Pseudo-Plutarch, Life of Homer 1.1-5
m = reading of part of the MS tradition
P = reading on a papyrus
1 Περισσὸν μὲν ἴσως δόξειέ τισι πολυπραγμονεῖν περὶ Ὁμήρου, ποίων τε ἦν γονέων καὶ πόθεν, ἐπεὶ μηδὲ αὐτὸς ἠξίωσεν εἰπεῖν τὰ περὶ αὑτοῦ, ἀλλ’ οὕτως ἐγκρατῶς ἔσχεν ὡς μηδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ ὀνόματος ἐπιμνησθῆναι. ἐπεὶ δὲ ὡς πρὸς εἰσαγωγὴν τῶν ἀρχομένων παιδεύεσθαι χρήσιμος ἡ πολυπειρία, πειρασώμεθα εἰπεῖν ὅσα ἱστόρηται τοῖς παλαιοῖς περὶ αὐτοῦ.
2 Ἔφορος μὲν οὖν ὁ Κυμαῖος ἐν συντάγματι τῶι ἐπιγραφομένωι Ἐπιχωρίωι FGrHist 70 F 1, Κυμαῖον αὐτὸν ἀποδεικνύναι πειρώμενος, φησὶν ὅτι Ἀπελλῆς καὶ Μαίων καὶ Δῖος ἀδελφοί, Κυμαῖοι τὸ γένος· ὧν Δῖος μὲν διὰ χρέα μετώικησεν εἰς Ἄσκρην κώμην τῆς Βοιωτίας, κἀκεῖ γήμας Πυκιμήδην ἐγέννησεν Ἡσίοδον· Ἀπελλῆς δὲ τελευτήσας ἐν τῆι πατρίδι Κύμηι κατέλιπε θυγατέρα Κριθηίδα τοὔνομα, προστησάμενος αὐτῆι αὐτῆι m: αὐτῆς m τὸν ἀδελφὸν Μαίονα. ὃς διακορεύσας τὴν προειρημένην καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν πολιτῶν ἐπὶ τῶι γεγονότι δείσας κατάγνωσιν, ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν πρὸς γάμον Φημίωι Σμυρναίωι, διδασκάλωι γραμμάτων. φοιτῶσα δὲ αὐτὴ ἐπὶ τοὺς πλύνους, οἳ ἦσαν παρὰ τῶι Μέλητι, ἀπεκύησε τὸν Ὅμηρον ἐπὶ τῶι ποταμῶι, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο Μελησιγένης ἐκλήθη. μετωνομάσθη δὲ Ὅμηρος, ἐπειδὴ τὰς ὄψεις ἐπηρώθη· οὕτω δὲ ἐκάλουν οἵ τε Κυμαῖοι καὶ οἱ Ἴωνες τοὺς τὰς ὄψεις πεπηρωμένους παρὰ τὸ δεῖσθαι τῶν ὁμηρευόντων, ὅ ἐστι τῶν ἡγουμένων. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν Ἔφορος.
3 Ἀριστοτέλης δὲ ἐν τῶι τρίτωι περὶ ποιητικῆς i.e. Περὶ ποιητῶν (fr. 76 Rose) ἐν Ἴωι φησὶ τῆι νήσωι, καθ’ ὃν καιρὸν Νηλεὺς ὁ Κόδρου τῆς Ἰωνικῆς ἀποικίας ἡγεῖτο, κόρην τινὰ τῶν ἐπιχωρίων γενομένην ὑπό τινος δαίμονος τῶν συγχορευτῶν ταῖς Μούσαις ἐγκύμονα, αἰδεσθεῖσαν τὸ συμβὰν διὰ τὸν ὄγκον τῆς γαστρός, ἐλθεῖν εἴς τι χωρίον καλούμενον Αἴγιναν· εἰς ὃ καταδραμόντας ληιστὰς ἀνδραποδίσαι τὴν προειρημένην καὶ ἀγαγόντας εἰς Σμύρναν, οὖσαν ὑπὸ Λυδοῖς τότε, τῶι βασιλεῖ τῶν Λυδῶν ὄντι φίλωι τοὔνομα Μαίονι χαρίσασθαι· τὸν δὲ ἀγαπήσαντα τὴν κόρην διὰ τὸ κάλλος γῆμαι. ἣν διατρίβουσαν παρὰ τῶι Μέλητι καὶ συσχεθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τῆς ὠδῖνος ἔτυχεν ἀποκυῆσαι τὸν Ὅμηρον ἐπὶ τῶι ποταμῶι. ὃν ἀναλαβὼν ὁ Μαίων ὡς ἴδιον ἔτρεφε, τῆς Κριθηίδος μετὰ τὴν κύησιν εὐθέως τελευτησάσης· χρόνου δὲ οὐ πολλοῦ διελθόντος καὶ αὐτὸς ἐτελεύτησε. τῶν δὲ Λυδῶν καταπονουμένων ὑπὸ τῶν Αἰολέων καὶ κρινάντων καταλιπεῖν τὴν Σμύρναν, κηρυξάντων τῶν ἡγεμόνων τὸν βουλόμενον ἀκολουθεῖν ἐξιέναι τῆς πόλεως, ἔτι νήπιος ὢν Ὅμηρος ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς βούλεσθαι ὁμηρεῖν· ὅθεν ἀντὶ Μελησιγένους Ὅμηρος προσηγορεύθη.
4 γενόμενος δὲ ἐν ἡλικίαι καὶ δόξαν ἐπὶ ποιητικῆι κεκτημένος ἤδη ἐπηρώτα τὸν θεόν, τίνων τε εἴη εἴη m: ἦν m γονέων καὶ πόθεν. ὃ δὲ ἀνεῖλεν οὕτως AP 14.65; St. Byz. s.v. Ἴος; Procl. Vit. Hom. 5; Cert. 5; Paus. 10.24 (add. AP 14.66.1-2)·
ἔστιν Ἴος νῆσος, μητρὸς πατρίς, ἥ σε θανόντα
δέξεται· ἀλλὰ νέων ἀνδρῶν ἀνδρῶν m, Procl.: παίδων m, Cert. αἴνιγμα φύλαξαι.
φέρεται δὲ καὶ ἕτερος χρησμὸς τοιοῦτος AP 14.66. ὄλβιε … ἐστιν: cf. St. Byz. s.v. Ἴος; Paus. 10.24 (add. AP 14.65)·
ὄλβιε καὶ δύσδαιμον – ἔφυς γὰρ ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισι –
πατρίδα δίζηαι· μητρὸς δέ τοι, οὐ πατρός μητρὸς δέ τοι, οὐ πατρός m, AP: μητρὶς δέ τοι, οὐ πατρίς m, Paus., St. Byz. ἐστιν,
μητρόπολις ἐν νήσωι ὑπὸ Κρήτης εὐρείης
Μίνωος γαίης οὔτε σχεδὸν οὔτ’ ἀποτηλοῦ.
ἐν τῆι σοὶ μοῖρ’ ἐστὶ τελευτῆσαι βιότοιο,
εὖτ’ ἂν ἀπὸ γλώσσης παίδων μὴ γνῶις ἐπακούσας
δυσξύνετον σκολιοῖσι λόγοις εἰρημένον ὕμνον.
δοιὰς γὰρ ζωῆς μοίρας λάχες· ἣν μὲν ἀμαυράν
ἠελίων δισσῶν, ἣν δ’ ἀθανάτοις ἰσόμοιρον
ζῶντί τε καὶ φθιμένωι· φθίμενος δ’ ἔτι πολλὸν ἀγήρως.
μετ’ οὐ πολὺν δὲ χρόνον πλέων ἐις Θήβας ἐπὶ τὰ Κρόνια (ἀγὼν δὲ οὗτος ἄγεται παρ’ αὐτοῖς μουσικός) ἦλθεν εἰς Ἴον· ἔνθα ἐπὶ πέτρας καθεζόμενος ἐθεάσατο ἁλιεῖς προσπλέοντας, ὧν ἐπύθετο εἴ τι ἔχοιεν. οἳ δέ, ἐπὶ τῶι θηρᾶσαι μὲν μηδὲν φθειρίσασθαι δὲ διὰ τὴν ἀπορίαν τῆς θήρας, οὕτως ἀπεκρίναντο Cert. 18, P.Mich. inv. 2754 ll. 2-3, Ps.-Hdt. Vit. Hom. 35, Procl. Vit. Hom. 5, Anon. Vit. Hom. 1.6, Anon. Vit. Hom. 2.3, Anon. Vit. Hom. 3.5, Suda s.v. Ὅμηρος·
ὅσσ’ ἕλομεν λιπόμεσθ’, ὅσσ’ οὐχ ἔλομεν φερόμεσθα,
αἰνισσόμενοι ὡς ἄρα οὓς μὲν ἔλαβον τῶν φθειρῶν ἀποκτείναντες κατέλιπον, οὓς δὲ οὐκ ἔλαβον ἐν τῆι ἐσθῆτι φέροιεν. ὅπερ οὐ δυνηθεὶς συμβαλεῖν Ὅμηρος διὰ τὴν ἀθυμίαν ἐτελεύτησε. θάψαντες δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰῆται μεγαλοπρεπῶς, τοιόνδε ἐπέγραψαν αὐτοῦ τῶι τάφωι Cert. 18, P.Mich. inv. 2754 ll. 11-12, AP 7.3, Ps.-Hdt. Vit. Hom. 36, Anon. Vit. Hom. 1.6, Anon. Vit. Hom. 2.3, Anon. Vit. Hom. 3.5, Suda s.v. Ὅμηρος, Tzetz. Exeg. in Il. 37·
ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει,
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα θεῖον Ὅμηρον.
εἰσὶ μέντοι οἳ καὶ Κολοφώνιον αὐτὸν ἀποδεικνύναι πειρῶνται, μεγίστωι τεκμηρίωι χρώμενοι πρὸς ἀπόδειξιν τῶι ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀνδριάντος ἐπιγεγραμμένωι ἐλεγείωι· ἔχει δὲ οὕτως AP 16.292·
υἱὲ Μέλητος Ὅμηρε, σὺ γὰρ κλέος Ἑλλάδι πάσηι
καὶ Κολοφῶνι πάτρηι θῆκας ἐς ἀίδιον·
καὶ τάσδ’ ἀντιθέωι ψυχῆι γεννήσαο κούρας
δισσὰς ἡμιθέων ἡμιθέων M: ἐκ στηθέων AP, γραψάμενος σελίδας·
ὑμνεῖ δ’ ἣ μὲν νόστον Ὀδυσσῆος πολύπλαγκτον,
ἣ δὲ τὸν Ἰλιακὸν Δαρδανιδῶν πόλεμον.
ἄξιον δὲ μηδὲ τὸ ὑπὸ Ἀντιπάτρου τοῦ ἐπιγραμματοποιοῦ γραφὲν ἐπίγραμμα παραλιπεῖν, ἔχον οὐκ ἀσέμνως· ἔχει δὲ οὕτως Antip. Thess. Epigr. 72 Gow-Page, AP 16.296·
οἳ μέν σευ Κολοφῶνα τιθηνήτειραν, Ὅμηρε,
οἳ δὲ καλὰν Σμύρναν, οἳ δ’ ἐνέπουσι Χίον,
οἳ δ’ Ἴον, οἳ δ’ ἐβόασαν ἐύκλαρον Σαλαμῖνα,
οἳ δέ νυ τὰν Λαπιθᾶν τὰν Λαπιθᾶν M: τῶν Λαπιθέων AP ματέρα Θεσσαλίαν,
ἄλλοι δ’ ἄλλο μέλαθρον ἄλλο μέλαθρον M: ἄλλην γαῖαν AP ἀνίαχον· εἰ δέ με Φοίβου
χρὴ λέξαι πινυτὰν ἀμφαδὰ μαντοσύναν πινυτὰν ἀμφαδὰ μαντοσύναν M: πινυτὰς ἀμφαδὰ μαντοσύνας AP,
πάτρα τοι τελέθει μέγας οὐρανός, ἐκ δὲ γυναικός γυναικός M: τεκούσης AP
οὐ θνατᾶς, ματρὸς δ’ ἔπλεο Καλλιόπας.
5 γενέσθαι δὲ αὐτὸν τοῖς χρόνοις οἳ μέν φασι κατὰ τὸν Τρωικὸν πόλεμον, οὗ καὶ αὐτόπτην γενέσθαι· οἳ δὲ μετὰ ἑκατὸν ἔτη τοῦ πολέμου· ἄλλοι δὲ μετὰ πεντήκοντα καὶ ἑκατόν. ἔγραψε δὲ ποιήματα δύο, Ἰλιάδα καὶ Ὀδύσσειαν· ὡς δέ τινες, οὐκ ἀληθῶς λέγοντες, γυμνασίας καὶ παιδείας παιδείας m: παιδιᾶς m ἕνεκα Βατραχομυομαχίαν ἕνεκα Βατραχομυομαχίαν m: ἕνεκα καὶ Βατραχομυομαχίαν m προσθεὶς καὶ Μαργίτην.
1 Some may consider it superfluous to investigate Homer’s parentage and from where he came, when not even he thought it worthwhile to provide information about himself, but was so restrained that he did not even mention his name. But since breadth of knowledge is useful as an introduction for those beginning education, let us try to say what has been recorded by the ancients about him.
2 Ephorus of Cyme, in the treatise called Local History, attempting to prove that Homer was a Cymaean, says that Apelles, Maeon and Dius were brothers, Cymaean in origin. Dius migrated to the village of Ascra in Boeotia because he was in debt, and there, having married Pycimedes, he sired Hesiod; Apelles, who died in his fatherland, Cyme, left a daughter called Critheis, making his brother Maeon her guardian. He deflowered her, and fearing his fellow citizens’ reproof for what had happened, gave her in marriage to Phemius, a teacher of letters from Smyrna. As she used to frequent the washing places that were situated by the Meles, she gave birth to Homer at the river, and for this reason he was named Melesigenes. His name was changed to Homer after he went blind; this is what the Cymaeans and the Ionians called the blind on account of their needing homereuontes, that is, guides. So much for Ephorus.
3 Aristotle in the third book of his On Poets says that on the island of Ios, at the time when Neleus, the son of Codrus, was leading the Ionian migration, a local girl, having been impregnated by one of the divinities who dance with the Muses, and feeling ashamed of the episode because of the size of her belly, went to a place called Aegina, where some pirates who had disembarked enslaved her and took her to Smyrna, which was then under Lydian control. They gave her to the king of the Lydians, a friend of theirs whose name was Maeon. He fell in love with her because of her beauty and married her. As she was whiling away the hours by the Meles, it happened that her contractions started and she gave birth to Homer at the river. Maeon accepted him and raised him as his own, for Cretheis had died immediately after the delivery. Not long afterwards, Maeon himself died. And since the Lydians were being subdued by the Aeolians and had decided to leave Smyrna, and the leaders had made a proclamation that anyone who wished to follow them should go out of the city, Homer, although he was still young, said that he too wanted to homerein (i.e. to follow); as a result of which he was called Homer instead of Melesigenes.
4 When he reached adulthood, and had by now become famous for his poetry, he asked the god who his parents were and where he came from. And the god gave this response:
There is an island, Ios, hometown of your mother, which will receive you after you die; but beware the riddle of the young men.
Another oracle is also transmitted, which goes as follows:
Blessed and ill-fated – for both are your birthright – you search for your fatherland: but it is your mother’s land, not your father’s; your mother city is on an island below broad Crete, the land of Minos, neither near nor far away. There it is your fate to perish, when you fail to understand a song from the mouths of children, hard to comprehend and spoken in crooked language. For you have been allotted two lives: one dimmed for your two suns, the other equal to the immortals, one for life and one for death – and in death you shall age still less.
Not long afterwards, sailing to Thebes for the Cronia (a musical competition celebrated by its inhabitants) he went to Ios. There, as he was sitting on a rock, he saw some fishermen sailing towards him, and he asked them whether they had caught anything. As they had caught nothing but deloused themselves because of their unsuccessful fishing, they replied as follows:
All that we caught we left behind, all that we did not catch we carry with us.
With this riddling language they meant that the lice they had caught, they had killed and left behind, and those that they had not caught they were carrying in their clothes. Unable to make sense of this, Homer died as a result of his despondency. The people of Ios gave him a magnificent funeral and inscribed the following on his grave:
Here the earth covers the sacred head, adorner of warrior heroes, divine Homer.
There are those, however, who try to prove that he was a Colophonian, offering as their primary evidence the elegy inscribed on his statue. It goes as follows:
Homer, son of Meles, you offered all of Greece and your fatherland Colophon eternal glory; and you, with your divine soul, produced these two daughters of demigods when you wrote your texts. One sings the much-wandering homecoming of Odysseus, the other the war of the Dardanids at Ilium.
And the epigram written by Antipater the epigrammatist should not be overlooked either, as it is not without solemnity. It runs as follows:
Some (say) Colophon was your nurse, Homer, some beautiful Smyrna, some say Chios, some Ios, some declare it is flourishing Salamis, some then say the mother of the Lapiths, Thessaly, some declare one house, others another. But if I should tell openly the wise oracle of Apollo, your fatherland is the vast sky – nor were you born from a mortal woman, but your mother is Calliope.
5 As for his chronology, some say he was born at the time of the Trojan War, of which he was actually an eyewitness; others place him a hundred years after the war; still others, a hundred and fifty. He wrote two poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Some say, wrongly, that he also added the Batrachomyomachia and Margites as an educational exercise.