Who was Homer?
January 2017 - 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
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. Some of the stories are descended from earlier Hittite or Akkadian or Sumerian stories. 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 in Greek. Probably he also did a lot of work on them, to make them as good as they are.
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.
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