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Works of Homer

While today we primarily read the works of Homer for the eloquence and literary skill of this great Greek poet, we may also examine his texts for the clues that they provide to a deeper understanding of Greek society. For we must recognize that every text is both a product of the time and place in which it was created as well as a portal to that place, a means of transport to a world marked by its particular set of values and visions. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey were recognized by the Greeks themselves not only as great epics, marked by a superb literary style, but also as something far more than merely engaging tales.

The stories were for the ancient Greeks themselves a venerable source of lessons about morality, about the nature of heroism and about the proper ways in which a society should be structured. Given the value that the Greeks placed on these stories as exemplars of the values of Hellenic society, we can do the same by looking to the texts to help us understand how the Greeks understood their world. This task is, however, a difficult one because our own worldview is so fundamentally different (because based on such different life experiences) that it is often hard to know if we are experiencing a story like the Iliad in anything resembling the ways in which the Greeks themselves understood it. However, we have a better chance of understanding, and appreciating, the Iliad if we take with us a guide like Simone Weil who provides an interpretation of Homer's work that does justice to the original while also providing a sort of epistemological translation.

Weil argues that poetry - including Homer's works, but in general - provide us with a sort of mirror of reality. But while that mirror to some extent reflects the reader and his or her own reality, it in larger measure reflects the reality of the world of the author. And the reality of the world for Homer, she argues, is the constancy of war and the primacy of force...

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Works of Homer. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:54, June 24, 2019, from