Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Foreign Languages and Literature

First Advisor

Mark Clark

Advisor Department

Foreign Languages and Literature


The Homeric epics have inspired the Western world for three thousand years. The Iliad especially is complex and compelling, while the author himself is enigmatic. Both poem and poet have sparked several libraries worth of scholarship. The poem is traditionally considered to be transmitted orally with numerous extant variations within the text itself. In the 6th century BC, by tradition, the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus redacted the poem into a standard performance so that it could be performed in order from A to Omega. The Alexandrian scholars such as Aristarchus and Zenodotus published numerous works in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC analyzing the work of Homer, our greatest debt being to Aristarchus for preserving the poem in its entirety. What made Aristarchus’ commentary on the Iliad so compelling and useful was his strict resolve to explain a problem in Homer using evidence within the Homeric corpus. Beginning with the Stoics and continuing into the Middle Ages, allegorical readings were very popular. For example, “The battle of the rest of the gods is more a matter of physics, ‘for against Lord Poseidon stood Phoibos Apollo.’ Homer matches fire against water, calling the sun Apollo and the element of water Poseidon,”and so on describing the existential battle between those two of the four elements (Heraclitus 56). One of the prevailing problems with such allegorical readings is how badly they change the text or intent of the author. From this example alone, Heraclitus is conflating Apollo and Helios, which would have been contemporary theology in his day. However, Homer keeps the two deities separated with Apollo holding a silver bow instead of golden and lacking many of his later sun-like qualities, and in the Odyssey, the cattle of the sun god belong to Helios, not to Apollo. It is clear, then, why these methods of analysis have fallen into disfavor since the whole crux of such arguments depend on flawed ideas. Over the past few decades, scholars such as W. Thomas MacCary and Thomas von Nortwick have proposed methods of analysis that are equally unreliable. I will first demonstrate how these methods are faulty before proposing a new method of analysis based on the old Alexandrian idea, but instead of “analyzing Homer from Homer,” I will be “analyzing Greek literature from Greek literature.” My method of analysis will be constructed from an examination of the “historical” myth of Croesus to produce a framework for analyzing the myths of Meleager, Antenor, and Antilochus in the Iliad.