Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 271 pages of information about Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica.

ENDNOTES: 

(1) Lines 42-52 are intrusive; the list of vegetables which the
     Mouse cannot eat must follow immediately after the various
     dishes of which he does eat.
(2) lit. `those unable to swim’.
(3) This may be a parody of Orion’s threat in Hesiod,
     “Astronomy”, frag. 4.

OF THE ORIGIN OF HOMER AND HESIOD, AND OF THEIR CONTEST (aka “The Contest of Homer and Hesiod”)

Everyone boasts that the most divine of poets, Homer and Hesiod, are said to be his particular countrymen.  Hesiod, indeed, has put a name to his native place and so prevented any rivalry, for he said that his father `settled near Helicon in a wretched hamlet, Ascra, which is miserable in winter, sultry in summer, and good at no season.’  But, as for Homer, you might almost say that every city with its inhabitants claims him as her son.  Foremost are the men of Smyrna who say that he was the Son of Meles, the river of their town, by a nymph Cretheis, and that he was at first called Melesigenes.  He was named Homer later, when he became blind, this being their usual epithet for such people.  The Chians, on the other hand, bring forward evidence to show that he was their countryman, saying that there actually remain some of his descendants among them who are called Homeridae.  The Colophonians even show the place where they declare that he began to compose when a schoolmaster, and say that his first work was the “Margites”.

As to his parents also, there is on all hands great disagreement.

Hellanicus and Cleanthes say his father was Maeon, but Eugaeon says Meles; Callicles is for Mnesagoras, Democritus of Troezen for Daemon, a merchant-trader.  Some, again, say he was the son of Thamyras, but the Egyptians say of Menemachus, a priest-scribe, and there are even those who father him on Telemachus, the son of Odysseus.  As for his mother, she is variously called Metis, Cretheis, Themista, and Eugnetho.  Others say she was an Ithacan woman sold as a slave by the Phoenicians; other, Calliope the Muse; others again Polycasta, the daughter of Nestor.

Homer himself was called Meles or, according to different accounts, Melesigenes or Altes.  Some authorities say he was called Homer, because his father was given as a hostage to the Persians by the men of Cyprus; others, because of his blindness; for amongst the Aeolians the blind are so called.  We will set down, however, what we have heard to have been said by the Pythia concerning Homer in the time of the most sacred Emperor Hadrian.  When the monarch inquired from what city Homer came, and whose son he was, the priestess delivered a response in hexameters after this fashion: 

`Do you ask me of the obscure race and country of the heavenly siren?  Ithaca is his country, Telemachus his father, and Epicasta, Nestor’s daughter, the mother that bare him, a man by far the wisest of mortal kind.’  This we must most implicitly believe, the inquirer and the answerer being who they are —­ especially since the poet has so greatly glorified his grandfather in his works.

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Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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