Homer was a traditional epic poet of ancient Greece between 1200 and 850 B.C. Seven ancient cities claimed Homer, but his birthplace, true identity, and age to which he lived are unknown. According to legend, Homer, assuming that he was one person, was a divinely inspired poet, blind, old, and poor, who made his living as an itinerant singer. Another tradition states that he competed in song with Hesoid.
Whatever Homer's tru identity, it is clear from his two epic masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, that Homer was not describing contemporary events, but was drawing upon historical material handed down from the Greek prehistoric period. Judging also from the skillful artistic construction of the two epics, he probably had access to an existing body of oral poetry. The perfected use of the hexameter is a further indication that this metrical form was the recognized medium for epic poetry, dating from an earlier period of Greek literature.
The first evidence of a writen text of Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey dates from the late 6Th century B.C., in Athens. In that city, every four years, both poems were recited at the Panathenea by professional rhapsodists, presumably from a written text, which may well have been prepared from other oral or written versions that existed at the time. The texts of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey as they are known today date from version assembled around 150 B.C. by the Alexandrian critic Aristarchus of Samothrace, which may or may not be identical with the text used earlier in Athens.
Homer's narrative of the siege and destruction of the city of Troy as presented in the Iliad is related to a real siege which took place about 1200 B.C. Soon after these events a large number of heroic songs or lays came into existence, forming the historical nucleus of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. However, it is impossible to determine which parts of Homer's poems are based on history and which is fiction and folklore, because so well are these elements in the artistic whole. Both Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are in the style of ancient oral poetry. The emphasis is placed on the major theme, flow of narrative, and especially on dramatic action; details are generic rather than particular. The language is rich, simple, and dignified, but the Homeric dialect is not any definite spoken speech of a specific place or time. It is rather a traditional dialect, mainly Ironic, though with a sparkling of Aeolic forms, as well as an element of very old Greek. In the main, too, the dialect of Homer is one molded by the needs of the dactylic hexameter.
Homer's characters such as Achilles, Hector, Nestor, Helen of Troy, Andromache, Penelope, and Odysseus are vivid personalities, and have remained as universal figures through the centuries to modern times. Homer's portrayals of the gods, such as Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Poseidon, and Athena became the ideal types for all later versions of these deities in poetry, paintings and sculpture. To the ancient Greeks Homer was the Bible and Shakespeare all in one; many cultivated Greeks knew the Iliad by heart. Even at the height of the Attic drama the Iliad and Odyssey were not overshadowed but were recited to large audiences. In modern times the books of Homer have influenced almost every school of Western poetry and literature.
The books known as the Homeric Poems are a large volume of epic poetry dealing with the sack of Troy and other aspects of the Trojan War. These books are not the works of Homer, but of other poets who wrote based on historic legends. Only fragments of the later epics still exist today.
The Odyssey is an epic poem by Homer, recounting the wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus after the fall of Troy, Like the Iliad, it is regarded as one of the greatest books ever produced. Particularly noteworthy in the Odyssey are the majesty of language, the saga like descriptions of Odysseus' desperate efforts to return to his home in Ithaca, and the detailed declination of the hero's character.
Homer's narrative begins with the victorious Greeks returning to their homes after sacking Troy. Odysseus' ships are driven by a storm on the coast of Thrace, where he plunders the land of the Chicones but loses a number of his crew. When he re embarks, a north wind blows his vessels to the country of the Lotophagi, on the coasts of Libya, where some of the companions of Odysseus eat the wondrous fruit and wish to rest forever. However their leader compels them to leave the land, and, sailing north again, they touch at the Island of Goats, where Odysseus leaves his fleet. Thence, with one ship, he proceeds to the land of the Cyclopes, where occurs the adventure in the cave of Polyphemus. With his reunited fleet he now visits the island of AEolus, ruler of the winds, who gives him a favoring breeze and the unfavorable winds tied in a skin. His companions, in search of treasure, open the skin, and at once they are swept back to island from which they are now sternly excluded. They then reach the land of the Laestrygonians, a race of cannibals who destroy all the ships but one, in which Odysseus escapes, landing next on the island of AEaea, inhabited by the sorceress Circe. After a year's sojourn there he is sent by Circe to the Kingdom of Hades, to inquire about his return from the seer Tiresias. Tiresias tells Odysseus the implacable enmity of the sea god Poseidon, whose son, Polyphemus, Odysseus has blinded, but encourages him at the same time with assurance that he will yet reach Ithaca in safety, if he does not meddle with the herds of the sun god Helios in Thrinacia.
Odysseus next passes in safety the perilous island of Sirens, but, when he sails between the monsters Scylla and Charybdis, Scylla devours six of his companions. He next comes to Thrinacia, where his crew insists on landing; while they are storm bound and while Odysseus is asleep, they kill, in spite of their oath, some of the cattle of Helios. When they sail away a fierce storm arises and Zeus sends forth a flash of lightning that destroys the ship. Everyone on board is drowned except Odysseus, who clings to the mast and is finally washed ashore on the island of Ogygia, the abode of the nymph Calypso, by whom he is held for seven years. The nymph offers him immortality if he will remain, but his love for his wife Penelope and longing for his home is too strong, and at the entreaty of his special guardian, Athena, Zeus sends Hermes, messenger of the gods, to command his release. Sailing eastward in a skiff of his own building, he is seen by the implacable Poseidon, who rouses against him a terrible storm which wrecks his skiff. He barely escapes, by the aid of the sea goddess Leucothea to the land of the Phaeacians. Naked and worn by fatigue, Odysseus falls asleep, but is found by Nausicaa, daughter of the King, Alcinous; she receives him kindly and brings him to the city. Entering the palace under Athena's protection, he is entertained by the King, who promises him safe convoy to his home. On the magic Phaeacian ship he falls asleep, and is landed, at Ithaca, with the rich presents of the Phaeacians, while still unconscious.
Disguised as a beggar, he goes to the hut of the swineherd Eumaeus, and there meets and reveals himself to his son Telemachus. The next day he is brought by Eumaeus to the palace, where he is recognized only by his old dog, Argus, and is harshly treated by the suitors of his wife, who during his long absence have been living riotously on his estate. After an interview with the unsuspecting Penelope, to whom he foretells her husbands return, he is recognized by his old nurse. Eurycleia, whom he binds to silence. When the suitors all fail to string the great bow, the test Penelope has proposed for her suitors, Odysseus takes it, easily strings it, and shoots the arrow through a row of twelve axes. Then, aided by Telemachus, Eumaeus, and the cowherd Philaetius, he slays all the insolent suitors. The last book of the Odyssey records his recognition by his father, Laertes, and a final reconciliation with the friends of the suitors, brought about by Athena's aid.
The Iliad is an epic poem by the Greek poet Homer, recounting the siege and destruction of Troy during the Trojan War, around 1200 B.C. The Iliad is regarded by literary historians as the first great Greek poetic work in Greek literature, and has been considered for generations as one of the great supreme masterpieces of world literature. Especially notable in the Iliad are the heroic action, the dramatic emotional crises engendered by by the clashing personalities of the Iliad's characters, and the imaginative beauty of it's language. The exact date that the Iliad was written is uncertain, however it is believed by some to have been written in the 10th century B.C. The first text of the Iliad is known to have appeared in the 6th century B.C. in Athens, where it was recited at the annual festival of Panathenea by Professional Rhapsodists. This mystery is famous as part of the Homeric Question which involves the question of the true identity of Homer.
The text of the Iliad as it exists today dates from writtings around 150 B.C. in Alexandria, and is divided into the twenty four books of the Iliad.
The Homeric Question is a controversy surrounding the identity of the Greek epic poet Homer, regarded traditionally as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Although the first written texts of these epics date from the 6Th century B.C., at least hundreds of years after the presumed death of Homer, it was generally agreed by ancient scholars that Homer was the author. Critical study of the Homeric texts was first undertaken during the Alexandrian period, beginning with Zenodotus (around 325-260 B.C.). The Alexandrian scholars made recensions of the texts and provided them with commentaries (scholia), but cast little doubt upon Homer being the author.
In modern times the German scholar Friedrich August Wolf was the first to question Homer as the author of the Iliad and Odyssey. In his prolegomena ad Homerum (1795) Wolf expounded the theory that the Iliad and the Odyssey are the work of several poets, arguing that the two poems were composed from pre-existing material by an editor of a later period. Wolf's ideas were extremely influential despite the opposition of many poets and scholars, including the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who were convinced that books revealing such unity of plot and consistency of characters as the Homeric epics could have been only written by one great poet. Wolf's theory was refined by the German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder, who maintained that the Iliad and Odyssey were not literary epics but folk epics composed during a long period of time by a number of anonymous poets, The theory was greatly elaborated and given its definitive statement in the books of German philologist Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm Lachmann. On the basis of an extended comparison between the Homeric books and the medieval German epic poem Nibelungenlied, lachmann attempted to show that the Iliad consists of sixteen independent folk epics, or lays, which were enlarged and compiled in to the present form of the work. Toward the end of the 19Th century most scholars adhered to the theory that the Iliad and the Odyssey were each an editorial hodgepodge based either on various earlier folk epics or, according to the German philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz Moellendorff, on a lost original Iliad or Odyssey.
With the greater archaeological knowledge of ancient Greece and Asia which was gained during the late 19Th and the early 20Th century, and with the ore careful study of the Homeric question by philologists and other scholars, the arguments of Wolf and his successors gradually were refuted. The scholarly consensus during the first half of the 20Th century was the Iliad and Odyssey are both the books of Homer as a single great poet. Despite some changes that have made their way into the books over the last two thousand years, it is assumed presently that the text of both epics is, for the most part, that of the original poet Homer. This opinion is borne out by the recent discover that a form of Greek was written as early as 1400 B.C., in a Minoan script. The only substantial disagreement is that between those scholars who hold, as did the ancients, that both poems were written by a single poet, and those who hold that the Odyssey was written some time later by an imitator of Homer. Modern scholars continue to agree with Wolf and Lachmann that the epics contain many incidents, characters, and stock epithets which previously might have been embodied in heroic folk songs. However, they assume that the poet or poets used these materials to compose completely original poetry, discounting the theory that the material merely were compiled into their present form by an editor or group of editors.