Homer and the Epic: A Shortened Version of The Songs of Homer

This is a shortened and rearranged version of The Songs of Homer, Professor Kirk’s vivid and comprehensive account of the background and development of the Homeric poems and of their quality as literature. His purpose remains the same: to develop a comprehensive and unified view of the nature of the Iliad and the Odyssey, of their relation to the oral heroic poetry of the Greek Dark Age, and of their creation as poems by two great singers in the eighth century BC. The essential attitudes and arguments of the earlier work have been retained, but the whole has been reduced in detail by some two-fifths. The sections on the historical background, the possibilities of Achaean and Aeolic epic, and the technical aspects of the language have been abbreviated most, and those dealing with oral poetry and the Iliad and Odyssey as literature least of all. Professor Kirk has also changed the order and increased the number of chapters. Almost all the Greek is translated, and the new version can be more easily used by those who are primarily interested in classics in translation, comparative literature, oral poetry, or the epic in general.


Preface; Part I. The Oral Epic: 1. The Homeric poems are oral; 2. Homer and modern oral poetry; Part II. The Historical Background: 3. The rise of Mycenae; 4. Life in a Late Bronze Age palace-state; 5. From the Achaean decline to the time of Homer; Part III. The Prehistory of the Homeric Tradition: 6. Poetical possibilities of the Dark Age; 7. Was there Achaean epic poetry?; 8. Dark Age elements and Aeolic elements; Part IV. The Iliad and Odyssey as Monumental Poems: 9. Some basic qualities; 10. The Iliad; 11. The Odyssey; Part V. The Style, Language and Material Background of the Iliad and Odyssey: 12. Subjects and styles; 13. The criterion of language; 14. Differences of material culture; Part VI. Diversity and Unity in the Large-Scale Plot: 15. Structural difficulties in the Iliad; 16. Structural difficulties in the Odyssey; 17. Unity, real and imaginary; Part VII. How the Poems Developed: 18. The circumstances of monumental composition; 19. Two crucial phases of transmission; 20. The process of development; References; Index.


‘A remarkable book which besides embodying scholarship of a high order presents the general reader with a readable and trustworthy account of the present state of the Homeric studies.’

– Hugh Lloyd-Jones, New Statesman

‘I have nothing but admiration for the clarity of Mr Kirk\'s exposition and the tact with which he avoids the chatter of popularization on the one hand and the jargon of technical scholarship on the other. He is that rarest of birds in contemporary classical studies: a good teacher … It is something of an accomplishment to combine archaeological exposition, linguistics, literary criticism and aesthetics in an extended, vivid, speculative argumentation. It is superb teaching.’

– Dudley Fitts, American Scholar