Absolutely nothing is known about "Homer", the traditional author of the Iliad and Odyssey. Most scholars now date him to within 50 years of 750BC, and assume he was a Greek from Asia Minor or one of the islands. Most now also believe a single author wrote both epics and that he used writing. But anything said about Homer is controversial.


An epic poem in 24 books (the division is not ancient) about the wrath of Achilles and its consequences. The main narrative deals with a few days' fighting in the tenth and final year of the siege of Troy. But Homer constantly "jumps out" of the narrative, in a way familar to users of the world wide web! When Glaucus tells the story of Bellerophon in Book 6, for example, it is as if Homer is following a hyperlink to another story entirely. Sometimes these links are not followed - he merely puts them there to suggest he knows all about them, and could tell us, if the time were appropriate. (For example: the Seven Against Thebes; The First Trojan War; the story of Heracles; the Sack of Troy). Homer also likes to jump out of the war and its brutality into his own world of peace and ordinariness: he does this especially in his similes, where violent men and violent episodes are reflected in simple, trivial happenings in the farmyard or sheepfold. Homer also is a great namer of names. Unlike the modern CNN or Al Jazeera war with its arrays of anonymous corpses, in Homer every cadaver has a name and a pedigree. No one dies without his name, his parents' names and his place of origin being noted. Often this adds an almost unbearable pathos:

"Diomedes killed Axylus son of Teuthranus, who came from the pleasant town of Arisbe. He was a wealthy man who lived in a pleasant house by the roadside, and had made himself popular by entertaining all comers. But none of his friends were there to tackle the enemy for him .." (Book 6)