Homer - The Illiad and Odessey

Homer - The Illiad and Odessey

Homer stands for ancient Greek epic poetry and presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Little is known of him beyond the fact that his was the name attached in antiquity by the Greeks themselves to the poems. He is also one of the most influential authors in the widest sense, for the two epics provided the basis of Greek education and culture throughout the Classical age and formed the backbone of humane education down to the time of the Roman Empire 

Homer remains primarily a projection of the great poems themselves. Their qualities are significant of his taste and his view of the world, but they also reveal something more specific about his technique and the kind of poet he was. It has been one of the most important discoveries of Homeric scholarship, associated particularly with the name of an American scholar, Milman Parry, that the Homeric tradition was an oral one that this was a kind of poetry made and passed down by word of mouth and without the intervention of writing. Indeed, Homer’s own term for a poet is aoidos, “singer.” 

The Odyssey describes two such poets in some detail: Phemius, the court singer in the palace of Odysseus in Ithaca, and Demodocus, who lived in the town of the semi-mythical Phaeacians and sang both for the nobles in Alcinous’ palace and for the assembled public at the games held for Odysseus. On this occasion he sings of the illicit love affair of Ares and Aphrodite in a version that lasts for exactly 100 Homeric verses. This and the other songs assigned to these singers for example, that of the Trojan Horse, summarized in the Odyssey suggest that ordinary aoidoi in the heroic tradition worked with relatively short poems that could be given completely on a single occasion.



Hunter, Richard. "Homer and Greek literature." The Cambridge Companion to Homer (2004): 235-253.


Kim, Lawrence. Homer between history and fiction in imperial Greek literature. Cambridge University Press, 2010.


Webster, T. From Mycenae to Homer: A study in early Greek literature and art. Routledge, 2014.

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