- NAME: Homer
- OCCUPATION: Poet
- BIRTH DATE: c. 800 BCE
- DEATH DATE: c. 701 BCE
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Greece
- PLACE OF DEATH: Greece
- Full Name: Homer
- AKA: Hom?ros
Best Known For
Although very little is known about the life of Greek poet Homer, credited with being the first to write down the epic stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the impact of his tales continue to reverberate through Western culture.
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The Greek poet Homer was born sometime between the 12th and 8th centuries BC, possibly somewhere on the coast of Asia Minor. He is famous for the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, which have had an enormous effect on Western culture, but very little is known about their alleged author.
"Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another."
"Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other's good, and melt at other's woe."
"Light is the task where many share the toil."
Homer is a mystery. The Greek epic poet credited with the enduring epic tales of The Iliad and The Odyssey is an enigma insofar as actual facts of his life go. Some scholars believe him to be one man; others think these iconic stories were created by a group. A variation on the group idea stems from the fact that storytelling was an oral tradition and Homer is the one who took the time to write it down.
Homer’s style, whoever he was, falls more in the category of minstrel poet or balladeer, as opposed to a cultivated poet who is the product of a fervent literary moment, such as a Virgil or a Shakespeare. The stories have repetitive elements, almost like a chorus or refrain, which suggests a musical element. However, Homer’s works are designated as epic rather than lyric poetry, which was originally recited with lyre in hand, much in the same vein as spoken-word performances.
All this speculation about who he was has inevitably led to what is known as the Homeric Question—whether he actually existed at all. This is often considered to be the greatest literary mystery.
Much speculation surrounds when Homer was born, because of the dearth of real information about him. Guesses at his birthdate range from 750 BC all the way back to 1200 BC, the latter because The Iliad encompasses the story of the Trojan War, so some scholars have thought it fit to put the poet and chronicler nearer to the time of that actual event. But others believe the poetic style of his work indicates a much later period. Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC), often called the father of history, placed Homer several centuries before himself, around 850 BC.
Part of the problem is that Homer lived before a chronological dating system was in place. The Olympic Games of classical Greece marked an epoch, with 776 BC as a starting point by which to measure out four-year periods for the event. In short, it is difficult to give someone a birthdate when he was born before there was a calendar.
Once again, the exact location of Homer’s birth cannot be pinpointed, although that doesn’t stop scholars from trying. It has been identified as Ionia, Smyrna or, at any rate, on the coast of Asia Minor or the island of Chois. But seven cities lay claim to Homer as their native son.
There is some basis for some of these claims, however. The dialect that The Iliad and The Odyssey are written in is considered Asiatic Greek, specifically Ionic. That fact, paired with frequent mentions of local phenomena such as strong winds blowing from the northwest from the direction of Thrace, suggests, scholars feel, a familiarity with that region that could only mean Homer came from there.
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