Did Homer compose Illiad and Odyssey?


It is known to all that Homer was blind and uneducated. The Greeks and Romans are quite unsure how Homer went on to compose his poems. It is said that Homer did not leave behind his poems in any form of writing. The poems were told to others by memorization and these were collected together to form songs. As Homer never wrote down any of his poems thus there are many inconsistencies in his works. Even the dates of Homer’s existence are controversial. Heredotus estimated that he lived 400 years before his own time, this would mean that he lived around 850 BC. While other historical sources suggest that lived much closer to the Trojan War between 1194-1184 BC. There were many inconsistencies in his writings, for example a warrior is described to be groaning after he has already died. Indeed there are justifiable reasons why Homer had problems in keeping a track of his poems, while the Illiad is 16,000 lines Odyssey is also 12,000 lines. All these lines were composed by Homer without the aid of any pen and paper.

 

Homer - the Blind Poet

German scholar Friedrich Wolf added that without a passing comment about a tablet in the Illiad there are no other instances in the poem that suggest Homer knew what writing was. Homer composed all his poems orally and then transmitted them to his ardent listeners. These listeners passed it on to their predecessors. But in this process the original poems got revised. Finally someone wrote all the poems down. Thus the lapses in the poems are not a fault of the author rather those of the compilers. Many scholars even claim that the original version of Illiad or Odyssey might not have been so astounding it was the additions made by generations of bards that changed the entire context. It is difficult for any poet to create two epics all of a sudden and that too of the brilliance of these two texts.

 

Homer sang his poems to audiences

Homer composed his poems in an age when writing did not exist in Greece. It is quite difficult to think that a poet could create such a masterpiece without writing, it is not possible for anyone to remember thousands of lines! It is difficult under all circumstances to create such a lengthy poetry without any written records. Thus the scholars feel that someone by the name of Homer might have initiated the process of creating these two epics and added few hundred lines, but the rest of the epic was created in an evolutionary chain from generation to generation.

City of Troy was excavated in the Nineteenth century

 

In the nineteenth century excavations confirmed that Troy and the Trojan war were at least in some part based on real events. But the excavations also suggested that the world of Trojans and Mycenaeans was radically different from the descriptions provided by Homer. In the poems there was no mention of huge Mycenaean places or tombs or the written tablets with a special script of writing known as Linear B. Some of the tablets dug out from the sites revealed that that there was a centralized, hierarchical society in vogue in Mycenaea. The archaeological finds also did not find any evidence of independent chieftains such as Achilles who lived in small houses and served the king independently. Gregory Nagy, another renowned scholar feels that the Homeric writings became fixed text as late as the 6th century. Even the whereabouts of Homer remain a mystery and there are no evidences to justify his biographical information. So it may be held that the Illiad and Odyssey were more works of the generations who made changes in the text to fit their ages. There is little ancient historicity in these texts. They represent the times of the bards.

 

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