Homer and Ancient Greece
Homer's two most famous poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey
Homer was the earliest and most famous poet of ancient Greece. No one knows for certain when and where he lived, nor what sort of a life he led, but various stories about him were told and believed to be true by the Greeks themselves. They related that he was the greatest of the band of travelling minstrels who used to wander from city to city and from court to court, in the days when few people knew how to read or write. Some stories spoke of his being blind and poor in his old age, yet still wandering through Greece singing his wonderful poetry. Homer's two most famous poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey used to be recited at a great festival held every four years in Athens and called the Panathenaea.
Greek writers suggested a number of different dates for Homer's life, but it is thought most likely that he was born in the 8th century B.C. Seven cities claimed to be his birthplace - Athens, Colophon, Ithaca, Argos, Rhodes, Smyrna and Chios. However, scholars of modem times who have studied the history and language of ancient Greece think that probably there never was a single poet Homer who wrote all the poems that are supposed to be his. They believe instead that someone collected a great number of poems that had been in existence for very many years and put them together under the name of one man, Homer.
Whatever the truth may be, there is no doubt the Iliad and the Odyssey are truly heroic poems, as thrilling to the modern reader as they were to the men of the ancient world. The Iliad tells the story of the ten year siege of the city of Troy, and the Odyssey gives an account of the wanderings of the hero Odysseus on his way hack to his home in the island of Ithaca after the fighting was over.
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