STUDIA HUMANIORA TARTUENSIA No. 2.A.1 (2001)
ISSN 1406-6203 http://www.ut.ee/klassik/sht/
THE ARCHAIC BIOGRAPHY OF HOMER
Seven biographies of Homer and the story of his competing with Hesiod have reached
the modern times.1 The material was compiled in the Hellenistic and Roman times,
but it still contains a lot of data from the archaic and classical periods.2 The
knowledge of Homer’s parents (Meles, Maion, Cretheis) has already come from
Eugaion, Asius, Pherecydes, Hellanicus, Damastes and Stesimbrotus3; his name
(Homeros, Melesigenes) has been mentioned by Callinus, Archilochus, Asius,
Eugaion and Critias4; the data on his birthplace (Smyrna, Chios, Ios) can be found
from Anaximenes, Pindar, Bacchylides, Stesimbrotus and Critias5; his blindness from
Semonides/Simonides and Thucydides6; the “riddle of lice”, which is closely
connected to the death of Homer, was known already to Heraclitus7; the knowledge of
the contest with Hesiod may have even come from Lesches8.
The awareness of the details of Homer’s life at the end of the 6th and the beginning of
the 5th century may well serve as an indication to an early source, written close to the
end of the 6th century and commonly known and available to the later authors.
1 See Homeri opera, rec. Thomas W. Allen. Tomus V hymnos cyclum fragmenta Margiten Batracho-
myomachiam vitas continens, Oxonii 1912; ΒΙΟΓΡΑΦΟΙ. Vitarum scriptores Graeci minores, edidit
Antonius Westermann, Brunsvigae, 1845, 1–45; Vitae Homeri et Hesiodi in usum scholarum, edidit
Udalricus de Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Berlin 1929.
2 Pace U. v. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, Die Ilias und Homer, 1916; and F. Jacoby, Homerisches. Der
Bios und die Person, 1933. After having reviewed the tradition I reached the conclusion that the
knowledge of almost all the most essential points in the tradition can be traced back to the end of the
6th or the beginning of the 5th century.
3 Eugaion FHG II 16; Asius PLG4