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Smyrna, ca 750 BC • Greek poet

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Nothing certain is known about Homer. By the time of the Greek classical age—the fifth century B.C.—there was already a widespread belief that he was the blind, inspired author of both the Iliad and the Odyssey and that he had lived somewhere in the island culture of Asia Minor two or three hundred years earlier. The events depicted in the two epic poems were thought to have occurred several hundred years before Homer's lifetime. The Iliad and the Odyssey were considered fundamental writings at the time of Plato, and they frequently received dramatic public recitations. In addition, the poems were held to exemplify the ideals of virtuous behavior, civic duty, and religious piety on which all education should be based.

However, even in ancient times, there were dissenting opinions. A few scholars believed that Homer was fictional and that the two epics were composed by different authors. Later, others questioned whether Homer was the author or merely the editor or scribe who first wrote down the poems, organizing a long oral tradition. Even the
language of Homer obscured his identity: he composed in a highly stylized form of Greek that was not known to be particular to any geographical region, but conveyed the stories of Achilles and Odysseus in an elaborate and flexible poetic meter. Modern scholars have enriched the debate with intricate theories about how oral poetry is memorized and transmitted through many generations of reciters, opening up the possibility that the Homeric epics are not the creation of an individual author, in our contemporary understanding of the word "author."

What transcends all the differing opinions concerning the identity of Homer is the remarkable interwoven complexity and profound consistency of the two epic poems themselves.

At the very beginning of the long sequence of political and cultural development commonly referred to as Western civilization, the Iliad and the Odyssey powerfully and coherently delineated the narrative patterns that literature has adopted ever since to convey the meaning of human experience. (from:

The Odyssey
ca. 700 v.Chr.
Homer's epic about Odysseus and his encounters with both natural and divine forces on the ten-year voyage home to Ithaca - and his beloved wife, Penelope - after the Trojan War. (see The Iliad[/i)

The Odyssey
Homer, ca. 700 v.Chr.

The Iliad
ca. 750 v.Chr.
Homer's Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles' withdrawal from the fighting and his return to kill the Trojan hero, Hector. The tragic events are interwoven with moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle. (see Odyssey)

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1605 / 1615

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
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