Classical Inquiries has published a set of videos and texts featuring the work of Gregory Nagy and Olga M. Davidson on myths relating to the “Lives of Homer” and the “Life of Ferdowsi.” These papers and videos were originally part of an international conference held at Baku, 27–28 November 2015.
Together, Nagy and Davidson argue that “the traditional ‘biographies’ about these two poets, as transmitted by a vast variety of communities, can be studied as sources of historical information about the reception of Homer and Ferdxowsi.”
We are happy to share a curated selection of passages and resources designed to help readers make new connections while exploring this topic in greater detail.
Homer the Hostage
Excerpt from Chapter 9 of Homer the Preclassic, “Further variations on a theme of Homer,” by Gregory Nagy
ἐκλήθη δ’ ῞Ομηρος διὰ τὸ πολέμου ἐνισταμένου Σμυρναίοις πρὸς Κολοφωνίους ὅμηρον δοθῆναι, ἢ τὸ βουλευομένων Σμυρναίων δαιμονίᾳ τινι ἐνεργείᾳ φθέγξασθαι καὶ συμβουλεῦσαι ἐκκλησιάζουσι περὶ τοῦ πολέμου.
And he was called Homēros for this reason: when a war broke out between the people of Smyrna and the people of Colophon, he was given as a hostage [homēros] [to the people of Colophon]. Or for this reason: when the people of Smyrna were deliberating, he voiced his words with a power that came from some unnamed divinity [daimōn], and he gave them counsel about the war as they met in public assembly.
(Vita 10.25–28, translation G. Nagy)
Homer the Performer
Excerpt from Chapter 2 from Homer the Preclassic, “Homer outside his poetry,” by Gregory Nagy
ἐδείκνυον δὲ οἱ Νεοτειχεῖς μέχρις ἐπ’ ἐμοῦ τὸν χῶρον ἐν ᾧ κατίζων τῶν ἐπέων τὴν ἐπίδειξιν ἐποιέετο, καὶ κάρτα ἐσέβοντο τὸν τόπον.
Even as recently as my own time, the people of Neon Teikhos used to show off the place where he [= Homer] used to sit and make [poieîn] performance [epideixis] of his verses [epos plural]. They venerated greatly this site.
(Vita 1.119–122, translation G. Nagy)
Homer of Chios
Excerpt from Chapter 3 from Homer the Preclassic, “Homer and his genealogy”
Χῖοι δὲ πάλιν τεκμήρια φέρουσιν ἴδιον εἶναι πολίτην λέγοντες καὶ περισώζεσθαί τινας ἐκ τοῦ γένους αὐτοῦ παρ’ αὑτοῖς ῾Ομηρίδαςκαλουμένους
The people of Chios, on the other hand [= in rivalry with other claims on Homer made by other cities], adduce proof for their claim that Homer is their very own fellow citizen [politēs], saying that there exist surviving members of a lineage [genos] who originate from him [= Homer], called the Homēridai .
(Vita 2.13–15, translation G. Nagy)
More On Poets, Performers & Instruments
Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings, by Olga M. Davidson
“Singers: Performance and Training,” Chapter 2 of The Singer of Tales, by Albert Lord
Kinyras: The Divine Lyre, by John C. Franklin
The Culture of Kitharôidia, by Timothy Power
Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History, by Todd M. Compton