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The World of Odysseus (Pelican books) Unknown Binding – 1962

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Unknown Binding, 1962
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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin in association with Chatto & Windus; Revised ed edition (1962)
  • ASIN: B0019XW7IU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,153,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Enthusiast on 12 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
I read an earlier edition (with Finley as sole author) many years ago, and knowing nothing whatever of the background from other sources, I found it a convincing debunking of any claims of Homer to historical accuracy, beyond a distorted folk memory of the Greek dark ages. Since then I have come across other evidence that puts the book in a rather different light.

The emotional tone of his book is hostile towards any suggestion that the Homeric poems have any reliable link with real bronze age events, putting their inspiration firmly in the dark ages that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean (and other) civilizations around 1100 BCE. But in making his case, Finley is, to put it charitably, selective with the evidence that he presents. He claims for example that the Mycenaean centres were no larger than perhaps a few hundred people in each, making the Homeric figure of 60,000 Greeks on the expedition to Troy pure fantasy.

But Chadwick's work on the Linear B tablets makes very clear (and Finley must have known this) that the centres must have been much larger than this. Chadwick estimated the population of Pylos alone as "at least 50,000", a figure based on a detailed analysis of the extensive archives found at the burned palace at Epano Englianos. These archives allow details of the industrial and agriculturural activity of Pylos to be reconstructed, though with obvious gaps. As I recall there were no fewer than 400 bronze-smiths listed: this in population Finley would have us believe numbered at most 1000 or so! It seems probable that the other centres (Mycenae, Tiryns etc) were of similar size, though since we don't have the benefit of the accidental incineration of so many Linear B tables as at Pylos (or at least, they haven't been found yet) we cannot know with certainty.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Chris Lawton on 9 July 2003
Format: Paperback
This book gives the reader a good grounding in the various contexts that apply to the Odyssey; the sequel (if I may use that word) to the Iliad. I don't think you need to be a nerdy scholar to benefit from this important work, it really isn't a heavyweight text. I have one serious criticism, not of the author but the publisher; the author's bio on the first recto page is out of date (author died in 1986) and fails to mention that Finley - real name Finkelstein - was sacked from Rutger's University during the McCarthy era because he was deemed a 'commie'. So he fled the 'Land of the Free' to England where he prospered and was eventually knighted. Deliberately omitted, I wonder?
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Davis (peter.h.davis@kcl.ac.uk) on 22 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a seminal work in the discussion of the historical world that is depicted by the Homeric epics, providing not only an informative text, but also exstensive footnotes and bibliographies.
I found M. I. Finley's work to be an essential starting point for my research on this subject, and this distinguished scholars experiance opens up many lines of enquiry for the modern student.
Well worth reading.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting attempt by a distinguished historian to imagine the era of Homer by looking at how he, in turn, imagined the Heroic Age to have been: much as the Arthurian legend tells us more about the Middle Ages or Victorian England than Romano-British cavalry armies. As such it is little to do with the world of wily Odysseus but rather that of Homer's listeners or readers, so if you were hoping for a chat about Linear B and the Trojan War you will be sadly disillusioned. However, as a discussion of the ethos of warrior societies, of how legends grow and how heroes like to be seen (as against how they are) I doubt this account can be bettered
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