This curious work dates in its present form from the lifetime or shortly after the death of Hadrian, but seems to be based in part on an earlier version by the sophist Alcidamas (c. 400 B.C.). Plutarch (“Conviv. Sept. Sap.”, 40) uses an earlier (or at least a shorter) version than that which we possess [1118]. The extant “Contest”, however, has clearly combined with the original document much other ill-digested matter on the life and descent of Homer, probably drawing on the same general sources as does the Herodotean “Life of Homer”. Its scope is as follows: 1) the descent (as variously reported) and relative dates of Homer and Hesiod; 2) their poetical contest at Chalcis; 3) the death of Hesiod; 4) the wanderings and fortunes of Homer, with brief notices of the circumstances under which his reputed works were composed, down to the time of his death.

The whole tract is, of course, mere romance; its only values are 1) the insight it give into ancient speculations about Homer; 2) a certain amount of definite information about the Cyclic poems; and 3) the epic fragments included in the stichomythia of the “Contest” proper, many of which–did we possess the clue–would have to be referred to poems of the Epic Cycle.

Cf. Hesiod Home PageHomer Home Page

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