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Homeric Society

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Chapter Summary

'Homeric society' is the social background against which the epic heroes live, act, excel, and suffer. Hesiod believed that this society existed in a somewhat distant past, between the Bronze and the contemporary Iron Ages; ancient tombs were venerated as those of heroes, and ancient sites and ruins attributed to them. This chapter discusses the main features of Homeric society: polis and oikos, social groups and classes, and the political sphere. It considers economic aspects in connection with the oikos and with the appropriate groups of persons (craftsmen, traders, and gift exchange among the elite). The chapter draws some conclusions on the place of Homeric society in early Greek history. According to Finley, neither poem has any trace of a polis in its political sense. Polis in Homer means nothing more than a fortified site, a town.

Keywords: Bronze Age; Greek history; Hesiod; Homeric society; Iron Age; oikos; polis



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