Was the Iliad improvised, or otherwise created, by a single person? Or was the process more gradual? Was the Odyssey separately created? Or are the two more tangled in their composition histories? Such are the questions. Sentiment favors the former alternatives, but internal evidence tends to point elsewhere.
In the Iliad, there is strong evidence for the combination of similar but divergent versions of the same story. Does one rhapsode, composing as he goes, invent and kill Melanippos, then revive him an hour later, only to kill him again? And not content with that, does he revive him yet again after another few hours, and kill him off a third time? Maybe, but it is no compliment to a rhapsode to think so. More likely, the recitations of many early rhapsodes were at some point assembled into a composite repertoire, the common property of a guild, with little care to avoid mutual inconsistencies. This would have been the store of previous bardic practice on which the composer of the Menis later drew.
Does Telemachus play a major role in the slaying of the suitors? Or, as the dead suitors themselves later recall, does he merely help out around the edges, as Odysseus, with the adroit connivance of Penelope, slays all twelve of them? And why is it that, in Iliad 2, Odysseus proudly identifies himself as "the father of Telemachus," when Telemachus is a child of ten at the time?
Current Project research includes both Iliad and Odyssey, and the interaction between them. We keep in mind the musical dimension of these texts, and the ethos of their audiences. Ongoing discussions are hosted on the Project's dedicated E-list Homerica, with publication possibilities in our journal Alpha. Interested persons are welcome to join in.
Here are a few topics which seem to us to offer attractive possibilities for future study:
- The Lays of the First Rhapsodes
- The Deaths of Melanippos
- Characterization in Speeches
- Ethos and Audience
- The Ends of the Menis
- The Matter of Nausicaa
- Which Telemachus?
- The Many Underworlds
- Ulyssean Cantos in the Iliad
- The Ends of the Odyssey
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