The World of Odysseus

by M. I. Finley

Paperback, 1962



Call number



Pelican Books 1962


Homer's great epic poems, the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey", have brilliantly evoked for twenty-five centuries a world of gods, heroes and men that is still central to our conceptions of ourselves. But what really was the world of Odysseus like? When did that society flourish? Did the Trojan War take place? How can we use the Homeric poems as historical evidence, and what other evidence do we have of the world of Odysseus? The distinguished historian M.I. Finley answers our questions with his renowned lucidity, and draws our attention to many newly fascinating aspects of this perennially fresh subject.

User reviews

LibraryThing member stillatim
Ah, for the golden age of academic writing. Is it beautiful? No. But it is clear, concise and argumentative. No 'pointing out a problem' stuff here; Finley just gives you the answers as he sees them. You'll be in no doubt as to what he thinks at any stage in your reading. For instance, "the
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historian of ideas and values has no more Satanic seducer to guard against than the man on the Clapham omnibus." Love it.
But this isn't popular history by any means, for good and bad. There are no catchy anecdotes, no sex and murder stories. It's just a solid suggestion of what a world looked like, in this case, the 'Dark Ages' in the eastern Mediterranean, after the Mycenaeans and before the time the Homeric poems were coming together. Basically, not very attractive.
As a side note, I should say that I was biased in favor of liking this book after I found out some of Finley's life story. According to wikipedia:

"He taught at Columbia University and City College of New York, where he was influenced by members of the Frankfurt School who were working in exile in America. In 1952, during the Red Scare, Finley was fired from his teaching job at Rutgers University; in 1954, he was summoned by the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and asked whether he had ever been a member of the Communist Party USA. He invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer."

He was fired at the end of the year and could never work in the U.S. again. A political martyr who ended up becoming a British citizen and getting knighted, after hanging out with the Frankfurters in New York? That's my kind of man.
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LibraryThing member gael_williams
An attempt to recreate the world of the Homeric epics from clues contained within the epics themselves. I found this most interesting book, since I tend to use ancient literature for similar ends. His contention that the oral tradition behind the epics represents the Dark Age Greece, rather than
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the Mycenaean era is well supported and well argued. He draws on archaeology occasionally, but mostly relies on the epics themselves.
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LibraryThing member Smiley
Excellent and seminal introduction into the world of Homer's poems. At times, Finley draws conclusions on scant evidence.
LibraryThing member mbmackay
Shows how Homer reflects a time closer to his own century than to the time several hundred years earlier that the real events actually occurred.
Read in Samoa Mar 2003


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