TAU Researcher Creates First Homer Encyclopedia

Scholarly tomes bring epic poetry and ancient Greece to life

04 June 2012
TAU Researcher Creates First Homer Encyclopedia

Homer, the first poet of the Western world, is firmly entrenched as a master of classical literature. Now, a new three-volume encyclopedia from a TAU researcher promises to enrich the works of this ancient Greek master artist for a global 21st century audience.


The Homer Encyclopedia was edited by Prof. Margalit Finkelberg of TAU's Department of Classics, Entin Faculty of Humanities, and published by Wiley-Blackwell last year. The Encyclopedia represents the first comprehensive reference work encompassing the world and artistry of the legendary Greek poet. The work includes in-depth coverage of Homer’s world, the historical and cultural background of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homeric scholarship, and the reception of Homer in education, literature, and art from antiquity to the present day.


One of the most original features of the work is an in-depth study of Homer in the context of Jewish and Arabic traditions, conducted by leading specialists. Though Homer's work is foundational to the Western tradition, it has never been central to these Eastern traditions, which put more of an emphasis on "useful" texts, such as those regarding science, medicine and philosophy.


The findings, says Finkelberg, are surprising. Because the Hellenistic world is little-known in these cultures, Homer is seen as a symbol of Greek culture in its entirety. "Poetry was not translated in these cultures, and because of this, very little was known about the art of the Greeks beyond philosophers like Aristotle. For them Homer represented everything to do with Greek culture, including paganism," says Finkelberg. Anything "Greek" was essentially "Homeric" and vice versa.


Prof. Finkelberg believes that the publication is a crucial addition to encyclopedias on the work of other poets such as Dante and Virgil. Homer is not just any writer. The Iliad and the Odyssey are the formative texts of Greek civilization, being as central to it as the Bible is to the Judaeo-Christian tradition.


Finkelberg was recently awarded the prestigious 2012 Rothschild Prize in the Humanities in recognition of her contribution to the study of Aegean prehistory and the Greek literary tradition.

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