Homer: Episode 3

Homeric epic poems were not originally written but preserved by a tradition of  oral composition that made these stories easier to recite (and remember). To appreciate the brilliant technique, it is useful to understand dactylic hexameter, which is used throughout the Iliad, as well as how the various "homeric" texts came down into the texts we know today as the Iliad and the Odyssey.

See also Dr. Fleming's essay on Homer for the Autodidact: https://fleming.foundation/2022/01/the-autodidact-homer/

Original Air Date: April 14, 2020
Show Run Time: 17 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner

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Homer℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2020. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.


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6 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    Living in a time in which memorizing has been forgotten, it is most interesting to hear of the Greeks commitment to recitation and memory.

    Also, I have one copy of The Odyssey translated by George Herbert Palmer and one by Alexander Pope, and The Iliad translated by Samuel Butler; any thoughts to offer on these, Dr. Fleming?

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Pope had collaborators on the Odyssey, which is generally regarded as inferior to his Iliad. It is nonetheless vigorous and elegant verse. Butcher and Lang remains perhaps the best prose Odyssey, though Butler’s not-quite literal version makes very good reading. I haven’t read Palmer, but he was a typical Harvard man–high minded in his talk and credulous in his incredulity. A pretentious dullard.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    On you tube is this fellow reciting/chanting Homer. Is there anything to this ? Thank you

    Introduction to the meter of Homeric epic, with Prof. Leonard Muellner – Duration: 24:30. The Center for Hellenic Studies 13,187 views

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’d say it’s a not untypical classroom presentation by a teacher, who may or may not be interested much in the subject, but glosses over difficult subjects. His opening remarks on Allen’s stress accent theory is not only amateurish but pointless and misleading. He enters into areas that should have OFF LIMITS TO AMATEURS signs posted. With this caveat in mind, the presentation is not at all unhelpful.

    I’d like to be more positive, but meter was the one subject in which I was vastly superior to friends and colleagues, such as Dr. Kopff, who were in many technical areas my superior. I doubt it would interest anyone, but we were once instructed by Douglas Young, to participate in his seminar on Sophocles. Kopff was told to handle the textual problems, and I the metrical questions, which are quite complex in Greek tragedy. To this day, I feel sorry for the poor younger students. All my philological work, slight as it was, was devoted to metrical questions, and it is only natural that I should resent well-intentioned presentations of this type.

    As a renegade, I am free to say that the Hellenic Center is the central switchboard for polite leftism in classics. Most of the fellows et al are well trained in every sense of the word. So are performing seals. The most famous honcho of the institution was Bernard Knox. What good he ever did, apart from reinforcing the ideology of the Kennedys and the Clintons is beyond my poor capacity to comprehend. He is the “Kansas City Star,” ready to endorse every lockstep ideological position ever advanced since those twin engines of destruction, The Wealth of Nations and The Communist Manifesto. Of course, Knox was/is literate, intelligent, well trained and eloquent, but like all these people he uses classical studies to support the regime. Such people have always been with us from the beginning. That is why I did not go on to the end of the tape.

  5. Robert Reavis says:

    Thank you, Tom. When I was a student in the 70s there was a certain fellow traveling around the college circuits reciting Homer’s poems from memory. I always wondered what the real recitations of Homer thousands of years ago might have sounded like since listening to him. There are really not very many old primary schools teaching any Greek and Latin these days which leaves (and has left) the field open for frauds and pretenders like Gregorian chant, there is a huge difference between those who learn it as a form of prayer and source of admiration from its aesthetic or mathematical effect of the human senses. I asked you about the Greek because I knew there was more to it than meets the eye. Thank you for the full response.

  6. Allen Wilson says:

    Dr Fleming, would Donald Kagan be in the same regime-supporting category as Knox?