Culture and Recreation


What is “the Homeric question”?

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scholars became involved in a debate, referred to as “the Homeric question,” about whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by the same author, or even if any one author can be credited with the entire composition of either poem, and what kind of an author Homer was. The dispute continues today. Scholars believe the Iliad was probably written much earlier than the Odyssey, though there is not enough evidence to prove that the Greek poet Homer (c. 850-? B.C.) did not write both epics. Further, it was suggested that Homer was a bard (oral poet) who was unable to read or write and who sang the great stories of the Iliad and Odyssey to the accompaniment of a lyre. According to this theory, the tales would have been dictated by Homer to a scribe late in the poet’s life. However, some have left open the possibility that the human histories told in the Iliad and the Odyssey were in fact the composite result of the storytelling of numerous bards.

Several other poems, including the Margites and the Batrachomyomachia, have also been attributed to Homer, but they were most likely written by his successors.


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