Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More on Homer

It seems that my statement about the Iliad being warmly embraced by Catholic tradition might not be as accurate as I thought. I've been reading up on the Iliad in the writings of the Early Church Fathers and they have some pretty negative things to say about it. The ones I've read so far (primarily St. Augustine and St. Justin Martyr) are arguing against the Theology of it to those who might still be swayed to the Roman religion, so the context is substantially different from that in which it would be studied today. Still it does make you think further about it.

I also came across a reference in a Sermon by Monsignor Ronald Knox on St. Ignatius Loyola regarding the dangers of Greek influences on the Jews at the time of the Maccabees. Here's the quote: "Gentile influences began to creep in - the Greek tolerance of false worship and of superstition, the Greek cult of beauty, the Greek contempt for morals."

So I'm still working to further understand the context in which we study the Iliad and the reasons for studying it.


Enbrethiliel said...


I was able to think of one reason, which I 'blogged about here:

I Don't Care What They Say; I Won't Stay in a World without the Iliad

You might be interested. :)

I should clarify, though, that at the time I 'blogged it, I completely forgot what the Church Fathers had said about the Classics.

Love2Learn Mom said...

Excellent - thanks!

lindafay said...

I think the Ancients are a bit overrated in excellence, but I appreciate the fact that classical educators recognise that truth is truth and all truth comes from God no matter where we find it. Truth can even be found in myth. So many tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I fear that in doing so, many will miss out on so many good and noble ideas that may enrich one's life. Even Christ, when referring to our Father wanting to give us good gifts and help us in time of need, used a parable with a wicked judge and a widow to illustrate this. I find that quite amazing! It gives me comfort to know that the parallels do not always have to match up perfectly; for as we all know, our God is just the opposite of wicked. I hope I am being coherent.


Thanks for the kind Librarything comment.

Love2Learn Mom said...

Yes, I know what you mean (and I was surprised at the violence in the Iliad this second time around as a sensitive Mom), but I also wonder if we too easily take the Ancient classics for granted in our day and age.

One concept that I keep going back to is that C.S. Lewis was clearly a student (and professor, I believe) of the classics and ideas from these show up in a number of places throughout even the Narnian tales. For example, I don't think the Silver Chair could be what it is without Plato's Cave Analogy from the Republic. I think it might just as easily be true that C.S. Lewis wouldn't have been the man he was as a writer, thinker, etc. without the Ancient Classics.

Enbrethiliel said...


Since we've lost so many ancient texts and are making do with what we have now, I have my own suspicions about the excellence of some of the classics. :S What if what we think is so magnificent was just second rate in the minds of contemporary readers? :P

However, I'm glad that we have them and that our passing through the Dark Ages and Middle Ages lets us read them without any danger. I think it was St. Justin Martyr who said (I can't remember the exact quote): "Everything true that has ever been written anywhere in the world belongs to us Christians." :)

Love2Learn Mom said...

Interesting! I did go back and read the references from St. Augustine at least and it was clearer to me that he was criticizing simply the theology and not the book. I even looked for a quotation that might indicate that the book was dangerous or something like that. It was a lot more about things like how ridiculous it was for the Gods to be unhappy with Paris for committing adultery with Helen since they were always cheating on each other. To modern readers, the mistakes in theology are pretty darn obvious. :)