Two of the greatest works of ancient literature—the Iliad and the Odyssey —are credited to a Greek poet named Homer. However, Homer is a shadowy figure, and some scholars doubt that he ever existed. They suggest that the two epics, which tell of the Trojan Warf and the events surrounding it, were woven together by generations of storytellers. Others, however, believe that one poet—perhaps Homer—could have gathered traditional legends and stories told for centuries and created the two great works of literature.
In any case, the ancient Greeks named Homer as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey Stories about the poet suggest that he lived in Ionia, a region on the west coast of Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The dates of his life are uncertain, possibly in the 800s or 700s B . C .
According to tradition, Homer was a blind poet who wandered from place to place telling tales of legendary heroes, gods, and goddesses. It was customary in that period for performers to sing or chant such tales while playing a lyre or other musical instrument. If Homer was, indeed, a wandering performer, he would have relied on voluntary contributions of food, money, and other goods for his support.
epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
lyre stringed instrument similar to a small harp
Whether or not Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two works had a profound influence on Western culture and education. To the ancient Greeks, they were a source of moral lessons as well as a symbol of Greek unity and achievement. The philosopher Aristotle, author of the Poetics, praised Homer highly. A number of later writers, such as the Roman poet Virgil*, modeled their own works on the style and patterns of Homer's epics.