Homer, Politics and the Panathenaea

Grintser Nikolay P.

The article deals with some aspects of Homeric question, focusing mainly on the practice of Homeric recitations at the Panathenaea festival. Following the ‘evolutionary model’ suggested by Gregory Nagy who stresses the importance of the festival for maintaining the authority of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the author addresses the particular problem: why these two poems were finally acknowledged as the only and truly ‘Homeric’. He argues that it was partly due to some political and ideological reasons. In the Panathenaean framework these two poems got specifically linked to Athens, because of the prominent role the city’s patron goddess was playing in them. This hypothesis is supported by iconographic evidence: by the end of the sixth century BC Athena becomes a stock character in Athenian vase painting in the scenes related to Trojan war. The political significance of Homeric poems is also maintained by legendary stories emphasizing the crucial role of Athens in the process of establishing the “true Homer” (Peisistratean Recension), and the importance of Homeric texts in solving political conflicts.

Keywords: Athena, the Panathenaea, Peisistratus, Homer, orality/literacy, iconography, evolutionary model, politics and literature

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