Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age

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Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age
Author William Ewart Gladstone
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Oxford University Press
Media type Print

Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age is a book written by William Ewart Gladstone, discussing a range of issues in Homer.[1] Gladstone is better known for being the Prime Minister of Great Britain four separate times (1868–1874, 1880–1885, February–July 1886 and 1892–1894), but was trained as a classicist. At the time of publication he was M.P. for the University of Oxford.

Colour Controversy[edit]

The section of the book which has received the most mainstream attention is Gladstone's analysis of Homeric language related to colours. Gladstone raises the issue that the colours Homer attributed to many natural objects feel strange to modern readers. For example, Homer applies the adjective porphyreos, which in later Greek roughly means "purple" or "dark red," to describe blood, a dark cloud, a wave, and a rainbow, and he uses the epithet oinops ("wine-looking") to refer to the sea.[2] Gladstone explained this by suggesting that the ancient Greeks categorized colours mainly in terms of light/dark contrasts, rather than in terms of hue.

Many readers, however, have read Gladstone's explanation of Homer's colour terms as a suggestion that he and the other ancient Greeks were colourblind.[2] The most controversial line is his claim that "the organ of colour and its impressions were but partially developed among the Greeks of the heroic age." Gladstone denied that he suggested here the Greeks suffered from colourblindness, though, and he later said: "My meaning was substantially this: that he [Homer] operated, in the main, upon a quantitative scale, with white and black, or light and dark, for its opposite extremities, instead of the qualitative scale opened by the diversities of colour."[3]

Sources and References[edit]



  1. ^ Gladstone 1858
  2. ^ a b Sampson, Geoffrey (13 May 2013). "Gladstone as linguist" (PDF). Journal of Literary Semantics. doi:10.1515/jls-2013-0001. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Gladstone, William. "The Colour-Sense".