The Greek Greats: Homer the Epic Poet
Homer was the legendary poet of 8th century BC ancient Greece who was ascribed authorship of the two epic Greek poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, However, scholars debate whether or not Homer was a real historical figure or if these poems evolved over time as the Homeric tradition of many oral storytellers.
Homer himself was purported to have been born in Ionia, now located in modern day Turkey, and was traditionally depicted as being blind, and was thought to be illiterate. Thus these two lengthy poems were recited by the storytellers in the oral tradition before being transcribed by scribes.
The Iliad and the Odyssey are both epic poems, An epic poem is a long narrative poem that tells a story , much like it’s modern counterpart the novel, that tells of the great exploits of noble men and woman in the natural and supernatural worlds. The Iliad was the first poem written in this tradition and tell the story of Greece’s ten year war with Troy to free the beautiful, captive Queen Helen from the clutches of the evil king of Troy and focuses on the events of only a few weeks near the end of the conflict.
Every Greek story has a hero and Achilles is the warrior-hero of this saga, and he saves the day when he slays Hector outside the city wall, the enemy prince of Troy and Greece wins the war. Every Greek story has a moral, and Achilles is the very embodiment of loyalty and courage, both the high ideals of ancient Greece.
The Odyssey is the sequel to the story that tells about the struggles Odysseus the King, and his treacherous ten year journey by sea to reach home to his family and Penelope his wife’s struggle to remain faithful while she awaits his return. And the struggle is intense, Odysseus must fight angry gods as he sails the turbulent seas and his wife needs the help of her son,Telemachus to fend off her many suitors, This story taught the Greeks the ideals of faithfulness, love of family, and perseverance, Later on in history, the Romans adopted the hero of this story and called him Ulysses,
The following quotes aptly illustrate the deep understanding of the ancient Greeks had about the many nuances of human nature and their high ideals concerning loyalty and the love of family:
There is a heat of love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad. The Iliad,
Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man. The Odyssey
Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another, The Iliad
There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends, The Odyssey
The Greeks were an idealistic people and their values spread throughout the ancient Hellenistic world all the way to Rome, and Homer was the backbone of their literary tradition and education much like Shakespeare is the backbone the English speaking world,