The two major epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are at the beginning of Greek literature. Some aspects of the poems date back to the Mycenaean period, maybe as far as 1500 BC, although the written works are typically attributed to Homer; in their current form, they presumably date from the 8th century. They are among the most important sources for information about ancient Greece.
In addition to being works of art in themselves, with numerous examples of highly skilled craftsmanship, the epics play an important part in understanding how people lived in ancient Greece. They give a vivid account of the great wars between the various city-states of Greece, including events that took place long before these wars were even thought of. The battles, descriptions of which fill many lines of verse in the epics, must have been very exciting times for those who fought or watched them.
The Iliad tells the story of the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans over Helen, wife of King Agamemnon of Greece. This happened after the Trojan prince Paris promised her to the most beautiful woman at the wedding ceremony of his cousin Helen. When Helen left her husband's palace without his knowledge, the war began. It ended with Troy being destroyed by the Greeks, but only after a long struggle.
The Odyssey is about Odysseus, a king of Ithaca, whose home town was near modern-day Cádiz in Spain.
The Iliad, which is thought to have been written down about the 8th century BC, is one of the earliest extant works of Western literature, along with the Odyssey, another epic poem credited to Homer that recounts of Odysseus' experiences following the events of the Iliad. It has been called "the first detailed account of war" because it covers the wars between the Greeks and the Trojans over Helen of Troy.
The Iliad consists of 18 chapters that deal with the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. It begins with a prologue that tells how Achilles, who was born in Myrtleia on the Aegean Sea but raised by the goddess Thetis, refused to fight during the Trojan War because he had not been invited. He finally agreed to go to battle if Hector, who was also born in Myrtleia but brought up by his father Lycaon, would fight him for honor. When they fought and killed each other, Achilles dragged Hector's body around the walls of Troy for three days before throwing it into the sea where it was eaten by birds of prey. This made such an impression on the people that they decided to end the war before it started.
In the main part of the work, we follow the adventures of two armies during the course of a long war.
The Homeric epics—the Iliad and the Odyssey—are the earliest works of any bulk, dated from the 8th century BC. They are preserved in a relatively complete state only from Greece, but many details about other parts of the world at that time can be inferred from them.
Homer may have been a real person who lived in ancient Greece, but he is also a generic name for an epic poet. The epics themselves date back even further than this discovery, to around 1250 BC, when people were still living in small tribes outside of cities. But they are thought to have been written down sometime after 730 BC.
Who was responsible for writing them down? We don't know for sure, but it's likely that slaves or members of the lower class might have done so. There are no records of anyone being paid for their work, which suggests that it was not intended for profit but rather as an exercise or competition.
What do they tell us about society at that time? The epics provide information about war, politics, religion, and society at large. They show that people lived in tribes without government, had conflicts over territory, used weapons made of bronze and iron, and kept slaves.
Homer (/'[email protected]/; Ancient Greek: Omeros; Greek pronunciation: [home:ros], Homeros; c. 800-c. 701 BC) was the probable author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two fundamental masterpieces of Greek literature. The exact relationship between Homer and the people who lived in his time has been a subject of debate since antiquity. Some scholars believe that he was a single person who lived at a time when there were no written languages, while others argue that he was a group of people. Whatever his actual number, it is clear that he was not the only poet of his time.
In order to write down what he remembered of events that had taken place during the war between Troy (also called Ilium) and Greece, Homer may have used an oral tradition passed on from singer to singer. It is possible that certain individuals were responsible for creating individual parts of the work, such as the Iliad's battle scenes or the Odyssey's adventures after the fall of Troy. These parts would then have been put together by someone who knew the story well enough to do so effectively, but who could also be trusted with the overall structure of the work. This last point is important: although Homer may have created some of the elements that make up the poem, he most likely did not create the plot in its entirety.
Most classical historians think that the Epic of Gilgamesh influenced both the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems composed in ancient Greek during the eighth century BC. In 1849, the Epic of Gilgamesh was unearthed in Ashurbanipal's Library. It is one of the oldest known literary works in human history.
The epic poem itself tells the story of a king who wants to be like the gods. So he asks them for help with a challenge, which turns out to be preventing his friend from being killed by a wild animal. When Gilgamesh fails to save his friend, he feels ashamed and decides to change himself for the better. He learns what humanity is really made of, experiences love and loss, before finding peace and happiness at last.
It is thought that the poet may have been inspired by actual events that took place around 2300 BC. However, modern scholars believe that the story has been fictionalized over time by various authors. The original version of the epic might have been longer than what we have today. Also, some details about Gilgamesh such as his age or how he died are unknown. Finally, some believe that the poem is set in India instead of Mesopotamia.
Although many elements in the epic can be found in other works of ancient Near Eastern literature, no other text matches it word-for-word.