Friday, September 23, 2011


Monro's Law

Classical scholars sometimes refer to "Monro's Law." See, e.g., R.B. Rutherford, "From the Iliad to the Odyssey," Journal of Hellenic Studies 102 (1982) 145-160, rpt. in Douglas L. Cairns, ed., Oxford Readings in Homer's Iliad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 117-146 (at p. 120):
More precise examination of the relation between the two epics can usefully start from the fact that the Odyssey never refers to the main narrative events of the Iliad, the wrath of Achilles over Briseis, the fresh anger against Hector, the death of Troy's noblest defender.3

3 This is sometimes called 'Monro's Law': see D.B. Monro, in one of the Appendices to his commentary on Od. 13-20 [sic] (Oxford, 1901), 325.
D.B. Monro, ed., Homer's Odyssey: Books XIII-XXIV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), p. 325:
Among the modern scholars who have pursued a similar vein of inquiry, with the object of framing a theory of the relation of the Odyssey to the Iliad, one of the most suggestive is the German writer already quoted.4 He has been especially successful in pointing out the peculiar tacit recognition of the Iliad which may be traced in the later poem. The Odyssey, he shows, is full of references to the story of the Trojan war—indeed it virtually ignores all the other cycles of legend—yet it never repeats or refers to any incident related in the Iliad.

4 B. Niese, Die Entwicklung der homerischen Poesie, pp. 43-45.
Benedictus Niese, Die Entwicklung der homerischen Poesie (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1882), pp. 43-44:
Man erkennt ihn [den Trieb, etwas neues zu berichten] in der Odyssee an einer eigenthümlichen Erscheinung: so oft nämlich durch Odysseus selbst oder durch andere an frühere Thaten des Helden erinnert wird, wird dabei alles was in der Ilias erzählt wird, vermieden und nicht einmal darauf angespielt.
I understand this to mean:
One recognizes it [the urge to report something new] in the Odyssey by a peculiar phenomenon, viz., whenever mention is made (by Odysseus himself or by others) of the hero's earlier deeds, at the same time everything that is narrated in the Iliad is avoided and not alluded to even once.
In view of the fact that Monro attributed the observation to Niese, perhaps it should be called Niese's Law.

Buce of Palookaville, author of Underbelly, points out that the name "Monro's Law" is a good example of Stigler's law of eponymy (""No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer").

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