Anonymous portrait of Homer

Εἰ δ’ ἀμαθεῖς τινες ἄνθρωποι τὴν Ὁμηρικὴν ἀλληγορίαν ἀγνοοῦσιν οὐδ’ εἰς τὰ μύχια τῆς ἐκείνου σοφίας καταβεβήκασιν, ἀλλ’ ἀβασάνιστος αὐτοῖς ἡ τῆς ἀληθείας κρίσις ἔρριπται, καὶ τὰ φιλοσόφως ῥηθὲν οὐκ εἰδότες, ὃ μυθικῶς δοκεῖ πλάσαι προαρπάζουσιν, οὗτοι μὲν ἐρρέτωσαν. ἡμεῖς δ’ οἳ τῶν ἀβεβήλων ἐντὸς περιρραντηρίων ἠγνίσμεθα, σεμνὴν ὑπὸ νόμῳ τῶν ποιημάτων τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἀνιχνεύωμεν. ἐρρίφθω δὲ καὶ Πλάτων ὁ κόλαξ καὶ Ὁμήρου συκοφάντης, ἔνδοξον ἀπὸ τῆς ἰδίας πολιτείας μύρῳ τὴν κεφαλὴν διάβροχον. οὐδ’ Ἐπικούρου φροντὶς ἡμῖν, ὃς τῆς ἀσέμνου περὶ τοὺς ἰδίους κήπους ἡδονῆς γεωργός ἐστιν, ἅπασαν ὁμοῦ ποιητικὴν ὥσπερ ὀλέθριον μύθων δέλεαρ ἀφοσιούμενος. πρὸς οὓς μέγα δή τι στενάξας εἴποιμ’ ἂν εὐλόγως·
ὦ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται. [Od. 1.32]
καὶ τὸ πικρότατον, ἀρχὴν ἑκάτεροι τῶν παρ’ ἑαυτοῖς δογμάτων ἔχοντες Ὅμηρον, ἀφ’ οὗ τὰ πλεῖστα τῆς ἐπιστήμης ὠφέληνται, περὶ τοῦτον ἀχαρίστως εἰσὶν ἀσεβεῖς.
(Heraclitus Stoicus, Hom. Probl. 3.2-4.4)

If some ignorant people fail to recognize Homeric allegory and have not descended into the secret caverns of his wisdom but instead have risked a hasty judgment of the truth without proper consideration, and if then they seize hastily on what they take to be his mythical invention, because they do not know what is said in a philosophical sense – well, off with them and good riddance! But let us, who have been hallowed within the sacred enclosure, methodically track down the grand truth of the poems. Away too with Plato, the flatterer, Homer’s dishonest accuser, who banishes him from his private Republic as an honored exile, garlanded with white wool and with his head drenched with costly perfumes! Nor need we trouble ourselves with Epicurus, who cultivates his low pleasure in his private garden, and abominates all poetry indiscriminately as a lethal allurement of fable. In the face of these two, I might very reasonably groan and cry
Ah me, how mortals put the blame on gods!
And the irony is that both these philosophers found the basis of their doctrines in Homer, and are ungrateful as well as impious toward the person from whom they gained most of their knowledge.
(tr. Donald A. Russell & David Konstan)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: