Fun Facts about Homer

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Today I thought I’d share some fun facts about Homer, an author I’m currently reading: Homer.  I wanted to share these fun facts about Homer anyway, and so it will fit right in to my review of The Iliad that will come.

It’s interesting to note that my chosen author, Homer, may not really have existed. Does that still count?

  • Homer’s birth date is disputed. Herodotus (who lived about 450 B.C.) believes Homer lived about 850 B.C.; other believe he lived earlier, closer to the Trojan war (11th or 12th century B.C.); some modern experts believe Homer lived later, about 600 B.C.
  • Homer’s birth place is also disputed. Many towns in the Mediterranean claim to be Homer’s birthplace; tradition claims the island of Chios in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • In fact, Homer’s existence is disputed. Was there really a man named Homer? Legend attributes the epic poems – The Iliad and The Odyssey — to a man named Homer, but no actual biographical information had been recorded. No one really knows if he existed.
  • The epic poems were first set down in writing in about 700 B.C., although supposedly they were written long before that, being passed from generation to generation as performances.
  • Some believe the poems were written by one person, while others believe a number of people contributed to the whole.
  • The name Homer sounds like Greek words meaning “hostage” and/or “blind,” which may have influenced the characterization of Homer as a former slave that became a blind bard.
  • In the Hellenistic period of Greece (3rd century B.C.), some cities dedicated shrines to Homer.
  • In his introduction to Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad, Bernard Knox suggests that Homer most likely did exist – and that The Iliad, at least, was written in its entirety by one author before it was performed. I’m tempted to agree with that: the complexity of the epic poem is impressive and the depth of it is incredible to me. But then, I’m not familiar with oral traditions.

Whether or not Homer really did exist, I am finding The Iliad to be surprisingly entertaining; more to come when I finish it.

Information from PBB’s Who Is Homer?; Wikipedia’s Homer entry; the introduction by Bernard Knox to The Iliad by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles.

Incidentally, if you are interested in classics, there’s a new blog all about them: it’s Echoes of Narcissus, and classicist Juliadomna tells us that her goal is

…to publish sporadic bits of information on how Classics is not only beautiful and excellent training for all walks of life, but also incredibly powerful and relevant.

Check out this post to get some exciting recommended reading. Classics, apparently, can be fun. (I’m finding that to be true, at least in terms of The Iliad.)

Other authors were featured this week on Weekly Geeks. Here are some others, who actually lived, that also might interest you:

Reviewed on November 11, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • That was a GREAT and informative post. Being in the field of Egyptology and right now working on a thesis about the Roman Period in Egypt, I am always interested in Ancient History posts!

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