View Full Version : Why is Homer considered mysterious?

14th March 2011, 01:52 AM
Wikipedia has an excellent discussion of this, actually. Some key points:

* It's not even clear if Homer existed at all, or if the Iliad and the Odyssey were just a culmination of hundreds of years of oral storytelling that were just finally written down somewhere between 800 and 600 BC.

* It's not clear (though most scholars do believe it*) whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by the same person (assuming they are each works of one author).

* It's not clear (though most scholars don't believe it) whether other works traditionally attributed to Homer, such as the Homeric Hymns and parts of the Epic Cycle (other poems about the Trojan War) were written by Homer or not.

* Even assuming that there was a poet Homer who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, no one has any idea when he lived - ancient estimates vary wildly, from suggestions that he was around for the Trojan War (which is dated ~1200 BC) or one or two generations afterwards, to the idea that he lived around 800 BC (I think this is what most people believe). Similarly, nothing is really known about his life - even the idea that he's blind isn't substantiated.

* Homer has always been considered mysterious, and even semi-mythical, since early antiquity. There's a modern idea that even his name derives from Greek words meaning "He who fits [the Song] together;" if true, this reinforces his mythical nature.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homer