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Vico’s Ring


proach and point of view represents merely a particular, and like-

ly relatively ancillary, aspect of Vico’s multifaceted program. It

mainly revolves around the nature of the “history” into which he

was inquiring. As a way of narrowing down the location of Vi-

co’s research in the “space” of approaches to history, just two

different approaches – out of not a few others – in the history of

Homeric reception will here be highlighted. On one side of the

interpretive space, both diachronically and hermeneutically, we

can look to the earliest Homeric reception in antiquity among

the Greek-speaking people that in essence took the





to be factual, reliably detailed, unquestionable accounts of

the Trojan War and its aftermath


. This began to change, how-

ever in the late sixth and early fifth centuries (BC), the best wit-

nesses to that change being Herodotus and Thucydides. Both

engage critically with Homer’s historical accuracy (and finding

plenty of implausibilities, and replacing them at times with their

own implausible scenarios), but find themselves in a dilemma,

wanting to recognize Homer’s poetic imagination and prowess,

not necessarily positively, on the one hand, while not abandoning

their historical content and significance, in principle, on the other



. At the opposite side of this space is the view that the

Homeric poems are strictly the product of the 8


century BC,

dealing with contemporary interests, but overlaid with a “patina”

of putatively archaic or “old-fashioned” touches


. Thus, the po-

ems are taken to portray an actual society existing at a particular

time (in rapid transition, by ancient standards), but any suppos-

edly older elements are literary devices to create an “epic dis-

tance” or “alienation effect”



Vico’s approach stands in contrast to both “schools of

thought”: he is interested in reconstructing, or at least bringing

to the surface, not actual events and actual participants, on the

one hand, but, on the other hand,


a purely fictionalized

reading, the actually prevailing cultural characteristics of primi-

tive societies and peoples much earlier than the 8




, the