Who was Homer?

Who was Homer? Bust of Homer in the Louvre, Paris

Nothing is known of the life of Homer, but as author of two of ancient Greece's most important literary works - the Iliad and the Odyssey - his importance to Greek culture can hardly be underestimated.

According to a hymn written in honour of the god Apollo, he was a blind man from the island of Chios, in the eastern Mediterranean. Chios was home to a guild of poets, or rhapsodists, called the Homeridai, and seems to be one of the most likely candidates. However, many other Greek cities have also claimed to have been his home, as an old Greek epigram says:

"Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,Through which the living Homer begged his bread?"

Homer's verses were first set down in writing around 700 BC, soon after the Greeks invented their own alphabet by incorporating vowels into the existing Phoenician alphabet. The verses were probably significantly older than this, because we know that until this point they had been memorized by travelling bards who earned a living by reciting them.

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