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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Odyssey of Homer, trans. by Alexander Pope#6 in our series by HomerCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check thecopyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributingthis or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this ProjectGutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit theheader without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about theeBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included isimportant information about your specific rights and restrictions inhow the file may be used. You can also find out about how to make adonation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: The Odyssey of HomerAuthor: Homer, translated by Alexander PopeRelease Date: April, 2002 [EBook #3160][This 11th edition first posted on June 1, 2003]Edition: 11Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ASCII*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER ***This etext was prepared by Jim Tinsley <jtinsley@pobox.com>with much help from the early members of Distributed Proofers.INTRODUCTIONScepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is ofscepticism. To be content with what we at present know, is, for themost part, to shut our ears against conviction; since, from the verygradual character of our education, we must continually forget, andemancipate ourselves from, knowledge previously acquired; we must setaside old notions and embrace fresh ones; and, as we learn, we must
be daily unlearning something which it has cost us no small labourand anxiety to acquire.And this difficulty attaches itself more closely to an age in whichprogress has gained a strong ascendency over prejudice, and in whichpersons and things are, day by day, finding their real level, in lieuof their conventional value. The same principles which have sweptaway traditional abuses, and which are making rapid havoc among therevenues of sinecurists, and stripping the thin, tawdry veil fromattractive superstitions, are working as actively in literature as insociety. The credulity of one writer, or the partiality of another,finds as powerful a touchstone and as wholesome a chastisement in thehealthy scepticism of a temperate class of antagonists, as the dreamsof conservatism, or the impostures of pluralist sinecures in theChurch. History and tradition, whether of ancient or comparativelyrecent times, are subjected to very different handling from thatwhich the indulgence or credulity of former ages could allow. Merestatements are jealously watched, and the motives of the writer formas important an ingredient in the analysis or his history, as thefacts he records. Probability is a powerful and troublesome test; andit is by this troublesome standard that a large portion of historicalevidence is sifted. Consistency is no less pertinacious and exactingin its demands. In brief, to write a history, we must know more thanmere facts. Human nature, viewed under an introduction of extendedexperience, is the best help to the criticism of human history.Historical characters can only be estimated by the standard whichhuman experience, whether actual or traditionary, has furnished. Toform correct views of individuals we must regard them as formingparts of a great whole--we must measure them by their relation to themass of beings by whom they are surrounded; and, in contemplating theincidents in their lives or condition which tradition has handed downto us, we must rather consider the general bearing of the wholenarrative, than the respective probability of its details.It is unfortunate for us, that, of some of the greatest men, we knowleast, and talk most. Homer, Socrates, and Shakespere have, perhaps,contributed more to the intellectual enlightenment of mankind thanany other three writers who could be named, and yet the history ofall three has given rise to a boundless ocean of discussion, whichhas left us little save the option of choosing which theory ortheories we will follow. The personality of Shakespere is, perhaps,the only thing in which critics will allow us to believe withoutcontroversy; but upon everything else, even down to the authorship ofplays, there is more or less of doubt and uncertainty. Of Socrates weknow as little as the contradictions of Plato and Xenophon will allowus to know. He was one of the dramatis personae in two dramas asunlike in principles as in style. He appears as the enunciator ofopinions as different in their tone as those of the writers who havehanded them down. When we have read Plato or Xenophon, we think weknow something of Socrates; when we have fairly read and examinedboth, we feel convinced that we are something worse than ignorant.It has been an easy, and a popular expedient of late years, to denythe personal or real existence of men and things whose life andcondition were too much for our belief. This system--which has oftencomforted the religious sceptic, and substituted the consolations ofStrauss for those of the New Testament--has been of incalculablevalue to the historical theorists of the last and present centuries.
To question the existence of Alexander the Great, would be a moreexcusable act, than to believe in that of Romulus. To deny a factrelated in Herodotus, because it is inconsistent with a theorydeveloped from an Assyrian inscription which no two scholars read inthe same way, is more pardonable, than to believe in the good-naturedold king whom the elegant pen of Florian has idealized--NumaPompilius.Scepticism has attained its culminating point with respect to Homer,and the state of our Homeric knowledge may be described as a freepermission to believe any theory, provided we throw overboard allwritten tradition, concerning the author or authors of the Iliad andOdyssey. What few authorities exist on the subject, are summarilydismissed, although the arguments appear to run in a circle. "Thiscannot be true, because it is not true; and that is not true, becauseit cannot be true." Such seems to be the style, in which testimonyupon testimony, statement upon statement, is consigned to denial andoblivion.It is, however, unfortunate that the professed biographies of Homerare partly forgeries, partly freaks of ingenuity and imagination, inwhich truth is the requisite most wanting. Before taking a briefreview of the Homeric theory in its present conditions, some noticemust be taken of the treatise on the Life of Homer which has beenattributed to Herodotus.According to this document, the city of Cumae in AEolia was, at anearly period, the seat of frequent immigrations from various parts ofGreece. Among the immigrants was Menapolus, the son of Ithagenes.Although poor, he married, and the result of the union was a girlnamed Critheis. The girl was left an orphan at an early age, underthe guardianship of Cleanax, of Argos. It is to the indiscretion ofthis maiden that we "are indebted for so much happiness." Homer wasthe first fruit of her juvenile frailty, and received the name ofMelesigenes from having been born near the river Meles in Boeotia,whither Critheis had been transported in order to save herreputation."At this time," continues our narrative, "there lived at Smyrna a mannamed Phemius, a teacher of literature and music, who, not beingmarried, engaged Critheis to manage his household, and spin the flaxhe received as the price of his scholastic labours. So satisfactorywas her performance of this task, and so modest her conduct, that hemade proposals of marriage, declaring himself, as a furtherinducement, willing to adopt her son, who, he asserted, would becomea clever man, if he were carefully brought up."They were married; careful cultivation ripened the talents whichnature had bestowed, and Melesigenes soon surpassed his schoolfellowsin every attainment, and, when older, rivalled his preceptor inwisdom. Phemius died, leaving him sole heir to his property, and hismother soon followed. Melesigenes carried on his adopted father'sschool with great success, exciting the admiration not only of theinhabitants of Smyrna, but also of the strangers whom the tradecarried on there, especially in the exportation of corn, attracted tothat city. Among these visitors, one Mentes, from Leucadia, themodern Santa Maura, who evinced a knowledge and intelligence rarelyfound in those times, persuaded Melesigenes to close his school, and

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