In The East Face of Helicon (1997), West showed the extent to which Homeric and other early Greek poetry was influenced by Near Eastern traditions, mainly non-Indo-European. His new book presents a foil to that work by identifying elements of more ancient, Indo-European heritage in the Greek material. Topics covered include the status of poets and poetry in Indo-European societies; metre, style, and diction; gods and other supernatural beings, from Father Sky and Mother Earth to the Sun-god and his beautiful daughter, the Thunder-god and other elemental deities, and earthly orders such as Nymphs and Elves; the forms of hymns, prayers, and incantations; conceptions about the world, its origin, mankind, death, and fate; the ideology of fame and of immortalization through poetry; the typology of the king and the hero; the hero as warrior, and the conventions of battle narrative.
About the author
Born in 1937, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Martin Litchfield West is considered one of the world’s leading classical philologists. His masterly critical editions include Hesiod’s works, Greek lyric, orphic poetry and all of Aeschylus’ tragedies. His Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (published in Italy by Il Mulino, 1993) offers a decisive and well-balanced contribution to the age-old debate over the “originality” of Greek culture and its indebtedness to other cultures. His groundbreaking studies on early Greek music are also noteworthy.
He has written extensively on ancient Greek music, the relations between Greece and the ancient Near East, and the connexion between shamanism and early ancient Greek religion, including the Orphic tradition. This work stems from material in Akkadian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Hittite, and Ugaritic, as well as Greek and Latin. In addition to the Near-Eastern connection, he has recently written on the reconstitution of Indo-European culture and poetry, and its influence on Greece.
He has recently produced an edition of Homer’s Iliad for Teubner, accompanied by a study of its critical tradition and overall philology, Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad.
Indo-European Poetry and Myth
Oxford University Press (13 novembre 2008)