Epic Poetry and Homer Essay

Submitted By blshaffer
Words: 994
Pages: 4

Homer—Or Not?

Recorded history teaches people many things. Being the story of what

mistakes others have made and what ideas they have had, it is a very

important learning tool. If people heed the previous happenings, dire

consequences can be avoided, and great concepts can be utilized and built

upon to form better ways of living. Literature is another valuable source

of information; it also illustrates errors in judgment as well as

accomplishments completed through conscientious choices. While literature

provides diverse stories, some true and some not, it offers another avenue

of study—the authors themselves. One of the most famous of these is the

great Greek poet Homer, who is credited with the writing of the Iliad and

the Odyssey. Very little provable information has been unearthed about this

man, but several theories have been put forth. Speculations concerning

Homer’s life, his characteristics, and his works furnish further

fascination for his readers.

Although Homer’s life span has been thought to be somewhere around the

eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. (Briggs 220), all historians do not

agree. Some believe that he could have lived around 1200 B.C.E. (Magill.

989). Homer’s birthplace also remains in dispute; seven different cities

lay claim to this honor. All of these cities are located in an area that

the Greeks call Ionia, which is on the western coast of Asia Minor and “was

heavily settled by Greek colonists. It does seem likely that he


came from this area” since “the Iliad contains several accurate

descriptions of natural features of the Ionian landscape” (Lawall 114). The

fullest account of Homer’s life comes from the city of Heroditus, but this

account and others “seem to be made up of conjecture and tradition” from

his two epic poems (Magill 989). Most scholars think Homer must have lived

in Ionia around the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. This seems to be

the most logical answer, but logic often falls short of truth; unless new

evidence surfaces, the world will never know when and where this man lived.

Homer’s characteristics are also questionable: “The Greeks believe

that Homer was blind” because the bard in the Odyssey was blind (Lawall

114). “Most of the early accounts agree that Homer was,” as the Greeks

believe, blind, but also elderly and poor (Magill 989). These early

accounts also lead people to believe that he “wandered from city to city in

ancient Greece” (Magill 989). Some scholars do not believe that Homer could

provide so much description in his works if he could not see. He describes

the settings so vividly that the theory of blindness seems absurd to some.

A modern theory implies that Homer could not read or write; it states that

“blindness is the perfect metaphor for this condition” (Briggs 220). But if

this is true, Homer would have had to dictate his works to someone who was

literate. As for being elderly, it is hard to say, but if Homer was so

well-traveled, it is feasible that he was an older man since traveling in

that era was very slow and took much time. Most people can believe that

Homer was poor because artists were always impoverished. Blind, elderly,

poor, and illiterate or not, nothing can be said for certain.


Homer’s works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, likewise come under

scrutiny. There are two main theories about his works. The first is that

Homer was an actual person who either wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey or

merely copied them after years of oral recitation. “The texts of the epics

reveal that they were created in an oral culture” (Briggs 221).