The Ancient Greek Poet Homer

by Erin on February 24, 2012

There has been a great deal of controversy about the identity of Homer. He is the author credited with “writing” (or creating) the two great epics from ancient Greek civilization: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Scholars debated (and some still do) for decades about whether there was an actual man known as Homer, or if instead the pair of epic poems were composed over time, by a series of storytellers, and were eventually written down. Although this is a fascinating issue, as it reveals that the Greeks were at one point a primarily oral society, the question itself is essentially moot. The fact is these two stories are profoundly moving tales of the heroic and legendary aspirations of the Greek people. Whether they were created by a single individual or by an anonymous collective makes no difference in the end.

Controversy aside, there is no question that both the Iliad and the Odyssey had a deep and far-reaching effect on the legends and myths of the ancient Greeks. Some of the most renowned characters of mythology play roles in either one or both of these epics: Achilles, Ajax, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Helen, Paris, Hector, Odysseus, Penelope, etc. are all vividly portrayed. They are heroes and heroines, but they are also human, with flaws and foibles like the rest of us.

The Greek gods and goddesses also take active parts in the stories, and it is in the Iliad and the Odyssey that we meet with the Olympians Aphrodite, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, Hera, and Hephaistos, among other divinities. In these works of Homer, relationships between mortals and immortals are established, and the very character and attributes of the gods and goddesses are codified. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the the Iliad and the Odyssey are perhaps our best sources for information on a significant number of mythological figures.

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