c. 850 BC
|Homer is allegedly buried in a tomb at Plakotos, Island
of Ios, Greece, Europe.
In 1771, the Dutch
archeaologist Pasch van Krienen discovered some Hellenistic
period tombs in this area and claimed that one bore the name
of Homer. Some coins bearing Homer's head were also
discoverd and the historians Pausanias, Pliny and Herodotus
do link Homer to the island. However, virtually nothing is
known for certain about Homer's life or death so these
claims can easily be disputed.
Homer (idealised statue from
Signpost to Homer's Tomb, Isle
|In fact, some doubt whether Homer existed as an
individual at all. He is
certainly attributed with the authorship of the Odyssey and
the Iliad though his identity remains a mystery.
Some suggest that Homer was a blind minstrel and that
he composed his works orally while others say there was no
such person as Homer or that the works attributed to him were
written by different authors. According to Herodotus Homer
lived four hundred years before him which would place him
about 850 BC - but again there is no confimation of this.
Although they differ in style, both the Odyssey and the Iliad
concern the Trojan Wars. The Odyssey concerns the
adventures of Odysseus on his return from the Trojan Wars -
detailing his exploits before being reunited with his wife
Penelope in the kingdom of Ithaca - whereas the Iliad
concerns the war waged by Achaean princes against Troy
to recover Helen, the wife of Menelaus, who had been carried
off by Paris the son of King Priam of Troy. Both were witten
in unrhymed dactylic hexameter (or heroic hexameter) consisting of
six dactylic feet - a dactyl being a front stressed 3
syllable foot. Greek is an accented language - unlike
English - so it is hard to provide an exact metrical
translation of either the Odyssey or the
Both of these epic poems are regarded as being the
forerunners of western poetry. However, it is easier to view
the Odyssey as being more akin to a modern day
novel - with its characters and plot structures.
England, John Dryden stimulated
interest in Homer with his translations towards the end of
the 17th Century. Pope followed suit
with versions of both the Odyssey and the Iliad
between 1715 and 1720 - money from which enabled him to rent
a villa at Twickenham. Homer's estimation increased further
during Victorian times with Tennyson
using material in his
The Lotos-Eaters and
Matthew Arnold lecturing
extensively on translating Homer.
Homer is still held
in the highest regard today and is still being translated by
poets of whom Christopher Logue and
Peter Reading are good examples.
Both men were inspired by the violence of the original text.
Here is a section from Peter Reading's Homeric
which appeared in his 1994 collection Last Poems:
After Odyseus had slaughtered
the Suitors he
grimly surveyed them -
crans in a welter of blood and
muck, like the beached
dragged up by driftnetters onto the sand to
for the grey brine
till in the heat of the sun they
lay the slain Suitors.
Homeric by Peter Reading)