Homērou Ilias kai Odysseia kai eis Autas Scholia, ē Exēgēsis, tōn Palaiōn = Homeri Ilias & Odyssea, et in Easdem Scholia, sive Interpretatio, Veterum

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by Homer

Homerou Ilias kai Odysseia

Title page from Homerou Ilias kai Odysseia, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Homer
Editor Joshua Barnes
Published Cantabrigiae: C. Crownfield
Date 1711
Language Greek and Latin
Volumes 2 volume set
Location Shelf H-4
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Little is known about the life of Homer, the poet responsible for the Iliad and the Odyssey. Herodotus claimed Homer lived around 850 BCE, while modern scholars usually date his poems to the second half of the eighth century BCE.[1] The Trojan War is estimated to have occurred at the end of the Mycenaean Age in Greece, around 1200 BCE, meaning that Homer was looking back four centuries to a heroic world much greater in his esteem, than the contemporary world. Homer relied on oral history to compose his poems; this provides some of the basis for the "separatist" view that the two epic poems were not written by the same person, but possibly by a combination of poets. The mixed dialect of Ionian Greek in which each poem was originally written indicates that both poems were written in the east Aegean. This is supported by contextual clues in the poems themselves. The two most plausible locations for the birth of Homer are Smyrna and Chios, but ancient Greeks viewed the poet as a blind minstrel wandering while he composed the poems, which were sung or chanted, accompanied by a lyre.

Frontispiece from volume one.

Homer's Iliad is an epic poem of a heroic or tragic nature, consisting of 24 books, all of which are original except for Book Ten, which was likely added later.[2] It tells the tale of the wrath of Achilles during the last year of the ten-year Trojan War. The war began when Agamemnon led a unified force of Greek warriors across the Aegean Sea to attack Troy under the pretense of rescuing his sister-in-law, Helen (wife of Menelaus), from the Trojan prince Paris. Homer begins his narration in the tenth year of the war, covering several weeks during the war and focusing on the anger of Achilles at not being appropriately respected by Menelaus. Significantly described in the Iliad are the death of Patroclus (Achilles' foster brother and alleged lover) and the subsequent vengeance killing of Hector (the oldest son of King Priam of Troy). The respect and compassion between supposed enemies Achilles and Priam when the former returns Hector’s body from the Danaan camp is an example of the humanity Greeks expected to be shown to one another even during war. The story ends with the funeral of Hector. Homer does not address the death of Achilles, the Trojan Horse or the fall of Troy. All of those stories come to us from the Latin poet Virgil’s epic, The Aeneid.

Homer's Odyssey is an epic poem consisting of 24 books telling the story of the Trojan War hero Odysseus' ten-year journey trying to get home to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus in Ithaca, where Odysseus is king. This epic is distinct from the Iliad in that it is a more romantic than heroic/tragic poem. It is clear in the Odyssey who the "good" and "bad" characters are, and therefore with whom the readers (or more accurately the listeners, as it was intended to be recited orally) should emphathize. Odysseus is shown through much of Greek mythological writing as intelligent and crafty. He tricked Achilles into agreeing to join the Greeks against the Trojans, and tricked the Trojans with the giant wooden horse that helped to end the war. In the Odyssey, Odysseus' familial devotion and "eternal human quality[y] of resolution" contrast with the barbaric creatures he meets on his adventures, as well as with the suitors attempting to woo his wife.[3] Odysseus' humaneness served as a model to Greek men, just as Penelope's devotion to her husband and home showed Greek women how to behave. The strong moral themes in the Odyssey in no way take away from the exciting adventures Odysseus encountered, from the Cyclopes to the Lotus Eaters to the Sirens, and to tricking and defeating Penelope's suitors.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Homeri Ilias et Odyssea. Barnes. 2.v. 4to." Thomas Jefferson kept this set for his own library, later selling it to the Library of Congress in 1815. Unfortunately, the volumes do not survive.

According to the English Short Title Catalog, the only edition of a combined Iliad and Odyssey edited by Joshua Barnes was published in 1711. Accordingly, both George Wythe's Library[4] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[5] include the 1711 set. Millicent Sowerby also cites this edition in Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson.[6] The Wolf Law Library purchased an available copy of volume one of the 1711 set.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Copy of volume one bound in contemporary full calf, rebacked with gilt double ruled label. Boards feature decorative gilt rule; title page signed "E libr. Joh. Mulso, Coll: Oriel: 1745." Purchased from Robert Walker Antiques with the George Wythe Boswell-Caracci Room Acquisition Fund.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. "Homer" in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, ed. by M.C. Howatson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
  2. "Homer" in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, ed. by John Roberts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  3. "Homer" in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World.
  4. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe", accessed on December 12, 2019.
  5. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2015) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433
  6. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:415-416 [no.4269].