Homer Biography & Facts
Homer (; Ancient Greek: Ὅμηρος [hómɛːros], Hómēros) was the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary.The Homeric Question – concerning by whom, when, where and under what circumstances the Iliad and Odyssey were composed – continues to be debated. Modern scholarship considers that the two works were written by different authors. It is generally accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC.The poems are in Homeric Greek, also known as Epic Greek, a literary language which shows a mixture of features of the Ionic and Aeolic dialects from different centuries; the predominant influence is Eastern Ionic. Most researchers believe that the poems were originally transmitted orally. From antiquity until the present day, the influence of Homeric epic on Western civilization has been great, inspiring many of its most famous works of literature, music, art and film. The Homeric epics were the greatest influence on ancient Greek culture and education; to Plato, Homer was simply the one who "has taught Greece" – ten Hellada pepaideuken.
Works attributed to Homer
Today only the Iliad and the Odyssey are associated with the name 'Homer'. In antiquity, a very large number of other works were sometimes attributed to him, including the Homeric Hymns, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, the Little Iliad, the Nostoi, the Thebaid, the Cypria, the Epigoni, the comic mini-epic Batrachomyomachia ("The Frog-Mouse War"), the Margites, the Capture of Oechalia, and the Phocais. These claims are not considered authentic today and were by no means universally accepted in the ancient world. As with the multitude of legends surrounding Homer's life, they indicate little more than the centrality of Homer to ancient Greek culture.
Ancient biographical traditions
Some ancient claims about Homer were established early and repeated often. They include that Homer was blind (taking as self-referential a passage describing the blind bard Demodocus), that he was born in Chios, that he was the son of the river Meles and the nymph Critheïs, that he was a wandering bard, that he composed a varying list of other works (the "Homerica"), that he died either in Ios or after failing to solve a riddle set by fishermen, and various explanations for the name "Homer". The two best known ancient biographies of Homer are the Life of Homer by the Pseudo-Herodotus and the Contest of Homer and Hesiod.In the early 4th century BC Alcidamas composed a fictional account of a poetry contest at Chalcis with both Homer and Hesiod. Homer was expected to win, and answered all of Hesiod's questions and puzzles with ease. Then, each of the poets was invited to recite the best passage from their work. Hesiod selected the beginning of Works and Days: "When the Pleiades born of Atlas ... all in due season". Homer chose a description of Greek warriors in formation, facing the foe, taken from the Iliad. Though the crowd acclaimed Homer victor, the judge awarded Hesiod the prize; the poet who praised husbandry, he said, was greater than the one who told tales of battles and slaughter.
History of Homeric scholarship
Ancient The study of Homer is one of the oldest topics in scholarship, dating back to antiquity. Nonetheless, the aims of Homeric studies have changed over the course of the millennia. The earliest preserved comments on Homer concern his treatment of the gods, which hostile critics such as the poet Xenophanes of Colophon denounced as immoral. The allegorist Theagenes of Rhegium is said to have defended Homer by arguing that the Homeric poems are allegories. The Iliad and the Odyssey were widely used as school texts in ancient Greek and Hellenistic cultures. They were the first literary works taught to all students. The Iliad, particularly its first few books, was far more intently studied than the Odyssey during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.As a result of the poems' prominence in classical Greek education, extensive commentaries on them developed to explain parts of the poems that were culturally or linguistically difficult. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many interpreters, especially the Stoics, who believed that Homeric poems conveyed Stoic doctrines, regarded them as allegories, containing hidden wisdom. Perhaps partially because of the Homeric poems' extensive use in education, many authors believed that Homer's original purpose had been to educate. Homer's wisdom became so widely praised that he began to acquire the image of almost a prototypical philosopher. Byzantine scholars such as Eustathius of Thessalonica and John Tzetzes produced commentaries, extensions and scholia to Homer, especially in the twelfth century. Eustathius's commentary on the Iliad alone is massive, sprawling over nearly 4,000 oversized pages in a twenty-first century printed version and his commentary on the Odyssey an additional nearly 2,000.
In 1488, the Greek scholar Demetrios Chalkokondyles published the editio princeps of the Homeric poems. The earliest modern Homeric scholars started with the same basic approaches towards the Homeric poems as scholars in antiquity. The allegorical interpretation of the Homeric poems that had been so prevalent in antiquity returned to become the prevailing view of the Renaissance. Renaissance humanists praised Homer as the archetypically wise poet, whose writings contain hidden wisdom, disguised through allegory. In western Europe during the Renaissance, Virgil was more widely read than Homer and Homer was often seen through a Virgilian lens.In 1664, contradicting the widespread praise of Homer as the epitome of wisdom, François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac wrote a scathing attack on the Homeric poems, declaring that they were incoherent, immoral, tasteless, and without style, that Homer never existed, and that the poems were hastily cobbled together by incompetent editors from unrelated oral songs. Fifty years later, the English scholar Richard Bentley concluded that Homer did exist, but that he was an obscure, prehistoric oral poet whose compositions bear little relation to the Iliad and the Odyssey as they have been passed down. According to Bentley, Homer "wrote a Sequel of Songs and Rhapsodies, to be sung by himself for small Earnings and good Cheer at Fest.... Discover the Homer popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Homer books.