"The Homeric heroes experience contact with divinity which results in their enlargement, vivification, and clarification," said Professor John Moore of Amherst College last night in a speech sponsored by the Harvard Classical Club.
The role of the divine in Homer, Moore stated, "is to bring to a man magical adventures or magical harm which belong to him." For example, Apollo breathes courage into the warrior and guides his spear to the mark.
The first auditors of epic poetry, in the time when it was still in a phase of growth, believed quite simply in the reality of the gods, Moore noted. "If you had suggested to one of Homer's heroes that Zeus was a figment of the human imagination, he would have concluded at once that Zeus had reft you of your wits."
Moore maintained that whatever constancy is found in the image and attributes of a particular divinity is due to the myths. The poets imagined vividly the gods' lives, giving them traits, predilections, and animosities, he said. The ordinary man, however, sensed the presence and activity of the gods in a much vaguer form.
The gods of Homer emerge distinct and individual without losing their immortal shimmer. If the gods are sometimes seen as trivial or spoiled human beings, it is because they are not viewed as they were in Homeric times. Homer's original disteners understood the behavior of the gods in a different context of beliefs, and from a different fundamental awareness of the world.
Officers elected by the Harvard Classical Club for the coming year are Raymond A. Sokolov '63, of Lowell House and Detroit, Mich., President: Christian B. Peper, Jr. '63 of Lowell House and St. Louis, Mo., vice-President; Joseph R. Kendler '64, of Eliot House and Brooklyn, N.Y., secretary; and Henry Schwarz '64 of Adams House and Los Angeles, Cal., treasurer.