In the tenth book of the Odyssey Odysseus and his companions find themselves caught in the cavern if the Cyclops Polyphemos. After their monstrous host has actually chewed his way through several of his guests, the remainder do something about it. Odysseus makes a sharp, wooden stake, cutting it from the enormous cudgel found in the cave; then together with four of his guys he plunges the stake into the eye of the drunken, sleeping Polyphemos.
Snodgrass, however, would dissent. His entire book is dedicated to showing that not just did early Greek art seldom highlight Homer, it was rarely even motivated by it. This theory is not a new one. Many other scholar have believed and contemplated the very same ideas. Snodgrass carefully research studies examples of scene often thought to be illustrations of Homer. Geometric art, he argues, uses nothing that can be identified as Homeric; indeed, there is just one Trojan war scene which is Ajax’s rescue of the body of Achilles, a scene which occurs in neither the Odyssey nor the Iliad.
Among the more strange apparitions of geometric art takes the kind of a pair of Siamese twins, warriors with 2 heads, 4 legs, 4 arms and one upper body and the subject of some interesting pages in Snodgrass’s book. They were specifically popular in early Greek art, however there is no clear Homeric influence here. Twice does the Iliad does describe the twins, yet considerably he does not discuss their rather striking defect. It is more effective to comprehend both the artist and Homer as making use of the exact same body of famous product.
By the mid seventh century figures on vases are beginning to be determined by captions. This at least makes it simpler to figure out whether the scene is from the Trojan war. Rather of two warriors fighting over a body we can be sure that we are looking at Menealos and Hektor contesting the body of Euphorbos, as found on a famous Rhodian plate of the late seventh century, an image that makes an impressive and appropriate cover for the book.
This could very well be an illustration of the Iliad book where Menealos abandons his attempt to remove the corpse. Evidence for this custom can be found in the shield of Euphorbos by Menealos himself. This is definitely possible and assists to show that common topic is insufficient to show impact. On the other hand, where a small character is names, such as ‘Odios’ in the embassy to Achilles, then we can be more positive that the artist had Homer in mind.
This is a book of huge leaning and subtlety, and it conclusion is definitely right, yet at the very same time it appears something of a missed chance. It is committed to an unfavorable and tightly-argued thesis, that Homer’s epic poems had only minimal influence on early Greek at. Snodgrass is re-thinking early Greek art as he goes, but he is re-thinking it within the limitations enforced by the really narrow focus of the book as a whole.
Hence, the favorable, for example the illuminating chapter on synoptic narrative and on composition, can be rather switched in the ruthless negative arguments. Other will now require to resolve the ramifications of his thesis, for example the role that need to be designated to oral custom and all its regional variations. Maybe it is no conscience that his book ought to appear at a time when the literary culture of the recent past is being deteriorated by an increasing emphasis on the visual.