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Title: Homer and Classical Philology
Author: Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900
Language: English
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[Transcriber's Note:

This lecture was taken from Volume III of _The Complete Works of
Friedrich Nietzsche_, Dr. Oscar Levy, Ed., J. M. Kennedy,
Translator, 1910]


(_Inaugural Address delivered at Bâle University, 28th of May 1869._)

At the present day no clear and consistent opinion seems to be held
regarding Classical Philology. We are conscious of this in the circles
of the learned just as much as among the followers of that science
itself. The cause of this lies in its many-sided character, in the lack
of an abstract unity, and in the inorganic aggregation of heterogeneous
scientific activities which are connected with one another only by the
name "Philology." It must be freely admitted that philology is to some
extent borrowed from several other sciences, and is mixed together like
a magic potion from the most outlandish liquors, ores, and bones. It may
even be added that it likewise conceals within itself an artistic
element, one which, on æsthetic and ethical grounds, may be called
imperatival--an element that acts in opposition to its purely scientific
behaviour. Philology is composed of history just as much as of natural
science or æsthetics: history, in so far as it endeavours to comprehend
the manifestations of the individualities of peoples in ever new
images, and the prevailing law in the disappearance of phenomena;
natural science, in so far as it strives to fathom the deepest instinct
of man, that of speech; æsthetics, finally, because from various
antiquities at our disposal it endeavours to pick out the so-called
"classical" antiquity, with the view and pretension of excavating the
ideal world buried under it, and to hold up to the present the mirror of
the classical and everlasting standards. That these wholly different
scientific and æsthetico-ethical impulses have been associated under a
common name, a kind of sham monarchy, is shown especially by the fact
that philology at every period from its origin onwards was at the same
time pedagogical. From the standpoint of the pedagogue, a choice was
offered of those elements which were of the greatest educational value;
and thus that science, or at least that scientific aim, which we call
philology, gradually developed out of the practical calling originated
by the exigencies of that science itself.

These philological aims were pursued sometimes with greater ardour and
sometimes with less, in accordance with the degree of culture and the
development of the taste of a particular period; but, on the other hand,
the followers of this science are in the habit of regarding the aims
which correspond to their several abilities as _the_ aims of philology;
whence it comes about that the estimation of philology in public opinion
depends upon the weight of the personalities of the philologists!

At the present time--that is to say, in a period which has seen men
distinguished in almost every department of philology--a general
uncertainty of judgment has increased more and more, and likewise a
general relaxation of interest and participation in philological
problems. Such an undecided and imperfect state of public opinion is
damaging to a science in that its hidden and open enemies can work with
much better prospects of success. And philology has a great many such
enemies. Where do we not meet with them, these mockers, always ready to
aim a blow at the philological "moles," the animals that practise
dust-eating _ex professo_, and that grub up and eat for the eleventh
time what they have already eaten ten times before. For opponents of
this sort, however, philology is merely a useless, harmless, and
inoffensive pastime, an object of laughter and not of hate. But, on the
other hand, there is a boundless and infuriated hatred of philology
wherever an ideal, as such, is feared, where the modern man falls down
to worship himself, and where Hellenism is looked upon as a superseded
and hence very insignificant point of view. Against these enemies, we
philologists must always count upon the assistance of artists and men of
artistic minds; for they alone can judge how the sword of barbarism
sweeps over the head of every one who loses sight of the unutterable
simplicity and noble dignity of the Hellene; and how no progress in
commerce or technical industries, however brilliant, no school
regulations, no political education of the masses, however widespread
and complete, can protect us from the curse of ridiculous and barbaric
offences against good taste, or from annihilation by the Gorgon head of
the classicist.

Whilst philology as a whole is looked on with jealous eyes by these two
classes of opponents, there are numerous and varied hostilities in other
directions of philology; philologists themselves are quarrelling with
one another; internal dissensions are caused by useless disputes about
precedence and mutual jealousies, but especially by the
differences--even enmities--comprised in the name of philology, which
are not, however, by any means naturally harmonised instincts.

Science has this in common with art, that the most ordinary, everyday
thing appears to it as something entirely new and attractive, as if
metamorphosed by witchcraft and now seen for the first time. Life is
worth living, says art, the beautiful temptress; life is worth knowing,
says science. With this contrast the so heartrending and dogmatic
tradition follows in a _theory_, and consequently in the practice of
classical philology derived from this theory. We may consider antiquity
from a scientific point of view; we may try to look at what has happened
with the eye of a historian, or to arrange and compare the linguistic
forms of ancient masterpieces, to bring them at all events under a
morphological law; but we always lose the wonderful creative force, the
real fragrance, of the atmosphere of antiquity; we forget that
passionate emotion which instinctively drove our meditation and
enjoyment back to the Greeks. From this point onwards we must take
notice of a clearly determined and very surprising antagonism which
philology has great cause to regret. From the circles upon whose help we
must place the most implicit reliance--the artistic friends of
antiquity, the warm supporters of Hellenic beauty and noble
simplicity--we hear harsh voices crying out that it is precisely the
philologists themselves who are the real opponents and destroyers of the
ideals of antiquity. Schiller upbraided the philologists with having
scattered Homer's laurel crown to the winds. It was none other than
Goethe who, in early life a supporter of Wolf's theories regarding
Homer, recanted in the verses--

     With subtle wit you took away
       Our former adoration:
     The Iliad, you may us say,
       Was mere conglomeration.
     Think it not crime in any way:
       Youth's fervent adoration
     Leads us to know the verity,
       And feel the poet's unity.

The reason of this want of piety and reverence must lie deeper; and many
are in doubt as to whether philologists are lacking in artistic capacity
and impressions, so that they are unable to do justice to the ideal, or
whether the spirit of negation has become a destructive and iconoclastic
principle of theirs. When, however, even the friends of antiquity,
possessed of such doubts and hesitations, point to our present classical
philology as something questionable, what influence may we not ascribe
to the outbursts of the "realists" and the claptrap of the heroes of the
passing hour? To answer the latter on this occasion, especially when we
consider the nature of the present assembly, would be highly
injudicious; at any rate, if I do not wish to meet with the fate of
that sophist who, when in Sparta, publicly undertook to praise and
defend Herakles, when he was interrupted with the query: "But who then
has found fault with him?" I cannot help thinking, however, that some of
these scruples are still sounding in the ears of not a few in this
gathering; for they may still be frequently heard from the lips of noble
and artistically gifted men--as even an upright philologist must feel
them, and feel them most painfully, at moments when his spirits are
downcast. For the single individual there is no deliverance from the
dissensions referred to; but what we contend and inscribe on our banner
is the fact that classical philology, as a whole, has nothing whatsoever
to do with the quarrels and bickerings of its individual disciples. The
entire scientific and artistic movement of this peculiar centaur is
bent, though with cyclopic slowness, upon bridging over the gulf between
the ideal antiquity--which is perhaps only the magnificent blossoming of
the Teutonic longing for the south--and the real antiquity; and thus
classical philology pursues only the final end of its own being, which
is the fusing together of primarily hostile impulses that have only
forcibly been brought together. Let us talk as we will about the
unattainability of this goal, and even designate the goal itself as an
illogical pretension--the aspiration for it is very real; and I should
like to try to make it clear by an example that the most significant
steps of classical philology never lead away from the ideal antiquity,
but to it; and that, just when people are speaking unwarrantably of the
overthrow of sacred shrines, new and more worthy altars are being
erected. Let us then examine the so-called _Homeric question_ from this
standpoint, a question the most important problem of which Schiller
called a scholastic barbarism.

The important problem referred to is _the question of the personality of

We now meet everywhere with the firm opinion that the question of
Homer's personality is no longer timely, and that it is quite a
different thing from the real "Homeric question." It may be added that,
for a given period--such as our present philological period, for
example--the centre of discussion may be removed from the problem of the
poet's personality; for even now a painstaking experiment is being made
to reconstruct the Homeric poems without the aid of personality,
treating them as the work of several different persons. But if the
centre of a scientific question is rightly seen to be where the swelling
tide of new views has risen up, i.e. where individual scientific
investigation comes into contact with the whole life of science and
culture--if any one, in other words, indicates a historico-cultural
valuation as the central point of the question, he must also, in the
province of Homeric criticism, take his stand upon the question of
personality as being the really fruitful oasis in the desert of the
whole argument. For in Homer the modern world, I will not say has
learnt, but has examined, a great historical point of view; and, even
without now putting forward my own opinion as to whether this
examination has been or can be happily carried out, it was at all
events the first example of the application of that productive point of
view. By it scholars learnt to recognise condensed beliefs in the
apparently firm, immobile figures of the life of ancient peoples; by it
they for the first time perceived the wonderful capability of the soul
of a people to represent the conditions of its morals and beliefs in the
form of a personality. When historical criticism has confidently seized
upon this method of evaporating apparently concrete personalities, it is
permissible to point to the first experiment as an important event in
the history of sciences, without considering whether it was successful
in this instance or not.

It is a common occurrence for a series of striking signs and wonderful
emotions to precede an epoch-making discovery. Even the experiment I
have just referred to has its own attractive history; but it goes back
to a surprisingly ancient era. Friedrich August Wolf has exactly
indicated the spot where Greek antiquity dropped the question. The
zenith of the historico-literary studies of the Greeks, and hence also
of their point of greatest importance--the Homeric question--was reached
in the age of the Alexandrian grammarians. Up to this time the Homeric
question had run through the long chain of a uniform process of
development, of which the standpoint of those grammarians seemed to be
the last link, the last, indeed, which was attainable by antiquity. They
conceived the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ as the creations of _one single_
Homer; they declared it to be psychologically possible for two such
different works to have sprung from the brain of _one_ genius, in
contradiction to the Chorizontes, who represented the extreme limit of
the scepticism of a few detached individuals of antiquity rather than
antiquity itself considered as a whole. To explain the different general
impression of the two books on the assumption that _one_ poet composed
them both, scholars sought assistance by referring to the seasons of the
poet's life, and compared the poet of the _Odyssey_ to the setting sun.
The eyes of those critics were tirelessly on the lookout for
discrepancies in the language and thoughts of the two poems; but at this
time also a history of the Homeric poem and its tradition was prepared,
according to which these discrepancies were not due to Homer, but
to those who committed his words to writing and those who sang them. It
was believed that Homer's poem was passed from one generation to another
_viva voce_, and faults were attributed to the improvising and at times
forgetful bards. At a certain given date, about the time of Pisistratus,
the poems which had been repeated orally were said to have been
collected in manuscript form; but the scribes, it is added, allowed
themselves to take some liberties with the text by transposing some
lines and adding extraneous matter here and there. This entire
hypothesis is the most important in the domain of literary studies that
antiquity has exhibited; and the acknowledgment of the dissemination of
the Homeric poems by word of mouth, as opposed to the habits of a
book-learned age, shows in particular a depth of ancient sagacity worthy
of our admiration. From those times until the generation that produced
Friedrich August Wolf we must take a jump over a long historical vacuum;
but in our own age we find the argument left just as it was at the time
when the power of controversy departed from antiquity, and it is a
matter of indifference to us that Wolf accepted as certain tradition
what antiquity itself had set up only as a hypothesis. It may be
remarked as most characteristic of this hypothesis that, in the
strictest sense, the personality of Homer is treated seriously; that a
certain standard of inner harmony is everywhere presupposed in the
manifestations of the personality; and that, with these two excellent
auxiliary hypotheses, whatever is seen to be below this standard and
opposed to this inner harmony is at once swept aside as un-Homeric. But
even this distinguishing characteristic, in place of wishing to
recognise the supernatural existence of a tangible personality, ascends
likewise through all the stages that lead to that zenith, with
ever-increasing energy and clearness. Individuality is ever more
strongly felt and accentuated; the psychological possibility of a
_single_ Homer is ever more forcibly demanded. If we descend backwards
from this zenith, step by step, we find a guide to the understanding of
the Homeric problem in the person of Aristotle. Homer was for him the
flawless and untiring artist who knew his end and the means to attain
it; but there is still a trace of infantile criticism to be found in
Aristotle--i.e., in the naive concession he made to the public opinion
that considered Homer as the author of the original of all comic epics,
the _Margites_. If we go still further backwards from Aristotle, the
inability to create a personality is seen to increase; more and more
poems are attributed to Homer; and every period lets us see its degree
of criticism by how much and what it considers as Homeric. In this
backward examination, we instinctively feel that away beyond Herodotus
there lies a period in which an immense flood of great epics has been
identified with the name of Homer.

Let us imagine ourselves as living in the time of Pisistratus: the word
"Homer" then comprehended an abundance of dissimilarities. What was
meant by "Homer" at that time? It is evident that that generation found
itself unable to grasp a personality and the limits of its
manifestations. Homer had now become of small consequence. And then we
meet with the weighty question: What lies before this period? Has
Homer's personality, because it cannot be grasped, gradually faded away
into an empty name? Or had all the Homeric poems been gathered together
in a body, the nation naively representing itself by the figure of
Homer? _Was the person created out of a conception, or the conception
out of a person?_ This is the real "Homeric question," the central
problem of the personality.

The difficulty of answering this question, however, is increased when we
seek a reply in another direction, from the standpoint of the poems
themselves which have come down to us. As it is difficult for us at the
present day, and necessitates a serious effort on our part, to
understand the law of gravitation clearly--that the earth alters its
form of motion when another heavenly body changes its position in space,
although no material connection unites one to the other--it likewise
costs us some trouble to obtain a clear impression of that wonderful
problem which, like a coin long passed from hand to hand, has lost its
original and highly conspicuous stamp. Poetical works, which cause the
hearts of even the greatest geniuses to fail when they endeavour to vie
with them, and in which unsurpassable images are held up for the
admiration of posterity--and yet the poet who wrote them with only a
hollow, shaky name, whenever we do lay hold on him; nowhere the solid
kernel of a powerful personality. "For who would wage war with the gods:
who, even with the one god?" asks Goethe even, who, though a genius,
strove in vain to solve that mysterious problem of the Homeric

The conception of popular poetry seemed to lead like a bridge over this
problem--a deeper and more original power than that of every single
creative individual was said to have become active; the happiest people,
in the happiest period of its existence, in the highest activity of
fantasy and formative power, was said to have created those immeasurable
poems. In this universality there is something almost intoxicating in
the thought of a popular poem: we feel, with artistic pleasure, the
broad, overpowering liberation of a popular gift, and we delight in this
natural phenomenon as we do in an uncontrollable cataract. But as soon
as we examine this thought at close quarters, we involuntarily put a
poetic _mass of people_ in the place of the poetising _soul of the
people_: a long row of popular poets in whom individuality has no
meaning, and in whom the tumultuous movement of a people's soul, the
intuitive strength of a people's eye, and the unabated profusion of a
people's fantasy, were once powerful: a row of original geniuses,
attached to a time, to a poetic genus, to a subject-matter.

Such a conception justly made people suspicious. Could it be possible
that that same Nature who so sparingly distributed her rarest and most
precious production--genius--should suddenly take the notion of
lavishing her gifts in one sole direction? And here the thorny question
again made its appearance: Could we not get along with one genius only,
and explain the present existence of that unattainable excellence? And
now eyes were keenly on the lookout for whatever that excellence and
singularity might consist of. Impossible for it to be in the
construction of the complete works, said one party, for this is far from
faultless; but doubtless to be found in single songs: in the single
pieces above all; not in the whole. A second party, on the other hand,
sheltered themselves beneath the authority of Aristotle, who especially
admired Homer's "divine" nature in the choice of his entire subject, and
the manner in which he planned and carried it out. If, however, this
construction was not clearly seen, this fault was due to the way the
poems were handed down to posterity and not to the poet himself--it was
the result of retouchings and interpolations, owing to which the
original setting of the work gradually became obscured. The more the
first school looked for inequalities, contradictions, perplexities, the
more energetically did the other school brush aside what in their
opinion obscured the original plan, in order, if possible, that nothing
might be left remaining but the actual words of the original epic
itself. The second school of thought of course held fast by the
conception of an epoch-making genius as the composer of the great works.
The first school, on the other hand, wavered between the supposition of
one genius plus a number of minor poets, and another hypothesis which
assumed only a number of superior and even mediocre individual bards,
but also postulated a mysterious discharging, a deep, national, artistic
impulse, which shows itself in individual minstrels as an almost
indifferent medium. It is to this latter school that we must attribute
the representation of the Homeric poems as the expression of that
mysterious impulse.

All these schools of thought start from the assumption that the problem
of the present form of these epics can be solved from the standpoint of
an æsthetic judgment--but we must await the decision as to the
authorised line of demarcation between the man of genius and the
poetical soul of the people. Are there characteristic differences
between the utterances of the _man of genius_ and the _poetical soul of
the people_?

This whole contrast, however, is unjust and misleading. There is no
more dangerous assumption in modern æsthetics than that of _popular
poetry_ and _individual poetry_, or, as it is usually called, _artistic
poetry_. This is the reaction, or, if you will, the superstition, which
followed upon the most momentous discovery of historico-philological
science, the discovery and appreciation of the _soul of the people_. For
this discovery prepared the way for a coming scientific view of history,
which was until then, and in many respects is even now, a mere
collection of materials, with the prospect that new materials would
continue to be added, and that the huge, overflowing pile would never be
systematically arranged. The people now understood for the first time
that the long-felt power of greater individualities and wills was larger
than the pitifully small will of an individual man;[1] they now saw that
everything truly great in the kingdom of the will could not have its
deepest root in the inefficacious and ephemeral individual will; and,
finally, they now discovered the powerful instincts of the masses, and
diagnosed those unconscious impulses to be the foundations and supports
of the so-called universal history. But the newly-lighted flame also
cast its shadow: and this shadow was none other than that superstition
already referred to, which popular poetry set up in opposition to
individual poetry, and thus enlarged the comprehension of the people's
soul to that of the people's mind. By the misapplication of a tempting
analogical inference, people had reached the point of applying in the
domain of the intellect and artistic ideas that principle of greater
individuality which is truly applicable only in the domain of the will.
The masses have never experienced more flattering treatment than in thus
having the laurel of genius set upon their empty heads. It was imagined
that new shells were forming round a small kernel, so to speak, and that
those pieces of popular poetry originated like avalanches, in the drift
and flow of tradition. They were, however, ready to consider that kernel
as being of the smallest possible dimensions, so that they might
occasionally get rid of it altogether without losing anything of the
mass of the avalanche. According to this view, the text itself and the
stories built round it are one and the same thing.

[1] Of course Nietzsche saw afterwards that this was not so.--TR.

Now, however, such a contrast between popular poetry and individual
poetry does not exist at all; on the contrary, all poetry, and of course
popular poetry also, requires an intermediary individuality. This
much-abused contrast, therefore, is necessary only when the term
_individual poem_ is understood to mean a poem which has not grown out
of the soil of popular feeling, but which has been composed by a
non-popular poet in a non-popular atmosphere--something which has come
to maturity in the study of a learned man, for example.

With the superstition which presupposes poetising masses is connected
another: that popular poetry is limited to one particular period of a
people's history and afterwards dies out--which indeed follows as a
consequence of the first superstition I have mentioned. According to
this school, in the place of the gradually decaying popular poetry we
have artistic poetry, the work of individual minds, not of masses of
people. But the same powers which were once active are still so; and the
form in which they act has remained exactly the same. The great poet of
a literary period is still a popular poet in no narrower sense than the
popular poet of an illiterate age. The difference between them is not in
the way they originate, but it is their diffusion and propagation, in
short, _tradition_. This tradition is exposed to eternal danger without
the help of handwriting, and runs the risk of including in the poems the
remains of those individualities through whose oral tradition they were
handed down.

If we apply all these principles to the Homeric poems, it follows that
we gain nothing with our theory of the poetising soul of the people, and
that we are always referred back to the poetical individual. We are thus
confronted with the task of distinguishing that which can have
originated only in a single poetical mind from that which is, so to
speak, swept up by the tide of oral tradition, and which is a highly
important constituent part of the Homeric poems.

Since literary history first ceased to be a mere collection of names,
people have attempted to grasp and formulate the individualities of the
poets. A certain mechanism forms part of the method: it must be
explained--i.e., it must be deduced from principles--why this or that
individuality appears in this way and not in that. People now study
biographical details, environment, acquaintances, contemporary events,
and believe that by mixing all these ingredients together they will be
able to manufacture the wished-for individuality. But they forget that
the _punctum saliens_, the indefinable individual characteristics, can
never be obtained from a compound of this nature. The less there is
known about the life and times of the poet, the less applicable is this
mechanism. When, however, we have merely the works and the name of the
writer, it is almost impossible to detect the individuality, at all
events, for those who put their faith in the mechanism in question; and
particularly when the works are perfect, when they are pieces of popular
poetry. For the best way for these mechanicians to grasp individual
characteristics is by perceiving deviations from the genius of the
people; the aberrations and hidden allusions: and the fewer
discrepancies to be found in a poem the fainter will be the traces of
the individual poet who composed it.

All those deviations, everything dull and below the ordinary standard
which scholars think they perceive in the Homeric poems, were attributed
to tradition, which thus became the scapegoat. What was left of Homer's
own individual work? Nothing but a series of beautiful and prominent
passages chosen in accordance with subjective taste. The sum total of
æsthetic singularity which every individual scholar perceived with his
own artistic gifts, he now called Homer.

This is the central point of the Homeric errors. The name of Homer, from
the very beginning, has no connection either with the conception of
æsthetic perfection or yet with the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_. Homer as
the composer of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ is not a historical
tradition, but an _æsthetic judgment_.

The only path which leads back beyond the time of Pisistratus and helps
us to elucidate the meaning of the name Homer, takes its way on the one
hand through the reports which have reached us concerning Homer's
birthplace: from which we see that, although his name is always
associated with heroic epic poems, he is on the other hand no more
referred to as the composer of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ than as the
author of the _Thebais_ or any other cyclical epic. On the other hand,
again, an old tradition tells of the contest between Homer and Hesiod,
which proves that when these two names were mentioned people
instinctively thought of two epic tendencies, the heroic and the
didactic; and that the signification of the name "Homer" was included in
the material category and not in the formal. This imaginary contest with
Hesiod did not even yet show the faintest presentiment of individuality.
From the time of Pisistratus onwards, however, with the surprisingly
rapid development of the Greek feeling for beauty, the differences in
the æsthetic value of those epics continued to be felt more and more:
the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ arose from the depths of the flood and
have remained on the surface ever since. With this process of æsthetic
separation, the conception of Homer gradually became narrower: the old
material meaning of the name "Homer" as the father of the heroic epic
poem, was changed into the æsthetic meaning of Homer, the father of
poetry in general, and likewise its original prototype. This
transformation was contemporary with the rationalistic criticism which
made Homer the magician out to be a possible poet, which vindicated the
material and formal traditions of those numerous epics as against the
unity of the poet, and gradually removed that heavy load of cyclical
epics from Homer's shoulders.

So Homer, the poet of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_, is an æsthetic
judgment. It is, however, by no means affirmed against the poet of these
epics that he was merely the imaginary being of an æsthetic
impossibility, which can be the opinion of only very few philologists
indeed. The majority contend that a single individual was responsible
for the general design of a poem such as the _Iliad_, and further that
this individual was Homer. The first part of this contention may be
admitted; but, in accordance with what I have said, the latter part must
be denied. And I very much doubt whether the majority of those who adopt
the first part of the contention have taken the following considerations
into account.

The design of an epic such as the _Iliad_ is not an entire _whole_, not
an organism; but a number of pieces strung together, a collection of
reflections arranged in accordance with æsthetic rules. It is certainly
the standard of an artist's greatness to note what he can take in with a
single glance and set out in rhythmical form. The infinite profusion of
images and incidents in the Homeric epic must force us to admit that
such a wide range of vision is next to impossible. Where, however, a
poet is unable to observe artistically with a single glance, he usually
piles conception on conception, and endeavours to adjust his characters
according to a comprehensive scheme.

He will succeed in this all the better the more he is familiar with the
fundamental principles of æsthetics: he will even make some believe
that he made himself master of the entire subject by a single powerful

The _Iliad_ is not a garland, but a bunch of flowers. As many pictures
as possible are crowded on one canvas; but the man who placed them there
was indifferent as to whether the grouping of the collected pictures was
invariably suitable and rhythmically beautiful. He well knew that no one
would ever consider the collection as a whole; but would merely look at
the individual parts. But that stringing together of some pieces as the
manifestations of a grasp of art which was not yet highly developed,
still less thoroughly comprehended and generally esteemed, cannot have
been the real Homeric deed, the real Homeric epoch-making event. On the
contrary, this design is a later product, far later than Homer's
celebrity. Those, therefore, who look for the "original and perfect
design" are looking for a mere phantom; for the dangerous path of oral
tradition had reached its end just as the systematic arrangement
appeared on the scene; the disfigurements which were caused on the way
could not have affected the design, for this did not form part of the
material handed down from generation to generation.

The relative imperfection of the design must not, however, prevent us
from seeing in the designer a different personality from the real poet.
It is not only probable that everything which was created in those times
with conscious æsthetic insight, was infinitely inferior to the songs
that sprang up naturally in the poet's mind and were written down with
instinctive power: we can even take a step further. If we include the
so-called cyclic poems in this comparison, there remains for the
designer of the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ the indisputable merit of
having done something relatively great in this conscious technical
composing: a merit which we might have been prepared to recognise from
the beginning, and which is in my opinion of the very first order in the
domain of instinctive creation. We may even be ready to pronounce this
synthetisation of great importance. All those dull passages and
discrepancies--deemed of such importance, but really only subjective,
which we usually look upon as the petrified remains of the period of
tradition--are not these perhaps merely the almost necessary evils which
must fall to the lot of the poet of genius who undertakes a composition
virtually without a parallel, and, further, one which proves to be of
incalculable difficulty?

Let it be noted that the insight into the most diverse operations of the
instinctive and the conscious changes the position of the Homeric
problem; and in my opinion throws light upon it.

We believe in a great poet as the author of the _Iliad_ and the
_Odyssey--but not that Homer was this poet_.

The decision on this point has already been given. The generation that
invented those numerous Homeric fables, that poetised the myth of the
contest between Homer and Hesiod, and looked upon all the poems of the
epic cycle as Homeric, did not feel an æsthetic but a material
singularity when it pronounced the name "Homer." This period regards
Homer as belonging to the ranks of artists like Orpheus, Eumolpus,
Dædalus, and Olympus, the mythical discoverers of a new branch of art,
to whom, therefore, all the later fruits which grew from the new branch
were thankfully dedicated.

And that wonderful genius to whom we owe the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_
belongs to this thankful posterity: he, too, sacrificed his name on the
altar of the primeval father of the Homeric epic, Homeros.

Up to this point, gentlemen, I think I have been able to put before you
the fundamental philosophical and æsthetic characteristics of the
problem of the personality of Homer, keeping all minor details
rigorously at a distance, on the supposition that the primary form of
this widespread and honeycombed mountain known as the Homeric question
can be most clearly observed by looking down at it from a far-off
height. But I have also, I imagine, recalled two facts to those friends
of antiquity who take such delight in accusing us philologists of lack
of piety for great conceptions and an unproductive zeal for
destruction. In the first place, those "great" conceptions--such, for
example, as that of the indivisible and inviolable poetic genius,
Homer--were during the pre-Wolfian period only too great, and hence
inwardly altogether empty and elusive when we now try to grasp them. If
classical philology goes back again to the same conceptions, and once
more tries to pour new wine into old bottles, it is only on the surface
that the conceptions are the same: everything has really become new;
bottle and mind, wine and word. We everywhere find traces of the fact
that philology has lived in company with poets, thinkers, and artists
for the last hundred years: whence it has now come about that the heap
of ashes formerly pointed to as classical philology is now turned into
fruitful and even rich soil.[2]

[2] Nietzsche perceived later on that this statement was,
unfortunately, not justified.--TR.

And there is a second fact which I should like to recall to the memory
of those friends of antiquity who turn their dissatisfied backs on
classical philology. You honour the immortal masterpieces of the
Hellenic mind in poetry and sculpture, and think yourselves so much more
fortunate than preceding generations, which had to do without them; but
you must not forget that this whole fairyland once lay buried under
mountains of prejudice, and that the blood and sweat and arduous labour
of innumerable followers of our science were all necessary to lift up
that world from the chasm into which it had sunk. We grant that
philology is not the creator of this world, not the composer of that
immortal music; but is it not a merit, and a great merit, to be a mere
virtuoso, and let the world for the first time hear that music which lay
so long in obscurity, despised and undecipherable? Who was Homer
previously to Wolf's brilliant investigations? A good old man, known at
best as a "natural genius," at all events the child of a barbaric age,
replete with faults against good taste and good morals. Let us hear how
a learned man of the first rank writes about Homer even so late as 1783:
"Where does the good man live? Why did he remain so long incognito?
Apropos, can't you get me a silhouette of him?"

We demand _thanks_--not in our own name, for we are but atoms--but in
the name of philology itself, which is indeed neither a Muse nor a
Grace, but a messenger of the gods: and just as the Muses descended upon
the dull and tormented Boeotian peasants, so Philology comes into a
world full of gloomy colours and pictures, full of the deepest, most
incurable woes; and speaks to men comfortingly of the beautiful and
godlike figure of a distant, rosy, and happy fairyland.

It is time to close; yet before I do so a few words of a personal
character must be added, justified, I hope, by the occasion of this

It is but right that a philologist should describe his end and the means
to it in the short formula of a confession of faith; and let this be
done in the saying of Seneca which I thus reverse--

     "Philosophia facta est quæ philologia fuit."

By this I wish to signify that all philological activities should be
enclosed and surrounded by a philosophical view of things, in which
everything individual and isolated is evaporated as something
detestable, and in which great homogeneous views alone remain. Now,
therefore, that I have enunciated my philological creed, I trust you
will give me cause to hope that I shall no longer be a stranger among
you: give me the assurance that in working with you towards this end I
am worthily fulfilling the confidence with which the highest authorities
of this community have honoured me.

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