19. The Fascinating Poet Credited With the Bronze Age Greeks’ Greatest Literary Legacy
Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls,
Of heroes into Hades’ dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.
Homer – opening verses of the Iliad
Homer (circa eighth century BC) is the name ascribed to the author of the Iliad and Odyssey, Ancient Greece’s fascinating national epics about the Bronze Age Trojan War and its aftermath. Together, the two poems are the centerpieces of Ancient Greek literature and culture. Beyond the Greek world, Homer’s epics are arguably history’s most influential poems.
The Iliad and Odyssey shaped not only Ancient Greek culture, which viewed them as sources of moral and practical instruction but exerted an outsize influence on Western culture in general. Greek tradition has it that Homer was a wandering blind bard from Chios in Ionia, a region of former Greek settlement on the western coast of modern Turkey. However, there is no scholarly consensus on whether those poems were actually the work of a single author, or the outcome of a process spread over generations, and to which numerous poets contributed.