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Horst Steinke


confluence of their predilections and institutions. In the most

crucial dimension of governance, he feels that his integrated

“philosophical/philological” framework provides the wherewith-

al to locate and identify in the Homeric poems, in the mix of

“realistic” narratives and “mythical” interludes, actual traces of

the first two fundamental cultural developments, consisting of

the “age of gods”, favoring “theocracies”, followed by the “age

of heroes”, tending to be characterized by forms of “aristocratic”

regimen. In Vico’s close reading of the poem(s), he “discovers” a

remote pre-8


century world in which deities and human celebri-

ties become «concrete personification[s] of some general feelings

and ideas»


. Clearly, this result constitutes something different

from ingeniously applied historicizing “patina”


. As commented

above, while each of the three cultural “ages” contains seeds and

elements of the others, in Vico’s view, certain currents predomi-

nate overwhelmingly. In this framework, Vico holds that «[t]he

constancy […] which is developed and fixed by […] the wisdom

of the philosophers, could not have depicted gods and heroes of

such instability» (§ 786)


. His first major conclusion and inter-

pretative breakthrough consisted of the realization that the




consisted of material from entirely different historical


: «[…] we must suppose that the two poems were com-

posed and compiled by various hands through successive ages»

(§ 804)


. It was the fruit of the complex to and from movement

between the literary content, at multiple levels, and his theoreti-

cal suppositions (that we have described as “functorial”, when

viewed separately, and as “adjunction”, when viewed as inter-

locked). What is remarkable is that Vico held to this view in the

face of all the evidence that the Homeric poems had come down

in heavily altered form, as he fully acknowledged:

The fables in their origin were true and severe narrations […]. But be-

cause they were originally for the most part gross, they gradually lost

their original meanings, were then altered, subsequently became im-

probable, after that obscure, then scandalous, and finally incredible.