“The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.” – Homer, Iliad

Homer is a Greek epic poet, the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greeks thought him to be the first and greatest of the epic poets.

We don’t know for sure when or where he lived (or if he existed at all for that matter). Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BC.

The importance of Homer to the ancient Greeks is described in Plato’s Republic, which describes him as the protos didaskalos, “first teacher”, and the hegemon paideias, “leader of our culture”.

Homer’s works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval worlds. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyri finds in Egypt.

The Greek hero Achilles
The Greek hero Achilles, Trojan War, Iliad

The Iliad

Iliad is an epic poem which narrates the happenings in the city of Ilion/Troy during the Trojan War. Ilion was a city within the state of Troy. The word Iliad is derived from the name of the city and its literal meaning is “something concerned with Ilion”.

The Iliad is a poetic recounting of the war, its main characters, fighters, and various incidents. It explains how the Greek and Trojan warriors gained strength from their Gods and made sacrifices in their name. Although the Iliad focuses only on the last year of the war, it is an exceptionally lengthy account of the warfare.

Odysseus and the sirens. Homer's Odyssey.
Odysseus and the sirens. Homer’s Odyssey.

The Odyssey

Odyssey is an epic poem based on the Greek character Odysseus. Odyssey focuses on the ten-year-long journey Odysseus made from Troy to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War. The events leading to the start and conclusion of the war are explained in detail.

The Odyssey recounts the dangerous adventures of Odysseus on his journey back home and also the ordeals his family goes through in Ithaca in his absence. The poem is written in 12, 110 lines of dactylic hexameter. It has been translated into numerous modern languages of the world and continues to be read widely.

Although the Iliad and Odyssey are Homer’s best-known poems, more of his works, for instance, the Homeric Hymns have come to surface. Sadly a lot of his other works are believed to be lost in time.

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Ancient Greek literature

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Chapter 1

Homer’s Odyssey – verses 1-9

Chapter 1

Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε·
πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,
πολλὰ δ’ ὅ γ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.
ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ·
αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,
νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο
ἤσθιον· αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.

Αρχαίο Κείμενο.Ancient copy, original.

Chapter 1

Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered
full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.
Many were the men whose cities he saw and whose mind he learned, aye,
and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the sea,

seeking to win his own life and the return of his comrades.
Yet even so he saved not his comrades, though he desired it sore,
for through their own blind folly they perished
fools, who devoured the kine of Helios Hyperion;
but he took from them the day of their returning.

Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.

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