Friday, August 29, 2014

Imagine Someone Said: Apollonius Rhodus Wrote Iliad and Odyssey

OK. Here is the theory and if someone feels there is a spoof going on, be assured, there is.

Apollonius Rhodus with a Pagan Greek condescension to Jews got worried they had brilliant literature like Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Book of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings. Since Greeks obviously had nothing like it, he pondered on how to fix this. He single-handledly invented the Hexameter (by taking the first line of a distich and repeating it instead of changing between it and the second part). He invented a language in which the augment in e- (usually) for past tenses was optional, where baino could just as well have bê as ébe for past tense aorist, where masculine and neuter genitives of second declinsion end in -oio, where to fit the Hexameter you have a third declinsion genitive basilêos instead of basileôs, where either Ionic or Æolic forms trump the Attic ones.

He then invented a story or more probably assembled diverging and contradictory half memories of long forgotten wars, wrongly localised in Troy (where there had never been any city ever, and no war either), and set out to tell this story in the language he invented, in the Hexameter verse he invented (a bit like Tolkien writing Quenya verse, but more as if he had instead invented an extra dialect of Anglo-Saxon - or even between Anglo-Saxon and Frisian - and written the Beren and Luthien ballad from beginning to end in it, ensuring only just enough identity of words to safeguard understanding of English readers, by making non-English* words either very common or very rare). When he felt he had something going, it sorted itself out ino two long poems, one showing Ulysses beside Agamemnon and Achilles - fabled heroes of a fabled war - and the other showing Ulysses beside Nausikaa and Penelope, beside Telemachos and Nestor, beside Circe and Calypso, beside Polyphemos and Antinoos, fabled characters of fabled voyages and searches and and of a fabled homecoming. The religious outlook which takes the Olympian gods with some playfulness is obviously far too advanced for Homer, if there had been such a person, since this fabled poet was supposed to live centuries before Æschylus, whose outlook was more primitive and awe-stricken before the gods. This question of the development of religious outlook is of course the best proof ever that this theory is ... as right as it is.

Apollonius Rhodus manages to pull off that Homer really lived and wrote the Iliad and Odyssey, he even somehow (!) manages, though Homer was not heard of till his time by anyone, and though Alexandria was knowledgeable about Greece, that all Greece had honoured Homer and cited his poems all along. And that nearly everyone (excepting poets) had been referring to Homer all along. To this end he also manages to forge all manuscripts surviving past him of very many writings, inserting passages referring to Homer which are of course totally spurious. The Tragedians start geting Genitives in -oio. The Historians start discussing the Wooden Horse. Plato's discussion about poets suddenly in Apollonius' Alexandria starts including a reference to Homer as the obvious King of the Poets. Nobody catches him at this play. Everyone who had never heard of Homer before one inconspicuous geek of a scholar engaged in collecting and correcting manuscripts handed them a manuscript of Homer, everyone suddenly agrees he had enjoyed Homer all of his life, and his father and grandfather had done so before him. There is just ONE little ironic man who vents a suspicion very indirectly (aren't we modern critics subtle to detect the suspicion anyway!) by saying that epics like those could only be written back in Homer's days. Apollonius Rhodus falls into the well set trap and agrees to write an Epic. His third Epic, Argonautica (agree he had good practise writing Iliad and Odyssey before it!) is then penned under Apollonius' own name. Easy as pie.

This is what everyone believes about the Homeric question, right? Not. No, not quite so. Not about Homer. But someone has suggested something similar about the Books of Moses and giving Ezra the credit for literary achievement and the discredit for a similar dishonesty. And especially the question of how Ezra (or some less known character in his time) could convince not just his fellow Jews, but also Samarians the Pentateuch had been written by Moses if noone had heard of it before. This is approached with as much "of course this happened" and as much vagueness about how exactly that was pulled off.

And - excepting the conservative, that is Christian, presumable minority - Biblical Scholars are buying this kind of stuff!

How about them taking a cue or two from the real Homer Scholars (not the fake one I impersonated right up to two paragraphs ago)? They no longer doubt there was one Homer, or possibly two ones, one for each Epic. They have taken some help from archaeology and from Schliemann and Dörpfelt to see that the Trojan War actually took place and the localities of Ithaca actually exist. With a little less prejudice from Enlightenment "philosophers" who without any scholarship** tried to launch Homer studies on as stupid and sceptic lines as Liberal Biblical Scholars still use, we might even be discussing if Polyphemus was of a type seen also in Goliath of Gad and Og of Bashan. This way Academic Biblical Scholarship would be gaining some respect from me. As it is, the Biblical Scholars that do have my respect are often reduced to a "fringe" socially.

Alas this reform of Biblical scholarship seems humanly speaking far away. Finkelstein and Silberman are doing archaeology and calling David and Solomon fabled characters. What if they took a cue from Dr. Mark Woolmer? He could for instance tell them Saul was in Tell Amarna letters called Labaya. Oh, sorry, forgot, they are Jews, they do not argue with Goyim, least of all Christians! But I really did see one of them cited in a discussion as "Filkenstein." Considering the liberties this history denier takes with history, well, he nearly deserves it.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Rosa of St Mary,
called St Rosa of Lima

* Non-Modern English he would of course say, since he was using the terminology in which Old English meant Anglo-Saxon, much of his life.

** Philosophers think about what must be true. Philologists consider what, according to textual evidence, including textually recorded text reception, was. There is a place for either, but Wolf was doing what the Philological Method is good for and using the Philosophical Method instead. And even he was not as radical against Homer as my spoof on Liberal Biblical Scholarship.

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