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Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
author and
epic poet An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of ...
. He is the reputed author of the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an in , traditionally attributed to . Usually considered to have been written down circa the 8th century BC, the ''Iliad'' i ...

Iliad
'' and the ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following pe ...
'', the two epic poems that are the foundational works of
ancient Greek literature Ancient Greek literature is written in the language from the earliest texts until the time of the . The earliest surviving works of ancient Greek literature, dating back to the early , are the two epic poems the ' and the ', set in an ideali ...
. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential authors of all time. The ''Iliad'' is set during the
Trojan War In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Homer), Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris (mythology), Paris of Troy took Helen of Troy, Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the ...
, the ten-year siege of the city of
Troy Troy (Greek language, Greek: Τροία) or Ilium (Greek language, Greek: Ίλιον) was an ancient city located at Hisarlik in present-day Turkey, south-west of Çanakkale. It is known as the setting for the Greek mythology, Greek myth of the ...

Troy
by a coalition of
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King
Agamemnon In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of ...
and the warrior
Achilles In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of s originally told by the , and a of . These stories concern the and , the lives and activities of , , and , and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own and practices. ...

Achilles
lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The ''Odyssey'' focuses on the ten-year journey home of
Odysseus Odysseus ( ; grc-gre, Ὀδυσσεύς, Ὀδυσεύς, OdysseúsOdyseús, ), also known by the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...

Odysseus
, king of
Ithaca Ithaca, Ithaki or Ithaka (; Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population ...

Ithaca
, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ...
, the most widespread being that he was a blind
bard In Celtic cultures, a bard was a professional Storytelling, story teller, verse-maker, music composer, Oral history, oral historian and genealogy, genealogist, employed by a patron (such as a monarch or noble) to commemorate one or more of the ...

bard
from
Ionia Ionia (; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). Ancient ...
, a region of central coastal
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
in present-day
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and ...

Turkey
. Modern scholars consider these accounts
legend A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, tra ...

legend
ary. * * * The question of who, when, where and under what circumstances the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' were composed continues to be debated. Some scholars consider that the two works were written by different authors. It is generally accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC. The poems are in
Homeric Greek Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic Greek, Ionic and Aeolic Greek, Aeolic, with a fe ...
, also known as Epic Greek, a
literary language A literary language is the form of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system c ...
which shows a mixture of features of the
Ionic Ionic or Ionian may refer to: Arts and entertainment * Ionic meter, a poetic metre in ancient Greek and Latin poetry * Ionian mode, a musical mode or a diatonic scale Places and peoples * Ionian, of or from Ionia, an ancient region in western An ...
and
Aeolic In linguistics, Aeolic Greek (), also known as Aeolian (), Lesbian or Lesbic dialect, is the set of dialects of Ancient Greek spoken mainly in Boeotia; in Thessaly; in the Aegean island of Lesbos; and in the Greek colonies of Aeolis in Anatolia ...
dialects from different centuries; the predominant influence is Eastern Ionic. Most researchers believe that the poems were originally transmitted orally. From
antiquity Antiquity or Antiquities may refer to Historical objects or periods Artifacts * Antiquities, objects or artifacts surviving from ancient cultures Eras Any period before the European Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages ...
until the present day, the influence of Homeric epic on
Western civilization Western culture, also known as Western civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, is the heritage Heritage may refer to: History and society * In history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired ...
has been great, inspiring many of its most famous works of literature, music, art and film. The Homeric epics were the greatest influence on ancient Greek culture and education; to
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thoug ...

Plato
, Homer was simply the one who "has taught Greece" (τὴν Ἑλλάδα πεπαίδευκεν : ''tēn Helláda pepaídeuken'').


Works attributed to Homer

Today only the ''Iliad'' and ''the'' ''Odyssey'' are associated with the name 'Homer'. In antiquity, a very large number of other works were sometimes attributed to him, including the ''
Homeric Hymns The ''Homeric Hymns'' () are a collection of thirty-three anonymous ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), gener ...
'', the ''
Contest of Homer and Hesiod The ''Contest of Homer and Hesiod'' (Greek: ''Ἀγὼν Oμήρου καὶ Ἡσιόδου'', Latin: ''Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi'' or simply ''Certamen'') is a Greek narrative that expands a remark made in Hesiod's ''Works and Days'' to construct ...
'', the ''
Little Iliad The ''Little Iliad'' (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
'', the ''
Nostoi The ''Nostoi'' ( el, Νόστοι, ''Nostoi'', "Returns"), also known as ''Returns'' or ''Returns of the Greeks'', is a lost Epic poetry, epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the Trojan cycle, which told the enti ...
'', the ''
Thebaid The Thebaid or Thebais ( grc-gre, Θηβαΐς, ''Thēbaïs'') was a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inha ...
'', the ''
Cypria The ''Cypria'' ( grc-gre, Κύπρια ''Kúpria''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Lati ...
'', the ''
Epigoni In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of t ...
'', the comic mini-epic ''
Batrachomyomachia The ''Batrachomyomachia'' ( grc, Βατραχομυομαχία, from , " frog", , "mouse", and , "battle") or ''Battle of the Frogs and Mice'' is a comic epic, or a parody of the ''Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, ', ; sometimes refe ...
'' ("The Frog-Mouse War"), the '' Margites'', the ''
Capture of Oechalia ''The Capture of Oechalia'' (traditionally ''The Sack of Oechalia'', grc, Οἰχαλίας Ἅλωσις) is a fragmentary Greek epic that was variously attributed in Antiquity to either Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') ...
'', and the '' Phocais''. These claims are not considered authentic today and were by no means universally accepted in the ancient world. As with the multitude of legends surrounding Homer's life, they indicate little more than the centrality of Homer to ancient Greek culture.


Ancient biographical traditions

Some ancient claims about Homer were established early and repeated often. They include that Homer was blind (taking as self-referential a passage describing the blind bard Demodocus), that he was born in
Chios Chios (; el, Χίος, Khíos ) is the fifth largest of the Greece, Greek list of islands of Greece, islands, situated in the northern Aegean Sea. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. Chios is notable for its exports of Mast ...

Chios
, that he was the son of the
river Meles The river Meles ( el, Μέλης) (more appropriately described as "Meles Brook") is a stream charged with history and famous in literature, especially by virtue of being associated in a common and consistent tradition with Homer's birth and works, ...
and the nymph Critheïs, that he was a wandering bard, that he composed a varying list of other works (the "Homerica"), that he died either in
Ios iOS (formerly iPhone OS) is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its hardware. It is the operating system that powers many of the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPod Touch; the t ...
or after failing to solve a riddle set by fishermen, and various explanations for the name "Homer" (Ὅμηρος : Hómēros). The two best known ancient biographies of Homer are the '' Life of Homer'' by the Pseudo-Herodotus and the ''
Contest of Homer and Hesiod The ''Contest of Homer and Hesiod'' (Greek: ''Ἀγὼν Oμήρου καὶ Ἡσιόδου'', Latin: ''Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi'' or simply ''Certamen'') is a Greek narrative that expands a remark made in Hesiod's ''Works and Days'' to construct ...
''. In the early 4th century BC
Alcidamas Alcidamas ( grc-gre, Ἀλκιδάμας), of Elaea, in Aeolis Aeolis (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. ...
composed a fictional account of a poetry contest at Chalcis with both Homer and
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēr ...
. Homer was expected to win, and answered all of Hesiod's questions and puzzles with ease. Then, each of the poets was invited to recite the best passage from their work. Hesiod selected the beginning of ''
Works and Days The ''Works and Days'' ( grc, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Érga kaì Hēmérai)The ''Works and Days'' is sometimes called by the Latin translation of the title, ''Opera et Dies''. Common abbreviations are ''WD'' and ''Op''. for ''Opera''. ...
'': "When the
Pleiades The Pleiades (), also known as The Seven Sisters, Messier 45, and other names by different cultures, is an asterism and an open star cluster An open cluster is a group of up to a few thousand star A star is an astronomical object consi ...
born of
Atlas Blaeu's world map, originally prepared by Joan Blaeu for his ''Atlas Maior">Joan_Blaeu.html" ;"title="world map, originally prepared by Joan Blaeu">world map, originally prepared by Joan Blaeu for his ''Atlas Maior'', published in the first b ...

Atlas
... all in due season". Homer chose a description of Greek warriors in formation, facing the foe, taken from the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an in , traditionally attributed to . Usually considered to have been written down circa the 8th century BC, the ''Iliad'' i ...

Iliad
''. Though the crowd acclaimed Homer victor, the judge awarded Hesiod the prize; the poet who praised
husbandry Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of ...
, he said, was greater than the one who told tales of battles and slaughter.


History of Homeric scholarship


Ancient

The study of Homer is one of the oldest topics in scholarship, dating back to antiquity. Nonetheless, the aims of Homeric studies have changed over the course of the millennia. The earliest preserved comments on Homer concern his treatment of the gods, which hostile critics such as the poet Xenophanes of Colophon denounced as immoral. The allegorist Theagenes of Rhegium is said to have defended Homer by arguing that the Homeric poems are
allegories As a literary device, an allegory is a narrative in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Authors have used allegory throughout history in all forms of art to illustrate ...

allegories
. The ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' were widely used as school texts in ancient Greek and Hellenistic cultures. They were the first literary works taught to all students. The ''Iliad'', particularly its first few books, was far more intently studied than the ''Odyssey'' during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. As a result of the poems' prominence in classical Greek education, extensive commentaries on them developed to explain parts of the poems that were culturally or linguistically difficult. During the
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31  ...
and Roman periods, many interpreters, especially the
Stoics Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the ph ...
, who believed that Homeric poems conveyed Stoic doctrines, regarded them as allegories, containing hidden wisdom. Perhaps partially because of the Homeric poems' extensive use in education, many authors believed that Homer's original purpose had been to educate. Homer's wisdom became so widely praised that he began to acquire the image of almost a prototypical philosopher.
Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survi ...
scholars such as
Eustathius of Thessalonica Eustathius of Thessalonica (or Eustathios of Thessalonike; el, Εὐστάθιος Θεσσαλονίκης; c. 1115 – 1195/6) was a scholar and . He is most noted for his contemporary account of the by the in 1185, for his orations and for h ...
and
John Tzetzes John Tzetzes ( gr, Ἰωάννης Τζέτζης, Iōánnēs Tzétzēs; c. 1110, Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (), T ...
produced commentaries, extensions and
scholia Scholia (singular scholium or scholion, from grc, σχόλιον, "comment, interpretation") are grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of langu ...
to Homer, especially in the twelfth century. Eustathius's commentary on the ''Iliad'' alone is massive, sprawling over nearly 4,000 oversized pages in a twenty-first century printed version and his commentary on the ''Odyssey'' an additional nearly 2,000.


Modern

In 1488, the Greek scholar
Demetrios Chalkokondyles Demetrios Chalkokondyles ( el, Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης ), Latinized as Demetrius Chalcocondyles and found variously as Demetricocondyles, Chalcocondylas or Chalcondyles (14239 January 1511) was one of the most eminent Greek ...

Demetrios Chalkokondyles
published the ''
editio princeps In classical scholarship Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in the Western world traditionally refers to the study of Ancient Greek literature, Classical Greek and Latin literature, Roman literature in their o ...
'' of the Homeric poems. The earliest modern Homeric scholars started with the same basic approaches towards the Homeric poems as scholars in antiquity. The allegorical interpretation of the Homeric poems that had been so prevalent in antiquity returned to become the prevailing view of the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
. Renaissance humanists praised Homer as the archetypically wise poet, whose writings contain hidden wisdom, disguised through allegory. In western Europe during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
,
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three ...

Virgil
was more widely read than Homer and Homer was often seen through a Virgilian lens. In 1664, contradicting the widespread praise of Homer as the epitome of wisdom, François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac wrote a scathing attack on the Homeric poems, declaring that they were incoherent, immoral, tasteless, and without style, that Homer never existed, and that the poems were hastily cobbled together by incompetent editors from unrelated oral songs. Fifty years later, the English scholar
Richard Bentley Richard Bentley FRS (; 27 January 1662 – 14 July 1742) was an English classical scholar, critic, and theologian. Considered the "founder of historical philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system ...

Richard Bentley
concluded that Homer did exist, but that he was an obscure, prehistoric oral poet whose compositions bear little relation to the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' as they have been passed down. According to Bentley, Homer "wrote a Sequel of Songs and Rhapsodies, to be sung by himself for small Earnings and good Cheer at Festivals and other Days of Merriment; the ''Ilias'' he wrote for men, and the ''Odysseis'' for the other Sex. These loose songs were not collected together in the Form of an epic Poem till
Pisistratus Peisistratos ( grc-gre, Πεισίστρατος; died 528/27 BC), latinised Peisistratus or Pisistratus, the son of Hippokrates, was a ruler of ancient Athens Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, c ...
' time, about 500 Years after."
Friedrich August Wolf Friedrich August Wolf Friedrich August Wolf (; 15 February 1759 – 8 August 1824) was a German Classicist and is considered the founder of modern Philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of com ...

Friedrich August Wolf
's ''Prolegomena ad Homerum'', published in 1795, argued that much of the material later incorporated into the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' was originally composed in the tenth century BC in the form of short, separate oral songs, which passed through oral tradition for roughly four hundred years before being assembled into prototypical versions of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' in the sixth century BC by literate authors. After being written down, Wolf maintained that the two poems were extensively edited, modernized, and eventually shaped into their present state as artistic unities. Wolf and the "Analyst" school, which led the field in the nineteenth century, sought to recover the original, authentic poems which were thought to be concealed by later excrescences. Within the Analyst school were two camps: proponents of the "lay theory", which held that the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' were put together from a large number of short, independent songs, and proponents of the "nucleus theory", which held that Homer had originally composed shorter versions of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', which later poets expanded and revised. A small group of scholars opposed to the Analysts, dubbed "Unitarians", saw the later additions as superior, the work of a single inspired poet. By around 1830, the central preoccupations of Homeric scholars, dealing with whether or not "Homer" actually existed, when and how the Homeric poems originated, how they were transmitted, when and how they were finally written down, and their overall unity, had been dubbed "the Homeric Question". Following
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, the Analyst school began to fall out of favor among Homeric scholars. It did not die out entirely, but it came to be increasingly seen as a discredited dead end. Starting in around 1928,
Milman Parry Milman Parry (June 23, 1902 – December 3, 1935) was an American scholar of epic poetry An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordin ...
and
Albert Lord Albert Bates Lord (September 15, 1912 – July 29, 1991) was a professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusett ...
, after their studies of folk bards in the Balkans, developed the "Oral-Formulaic Theory" that the Homeric poems were originally composed through improvised oral performances, which relied on traditional epithets and poetic formulas. This theory found very wide scholarly acceptance and explained many previously puzzling features of the Homeric poems, including their unusually archaic language, their extensive use of stock epithets, and their other "repetitive" features. Many scholars concluded that the "Homeric question" had finally been answered. Meanwhile, the 'Neoanalysts' sought to bridge the gap between the 'Analysts' and 'Unitarians'. The Neoanalysts sought to trace the relationships between the Homeric poems and other epic poems, which have now been lost, but of which modern scholars do possess some patchy knowledge. Neoanalysts hold that knowledge of earlier versions of the epics can be derived from anomalies of structure and detail in the surviving versions of the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey''. These anomalies point to earlier versions of the ''Iliad'' in which Ajax played a more prominent role, in which the Achaean embassy to Achilles comprised different characters, and in which Patroclus was actually mistaken for Achilles by the Trojans. They point to earlier versions of the ''Odyssey'' in which Telemachus went in search of news of his father not to Menelaus in Sparta but to Idomeneus in Crete, in which Telemachus met up with his father in Crete and conspired with him to return to Ithaca disguised as the soothsayer Theoclymenus, and in which Penelope recognized Odysseus much earlier in the narrative and conspired with him in the destruction of the suitors.


Contemporary

Most contemporary scholars, although they disagree on other questions about the genesis of the poems, agree that the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' were not produced by the same author, based on "the many differences of narrative manner, theology, ethics, vocabulary, and geographical perspective, and by the apparently imitative character of certain passages of the ''Odyssey'' in relation to the ''Iliad''." Nearly all scholars agree that the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' are unified poems, in that each poem shows a clear overall design, and that they are not merely strung together from unrelated songs. It is also generally agreed that each poem was composed mostly by a single author, who probably relied heavily on older oral traditions. Nearly all scholars agree that the ''Doloneia'' in Book X of the ''Iliad'' is not part of the original poem, but rather a later insertion by a different poet. Some ancient scholars believed Homer to have been an eyewitness to the
Trojan War In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Homer), Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris (mythology), Paris of Troy took Helen of Troy, Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the ...
; others thought he had lived up to 500 years afterwards. Contemporary scholars continue to debate the date of the poems. A long history of oral transmission lies behind the composition of the poems, complicating the search for a precise date. At one extreme,
Richard Janko Richard Charles Murray Janko (born May 30, 1955) is an Anglo-American classical scholar and the Gerald F. Else Distinguished University Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan The University of Michigan (UM, U-M, U of M, ...
has proposed a date for both poems to the eighth century BC based on linguistic analysis and statistics. Barry B. Powell dates the composition of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'' to sometime between 800 and 750 BC, based on the statement from
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
, who lived in the late fifth century BC, that Homer lived four hundred years before his own time "and not more" (καὶ οὐ πλέοσι), and on the fact that the poems do not mention
hoplite Hoplites () ( grc, ὁπλίτης : hoplítēs) were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 B ...
battle tactics,
inhumation Burial, also known as interment or inhumation, is a method of final disposition wherein a dead person or non-human animal is placed into the ground, sometimes with objects. This is usually accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing th ...

inhumation
, or literacy.
Martin Litchfield West Martin Litchfield West, (23 September 1937 – 13 July 2015) was a British philologist and Classics, classical scholar. In recognition of his contribution to scholarship, he was awarded the Order of Merit in 2014. West wrote on Music of Ancient ...
has argued that the ''Iliad'' echoes the poetry of
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēr ...
, and that it must have been composed around 660–650 BC at the earliest, with the ''Odyssey'' up to a generation later. He also interprets passages in the ''Iliad'' as showing knowledge of historical events that occurred in the ancient Near East during the middle of the seventh century BC, including the destruction of
Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Babil'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bavel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babili'' *Kassite The Kassites ...

Babylon
by
Sennacherib Sennacherib (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbreviation_of_logotype,_from__el.html" ;"title="Chiswick_Press_. ...

Sennacherib
in 689 BC and the
Sack of Thebes The Sack of Thebes took place in 663 BC in the city of Thebes at the hands of the Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire ( Assyrian cuneiform: ''mat Aš-šur KI'', "Country of the city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (19 ...
by
Ashurbanipal Ashurbanipal, also spelled Assurbanipal, Asshurbanipal and Asurbanipal (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo up Chiswick_Press.html"_;"title="Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press">Coat_of_arms_of_the_Chiswick_Press_ A_logo_(abbrevi ...
in 663/4 BC. At the other extreme, a few American scholars such as
Gregory Nagy Gregory Nagy ( hu, Nagy Gergely, ; born Budapest, October 22, 1942)"CV: Gregory Nagy"
''grego ...
see "Homer" as a continually evolving tradition, which grew much more stable as the tradition progressed, but which did not fully cease to continue changing and evolving until as late as the middle of the second century BC. "'Homer" is a name of unknown etymological origin, around which many theories were erected in antiquity. One such linkage was to the Greek (''hómēros''), "hostage" (or "surety"). The explanations suggested by modern scholars tend to mirror their position on the overall Homeric question. Nagy interprets it as "he who fits (the song) together". West has advanced both possible Greek and Phoenician etymologies.


Historicity of the Homeric epics and Homeric society

Scholars continue to debate questions such as whether the Trojan War actually took place – and if so when and where – and to what extent the society depicted by Homer is based on his own or one which was, even at the time of the poems' composition, known only as legends. The Homeric epics are largely set in the east and center of the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...

Mediterranean
, with some scattered references to
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
,
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
and other distant lands, in a warlike society that resembles that of the Greek world slightly before the hypothesized date of the poems' composition. In ancient Greek chronology, the sack of Troy was dated to 1184 BC. By the nineteenth century, there was widespread scholarly skepticism that the Trojan War had ever happened and that Troy had even existed, but in 1873
Heinrich Schliemann Heinrich Schliemann (; 6 January 1822 – 26 December 1890) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germa ...

Heinrich Schliemann
announced to the world that he had discovered the ruins of Homer's Troy at
Hissarlik Hisarlik (Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ε ...
in modern
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and ...

Turkey
. Some contemporary scholars think the destruction of Troy VIIa ''circa'' 1220 BC was the origin of the myth of the Trojan War, others that the poem was inspired by multiple similar sieges that took place over the centuries. Most scholars now agree that the Homeric poems depict customs and elements of the material world that are derived from different periods of Greek history. For instance, the heroes in the poems use bronze weapons, characteristic of the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age sys ...
in which the poems are set, rather than the later
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's pa ...
during which they were composed; yet the same heroes are cremated (an Iron Age practice) rather than buried (as they were in the Bronze Age). In some parts of the Homeric poems, heroes are accurately described as carrying large shields like those used by warriors during the
Mycenaean period Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features ...
, but, in other places, they are instead described carrying the smaller shields that were commonly used during the time when the poems were written in the early Iron Age. In the ''Iliad'' 10.260–265, Odysseus is described as wearing a helmet made of boar's tusks. Such helmets were not worn in Homer's time, but were commonly worn by aristocratic warriors between 1600 and 1150 BC. The decipherment of
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The tradition ...
in the 1950s by
Michael Ventris Michael George Francis Ventris, (; 12 July 1922 – 6 September 1956) was an English architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in ...
and continued archaeological investigation has increased modern scholars' understanding of
Aegean civilisation Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age Europe, Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and t ...
, which in many ways resembles the ancient Near East more than the society described by Homer. Some aspects of the Homeric world are simply made up; for instance, the ''Iliad'' 22.145–56 describes there being two springs that run near the city of Troy, one that runs steaming hot and the other that runs icy cold. It is here that Hector takes his final stand against Achilles. Archaeologists, however, have uncovered no evidence that springs of this description ever actually existed.


Style and language

The Homeric epics are written in an artificial
literary language A literary language is the form of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system c ...
or 'Kunstsprache' only used in epic
hexameterHexameter is a metrical line of verses consisting of six feet (a "foot" here is the pulse, or major accent, of words in an English line of poetry; in Greek and Latin a "foot" is not an accent, but describes various combinations of syllables). It wa ...

hexameter
poetry. Homeric Greek shows features of multiple regional Greek dialects and periods, but is fundamentally based on
Ionic Greek Ionic Greek ( grc, Ἑλληνική Ἰωνική, Hellēnikē Iōnikē) was a of the Attic–Ionic or Eastern of . History The Ionic dialect appears to have originally spread from the Greek mainland across the at the time of the s, around t ...
, in keeping with the tradition that Homer was from Ionia. Linguistic analysis suggests that the ''Iliad'' was composed slightly before the ''Odyssey'', and that Homeric formulae preserve older features than other parts of the poems. The poems were composed in unrhymed
dactylic hexameter Dactylic hexameter (also known as "heroic hexameter" and "the meter of epic") is a form of meter The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter (American spelling Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and ...
; ancient Greek
metre The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter (American spelling Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the same country, there are only slight regional variations in English ...
was quantity-based rather than stress-based. Homer frequently uses set phrases such as
epithets An epithet (, ) is a byname, or a descriptive term (word or phrase), accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, o ...
('crafty
Odysseus Odysseus ( ; grc-gre, Ὀδυσσεύς, Ὀδυσεύς, OdysseúsOdyseús, ), also known by the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...

Odysseus
', 'rosy-fingered
Dawn Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of twilight Twilight is the of the lower when the Sun is not directly visible because it is below the . Twilight is produced by in the upper atmosphere, illuminating the lower atmosphere so ...

Dawn
', 'owl-eyed
Athena Athena or Athene, often given the epithet An epithet (, ) is a byname, or a descriptive term (word or phrase), accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied ...

Athena
', etc.), Homeric formulae ('and then answered im/her Agamemnon, king of men', 'when the early-born rose-fingered Dawn came to light', 'thus he/she spoke'), Homeric simile, simile, type scenes, ring composition and repetition. These habits aid the extemporizing bard, and are characteristic of oral poetry. For instance, the main words of a Homeric sentence are generally placed towards the beginning, whereas literate poets like
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three ...

Virgil
or John Milton, Milton use longer and more complicated syntactical structures. Homer then expands on these ideas in subsequent clauses; this technique is called parataxis. The so-called 'type scenes' (''typische Szenen''), were named by Walter Arend in 1933. He noted that Homer often, when describing frequently recurring activities such as eating, Homeric prayer, praying, fighting and dressing, used blocks of set phrases in sequence that were then elaborated by the poet. The 'Analyst' school had considered these repetitions as un-Homeric, whereas Arend interpreted them philosophically. Parry and Lord noted that these conventions are found in many other cultures. 'Ring composition' or chiastic structure (when a phrase or idea is repeated at both the beginning and end of a story, or a series of such ideas first appears in the order A, B, C ... before being reversed as ... C, B, A) has been observed in the Homeric epics. Opinion differs as to whether these occurrences are a conscious artistic device, a mnemonic aid or a spontaneous feature of human storytelling. Both of the Homeric poems begin with an invocation to the Muse. In the ''Iliad'', the poet beseeches her to sing of "the anger of Achilles", and, in the ''Odyssey'', he asks her to tell of "the man of many ways". A similar opening was later employed by Virgil in his ''Aeneid''.


Textual transmission

The orally transmitted Homeric poems were put into written form at some point between the eighth and sixth centuries BC. Some scholars believe that they were dictated to a scribe by the poet and that our inherited versions of the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' were in origin orally-dictated texts.
Albert Lord Albert Bates Lord (September 15, 1912 – July 29, 1991) was a professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusett ...
noted that the Balkan bards that he was studying revised and expanded their songs in their process of dictating. Some scholars hypothesize that a similar process of revision and expansion occurred when the Homeric poems were first written down. Other scholars hold that, after the poems were created in the eighth century, they continued to be orally transmitted with considerable revision until they were written down in the sixth century. After textualisation, the poems were each divided into 24 rhapsodes, today referred to as books, and labelled by the letters of the Greek alphabet. Most scholars attribute the book divisions to the Hellenistic scholars of Alexandria, in Egypt. Some trace the divisions back further to the Classical period. Very few credit Homer himself with the divisions. In antiquity, it was widely held that the Homeric poems were collected and organised in Athens in the late sixth century BC by the tyrant Peisistratos (died 528/7 BC), in what subsequent scholars have dubbed the "Peisistratean recension". The idea that the Homeric poems were originally transmitted orally and first written down during the reign of Peisistratos is referenced by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero and is also referenced in a number of other surviving sources, including two ancient ''Lives of Homer''. From around 150 BC, the texts of the Homeric poems seem to have become relatively established. After the establishment of the Library of Alexandria, Homeric scholars such as Zenodotus of Ephesus, Aristophanes of Byzantium and in particular Aristarchus of Samothrace helped establish a canonical text. The first printed edition of Homer was produced in 1488 in Milan, Italy. Today scholars use medieval manuscripts, papyri and other sources; some argue for a "multi-text" view, rather than seeking a single definitive text. The nineteenth-century edition of Arthur Ludwich mainly follows Aristarchus's work, whereas van Thiel's (1991, 1996) follows the medieval vulgate. Others, such as Martin Litchfield West, Martin West (1998–2000) or T.W. Allen, fall somewhere between these two extremes.


See also

* Achaeans (Homer) * ''Aeneid'' * Bibliomancy * Catalogue of Ships * Creophylus of Samos * Cyclic Poets * Deception of Zeus * Epithets in Homer * Geography of the Odyssey, Geography of the ''Odyssey'' * Greek mythology * Hector * Historicity of Homer * Homeric scholarship *
Ithaca Ithaca, Ithaki or Ithaka (; Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population ...

Ithaca
* List of Homeric characters * Peisistratos * ''Sortes Homericae'' * ''Tabula iliaca'' * ''Telemachy'' * The Golden Bough (mythology), The Golden Bough * Trojan Battle Order * Trojan War in literature and the arts * Troy VII * Venetus A Manuscript


Notes


Selected bibliography


Editions

;Texts in Homeric Greek * Demetrius Chalcondyles ''editio princeps'', Florence, 1488 * the Aldine editions (1504 and 1517) * 1st ed. with comments, Jacob Micyllus, Micyllus and Joachim Camerarius, Camerarius, Basel, 1535, 1541 (improved text), 1551 (incl. the
Batrachomyomachia The ''Batrachomyomachia'' ( grc, Βατραχομυομαχία, from , " frog", , "mouse", and , "battle") or ''Battle of the Frogs and Mice'' is a comic epic, or a parody of the ''Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, ', ; sometimes refe ...
) * Th. Ridel, Strasbourg, c. 1572, 1588 and 1592. * Wolf (Halle, 1794–1795; Leipzig, 1804 1807) * Spitzner (Gotha, 1832–1836) * Bekker (Berlin, 1843; Bonn, 1858) * La Roche (''Odyssey'', 1867–1868; ''Iliad'', 1873–1876, both at Leipzig) * Ludwich (''Odyssey'', Leipzig, 1889–1891; ''Iliad'', 2 vols., 1901 and 1907) * W. Leaf (''Iliad'', London, 1886–1888; 2nd ed. 1900–1902) * William Walter Merry and James Riddell (scholar), James Riddell (''Odyssey'' i–xii., 2nd ed., Oxford, 1886) * Monro (''Odyssey'' xiii–xxiv. with appendices, Oxford, 1901) * Monro and Allen (''Iliad''), and Allen (''Odyssey'', 1908, Oxford). * D.B. Monro and T.W. Allen 1917–1920, ''Homeri Opera'' (5 volumes: ''Iliad''=3rd edition, ''Odyssey''=2nd edition), Oxford. , , , , * H. van Thiel 1991, ''Homeri Odyssea'', Hildesheim. , 1996, ''Homeri Ilias'', Hildesheim. * M. L. West 1998–2000, ''Homeri Ilias'' (2 volumes), Munich/Leipzig. , * P. von der Mühll 1993, ''Homeri Odyssea'', Munich/Leipzig. * M. L. West 2017, ''Homerus Odyssea'', Berlin/Boston.


Interlinear translations

* ''The Iliad of Homer a Parsed Interlinear'' Handheldclassics.com (2008) Text


English translations

This is a partial list of translations into English of Homer's ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey''. * Augustus Taber Murray (1866–1940) ** ''Homer: Iliad'', 2 vols., revised by William F. Wyatt, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press (1999). ** ''Homer: Odyssey'', 2 vols., revised by George E. Dimock, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press (1995). * Robert Fitzgerald (1910–1985) ** ''The Iliad'', Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2004) ** ''The Odyssey'', Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1998) * Robert Fagles (1933–2008) ** ''The Iliad'', Penguin Classics (1998) ** ''The Odyssey'', Penguin Classics (1999) * Stanley Lombardo (b. 1943) ** ''Iliad'', Hackett Publishing Company (1997) ** ''Odyssey'', Hackett Publishing Company (2000) ** ''Iliad'', (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ** ''Odyssey'', (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ** ''The Essential Homer'', (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ** ''The Essential Iliad'', (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) * Barry B. Powell (b. 1942) ** "Iliad", Oxford University Press (2013) ** "Odyssey", Oxford University PressI (2014) ** ''Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: The Essential Books'', Oxford University Press (2014) * Samuel Butler (novelist), Samuel Butler (1835–1902) ** ''The Iliad'', Red and Black Publishers (2008) ** ''The Odyssey'', Red and Black Publishers (2008) * Herbert Jordan (b. 1938) ** ''Iliad'', University of Oklahoma Press (2008) (soft cover) * Emily Wilson (classicist), Emily Wilson (b. 1971) ** ''The Odyssey'', W.W. Norton & Company (2017) * Rodney Merrill ** ''The Iliad'', University of Michigan Press (2007) ** ''The Odyssey'', University of Michigan Press (2002)


General works on Homer

* * * * In German, 5th updated and expanded edition, Leipzig, 2005. In Spanish, 2003, . In modern Greek, 2005, . * * * * *


Influential readings and interpretations

* (orig. publ. in German, 1946, Bern) * * * * * * * Reece, Steve. ''The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene.'' Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.


Commentaries

* ''Iliad'': ** P.V. Jones (ed.) 2003, ''Homer's Iliad. A Commentary on Three Translations'', London. ** G.S. Kirk (gen. ed.) 1985–1993, ''The Iliad: A Commentary'' (6 volumes), Cambridge. , , , , , ** Joachim Latacz, J. Latacz (gen. ed.) 2002 ''Homers Ilias. Gesamtkommentar. Auf der Grundlage der Ausgabe von Ameis-Hentze-Cauer (1868–1913)'' (6 volumes published so far, of an estimated 15), Munich/Leipzig. , ** N. Postlethwaite (ed.) 2000, ''Homer's Iliad: A Commentary on the Translation of Richmond Lattimore'', Exeter. ** M.W. Willcock (ed.) 1976, ''A Companion to the Iliad'', Chicago. * ''Odyssey'': ** A. Heubeck (gen. ed.) 1990–1993, ''A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey'' (3 volumes; orig. publ. 1981–1987 in Italian), Oxford. , , ** P. Jones (ed.) 1988, ''Homer's Odyssey: A Commentary based on the English Translation of Richmond Lattimore'', Bristol. ** I.J.F. de Jong (ed.) 2001, ''A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey'', Cambridge.


Dating the Homeric poems

*


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * *


External links


Works by Homer at Perseus Digital Library
* * * * *
The Chicago Homer
* * {{Authority control Homer, Oral epic poets Blind poets Mythography Ancient Greek epic poets 8th-century BC Greek people 8th-century BC poets Blind people from Greece Mycenaean Greece Greek speculative fiction writers Greek gods Ancient Chians Ancient Smyrnaeans Deified people People whose existence is disputed Storytellers