Horst Steinke, Vico’s Ring. Notes on the“Scienza nuova”, its Structure, and the Hermeneutics of Homer’s Works
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Vico’s Ring

189

this case to something subordinate, or ancillary, to the substance

of the work needs to be resisted

402

. Doing so would negate what

arguably constitutes the single most significant advance over the

1725 version.

At the same time, Vico’s situating of Homer and archaic

Greek culture in such a prominent position seems to be at odds

with the otherwise preponderant treatment of Roman civiliza-

tion, its law, its socio-political development over time. Vico him-

self explained in the “Elements” of Book I why he was “forced”

to look to Homer’s works and the Greek experience to shed light

on the earliest of times: according to Axiom XXI (§ 158), «when

they appeared the Greeks were in a crude state of barbarism»

whereas «[t]he Romans, on the other hand, proceeding at an

even pace in [the development of] their customs, quite lost sight

of the history of their gods (so that the age of the gods […] is

called by Varro the dark age of the Romans)». In a sense, there-

fore, Homer became pivotal by default, given the dearth of au-

thentic material from the earliest of Roman times: «[…] since

Roman customs were developing from such beginnings at a time

when the vulgar tongues of Latium were already well advanced,

that Roman civil institutions, the like of which the Greeks had

set forth in heroic speech, were set forth by the Romans in vul-

gar speech» (§ 160). The only available solution to overcome

such profound absence of evidence from Rome’s most ancient

days was to take advantage of the fortuitous existence of extant

evidence from the kindred Mediterranean Greek civilization:

«Thus ancient Roman history will be found to be a perpetual my-

thology of the heroic history of the Greeks» (§ 160). As a result,

he was able to see the Roman Law of the Twelve Tables in a new

light, namely as relics of a much earlier period of Roman history

than traditionally received

403

. The fact that his objective is the

uncovering of the deep historical roots of Roman law is also evi-

dent by the very conclusion of the “Discovery of the True

Homer” where Vico again draws a parallel («[…] the same fate