Homer (8th century B.C.) was a Greek poet and the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He was also supposedly blind. His name, in Greek, means "hostage", so there is some thought he may have been taken by the Greeks as a hostage 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 often been speculation that Homer did not originally exist, with the poems having perhaps come into being over 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.
The Homeric epics became foundational elements of late Greek and Hellenistic culture, as well as informing 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.
- Plutarch, Vitae Parallae, Life of Alexander.