DIDACTIC DINNERS: INSTRUCTION IN NARRATIVE EPIC AND IN THE NOVEL
Ocfyssry 8 takes us to dinner. It begins with the Phaeacians meeting in the agora (8.1--45), then entering the palace for a feast at which the blind singer Demodocus performs. Demodocus sings first of the Trojan war and of Odysseus' role in this (8.62-82). His singing and the Phaeacian banquet are interrupted by a series of athletic contests (8.104-420). But Demodocus is able to slip in a second
Is this a didactic dinner? Demodocus' songs do occur within a dinner context, but their subject matter seems to be hardly didactic (compare Phemius at 04Jssey 1.325-7). Consider again his second song about the amours of Aphrodite and Ares. Homer may not have thought of this story as cosmogonical, but many later commentators did. Amongst those who did was the didactic poet, Empedocles (see Chapter 2 and Farrell 1991: 311). Empedocles, as we have seen, imagined that the four roots of the world (earth, air, fire, and water) were ceaselessly combined and recombined to create the world and the things in it. Their combinations and dissolutions were directed by Love and Strife. Empedocles, and many after him, allegorized Love and Strife, the two cosmogonical principals, as Aphrodite and Ares. Empedocles and writers to follow read Demodocus' second song in this light (cf. Lamberton 1986: 31-43 and Nelis 1992). The didactic tradition understood Demodocus' second song as a cosmogonical allegory (cf. Hunter 1995 citing, at note 25, Walsh 1984 and Goldhill 1991).