The Glory That Was Greece

Homer lived under a patriarchal monarchy; certainly, as we shall see, the authors of the later parts were familiar with oligarchy or aristocracy. The tradition is probably true which says that Homer was not edited in our “authorised” version until the tyranny of Peisistratus at Athens in the sixth century.

It follows that we are not to take the epic story as representing a chapter of the real history of the Achæans in Greece. If we attempted to do so we should constantly be betrayed by the deliberate archaisms of the epic convention. The utmost use to which historians can put their Homer is to take the unconscious background of the poems as picturing the sort of civilisation with which writers of the ninth, eighth, and seventh centuries were familiar. It is almost our only evidence for that period.

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