to
the Saracen court. It is a dangerous mission; other envoys have
been sent and been murdered. The Peers, however, volunteer,
beginning with the aged Naismes, the Nestor of the Franks. His
offer is not accepted, nor are those of Oliver, Roland, and
Turpin. Roland then proposes that Ganelon shall be sent; and hence
arises the Wrath of Ganelon, which was the ruin of Roland and the
peers who stood by him. The warriors attack each other in speeches
of Homeric fury. Charles preserves his dignity, and Ganelon
departs on his mission. He deliberately sells himself, and seals
the fate of the peers whom he detests: the surprise of the
rearguard under Roland, the deadly battle, and the revenge of
Charles make up the rest of the poem. Not even in victory is
Charles allowed repose; the trumpet again summons him to war. He
is of those whom Heaven has called to endless combat--

"Their whole lives long to be winding
Skeins of grievous wars, till every soul of them perish,"

in the words of Diomede.

Such is the picture of the imperial Charles in one of the oldest
of the French epics. The heart of the poet is with the aged, but
unbroken and truly imperial, figure of St. Charlemagne--wise,
just, and brave, a true "shepherd of the people," regarded as the
conqueror of all the known kingdoms of the world. He is, among his
fierce paladins, like "the conscience of a knight among his
warring members." "The greatness of Charlemagne has entered even
into his name;" but as time went on and the feudal princes began
the long struggle against the French king, the poets gratified
their patrons by degrading the character of the Emperor. They
created a second type of Charles, and it is the second type that
on the whole most resembles the Agamemnon of the _Iliad._

We ask why the widely ruling lord of golden Mycenae is so
skilfully and persistently represented as respectable, indeed, by
reason of his office, but detestable, on the whole, in character?

The answer is that just as the second type of Charles is the
result of feudal jealousies of the king, so the character of
Agamemnon reflects the princely hatreds of what we may call the
feudal age of Greece. The masterly portrait of Agamemnon could
only have been designed to win the sympathies of feudal listeners,
princes with an Over-Lord whom they cannot repudiate, for whose
office they have a traditional reverence, but whose power they
submit to with no good will, and whose person and character some
of them can barely tolerate.

[blank space] _an historical unity._ The poem deals with
what may be called a feudal society, and the attitudes of the
Achaean Bretwalda and of his peers are, from beginning to end of
the _Iliad_ and in every Book of it, those of the peers and
king in the later _Chansons de Geste_.

Returning to the decadent Charles of the French epics, we lay no
stress on the story of his incest with his sister, Gilain, "whence
sprang Roland." The House of Thyestes, whence Agamemnon sprang, is
marked by even blacker legends. The scandal is mythical, like the
same scandal about the King Arthur, who in romance is so much
inferior to his knights, a reflection of feudal jealousies and
hatreds. In places the reproaches hurled by the peers at Charles
read like paraphrases of those which the Achaean princes cast at
Agamemnon. Even Naismes, the Nestor of the French epics, cries:
"It is for you that we have left our lands and fiefs, our fair
wives and our children ... But, by the Apostle to whom they pray
in Rome, were it not that we should be guilty before God we would
go back to sweet France, and thin would be your host." [Footnote:
_Chevalerie Ogier_, 1510-1529. _Epopees Francaises_,
Leon Gautier, vol. iii. pp. 156-157.] In the lines quoted we seem
to hear the voice of the angered Achilles: "We came not hither in
our own quarrel, thou shameless one, but to please thee! But now
go I back to Phthia with my ships--the better part." [Footnote:
_Iliad_, I. 158-169.]

Agamemnon answers that Zeus is on his side, just as even the angry
Naismes admits that duty to God demands obedience to Charles.
There cannot be parallels more close and true than these, between
poems born at a distance from each other of more than two thousand
years, but born in similar historical conditions.

In Guide _Bourgogne,_ a poem of the twelfth century, Ogier
cries, "They say that Charlemagne is the conqueror of kingdoms:
they lie, it is Roland who conquers them with Oliver, Naismes of
the long beard, and myself. As to Charles, he eats." Compare
Achilles to Agamemnon, "Thou, heavy with wine, with dog's eyes and
heart of deer, never hast thou dared to arm thee for war with the
host ..." [Footnote: _Iliad_, I. 227, 228. _Gui de
Bourgogne_, pp. 37-41.] It is Achilles or Roland who stakes his
life in war and captures cities; it is Agamemnon or Charles who
camps by the wine. Charles, in the _Chanson de Saisnes_,
abases himself before Herapois, even more abjectly than Agamemnon
in his offer of atonement to Achilles. [Footnote: _Epopees
Francaises_, Leon Gautier, vol. iii. p. 158.] Charles is as
arrogant as Agamemnon: he strikes Roland with his glove, for an
uncommanded victory, and then he loses heart and weeps as
copiously as the penitent Agamemnon often does when he rues his
arrogance. [Footnote: _Entree en Espagne_.]

The poet of the _Iliad_ is a great and sober artist. He does
not make Agamemnon endure the lowest disgraces which the latest
French epic poets heap on Charles. But we see how close is the
parallel between Agamemnon and the Charles of the decadent type.
Both characters are reflections of feudal jealousy of the Over-
Lord; both reflect real antique historical conditions, and these
were the conditions of the Achaeans in Europe, not of the Ionians
in Asia.

The treatment of Agamemnon's character is harmonious throughout.
It is not as if in "the original poem" Agamemnon were revered like
St. Charlemagne in the _Chanson de Roland_, and in the
"later" parts of the _Iliad_ were reduced to the contemptible
estate of the Charles of the decadent _Chanson de Geste_. In
the _Iliad_ Agamemnon's character is consistently presented
from beginning to end, presented, I think, as it could only be by
a great poet of the feudal Achaean society in Europe. The Ionians
--"democratic to the core," says Mr. Leaf--would either have taken
no interest in the figure of the Over-Lord, or would have utterly
degraded him below the level of the Charles of the latest
_Chansons_. Or the late rhapsodists, in their irresponsible
lays, would have presented a wavering and worthless portrait.

The conditions under which the _Chansons_ arose were truly
parallel to the conditions under which the Homeric poems arose,
and the poems, French and Achaean, are also true parallels, except
in genius. The French have no Homer: _cared vate sacro_. It
follows that a Homer was necessary to the evolution of the Greek

It may, perhaps, be replied to this argument that our _Iliad_
is only a very late _remaniement_, like the fourteenth
century _Chansons de Geste_, of something much earlier and
nobler. But in France, in the age of _remaniement_, even the
versification had changed from assonance to rhyme, from the
decasyllabic line to the Alexandrine in the decadence, while a
plentiful lack of seriousness and a love of purely fanciful
adventures in fairyland take the place of the austere spirit of
war. Ladies "in a coming on humour" abound, and Charles is
involved with his Paladins in _gauloiseries_ of a Rabelaisian
cast. The French language has become a new thing through and
through, and manners and weapons are of a new sort; but the high
seriousness of the _Iliad_ is maintained throughout, except
in the burlesque battle of the gods: the versification is the
stately hexameter, linguistic alterations are present, extant, but
inconspicuous. That the armour and weapons are uniform in
character throughout we have tried to prove, while the state of
society and of religion is certainly throughout harmonious. Our
parallel, then, between the French and the Greek national epics
appears as perfect as such a thing can be, surprisingly perfect,
while the great point of difference in degree of art is accounted
for by the existence of an Achaean poet of supreme genius. Not
such, certainly, were the composers of the Cyclic poems, men
contemporary with the supposed later poets of the _Iliad_.



The conclusion at which we arrive is that the _Iliad_, as a
whole, is the work of one age. That it has reached us without
interpolations and _lacunae_ and _remaniements_ perhaps
no person of ordinary sense will allege. But that the mass of the
Epic is of one age appears to be a natural inference from the
breakdown of the hypotheses which attempt to explain it as a late
mosaic. We have also endeavoured to prove, quite apart from the
failure of theories of expansion and compilation, that the
_Iliad_ presents an historical unity, unity of character,
unity of customary law, and unity in its archaeology. If we are
right, we must have an opinion as to how the Epic was preserved.

If we had evidence for an Homeric school, we might imagine that
the Epic was composed by dint of memory, and preserved, like the
Sanskrit Hymns of the Rig Veda, and the Hymns of the Maoris, the
Zunis, and other peoples in the lower or middle stage of
barbarism, by the exertions and teaching of schools. But religious
hymns and mythical hymns--the care of a priesthood--are one thing;
a great secular epic is another. Priests will not devote
themselves from age to age to its conservation. It cannot be
conserved, with its unity of tone and character, and, on the
whole, even of language, by generations of paid strollers, who
recite new lays of their own, as well as any old lays that they
may remember, which they alter at pleasure.

We are thus driven back to the theory of early written texts, not
intended to meet the wants of a reading public, but for the use of
the poet himself and of those to whom he may bequeath his work.
That this has been a method in which orally published epics were
composed and preserved in a non-reading age we have proved in our
chapter on the French Chansons _de Geste_. Unhappily, the
argument that what was done in mediaeval France might be done in
sub-Mycenaean Greece, is based on probabilities, and these are
differently estimated by critics of different schools. All seems
to depend on each individual's sense of what is "likely." In that
case science has nothing to make in the matter. Nitzsche thought
that writing might go back to the time of Homer. Mr. Monro thought
it "probable enough that writing, even if known at the time of
Homer, was not used for literary purposes." [Footnote:
_Iliad_, vol. i. p. xxxv.] Sir Richard Jebb, as we saw, took
a much more favourable view of the probability of early written
texts. M. Salomon Reinach, arguing from the linear written clay
tablets of Knossos and from a Knossian cup with writing on it in
ink, thinks that there may have existed whole "Minoan" libraries--
manuscripts executed on perishable materials, palm leaves,
papyrus, or parchment. [Footnote: _L'Anthropologie_, vol. xv,
pp. 292, 293.] Mr. Leaf, while admitting that "writing was known
in some form through the whole period of epic development," holds
that "it is in the highest degree unlikely that it was ever
employed to form a standard text of the Epic or any portion of
it.... At best there was a continuous tradition of those portions
of the poems which were especially popular ..." [Footnote:
_Iliad_, vol. i. pp. xvi., xvii.] Father Browne dates the
employment of writing for the preservation of the Epic "from the
sixth century onwards." [Footnote: _Handbook of Homeric
Study_, p. 134.] He also says that "it is difficult to suppose
that the Mycenaeans, who were certainly in contact with this form
of writing" (the Cretan linear), "should not have used it much
more freely than our direct evidence warrants us in asserting." He
then mentions the Knossian cup "with writing inscribed on it
apparently in pen and ink ... The conclusion is that ordinary
writing was in use, but that the materials, probably palm leaves,
have disappeared." [Footnote: _Ibid_., pp. 258, 259.]

Why it should be unlikely that a people confessedly familiar with
writing used it for the preservation of literature, when we know
that even the Red Indians preserve their songs by means of
pictographs, while West African tribes use incised characters, is
certainly not obvious. Many sorts of prae-Phoenician writing were
current during the Mycenaean age in Asia, Egypt, Assyria, and in
Cyprus. As these other peoples used writing of their own sort for
literary purposes, it is not easy to see why the Cretans, for
example, should not have done the same thing. Indeed, Father
Browne supposes that the Mycenaeans used "ordinary writing," and
used it freely. Nevertheless, the Epic was not written, he says,
till the sixth century B.C. Cauer, indeed, remarks that "the
Finnish epic" existed unwritten till Lbnnrot, its Pisistratus,
first collected it from oral recitation. [Footnote:
_Grundfragen der Homerkritik_, p. 94.] But there is not, and
never was, any "Finnish epic." There were cosmogonic songs, as
among the Maoris and Zunis--songs of the beginnings of things;
there were magical songs, songs of weddings, a song based on the
same popular tale that underlies the legend of the Argonauts.
There were songs of the Culture Hero, songs of burial and feast,
and of labour. Lonnrot collected these, and tried by
interpolations to make an epic out of them; but the point, as
Comparetti has proved, is that he failed. There is no Finnish
epic, only a mass of _Volkslieder._ Cauer's other argument,
that the German popular tales, Grimm's tales, were unwritten till
1812, is as remote from the point at issue. Nothing can be less
like an epic than a volume of _Marchen._

As usual we are driven back upon a literary judgment. Is the
_Iliad_ a patchwork of metrical _Marchen_ or is it an
epic nobly constructed? If it is the former, writing was not
needed; if it is the latter, in the absence of Homeric guilds or
colleges, only writing can account for its preservation.

It is impossible to argue against a critic's subjective sense of
what is likely. Possibly that sense is born of the feeling that
the Cretan linear script, for example, or the Cyprian syllabary,
looks very odd and outlandish. The critic's imagination boggles at
the idea of an epic written in such scripts. In that case his is
not the scientific imagination; he is checked merely by the
unfamiliar. Or his sense of unlikelihood may be a subconscious
survival of Wolf's opinion, formed by him at a time when the
existence of the many scripts of the old world was unknown.

Our own sense of probability leads us to the conclusion that, in
an age when people could write, people wrote down the Epic. If
they applied their art to literature, then the preservation of the
Epic is explained. Written first in a prae-Phoenician script, it
continued to be written in the Greek adaptation of the Phoenician
alphabet. There was not yet, probably, a reading public, but there
were a few clerkly men.

That the Cretans, at least, could write long before the age of
Homer, Mr. Arthur Evans has demonstrated by his discoveries. Prom
my remote undergraduate days I was of the opinion which he has
proved to be correct, starting, like him, from what I knew about
savage pictographs. [Footnote: Cretan _Pictographs_ and
_Prae-Phoenician_ Script. London, 1905. Annual of British
_School_ of Athens, 1900-1901, p. 10. Journal of _Hellenic
Studies,_ 1897, pp. 327-395.]

M. Reinach and Mr. Evans have pointed out that in this matter
tradition joins hands with discovery. Diodorus Siculus, speaking
of the Cretan Zeus and probably on Cretan authority, says: "As to
those who hold that the Syrians invented letters, from whom the
Phoenicians received them and handed them on to the Greeks, ...
and that for this reason the Greeks call letters 'Phoenician,'
some reply that the Phoenicians did not [blank space] letters, but
merely modified (transposed 3) the forms of the letters, and that
most men use this form of script, and thus letters came to be
styled 'Phoenician.'" [Footnote: Diodorus Siculus, v. 74.
_L'Anthropologie,_ vol. xi. pp. 497-502.] In fact, the
alphabet is a collection of signs of palaeolithic antiquity and of
vast diffusion. [Footnote: Origins of the Alphabet. A. L.
Fortnightly Review, 1904, pp. 634-645]

Thus the use of writing for the conservation of the Epic cannot
seem to me to be unlikely, but rather probable; and here one must
leave the question, as the subjective element plays so great a
part in every man's sense of what is likely or unlikely. That
writing cannot have been used for this literary purpose, that the
thing is impossible, nobody will now assert.

My supposition is, then, that the text of the Epic existed in
AEgean script till Greece adapted to her own tongue the
"Phoenician letters," which I think she did not later than the
ninth to eighth centuries; "at the beginning of the ninth
century," says Professor Bury. [Footnote: _History of
Greece_, vol. i. p. 78. 1902.] This may seem an audaciously
early date, but when we find vases of the eighth to seventh
centuries bearing inscriptions, we may infer that a knowledge of
reading and writing was reasonably common. When such a humble
class of hirelings or slaves as the pot-painters can sign their
work, expecting their signatures to be read, reading and writing
must be very common accomplishments among the more fortunate

If Mr. Gardner is right in dating a number of incised inscriptions
on early pottery at Naucratis before the middle of the seventh
century, we reach the same conclusion. In fact, if these
inscriptions be of a century earlier than the Abu Simbel
inscriptions, of date 590 B.C., we reach 690 B.C. Wherefore, as
writing does not become common in a moment, it must have existed
in the eighth century B.C. We are not dealing here with a special
learned class, but with ordinary persons who could write.
[Footnote: _The Early Ionic Alphabet: Journal of Hellenic
Studies_, vol. vii. pp. 220-239. Roberts, _Introduction to
Greek Epigraphy_, pp. 31, 151, 159, 164, 165-167]

Interesting for our purpose is the verse incised on a Dipylon
vase, found at Athens in 1880. It is of an ordinary cream-jug
shape, with a neck, a handle, a spout, and a round belly. On the
neck, within a zigzag "geometrical" pattern, is a doe, feeding,
and a tall water-fowl. On the shoulder is scratched with a point,
in very antique Attic characters running from right to left,
[Greek: os nun orchaeston panton hatalotata pais ei, tou tode].
"This is the jug of him who is the most delicately sportive of all
dancers of our time." The jug is attributed to the eighth century.
[Footnote: Walters, _History of Ancient Pottery_, vol. ii. p,
243; Kretschmer, _Griechischen Vasen inschriften_, p. 110,
1894, of the seventh century. H. von Rohden, _Denkmaler_,
iii. pp. 1945, 1946: "Probably dating from the seventh century."
Roberts, op. cit., vol. i. p. 74, "at least as far back as the
seventh century," p. 75.]

Taking the vase, with Mr. Walters, as of the eighth century, I do
not suppose that the amateur who gave it to a dancer and scratched
the hexameter was of a later generation than the jug itself. The
vase may have cost him sixpence: he would give his friend a
_new_ vase; it is improbable that old jugs were sold at
curiosity shops in these days, and given by amateurs to artists.
The inscription proves that, in the eighth to seventh centuries,
at a time of very archaic characters (the Alpha is lying down on
its side, the aspirate is an oblong with closed ends and a stroke
across the middle, and the Iota is curved at each end), people
could write with ease, and would put verse into writing. The
general accomplishment of reading is taken for granted.

Reading is also taken for granted by the Gortyn (Cretan)
inscription of twelve columns long, _boustro-phedon_ (running
alternately from left to right, and from right to left). In this
inscribed code of laws, incised on stone, money is not mentioned
in the more ancient part, but fines and prices are calculated in
"chalders" and "bolls" ([Greek: lebaetes] and [Greek: tripodes]),
as in Scotland when coin was scarce indeed. Whether the law
contemplated the value of the vessels themselves, or, as in
Scotland, of their contents in grain, I know not. The later
inscriptions deal with coined money. If coin came in about 650
B.C., the older parts of the inscription may easily be of 700 B.C.

The Gortyn inscription implies the power of writing out a long
code of laws, and it implies that persons about to go to law could
read the public inscription, as we can read a proclamation posted
up on a wall, or could have it read to them. [Footnote: Roberts,
vol. i. pp. 52-55.]

The alphabets inscribed on vases of the seventh century
(Abecedaria), with "the archaic Greek forms of every one of the
twenty-two Phoenician letters arranged precisely in the received
Semitic order," were, one supposes, gifts for boys and girls who
were learning to read, just like our English alphabets on
gingerbread. [Footnote: For Abecedaria, cf. Roberts, vol. i. pp.

Among inscriptions on tombstones of the end of the seventh
century, there is the epitaph of a daughter of a potter.
[Footnote: Roberts, vol. i. p. 76.] These writings testify to the
general knowledge of reading, just as much as our epitaphs testify
to the same state of education. The Athenian potter's daughter of
the seventh century B.C. had her epitaph, but the grave-stones of
highlanders, chiefs or commoners, were usually uninscribed till
about the end of the eighteenth century, in deference to custom,
itself arising from the illiteracy of the highlanders in times
past. [Footnote: Ramsay, _Scotland and Scotsmen_, ii. p. 426.
1888.] I find no difficulty, therefore, in supposing that there
were some Greek readers and writers in the eighth century, and
that primary education was common in the seventh. In these
circumstances my sense of the probable is not revolted by the idea
of a written epic, in [blank space] characters, even in the eighth
century, but the notion that there was no such thing till the
middle of the sixth century seems highly improbable. All the
conditions were present which make for the composition and
preservation of literary works in written texts. That there were
many early written copies of Homer in the eighth century I am not
inclined to believe. The Greeks were early a people who could
read, but were not a reading people. Setting newspapers aside,
there is no such thing as a reading _people_.

The Greeks preferred to listen to recitations, but my hypothesis
is that the rhapsodists who recited had texts, like the
_jongleurs_' books of their epics in France, and that they
occasionally, for definite purposes, interpolated matter into
their texts. There were also texts, known in later times as "city
texts" ([Greek: ai kata poleis]), which Aristarchus knew, but he
did not adopt the various readings. [Footnote: Monro, Odyssey,
vol. ii. p, 435.]

Athens had a text in Solon's time, if he entered the decree that
the whole Epic should be recited in due order, every five years,
at the Panathenaic festival. [Footnote: _Ibid_., vol. ii. p.
395.] "This implies the possession of a complete text." [Footnote:
_Ibid_., vol. ii. p. 403.]

Cauer remarks that the possibility of "interpolation" "began only
after the fixing of the text by Pisistratus." [Footnote:
_Grundfragen_, p. 205.] But surely if every poet and reciter
could thrust any new lines which he chose to make into any old
lays which he happened to know, that was interpolation, whether he
had a book of the words or had none. Such interpolations would
fill the orally recited lays which the supposed Pisistratean
editor must have written down from recitation before he began his
colossal task of making the _Iliad_ out of them. If, on the
other hand, reciters had books of the words, they could
interpolate at pleasure into _them_, and such books may have
been among the materials used in the construction of a text for
the Athenian book market. But if our theory be right, there must
always have been a few copies of better texts than those of the
late reciters' books, and the effort of the editors for the book
market would be to keep the parts in which most manuscripts were

But how did Athens, or any other city, come to possess a text? One
can only conjecture; but my conjecture is that there had always
been texts--copied out in successive generations--in the hands of
the curious; for example, in the hands of the Cyclic poets, who
knew our _Iliad_ as the late French Cyclic poets knew the
earlier _Chansons de Geste_. They certainly knew it, for they
avoided interference with it; they worked at epics which led up to
it, as in the _Cypria;_ they borrowed _motifs_ from
hints and references in the _Iliad_, [Footnote: Monro,
_Odyssey_, vol. ii. pp. 350, 351.] and they carried on the
story from the death of Hector, in the _AEthiopis_ of
Arctinus of Miletus. This epic ended with the death of Achilles,
when _The Little Iliad_ produced the tale to the bringing in
of the wooden horse. Arctinus goes on with his _Sack_ of
_Ilios_, others wrote of _The Return_ of _the
Heroes,_ and the _Telegonia_ is a sequel to the Odyssey.
The authors of these poems knew the _Iliad_, then, as a
whole, and how could they have known it thus if it only existed in
the casual _repertoire_ of strolling reciters? The Cyclic
poets more probably had texts of Homer, and themselves wrote their
own poems--how it paid, whether they recited them and collected
rewards or not, is, of course, unknown.

The Cyclic poems, to quote Sir Richard Jebb, "help to fix the
lowest limit for the age of the Homeric poems. [Footnote:
_Homer_, pp. 151, 154.] The earliest Cyclic poems, dating
from about 776 B.C., presuppose the _Iliad_, being planned to
introduce or continue it.... It would appear, then, that the
_Iliad_ must have existed in something like its present
compass as early as 800 B.C.; indeed a considerably earlier date
will seem probable, if due time is allowed for the poem to have
grown into such fame as would incite the effort to continue it and
to prelude to it"

Sir Richard then takes the point on which we have already
insisted, namely, that the Cyclic poets of the eighth century B.C.
live in an age of ideas, religions, ritual, and so forth which are
absent from the _Iliad_ [Footnote: Homer, pp. 154, 155.]

Thus the _Iliad_ existed with its characteristics that are
prior to 800 B.C., and in its present compass, and was renowned
before 800 B.C. As it could not possibly have thus existed in the
_repertoire_ of irresponsible strolling minstrels and
reciters, and as there is no evidence for a college, school, or
guild which preserved the Epic by a system of mnemonic teaching,
while no one can deny at least the possibility of written texts,
we are driven to the hypothesis that written texts there were,
whence descended, for example, the text of Athens.

We can scarcely suppose, however, that such texts were perfect in
all respects, for we know how, several centuries later, in a
reading age, papyrus fragments of the _Iliad_ display
unwarrantable interpolation. [Footnote: Monro, _Odyssey_,
vol. ii. pp. 422-426.] But Plato's frequent quotations, of course
made at an earlier date, show that "whatever interpolated texts of
Homer were then current, the copy from which Plato quoted was not
one of them." [Footnote: _Ibid_., p. 429] Plato had something
much better.

When a reading public for Homer arose--and, from the evidences of
the widespread early knowledge of reading, such a small public may
have come into existence sooner than is commonly supposed--Athens
was the centre of the book trade. To Athens must be due the prae-
Alexandrian Vulgate, or prevalent text, practically the same as
our own. Some person or persons must have made that text--not by
taking down from recitation all the lays which they could collect,
as Herd, Scott, Mrs. Brown, and others collected much of the
_Border Minstrelsy_, and not by then tacking the lays into a
newly-composed whole. They must have done their best with such
texts as were accessible to them, and among these were probably
the copies used by reciters and rhapsodists, answering to the MS.
books of the mediaeval _jongleurs._

Mr. Jevons has justly and acutely remarked that "we do not know,
and there is no external evidence of any description which leads
us to suppose, that the _Iliad_ was ever expanded" (_J. H.
S_, vii. 291-308).

That it was expanded is a mere hypothesis based on the idea that
"if there was an _Iliad_ at all in the ninth century, its
length must have been such as was compatible with the conditions
of an oral delivery,"--"a poem or poems short enough to be
recited at a single sitting."

But we have proved, with Mr. Jevons and Blass, and by the analogy
of the Chansons that, given a court audience (and a court audience
is granted), there were no such narrow limits imposed on the
length of a poem orally recited from night to night.

The length of the _Iliad_ yields, therefore, no argument for
expansions throughout several centuries. That theory, suggested by
the notion that the original poem _MUST_ have been short, is
next supposed to be warranted by the inconsistencies and
discrepancies. But we argue that these are only visible, as a
rule, to "the analytical reader," for whom the poet certainly was
not composing; that they occur in all long works of fictitious
narrative; that the discrepancies often are not discrepancies;
and, finally, that they are not nearly so glaring as the
inconsistencies in the theories of each separatist critic. A
theory, in such matter as this, is itself an explanatory myth, or
the plot of a story which the critic invents to account for the
facts in the case. These critical plots, we have shown, do not
account for the facts of the case, for the critics do not excel in
constructing plots. They wander into unperceived self-
contradictions which they would not pardon in the poet. These
contradictions are visible to "the analytical reader," who
concludes that a very early poet may have been, though Homer
seldom is, as inconsistent as a modern critic.

Meanwhile, though we have no external evidence that the
_Iliad_ was ever expanded--that it was expanded is an
explanatory myth of the critics--"we do know, on good evidence,"
says Mr. Jevons, "that the _Iliad_ was rhapsodised." The
rhapsodists were men, as a rule, of one day recitations, though at
a prolonged festival at Athens there was time for the whole
_Iliad_ to be recited. "They chose for recitation such
incidents as could be readily detached, were interesting in
themselves, and did not take too long to recite." Mr. Jevons
suggests that the many brief poems collected in the Homeric hymns
are invocations which the rhapsodists preluded to their recitals.
The practice seems to have been for the rhapsodist first to pay
his reverence to the god, "to begin from the god," at whose
festival the recitation was being given (the short proems
collected in the Hymns pay this reverence), "and then proceed with
his rhapsody"--with his selected passage from the _Iliad_,
"Beginning with thee" (the god of the festival), "I will go on to
another lay," that is, to his selection from the Epic. Another
conclusion of the proem often is, "I will be mindful both of thee
and of another lay," meaning, says Mr. Jevons, that "the local
deity will figure in the recitation from Homer which the
rhapsodist is about to deliver."

These explanations, at all events, yield good sense. The
invocation of Athene (Hymns, XI., XXVIII.) would serve as the
proem of invocation to the recital of _Iliad_, V., VI. 1-311,
the day of valour of Diomede, spurred on by the wanton rebuke of
Agamemnon, and aided by Athene. The invocation of Hephaestus (Hymn
XX.), would prelude to a recital of the _Making of the Awns of
Achilles_, and so on.

But the rhapsodist may be reciting at a festival of Dionysus,
about whom there is practically nothing said in the _Iliad_;
for it is a proof of the antiquity of the _Iliad_ that, when
it was composed, Dionysus had not been raised to the Olympian
peerage, being still a folk-god only. The rhapsodist, at a feast
of Dionysus in later times, has to introduce the god into his
recitation. The god is not in his text, but he adds him.
[Footnote:_Ibid_., VI. 130-141]

Why should any mortal have made this interpolation? Mr. Jevons's
theory supplies the answer. The rhapsodist added the passages to
suit the Dionysus feast, at which he was reciting.

The same explanation is offered for the long story of the
_Birth_ of [blank space] which Agamemnon tells in his speech
of apology and reconciliation. [Footnote:_Ibid_., XIX. 136.]
There is an invocation to Heracles (Hymns, XV.), and the author
may have added this speech to his rhapsody of the Reconciliation,
recited at a feast of Heracles. Perhaps the remark of Mr. Leaf
offers the real explanation of the presence of this long story in
the speech of Agamemnon: "Many speakers with a bad case take
refuge in telling stories." Agamemnon shows, says Mr. Leaf, "the
peevish nervousness of a man who feels that he has been in the
wrong," and who follows a frank speaker like Achilles, only eager
for Agamemnon to give the word to form and charge. So Agamemnon
takes refuge in a long story, throwing the blame of his conduct on

We do not need, then, the theory of a rhapsodist's interpolation,

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