Hippeis

Hippeis

The World of Christian Cameron

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Homer

Another great poet, roughly Hesiod’s contemporary (give or take fifty years!) and again, possibly more a poetic tradition than an individual man. Homer is reputed as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two great epic poems which, between them, largely defined what heroism and aristocratic good behavior should be in Greek society—and, you might say, to this very day.

Homer

Homer, by a Roman sculptor living seven hundred years after his death.

We still say that someone or something is “Homeric.” We owe to this one tradition the whole notion of what a “hero” is—of what is martial valor, what is generosity. Many of the ideals of “chivalry” owe as much to Homer than to any Germanic ideals. The rediscovery of the Iliad and Odyssey by Petrarch (never lost in the Byzantine East, but lost in the West) heralded intense interest in Homer, whose heroes adorn the art of the Renaissance and Neo-Classical as freely as the Archaic and the Classical eras.

It is possible that Homer’s work is the most influential written work in the West—perhaps in the world.

Homer’s work was probably written down as early as 740 BCE, although there are scholars who would go as late as 620 BCE, making it possible that Homer and Hesiod were contemporaries. It is possible that the Iliad and the Odyssey are by different authors, or each represent an oral tradition and that there was no “Homer.”

What is true is that the Iliad remains the finest war-story ever told, and if you haven’t read it, you should. The Odyssey is pretty good, too!