Professor Wright of the Greek department delivered a very interesting lecture on Homer to an audience of 250 yesterday afternoon in Sever 11. Professor Wright commenced with a glowing description of Delphi, the Meeca of the Greeks, its temple and trophies. The temple now stands in wins but the literature of the Greeks remains to tell us of their world of thought, a world in which Homer is a mighty force.
The Hiad and Odyssey which usher in the literature of Europe are long poems of about 15000 lines each. The general subject of the Hiad is the wrath of Achilles and its due consequence, of the Odyssey, the adventures of Ulysses and Telemachus. Although there are many who doubt Homer's authorship, all agree that at about 1300 or 1200 BC the Greeks had attained much civilization and that songs were sung in which heroes were celebrated. Later the spirit of adventure was felt and this gave rise to new legends into which the old heroes entered. Myth and history became confounded in the songs, and of these songs the Troy legends were the most important. These songs were sung first by minstrels and later were written down. Popular legend formed them and thus memory rather than invention was invoked.
From about 600 B. C. we find the Homeric poems recited by the rhapsodist, or professional reciter, and not by men who were themselves poets. They spread the study of Homer over all Greece, and in all the leading cities the rhapsodists gathered. As they commenced a recitation, they would invoke Zeus with the words, "Beginning with praise of Thee, would I celebrate deeds of men." Prizes were offered to the rhapsodist who best recited, and often the reward of such a competition was a tripod. But far above these mere reciters were the old minstrels who combined the orator or declaimer and the poet, who knew the meaning of what he recited and felt keenly the pathetic and the terrible.
That the influence of Homer upon Greek thought and life was marked is in one respect the cause of his influence upon our literature. For the Iliad and the Odyssey were learned by every Greek school boy; every child was taught his first lines of the Iliad, just as at present he is taught his A. B, C. For the Greeks saw how beautifully every phrase of life was pictured in Homer from whom as Ovid says, "As from a spring perennial the lips of bards are moistened and refreshed," and knew that their children could not become great and noble men without a knowledge of the Iliad and Odyssey. "A beautiful mirror of human life at its best," says some one of the Odyssey, and surely no better epithet can be applied to the great author than that which Hallam applied to Shakespeare, "thousand-souled," the thousand-souled Homer.