Homer and His Age, by Andrew Lang

Chapter 10

The Homeric House

If the Homeric poems be, as we maintain, the work of a peculiar age, the Homeric house will also, in all likelihood, be peculiar. It will not be the Hellenic house of classical times. Manifestly the dwelling of a military-prince in the heroic age would be evolved to meet his needs, which were not the needs of later Hellenic citizens. In time of peace the later Greeks are weaponless men, not surrounded by and entertaining throngs of armed retainers, like the Homeric chief. The women of later Greece, moreover, are in the background of life, dwelling in the women’s chambers, behind those of the men, in seclusion. The Homeric women also, at least in the house of Odysseus, have their separate chambers, which the men seem not to enter except on invitation, though the ladies freely honour by their presence the hall of the warriors. The circumstances, however, were peculiar — Penelope being unprotected in the absence of her lord.

The whole domestic situation in the Homeric poems — the free equality of the women, the military conditions, the life of the chiefs and retainers — closely resembles, allowing for differences of climate, that of the rich landowners of early Iceland as described in the sagas. There can be no doubt that the house of the Icelandic chief was analogous to the house of the Homeric prince. Societies remarkably similar in mode of life were accommodated in dwellings similarly arranged. Though the Icelanders owned no Over–Lord, and, indeed, left their native Scandinavia to escape the sway of Harold Fairhair, yet each wealthy and powerful chief lived in the manner of a Homeric “king.” His lands and thralls, horses and cattle, occupied his attention when he did not chance to be on Viking adventure — “bearing bane to alien men.” He always carried sword and spear, and often had occasion to use them. He entertained many guests, and needed a large hall and ample sleeping accommodation for strangers and servants. His women were as free and as much respected as the ladies in Homer; and for a husband to slap a wife was to run the risk of her deadly feud. Thus, far away in the frosts of the north, the life of the chief was like that of the Homeric prince, and their houses were alike.

It is our intention to use this parallel in the discussion of the Homeric house. All Icelandic chiefs’ houses in the tenth and eleventh centuries were not precisely uniform in structure and accommodation, and saga writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, living more comfortably than their forefathers, sometimes confuse matters by introducing the arrangements of their own into the tale of past times. But, in any case, one Icelandic house of the tenth or eleventh century might differ from another in certain details. It is not safe, therefore, to argue that difference of detail in Homer’s accounts of various houses means that the varying descriptions were composed in different ages. In the Odyssey the plot demands that the poet must enter into domestic details much more freely than he ever has occasion to do in the Iliad. He may mention upper chambers freely, for example; it will not follow that in the Iliad upper chambers do not exist because they are only mentioned twice in that Epic.

It is even more important to note that in the house of Odysseus we have an unparalleled domestic situation. The lady of the house is beset by more than a hundred wooers —“sorning” on her, in the old Scots legal phrase — making it impossible for her to inhabit her own hall, and desirable to keep the women as much as possible apart from the men. Thus the Homeric house of which we know most, that of Odysseus, is a house in a most abnormal condition.

For the sake of brevity we omit the old theory that the Homeric house was practically that of historical Greece, with the men’s hall approached by a door from the courtyard; while a door at the upper end of the men’s hall yields direct access to the quarters where the women dwelt apart, at the rear of the men’s hall.

That opinion has not survived the essay by Mr. J. L. Myres on the “Plan of the Homeric House.” 268 Quite apart from arguments that rest on the ground plans of palaces at Mycenae and Tiryns, Mr. Myres has proved, by an exact reading of the poet’s words, that the descriptions in the Odyssey cannot be made intelligible on the theory that the poet has in his mind a house of the Hellenic pattern. But in his essay he hardly touches on any Homeric house except that of Odysseus, in which the circumstances were unusual. A later critic, Ferdinand Noack, has demonstrated that we must take other Homeric houses into consideration. 269 The prae-Mycenaean house is, according to Mr. Myres, on the whole of the same plan as the Hellenic house of historic days; between these comes the Mycenaean and Homeric house; “so that the Mycenaean house stands out as an intrusive phenomenon, of comparatively late arrival and short of duration . . . ” 270 Noack goes further; he draws a line between the Mycenaean houses on one hand and the houses described by Homer on the other; while he thinks that the “late Homeric house,” that of the closing Books of the Odyssey, is widely sundered from the Homeric house of the Iliad and from the houses of Menelaus and Alcinous in earlier Books of the Odyssey. 271

In this case the Iliadic and earlier Odyssean houses are those of a single definite age, neither Mycenaean of the prime, nor Hellenic — a fact which entirely suits our argument. But it is not so certain, that the house of Odysseus is severed from the other Homeric houses by the later addition of an upper storey, as Noack supposes, and of women’s quarters, and of separate sleeping chambers for the heads of the family.

The Iliad, save in two passages, and earlier Books of the Odyssey may not mention upper storeys because they have no occasion, or only rare occasion, to do so; and some houses may have had upper sleeping chambers while others of the same period had not, as we shall prove from the Icelandic parallel.

Mr. Myres’s idea of the Homeric house, or, at least, of the house of Odysseus, is that the women had a meguron, or common hall, apart from that of the men, with other chambers. These did not lie to the direct rear of the men’s hall, nor were they entered by a door that opened in the back wall of the men’s hall. Penelope has a chamber, in which she sleeps and does woman’s work, upstairs; her connubial chamber, unoccupied during her lord’s absence, is certainly on the ground floor. The women’s rooms are severed from the men’s hall by a courtyard; in the courtyard are chambers. Telemachus has his [Greek: Thalamos], or chamber, in the men’s courtyard. All this appears plain from the poet’s words; and Mr. Myres corroborates, by the ground plans of the palaces of Tiryns and Mycenae, a point on which Mr. Monro had doubts, as regards Tiryns, while he accepted it for Mycenae. 272

Noack 273 does not, however, agree.

There appears to be no doubt that in the centre of the great halls of Tiryns and of Mycenae, as of the houses in Homer, was the hearth, with two tall pillars on each side, supporting a louvre higher than the rest of the roof, and permitting some, at least, of the smoke of the fire to escape. Beside the fire were the seats of the master and mistress of the house, of the minstrel, and of honoured guests. The place of honour was not on a dais at the inmost end of the hall, like the high table in college halls. Mr. Myres holds that in the Homeric house the [Greek: prodomos], or “forehouse,” was a chamber, and was not identical with the [Greek: aethousa], or portico, though he admits that the two words “are used indifferently to describe the sleeping place of a guest.” 274 This was the case at Tiryns; and in the house of the father of Phoenix, in the Iliad, the prodomos, or forehouse, and the aethousa, or portico, are certainly separate things (Iliad, IX. 473). Noack does not accept the Tiryns evidence for the Homeric house.

On Mr. Myres’s showing, the women in the house of Odysseus had distinct and separate quarters into which no man goes uninvited. Odysseus when at home has, with his wife, a separate bedroom; and in his absence Penelope sleeps upstairs, where there are several chambers for various purposes.

Granting that all this is so, how do the pictures of the house given in the final part of the Odyssey compare with those in the [Blank space] and with the accounts of the dwellings of Menelaus and Alcinous in the Odyssey? Noack argues that the house of Odysseus is unlike the other Homeric houses, because in these, he reasons, the women have no separate quarters, and the lord and lady of the house sleep in the great hall, and have no other bedroom, while there are no upper chambers in the houses of the Iliad, except in two passages dismissed as “late.”

If all this be so, then the Homeric period, as regards houses and domestic life, belongs to an age apart, not truly Mycenaean, and still less later Hellenic.

It must be remembered that Noack regards the Odyssey as a composite and in parts very late mosaic (a view on which I have said what I think in Homer and the Epic). According to this theory (Kirchhoff is the exponent of a popular form thereof) the first Book of the Odyssey belongs to “the latest stratum,” and is the “copy” of the general “worker-up,” whether he was the editor employed by Pisistratus or a laborious amateur. This theory is opposed by Sittl, who makes his point by cutting out, as interpolations, whatever passages do not suit his ideas, and do suit Kirchhoff’s — this is the regular method of Homeric criticism. The whole cruise of Telemachus (Book IV.) is also regarded as a late addition: on this point English scholars hitherto have been of the opposite opinion. 275

The method of all parties is to regard repetitions of phrases as examples of borrowing, except, of course, in the case of the earliest poet from whom the others pilfer, and in other cases of prae-Homeric surviving epic formulae. Critics then dispute as to which recurrent passage is the earlier, deciding, of course, as may happen to suit their own general theory. In our opinion these passages are traditional formulae, as in our own old ballads and in the Chansons de Geste, and Noack also takes this view every now and then. They may well be older, in many cases, than Iliad and Odyssey; or the poet, having found his own formula, economically used it wherever similar circumstances occurred. Such passages, so considered, are no tests of earlier composition in one place, of later composition in another.

We now look into Noack’s theory of the Homeric house. Where do the lord and lady sleep? Not, he says, as Odysseus and Penelope do (when Odysseus is at home), in a separate chamber (thalamos) on the ground floor, nor, like Gunnar and Halgerda (Njal’s Saga), in an upper chamber. They sleep mucho domou; that is, not in a separate recess in the house, but in a recess of the great hall or megaron. Thus, in the hall of Alcinous, the whole space runs from the threshold to the muchos, the innermost part (Odyssey, VII. 87–96). In the hall of Odysseus, the Wooers retreat to the muchos, “the innermost part of the hall” (Odyssey, XXII. 270). “The muchos, in Homer, never denotes a separate chamber.” 276

In Odyssey, XI. 373, Alcinous says it is not yet time to sleep ev megaro, “in the hall.” Alcinous and Arete, his wife, sleep “in the recess of the lofty domos,” that is, in the recess of the hall, not of “the house” (Odyssey, VII. 346). The same words are used of Helen and Menelaus (Odyssey, IV. 304). But when Menelaus goes forth next morning, he goes ek thalamoio, “out of his chamber” (Odyssey, IV. 310). But this, says Noack, is a mere borrowing of Odyssey, II 2–5, where the same words are used of Telemachus, leaving his chamber, which undeniably was a separate chamber in the court: Eurycleia lighted him thither at night (Odyssey, I. 428). In Odyssey, IV. 121, Helen enters the hall “from her fragrant, lofty chamber,” so she had a chamber, not in the hall. But, says Noack, this verse “is not original.” The late poet of Odyssey, IV. has cribbed it from the early poet who composed Odyssey, XIX. 53. In that passage Penelope “comes from her chamber, like Artemis or golden Aphrodite.” Penelope had a chamber — being “a lone lorn woman,” who could not sleep in a hall where the Wooers sat up late drinking — and the latest poet transfers this chamber to Helen. But however late and larcenous he may have been, the poet of IV. 121 certainly did not crib the words of the poet of XIX. 53, for he says, “Helen came out of her fragrant, high-roofed chamber.” The hall was not precisely “fragrant”! However, Noack supposes that the late poet of Book IV. let Helen have a chamber apart, to lead up to the striking scene of her entry to the hall where her guests are sitting. May Helen not even have a boudoir? In Odyssey, IV. 263, Helen speaks remorsefully of having abandoned her “chamber,” and husband, and child, with Paris; but the late poet says this, according to Noack, because he finds that he is in for a chamber, so to speak, at all events, as a result of his having previously cribbed the word “chamber” from Odyssey, XIX. 53. Otherwise, we presume Helen would have said that she regretted having left “the recess of the lofty hall” where she really did sleep. 277

The merit of this method of arguing may be left to the judgment of the reader, who will remark that wedded pairs are not described as leaving the hall when they go to bed; they sleep in “a recess of the lofty house,” the innermost part. Is this the same as the “recess of the hall” or is it an innermost part of the house? Who can be certain?

The bridal chamber, built so cunningly, with the trunk of a tree for the support of the bed, by Odysseus (odyssey, XXIII. 177–204), is, according to Noack, an exception, a solitary freak of Odysseus. But we may reply that the thalamos, the separate chamber, is no freak; the freak, by knowledge of which Odysseus proves his identity, is the use of the tree in the construction of the bed. That was highly original.

That separate chambers are needed for grown-up children, because the parents sleep in the hall, is no strong argument. If the parents had a separate chamber, the young people, unless they slept in the hall, would still need their own. The girls, of course, could not sleep in the hall; and, in the absence of both Penelope and Odysseus from the hall, ever since Telemachus was a baby, Telemachus could have slept there. But it will be replied that the Wooers did not beset the hall, and Penelope did not retire to a separate chamber, till Telemachus was a big boy of sixteen. Noack argues that he had a separate chamber, though the hall was free, tradition. 278

Where does Noack think that, in a normal Homeric house, the girls of the family slept? They could not sleep in the hall, and on the two occasions when the Iliad has to mention the chambers of the young ladies they are “upper chambers,” as is natural. But as Noack wants to prove the house of Odysseus, with its upper chambers, to be a late peculiar house, he, of course, expunges the two mentions of girls’ upper chambers in the Odyssey. The process is simple and easy.

We find (Iliad, XVII. 36) that a son, wedding in his father’s and mother’s life-time, has a thalamos built for him, and a muchos in the thalamos, where he leaves his wife when he goes to war. This dwelling of grown-up married children, as in the case of the sons of Priam, has a thalamos, or doma, and a courtyard — is a house, in fact (Iliad, VI. 3 16). Here we seem to distinguish the bed-chamber from the doma, which is the hall. Noack objects that when Odysseus fumigates his house, after slaying the Wooers, he thus treats the megaron, and the doma, and the courtyard. Therefore, Noack argues, the megaron, or hall, is one thing; the doma is another. Mr. Monro writes, “doma usually means megaron,” and he supposes a slip from another reading, thalamon for megaron, which is not satisfactory. But if doma here be not equivalent to megaron, what room can it possibly be? Who was killed in another place? what place therefore needed purification except the hall and courtyard? No other places needed purifying; there is therefore clearly a defect in the lines which cannot be used in the argument.

Noack, in any case, maintains that Paris has but one place to live in by day and to sleep in by night — his [Greek: talamos]. There he sleeps, eats, and polishes his weapons and armour. There Hector finds him looking to his gear; Helen and the maids are all there (Iliad, VI. 321–323). Is this quite certain? Are Helen and the maids in the [Greek: talamos], where Paris is polishing his corslet and looking to his bow, or in an adjacent room? If not in another room, why, when Hector is in the room talking to Paris, does Helen ask him to “come in”? (Iliad, VI. 354). He is in, is there another room whence she can hear him?

The minuteness of these inquiries is tedious!

In Iliad, III. 125, Iris finds Helen “in the hall” weaving. She summons her to come to Priam on the gate. Helen dresses in outdoor costume, and goes forth “from the chamber,” [Greek: talamos] (III. 141–142). Are hall and chamber the same room, or did not Helen dress “in the chamber”? In the same Book (III. 174) she repents having left the [Greek: talamos] of Menelaus, not his hall: the passage is not a repetition in words of her speech in the Odyssey.

The gods, of course, are lodged like men. When we find that Zeus has really a separate sleeping chamber, built by Hephaestus, as Odysseus has (Iliad, XIV. 166–167), we are told that this is a late interpolation. Mr. Leaf, who has a high opinion of this scene, “the Beguiling of Zeus,” places it in the “second expansions”; he finds no “late Odyssean” elements in the language. In Iliad, I. 608–611, Zeus “departed to his couch”; he seems not to have stayed and slept in the hall.

Here a quaint problem occurs. Of all late things in the Odyssey the latest is said to be the song of Demodocus about the loves of Ares and Aphrodite in the house of Hephaestus. 279 We shall show that this opinion is far from certainly correct. Hephaestus sets a snare round the bed in his [Greek: talamos] and catches the guilty lovers. Now, was his [Greek: talamos] or bedroom, also his dining-room? If so, the author of the song, though so “late,” knows what Noack knows, and what the poets who assign sleeping chambers to wedded folks do not know, namely, that neither married gods nor married men have separate bedrooms. This is plain, for he makes Hephaestus stand at the front door of his house, and shout to the gods to come and see the sinful lovers. 280 They all come and look on from the front door (Odyssey, VII. 325), which leads into the [Greek: megaron], the hall. If the lovers are in bed in the hall, then hall and bedroom are all one, and the terribly late poet who made this lay knows it, though the late poets of the Odyssey and Iliad do not.

It would appear that the author of the lay is not “late,” as we shall prove in another case.

Noack, then, will not allow man or god to have a separate wedding chamber, nor women, before the late parts of the Odyssey, to have separate quarters, except in the house of Odysseus. Women’s chambers do not exist in the Homeric house. 281 If so, how remote is the true Homeric house from the house of historical Greece!

As for upper chambers, those of the daughter of the house (Iliad, II. 514; XVI. 184), both passages are “late,” as we saw (Noack, p. 56). In the Odyssey Penelope both sleeps and works at the shroud in an upper chamber. But the whole arrangement of upper chambers as women’s apartments is as late, says Noack, as the time of the poets and “redactors” (whoever they may have been) of the Odyssey, XXI., XXII., XXIII. 282 At the earliest these Books are said to be of the eighth century B.C. Here the late poets have their innings at last, and do modernise the Homeric house.

To prove the absence of upper rooms in the Iliad we have to abolish II. 514, where Astyoche meets her divine lover in her upper chamber, and XVI. 184, where Polymêlê celebrates her amour with Hermes “in the upper chambers.” The places where these two passages occur, Catalogue (Book II.) and the Catalogue of the Myrmidons (Book XVI.) are, indeed, both called “late,” but the author of the latter knows the early law of bride-price, which is supposed to be unknown to the authors of “late” passages in the Odyssey (XVI. 190).

Stated briefly, such are the ideas of Noack. They leave us, at least, with permission to hold that the whole of the Epics, except Books XXI., XXII., and XXIII. of the Odyssey, bear, as regards the house, the marks of a distinct peculiar age, coming between the period of Mycenae and Tiryns on one hand and the eighth century B.C. on the other.

This is the point for which we have contended, and this suits our argument very well, though we are sorry to see that Odyssey, Books XXI., XXII., and XXIII., are no older than the eighth century B.C. But we have not been quite convinced that Helen had not her separate chamber, that Zeus had not his separate chamber, and that the upper chambers of the daughters of the house in the Iliad are “late.” Where, if not in upper chambers, did the young princesses repose? Again, the marked separation of the women in the house of Odysseus may be the result of Penelope’s care in unusual circumstances, though she certainly would not build a separate hall for them. There are over a hundred handsome young scoundrels in her house all day long and deep into the night; she would, vainly, do her best to keep her girls apart.

It stands to reason that young girls of princely families would have bedrooms in the house, not in the courtyard-bedrooms out of the way of enterprising young men. What safer place could be found for them than in upper chambers, as in the Iliad? But, if their lovers were gods, we know that none “can see a god coming or going against his will.” The arrangements of houses may and do vary in different cases in the same age.

As examples we turn to the parallel afforded by the Icelandic sagas and their pictures of houses of the eleventh century B.C. The present author long ago pointed out the parallel of the houses in the sagas and in Homer. 283 He took his facts from Dasent’s translation of the Njal Saga (1861, vol. i. pp. xcviii., ciii., with diagrams). As far as he is aware, no critic looked into the matter till Mr. Monro (1901), being apparently unacquainted with Dasent’s researches, found similar lore in works by Dr. Valtyr Gudmundsson 284 The roof of the hall is supported by four rows of columns, the two inner rows are taller, and between them is the hearth, with seats of honour for the chief guests and the lord. The fire was in a kind of trench down the hall; and in very cold weather, we learn from Dasent, long fires could be lit through the extent of the hall. The chief had a raised seat; the guests sat on benches. The high seats were at the centre; not till later times on the dais, as in a college hall. The tables were relatively small, and, as in Homer, could be removed after a meal. The part of the hall with the dais in later days was partitioned off as a stofa or parlour. In early times cooking was done in the hall.

Dr. Gudmundsson, if I understand him, varies from Dasent in some respects. I quote an abstract of his statement.

“About the year 1000 houses generally consisted of, at least, four rooms; often a fifth was added, the so-called bath-room. The oldest form for houses was that of one long line or row of separate rooms united by wooden or clay corridors or partitions, and each covered with a roof. Later, this was considered unpractical, and they began building some of the houses or rooms behind the others, which facilitated the access from one to another, and diminished the number of outer doors and corridors.”

“Towards the latter part of the tenth century the skaal was used as common sleeping-room for the whole family, including servants and serfs; it was fitted up in the same way as the hall. Like this, it was divided in three naves by rows of wooden pillars; the middle floor was lower than that of the two side naves. In these were placed the so-called saet or bed-places, not running the whole length of the skaal from gable to gable, but sideways, filling about a third part. Each saet was enclosed by broad, strong planks joined into the pillars, but not nailed on, so they might easily be taken out. These planks, called sattestokke, could also be turned sideways and used as benches during the day; they were often beautifully carved, and consequently highly valued.”

“When settling abroad the people took away with them these planks, and put them up in their new home as a symbol of domestic happiness. The saet was occupied by the servants of the farm as sleeping-rooms; generally it was screened by hangings and low panels, which partitioned it off like huge separate boxes, used as beds.”

“All beds were filled with hay or straw; servants and serfs slept on this without any bedclothes, sometimes a sleeping-bag was used, or they covered themselves with deerskins or a mantle. The family had bed-clothes, but only in very wealthy houses were they also provided for the servants. Moveable beds were extremely rare, but are sometimes mentioned. Generally two people slept in each bed.”

“In the further end of the skaal, facing the door, opened out one or several small bedrooms, destined for the husband with wife and children, besides other members of the family, including guests of a higher standing. These small dormitories were separated by partitions of planks into bedrooms with one or several beds, and shut away from the outer skaal either by a sliding-door in the wall or by an ordinary door shutting with a hasp. Sometimes only a hanging covered the opening.”

“In some farms were found underground passages, leading from the master’s bedside to an outside house, or even as far as a wood or another sheltered place in the neighbourhood, to enable the inhabitants to save themselves during a night attack. For the same reason each man had his arms suspended over his bed.”

Ildhus or fire-house was the kitchen, often used besides as a sleeping-room when the farms were very small. This was quite abolished after the year 1000.”

Buret was the provision house.”

“The bathroom was heated from a stone oven; the stones were heated red-hot and cold water thrown upon them, which developed a quantity of vapour. As the heat and the steam mounted, the people — men and women — crawled up to a shelf under the roof and remained there as in a Turkish bath.”

“In large and wealthy houses there was also a women’s room, with a fireplace built low down in the middle, as in the hall, where the women used to sit with their handiwork all day. The men were allowed to come in and talk to them, also beggar-women and other vagabonds, who brought them the news from other places. Towards evening and for meals all assembled together in the hall.”

On this showing, people did not sleep in cabins partitioned off the dining-hall, but in the skaale; and two similar and similarly situated rooms, one the common dining-hall, the other the common sleeping-hall, have been confused by writers on the sagas. 285 Can there be a similar confusion in the uses of megaron, doma, and domos?

In the Eyrbyggja Saga we have descriptions of the “fire-hall,” skáli or eldhús. “The fire-hall was the common sleeping-room in Icelandic homesteads.” Guests and strangers slept there; not in the portico, as in Homer. “Here were the lock-beds.” There were butteries; one of these was reached by a ladder. The walls were panelled. 286 Thorgunna had a “berth,” apparently partitioned off, in the hall. 287 As in Homer the hall was entered from the courtyard, in which were separate rooms for stores and other purposes. In the courtyard also, in the houses of Gunnar of Lithend and Gisli at Hawkdale, and doubtless in other cases, were the dyngfur, or ladies’ chambers, their “bowers” (Thalamos, like that of Telemachus in the courtyard), where they sat spinning and gossiping. The dyngja was originally called búr, our “bower”; the ballads say “in bower and hall.” In the ballad of Margaret, her parents are said to put her in the way of deadly sin by building her a bower, apparently separate from the main building; she would have been safer in an upper chamber, though, even there, not safe — at least, if a god wooed her! It does not appear that all houses had these chambers for ladies apart from the main building. You did not enter the main hall in Iceland from the court directly in front, but by the “man’s door” at the west side, whence you walked through the porch or outer hall (prodomos, aithonsa), in the centre of which, to the right, were the doors of the hall. The women entered by the women’s door, at the eastern extremity.

Guests did not sleep, as in Homer, in the prodomos, or the portico — the climate did not permit it — but in one or other hall. The hall was wainscotted; the walls were hung with shields and weapons, like the hall of Odysseus. The heads of the family usually slept in the aisles, in chambers entered through the wainscot of the hall. Such a chamber might be called muchos; it was private from the hall though under the same roof. It appears not improbable that some Homeric halls had sleeping places of this kind; such a muchos in Iceland seems to have had windows. 288

Gunnar himself, however, slept with his wife, Halegerda, in an upper chamber; his mother, who lived with him, also had a room upstairs.

In Njal’s house, too, there was an upper chamber, wherein the foes of Njal threw fire. 289 But Njal and Bergthora, his wife, when all hope was ended, went into their own bride-chamber in the separate aisle of the hall “and gave over their souls into God’s hand.” Under a hide they lay; and when men raised up the hide, after the fire had done its work, “they were unburnt under it. All praised God for that, and thought it was a great token.” In this house was a weaving room for the women. 290

It thus appears that Icelandic houses of the heroic age, as regards structural arrangements, were practically identical with the house of Odysseus, allowing for a separate sleeping-hall, while the differences between that and other Homeric houses may be no more than the differences between various Icelandic dwellings. The parents might sleep in bedchambers off the hall or in upper chambers. Ladies might have bowers in the courtyard or might have none. The [Greek: laurae]— each passage outside the hall — yielded sleeping rooms for servants; and there were store-rooms behind the passage at the top end of the hall, as well as separate chambers for stores in the courtyard. Mr. Leaf judiciously reconstructs the Homeric house in its “public rooms,” of which we hear most, while he leaves the residential portion with “details and limits probably very variable.” 291

Given variability, which is natural and to be expected, and given the absence of detail about the “residential portion” of other houses than that of Odysseus in the poems, it does not seem to us that this house is conspicuously “late,” still less that it is the house of historical Greece. Manifestly, in all respects it more resembles the houses of Njal and Gunnar of Lithend in the heroic age of Iceland.

In the house, as in the uses of iron and bronze, the weapons, armour, relations of the sexes, customary laws, and everything else, Homer gives us an harmonious picture of a single and peculiar age. We find no stronger mark of change than in the Odyssean house, if that be changed, which we show reason to doubt.

268 Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. XX, 128–150.

269 Homerische Paläste. Teubner. Leipzig, 1903.

270 Myres, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. xx. p. 149.

271 Noack, p. 73.

272 Monro, Odyssey, ii. 497; Journal of Hellenic Studies, xx. 136.

273 Noack, p. 39.

274 Journal of Hellenic Studies, xx. 144, 155.

275 Cf. Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. 313–317.

276 Noack, p. 45. Cf. Monro, Note to Odyssey, XXII. 270.

277 Noack, pp. 47–48

278 Noack, p. 49.

279 Odyssey, VIII. 266–300.

280 Ibid., VI. 304–305

281 Noack, p. 50.

282 Noack, p. 68.

283 The House. Butcher and Lang. Translation of the Odyssey.

284 Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. pp. 491–495; cf. Gudmundsson, Der Islandske Bottg i Fristats Tiden, 1894; cf. Dasent, Oxford Essays, 1858.

285 Gudmundsson, p, 14, Note I.

286 The Ere Dwellers, p. 145.

287 Ibid., 137–140.

288 Story of Burnt Njal, i. 242.

289 Ibid., ii. 173.

290 Ibid, ii. 195.

291 Iliad, vol. i. pp. 586–589, with diagram based on the palace of Tiryns.


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