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by Archaeology Newsroom

Dictys. Dares, Benoit and the Dogma of the “Archaism” of the Epics

In the Homeric epics a past world is represented, a world dead even before the time these poems had presumably been composed, that is the 8th century B.C., according to the prevailing view. The political georgraphy to which the epics refer had changed and been forgotten long before the historic era. How, then, can we explain the gap separating the time of the poet from the actual time he describes in his poems? The usual answer remains invariably the same: the poet was systematically archaizing. However, this answer generates two even more serious questions: a. How could a poet of the 8th century B.C. have possed archaeological knowledge available only to expert archaeologists of our time? b. Is it possible that he was functioning with motives sensible only to the modern, analytic philologists? Numerous, strong and indicative are the anachronistic symptoms occuring in the 12th-century French epic La-guerre de Troade. by Benoit de Sainte Maure. Medieval knights, Turks, even Chinese in the fringe of the narration, share the epoch of the Trojan War along with the Homeric heroes. This undoubtedly proves ground¬less the assertion that Homer -and even more Homers was systematically and successfully archaizing. Thus. the phenomenon of the antiquated world, consistently pictured in the Homeric poems, can satisfactorily be explained, if we dare to accept that the time of their final composition was very close to the era they represent.