Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Homer - Greek poet

Although he is among the best-known ancient Greek poets and the author of two of the most influential epic poems in Western literature - the Iliad and the Odyssey - little is known about Homer. He might have been born on the island of Chios, or at Smyrna on the coast of Turkey. There was an ancient tradition that he was blind (in some dialects the word omeros is associated with blindness).
Herodotus was insistent that Homer predated him by some 400 years, which puts Homer at around 850 BCE. Others maintain that Homer was an eyewitness (blind or sighted) to the Trojan War and therefore must have lived in the 12th century BCE. A third possibility is that there was more than one Homer, just as there might have been more than one Hesiod. The ancients almost uniformly assumed a single Homer, and the suggestion of multiple authors became popular only as part of the rise of modern critical approaches to ancient texts of all kinds. The problems of the authorship of more than one work are common, such as with the many letters attributed to St. Paul. One of Homer's famous translators, Samuel Butler, argued that Homer might have been a woman.

While scholars in the 20th century came mostly to return to the ancient view of a single Homer, everyone grants that the two works present differing views of the relations among the gods and of the relations between gods and humans. Still, both works assume a common view of the place of the gods and of Fate in human affairs. Both works emphasize the unhappy nature of life after death in Hades. At the same time both works stress the need for the burial of the dead. Above all, both works, though especially the Iliad, are about aristocrats and not about ordinary Greeks or Trojans,
Both epics, like other ancient works, were originally oral and were written down only later. Some scholars maintain that the works were standardized in the eighth century BCE, others that they became standardized in the seventh century BCE and were written down in the sixth century. The Greek alphabet was established in the eighth century BCE, so, that the poems could not have been written down any earlier. Doubtless the Iliad, which is about the origin and the last year of the Trojan War, was composed earlier than the Odyssey, which is about Odysseus' return home following the end of the war. But who Homer was and, even now, how many Homers there were are still debated by classicists.

by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology

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