Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Posthomerica: The Platypus Reads Part CLXXX

Poor Quintus of Smyrna
Is a scripta minora
Because all he wrote
Is only a footnote
(To Homer)

 After finishing The Iliad, my wife and I weren't quite ready to quite the plains of windswept Troy.  The problem, of course, is that Homer is only interested in narrating a small section of the ten-year conflict.  Granted, much that came before and much that comes after the few days he narrates is included in the poem, but there is a still greater amount of material that Homer either excludes as not pertinent to his story or simply assumes that the audience knows and so only alludes to in the text.  Enter Quintus of Smyrna and his Posthomerica.

The Posthomerica is a late and minor work that attempts to arrange in narrative form material covering the resumption of the conflict after Hector's burial to the homecomings (nostoi) of which The Odyssey is the most memorable.  As I said, it is a minor work of considerably less skill and power than The Iliad.  However, it isn't bad for light reading and it does get you up to speed on all the things (as the Barnes and Noble edition informs us) that Homer didn't tell.  The worthy, but time-consuming, alternative would be to read much of the corpus of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and then a few sections of Ovid's Metamorphoses and The Aeneid.

So there you have it: Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica.  It's a useful, albeit simple, tool to help fill in the gaps between The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Otherwise, it's only a datafarm of details for a few specialists.  Read it or not: the choice is yours.

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