- 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 dialect helps narrow down his lifespan by coinciding it with the development and usage of language in general, but The Iliad and The Odyssey were so popular that this particular dialect became the norm for much of Greek literature going forward.
Virtually every biographical aspect ascribed to Homer is derived entirely from his poems. Homer is thought to have been blind, based solely on a character in The Odyssey, a blind poet/minstrel called Demodokos. A long disquisition on how Demodokos was welcomed into a gathering and regaled the audience with music and epic tales of conflict and heroes to much praise has been interpreted as Homer’s hint as to what his own life was like. As a result, many busts and statues have been carved of Homer with thick curly hair and beard and sightless eyes.
“Homer and Sophocles saw clearly, felt keenly, and refrained from much,” wrote Lane Cooper in The Greek Genius and Its Influence: Select Essays and Extracts in 1917, ascribing an emotional life to the writer. But he wasn’t the first, nor was he the last. Countless attempts to recreate the life and personality of the author from the content of his epic poems have occupied writers for centuries.
Homer's two epic poems have become archetypal road maps in world mythology. The stories provide an important insight into early human society, and illustrate, in some aspects, how little has changed. Even if The Iliad itself seems unfamiliar, the story of the siege of Troy, the Trojan War and Paris’ kidnapping of Helen, the world’s most beautiful woman, are all familiar characters or scenarios. Some scholars insist that Homer was personally familiar with the plain of Troy, due to the geographical accuracy in the poem.
The Odyssey picks up after the fall of Troy. Further controversy about authorship springs from the differing styles of the two long narrative poems, indicating they were composed a century apart, while other historians claim only decades –the more formal structure of The Iliad is attributed to a poet at the height of his powers, whereas the more colloquial, novelistic approach in The Odyssey is attributed to an elderly Homer.
Homer enriched his descriptive story with liberal use of simile and metaphor, which has inspired a long path of writers behind him. His structuring device was to start in the middle–in medias res– and then fill in the missing information via remembrances.
The two narrative poems pop up throughout modern literature: Homer’s The Odyssey has parallels in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and his tale of Achilles in The Iliad is echoed in J.R.R. Tolkein's The Fall of Gondolin. Even the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? makes use of The Odyssey.
Other works have been attributed to Homer over the centuries, most notably the Homeric Hymns, but in the end only the two epic works remain enduringly his.
"Plato tells us that in his time many believed that Homer was the educator of all Greece.
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