Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean, and Archaic Greek Mythology

The Mycenaens and Homer

Who was Homer?

Over the centuries, the two great Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, have been attributed to a single author named Homer, who has been claimed as a native of various locales in Asia Minor and the Greek mainland. In fact, the epics were probably the works of more than one person, composed in various stages between 900 and 700 B.C.E. The existence or nonexistence of Homer is the subject of what scholars have long called the “Homeric question.” Whether or not there was a Homer, the epics in question have been used in schools since ancient times to teach language and Greek values. And the Iliad and the Odyssey have provided us with a major source for Greek mythology, especially as it applies to human heroes. Whoever or whatever Homer was, he has himself been mythologized as a blind bard who more than makes up for physical sight with powers of insight and subtle understandings of the ways of humans and their all-powerful but fickle gods. In the eighth book of the Odyssey, the blind minstrel-poet Demodokos of Phaiakia, who, like the “Homer” of the Iliad, sings the story of the Trojan War, provides what some would call a self-portrait. In that book, the hero Odysseus serves as an instrument for the praising of the kind of poet Homer or the several Homers would have been. In so doing he gives life to a tradition that has intrigued humans for more than two thousand years:

The Homeric epics as we know them now, written down and divided into “books,” which are perhaps related to the length of singing sessions by minstrels in town squares or the houses of the relatively wealthy, were compiled in the sixth century B.C.E., probably in Athens.


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