Knötel’s Homer -- By: Samuel Colcord Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:216 (Oct 1897)
Article: Knötel’s Homer
Author: Samuel Colcord Bartlett

Knötel’s Homer

Samuel Colcord Bartlett

The appearance of Knötel’s two volumes on “Homer the Blind Man of Chios”1 both presents a valuable lesson in the historical investigation of a literary question, and apparently marks a new epoch in the assured recognition of Homer’s personality and work. For a century Fried-rich August Wolf and his followers have claimed to dominate the literary world with the theory that the Homeric poems were a compilation of what he termed rhapsodies composed by various unknown authors, and not the work of any one person bearing the name Homer.

It is to demolish this skillfully elaborated and widely current theory that Knötel has written these two scholarly volumes. He fully recognizes the tenacity with which the theory has been held by its advocates, and the impossibility of dealing with it on the ground of mere literary criticism without some historic basis on which the discussion shall rest. For, as he remarks, the attempt to rebut critique with counter critique proceeding from within outward, is hopeless, and we can never thus reach a clear, tangible, and conclusive result. He earnestly asserts and reiterates that the Homeric question is no grammatico-critical or purely literary question, but by all odds a historical one, which cannot be settled by acute conjectures or critical keenness of scent, but by well-proved facts. This

matter-of-fact aspect, he maintains, has been wholly lost sight of, and “thus we have fallen into a literary quagmire, where no sure step or firm foothold further is possible.”

To find a firm historic starting-point he turns to the great historian Thucydides and the Homeric hymns. Thucydides, besides twice referring elsewhere to Homer, in chapter 3. 104 makes two quotations from the hymn to the Delian Apollo, not only distinctly ascribing them to Homer, but also affirming that in the second of these passages Homer alludes to himself. The historian, after describing the nature of the great festival held in very early times at Delos by the Ionians and the neighboring islanders, proceeds thus (as rendered by Jowett): “The character of the festival is attested by Homer in the following verses which are taken from the hymn to Apollo:—

At other times, Phoebus, Delos is dearest to thine heart,
Where are gathered together the Ionians in flowing robes,
With their wives and children, in thy street;
There do they delight thee with boxing, dancing, and song,
Making mention of thy name at the meeting of the assembly.’

And that there were musical contests which attracted competitors is implied in the fo...

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