Icon of classical Greek literature, Homer was an author who deserves to be remembered. And today we show your biography, we hope you like it and enjoy it.

Homer biography

(8th century BC) Greek poet attributed to the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two great epic poems of Ancient Greece. In Hegel’s words, Homer is “the element in which the Greek world lives as man lives in the air.” Admired, imitated and quoted by all the Greek poets, philosophers and artists who followed him, he is the quintessential poet of classical literature, despite which Homer’s biography is surrounded by the deepest mystery, to the point that his own Historical existence has been put into question.

The oldest news about Homer situates his birth in Chios, although since ancient times there were seven cities that were disputed to be their homeland: Colophon, Cumae, Pylos, Ithaca, Argos, Athens, Izmir and the aforementioned Chios. For Semónides of Amorgos and Pindar, only the last two could claim the honor of being their cradle.

Although there are several of the lives of Homer who have come to us, their content, including the famous poet’s blindness, is legendary and romantic. The oldest, attributed without foundation to Herodotus, dates from the 5th century BC. In it, Homer is presented as the son of an orphan seduced, named Creteidas, who gave birth in Smyrna. Known as Melesígenes, he soon stood out for his artistic qualities, starting a bohemian life. An illness left him blind, and since then it happened to be called Homer. Death, always according to Pseudo Herodotus, surprised Homer in iOS, in the course of a trip to Athens.

The controversy put in scene by Homer provoked at the beginning of the seventeenth century in the known “Question Homeric”, preceded by François Hédelin, Abbe de Aubignac, who held that the two great poems to him attributed, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were the fruit of the Assembly of works of different provenance, which would explain the many inconsistencies they contain. His thesis was followed by philologists like Friedrich August Wolf. The debate between the supporters of the analytical current and the unitarists, who defend the Homeric paternity of the poems, is still open today.

Homer’s work

The Greco iconography has consecrated the noble bearded face of a blind old man like Homer. This is the image that has attributed the tradition to the poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two epic poems with which the Greek and Western literature is inaugurated and whose lyrical and narrative vigor remains fresh for thousands of years. His name and his works have reached glory and fed myths, narrations and legends throughout the centuries, without losing their original strength.

Most of the Greek literature was nourished by the immense flow of legends and traditions that from ancient times was transmitted orally from generation to generation. Also the epic poetry was transmitted orally in its origins: a Aedo or a Rhapsody sang it or recited it by memory before an audience that did not know the writing. The Aedos were itinerant musicians who sang epic poems accompanied by stringed instruments; The rhapsodists recited without singing, taking the rhythm with the blows of a cane.

The perfection and the quality of the Iliad and the Odyssey, considered masterpieces of Western literature, is only explained by the existence of a previous tradition about the Trojan War that Aedos and rhapsodists were elaborating and refining for centuries and that Culminates in the grandiose Homeric poems. Although Homer uses the procedures of the oral tradition, there is no doubt that in both poems there is a poetic purpose, a plan and a structure that reveals the activity of a poet who is conscious of his art.

The oral nature of the style of the Iliad and the Odyssey is undoubted. This certainty is due to the repeated every certain time of certain formulas ( “The Aurora of pink fingers “, “Achilles, that of the light feet “), always in the same metric conditions. After a long period of oral transmission, the text would have been fixed in its definitive form in Athens during the 6th century B.C., at the initiative of the tyrant Pisistratus.

In his poems, Homer did not trace a complete history of the Trojan War (which we know from other sources), but chose two episodes of the Trojan legend to recreate them. Thus, in the Iliad is narrated the last year of the Trojan War, although the central episode is the dispute between two Greek heroes: Achilles and Agamemnon. The Odyssey, which seems to be the most modern of the two compositions attributed to Homer, recounts the adventures and penalties of Ulysses (hero who plays a secondary role in the Iliad) on the return journey from Troy to his homeland, Ithaca, and the punishment inflicted on the PR Etendientes of his wife, Penelope, who believed him dead.

Homer was the most admired poet of antiquity. His works conveyed knowledge and teachings concerning various aspects (strategic and military; The stars and the firmament; moral issues and behaviors of human beings; the relations of the gods with men) and gave the considered form Canonical genealogy of Greek heroes and gods. For all this it served as a cultural and religious reference for later generations.

The Homeric question

The conception of the Odyssey by Aristotle as a work of the old age of Homer is not at all impossible according to the current critique; And if the Iliad is the earliest of both poems (as seems likely by its simpler structure and by the greater frequency in the odyssey of relatively late linguistic forms), the Odyssey could have been created following the same model of monumental composition that Established the Iliad. As both epics differ not only in their construction but in several other details, it is not unbelievable to regard them as one of maturity and the other of the poet’s old age, as some scholars in ancient times pointed out.

But it is also acceptable, argue others, the proposal of certain alexandrianic grammars, so-called comedians (separatists) who attribute the Odyssey to another poet, who, following the Homeric model of the Iliad, would have composed this work around the year 700 BC The call “Homeric question” acquired great importance with the German school, in the analytical works of Friedrich August Wolf (1795), of Karl Lachmann (1837), of Gotfried Hermann and of many continuations that denied, for different reasons, the existence Historical of the figure of Homer, or they recognized him, at most, a modest intervention as compiler. Under the historical optics-philological all appeared anonymous and Homer was only a name. Modern critique rectified this perspective by reconsidering the very probable existence of a unique and extraordinary poet, without it being possible to speak of unanimity in the innumerable questions that arise from the problem of authorship.

The historical background

It is not often found in the history of civilizations that one of them begins, in the literary field, in a way as brilliant as Greek civilization. Nowadays the reason for this is known: the two poems attributed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, sink their roots in the Mycenaean world, in that Greek culture of the II millennium BC. The poems of Homer do not reflect any real civilization, but in them there are undoubted vestiges of a society and of events that, although idealized, enclose a nucleus of historical truth. Thus, more than the beginning of the Greek literary culture, Homer was the culmination of the Greek world of the II millennium BC. It is evident that the Mycenaean or Achaean civilization produced, among other forms of artistic expression, epics that, transmitted by oral tradition, were the nucleus from which the Ionic poets created the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The city of Troy or Ilium was located in the Asian part of the Hellespont and controlled all the trade in the area to be a forced route in the passage of the Dardanelles. The armed confrontation known as the Trojan War, of clear commercial character, could have been the last effort of the Mycenaean world, in Frank decay, against a foreign power. However, in the Homeric story, the war was brought by the Achaeans, led by the king of Mycenae, Agamemnon, with the intention of rescuing Helena, wife of his brother Menelaus and the most beautiful woman in the world, who had been kidnapped by the Trojan Prince Paris. The site lasted for ten years; The Iliad narrates only part of the tenth year.

After Achilles ‘ death, wounded in the heel of Paris, the war ended thanks to the stratagem devised by Ulysses, who built a wooden horse to introduce him to the city of Troy with the bravest of the Greeks in his womb. The city was looted, burned and reduced to ashes. The Odyssey is the story of Ulysses ‘ return, and his world is different from that of Iliad; The poem seems more belated and idealize the experience of Greek colonization along the Mediterranean.

For a long time it was believed that the stories of the Trojan War were nothing more than myths and legends created or transmitted by Homer. But in the nineteenth century, the young German Heinrich Schliemann was so fascinated by the reading of the Iliad and the Odyssey that, convinced that they had a real base, he set out to discover the ancient Troy.

He devoted himself to business and worked hard to get the money for the excavations, while studying archaeology and ancient languages to acquire the necessary knowledge. Finally, with forty-eight years and owner of a fortune, Schliemann settled in a village in Turkey near which he assumed that the remains of the city were to be found. He began excavations on Hissarlik Hill and soon discovered not one, but six overlapping cities. The evidence had to be surrendered: An amateur archaeologist had discovered Troy.

Among the many treasures he found, the most famous is a golden mask, to which Schliemann called the Mask of Agamemnon (without any foundation, obviously). Not content with it, he traveled through the mainland Greece and discovered nothing less than the old Mycenae. Death came over him before he could establish which of the different levels found in Troy corresponded to the city of the Homeric story. Some of his collaborators proposed that the Homeric Troy coincided with the levels VI or VIIa. The latter offered evidence of having been destroyed by a fire at a date close to the year 1250 BC.

Thanks to the discoveries of Schliemann we know today of the existence of the so-called Mycenaean civilization. It was developed between the XVIII and XI centuries BC, and spread throughout the mainland Greece, the islands and Crete. It was an advanced civilization, which knew the scripture (they found inscriptions with names of some gods and heroes of the Iliad), and powerful enough to be measured with the Egyptians and the Hittites.

It is almost certain that, towards the year 1200 BC, the expansionist cravings of Mycenaean civilization stumbled upon Troy. Troy, by its power and its strategic situation, controlled the rich commercial routes between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. By dominating the straits that joined both seas, the Trojans could freely trade and impose elevated tolls on foreign ships, which assured their prosperity. Commercial interests would therefore provoke numerous clashes between Mycenae and Troy.

In all likelihood, therefore, the Iliad speaks of civilizations and conflicts that truly existed, and which, after several centuries, were still known by oral transmission. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey reflect in an epic tone the glorious feats of a past populated by heroes, but at the same time, although without alluding to a clearly identifiable historical period, they enclose a nucleus of historical truth: the Mycenaean expansion by the Orient and the Greek colonization.

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