Early humanist failure with Homer (I)

Sowerby, Robin
June 1997
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Summer97, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p37
Academic Journal
The attacks upon Homer by Vida and Scaliger in the sixteenth century are well known. Less generally appreciated is the extent to which these attacks simply filled a vacuum and grew naturally out of the perplexity and difficulty experienced by humanist readers and translators from Petrarch onwards. This article examines the early history of the humanist response to the Homeric poems and to the ancient inheritance that came with them as evidenced in critical judgements and in translations. In a general survey it concludes that the humanist response, though often marked by apparent enthusiasm and good intentions, was actually tentative and half-hearted at best, and sometimes downright hostile. Even where ignorance of Greek or difficulty with the language was not a problem, Homer tended to be judged, whether consciously or unconsciously, by the overriding standard of Virgil. A taste for and appreciation of the distinctively Homeric were not a part of the rich legacy bequeathed to modern Europe by the early humanists. This article is being published in two parts, with the second half appearing in IJCT 4.2 (Fall 1997). (Part One: 1. Preliminary expectations and difficulty: Petrarch; 2. Homer's reception among early humanist educators; 3. Humanist translation: i. Tentative beginnings: Loschi, Bruni, Decembrio, ii. Homer in prose: Valla and Griffolini. -- Part Two: 3. Humanist translation [continued]: iii. The unfulfilled desire for verse, iv. Politian and a better versio; 4. Sixteenth-century criticism: Vida and Scaliger; Appendix: Examples from humanist translators.)


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