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Horst Steinke


es of, or (anaphoric) references to, “Homer” in this statement. In

our reading, this section (re)-introduces all three “Homers” that

appeared, and re-appeared, previously in the Book: (1) the

“Homer” of which «vestiges in the form of his poems» remain,

denotes Homer, the individual of the 8


century; on the other

hand, (2) the «purely ideal poet who never existed as a particular

man» means the presumed literary genius, the “philosopher”, the

«rare and consummate poet», who supposedly single-handedly

created the poems out of his boundless imagination, in other

words, being «the Homer believed in up to now». And, finally,

the paragraph confronts the reader with (3) «the true Homer»,

the Grecian people(s) and culture(s) that gave expression to and

preserved their history/ies in their songs and poems, to be rec-

orded for posterity in due course more permanently, if in «cor-

rupted» form.

Vico’s baroque beginning contrafactual conditional –

if there

did not remain


the difficulties would lead us…

– can be converted

into its equivalent, the factual logical conclusion that, first of all,

“Homer” «existed as a particular man in the world of nature», the

opposite of «a purely ideal poet». Vico then – relating them chi-

astically to the order in which they appear in the preceding sen-



– reiterates «the many […] difficulties» as well as «the

surviving poems», before affirming that «the true Homer» was

the entire Greek civilization(s). The «many and great difficulties»

refer, of course, both to the contradictory and inconsistent

claims regarding Homer’s homeland and age, and other, more

substantive, incongruities that Vico rehearses in a



of twenty-four points (§§ 874-901) immediately following § 873.

This is the third time he does so, serving to emphasize his po-

lemical target that runs like an unbroken thread runs through

Book III, namely, the notion of the singular literary creator of

the poems.

As has been noted, Vico does not engage appreciably with the

received Homeric texts as literature since his primary, if not ex-