Homer and Classical Philology

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 4

of Homeric criticism, take his stand upon the question of
personality as being the really fruitful oasis in the desert of the
whole argument. For in Homer the modern world, I will not say has
learnt, but has examined, a great historical point of view; and, even
without now putting forward my own opinion as to whether this
examination has been or can be happily carried out, it was at all
events the first example of the application of that productive point of
view. By it scholars learnt to recognise condensed beliefs in the
apparently firm, immobile figures of the life of ancient peoples; by it
they for the first time perceived the wonderful capability of the soul
of a people to represent the conditions of its morals and beliefs in the
form of a personality. When historical criticism has confidently seized
upon this method of evaporating apparently concrete personalities, it is
permissible to point to the first experiment as an important event in
the history of sciences, without considering whether it was successful
in this instance or not.

It is a common occurrence for a series of striking signs and wonderful
emotions to precede an epoch-making discovery. Even the experiment I
have just referred to has its own attractive history; but it goes back
to a surprisingly ancient era. Friedrich August Wolf has exactly
indicated the spot where Greek antiquity dropped the question. The
zenith of the historico-literary studies of the Greeks, and hence also
of their point of greatest importance--the Homeric question--was reached
in the age of the Alexandrian grammarians. Up to this time the Homeric
question had run through the long chain of a uniform process of
development, of which the standpoint of those grammarians seemed to be
the last link, the last, indeed, which was attainable by antiquity. They
conceived the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ as the creations of _one single_
Homer; they declared it to be psychologically possible for two such
different works to have sprung from the brain of _one_ genius, in
contradiction to the Chorizontes, who represented the extreme limit of
the scepticism of a few detached individuals of antiquity rather than
antiquity itself considered as a whole. To explain the different general
impression of the two books on the assumption that _one_ poet composed
them both, scholars sought assistance by referring to the seasons of the
poet's life, and compared the poet of the _Odyssey_ to the setting sun.
The eyes of those critics were tirelessly on the lookout for
discrepancies in the language and thoughts of the two poems; but at this
time also a history of the Homeric

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