Homer (8 BC - )

Homer Homer is considered to be the author of the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, two of the earliest texts of the Historic period of Ancient Greece, also known as Homeric Epics.

There is very little information concerning his life, and what is known is also contradictory; in fact, some scholars during the last two centuries went as far as to claim that he may have never existed. Based on the characteristics of the two epics, it is safe to say that Iliad and Odyssey were written during the 8th century BC, Iliad preceding Odyssey by a few decades. Concerning Homer’s life, seven biographies have been found, all written during the Ancient Era. It seems that he originated from Ionia, and it is said that seven different cities claim to be his homeland, Smyrna and Chios prevailing over the others. Moreover, his real name may have been Melesigenes, because he was born near the Meletas River in Smyrna; he took the name “Homer” (prisoner in Greek) later, either because he was blind, or because he was a prisoner of war during the battle of Colophonians with Smyrna. According to the biographies, he traveled around the Greek cities, reciting his poems and thus gaining considerable reputation; however, in a contest with Hesiod in Chalkida, he was not awarded, because Hesiod was preferred as a poet praising peace. The island of Ios is considered to be the place of his death.

Numerous questions have been collected under the collective term “Homeric matter”, all of them dealing with Iliad and Odyssey, the way they are written and the person who wrote them. More specifically, scholars study whether Homer was real, when he was born, which are his own poems and how he wrote them. Moreover, they try to figure out if the texts that have survived today belong to the same person, as some stylistic and cultural differences between the two epics suggest they may have not been written by the same person. Also, it is controversial if these epics are two single poems or if they have resulted by the collation of different poetic excerpts. Finally, these scholars aim to find out what was the contribution of writing in the creation of the poems, whether they were recorded during the time they were recited or if they survived in oral tradition and were recorded much later.

A unique characteristic of the Homeric technique, which does not appear in earlier epics, is that it uses a lot of extensive comparisons. These comparisons arise through the extension of simple ones; for example, the simple comparison “he attacked like a lion” may be extended to the picture of a hurt and angry lion that attacks its hunters, the picture of a lion devouring the sheep of a frightened herdsman, or the picture of a lion trying to protect its cubs from the hunters. The poet used various comparisons inspired by natural phenomena such as storms, tempests and fires, hunting, wild animal attacks, as well as everyday activities such as weaving, carpentry and animal herding.

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