The Homeric Question in the Sixteenth Century: Early Modern Scholarship and the Text of Homer

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This article considers a set of annotations on Homer, by Gerard Falkenburg of Nijmegen (1538-78), which reveal a type of philology not usually associated with the Renaissance. Falkenburg probed the epics’ history by analyzing their textual fault-lines, as F.A. Wolf would do in 1795 when he ignited the Homeric Question. One of a handful of sixteenth-century philologists to engage in such work, Falkenburg alone arrived at a methodology for it. This previously unnoticed scholarship contextualizes famous insights on the Homeric text by philologists like Isaac Casaubon, but also raises the question of why it did not revolutionize the study of Homer at this time. Fascinatingly, part of the answer lies with these marginalia. While Falkenburg never published his observations, Obertus Giphanius used them liberally in the first published full commentary on Homer (1572). Giphanius, however, had only a vague understanding of their originality. Falkenburg’s work inspired Giphanius to write a strikingly perceptive “Preface”, often cited in histories of the Homeric Question, yet he gave a very flawed account of the methodology that could have enabled readers to extend this approach. Falkenburg’s annotations enable us to give a more precise account of the early modern history of the Homeric Question.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-557
JournalRenaissance Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

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