Today, P J Miranda at the Federal Technological University of Paraná in Brazil and a couple of pals study the social network between characters in Homer’s ancient Greek poem, the Odyssey.
Their conclusion is that this social network bears remarkable similarities to Facebook, Twitter and the like and that this may offer an important clue about the origin of this ancient story.
Miranda and co think of each character in the Odyssey as a node in the network. They say a link exists between two characters when they meet in the story, when they speak directly to each other, cite one another to a third character or when it is otherwise clear that they know each other.
In analysing the Odyssey, they identified 342 unique characters and over 1700 relations between them. Having constructed the social network, Miranda and co then examined its structure.
“Odyssey’s social network is small world, highly clustered, slightly hierarchical and resilient to random attacks,” they say. What’s interesting about this conclusion is that these same characteristics all crop up in social networks in the real world. Miranda and co say this is good evidence that the Odyssey is based, at least in part, on a real social network and so must be a mixture of myth and fact.