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* Pausan. VIII. c. 17, 18; Strabo viii. 42 v III. 12. p. 389; Plin. Nat. Hist. ii. 106, xxxi. * De Ismeniae et Ismenes Amor. xi. 19. pp. 494, 512, 518. ed. Teucher.

* Pausan. xiii. 18. Comp. Niebuhr's Worträge, l. c. 1. p. 435.

sert that ordeals were as common among the Greeks and Romans, and as deeply rooted in their feelings, or as much a kind of judicial usage as, according to Grimm, they were among the Germans and in India, yet we think we have shewn that it would be very rash to say that the idea was entirely foreign to them.




THE highest productions of genius, as they are in themselves objects of the greatest interest, and sources of the best enjoyment, so they form the great centres and turning points of historical disquisition. Mighty causes, whatever their class, they exert a predominant influence on contemporary and succeeding generations, and the scrutiny of their relation to anterior times, engages the student by every motive of instruction and curiosity.

In the most perfect works of genius, history culminates, but when the most perfect are at the same time, by the accidents of ages, the earliest preserved, the difficulty and interest of the inquiry are enhanced together, and the elucidation of their origin taxes all the resources of the most refined analysis.

Such, and so situated in history, are the Homeric Epics; monuments of human progress, at a stage where progress was most momentous, and its conditions most obscure, they are at once the earliest and most perfect poetic compositions bequeathed to us by antiquity. It is not too much to say, that the people capable of producing and appreciating such works was, by the genial originality and capacity of education so evinced, equal to any career, to the achievement of any step in civilization, since made by the race. At the date of these poems, in one section of the species, all the preliminary work for the discipline of the independent and adult intellect of man had been successfully gone through, and the fortunes of progressive humanity were finally assured. Here, then, lies the great problem

of the history of Greece; the Homeric poems and their conditions assumed, no difficulty of consequence remains in accounting for all forms and stages of Greek development, and its consequence,—the abiding manifestation of the civilized elements of society as distinguished from, and dominating, the merely barbarian. The Greek historian, therefore, is bound not to assume, but to apply himself to the task of accounting for, these crowning productions of imaginative and intellectual activity and moral experience. This is not the work of one man, nor of one generation; directly and indirectly it has been advanced by a vast application of industry and sagacity, but opinion approaches unanimity but tardily, and students who have rendered best service at one point, have frequently done damage by discrediting the acquisitions of competitors at others; for the rest, as the discussion is now left, there is perhaps more excuse for recurring to it than there would be had either more or less been settled. Isolated as the poems stand in time, with a chasm between them and the utmost verge of history, and dark chaos beyond, our first chance of obtaining some glimpse of the form and nature of the materials of the poet, and thus the antecedent stages by which he and his audience had been advanced so far, is the examination and comparison of various parts of the poems themselves, which, from variety of subject and extensive plan, may well lead us to hope for decisive indications. And few critics have denied that such are not entirely wanting, that, notwithstanding the power of poetical genius in using and metamorphosing its adopted materials, vestiges of an earlier creation and fragments of anterior formations remain detectable by contrast of character, or incongruousness of structure, from whatever cause admitted by the poet, whether in carelessness, indifference, or by design. These incongruities, however, thus assumed as instructive, are, it must be said, open to another construction; they may be interpreted, and have been, not as relics of an earlier, but intrusions of a later age, confounded with spurious interpolations or completions of another hand. To such liabilities all ancient literature is exposed, and the most ancient can scarcely claim exemption; the two classes must, therefore, be characterised, and their limits ascertained. This is no easy task in itself; and in a short time the extension of the charge of spuriousness

seriously compromises the individuality of the authorship of the poems, and this given up, their historical relations are shifted at once. Thus is opened the vexed question of Homeric unity. Are the two poems the work of the same author? Is each poem the work of a single author, or of more than one, and if of more than one, by what plan of co-operation, or at what intervals of succession ? Vexed as these questions have been, they can no more be avoided here; my special purpose will explain the necessity of abbreviation, but something must be attempted to establish a few defensible positions as a base of farther operation. As regards the general discussion, nothing less is in question than to decide whether the Homeric Epics are in reality works of art or haps of accident; do they indeed represent an epoch, or are they the common heritage of undefined ages? There is nothing in questions as to the mode of preservation of the poems from the earliest assigned age, it may now be said to be admitted, that is inconsistent with individual authorship; they may have been preserved in writing from the first, for anything that can be shewn to the contrary; and, for anything that can be shewn to the contrary, it is quite within the limits of possibility, that they were composed in the first instance, and preserved, and transmitted for centuries, quite independently of the art. The historical authorities, again, once much relied on in evidence for the earliest form of the poems, may be said now to be quite discredited, and by common agreement set aside. The multifarious hypotheses of mixed authorship range under one or other of two leading types. According to the first, the epics were constructed at a late period, even it may be as late as Peisistratus, out of a number of earlier disconnected lays; according to the second, an early poet gave the outline and plan of the poems in short compositions, which were afterwards enlarged by a succession of poets till they reached their present dimensions. The objection to the first view is, that the uniformity of poetic style throughout the poems is marked to such a degree, and the relevance of the parts to a general scheme is so decided, that it is inconceivable how poets of such equal merit composing without concert and at distant intervals, should furnish materials capable of being put together coherently—of

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