Um, say, about Homeric influence in New Testament times…

In preparing my book, I’ve had to dig just a bit deeper than the oft-repeated theme that Homer supplied the culture of Latin Rome. This is readily false, as much like today, the New Testament that supposedly supplied the culture of the United States is not even known, although may be quoted or alluded from time to time. Anyway, one of the things that I’ve found is that Homer wasn’t much known, and had been replaced by a Latin poet. Not only that, he was attacked as being false and childish by a rhetorician much better known to the New Testament era than Homer, Dio Chrysostom:

But as for me, desiring neither to gain your favour nor to quarrel with Homer, much less to rob him of his fame, I shall try to show all the false statements I think he has made with regard to the events which happened here, and I shall use no other means of refuting him than his own poetry. In this I am simply defending the truth, and for Athena’s sake especially, that she may not be thought to have destroyed her own city unjustly or to have set her will against her father’s; but I speak no less in behalf of Hera and Aphrodite also. For it is passing strange that the consort of Zeus did not consider him a competent judge of her beauty unless it should be pleasing to one of the shepherds of Ida also, and that she had any contest at all with Aphrodite for the prize of beauty, she who asserted that she was the eldest of the children of Cronus, as Homer himself has expressed it in the verse,

Find the rest here.

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One Reply to “Um, say, about Homeric influence in New Testament times…”

  1. It is an oft-repeated claim that Homer ‘supplied the culture’ of Latin Rome, but while I don’t think we could say ‘Homer was unknown’ (and you’re right, Virgil had definitely refitted the epic genre to his own needs, and thereby Rome’s, at least that is what I assumed you meant by that reference) I think you are right to point out the divergence of Latin literature from Greek literature.

    In the last couple of decades in classics there has been a real push back against that simplistic model of appropriation by the Romans. See Habinek’s ‘The politics of Latin literature’ where he challenges that whole construct. That book is probably the touch stone for the whole debate.

    Although I don’t know, that is quite a Rome-centric debate, and I am unsure how that would relate specifically to the murkier waters of 1st Century Palestine…

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