Title page from Homeri Ilias, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.
|Published||Londini: Impensis Johannis & Pauli Knapton|
|Language||Greek and Latin|
|Volumes||2 volume set|
|Desc.||8vo (21 cm.)|
Little is known about the life of Homer. Even in Greek antiquity, no one knew anything for certain about the poet responsible for the Iliad and the Odyssey. Herodotus claimed he lived around 850 BCE, while modern scholars usually date his poems to the second half of the eighth century BCE. 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 over 400 years to a heroic world much greater (in his esteem) than the contemporary world. Homer had to rely on a combination of evidence from the oral tradition in order to compose his poems, which provides some of the basis for the “separatist” view that the two epic poems were not written by the same person or perhaps were not written by just one poet at all but a combination of poets. It still cannot be proven whether both poems were written by the same person (scholars have spent entire careers trying to prove their view), but it is generally accepted that each poem can be attributed to a single person, whether that poet is one in the same or not. Regardless, the mixed dialect of Ionian Greek that each poem is originally written in 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 his epic poems which were sung or chanted to an accompaniment by the poet on a lyre. One can see from this, the similarity between the wanderings of Odysseus and Homer.
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. The story of the Iliad is ripe with moral themes as 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 brother Menelaus’s wife Helen from the Trojan prince Paris. Homer begins his narration in the tenth year of the war, actually covering only several weeks of the war focused on the anger of the great warrior Achilles at not being appropriately respected and honored by Menelaus. Significantly described in the Iliad are the deaths of Patroclus (Achilles’ foster brother and alleged lover) and subsequent vengeance killing of Hector (the oldest son of King Priam of Troy). The respect and compassion seen between the supposed enemies Achilles and Priam when the former returns Hector’s body is a clear example of the rules of war and humanity Greeks expected to be shown to one another. The story ends with the funeral of Hector (for which Achilles gave Priam a ten day break from battle, much to the anger of Menelaus). 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.
Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library
We know George Wythe definitely owned the 1740 edition of Samuel Clarke's Greek and Latin edition of The Illiad. A copy of volume one at the University of Virginia includes Wythe's bookplate. The title is also listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "[Homeri Ilias. Gr. Lat], Clarke. 2d. vol. 8vo." and was given by Thomas Jefferson to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Jefferson's entry suggests he only inherited the second volume or compiled his list before he located volume one. The Brown Bibliography assumes the volume inherited by Jefferson came from the same 1740 edition as the University of Virginia volume one. George Wythe's Library on LibraryThing notes "Vol. 2 only. Precise edition unknown. Several two-volume editions of Clarke's translation were published in octavo, the first in 1735." and "Vol. 1 of this set, containing Wythe's armorial bookplate, is at the University of Virginia, Special Collections." The Wolf Law Library agreed with Brown and purchased a copy of the 1740 edition.
Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy
Bound in contemporary full calf. Spine features raised bands with gilt rules, gilt decorative elements and red morocco label with gilt lettering. Both volumes signed "Pat. Grant" on the front free endpaper.
View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.
- "Samuel Clarke" by Ezio Vailati and Timothy Yenter in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward Zalta (Stanford, Summer 2009).
- Hugh Chisholm, ed. “Clarke, Samuel.” Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911).
- "Homer” in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, ed. by M.C. Howatson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
- " Homer " in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, ed. by John Roberts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
- Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433
- LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe", accessed February 27, 2014.