Homer is the oldest poet known by name, he is considered the father of epic poetry. No Greek poet surpassed him in fame. Temples were built in his honour and monuments erected at Olympia and Delphi and ivine origins were attributed to him. He is considered the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The works attributed to him are the main source of Greek mythology and, along with the Bible, the most important works of antiquity.
There is no more precise information about the poet's origins, his family or his life. Even the ancients did not know his fate, although he was already considered an outstanding artist and authority.
The search for Homer's birthplace was carried out by determining which cities had schools or associations of rhapsodes (itinerant singers) who called themselves 'Homeridae', or the descendants of Homer. The cities of Smyrna, Chios, Colophon, Ithaca, Pylos, Argos and Athens competed for this honour. It is probable that the poet was born in Smyrna, but ultimately he is thought to have come from Chios in Ionia, as research has shown that the basis of the language he used to write his epics was an Ionian dialect. Homer's Ionian origins are also indicated by the testimony of the most famous ancient Greek historian, Herodotus.
It was believed that Homer's original name was Melesigenes and that he was the son of the river god Meles of Smyrna and the nymph Kreteis (this was claimed mainly by the inhabitants of Smyrna). This belief confirms Homer's high status in the Greek world, as only important people were considered to have divine or semi-divine origins.
In some dialects of ancient Greek, the name Homer meant blind ('not seeing'). It is possible that in some areas of ancient Greece there was a ritual blinding of the person destined for the 'profession' of bard, as it was believed that blinding would activate his memory.
In ancient dialects, the name Homer also meant 'hostage', 'companion', 'forced to follow'.
He transmitted his epic poems orally, reciting them to anyone who would listen. In his poems he extolled the deeds of heroes, heroines and gods. It is likely that he belonged to a brotherhood of aoidos - song poets who sang the deeds of heroes to the sound of the formica or guitar. His audiences ranged from the townspeople gathered in the squares to the rich nobles at sumptuous feasts in the palaces.
According to accounts, these two great works of Homer were passed down orally until the time of Pisistratus (tyrant of Athens from 561-527 BC). Thanks to his efforts, around 520 BC the epics are said to have been collected and written down - Pyristratus ordered that every rhapsod (wandering singer) arriving in Athens recite to the writers the whole of what he knew of Homer. Pyristratus' son, Hipparchus, instructed that the epics should be read each year on the occasion of the Panathenaea (a festival commemorating the birth of the goddess Athena).
It depicts episodes from the final phase of the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans - Homer only described the last 51 days of the battle. The title of the work comes from the phrase 'he Ilias poiesis' - a song about Ilion (Troy). The Iliad is thought to predate the Odyssey.
It begins after the end of the Trojan War. The epic describes the fate of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, as he returns from the Trojan War to his homeland and his beloved wife Penelope. During his journey, Odysseus encounters heroes, monsters and gods. Like the Iliad, the Odyssey is only one part of Odysseus' long journey. It is written in hexameter and divided into 24 books.
Thanks to these two works, Homer is considered one of the pillars of modern Western literature, serving as a source of inspiration and knowledge of antiquity.
According to Greek tradition, he was the author of the so-called Homeric hymns (poems ranging from a few lines to hundreds, written in the same dialect as the Iliad and the Odyssey) and heroic poems: Batrachomyomachia ("Battle of the Frogs and Mice"), Margites, of which only a few lines have survived, Kerkopes and Epigoni.
From the time of Herodotus (the Greek historian known as the Father of History, who lived between 484 and 426 BC), the belief began to spread that Homer was only the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
In the eighth century BC, alphabetic writing was introduced to Greece. There was a growing shift away from recitation towards poetry recorded in writing. It is thought that Homer and his circle of disciples and helpers may have been among the pioneers in writing down the poetic songs that had been passed down orally. Writing made large literary forms possible. The Iliad has over 15,000 and the Odyssey over 12,000 verses.
One of the most distinctive features of Greek religion was the worship of heroes (heros), who became almost divine beings. The hero was believed to have been endowed with the power to spread patronage and defend the community of the living through extraordinary deeds performed during his lifetime. The word hero meant the deceased who was worshipped in his tomb or in a special temple and surrounded by a cult.
From the time of Ptolemy IV Philopator (the 4th ruler of Egypt in the Ptolemaic dynasty, reigned 221-204 BC), Homer was worshipped in Alexandria. There is evidence that by the end of the 3rd century BC there was a shrine dedicated to him in Alexandria, which contained a magnificent statue of the seated poet. Temples dedicated to him were built on the islands of Ios and Chios, and statues of him were erected in Olympia and Delphi.
In the 3rd century BC, Alexandrian critics - the so-called Chorizontes ('dividers') - believed that the two epics were written by two different authors. It was also suggested that some parts of the Epics were added at a later time. The dispute was revived in modern times at the end of the 17th century (the problem became known as the 'Homeric question'). At that time, several ideas about the actual authorship of the 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey' emerged.
The voyage of Ulysses became a literary challenge for many generations of writers and inspired many other highly regarded works. These include "Ulysses" by James Joyce, "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes, "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, "Inferno" by Dante Alighieri, "Candide" by Voltaire, "The Star Diaries" by Stanislaw Lem.
The Roman epic was written in hexameter in the first century BC. In twelve books of 9892 verses, it describes the story of the Trojan Aeneas, the legendary protoploss of the Romans.
It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The main roles were played by Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole, Eric Bana, Sean Bean.