Smyrna a man named Phemius, a teacher of literature and music, who, not being married, engaged Critheis to manage his household, and spin the flax he received as the price of his scholastic labours. So satisfactory was her performance of this task, and so modest her conduct, that he made proposals of marriage, declaring himself, as a further inducement, willing to adopt her son, who, he asserted, would become a clever man, if he were carefully brought up."
They were married; careful cultivation ripened the talents which nature had bestowed, and Melesigenes soon surpassed his schoolfellows in every attainment, and, when older, rivalled his preceptor in wisdom. Phemius died, leaving him sole heir to his property, and his mother soon followed. Melesigenes carried on his adopted father's school with great success, exciting the admiration not only of the inhabitants of Smyrna, but also of the strangers whom the trade carried on there, especially in the exportation of corn, attracted to that city. Among these visitors, one Mentes, from Leucadia, the modern Santa Maura, who evinced a knowledge and intelligence rarely found in those times, persuaded Melesigenes to close his school, and accompany him on his travels. He promised not only to pay his expenses, but to furnish him with a further stipend, urging, that, "While he was yet young, it was fitting that he should see with his own eyes the countries and cities which might hereafter be the subjects of his discourses." Melesigenes consented, and set out with his patron, "examining all the curiosities of the countries they visited, and informing himself of everything by interrogating those whom he met." We may also suppose, that he wrote memoirs of all that he deemed worthy of preservation. Having set sail from Tyrrhenia and Iberia, they reached Ithaca. Here Melesigenes, who had already suffered in his eyes, became much worse; and Mentes, who was about to leave for Leucadia, left him to the medical superintendence of a friend of his, named Mentor, the son of Alcinor. Under his hospitable and intelligent host, Melesigenes rapidly became acquainted with the legends respecting Ulysses, which afterwards formed the subject of the Odyssey. The inhabitants of Ithaca assert, that it was here that Melesigenes became blind, but the Colophonians make their city the seat of that misfortune. He then returned to Smyrna, where he applied himself to the study of poetry.
But poverty soon drove him to Cumae. Having passed over the Hermaean plain, he arrived at Neon Teichos, the New Wall, a colony of Cumae. Here his misfortunes and poetical talent gained him the friendship of one Tychias, an armourer. "And up to my time," continues the author, "the inhabitants showed the place where he used to sit when giving a recitation of his verses; and they greatly honoured the spot. Here also a poplar grew, which they said had sprung up ever since Melesigenes arrived."
But poverty still drove him on, and he went by way of Larissa, as being the most convenient road. Here, the Cumans say, he composed an epitaph on Gordius, king of Phrygia, which has however, and with greater probability, been attributed to Cleobulus of Lindus.
Arrived at Cumae, he frequented the conversaziones of the old men, and delighted all by the charms of his poetry. Encouraged by this favourable reception, he declared that, if they would allow him a public maintenance, he would render their city most gloriously renowned. They avowed their willingness to support him in the measure he proposed, and procured him an audience in the council. Having made the speech, with the purport of which our author has forgotten to acquaint us, he retired, and left them to debate respecting the answer to be given to his proposal.
The greater part of the assembly seemed favourable to the poet's demand, but one man "observed that if they were to feed Homers, they would be encumbered with a multitude of useless people." "From this circumstance," says the writer, "Melesigenes acquired the name of Homer, for the Cumans call blind men Homers." With a love of economy, which shows how similar the world has always been in its treatment of literary men, the pension was denied, and the poet vented his disappointment in a wish that Cumae might never produce a poet capable of giving it renown and glory.
At Phocaea Homer was destined to experience another literary distress. One Thestorides, who aimed at the reputation of poetical genius, kept Homer in his own house, and allowed him a pittance, on condition of the verses of the poet passing in his name. Having collected sufficient poetry to be profitable, Thestorides, like some would-be literary publishers, neglected the man whose brains he had sucked, and left him. At his departure, Homer is said to have observed: "O Thestorides, of the many things hidden from the knowledge of man, nothing is more unintelligible than the human heart."
Homer continued his career of difficulty and distress, until some Chian merchants, struck by the similarity of the verses they heard him recite, acquainted him with the fact that Thestorides was pursuing a profitable livelihood by the recital of the very same poems. This at once determined him to set out for Chios. No vessel happened then to be setting sail thither, but he found one ready to start for Erythrae, a town of Ionia, which faces that island, and he prevailed upon the seamen to allow him to accompany them. Having embarked, he invoked a favourable wind, and prayed that he might be able to expose the imposture of Thestorides, who, by his breach of hospitality, had drawn down the wrath of Jove the Hospitable.
At Erythrae, Homer fortunately met with a person who had known him in Phocaea, by whose assistance he at length, after some difficulty, reached the little hamlet of Pithys. Here he met with an adventure, which we will continue in the words of our author. "Having set out from Pithys, Homer went on, attracted by the cries of some goats that were pasturing. The dogs barked on his approach, and he cried out. Glaucus (for that was the name of the goat-herd) heard his voice, ran up quickly, called off his dogs, and drove them away from Homer. For some time he stood wondering how a blind man should have reached such a place alone, and what could be his design in coming. He then went up to him and inquired who he was, and how he had come to desolate places and untrodden spots, and of what he stood in need. Homer, by recounting to him the whole history of his misfortunes, moved him with compassion; and he took him and led him to his cot, and, having lit a fire, bade him sup.
"The dogs, instead of eating, kept barking at the stranger, according to their usual habit. Whereupon Homer addressed Glaucus thus: O Glaucus, my friend, prythee attend to my behest. First give the dogs their supper at the doors of the hut: for so it is better, since, whilst they watch, nor thief nor wild beast will approach the fold.
"Glaucus was pleased with the advice and marvelled at its author. Having finished supper, they banqueted afresh on conversation, Homer narrating his wanderings, and telling of the cities he had visited.
"At length they retired to rest; but on the following morning, Glaucus resolved to go to his master, and acquaint him with his meeting with Homer. Having left the goats in charge of a fellow-servant, he left Homer at home, promising to return quickly. Having arrived at Bolissus, a place near the farm, and finding his mate, he told him the whole story respecting Homer and his journey. He paid little attention to what he said, and blamed Glaucus for his stupidity in taking in and feeding maimed and enfeebled persons. However, he bade him bring the stranger to him.
"Glaucus told Homer what had taken place, and bade him follow him, assuring him that good fortune would be the result. Conversation soon showed that the stranger was a man of much cleverness and