The man, the myth, the legend – it is without a doubt that most people in the West have heard of Homer. However, despite his world-renowned name, we know very little about the poet’s life. The Iliad and The Odyssey’s author is a figure of much debate among scholars. Here we have compiled a short biography of the man who changed the literary world. You will find out facts about Homer’s books, known information about his life, speculations about his identity, and more!
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🔎 What We Know about Homer
It is assumed that the Ancient Greek poet was born somewhere around 750 BC. Broadly speaking, his birth date is estimated to be between the 12th and 8th centuries B.C. Historians think that he lived somewhere around Chios, on the coast of Asia Minor. However, just like most facts about Homer’s life, these aren’t definite.
Truthfully, we aren’t even certain if a man named Homer existed. Many theories debate him and his books:
- Homer could have been the sole author of the epic poems, inspired by the Trojan War that happened nearby.
- Alternatively, the poems could have been passed down from generation to generation orally for hundreds of years. Homer simply could have been the person to put the words to paper for the first time.
- There is also a popular belief that the world-famous author was a group of bards. These people came together to compose the epics under a single name.
The Homeric question has been studied by scholars since ancient times and continues to fascinate people even now. If we agree that the poet Homer did exist, several ideas come up as to what the man looked like. The name itself could stem from Greek homeros – “blind.” This idea captivated many scholars for several reasons. Homer’s Odyssey notably depicts a blind but highly influential bard Demodocus. His talent is so immense that he manages to bring the great hero Odysseus to tears. This could have been a reference to the author himself. In any case, plenty of drawings and sculptures depict Homer as blind.
📚 Homer’s Books
Homer is known as the mysterious author who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. Nowadays, only these two literary classics are attributed to his authorship. However, back in Ancient Greece, a variety of other literature was associated with his name. All of Homer’s books supposedly followed the same hexameter verse. With time, we came to the understanding that somebody wrote them much later. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey continue to be his only known works. From this stems the question:
When did Homer write The Odyssey and The Iliad?
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It is believed that both works were written in his maturity. Studying the language of the poems, scholars have managed to find an approximate date of their writing:
- The Iliad is speculated to have been written around 762 B.C. It tells the story of the fabled Trojan War, which happened eras earlier. This is why scholars also believe that it is an oral tradition going back to the 13th century B.C.
- The Odyssey appeared much later, supposedly in Homer’s old age. Its writing is dated around 725 B.C.
The study of Homer and his works is one of the oldest topics of debate. Some of the earliest criticisms regard the mythology in Iliad and Odyssey, claiming that his treatment of gods is immoral. Many critics and philosophers defended and denounced Homer in equal parts.
However, his legacy is unquestionable. The two fabled epics were among the first-ever texts to be taught to students in school. They lay the foundation for almost all following arts and sciences in the West. And as for Greece, Homer will forever remain at the very heart of their culture.
✒️ Homer’s Writing Style
As was mentioned before, many believe that Homeric epic poems depend on oral tradition. It is an ancient storytelling technique used by bards and poets.
The events described in The Iliad take place centuries before it was written. Therefore, it is likely that the poem was an oral tale first – or perhaps, a combination of many different tales. It was finally written down after the invention of the first Greek alphabet in the 8th century B.C. If Homer existed, he could have been one of the first literate authors in Greece.
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The language that appears in the poems is what we know as Homeric Greek or Epic Greek. It is a combination of Ionic and Aeolic dialects from different periods. This would later serve to become the language of all epic poetry.
Despite not knowing much about him, Homer proved to be a pioneer in his contributions to our understanding of linguistics. His works emphasize the importance of meter in poetry. He masterfully used it as a tool to help him and others to memorize the contents of the massive epics. The Iliad is also believed to be the very first oral epic poem in existence. Homer was the first to promote this style of literature, inspired by emotion and drama. Even nowadays, we continue to study The Iliad and The Odyssey’s author’s purpose. We may never know the full truth behind Homer’s life, but his legacy lives on.