My Hundred Days of Homeric Hell:
A New “Free” Digitized Text of the Iliad and the Odyssey

James H. Dee (University of Illinois at Chicago, Emeritus)

This paper offers several salient observations drawn from the arduous experience of creating a new, independently keyboarded digital version of the Iliad and the Odyssey, describes the principal features of the resulting text-files, and announces their immediate “free” toîs bouloménois.  They seek to provide an “open” alternative to TLG’s texts, which are subject to significant license restrictions; the user, for example, may not print any text in its entirety for commercial purposes—exactly what I had planned to do as part of a book that displays a graphic representation of the 32 patterns of Homeric hexameter in both linear and sorted order.

As with Odysseus, my journey to “Homeric Hell” was not self-chosen but imposed by external forces: my publisher insisted that the text in the proposed book must differ from existing editions and, more importantly, must not entail any copyright or license fees.  The only sure solution was to carry out a fresh digitizing, which I proceeded to do while comparing five major editions for each poem; my version is thus not a true text-critical edition, not a recensio fontium but rather a comparatio editionum.  For the Iliad, I used Ludwich, OCT, Allen 1931/TLG, van Thiel, and West’s new Teubner, and for the Odyssey, Ludwich, OCT, Bérard’s Budé, Von der Mühll/TLG, and van Thiel.  The “hundred days” mentioned in the title is a (downward) rounding-off of the time it took to collate the texts and keyboard the new files; the paper offers some comments on the nature of the physical requirements involved in transcribing the poems and on the applicability of the “oral dictation” theory put forward by Albert Lord and endorsed by Richard Janko.

The paper then summarizes the basic differences among those editions—but also emphasizes their overall virtual identity, which, at least in my opinion, makes a persuasive case that, in spite of the mostly trivial variants found in the many fontes, each epic originated from what may be called a “point source,” although the temporal and spatial location of that point is not easy to determine.  There are brief references to the very different circumstances of Shakespearean Quartos and First Folio, of some medieval European epics, which exist in incompatible variant versions, and of the Synoptic Gospels, in which a linear series of historical events has come to be represented in separate traditions as strikingly inconsistent narrative sequences.  The observations made in this part of the paper may have some bearing on the idea of a Homeric “multi-text.”

The final section of the paper describes, with handout samples, how this new digital Homer differs from other computerized texts—and why the word “free” must be put in quotation marks.  I am willing to give away copies of the files, but since they were created on an iMac using the Linguist’s Software Graeca font, users (or their institutions) will have to purchase an appropriate version of that program in order to display and print the texts.  The ordeal, although unsought, has been highly instructive for me, and I hope that others will now be able to benefit from it as well.


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