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Bust of Homer in the British Museum

Homer is the name of the Greek poet who wrote the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.[1] These are the earliest works of Greek literature which have survived to the present day, and are among the greatest treasures of the ancient world. They are a product of Mycenaean culture. The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan war, which took place around 1190 BC. The manuscripts of Homer were written much later, probably later than 800 BC.

The history[change | change source]

What makes the history of this period so difficult is that the Mycenaean civilization was followed by several hundred years of decline, from which little or no writing has survived. This period, the Greek Dark Ages, ended around 800 BC, when once again we find Greek writing, though this time in their newly developed alphabetic script. Therefore, there is a distinct possibility that the Homeric epics had a life, perhaps a long life, as oral literature, spoken by story-tellers.

We know little about Homer, and the later Greeks also knew little about him. Some have doubted he was a real person; others think he was a woman.[2] A legend, has it that he was a blind poet who lived in Ionia. There is no definite evidence for any of these ideas.

There is archaeological evidence that Troy existed. The site of Troy has been discovered, and excavated. Therefore, it is a fair guess that the epic began as a long oral poem based on the siege of Troy, but with details added and changed as time went on.[3] Homer's poetry is different from other poetry because it had to be short in order to be memorized.[4][5][6]

The date of Homer, and the transcription[change | change source]

The date of Homer's existence is not known. Herodotus said that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BC;[7][8][9][10][11][12] but other ancient sources gave dates much closer to the time of the Trojan War.[13] The date of the Trojan War was given as 1194–1184 BC by Eratosthenes.

Today, "the date of Homer" means the date of the writing down the oral poems, rather than the life of Homer. This is called the transcription date. The language suggests that the earliest possible date for the transcription is 800 BC, and the latest possible date is 600 AD.[14]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Homer". wsu.edu. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  2. "rogueclassicism: Homer a Woman?". www.atrium-media.com.
  3. E. Bakker 1997. Poetry in speech: orality and Homeric discourse. Ithaca NY. ISBN 0-8014-3295-2
  4. Parry, Milman 1971. The making of Homeric verse: the collected papers of Milman Parry. (ed Adam Parry) Oxford.
  5. "Formular Economy in Homer. The Poetics of the Breaches. Hermes Einzelschriften, 100 – Bryn Mawr Classical Review". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  6. Ong, Walter. Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word. Methuen, London & N.Y. Milman Parry's discovery, p20–27.
  7. Herodotus 2.53.
  8. "Controversies in History: Date of Homer".
  9. GradeSaver. "Homer Biography - List of Works, Study Guides & Essays - GradeSaver". www.gradesaver.com.
  10. "Homer". www.nndb.com.
  11. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:NtFnt7Nod-0J:www1.pu.edu.tw/~bmon/Literature/Iliad.doc&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us[permanent dead link]
  12. "Homer buried in Ios island - Greeka.com". Greeka.
  13. Graziosi, Barbara (2002). "The invention of Homer". Cambridge: 98–101. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. Nagy, Gregory (2001). "Homeric poetry and problems of multiformity: the Panathenaic Bottleneck". 96. Classical Philology: 109–119. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)