A stunning work of social history which uses what we know about the historical time period which produced the Iliad and the Odyssey to help understand these two classics. We need to remember that even to homer, the events of the Iliad and Odyssey were ancient history. His codification of these myths tells us then about his time times, as well as about how his peers viewed their ancestors.
Like all literature, the Homeric myths are not just stories to pass the time, they are the means by which a culture explains itself: its morals, its family structure, its economy. Read closely, and literature reveals the world.
Finley uses archeology and anthropology, philology and the history of ideas to inform his thoughts on the world of Odysseus, but in the end, this is a book of hyper close reading. Nothing gets past his eye, not a variant in god description, nor telling bit of dialogue. All if informs is understanding of who the ancient Greeks were, why they wrote these stories, and what they’re trying to tell us. If only I were half the reader Finley was, these books reviews would be much more worth illuminating.
Very, very glad I read this right after finishing a re-read of the two classics. Finely gave nuance and new meaning to what I just read, making me think more than once, “why didn’t I see that?”