[xmca] Homer's colour blindness

From: Andy Blunden (ablunden@mira.net)
Date: Thu Aug 10 2000 - 15:41:04 PDT

I suspect this is an urban myth, but since I heard it as part of a course
in Hegel from an academic philosopher I wouldn't mind a second opinion.

The speaker claimed that Homer was almost colour blind, i.e., he know of
only a limited variety of colours, including describing the sea as "blood
red". This is well-known apparently. The speaker added that Mycean pottery
has also only a very limited palette of colours. For my part, I suspect
that this reflects the availability of materials in the ground and
proficiency in chemistry, if not the ravages of time. I can also believe
that outside of societies with a highly developed and widely used chemical
industry providing a wide range of artificial colours in the environment,
and a literature which talk about those colours, there is not a large
vocabulary of colour.

But the speaker claimed that the colour-sensing cones in the eye had not
fully evolved in Homer's time. I.e, despite being a philosopher, he
provided a biological explanation for the lack of a colour vocabulary in
ancient times.

He' was wrong wasn't he?


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