Legacies of an imaginary people: The Phaeacians after Homer
Duffy, William Scott
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This dissertation studies the Phaeacians' appearances throughout Greek and Roman literature outside of their famous appearance in Books 9-12 of the Odyssey in order to determine the ways that they were used and understood in antiquity. The paper argues that the Phaeacians' place in the ancient literary tradition was not limited to their famed appearance in and allusions to the Odyssey . Rather, Alcinous and his people were valuable and versatile figures in their own right, utilized in every kind of writing in the Greek and Roman world for a wide variety of purposes. My study of the Phaeacians' appearances in all of ancient literature is part of a longstanding tradition of character study in Classical scholarship. Scholars have attempted such comprehensive studies of many of the most important heroes of Greek and Latin literature, including Heracles, Achilles, and most famously Odysseus. However, my thesis is the first project to apply this approach to the supporting characters of Greek myth. While the Phaeacians do not play as large a role in antiquity as their more famous counterparts, they still have a substantial presence in the ancient literary tradition. Moreover, since they appear in fewer texts than the better known figures, and often in shorter passages, it is possible to do the sort of thorough analysis of their place in Greco-Roman writing that is simply impossible for characters that leave a larger footprint. One of the most important discoveries found in the study of the Phaeacians' appearances in ancient literature is that the way they were used was heavily dependent on genre. The way that Alcinous and people are utilized by Latin poets, for example, is clearly distinct from the way that they are used by historians. This consistency within genres indicates that the Phaeacians were thought of not just as characters that should have traits that are not dependent on context, but also as tools that could be adapted to fit the specific needs of a given author without losing their core identity. This may also be the case for other characters from ancient myth, particularly supporting characters, something which would open up exciting new avenues of inquiry into these figures. The Greek poets, Latin poets, historians, and philosophers of antiquity all found different ways to use the Phaeacians, but their combined efforts turned Alcinous and his people into far more versatile and interesting figures than they were in the Odyssey . A study of these works can help advance our understanding of the Homeric Phaeacians, as several of these passages, as well as the ancient scholarly discussions of the Phaeacians found in ancient scholia, relate to modern debates about the mythical people. However, this is only of a secondary benefit. The primary value of the study of the Phaeacians' appearance in post-Homeric literature is to help us to understand the Phaeacians themselves, a people who clearly were of interest throughout antiquity, but whose place in the ancient tradition had been clouded by a single work all too easily.