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Vico’s Ring



The most comprehensive account of early modern Homeric studies is

L. Ferreri,

La questione omerica dal Cinquecento al Settecento

, cit.


To be counted among those responsible for the “original” poems, to

the extent of changes and accretions made by them, are «the rhapsodes, who

[…] sustained life by singing the poems […] throughout the cities of Greece;

and they were the authors of these poems inasmuch as they were part of these

people who had composed their histories in the poems» (§ 878); «[…] rhap-

sodes were stitchers-together of songs, and these songs they must certainly

have collected from none other than their own peoples» (§ 852, see also §§

849, 851).


In the conclusion of Book III (prior to the Appendix), Vico succinctly

summarizes these complementary sides: «Wherefore his poems should hence-

forth be highly prized as being two great treasure stores of the customs of ear-

ly Greece. […] the Homeric poems, having been regarded [traditionally] as

works thrown off by a particular man, a rare and consummate poet, have

hitherto concealed from us the history of the natural law of the gentes of

Greece» (§ 904).


Mazzotta refers to «the “Homer” as a solitary, unique, self-conscious

author», adding: «One can inscribe within the issue, at least in part, Vico’s rad-

ical critique of the theory of the unique author of the Homeric epics, of the

theory, that is, of Homer as a Cartesian subject, who observes, dominates, and

represents reality from the transcendent standpoint of a consciousness dwell-

ing outside the empirical particularities of the world» (Id.,

The New Map of the


, cit., pp. 144, 145).

K. Simonsuuri refers to «[t]he false Homer that Vico first examined», who

«was the sum total of the ideas that the literary and philosophical tradition had

assembled about Homer’s divine origins, omniscience and esoteric wisdom»


Homer’s Original Genius: Eighteenth-century notions of the early Greek epic (1688-


, Cambridge-New York, Cambridge University Press, 1979, p. 93).


Memorably, he calls them «Homer, lost in the crowd of the Greek

peoples» (§ 882).


M. Mooney refers to “Homer” in this sense when stating that: «Homer

was not a philosopher, that he was not even a man, or two men» (Id.,

Vico in

the Tradition of Rhetoric

, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985, p. 202). In

terms of the contents of the Homeric poems, Simonsuuri expressed Vico’s

intended meaning: «The true Homer was a conglomerate of the myths of the

Greek people, an expression in language of their dreams and actions» (Id.,

Homer’s Original Genius

, cit., p. 98).


Other chronological indicators, either general or specific, are: «up to

the time of Homer» (§ 819); «earlier than Homer» (§ 856); «Homer comes