Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey": A Biography
by Alberto Manguel: notes

See also

Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey": A Biography
by Alberto Manguel.

A rich and brilliant book in 28 sections (fairly short chapters) with 33 pages of annotated bibliography and a 15-page index, this book is a joy in its multifaceted view of Homer's books and responses to them in three millennia.

Chapters of Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey": A Biography
by Alberto Manguel.

  1. Summaries of the Books.
    A practical and useful chapter, with book-by-book summaries of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" to which I referred many times while reading subsequent chapters.
  2. A Life of Homer?
    Reviews many histories about Homer, including "Life of Homer attributed to Herodotus ... written in the fourth or fifth century BC"; that history included an attribution of the given name Melesigenes, replaced by the adopted name Homer (based on the term for "blind beggars ... [being] 'homers' in Cimmerian") after the Cimmerians refused to support the blind poet. Compare how "the traditional role of the poet-singer survived well into our time. In the 1930s ... Mmilman Parry and ... Albert Lord discovered ... popular singers in Muslim Serbia ('guzlars') steeped in an ancient epic tradition very similar in form and style to that of Homer" (formulaic language, oral transmission, improvisation on set texts).
  3. Among the Philosophers.
    Socrates thought Homer "best and most divine". Plato thought Homer "literature's ... greatest literary craftsman" though in his Republic, Plato "bans the artisans of the false ... those who makes images of images have no place in a well-regulated world, since they produce nothing that is true". Aristotle thought Homer "pre-eminent among poets, for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation".
  4. Virgil.
    "Virgil's Aeneid ... is explicitly modeled on Homer's poems, and if Virgil owes and immense debt to Homer, the reverse is also true, because after Virgil, Homer acquired a new identity, that of Rome's earliest myth-maker." After the publication of Aeneid, "Aeneas, the survivor of Troy, ... was established as the city's [Rome's] founder."
  5. Christian Homer
    St. Jerome, St. Augustine.
  6. Other Homers
  7. Homer in Islam
  8. Dante
  9. Homer in Hell
  10. Greek versus Latin
    "After the Reformation, Latin was confirmed as the language of the Catholic Church, and Greek that of Protestant culture. ... The Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) forbade Catholics the reading of the Greek and Hebrew Bible except in the case of appointed scholars, and in the eyes of the Church of Rome, students of [Ancient] Greek became synonymous with heretics.
  11. Ancients versus Moderns
  12. Homer as Poetry
  13. Realms of Gold. [Response by William Blake, John Keats, Byron, Shelley]
  14. Homer as Idea
  15. The Eternal Feminine
  16. Homer as Symbol
  17. Homer as History
  18. Madame Homer
  19. Ulysses Travels
  20. Homer Through the Looking-Glass
    Jean Giraudoux's The Trojan War Will Not Take Place.
    Derek Walcott's Omeros.
    Timothy Findley's Famous Last Words, whose fictional narrator Mauberley writes "All I have written here is true, except the lies".
  21. The Never-ending War
    "What allows war to acquire its redemptory sense: the knowledge that the dead can help us not to forget injustice. ... we can, simultaneously, both loudly abominate their loss and lovingly honour their sacrifice."
  22. Everyman
    "Homer is a cipher. Since he has no proven identity and his books reveal no obvious clues to their composition, he can bear, like his Iliad or his Odyssey, an infinity of readings". But:

    How astonishing that, in a language we no longer know precisely how to pronounce, a poet or various poets whose faces and characters we cannot conceive, who lived in a society of whose customs and beliefs we have but a very vague idea, described for us our own lives today, with every secret happiness and every hidden sin.

Timeline of Foundations of Western Civilization.