Homer was an ancient Greek poet, who was recognized as the author of the main Greek epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. Homer was born in the VIII century b.C and his life was a mixture of legend and reality.
The history states that homer was blind and could have been born in any locality of ancient Greece: Smyrna, colophon, Athens, Chios, Rhodes, Argos, Ithaca, salamis or Pylos.
In Hegel’s words, Homer meant “the element in which the Greek world lives as man lives in the air”.
Admired, imitated and cited by all the Greek poets, philosophers, and artists who followed him, he is the poet by antonomasia for excellence in classical literature, despite the fact that Homer’s life appears surrounded by the deepest mystery, to the point that his own historical existence has been called into question.
There are several biographies of Homer include the famous blindness of the poet being legendary and novelistic. The oldest Homer’s biography is attributed without foundation to Herodotus, and it dates from the fifth-century b.C. In it, Homer was presented as the son of a seduced orphan, named Creteidas, who gave birth to him in Smyrna. Known as Melesigenes, noted for its artistic qualities, initiating a bohemian life. A disease left him blind, and since then he was renamed, Homer.
The ideas purposed by Homer crystallized from the seventeenth century on the so-called “Homeric question” initiated by François Hédelin, abbot of Aubignac, who argued that the two great poems attributed to him, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were the result of the assembly of works of different origin, which would explain the many inconsistencies they contain. His theses were followed by philologists such as Friedrich August Wolf.
The debate between the supporters of the analytical current and the unitarists, who defend the Homeric fatherhood of the poems, is still open today.
Besides the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer was credited with other poems such as the comic epic Batrachomyomachia (“the war of frogs and mice”), the corpus of Homeric hymns, and many other lost works or fragments such as Margites. Some ancient authors attributed to him the complete “epic cycle” where he included more poems about the trojan war, as well as “epics” that narrated the life of Oedipus and wars between Argive and Thebans. However, modern historians agree that the Batrachomyomachia and the Margites, the Homeric hymns and the cyclic poems are later than the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The Greco-Roman iconography has consecrated the noble bearded face of an old blind man like Homer’s. This is the image that tradition has attributed to the poet of the two epic poems with which Greek and western literature is inaugurated, whose lyrical and narrative vigor has remained fresh for thousands of years. His name and his works have reached glory fueled myths, stories, and legends over the centuries, without losing their original strength.
The perfection and the quality of the Iliad and the Odyssey, considered masterpieces of western literature, can only be explained by the existence of a previous custom about the trojan war that poets and bards were elaborating for centuries and culminating in the great one’s Homeric poems. Although Homer uses the procedures of oral tradition, there is no doubt that in both poems there is a poetic purpose, a plan and a structure that reveals the activity of a poetical consciousness of his art.
If Homer’s life is still a myth, there is also much more mystery about his death. According to historical documents from the fifth-century b.C, death surprised homer in Ios, a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago of the Aegean Sea, during a trip to Athens.
Some modern researchers also claim that, based on Homer’s works, it is possible to conclude that homer had much contact with the nobility of the time.
- The Iliad: The date of its composition is controversial: the majority opinion places it in the second half of the VIII century b.C.
- The Odyssey: it is believed that it was composed in the eighth-century b.C.
- Homeric hymns.
- Trojan war.