Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
2. The Traditional View of the World 4. Hesiod

From Burnet's Introduction

III. Homer
We see the working of these influences clearly in Homer. Though he doubtless belonged to the older race himself and used its language,4 it is for the courts of Achaian princes he sings, and the gods and heroes he celebrates are mostly Achaian.5 That is why we find so few traces of the traditional view of the world in the epic. The gods have become frankly human, and everything primitive is kept out of sight. There are, of course, vestiges of the early beliefs and practices, but they are exceptional.6 It has often been noted that Homer never speaks of the primitive custom of purification for homicide. The dead heroes are burned, not buried, as the kings of the older race were. Ghosts play hardly any part. In the Iliad we have, to be sure, the ghost of Patroklos, in close connexion with the solitary instance of human sacrifice in Homer. There is also the Nekyia in the Eleventh Book of the Odyssey.7 Such things, however, are rare, and we may fairly infer that, at least in a certain society, that of the Achaian princes for whom Homer sang, the traditional view of the world was already discredited at a comparatively early date,8 though it naturally emerges here and there.



Burnet's Notes

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4. This is surely a simpler hypothesis than that of Sir Arthur Evans, who postulates (loc. cit. p. 288) "an earlier Minoan epic taken over into Greek." The epic dialect has most points of contact with Arcadian and Cypriote, and it is wholly improbable that the Arcadians came from the North. There are sufficient parallels for the prowess of the conqueror being celebrated by a bard of the conquered race (Ridgeway, Early Age of Greece, vol. i. p. 664). Does this explain the name Ὅμηρος "hostage"?

5. Professor Ridgeway (Early Age of Greece, i. p. 674) points out that the specifically Achaian names, such as Achilles, Odysseus, Aiakos, Aias, Laertes and Peleus cannot be explained from the Greek language, while the names of the older race, such as Herakles, Erichthonios, Erysichthon, etc., can. No doubt Agamemnon and Menelaos have Greek names, but that is because Atreus owed his kingship to the marriage of Pelops with a princess of the older race. It is an instance of the process of assimilation which was going on everywhere.

6. There are traces of cosmogonical ideas in the Διὸς ἀπάτη (Il. xiv.).

7. Od. xi. has been referred to a late date because it is supposed to contain Orphic ideas. In the light of our present knowledge, such a hypothesis is quite unnecessary. The ideas in question are primitive, and were probably generally accepted in the Aegean. Orphicism was essentially a revival of primitive beliefs.

8. On all this, see especially Rohde, Psyche2, i. pp. 37 sqq. (=Ps.1 pp. 34 sqq.).




















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