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HOMER an historian.*

The little effect which their writings have produced on the opinions of mankind, fhews at least that the facts upon which thofe opinions were founded could not at that time be overturned. A more fuccessful attack is now made upon them, and it is thought by many, that the claims of Antiquity have been legally fet afide. Let us attempt, however, generously to fupport her titles, and perhaps if we fearch candidly for them, their dusty remains will be found, not much impaired, in the neglected archives of time, and common fenfe. Previous to this however we will examine the arguments by which they have been fuperfeded; fince neither authority nor reasoning can be conclusive, whilst affertions are admitted which impeach the foundations of both. It is neceffary therefore to refute the charges now too generally admitted against her, before we can restore to Antiquity her pristine honours. In my defence of her cause, however, declining all advantage arising from methodical arrangement, I shall take the arguments of Mr. Bryant in the order in which he has placed them, and following him step by step, will reply to his reafonings as concisely as poffible, referring those who chufe to know more of the controverfy to the perufal of his extraordinary publication.

In the opening of his fubject Mr. Bryant begins with a due homage to the genius and writings of Homer. He candidly acknowledges many of the circumstances which have contributed to place him in the rank of an historian as well as a poet, and allows that the characteristicks of the Iliad are "feldom to be found in romance or fable." He nevertheless immediately declares his disbelief of the whole story, and even of the existence of the far-famed City, the object of the war; which in his opinion was never built in Phrygia.

He

* Mr. BRYANT on the War of Troy, Chap. I, Concerning the excellence of Home and his Precision.

HOMER'S Truth or Falsehood, an alternative not indifferent to

He then expreffes a fear that, though "the alternative" may be quite innocent, his going contrary to the popular opinion may Mr. BRYANT. procure him fome ill-will. Whilft I difclaim any ill-will to Mr. Bryant on this account, I cannot help obferving that, notwithftanding this appearance of candor, he does not feem to me to have confidered the alternative with indifference. The reader will judge, whether his statements are always perfectly fair, and if he finds that interpretations are given by him to claffical paffages wholly unwarranted by the context, tranflations materially differing from their originals, and erroneous tranfcripts from the originals themselves, he will be apt to fmile at the fervour of that zeal which has stepped forward, under the mask of inquiring for literary truth, to defend a favourite Egyptian system.

Chronological accuracy not effential

historical facts."

60

The want of precision in primitive chronology is the first objection brought by Mr. Bryant against the veracity of Homer, repeating to the establishment of therefore once more the articles of his difbelief, he adds, that he adheres firmly to the affertion of Varro, that the Greeks had no certain intelligence before the Olympiads. Cenforinus, however, from whom he quotes, has given the passage in the following manner: "M. Varro primam Olympiadem terminum ponit inter nov tempus, & hif"toricum." But though we affign the first Olympiad as the æra of accurate chronological history, furely fome events took place before that time, and may be preferved by Homer's works, though we cannot date every portion of the hiftory with the fame precifion as we can that of Thucydides. Homer was a poet, and might be an historian without detailing chronology. But the scepticism which fixes a doubt upon all history prior to the Olympiads, and credits all Grecian history subsequent to that time, appears to me to draw a line between history and fable, with a precision which can hardly be fupported. Homer and Hefiod lived before the

Olympiads,

* No historical certainty previous to the Olympiads. Bavant, p. 9.

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Olympiads, if their works were destroyed, therefore, we might doubt their existence. Indeed this is the cafe with Orpheus, Linus, Mufæus, and Thamyris, for the forgeries which have appeared under their names, may be, according to this fyftem, fabricated on the authority of mistaken tradition, and not on proofs of their having really exifted. Where then are we to stop? Yet if I fucceed in fhewing that the ftory of Homer contains no anachronisms, or inconsistencies, and that it was fupported by a decifive concurrence of internal, traditional, and historical evidence, the reader will not easily acquiefce in the scepticism required of him. Another paffage quoted from Justin Martyr is adduced, as confirming this affertion of Varro.* I am forry

to

NOTE.

* BRYANT, page g. Αλλως τε υδε τετο υμας αγνοειν προσηκει οτε δεν ̔Ελλησι προ των ολυμπιαδών ακριβες ιςορηται· υδέ εςι τι συγγραμμα παλαιον Ελληνων καὶ βαρβάρων σημαινον πραξιν.

"Befides you ought to be well apprised that the Grecians have no history upon which they can depend antecedent to the Olympiads. They have no written evidence of any Antiquity "relating either to themselves or other nations."

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This comparative argument between the antiquity of the Sacred Writers, and the early hiftories and fables of Grecians, a frequent topic with the controverfial Writers of Christianity at this time; but when they affert that the era of Troy was long fubfequent to the facts recorded by the Jewish Lawgiver, they must not be understood as doubting the existence of the City, to whofe deftruction they annex a pofitive date. Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, infers from Manetho, that Mofes and the Hebrews were 900 or 1000 years antecedent to the Trojan, or rather Ilian war; προγενέςερον είναι Τον Μῶσην καὶ τὰς σὺν ἀΰλω ἑννεακοσίες ἡ χίλιες πρὸ ̔ Ιλιακῆς πολέμε. Theophil. Antiochen. ad Autolicum, 1. 3, p. 253. Again he declares, "that not only Mofes but the other Prophets preceded all profane writers, and alfo Cronus, Belus, and the Ilian war; for according to the hiftory of Thallus, Belus is found to have lived only 322 years before the fiege of Ilium, and we have already found that he confiders the era of Mofes as no less than 930 years previous to that event." Ibid, p. 382. Lactantius cites this last paffage from Theophilus, and then deriding the temporary Gods of Heathen worship, in order to evince the recent date affigned to Saturn's birth, who was, however, the father of the rest, he founds a chronology on the computed ages of several generations, and adds, "ab excidio autem urbis Trojanæ colliguntur anni 1470," thus making this event the æra from whence history affumed a more regular form; for here the years are no longer computed by genealogical computation. Lactant. 1. 1, c. 23. Speaking of Mofes in another place, he fays, "Trojanum Bellum nongentis fere annis anteceffit." Ibid. 1. 4, C. 5.

to charge both the application and verfion of this fentence with unfairness. Juftin is afferting the higher antiquity of Mofes, and he does not say that the Grecians “had no history on which they could depend," but that they had "none which was accu"rately detailed," like the records of the Pentateuch; in comparison with it "they had no writing of antiquity;" but the war of Troy was fubfequent, and Homer ftill more fo.

Paris, an Afiatic Prince, came to a Grecian Court, which he infulted by carrying off the Queen of the Country, and a quantity of treasure and flaves, the property of her husband. In this plain ftory there is nothing very incredible. Mr. Bryant, however, collecting together the miraculous ftories related by different Greek authors, fees nothing on every fide but a mass of impenetrable fiction.* The fupernatural birth of Helen, the dreams of Hecuba, the education of Paris, † and the conteft of the three

NOTES.

* Origen in his answer to Celfus, in reply to a demand for evidence on a point denied by his adverfary, prefaces his argument by an obfervation fo much to my purpose I cannot help tranfcribing it. "However true a narrative may be," he obferves," it is generally difficult, if not impoffible, to eftablish its truth uncontrovertibly. Suppofe for inftance, that the ftory of the Ilian war is denied, and the denial fupported by the many impoffible circumstances annexed to the history of that event, how are we to act in fuch a cafe, where preffed with fiction interwoven with the univerfally prevalent opinion that the war of Ilium, between the Greeks and Trojans did really and truly take place.” Παρὰ πᾶσι δόξη περὶ τῷ ἀληθῶς γεγονέναι δὸν ἐν Ιλίω πόλεμον *Exλvwv » Tewiwv. Origen's conclufions from the impoffible events were very different from Mr. Bryant's, and the war of Troy was by him looked on as an undoubted fact, though a few oftenfible objections might eafily be brought against it. Origen. contra Celfum, 1. i. p. 32. Edit. Spenceri. Cantab. 1658, 4to.

+ Paris was appointed the arbitrator between the Goddeffes on account of his exemplary justice, an opinion which Mr. Bryant gives on the authority of Natalis Comes, and then argues on the abfurdity of this affertion; but Natalis Comes is fo modern, that this circumftance alone answers all that can be brought forward on this fubject; and cannot attach fuch a charge upon Homer, who partakes very little in the abfurdity of his fucceffors. But the antient authors do not feem to agree in this opinion of his juftice, for antecedent to his judgment every claimant for the apple offered him a different bribe, therefore he was at leaft deemed capable of corruption.

• Obfervations on the grounds of the War. BRYANT, page 10.

B

Goddeffes,

The grounds of the War adequate.*

Circumstances of the antecedent armament probable.*

Goddeffes, are in his opinion abfurdities fo grofs as to impeach the credit of every part of the story. When in fubfequent times Alexander claimed a heavenly defcent, and had his claim allowed by the flatterers of his Court, the civilization of the age fcarce then prevented the miracle from being credited. In the days of Leda, Olympias would have received equal honours, yet we give very implicit credence to the existence of Alexander. Another remark I would make is, that many of the ftories are reveries of the Poets, or popular legends totally unconnected with Homer. Some of them might convey allufions which have long ceafed to be understood. The traditions of an infant people are always fabulous, and often allegorical, and the introduction of these fictions would with them greatly enhance the merit of a poem, though the foundation of that poem might nevertheless be a plain historical fact. Far from palliating or apologifing for the abfurdity of these collateral stories, I fhall boldly affert that I do not perceive how any inference can be drawn from them to invalidate facts which partake not of their abfurdity, and that a very strong inference may be drawn on the other fide, fince they show that traditions relative to the war of Troy exifted independent of Homer, and therefore that he was the relater not the inventor of the history.

I will now proceed to confider the conduct of the war and the antecedent armament which took place immediately after the elopement of Helen. Menelaus, the principal fufferer by this outrage, united himself with his Brother, who was a man of power and comparatively extenfive dominion. Greece at this time fwarmed with warlike adventurers, and whilft Agriculture was neglected, and Commerce unknown, her bands of warriors

* “On the condu&t of the War and antecedent armament." BRYANT, page 17.

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