Who was Homer? - Ancient Greek poet
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Who was Homer?

men cheering a race from the stands
Cup by Sophilos, showing a race from the Iliad
(as the inscription says - Athens, ca. 570 BC)

To the classical Greeks, Homer's epics played very much the same role that the Bible plays for a lot of people today. People memorized big chunks of Homer's writings in school, and they repeated bits of it in order to convince other people to do something or think something.
Homer lived around 700 BC, in the Archaic period in Greece. Nobody knows where in Greece he lived. People said he was blind, but poets were often said to have been blind, so this might not be true (people say poets are blind because they think that being blind helps the poets to "see" things other people can't, like to know what the gods are doing).

When Homer was born, the Greeks had just recently learned how to use the alphabet from the Phoenicians or Carthaginians. Homer used the alphabet to write down two long epic poems called the Iliad and the Odyssey. Probably Homer didn't make up these stories, or even the words, himself. Poets or bards had been going around Greece telling these stories (and probably accompanying themselves on the lyre) for hundreds of years already. But Homer wrote them down, and gave them their final form. Probably he also did a lot of work on them, to make them as good as they are.

Learn by doing: make a Greek lyre
More about the Iliad

Bibliography and further reading about Homer:

The Life and Times of Homer, by Kathleen Tracy (2004). Easy reading.

The Iliad of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard. A retelling of the story.

The Odyssey of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard.

Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, by Kostas Myrsiades (1987).

The World of Odysseus, by Moses Finley and Bernard Knox (1954). A standard for anyone interested in Homer.

More about the Iliad
More about the Odyssey
Ancient Greece
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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