Homer

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Homer

Homer (8th century B.C.) was a Greek poet and the attributed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He was also supposedly blind; but, if he was, it would not have been from birth for no one could describe the world as he did without having seen it. We don't know whether he wrote them or whether his words were put down after his death.

His name, in Greek, means "ransomed", so there is some thought he may have been taken hostage by the Greeks during war. Little is known about his life beyond such speculations, but his poems have been recognized as two of the greatest epics in Western culture for thousands of years. There has been speculation that Homer did not actually exist, with the poems taking shape through many years of collaboration by multiple poets. Scholars point to seemingly dramatic changes of pace and wording from one section to another in the poems. Nonetheless, a strong cultural tradition has grown up around the assumption of Homer's existence and the recognition of the essentially impossibility of determining the truth.

Seven cities claim him as their own. Studies of the language of his two great works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, point to the region between Ionia and Aeolia, both areas in the western Aegean Sea. He may have been born on Chios, a major island in that area and moved to Smyrna on the Asian coast, or gone in the other direction – there are hints of both dialects in his writing. There are also hints that other writers have added to the original text, especially the end of the Odysey; and some have even suggested he did not write the Odyssey at all.

The Homeric epics became foundational elements of late Greek and Hellenistic culture, as well as informing ancient Greek and Roman notions of morality and history. The epics, together, taught the importance of arete - noble, virtuous warfare, without excess and with respect for one's fatherland - along with defining mankind's relation with the gods in the Greek cosmology, along with various other cultural notions. As an example of their importance, Alexander the Great is said to have slept with the two epics either under his pillow, or at his side.[1]

Aristotle contemplating a bust of Homer by Rembrandt (1653)

See also

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References

  1. Plutarch, Vitae Parallae, Life of Alexander.
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