"scribe" = ancient author

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 13 02:30:32 UTC 2005

"Homer" is usefully identified as the intelligence responsible for putting the Iliad into essentially its final form.  Whether the same "Homer" did it for the Odyssey too has become increasingly debatable.

It is not known that Homer was literate.  The epic tradition he worked in (and probably grew up in) was unquestionably oral, but somebody had to write out the Iliad for the first time, and its ambitious content and prodigious length suggest the possibility - not widely endorsed - that it was made as we have it through the final redactor's mastery of both "oral-formulaic composition" and the early Greek alphabet.

The long current acceptation is that an illiterate Homer composed orally (and slowly) while a team of scribes jotted it all down at a mile a minute.  There are some practical difficulties involved in such a scenario, however.

But if it did happen that way, whoever edited the transcriptions was at least as much Homer as Homer.

Literate or not, NOT a mere scribe.


"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
Subject: Re: "scribe" = ancient author

>"The myth of the Amazons, a tribe of bloodthirsty blond women thundering
>across arid battlefields to the horror of their male foes, has lingered
>for centuries. Their exploits seized the imagination of the Greek scribes
>Homer, Hippocrates, and Herodotus."
>The writer, perhaps partly under the influence of sports reporting, seems
>to regard "scribe" as a klassy word for "ancient author."
>This could be force-fitted into OED 7a, "Used (more or less playfully)
>for: One who writes or is in the habit of writing; an author;..." But I
>see nothing "playful" here.

Is there even any reason to believe that Homer was able to write at all?

I know little about him myself. (^_^)

-- Doug Wilson

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