Homer

Michael Lahanas

Όμηρος

If we don’t preserve a world in which we can read Homer, then the world is not worth preserving” from a Lecture

Homer the hypothetical author of Odyssey and Iliad, the number of works about him most of speculative character is inverse proportional to what we really know about him, not even the ancient Greeks knew much more. Maybe he was a revolutionary Aoidos who modified writings of the priests. For this reason maybe not respected much by Plato.

Greek Stamp of Homer 1998, (Stamp of 1954, 1983)

(Compilation from various sources)

Homer was blind and this may represent a sign that blind often exhibit; remarkable memory and sensitivity, necessary for a poet such as Homer. The name Homer (Όμηρος, Homeros) in Greek is a common noun meaning "hostage", and the possibility of hostages being blinded as a precaution against escape, as well as spying, seems plausible. But was he a real person?
Experts believe that the Iliad was produced around 730 BC and the story of Odysseus, Odyssey, 30 years later. Homer's work was produced according to the Greeks in Chios, a Greek island and Homer died on Ios, another island. But other places are also mentioned where the Iliad was produced. At least the Iliad seems to be not completely historic correct as it describes temples and procedures such as the burning of the dead, not known or methods not applied by the Mycenaeans.


Homer is the legendary (or perhaps mythical) early Greek poet traditionally credited with authorship of the major Greek epics Iliad (Ιλιάς) and Odyssey (Οδύσσεια), the comic mini-epic Βατραχομυομαχία (Batrachomyomachia ; The Battle of Frogs and Mice), the corpus of Homeric Hymns, and various other lost or fragmentary works such as Margites. Tradition held that Homer was blind, and various Ionian cities claimed to be his birthplace, but otherwise his biography is a blank slate.
Debates over Homer's authorship of the various works and even his very existence have raged since antiquity. Scholars now unanimously rule out the Homeric Hymns and Batrachomyomachia as later derivative works, and signs of a deep oral tradition behind the Iliad and Odyssey are often taken to cast doubt on the existence of any individual author for them.
The two epics appear to date back to at least the 8th century BC, and were first written down at the command of the Athenian ruler Peisistratus, who feared they were being forgotten. He made a law: any singer or bard who came to Athens had to recite all they knew of Homer for the Athenian scribes, who recorded each version and collated them into what we now call the Iliad and Odyssey.
An analysis of the structure and vocabulary of the Iliad and Odyssey shows that the poems consist of regular, repeating phrases; even entire verses repeat. Could the Iliad and Odyssey have been oral-formulaic poems, composed on the spot by the poet using a collection of memorized traditional verses and phases? Milman Parry and Albert Lord pointed out that such elaborate oral tradition, foreign to today's literate cultures, is typical of epic poetry in a exclusively oral culture.

Seen this way, Homer's distinction is that his performance was recorded. There may have been hundreds of poets in Homer's day, who performed hundreds of versions of the epics, but only one of these was committed to writing and survived to this day.

Albert Lord's student Gregory Nagy has taken the oralist hypothesis even further, and argued that a canonical text of the Homeric poems as "scripture" did not exist until the Hellenistic period. The fixed nature of the Homeric poems emerged gradually, he argues, as competition in their recitation became more and more rigorous at Panhellenic festivals like the Panathenaea.

A great many scholars, however, maintain their belief in the reality of an actual "Homer". So little is known or even guessed of his actual life, that scholars joke the poems "were not written by Homer, but by another man of the same name," and the classicist Richmond Lattimore, author of a good poetic translation to English of both epics, once called a paper Homer: Who Was She? Similarly, Robert Graves speculated on a female Homer. Samuel Butler was more specific, theorizing a young Sicilian woman as author of the Odyssey (but not the Iliad).

Another question is: do the tales have a factual basis? The commentaries on the Iliad and the Odyssey written in the Hellenistic period (3rd to 1st century BC) began exploring the textual inconsistencies of the poems. The excavations of Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century began to convince scholars there was an historical basis for the Trojan War. Research (pioneered by the aforementioned Parry and Lord) into oral epics in Serbo-Croatian and Turkish languages began to convince scholars that long poems could be preserved with consistency by oral cultures until someone bothered to write them down.

Iliad and Troy relevant Map by Daphne Kleps. Troy or Ilios (derived probably from Wilusa) is considered to be a city known today as Troy VIIa destroyed by the Greeks in 1180 BC. The naval Greek force of 1186 ships started the expedition from Aulis.

Map: Travels of the eponymous hero of Homer's Odyssey

The decipherment of Linear B in the 1950s by Michael Ventris and others convinced scholars of a linguistic continuity between 13th century BC Mycenaean writings and the epic poems attributed to Homer. While there is a historical basis for the Trojan war we do not know if Homer really existed or who produced (if not Homer) the stories attributed to him. We know that the ancient Greeks admired Homer and they certainly believed his existence and that he was the author.

Homer in Raphael's Parnassus

1827, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Apotheosis of Homer. In the center Homer surrounded by Alcibiades, Apelles, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Euripides, Sappho, Menander, Sophocles, Aesop, Shakespeare, Plato, Herodotus, Pindar, Orpheus, Pheidias, Michelangelo, Dante, Hesiod, Raphael, Mozart, .... and others. The two women sitting below Homer are on the left side the Iliad and on the right side Odyssey. See Who is Who for more Information

Homer on a throne close Iliad and Odyssey, right side a figure called Mythos, from a work of Archelaos

LINKS

Information from Stanford of the Trojan war and especially the stories of women involved

The Iliad (PDF)

Odyssey (PDF)

WHAT SOME WRITERS SAID ABOUT THE ODYSSEY , ODYSSEUS IN IRELAND? from ODYSSEUS IN THE HEBRIDES,OR WHERE DID ODYSSUES GO? ,

Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer

Homer's Ithaca

Paliki, Homer's Ithaca ( a recent theory about the Ithaca of Homer)


Individual Books:

Book 1: The Quarrel by the Ships , Stanley Lombardo reads Homer's The Iliad, Book I in ancient Greek (Real Audio)
Book 2: Agamemnon's Dream and The Catalogue of Ships
Book 3: Paris, Menelaus, and Helen
Book 4: The Armies Clash
Book 5: Diomedes Goes to Battle
Book 6: Hector and Andromache
Book 7: Hector and Ajax
Book 8: The Trojans Have Success
Book 9: Peace Offerings to Achilles
Book 10: A Night Raid
Book 11: The Achaeans Face Disaster
Book 12: The Fight at the Barricade
Book 13: The Trojans Attack the Ships
Book 14: Zeus Deceived
Book 15: Battle at the Ships
Book 16: Patroclus Fights and Dies
Book 17: The Fight Over Patroclus
Book 18: The Arms of Achilles
Book 19: Achilles and Agamemnon
Book 20: Achilles Returns to Battle
Book 21: Achilles Fights the River
Book 22: The Death of Hector
Book 23: The Funeral Games for Patroclus
Book 24: Achilles and Priam


Plot Outline for Homer's Iliad and List of Principal Characters

Plot Outline for Homer's Odyssey


The Presence of Night in Homer’s Iliad

The Conflicting Views of Helen


Map of Places of Achean and Trojan Heroes , Troy and Mythology


Deaths in the Iliad Information why who died in the Illiad


F. Nietzsche: Homer and Classical Philology, Inaugural Lecture at the University of Basel, delivered on May 28, 1869

F. Nietzsche: Homer's Contest

Homeric Singing - An Approach to the Original Performance

UC grad student shows Homer's report accurate

Archelaos and his work: The Apotheosis of Homer

Homer's Odyssey a translation into Modern Greek

Kavafis and Homer


Images From Homer a modern Interpretation by Bernard McWilliams

J. H. Ramberg Images from Homer's Iliad 1871 (some less serious) . In German

Homer tops poetry bestseller list

Notes on Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: What does Aristotle say?

Homer in Donald Duck Comics from a German Journal of Classical Archaeology

U. Quatember, Homer und Entenhausen. Zur Antikenrezeption in den Donald-Duck-Comics von Carl Barks, Forum Archaeologiae 17/XII/2000 (http://farch.net).

Odyssey I: 1-10 read in Greek (RealAudio)

How Homer conquered the world


Who Killed Homer? actually many Greeks believe it was Wolfgang Petersen the director of the film Troy who killed Homer!


Homer in Chinese Phonetic Translation, A Chinese Odyssey

QUOTES

Among others who were brought to Alexandria by the fame of Philadelphus' bounty was Zoilus, the grammarian, whose ill-natured criticism on Homer's poems had earned for him the name of Homeromastix, or the scourge of Homer. He read his criticisms to Philadelphus, who was so much displeased with his carping and unfair manner of finding fault, that he even refused to relieve him when in distress. The king told him, that while hundreds had earned a livelihood by pointing out the beauties of the Iliad and Odyssey in their public readings, surely one person who was so much wiser might be able to live by pointing out the faults S. Rappoport, History of Egypt


Το γαρ οράν το φως ηλίου ζην εστί (living is to see the light of the sun) Homer, Iliad, a proof that Homer was not born blind, like his descriptions of colors, etc.


Homer describes in the Odyssey also a blind singer and lyre player, an aoidos (actually a poet):


κῆρυξ δ' ἐγγύθεν ἦλθεν ἄγων ἐρίηρον ἀοιδόν,
πέρι μοῦσ' ἐφίλησε, δίδου δ' ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε:
αλμῶν μὲν ἄμερσε, δίδου δ' ἡδεῖαν ἀοιδήν.
' ἄραΠοντόνοοςθῆκεθρόνονἀργυρόηλον
σῳ δαιτυμόνων, πρὸς κίονα μακρὸν ἐρείσας:
δ' ἐκπασσαλόφικρέμασενφόρμιγγαλίγειαν
οῦ ὑπὲρκεφαλῆςκαὶἐπέφραδεχερσὶνἑλέσθαι
υξ: πὰρ δ' ἐτίθει κάνεον καλήν τε τράπεζαν,
δὲ δέπας οἴνοιο, πιεῖν ὅτε θυμὸς ἀνώγοι.
' ἐπ' ὀνείαθ' ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.

Meanwhile the herald was returning with the loyal singer, a man the Muse so loved above all others. She'd given him both bad and good, for she'd destroyed his eyes, but had bestowed on him the gift of pleasing song. The herald, Pontonous, then brought up a silver-studded chair for him. He set its back against a lofty pillar in their midst, hung the clear-toned lyre on a peg above his head, then showed him how to reach it with his hands.The herald placed a lovely table at his side,with food in a basket and a cup of wine to drink,when his heart felt the urge. Then all those present reached for the splendid dinner set in front of them.

...So how is there a Greek team, in a land where Homer is known as a writer and not a well-hit ball? Brian Williams Correspondent NBC News, “Homers in the land of Homer”


The inhabitants of Ios point to Homer's tomb in the island, and in another part to that of Clymene, who was, they say, the mother of Homer.
But the Cyprians, who also claim Homer as their own, say that Themisto, one of their native women, was the mother of Homer, and that Euclus foretold the birth of Homer in the following verses:--
And then in sea-girt Cyprus there will be a mighty singer,
Whom Themisto, lady fair, shall bear in the fields, A man of renown, far from rich Salamis.
Leaving Cyprus, tossed and wetted by the waves,
The first and only poet to sing of the woes of spacious Greece,
For ever shall he be deathless and ageless.
These things I have heard, and I have read the oracles, but express no private opinion about either the age or date of Homer.
Pausanias Description of Greece

When the Electra is crossed, there is a spring called Achaia, and the ruins of a city Dorium. Homer states that the misfortune of Thamyris took place here in Dorium, because he said that he would overcome the Muses themselves in song. But Prodicus of Phocaea, if the epic called the Minyad is indeed his, says that Thamyris paid the penalty in Hades for his boast against the Muses. My view is that Thamyris lost his eyesight through disease, as happened later to Homer. Homer, however, continued making poetry all his life without giving way to his misfortune, while Thamyris forsook his art through stress of the trouble that afflicted him. Pausanias Description of Greece

710 BC. Lycurgus, brings the poems of Homer out of Asia into Greece. Sir Isaac Newton, A short chronicle: From the First Memory of things in Europe to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great

...the most beautiful, all-embracing theme is that of the Odyssey. It is greater, more human, than that of Hamlet, Don Quixote, Dante, Faust. I was twelve years old when we took up the Odyssey at school; only the Odyssey stuck in my memory. James Joyce

IIn the Odyssey, Calypso directs Odysseus, in accordance with Phoenician rules for navigating the Mediterranean, to keep the Great Bear "ever on the left as he traversed the deep" when sailing from the pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) to Corfu. Yet such a course taken now would land the traveller in Africa. Odysseus is said in his voyage in springtime to have seen the Pleiades and Arcturus setting late, which seemed to early commentators a proof of Homer's inaccuracy. Likewise Homer, both in the Odyssey [1] (v. 272−5) and in the Iliad (xviii. 489), asserts that the Great Bear never set in those latitudes. Now it has been found that the precession of the equinoxes explains all these puzzles; shows that in springtime on the Mediterranean the Bear as just above the horizon, near the sea but not touching it, between 750 B.C. and 1000 B.C.; and fixes the date of the poems, thus confirming other evidence, and establishing Homer's character for accuracy. [1] (In Greek!) Plaeiadas t' esoronte kai opse duonta bootaen 'Arkton th' aen kai amaxan epiklaesin kaleousin, 'Ae t' autou strephetai kai t' Oriona dokeuei, Oin d'ammoros esti loetron Okeanoio. George Forbes, History of Astronomy.

Science and Homer


Oscillations of heart rate and respiration synchronize during poetry recitation American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, why Homer and Greek poetry is good for heart disease patients. (only for subscribers unfortunately) but a preprint available (PDF)

Increase of Complexity from Classical Greek to Latin Poetry (PDF File) A mathematical analysis of Greek (including Homer) and Roman poetry! Can information theory decide whether the Iliad and Odyssey are written by the same author?

Trojan War

The Trojan War cycle

Troy

Bibliography about Homer, Iliad and Odyssey

Reports in Greek

Η χρονολογία των πρώτων Ολυμπιακών και ο Ομηρος

Τι λέει η Ιστορία για τον Τρωικό Πόλεμο

James M. Redfield Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector , Duke University Press; Expanded edition (June, 1994)

  • Homer, The Iliad , Bernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator) Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (November 1, 1998) ISBN: 0140275363
  • Homer, The Odyssey, Bernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator), Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (November 29, 1999) ISBN: 0140268863
  • Stanley Lombardo, Homer: Odyssey (Audio CD) 2000 (ISBN 0872204847) has what is considered by many to be the best combination of faithfulness to the original Greek and a more vernacular style. An Audio CD recording read by the translator (ISBN 1930972067).

FILMS

The History Channel Presents: Troy: Unearthing the Legend DVD set

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