Homer and Classical Philology

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 6

we go still further backwards from Aristotle, the
inability to create a personality is seen to increase; more and more
poems are attributed to Homer; and every period lets us see its degree
of criticism by how much and what it considers as Homeric. In this
backward examination, we instinctively feel that away beyond Herodotus
there lies a period in which an immense flood of great epics has been
identified with the name of Homer.

Let us imagine ourselves as living in the time of Pisistratus: the word
"Homer" then comprehended an abundance of dissimilarities. What was
meant by "Homer" at that time? It is evident that that generation found
itself unable to grasp a personality and the limits of its
manifestations. Homer had now become of small consequence. And then we
meet with the weighty question: What lies before this period? Has
Homer's personality, because it cannot be grasped, gradually faded away
into an empty name? Or had all the Homeric poems been gathered together
in a body, the nation naively representing itself by the figure of
Homer? _Was the person created out of a conception, or the conception
out of a person?_ This is the real "Homeric question," the central
problem of the personality.

The difficulty of answering this question, however, is increased when we
seek a reply in another direction, from the standpoint of the poems
themselves which have come down to us. As it is difficult for us at the
present day, and necessitates a serious effort on our part, to
understand the law of gravitation clearly--that the earth alters its
form of motion when another heavenly body changes its position in space,
although no material connection unites one to the other--it likewise
costs us some trouble to obtain a clear impression of that wonderful
problem which, like a coin long passed from hand to hand, has lost its
original and highly conspicuous stamp. Poetical works, which cause the
hearts of even the greatest geniuses to fail when they endeavour to vie
with them, and in which unsurpassable images are held up for the
admiration of posterity--and yet the poet who wrote them with only a
hollow, shaky name, whenever we do lay hold on him; nowhere the solid
kernel of a powerful personality. "For who would wage war with the gods:
who, even with the one god?" asks Goethe even, who, though a genius,
strove in vain to solve that mysterious problem of the Homeric
inaccessibility.

The conception of popular poetry seemed to lead like a bridge over this
problem--a deeper and more original power than that of every single
creative individual was said

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Text Comparison with Human, All-Too-Human: A Book for Free Spirits, Part 1 Complete Works, Volume Six

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