In the brilliant and unsettling fragment “Homer’s Contest,” found among Nietzsche’s unpublished writings after his death in 1900, the philosopher returns to obsessive themes originally explored in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music
(1872): namely, that contrary to the reigning morality of his time—a Protestant-Christian morality, at least officially—it is not “natural” not to fight; it is not “natural” not to fight to the death, in the service of allowing “hatred [to] flow forth fully”; indeed, a “noble culture” is one that, like the ancient Greek culture, arises from “the altar of the expiation of murder.”
Far from being barbaric, the stylized Greek, or Homeric, contest gives, in Nietzsche’s view, a crucial ritualistic form to mankind’s most murderous instincts, in this way containing the horror of anarchic violence: not brutality per se but the brutality of chaos is the true horror of humankind. In the Homeric world—the world of stylized art—we encounter “artistic deception” of a kind that renders such horror bearable. But
what do we behold when, no longer led and protected by the hand of Homer, we stride back into the pre-Homeric world? Only night and terror and an imagination accustomed to the horrible. What kind of earthly existence do these revolting, terrible theogonic myths reflect? A life ruled only by the children of Night: strife, lust, deceit, old age, and death.
For the rest of this review of the book go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/arch...y-of-the-ring/