His Life and His Works
Greeks had used writing since c. 1400 BC, but it was not until the late 8th century BC that their literature was first written down. Greek literature began in Ionia with the brilliant epics of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. These mature products of a long tradition of oral poetry brought together a vast body of divine and heroic myths and sagas that served as a foundation for much subsequent Greek literature. The epic view of humankind had a lasting influence on Greek thought; indeed, it has been said that later Greek literature is but a series of footnotes to Homer. Homer is said to have been blind and told his stories orally. Because the facts of Homer's life when he was born or died, where he lived, who he was- remain unknown and shall most likely never be known. Many scholars have doubted the existence of a "Homer" and point to his texts as the work of a collection of authors over a long period of time. This criticism stems from a disbelief that epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey could have been formulated, maintained, and transmitted within an oral culture. However, new research on human memory and careful analysis of text reveals evidence that the textual style of each poem does emanate from one author. We know that he wrote two poems about the Greeks and their gods. The Iliad was Homer's first epic poem, which tells the story of the Trojan War. His second epic is the Odyssey, which tells the story of a great hero Odysseus, and the adventures he embarks on. Tradition has it that he lived in the 12th century BC, around the time of the Trojan War, in an Ionic settlement, either Chios or Smyrna, where he made his living as a court singer and storyteller. Modern archaeological research has uncovered artifacts similar to those described in the poems, providing evidence that Homer wrote at a later date. Because the poems display a considerable knowledge of Eastern, or Ionian, Greece and are written in the dialect...
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