Rhetoric, Literature and Religion in Early Modern France - Essays in Honour of Peter Bayley
Part IV Contexts and Intertexts
Philip Ford Of Lions, Bears and Pigs: Political Allegories of Homer in Renaissance France The reception of Homer in the French Renaissance was in many ways more concerned with the underlying messages of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and less with the more literary and human aspects of the two epics, which have tended to interest more modern readers. Pseudo-Plutarch’s characteriza- tion in the De Homero of the Iliad as demonstrating physical prowess and of the Odyssey as exemplifying nobility of the soul was taken as providing a moral steer to potential readers.1 In that context, I wish to focus here on the political implications of these remarks, looking at two authors who might not immediately appear to go together, Homer and Aristotle. I shall be ranging fairly widely in the Homeric epics, but my references to Aristotle will be limited to his succinct definition of the dif ferent forms of government in the Politics. But let us start with Homer. Given our general familiarity with the legends of Achilles and Odysseus, it is perhaps dif ficult for us now to take in the fact that Homer was lost to Western Europe throughout most of the Middle Ages. Petrarch, as so often an innovator in literary terms, appears to have been the first western reader to have access to Homer when he was presented with a manuscript of the Iliad and the Odyssey around 1353 by 1 For a modern edition of this hugely inf luential text, see [Plutarch], Essay...
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