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Who Is Homer And Is He Author of the Iliad and the Odyssey ?

The Stories of Legendary Epics

Homer

Illustrious Ancient Greece bard who lived in the 8th century BC, Homer is an enigmatic character and would be the author of the two oldest texts of European classical literature: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Belief is that Homer was born in Colophon, although many other cities are also mentioned as a possible homeland, and suffered from blindness.

The problem of knowing who are the true writers of these two epics and whether Homer is a genuine individual is generally and scientifically refered to as the Homeric Question. In addition to the Iliad and the Odyssey, Ancient Greece would owe to Homer many other major texts of the time, such as Homeric Hymns and Batrachomyomachia, a parody of the Iliad.

The Iliad

Iliad

The Iliad, the first of two epics attributed to Homer, recount events leading to the mythical Trojan War in the form of versified hymns. Exemplary poetic work, the stories of the Iliad bestow great importance to warrior worship, romance, heroic characters such as Achilles and Odysseus, and to gods who manifest themselves under the guise of Apollo, Poseidon and Athena. Over time, the original copy of Homer's Iliad has been transcribed multiple times to the point where there is a large number of replicas all more or less different. The story goes that even the virtuous Alexander the Great had in his possession a version of the Iliad during his bloody conquests.

The Odyssey

Odyssey

The Odyssey, the second great epic credited to Homer, traces the life of Ithaca's king Odysseus in the years following the end of the Trojan War. The Odyssey is a fantastic mediterranean adventure filled with legendary monsters, wizards and witches and chimerical creatures like sirens. After ten years of adventures in the Mediterranean, Odysseus returns to Ithaca where he defeats pretenders before reconquering Penelope and regaining his throne. In the Odyssey, Homer abandons the warrior side of things in favor of peace; the gods are virtually absent.

A legendary epic

The stories told in Homer's poems were a monster success during the seventh century BC and the Iliad verses were hummed across Greece as a whole. Praised for their literary excellence and their symbolism, the Iliad and the Odyssey were teached to young Greeks who had to memorize them.

Timeline

Manuscript of the Iliad and Odyssey

If we consider philosopher Friedrich August Wolf's 1795 thesis published in his Latin manuscript Prolegomena ad Homerum, Homer as we imagine him would not correspond to the true Homer who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey at a time when writing did not yet exist. Some advance dates located somewhere between the 10th and 9th centuries BC. Verses would've been orally transmitted for several decades or even centuries and would only have been written down during the eighth century BC while writing had just started to make its appearance in Greece. At least that is what archaeological evidences seems to attest.

Many authors?

The historical veracity of a poet named Homer as sole author of the Iliad and the Odyssey was accepted without questioning until 1670, year in which Abbé d'Aubignac published Conjectures académiques (Dissertation sur l'Iliade) in which he exposes several contradictions thus raising the Homeric Question. This was the first time that one supposed several artists had written the famous epics.

Indeed, it seems that the literary style of the two works diverges significantly. The Iliad is impeccable and much more structured, a real model for bards of the time. The writing of the Odyssey, meanwhile, is much more disunited and does not seem to follow a fixed pattern. Moreover, the themes of the two stories are very much opposed; the Iliad is especially interested in war, heroes and gods while the Odyssey is built on a mix of adventure, fantastic monsters and magic. So many clues that points to many craftsman ...

Much like the Bible was first attributed to Moses, it is possible that Homer's cantatas are actually a collection of narratives and oral traditions slowly developed during the eighth century BC by several writers.