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Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  170 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
The myths of the ancient Greeks have inspired us for thousands of years. Where did the famous stories of the battles of their gods develop and spread across the world? The celebrated classicist Robin Lane Fox draws on a lifetime’s knowledge of the ancient world, and on his own travels, answering this question by pursuing it through the age of Homer. His acclaimed history e ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Vintage (first published April 7th 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jun 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Not only did I find Travelling Heroes incredibly dry and yes, occasionally boring, I also felt a bit misled by the description on the back and even the title. At first I thought that misstep was just me and maybe I got confused, but several other reviewers here mentioned the same thing, meaning it's clearly an issue and making me feel a lot better about slapping a rating on this one. References to Homer's epic works are scattered here and there among the pottery shards, but mostly this is about ...more
Daniel Chaikin
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
66. Travelling Heroes : In the Epic Age of Homer by Robin Lane Fox
published: 2008
format: 419 page paperback (plus 80 page bibliography/index)
acquired: July from Half Price Books
read: Oct 20 - Nov 5
rating: 2

The cover blurb says, "Multilayered and beautifully written..." Don't be fooled by that nonsense, Fox's text is so dense that it's barely readable. As he sees it, he's really trying to do something new and dynamic with this book, combining as much archeological evidence as he can find and wit
Cristobo De
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why only four stars out of five? Well, It is a hard read. Robin Lane Fox is really an accomplished scholar and he has a bad time trying to convey all his knowledge to us, laypeople. However, if you keep reading the reward is worth the effort.
It is amazing how far archeology has reached. This book actually manages to track and explain in detail the first migrations out of Greece after the dark centuries, some 2700 years ago, then explore the links between Greek, Anatolian and Middle Eastern myth
Martin Glen
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just started this, after reading the author's history of Classical Greece and Rome (The Classical World: From Homer to Hadrian). The premise of the book is that the Greek Mediterranean diaspora in the early years of the first millenium BC created a unique medium for the development of the rich cultural legacy that followed. The problem with this eminently sensible idea is that the only non-archaeological evidence still around is either secondary or extremely fragmented. Still, this is Fox's driv ...more
Dec 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The author begins with a simile from the Iliad (2.780-85) in which Homer compares the sound of advancing Greek troops to the sound of the earth beneath the "anger of Zeus who delights in thunder, whenever he lashes the ground around Typhoeus in Arima, where they say is Typhoeus' bed . . ." He then takes the reader on a tour of the eighth-century world of Greek "travelling heroes," during which he solves the Homeric reference with which he began by identifying Arima. Along the way, he teaches the ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Stunningly erudite and well researched - including 90 pages of small-type notes and bibliography for 360 pages of text - this is a dense and scholarly work masquerading as a book for the general reader. I do not often feel stupid and overwhelmed when reading history, but I occasionally did with this book. It's written in a casually fluent sort of tone that only an Oxford don could pull off. Because the subject matter is mostly the 8th century BC, and it relies mostly on (by necessity) spotty and ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Excellent book where the author meanders around the 8th century BC Mediterranean, linking together the cultures prevalent at the time, using Homer's Iliad and Odyssey as a backdrop.

The author shows that the island of Euboea, roughly 'around the corner' from Athens, played a hugely important role in connecting the eastern with the western Mediterranean, during the 9th and 8th centuries BC, and that, during that period, a lot of the Greek mythology, stories of the gods and their companions, interm
Interesting at times but often dull.
I just can't get too interested in pottery sherds...and there's a lot about pottery sherds.
To me he doesn't really prove what he sets out to...and the title of the book seems only partly relevant to the text, I'd hoped for more on Jason and Odysseus and less on Eubean and Phoenician pottery.
He starts with the question, well he eventually gets to it anyway: what was the noise that the Achean army made that sounded like Zeus beating the seven shades out of Typho
Erik Graff
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Homer scholars
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Contrary to the appended book description this has nothing to do with the late "Homeric Hymns". It does, though, have something to do with the two earlier epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey, attributed to "Homer" and to the writings of Hesiod. The focus, however, is more on the Greeks of the eighth century B.C.E., Homer and Hesiod being thought by author Fox to belong to that century, and most particularly on the Euboean Greek adventurers and merchants who, in his opinion based mostly on the arch ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Based on the description on the back of the book, I expected this to be a look at the historical basis for the Homeric myths. Instead, it's a look at the archeological and textual evidence for the trading routes and colonies of 8th century Greeks, principally Euboeans, and how their travels and interactions with other cultures may have influenced subsequent tellings of Greek myths. As such, it's okay (the prose is pretty dry), but many of the author's arguments seem to be based on speculation, a ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: homerica
I read this as a commentary to Homer and Hesiod, but it is so much more than that.

Fox has an interesting thesis that he presents in an engaging manner.

This is not a simple read. It is not a book to be skimmed. I found myself having to re-read passages, not from clumsy authorship, but because the threads are tightly knitted and require one to really mull them over.

The mix of anecdote, the consideration of the topic from multiple angles, make this a worthy read.

Among the more valuable points made
John Gordon
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I commenced this book with anticipation and high hopes but was unfortunately disappointed. The author weaves archeological, written and phonetic evidence together to understand the geographical origins of the myths of Homer and his time. The complexity of the archeological puzzle of the ancient times is incredible and the author is obviously very knowledgable on the subject.
Despite some interesting moments the reading was generally rather dry and heavy making the book a struggle to complete.
The concept is interesting, but the book is a little dull. There really isn't anything too new in the book. It provides good background and some interesting theories, but it :shrugs:. It's not the thriller the cover advertises.
David Thomson
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can imagine that this will be a bit of a marmite book. Robin Lane Fox has written some books previously with more of a popular feel but this feels much closer to his academic interests as a classicist and therefore this comes across as a PhD thesis, with a dense and detailed style. So be warned. This may not be your cup of tea.

There is a careful marshalling of his evidence - there is a great deal of discussion of pottery and dates, for example, for the first half of the book - to lay the groun
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Those who want history (me) about the 8th Century from this book get what they want and those who are looking for a book about Homer's heroes' myths don't really get what they want. Most of us will probably agree that the title is deceiving.

The book is about the cultures surrounding Homer. It's mostly a factual examination of lives based on and definitely obscured by our limited ability to interpret limited evidence from Homer's possible time period.

Homer's stories were probably composed during
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book on the period known as the Greek dark ages between the fall of the Mycenaean palace period and the Classic age of Greece.

Lane fox's central theme is that the Greek myths as told by Hesiod and Homer had there origins in a diaspora of Greek merchants, sailors and soldiers from Euboea both east to Turkish/ Levant coast and west to Sicily and Italy. In both locations they found geographical locations, tales and artefacts which they recognised as analogous to their own tales and myt
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greece, non-fiction
I liked this but I felt at times it became a little tedious.Robin Lane Fox explores questions ranging from the origins of Greek gods to the spread of the classical culture in the Mediterranean world.He uses archaeology,places,objects,language,local stories and Homer to explain how these ancient peoples interpreted and saw their environment.Some of his conclusions I found myself disagreeing with however for the most part I found this a very interesting and revealing account of how this ancient so ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book is fairly well-researched and thus, fairly dull. Advertised as a book that will focus on the Heroes of the Greek and Latin histories and the works of Homer, this book is really none of that. Rather than focus on the heroes themselves, this book focuses all on locations, locations, locations.

It has a lot of great information if you have a serious interest in the movement of ancient civilizations across the land. However, if you are just the average person picking the book up, thinking i
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't finish this book. The detailed descriptions of ancient archaelogical finds bogged down the whole book. I gave up about halfway, which I usually don't do. But so many other books are calling...
Niels de Terra
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rare and heroic scholarly achievement

Robin Lane Fox displays his absolute mastery of the subject in a manner that compels the erudite reader to press on and complete the journey guided by Fox's genius.
Margaret Sankey
From one of my favorite classicists, archeological and textual evidence for widespread contact between Mediterranean peoples, as seen in artistic works, mythology, religious practice and shared memories of natural disasters, "monsters" and political events
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this over Christmas break. It is essentially Fox's attempt to find some of the origins of what we call ancient Greek culture, particularly myth. Fascinating
Spencer Clevenger
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved how the author was able to demonstrate how various myths show up in different cultures. For that check out the chapter on travelling monsters.
Dec 22, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greek-and-latin
TLS book of the year
Dec 06, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Tom Holland on the TLS website.
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Follow the potsherds and reminisce about that historiography seminar in grad skool.
David Edmonds
I'm afraid I found it quite hard going and didn't make it to the very end ...
rated it really liked it
Feb 12, 2013
rated it really liked it
Jul 11, 2010
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Robin Lane Fox (born 1946) is an English historian, currently a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History.

Lane Fox was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Since 1977, he has been a tutor in Greek and Roman history, and since 1990 University Reader in Ancient History. He has also taught Greek and Latin literature and early Islamic history, a subject
More about Robin Lane Fox...

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“Their (the Greeks)encounters with foreign were not coloured by the belief that such people's religion was false and inferior, the belief that thinges Christians, Muslims, Hindus or atheist nowadays” 1 likes
“I wish I was here, or I wish I was there...' In our age of global travel we are all potential heirs to the simile of Hera's flight.” 0 likes
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