Francis Bartlett Donation of 1900, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Mantiklos offers me as a tithe to Apollo of the silver bow. / Do you, Phoebus, give some pleasing favor in return?” Thus read two lines of Greek dactylic hexameter incised on the thighs of this 8-inch-tall, late-eighth-century B.C.E. bronze statue from Thebes. The statue was probably an offering to Apollo (also called Phoebus) made by a man named Mantiklos, who hoped to be recompensed by the god. The emergence of Greek inscriptions in the eighth century suggests to some scholars that Homer’s poems were written down at that time, dictated by a blind oral poet named Homer to a literate scribe. Gregory Nagy does not accept this dictation model, however; he argues that the poems continued to evolve in the oral tradition until the second century B.C.E., when scholars at the Alexandria Library produced an “authentic” written version of the Iliad and the Odyssey.