Duris of Samos is significant enough, among lost Hellenistic historians, for a paragraph or two to be devoted to him in most works on the history or literature of the period. For the last two centuries such paragraphs have been saying among other things that Duris went to Athens and studied under Theophrastus. But Athenaeus 128a, the source cited for this statement, does not support it unless a doubtful conjecture is admitted to the text.
It has been easy to take the apparently detached viewpoint of the two early Greek epics as actually objective, a window on a ‘Heroic Age’, on a ‘Homeric society’ and its values. We used to ask whether ‘Homeric society’ belongs to the poets' own time or to some earlier one. We still ask how to characterize and explain the ways in which the ‘Homeric world’ differs from any world that we can accept as having existed: we answer with phrases such (...) as ‘poetic exaggeration’ and ‘epic distance’. We have constructed ‘Homeric society’, but it remains an isolate. It can tell us nothing in return of the poets' intentions, or of the society of their time, unless we have a working hypothesis as to the place in that society that was held by the poets and their audiences. (shrink)