Society In Homeric Period

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By David Jork What does the material evidence from the Homeric period tell us about the society to which it relates? Introduction There is a degree of uncertainty about when it was that Homer wrote his poems, but it is generally accepted that it was late in the eighth century BC. With the Greek Dark Age only just drawing to an end and writing reappearing in Greece for the first time in centuries, there is very little information about what society was like while Homer was recording his Iliad and Odyssey. There has been much discussion about whether these might be seen as accurate descriptions of eighth century Greece and we rely on archaeological evidence more than we rely on Homer to know what his society was like. Architecture/Art Homer wrote of a Gorgon shield (Iliad 11.32-37), ‘a thing of splendour’ belonging to the Greek hero Agamemnon. Gorgon shields have been found in Greek art, an example of which is held in the Museo Archaeologico in Syracuse (DVD1, section 2, track 2). The earliest example of Gorgon shield found has been from the seventh century BC. Whether this is an example of Homer’s work inspiring others or whether Homer himself was inspired by older artefacts that did not survive into the present day is irrelevant. That figures from Greek mythology were still being represented artistically in Homer’s time shows that the people still respected the tales after centuries had gone by. Homer also described great palaces belonging to kings and heroes, enormous structures the like of which was unknown in Greece in the eighth century BC. Such opulence and extravagance had not been seen in Greece since the twelfth century BC, not long after Troy was said to have fallen and Homer is describing a world of which his audience would have no experience (BHAG, p. 41 – 42). From archaeological remains of eighth century settlements, homes were much smaller

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