Homer is often called the—or at least a—“father of Western civilization.” This is not a new idea. To take a prominent example, already before the end of the first century A.D., the Roman rhetorician Quintilian had these laudatory words for Homer in Book 10 of his Institutes of Oratory (trans. Donald A. Russell, very lightly revised):

Like his own conception of Ocean, which he says is the source of every river and spring, Homer provides the model and the origin of every department of eloquence. No one surely has surpassed him in sublimity in great themes, or in propriety in small. He is at once luxuriant and concise, charming and grave, marvelous in his fullness and in his brevity, supreme not only in poetic but in oratorical excellence.

By conventional reckoning, Homer lived about three-quarters of a millennium before Quintilian. That’s almost twice the temporal distance between us and Shakespeare and a greater distance than between us and Chaucer, the “father of English poetry,” who died in 1400, just one year into the reign of Henry IV, the first English monarch since the Norman invasion to have English as his native language. So, the ancient Greek poet to whom are attributed two monumental epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, certainly had staying power. And he still does.

There is no shortage of Greek authors from the second half of the first millennium B.C. who quoted or mentioned Homer: the fifth-century Herodotus, for instance, whom Cicero (more on him later) called the “father of history” and to whom is attributed—quite wrongly, alas—the longest ancient biography of Homer (it almost certainly dates to well after the time of Quintilian). If, however, we are to give credit for Homer’s reputation today to an ancient author other than the proverbial blind bard himself, that person is a Roman: Publius Vergilius Maro (70–19 B.C.).

Virgil’s final and most famous work, the Aeneid, might be called the Latin counterpart of, and response to, the Iliad and the Odyssey together. It is a simple fact that Virgil could not have written this other great pillar of our culture without Homer’s model. But that is just one early part of a much longer story.

Some 1,300 years later, Dante could not have written his Divine Comedy without Virgil (who could not have written without Homer). Sixty or so years after that, Chaucer could not have written his Troilus and Criseyde without Dante (and Boccaccio, who himself owes a considerable debt to Dante) or without those classical authors he explicitly acknowledges toward the end of the fifth and final book, including “Virgile” and “Omer” (whose name he spelled without the initial aspirate, as would the Nobel Prize–winning Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott in his 1990 novel-length epic poem Omeros). And to come to the greatest of English bards, in his play Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare, besides owing an obvious debt to Chaucer, probably also took inspiration from George Chapman’s then-brand-new translation of the Iliad, a work of 1598 that inspired one of the best-known Romantic sonnets in English, John Keats’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” of 1816.

To continue: almost three centuries after Chaucer, John Milton could not have written his Paradise Lost without the Divine Comedy. And to come to America, Herman Melville could not have written Moby-Dick and other works without Milton—who could not have done without Dante, who needed the guidance of Virgil, who could not have written without Homer. I could, of course, go on to trace this tradition into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—James Joyce’s Ulysses, Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Alice Oswald’s fascinating takes on the Iliad and the Odyssey, titled respectively Memorial and Nobody—but you get the idea.

The effect of all this is dizzying, but as Harold Bloom famously put it in 1975, “Everyone who now reads and writes in the West, of whatever racial background, sex or ideological camp, is still a son or daughter of Homer.” Homer really is everywhere—and not merely in the West. We can be certain that his influence will not wane any time soon. The tradition will continue (I like to think) for thousands more years.

Tradition: few concepts are more important to society. Yes, there are bad traditions as well as good ones. But the way individuals, families, and polities move ahead—the way civilization itself thrives—is by respecting and building on the wisdom of the past, which in a functional society is handed down through the generations. This is what the word “tradition” literally means: English has taken the word from the Latin trāditiō, the noun that corresponds to the verb trādit (hands down), which is itself historically a compound of the verb dat (gives) and the prefix trāns (across). The idea is that tradition is what is given across the generations: parents impart knowledge to their children, who grow up and impart, transmit, and transfer knowledge to their children in turn—and so on and so forth over the decades, centuries, and millennia.

Consider a Latin verb similar to trādit in both form and meaning: trānsfert (bears across, conveys), which has landed in English as “transfer.” Its past passive participle is trānslātus (that which has been conveyed). And this is the source of our “translate.”

Which brings me back to Virgil and to a specific example of Homeric influence—of the transfer and translation of the Greek tradition into the Roman. Many people can quote the first words of the Aeneid, even in Latin: arma uirumque cano (Of arms and a man I sing). Few, however, know the last words. This is a pity because, although not quotable in the same way, they deserve nonetheless to be familiar to careful readers of the poem.

Verses 951–52 of Book XII close the epic with infamous abruptness as Aeneas kills his antagonist, Turnus: ast illi soluuntur frigore membra/ uitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras. Here’s the English translation by my former Princeton colleague, the late Robert Fagles: “Turnus’ limbs went limp in the chill of death./ His life breath fled with a groan of outrage/ down to the shades below.” And that’s it.

The ending is so unceremonious that some have wondered whether this is really how Virgil wished to tie up his epic, whether there was supposed to have been a thirteenth book, and more. For my part—and this is not an idiosyncratic opinion—I am happy with the ending. Whatever the case may be, Virgil’s description of Turnus’s death is unquestionably a light adaptation of a repeated pair of Greek verses that describe the two most consequential deaths in the Iliad: the death of Hector at the hands of Achilles in Book XXII near the end of that poem (this is the analogue of the slaying of Turnus by Aeneas in the Aeneid) and, six books earlier, the death of Achilles’ companion Patroclus at the hands of Hector. Here’s the Greek (to which we shall return), followed again by a Fagles translation:

psychē d’ ek rhetheōn ptamenē Aïdosde bebēkei,

hon potmon gooōsa, lipous’ androtēta kai hēbēn
 

Flying free of his limbs

his soul went winging down to the House of Death,

wailing his fate, leaving his manhood far behind,

his young and supple strength.

Furthermore, Virgil has already used the words about life fleeing to the underworld with a groan of another death in the Aeneid: that of Turnus’s ally Camilla in Book XI. The move is intentional. Homer uses his formulation exactly twice, for thematically connected deaths, with the first prefiguring the climactic second—and then Virgil does the same.

This is an adaptation—a shorthand translation, so to speak—of Greek material into Latin. But plenty of other ancient figures quote Homer directly. Interestingly, it is not just Greeks who quote Homer in Greek but also Romans.

Let me offer two examples, beginning with a Greek many of us still care deeply about who liberally quotes Homer: Socrates (ca. 470–399 B.C.). Now, when you think of Socrates, you are likely to think in the first place of his student Plato, and it is undeniable that Plato’s view of Homer is complicated: this philosopher believes that poetry can be harmful and that it is thus entirely wrong for people to revere Homer and many other poets besides—and yet, seemingly paradoxically, he quotes Homer extensively throughout his works. As Plato famously puts it in Book X of the Republic, “there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry,” and he banishes Homer from his ideal city-state ruled by the philosopher-king, a utopia he calls Kallipolis, literally “Beautiful City.”

But what did Socrates himself think about poetry? Questions about the so-called historical Socrates—as opposed to the literary figure—are necessarily tricky, but it is a matter of record that both Plato and his contemporary Xenophon regularly have Socrates speak about, and quote directly from, Homer.

A particularly interesting tidbit comes from Xenophon’s Memorabilia, a collection of Socratic dialogues that act in effect as a defense of his friend by someone renowned as a military commander in addition to being a historian and a philosopher. From this work, we learn that an accuser of Socrates reports that the philosopher “often” quoted a description of Odysseus from Book II of the Iliad.

What is this Homeric passage that so evidently grabbed Socrates? It describes how Odysseus roams through the people, telling men of note that it is unseemly to act like a coward and using both his rhetoric and, yes, his scepter to inform common men who are making a ruckus that they should listen to their betters. According to his accuser, this demonstrates that Socrates approved of chastising, even beating, ordinary people. But, as Xenophon says, this is not at all what Socrates thought. Rather, Socrates “showed himself to be one of the people and a friend of mankind,” and

what he did say was that those who render no service either by word or deed, who cannot help army or city or the people itself in time of need, ought to be stopped, even if they have riches in abundance, above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient. (trans. E. C. Marchant)

From Homer’s Odysseus to Xenophon’s Socrates to America after the dreadful year 2023: if you wish to understand the importance of Homer today, you can do worse than to take these wise words to heart. We are all able to recite the names of people in power who fail to use their literal and metaphorical fortune for the common good, whether through inefficiency or, worse, insolence. My exhortation: write out Homer’s and Xenophon’s wisdom of the ages, tape it above your desk, and then go out and be brave, not cowardly.

And now a second example of a direct quotation of Homer, this time from a Roman about whom many of us also still care deeply: Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.). Cicero, who was an exceptionally learned man, quotes Greek regularly, and it is not surprising that the poet whose words he echoes the most, by far, is Homer. What is perhaps surprising is that there is one passage in the Iliad that Cicero quotes six times, in whole or in part, in letters he exchanged with his close friend and occasional patron Atticus: aideomai Trōas kai Trōiadas helkesipeplous (I feel shame before the Trojan men and the Trojan women in their trailing robes).

Cicero, like Socrates, was no coward.

Why would Cicero have cared so much about these words? What are they all about? The verse appears twice in the Iliad, both times in the mouth of Hector, the greatest of the Trojan heroes. Hector speaks it first in one of the most moving scenes in the epic. Toward the end of Book VI, Andromache, Hector’s dear wife, begs him not to return to war but to stay behind lest she be widowed and their son orphaned. He is sorely tempted, for he loves his family, but the honorable thing is to fight to the death. And this is what he says: “I feel dreadful shame before the Trojan men and the Trojan women in their trailing robes if like a coward [the word he uses is kakos, literally ‘a bad man’] I skulk apart from war.” Then, in Book XXII, Hector’s other two closest family members, his parents Priam and Hekabe, beg him to retreat. He refuses, says the same words to himself—and goes to meet his fate.

Cicero, like Socrates, was no coward. He may well have imagined that he would end up like Hector, slain on a battlefield. (In fact, he was assassinated by henchmen of his political enemy Mark Antony.) So, then, what an extraordinary use of Homer this is: a phrase of honor, a phrase of defiance, a phrase in defense of country that Cicero used repeatedly, for well over a decade, in letters to a friend.

Both Socrates and Cicero have had a profound influence on American life. It will suffice to note that Martin Luther King Jr. mentions Socrates three times in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and that Cicero was a model for the founders: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and above all John Adams, who wrote in A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America that “all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united in the same character.” My aim is not to defend Adams’s enthusiasm, which many will regard as excessive. Rather, the point is a variation of something I have already said: without Homer we would not have Socrates and Cicero, and without Socrates and Cicero, we would not have America as we know it—the best of America, I mean, rather than the appalling polarization that characterizes so much of our politics and so many of our day-to-day personal interactions in this age of deep discontent.

So far what I have done is call attention to the importance of Homer by giving examples of the tradition of which he is at the head—or so people generally maintain. But Homer was not, of course, the first poet, in this tradition or, for that matter, others. In his dialogue the Brutus, none other than Cicero points out that there’s no reason to doubt that there were poets before Homer, making the perfectly obvious remark that, after all, Homer himself in the Odyssey describes bards of old and their lays, most famously Demodocus in Book VIII, who sings Iliadic songs about Odysseus and other heroic figures. Indeed, this singing takes place at the Phaeacian court of King Alcinous, where Odysseus, whose identity is unknown to his hosts, is actually in the audience: a touch of mise en abyme that, were this not a poem from thousands of years ago, one would be inclined to label postmodern.

The fact is that when people speak of Homer as a traditional poet, which he certainly is, what they mean is not that he is at the head of the tradition I have been describing from the eighth century B.C. to the present via Socrates, Virgil, Chaucer, Milton, and mlk. Rather, this designation indicates that Homeric poetry itself is the product of a tradition. From one perspective—which I describe briefly in my piece “The beginnings: first words, first lines, first stories” in the November 2022 number of The New Criterion—Homer is right smack in the middle of a tradition, the so-called Indo-European tradition: a tradition that dates to around 3500 B.C., some 2,750 years before Homer, who (it is conventionally said) lived some 2,750 years before now.

Think, if you will, of jam sessions, folk festivals, and campfires.

A traditional poet is one who takes old material and passes it along orally. Think, if you will, of jam sessions, folk festivals, and campfires, with one generation transferring—handing down—the words and music to those who come next, maintaining the themes, structure, and most of the rhetoric, but always improvising, tweaking here and there. A consequence of this perspective, albeit one it would be unfruitful for me to explore properly in the present context, is that there almost certainly was not one blind genius named Homer who composed the Iliad or the Odyssey—never mind both, an idea that most scholars reject anyway on linguistic grounds. Instead, the epics are products of a deep tradition, oral poems that at some point, probably in the sixth century B.C., were codified in more or less the form we now have them in divers scholarly editions: 15,693 verses for the Iliad, 12,109 for the Odyssey.

You may be sad to hear this. You may think that somehow these great poems are less great if there is no single Homer with both a birth- and a death-date whose name is attached to them. But if you think this, you are wrong. Let me quote something that John Agresto writes in his excellent 2022 book The Death of Learning: How American Education Has Failed Our Students and What to Do about It, a book, by the way, that has as the title of its introduction “The Great Iliad Question.” (I won’t tell you what the question is—or the answer. Go read the book!) This is what Agresto says:

My hunch is that only second-class books are truly captives of their time; great works are more universal; they speak to us effectively as timeless. First-class works would mean no less if their authors were known only as “anonymous” and their date listed as “unknown.”

No reasonable person would deny that the Iliad and the Odyssey are first-class works—and how wonderful it is, in my view, that they spoke to Greeks in the Iron Age, that they speak to us in the Internet Age, and that, in some form or another, direct predecessors of their words and themes also spoke to our Indo-European ancestors around the advent of the Bronze Age. In some ways, we are very different from people back then, but in other ways we are the same. It is important to understand how, for better and sometimes maybe for worse, the mores of their cultures and ours often seem at odds—but it is at least as important that we recognize our shared humanity.

This shared humanity, coupled with the excellent tales the works tell, is presumably what explains the veritable glut of translations on the market. About a dozen translations of the Iliad into English have been published in the nearly thirty-five years since Fagles’s in 1990, and even more of the Odyssey. As I write, Emily Wilson’s 2023 Iliad (which follows on her 2017 Odyssey) is a bestseller.

Presumably some people who buy these translations actually read them. Regardless, such a level of commercial interest is surprising in view of the steep decline in respect for the ancient world at most American colleges and universities. (Moves to “decolonize the curriculum” and calls to “burn it all down” are wreaking both intellectual and social havoc on campus, and many outside the academy have condemned Princeton’s decision in 2021 to allow undergraduates to major in classics without taking so much as a single semester of either Latin or Greek.) Meanwhile, though, classical schools are popping up everywhere, so the battle may yet be won.

I believe in reading original texts when possible—please, go learn Greek and Latin and other foreign languages if you don’t already know them—but there is no doubt that a good translation, with just the right turn of phrase, can be illuminating even to someone who does not need it. And in much the same way, I contend, understanding what lies beneath a text can illuminate a so-called original, especially when it comes to traditional oral poetry, where the very concept of “the original” is murky.

With that, I return to the phrase that describes the deaths of Patroclus and Hector in the Iliad, the one that Virgil appropriated to describe the deaths of Camilla and Turnus in the Aeneid. There is a linguistic problem with the Greek verse that Fagles translates as “wailing his fate, leaving his manhood far behind,/ his young and supple strength”: in brief, it does not scan. This is obviously not the occasion for a lesson in the Homeric hexameter. But what is important to understand is that the verse in question appears to be hopelessly unmetrical, entirely beyond repair, since one of its syllables, which needs to scan short, consists of a vowel followed by not one, not two, but three consonants, which makes it not merely heavy but extra-heavy—and it must therefore scan long. At issue, to be specific, is the initial a of the word androtēta (manhood), whose first element, andr-, we have borrowed into English in such words as android (a man-like robot) and androgynous (having the characteristics of both man and woman). You’ll notice that that initial a is followed by an n, a d, and an r.

You may be muttering to yourself, “So what?!” And, in a way, that’s a fair reaction—except that the verse is a doubly pivotal one in the story of the Iliad. This is the death of Patroclus, which is what impels the greatest Greek warrior, Achilles, back into the fray! This is the death of the greatest Trojan warrior, Hector, slain by the now-over-the-top-furious Achilles, the death that will bring the decade-long war to its conclusion! It is one thing, maybe, for there to be a minor metrical anomaly in what one might think a throwaway line. It is quite another for there to be a major metrical anomaly in one of the most thematically important verses in the most famous of Greek poems—a verse that Virgil went on to pick up for the very final words of the most famous Latin poem.

You may be muttering to yourself, “So what?!” And, in a way, that’s a fair reaction.

Fortunately, a solution exists. It is, in fact, a straightforward solution—though straightforward only if you understand the tradition. In short, when the verse was first composed—many hundreds of years before the shadowy eighth-century B.C. figure we are used to calling Homer—it was metrical and it did scan. This is a linguistic fact, not magic: the sequence andro- of androtēta used to be anṛ-, with no d and with a so-called syllabic r, which is a vowel (as in the pronunciation in most American dialects of the -er in batter, better, bitter, and butter) rather than a consonant. In other words, the initial a of that word for “manhood” was once followed by just a single consonant and thus scanned as it was supposed to: short. While there is much technical controversy over the details, the basic idea is clear enough. And the point for now is this: behind the Roman rhetoric of Turnus’s death lies the Greek rhetoric of the death of Hector; and behind this lies the underappreciated tradition of pre-Greek—call it Indo-European—rhetoric.

I have used the term “Indo-European” three times now. What does it mean? Greek is a so-called Indo-European language, as are Latin, French, Norwegian, Irish Gaelic, Armenian, Sanskrit, Farsi, and dozens of others—including English. Once upon a time, around 5,500 years ago, probably on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, north of the area between the Black and Caspian Seas, all these now-separate languages were one. As time passed and as members of the population moved in different directions, further and further away from one another, what had started as different dialects became what no one could fail to call entirely different languages: though sisters, French, Norwegian, Irish Gaelic, Armenian, Farsi, and English are today mutually incomprehensible.

Mutually incomprehensible and yet, after millennia apart, these languages still have words, phrases, and literary and cultural concerns in common. Indeed, one reason it makes sense to study the Greek and Latin classics together is that they share a preliterate tradition far deeper than the dialogue between powerful people who interacted with each other in historical time while occupying huge swaths of land across much the same part of the world. It is because of this shared inheritance, because they belong to the same tradition, that the Sanskrit noun bhrātā sounds like and is fundamentally the same as English brother, Latin frāter (whence Old French frere, which we borrowed as “friar”), Irish Gaelic bráthair (whose basic meaning has shifted in recorded time from “brother” to the more general “kinsman” and also “friar”), and Ancient Greek phrātēr, the last of which doesn’t refer to your sibling even in the earlier texts but instead has more or less the sense “frat bro.” It is because of this shared inheritance, because they belong to the same tradition, that the Sanskrit verb for “carry,” bhar-, sounds like and is fundamentally the same as English bear, Latin fer- (as in “trans-fer”), Irish Gaelic beir-, and Ancient Greek pher-.

Nothing against family members and basic verbs, but let’s look at something more linguistically interesting. In Book IX of the Iliad, Achilles speaks to his would-be comrades about his “twofold fates,” not unlike the way Hector has already spoken so poignantly to his wife in Book VI. His choice, Achilles muses, is between returning home to live a long life without renown or fighting against the Trojans, dying, and thereby achieving “imperishable fame.”

One of the most famous collocations in the poem, “imperishable fame” is a remarkable product of the tradition I have been describing. On its own, the word for “fame,” kleos, is a buzzword in the Iliad—and in addition to being related to the English adjective loud (you’re no one if people don’t talk about you with great volume), it is the second element of such compound names as Sophocles (Famed for Wisdom), Pericles (Famed All Around), and Heracles (Having Hera’s Fame), perhaps better known in his Roman form, Hercules. But joining the noun kleos with the adjective meaning “imperishable” yields Achilles’ unique kleos aphthiton, and this is sound-for-sound cognate with—that is to say, historically exactly the same as—the Vedic Sanskrit phrase śrávas . . . ákṣitam, which petitioners request of Indra, the highest god in the pantheon of ancient India, in a hymn in Book I of the Rigveda, the oldest sacred text of the Hindus. Something of what would become the heroic warrior code was thus there already in the language before the split between Greek and our earliest language of the Indian Subcontinent. To me, as a classicist and as a linguist and as a humanist, few things are lovelier and more meaningful than such soundings in the deep well of tradition.

In the Greek imagination, the Trojan War was a massive event, a decade long, involving tens of thousands of soldiers and their families. (I pass over the question of the historicity of the Iliad and the connection with the societal collapse around the Eastern Mediterranean that ended the Bronze Age in the first quarter of the twelfth century B.C.) How, then, to tell such an expansive tale vividly, especially when everyone in the eighth and later centuries B.C. was already intimately acquainted with the plot—a fact that allows Homer to mention the act that started it all, the Judgment of Paris, only in passing, in the twenty-fourth and final book of the Iliad; to ignore the Trojan Horse in the Iliad and mention its existence only once in the Odyssey; and to fail entirely to depict the death of Achilles by Paris’s arrow to his eponymous heel? (For more on the wider story of the Trojan War and how it came down to us, see “The lost Homerics” by Edward N. Luttwak in The New Criterion of last month.)

Homer’s solution to how to tell the tale is to give his listeners—these days, usually, his readers—snapshots: the Iliad takes place over only a little more than fifty days, and mostly just five, in the course of the tenth and final year of the war; the Odyssey is set over only forty days at the end of its protagonist’s journey home from war ten years later on. If you had to distill the stories of Homer’s epics into one word each, you would probably say that the Iliad is about “wrath” (in Greek, mēnin) and the Odyssey about a “man” (andra—and there’s that andr- again): “wrath” is the opening word of the first poem, which can be read as an extended meditation on the consequences of one human being’s destructive emotion; “man” is the opening word of the second, which is an extended account of the many twists and turns, the ups and downs, of another multifaceted human being. Aristotle in the Poetics famously praises Homer for his narrative focus, and this focus does indeed bring the massive down to a human scale and make all the complicated goings-on easier to relate to.

And relate to Homer’s poems we all do—and have done for almost three millennia. It would have made little sense for me to have written this essay without a discussion of Virgil, but I could easily have decided not to mention Xenophon’s Socrates or Cicero and instead dilated on, say, Herodotus and Ovid.

Take pretty much any classical author or topic and it is easy to adduce the Iliad and the Odyssey.

There is, however, a specific reason I chose to treat the authors I did. Last year, I was invited by Hillsdale College to deliver the final talk in a series of six on the theme “Classical Greece and Rome.” (Blessedly, Hillsdale is bucking a deplorable trend by not dumbing down its classics department one bit.) Three of the other five talks were Anthony Esolen’s “The Importance of Virgil,” Peter Ahrensdorf’s “Xenophon’s Socrates,” and Walter Nicgorski’s “Cicero and Stoicism.” It seemed to me sensible to explain the importance of Homer with reference, in part, to what the audience had already heard from these distinguished colleagues. Had I had more time, I would have brought in material from the other two as well: David West’s “Pericles and Athenian Democracy” and Barry Strauss’s “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic.” Which goes to prove my point: take pretty much any classical author or topic and it is easy to adduce the Iliad and the Odyssey. That is why Homer is important.

Should I have used these pages—and my time at Hillsdale—to wax eloquent about a few of my favorite scenes or about grand themes in one or both of the epics? Perhaps. But what makes these tales excellent—and, to speak to my title, important—is what I have already called their humanity, the fact that they contain so much of human experience, so much that each of us knows from personal highs and lows. They tell of gods and men, of valor and defeat, of love and jealousy, of pride and piety—all the emotions are in there, all the complexities that make people people. Even the best of us have flaws, sometimes grave ones, and even the worst of us are nonetheless human. When you read these poems, you see the best in our world and the worst. And maybe this act of reading makes all of us engage in the important task of trying ourselves to be better and to do the right thing.

It is said that Alexander the Great, who had Aristotle as his tutor, slept with the Iliad under his pillow. I’m not going to tell you to do that. After all, like Achilles and Hector, he died young, though great. But it and the Odyssey are truly grand poems, with a lifetime of lessons to impart, and I urge you—especially if you are young—to keep them close, both now and for decades to come. In particular, when you pass along your and our traditions to your children, and to your children’s children, I hope you will remember that Homer both is and, in a wondrous way, is not the beginning of so many of these traditions.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 42 Number 6, on page 4
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