The legendary bard Homer has undoubtedly been a huge inspiration for many writers, painters, sculptors, filmmakers and other artists. He’s been recognised as the author of some of the most famous ancient poems, “Iliad” and “Odyssey”. However, there has been a dispute whether Homer is the only author of these works. Some scholars believe that the stories must have been composed by more people.
There’s not much certain information about Homer. It’s supposed that he lived around 9th or 8th century BC. According to a Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, the poet lived circa 750 - 700 BC.
Homer was probably born on the island Chios or in Smyrna, an ancient city in Ionia. Chios is one of the Greek islands and Smyrna is located in Asia Minor, currently part of Turkey. The legend says that he was a son of a god of river Meles and a nymph. It’s worth to mention here that ancient Greeks often claimed famous people to have divine origin.
In fact, the ancient Greek word “homer” means “hostage” or “one who is forced to follow”, and in some dialects “blind”. This probably explains ancient and later images of the blind bard.
This epic poem describes the events in the ten and final year of Trojan war, towards the end the Mycenaean Greece period. Troy was an ancient city in Asia Minor, located on the bank of the river Skamandros. For many centuries the city was believed to be only a legend, until the discovery of Heinrich Schliemann in 19th century.
The main theme of “Iliad” is the anger of a famous Greek hero Achilles. At the beginning of the story, offended by a Greek king Agamemnon, Achilles refuses to fight. The Greeks take every effort to ask him to return to the war, but he doesn’t want to change his mind. The situation resolves when Achilles finds out about the death of his friend Patroclus. To revenge his friend, he fights and kills Hector, a Trojan warrior. Then, to the Greeks’ camp arrives king Priam, Hector’s father. He begs Achilles to return his son’s body. Achilles accepts his request. This ends his anger.
In “Iliad”, the human world coexists with the one of the gods, who constantly influence on the events of the war. The poem is a great source of knowledge about ancient Greeks’ beliefs and their mythology.
The sequel of “Iliad”, “Odyssey” is the story of Odysseus, a Greek king of Ithaca, and his long journey back home. On their way home, his crew comes across a number of difficulties. Sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, they meet some mythical creatures: cyclopes, sirens and nymph Calypso.
The author describes also intervention of the gods in the events of the journey.
Over the centuries, there has been created lots of work influenced by “Iliad” and “Odyssey”.
I’d like to mention here “Ulysses”, the novel by James Joyce. This modernist Irish author from the beginning of the 20th century refers directly to “Odyssey”. The main character of the book, Leopold Bloom wandres around Dublin, from one place to another. He reminds of Odysseus, whose Latin name is Ulysses. Hence the title of the book.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a novel and a film from 1968 about a journey to Jupiter. Both works has been created parallely by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Clarke also wrote a series of stories and novels known as Space Odyssey series. A term “Odyssey” means here “a long journey”.
Events described in “Iliad” are shown in a famous film “Troy”by Wolfgang Petersen from 2004. In this Hollywood production starred Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana Sean Bean and others.
The above are just few examples of contemporary references to Homer’s poems. I encourage you to look for some more. You’ll be surprised how much has “Iliad” and “Odyssey” influenced our Western culture.