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Table of Contents


1.  About the Iliad

2.  Homer’s Iliad – Character List

3.  Trojan War Protagonists

4.  Homer

5.  Importance of Homer to Ancient Greek History

6.  Trojan War

7.  Was There a Trojan War

8.  Epic Cycle Non-Homeric Trojan War Stories

9.  Internet links for Unit 4


1. About the Iliad



Introduction to the Poem

The Iliad deals with only a small portion of the Trojan War; in fact, it covers only a few months during the tenth year of that war. The ancient Greek audience, however, would have been familiar with all the events leading up to this tenth year, and during the course of the Iliad, Homer makes many references to various past events.


The story of the Iliad has its actual beginning in the creation of the great wall at Troy. The Trojans enlisted the aid of the sea god, Poseidon, to help build the wall. However, after the wall was constructed, Poseidon demanded his just compensation, but the Trojans reneged. Consequently, Troy was without divine protection and, in fact, Poseidon became its enemy.

At the time of the Trojan war, Troy was ruled by King Priam, who was married to Hekuba. According to legend, Priam and Hekuba had forty-nine children, including the warrior Hektor, the prophetess Cassandra, and the young lover, Paris (also known as Alexandros). Deiphobus is also one of the children of Priam and Hekuba.


When Hekuba was pregnant with Paris, she had a dream that Paris would be the cause of the destruction of Troy. An oracle and a seer confirmed that this son would indeed be the cause of the total destruction of the noble city of Troy. Therefore, for the sake of the city, Hekuba agreed to abandon her newborn infant to die by exposure on Mount Ida, but Paris was saved by shepherds and grew up as a shepherd, ignorant of his royal birth.

The Iliad begins: The Judgement of Paris


On the Greek side, the story of the Iliad begins with the wedding of Peleus, a mortal, and Thetis, a goddess. These two become the parents of Achilles. At their wedding, Eris, the goddess of strife, throws down a golden apple with the message, "For the Fairest." Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all try to claim the prize, and no god, including Zeus, is willing to resolve the dispute.


After a long conference on Mount Ida, Paris, the poor but royal shepherd is chosen to be the judge of the dispute between the three goddesses. They all offer bribes to Paris. Hera offers him rule over all of Asia. Athena offers victory in battle and supreme wisdom. But Aphrodite, knowing her man, offers the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, wife of Menelaos, the ruler of Sparta. Paris proclaims Aphrodite the fairest of all and anticipates his prize.

The initiation of strife, in the form of Eris and her apple, at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, introduces an idea that runs throughout the Iliad. Strife, metaphorically embodied in a goddess in the legend, is the motivating factor in most of the major events in the epic. Strife provokes the war. Strife with Agamemnon over a slave girl causes Achilles to withdraw from battle. Strife between various groups and individuals sharpens the action of the poem. Finally, the resolution of strife provides an ending for the poem. Eris is rarely mentioned in the Iliad, but her presence is almost palpable.


Before going to the court of Menelaos to secure Helen, Paris establishes his legitimacy as a son of King Priam of Troy. Only then does Paris travel to Sparta, where for ten days he is treated royally as the guest of Menelaos and Helen. After ten days, Menelaos has to travel to Crete to conduct business. In Menelaos' absence, Paris abducts Helen and returns with her to Troy. Various accounts of this event make Helen either a willing accomplice to Paris' scheme or a resisting victim of kidnapping. In the Iliad, Helen's constant references to herself as a bitch and prostitute leave little doubt that Homer sees her as a culpable accomplice in the abduction.


Word of Helen's abduction reaches Menelaos in Crete. He immediately goes to his brother, Agamemnon, the great ruler of Mycenae. At first the two brothers try diplomacy with Troy to secure the return of Helen. When that fails, they determine to enlist the aid of many other rulers of small Greek kingdoms. Nestor of Pylos, an old friend of the family, accompanies Menelaos as he goes to each state seeking support. The Greek army that Menelaos and Nestor help assemble represents the Greek or Mycenaean notion of reciprocity. Actions were performed with the expectation of a reciprocal action. According to some accounts, the various Greek rulers had all courted Helen and felt an obligation to Menelaos. But, even so, they go on the raid with an understanding that they will receive a share of the booty that will come from the destruction of Troy and other nearby states. In fact, the opening dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles is over what they each see as inequity in the distribution of their war prizes.


Some of the Greek leaders were anxious to sack Troy; but two, Odysseus and Achilles, were warned by the oracles of their fates if they participated in the war. Odysseus was warned that his journey home would last twenty years, and thus he feigned madness; but his ruse was quickly discovered and he finally agreed to go to war. The Greeks knew that they could never capture Troy without the help of Achilles, who was the greatest warrior in the world. He was practically invulnerable as a fighter, because at birth his mother dipped him in the River Styx, rendering him immortal everywhere except in the heel, where she held him. (Later, Paris discovers this vulnerability and shoots a poisoned arrow into Achilles' heel — thus, we have the term "Achilles' heel," meaning one's vulnerability.) Achilles was warned that if he went to war he would gain great glory, but he would die young. His mother then disguised him in women's clothing, but the sly Odysseus discovered the trick and Achilles finally consented to go.


After a few months, the Greek army gathers at Aulis in Euboea. According to some accounts, they immediately launch an attack on Teuthrania, an ally of Troy, are defeated, and are driven back. Much of the army disperses. During this same period, the prophet Kalchas predicts that ten years will pass before the walls of Troy will fall. The Greeks, or Achaians as they called themselves, do not try a mass attack on Troy again for about eight years. They have not, as many imagine, spent nine years beneath the walls of Troy, as when the Iliad opens. Some scholars consider this first expedition story to be a variant account of the more common story, but many others think that the expedition against Troy was actually made up of two widely separated expeditions.


The story of the second (or possibly first) assembly at Aulis is the more famous account. At this assembly of the Achaian forces, they are unable to sail because of onshore winds. This time Kalchas reports that Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, is offended because Agamemnon killed a deer sacred to her. The only way the Achaians can leave is by Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigeneia, to Artemis. Agamemnon tricks Iphigeneia by telling her that she is to wed Achilles. When she arrives for her wedding, she is gagged so that she cannot pronounce a dying curse, and sacrificed to Artemis. The winds shift, and the Achaians (Greeks) sail for Troy.


The Achaians land at a protected shore near Troy. They build a wall of earth, stone, and timber to protect their ships. This wall is the focus of the Trojan attack in Books XII and XIII. After the construction of the wall, the Achaians begin their siege of Troy. Some of their forces raid nearby states. Achilles attacks cities to the south while Telamonian Aias (Ajax) takes Teuthrania.


A year later, the tenth year since the original prediction by Kalchas, all of the Achaians assemble near Troy to begin what they hope will be the final assault. Here is where the Iliad begins as a feud develops between Achilles and Agamemnon. The poem recounts the events of this feud as they take place over several days. The epic ends with the death and burial of the Trojan warrior, Hektor.


After the Iliad: The fall of Troy

The events after the Iliad that lead to the fall of Troy are not a part of the poem. After the burial of Hektor, the Trojans call on outside forces for help, and the Greeks lose many warriors. In one battle, Achilles encounters Paris, who shoots an arrow that, guided by Apollo, strikes Achilles in the right heel, the only place where he is vulnerable. Aias (Ajax) and Odysseus are able, with great difficulty, to rescue Achilles' body, and immediately there arises a dispute over who should receive Achilles' splendid armor. When it is awarded to Odysseus, Aias (Ajax) becomes so furious that he threatens to kill some of the Greek leaders. When he realizes the lack of honor in his threats, he commits suicide.


With the death of their two greatest and most valiant warriors, Aias and Achilles, the Greeks become anxious about ever taking Troy. After consulting various seers and oracles, they are instructed to secure the bow and arrows of Heracles, which are in the hands of Prince Philoctetes, a Greek who was abandoned earlier because of a loathsome wound that would not heal. Odysseus and Diomedes are sent to Philoctetes, and they convince him to return with the bow and arrows. In his first encounter in battle, he is able to kill Paris. This death, however, does not affect the course of the war.


The Greeks are then given a series of tasks that they must accomplish to secure victory: They must bring the bones of Pelops back to Greece from Asia, bring Achilles' son into the war, and steal the sacred image of Athena from the Trojan sanctuary. These tasks are accomplished, but none of them changes the course of the war. Then Odysseus conceives a plan whereby the Greeks can get inside the walls of Troy: A great horse of wood is constructed with a hollow belly that can hold many warriors. In the darkness of night, the horse is brought to the Trojan plain. Odysseus and some of his men are hidden inside the horse. The rest of the Achaians burn their camps and sail off behind a nearby island.


The next morning, the Trojans find the Greeks gone and the huge, mysterious horse sitting before Troy. They also discover a Greek named Sinon, whom they take captive. Odysseus provided Sinon with plausible stories about the Greek departure, the wooden horse, and his own presence there to tell the Trojans. Sinon tells Priam and the others that Athena deserted the Greeks because of the theft of her image from her temple. Without her help, they were lost and so they departed. But to get home safely, they had to have a human sacrifice. Sinon was chosen, but he escaped and hid. The horse was left to placate the angry goddess, and the Greeks hoped the Trojans would desecrate it, earning Athena's hatred. These lies convince Priam and many other Trojans, so they pull the gigantic horse inside the gates to honor Athena.


That night, the soldiers creep out of the horse, kill the sentries, and open the gates to let the Achaian army in. The Achaians set fires throughout the city, massacre the inhabitants, and loot the city. The Trojan resistance is ineffectual. King Priam is killed, and by morning all but a few Trojans are dead. Only Aeneas, with his old father, his young son, and a small band of Trojans, escape. Hektor's young son, Astyanax, is thrown from the walls of the city. The women who are left are given to the Greek leaders as war prizes, to be used as slaves or as concubines. Troy is devastated. Hera and Athena have their revenge upon Paris and upon his city.




Homer’s Iliad

2. Character List


Also see:



The Achaians: Heroes

In the Iliad certain heroic characters play major roles in the battles even though the reader knows that many more common soldiers must be involved. The heroes, however, are presented literally as greater human beings than the ordinary warriors. Some may have a divine or semi-divineparent, though the hero himself is still mortal and subject to death, unlike the gods. Heroes are of such stature that they sometimes provoke envy from the gods and on occasion may even fight with a god. Each hero is distinguished by a virtue but may also have an accompanying vice. For example, Achilles is the greatest warrior, but he is also petulant and self-centered. In terms of status, heroes are below the gods but above the ordinary warriors.


Overall, heroes lived by four rules: arete, the pursuit of excellence, as exemplified by valor in battle, and nobility, as exemplified by skill in speech and diplomacy. Each of the greatest of these noble heroes is given an aristeia, or greatest moment in battle, somewhere in the Iliad.


·      Achilles: The central character of the Iliad and the greatest warrior in the Achaian army. The most significant flaw in the temperament of Achilles is his excessive pride. He is willing to subvert the good of the whole army and to endanger the lives of those who are closest to him to achieve emotional blackmail. Chief virtue: a fighter. His humanity stems from his great passion.


·      Agamemnon: The well-meaning but irresolute king of Mycenae; commander-in-chief of the expedition against Troy. He is a brother of Menelaos. Chief virtue: being a king. His humanity stems from his broad mindedness that makes him a weak king.


·      Diomedes: He ranks among the finest and bravest of the Achaian warriors; he is always wise and reasonable and is renowned for his courtesy and gallantry. He is, perhaps, Homer's vision of the perfect young nobleman. He is sometimes called "lord of the battle cry."


·      Aias (Ajax): Son of Telamon, he is often called Telamonian Aias; his reputation is due primarily to brute strength and courage, which are his virtues in the poem. Epithet: wall of army.


·      Odysseus: The shrewdest and most subtle of all the Achaians and a brave warrior besides, as he demonstrates on many occasions. Epithet: "Seed of Zeus." Chief virtue: intelligence motivated by persistence, which is his humanity.


·      Nestor: The oldest of the Achaian warriors at Troy. Nestor has all the wisdom and experience of age and is a valuable asset in the council. Although he can no longer fight, he remains at the front line at every battle, commanding his troops. He is often referred to as "Gerenian Nestor."


The Achaians: Warriors

Warriors tend to be somewhat lesser individuals than the heroes are, although still much greater than ordinary men. Their parents are usually mortals, and they are not given aristeias in the Iliad.


·      Aias (Ajax) the Lesser: A distinguished warrior, but insolent and conceited. He is the son of Oileus and is often called Oilean Aias.


·      Antilochos: The son of Nestor; a brave young warrior who takes an active part in the fighting and the funeral games.


·      Automedon: The squire and charioteer of Achilles.


·      Helen: Originally married to Menelaos, she ran away to Troy with Paris and became his wife. Supposedly, she is the most beautiful woman in the world; however, she is also self-centered.


·      Idomeneus: The King of Crete and one of the most efficient of the Achaian leaders, he has the respect and liking of the whole Achaian army.


·      Kalchas: Soothsayer and prophet of the Achaians.


·      Menelaos: King of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon He was the husband of Helen, who was abducted by Paris.


·      Patroklos: Achilles' close friend and warrior-companion.


The Trojans: Heroes

·      Aeneas: Son of Aphrodite; a Trojan nobleman. He is second in command of the Trojan army and a brave, skillful warrior.


·      Hektor (Hector): Prince of Troy and son of Priam and Hekuba. Hektor is commander of all the Trojan and allied forces. He is the greatest of the Trojan warriors and one of the most noble characters in the Iliad. He is always conscious of his duty and his responsibilities to his people and does not let his personal interests interfere. He is a devoted and loving husband and father.


The Trojans: Warriors

·      [Inserted by TKW.  Anchises: Aeneas's father, and a symbol of Aeneas's Trojan heritage. Although Anchises dies during the journey from Troy to Italy, he continues in spirit to help his son fulfill fate's decrees, especially by guiding Aeneas through the underworld and showing him what fate has in store for his descendants.]


·      Andromache: The wife of Hektor. She seems to illustrate Homer's idea of the good wife and mother; she is loyal, loving, and concerned for her family, and is willing to accept the decisions of her husband.


·      Antenor: A Trojan nobleman who unsuccessfully advocates the return of Helen to the Achaians.


·      [Inserted by TKW.   Ascanius:  A legendary king of Alba Longa, Italy, (said to have reigned  1176-1138 BC) and is the son of the Trojan hero Aeneas and Creusa, daughter of Priam. He is a character in Roman mythology, and has a divine lineage, being the son of Aeneas, who is son of goddess Venus and the hero Anchises, a relative of the king Priam; thus Ascanius has divine ascendents by both parents, being descendant of god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Dardanus. He is also an ancestor of Romulus, Remus and the Gens Julia. Together with his father, he is a major character in the Aeneid, and he is depicted as one of founders of the Roman race.]


·      Astyanax: The infant son of Hektor and Andromache.


·      Chryseis: Daughter of Chryses, the priest of Apollo. She is the "war prize" hostage of Agamemnon until Apollo demands that she be returned to her father.


·      Dolon: A Trojan nobleman, captured by Odysseus and Diomedes during their night expedition to the Trojan camp in Book X.


·      Glaukos: A prince; a renowned warrior.


·      Hekuba: Wife of Priam. Hektor is the most prominent of her sons.


·      Helenos: Son of Priam and Hekuba; a prince of Troy and a seer.


·      Cassandra: The daughter of Priam and Hekuba; Hektor and Paris' sister.


·      Pandaros: A good archer, but a treacherous man; it is he who breaks the truce in Book IV.:


·      Paris (Alexandros): A prince of Troy; son of Priam and Hekuba; also husband of Helen. He seems content to allow the Trojans to fight for him. He is reprimanded for this by Hektor more than once. His reputation is that of a "pretty boy." His smoothness and glibness are not admired by the warriors of either side, and they often accuse him of cowardice.


·      Poulydamas: One of the Trojan leaders; a very able and clear-headed military strategist whose advice to Hektor is usually not heeded.


·      Priam: King of Troy. He is very old and no longer able to command his army in the field, but his great courage is seen when he travels to the Achaian camp one night to ransom Hektor's body. He is a noble and generous man, one of the few Trojans besides Hektor who treats Helen with respect and courtesy, despite her infidelity to her husband and the war caused by her actions.


The Gods

Gods differ from mortals primarily in their immortality. They are unaware of the fear of death and sometimes seem unable to grasp the pain and horror that fighting and dying bring to mortal warriors. The gods have ichor, an immortal fluid, rather than blood; they eat ambrosia and drink nectar. They live on Mt. Olympos, though in the Iliad Zeus often watches the battle from Mt. Ida. The gods can and do change shape and interact with humans. Occasionally, the gods fight humans and suffer wounds, but this doesn't cause the gods any real harm, because the gods cannot bleed or die.


The Greek gods are all anthropomorphic: They look like humans, although they are taller, larger, more beautiful, and they often exhibit human emotions such as anger, envy, and deceit.


·      Zeus: The supreme god and king of Olympos. His duty is to carry out the will of Destiny, so he is officially neutral in the war, but he is sympathetic toward the Trojans, particularly Hektor and Priam, and he supports Achilles against Agamemnon. Of all the gods, he alone seems able to change fate, though he chooses not to because of the disruption to the world that would be caused. He is married to Hera with whom he is often in disputes.


·      Hera: Sister and wife of Zeus. She is the most fanatical of all the Olympian supporters of the Achaians and is willing to go to any lengths, including the deception of her husband, to achieve the defeat of Troy. She was the goddess of women and childbirth.


·      Athena: Daughter of Zeus; she sprang directly from his head and became the goddess of wisdom. She plays a prominent role in the war, fighting on the Achaian side. She is also known as the battle goddess and is often referred to as Pallas or Pallas Athena.


·      Aphrodite: Daughter of Zeus; goddess of love and sexual desire. She is the mother of Aeneas and is the patron of Paris, so she fights on the Trojan side. Her love is Ares, god of war. She is especially connected with Paris and Helen in the Iliad.


·      Apollo: Son of Zeus; god of prophecy, light, poetry, and music. He fights on the Trojan side. Apollo is also the plague god and is responsible for the plague in Book I that leads to the argument between Achilles and Agamemnon. He is also called Loxias, meaning "tricky."


·      Ares: Son of Zeus and Hera, and the god of war. He is the lover of Aphrodite and fights on the Trojan side, despite an earlier promise to Hera and Athena that he would support the Achaians. Only Aphrodite likes him.


·      Artemis: Daughter of Zeus; sister of Apollo; goddess of chastity, hunting, and wild animals. She fights on the Trojan side, but with little effect.


·      Dione: Mother of Aphrodite.


·      Hades: God of the dead and ruler of the underworld.


·      Hermes: Ambassador of the gods; conductor of dead souls to Hades and a patron of travelers. He is on the Achaians' side, but he does little to aid them. He escorts Priam on his visit to Achilles in Book XXIV.


·      Iris: A messenger of the gods.


·      Poseidon: Younger brother of Zeus; god of the sea. He is a strong supporter of the Achaian cause, having an old grudge against Troy. He is also somewhat resentful of Zeus' claim to authority over him.


·      Thetis: Mother of Achilles, a sea nymph. She is a staunch advocate of her son in his quarrel with Agamemnon and does all she can to help him, but she is not otherwise involved in the war.


·      Xanthos: Son of Zeus; god of one of the major rivers of Troy. He fights against Achilles in Book XXI, but is defeated by Hephaistos' fire.







From:                                                                                                                                                          3.  Trojan War Protagonists:

·      The Achaeans (also called the “Argives” or “Danaans”)

·      Achilles -  The son of the military man Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. The most powerful warrior in The Iliad, Achilles commands the Myrmidons, soldiers from his homeland of Phthia in Greece. Proud and headstrong, he takes offense easily and reacts with blistering indignation when he perceives that his honor has been slighted. Achilles’ wrath at Agamemnon for taking his war prize, the maiden Briseis, forms the main subject of The Iliad.

·      Agamemnon (also called “Atrides”)  -  King of Mycenae and leader of the Achaean army; brother of King Menelaus of Sparta. Arrogant and often selfish, Agamemnon provides the Achaeans with strong but sometimes reckless and self-serving leadership. Like Achilles, he lacks consideration and forethought. Most saliently, his tactless appropriation of Achilles’ war prize, the maiden Briseis, creates a crisis for the Achaeans, when Achilles, insulted, withdraws from the war.

·      Patroclus -  Achilles’ beloved friend, companion, and advisor, Patroclus grew up alongside the great warrior in Phthia, under the guardianship of Peleus. Devoted to both Achilles and the Achaean cause, Patroclus stands by the enraged Achilles but also dons Achilles’ terrifying armor in an attempt to hold the Trojans back.

·      Odysseus -  A fine warrior and the cleverest of the Achaean commanders. Along with Nestor, Odysseus is one of the Achaeans’ two best public speakers. He helps mediate between Agamemnon and Achilles during their quarrel and often prevents them from making rash decisions.

·      Diomedes (also called “Tydides”) -  The youngest of the Achaean commanders, Diomedes is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws from combat, Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually wounds two gods, Aphrodite and Ares.

·      Great Ajax -  An Achaean commander, Great Ajax (sometimes called “Telamonian Ajax” or simply “Ajax”) is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after Achilles. His extraordinary size and strength help him to wound Hector twice by hitting him with boulders. He often fights alongside Little Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as the “Aeantes.

·      Little Ajax -  An Achaean commander, Little Ajax is the son of Oileus (to be distinguished from Great Ajax, the son of Telamon). He often fights alongside Great Ajax, whose stature and strength complement Little Ajax’s small size and swift speed. The two together are sometimes called the “Aeantes.”

·      Nestor -  King of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken much of Nestor’s physical strength, it has left him with great wisdom. He often acts as an advisor to the military commanders, especially Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus are the Achaeans’ most deft and persuasive orators, although Nestor’s speeches are sometimes long-winded.

·      Menelaus -  King of Sparta; the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the abduction of his wife, Helen, by the Trojan prince Paris that sparks the Trojan War, Menelaus proves quieter, less imposing, and less arrogant than Agamemnon. Though he has a stout heart, Menelaus is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.

·      Idomeneus -  King of Crete and a respected commander. Idomeneus leads a charge against the Trojans in Book 13.

·      Machaon -  A healer. Machaon is wounded by Paris in Book 11.

·      Calchas -  An important soothsayer. Calchas’s identification of the cause of the plague ravaging the Achaean army in Book 1 leads inadvertently to the rift between Agamemnon and Achilles that occupies the first nineteen books of The Iliad.

·      Peleus -  Achilles’ father and the grandson of Zeus. Although his name often appears in the epic, Peleus never appears in person. Priam powerfully invokes the memory of Peleus when he convinces Achilles to return Hector’s corpse to the Trojans in Book 24.

·      Phoenix -  A kindly old warrior, Phoenix helped raise Achilles while he himself was still a young man. Achilles deeply loves and trusts Phoenix, and Phoenix mediates between him and Agamemnon during their quarrel.

·      The Myrmidons -  The soldiers under Achilles’ command, hailing from Achilles’ homeland, Phthia.

· The Trojans

·      Hector -  A son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, Hector is the mightiest warrior in the Trojan army. He mirrors Achilles in some of his flaws, but his bloodlust is not so great as that of Achilles. He is devoted to his wife, Andromache, and son, Astyanax, but resents his brother Paris for bringing war upon their family and city.   Read an in-depth analysis of Hector.

·      Priam -  King of Troy and husband of Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan warriors, including Hector and Paris. Though too old to fight, he has earned the respect of both the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue of his level-headed, wise, and benevolent rule. He treats Helen kindly, though he laments the war that her beauty has sparked.

·      Hecuba -  Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, and mother of Hector and Paris.

·      Paris (also known as “Alexander”) -  A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector. Paris’s abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked the Trojan War. Paris is self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively with a bow and arrow (never with the more manly sword or spear) but often lacks the spirit for battle and prefers to sit in his room making love to Helen while others fight for him, thus earning both Hector’s and Helen’s scorn.

·      Helen -  Reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the ancient world, Helen was stolen from her husband, Menelaus, and taken to Troy by Paris. She loathes herself now for the misery that she has caused so many Trojan and Achaean men. Although her contempt extends to Paris as well, she continues to stay with him.

·      Aeneas -  A Trojan nobleman, the son of Aphrodite, and a mighty warrior. The Romans believed that Aeneas later founded their city (he is the protagonist of Virgil’s masterpiece the Aeneid).

·      Andromache -  Hector’s loving wife, Andromache begs Hector to withdraw from the war and save himself before the Achaeans kill him.

·      Astyanax -  Hector and Andromache’s infant son.

·      Polydamas -  A young Trojan commander, Polydamas sometimes figures as a foil for Hector, proving cool-headed and prudent when Hector charges ahead. Polydamas gives the Trojans sound advice, but Hector seldom acts on it.

·      Glaucus -  A powerful Trojan warrior, Glaucus nearly fights a duel with Diomedes. The men’s exchange of armor after they realize that their families are friends illustrates the value that ancients placed on kinship and camaraderie.

·      Agenor -  A Trojan warrior who attempts to fight Achilles in Book 21. Agenor delays Achilles long enough for the Trojan army to flee inside Troy’s walls.

·      Dolon -  A Trojan sent to spy on the Achaean camp in Book 10.

·      Pandarus -  A Trojan archer. Pandarus’s shot at Menelaus in Book 4 breaks the temporary truce between the two sides.

·      Antenor -  A Trojan nobleman, advisor to King Priam, and father of many Trojan warriors. Antenor argues that Helen should be returned to Menelaus in order to end the war, but Paris refuses to give her up.

·      Sarpedon -  One of Zeus’s sons. Sarpedon’s fate seems intertwined with the gods’ quibbles, calling attention to the unclear nature of the gods’ relationship to Fate.

·      Chryseis -  Chryses’ daughter, a priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town.

·      Briseis -  A war prize of Achilles. When Agamemnon is forced to return Chryseis to her father, he appropriates Briseis as compensation, sparking Achilles’ great rage.

·      Chryses -  A priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town; the father of Chryseis, whom Agamemnon takes as a war prize.


·   The Gods and Immortals

·      Zeus -  King of the gods and husband of Hera, Zeus claims neutrality in the mortals’ conflict and often tries to keep the other gods from participating in it. However, he throws his weight behind the Trojan side for much of the battle after the sulking Achilles has his mother, Thetis, ask the god to do so.

·      Hera -  Queen of the gods and Zeus’s wife, Hera is a conniving, headstrong woman. She often goes behind Zeus’s back in matters on which they disagree, working with Athena to crush the Trojans, whom she passionately hates.

·      Athena -  The goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts; Zeus’s daughter. Like Hera, Athena passionately hates the Trojans and often gives the Achaeans valuable aid.

·      Thetis -  A sea-nymph and the devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis gets Zeus to help the Trojans and punish the Achaeans at the request of her angry son. When Achilles finally rejoins the battle, she commissions Hephaestus to design him a new suit of armor.

·      Apollo -  A son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god of the sun and the arts, particularly music. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes in the war on their behalf.

·      Aphrodite -  Goddess of love and daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus but maintains a romantic relationship with Ares. She supports Paris and the Trojans throughout the war, though she proves somewhat ineffectual in battle.

·      Poseidon -  The brother of Zeus and god of the sea. Poseidon holds a long-standing grudge against the Trojans because they never paid him for helping them to build their city. He therefore supports the Achaeans in the war.

·      Hephaestus -  God of fire and husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus is the gods’ metalsmith and is known as the lame or crippled god. Although the text doesn’t make clear his sympathies in the mortals’ struggle, he helps the Achaeans by forging a new set of armor for Achilles and by rescuing Achilles during his fight with a river god.

·      Artemis -  Goddess of the hunt, daughter of Zeus, and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis supports the Trojans in the war.

·      Ares -  God of war and lover of Aphrodite, Ares generally supports the Trojans in the war.

·      Hermes -  The messenger of the gods. Hermes escorts Priam to Achilles’ tent in Book 24.

·      Iris -  Zeus’s messenger.





4. Homer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


[tkw note – everything “known” about “Homer” is questionable (and questioned --- good dissertation topics) and is and has been the subject matter for many academic feuds.]


[another tkw note – “Homer” is the traditional name of the putative author of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," from Latin Homerus, from Greek Homeros. The name first occurs in a fragment of Hesiod. It is identical to Greek homeros "hostage," also "blind" (connecting notion being "going with a companion").  So when “Homer” is referred to or imaged as a blind man, i.e., “blind Homer”, it may simply be a double translation.]


[Yet another note (actually lifted whole from ) -- Hesiod (/ˈhiːsiəd/ or /ˈhɛsiəd/;[1] Greek: Ἡσίοδος Hēsíodos) was a Greek poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer.[2][3] His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play.[4] Ancient authors credited Hesiod and Homer with establishing Greek religious customs.[5] Modern scholars refer to him as a major source on Greek mythology, farming techniques, early economic thought (he is sometimes identified as the first economist),[6] archaic Greek astronomy and ancient time-keeping.]





Melesigenes, as told in Pseudo-Herodotus

c. 8th century BCE, according to Herodotus




Cause of death

unknown illness


Smyrna, Cyme (Aeolis), Chios



Notable work

Iliad, Odyssey, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, other Homerica





Geometric Period


Shores and islands of the Aegean Sea

Main interests

Composition of oral poetry as a travelling performer, conducting a school for Rhapsodes, the Homeridae, on Chios


Homer (Ancient Greek: Ὅμηρος [hómɛːros], Hómēros) is best known as the [supposed – tkw] author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He was believed by the ancient Greeks to have been the first and greatest of the epic poets. Author of the first known literature of Europe, he is central to the Western canon.


Whether and when he lived is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE.[1] Pseudo-Herodotus estimates that he was born 622 years before Xerxes I placed a pontoon bridge over the Hellespont in 480 BCE, which would place him at 1102 BCE, 168 years after the fall of Troy in 1270 BCE. These two end points are 252 years apart, representative of the differences in dates given by the other sources.[2]


The importance of Homer to the ancient Greeks is described in Plato's Republic, which portrays him as the protos didaskalos, "first teacher", of the tragedians, the hegemon paideias, "leader of Greek culture", and the ten Hellada pepaideukon, "teacher of [all] Greece".[3] Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches,[4] provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds.[5] Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds in Egypt.[6]



            1 Period

            2 Life and legends

                        2.1 "Lives of Homer"

                        2.2 Etymological theories

                        2.3 Cultural background

                        2.4 Biographical assertions

            3 Works attributed to Homer

                        3.1 Epics

            4 Identity and authorship

            5 Homeric studies

            6 Homeric dialect

            7 Homeric style

            8 History and the Iliad

            9 Hero cult

            10 Transmission and publication

            11 See also

            12 Notes

            13 Selected bibliography

                        13.1 Editions

                        13.2 Interlinear translations

                        13.3 English translations

                        13.4 General works on Homer

                        13.5 Influential readings and interpretations

                        13.6 Commentaries

                        13.7 Dating the Homeric poems

            14 Further reading

            15 External links



The chronological period of Homer depends on the meaning to be assigned to the word “Homer.” If the works attributed either wholly or partially to a blind poet named Homer, were really authored by such a person, then he must have had biographical dates, or a century or other historical period, which can be described as the life and times of Homer. If on the other hand Homer is to be considered a mythical character, the legendary founder of a guild of rhapsodes called the Homeridae, then “Homer” means the works attributed to the rhapsodes of the guild, who might have composed primarily in a single century or over a period of centuries. And finally, much of the geographic and material content of the Iliad and Odyssey appear to be consistent with the Aegean Late Bronze Age, the time of the floruit of Troy, but not the time of the Greek alphabet. The term “Homer” can be used to mean traditional elements of verse known to the rhapsodes from which they composed oral poetry, which transmitted information concerning the culture of Mycenaean Greece. This information is often called “the world of Homer” (or of Odysseus, or the Iliad). The Homeric period would in that case cover a number of historical periods, especially the Mycenaean Age, prior to the first delivery of a work called the Iliad.


Concurrent with the questions of whether there was a biographical person named Homer, and what role he may have played in the development of the currently known texts, is the question of whether there ever was a uniform text of the Iliad or Odyssey. Considered word-for-word, the printed texts as we know them are the product of the scholars of the last three centuries. Each edition of the Iliad or Odyssey is a little different, as the editors rely on different manuscripts and fragments, and make different choices as to the most accurate text to use. The term “accuracy” reveals a fundamental belief in an original uniform text. The manuscripts of the whole work currently available date to no earlier than the 10th century. These are at the end of a missing thousand-year chain of copies made as each generation of manuscripts disintegrated or were lost or destroyed. These numerous manuscripts are so similar that a single original can be postulated.[7]

The time gap in the chain is bridged by the scholia, or notes, on the existing manuscripts, which indicate that the original had been published by Aristarchus of Samothrace in the 2nd century BCE. Librarian of the Library of Alexandria, he had noticed a wide divergence in the works attributed to Homer, and was trying to restore a more authentic copy. He had collected several manuscripts, which he named: the Sinopic, the Massiliotic, etc. The one he selected for correction was the koine, which Murray translates as “the Vulgate”. Aristarchus was known for his conservative selection of material. He marked lines that he thought were spurious, not of Homer. The entire last book of the Odyssey was marked.


The koine in turn had come from the first librarian at Alexandria, Zenodotus, who flourished at the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. He also was attempting to restore authenticity to manuscripts he found in a state of chaos. He set the precedent by marking passages he considered spurious, and by filling in material that seemed to be missing himself. Neither Zenodotus nor Aristarchus mentioned any authentic master copy from which to make corrections. Their method was intuitive. The current division into 24 books each for the Iliad and Odyssey came from Zenodotus.

Murray rejects the concept that an authoritative text for the Vulgate existed at the time of Zenodotus. He resorts to the fragments, the quotations of Homer in other works. About 200 existed at the time Murray wrote. Some of these match the current texts, some seem to paraphrase them, and some are not represented at all. Murray cites the Shield of Achilles, which also appears as the Shield of Heracles in Hesiod. Murray concludes that the epic poems were still in "a fluid state". He presents 150 BCE as the date after which the text solidifies around the Vulgate. Of the 5th century BCE, Murray said "'Homer' meant to them … 'the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey', but we cannot be sure that either … was exactly what we mean by those words."[8]

The earliest mention of a work of Homer was by Callinus, a poet who flourished about 650 BCE. He attributed the Thebais, an epic about the attack on Boeotian Thebes by the epigonoi, to Homer. The Thebais was written about the time of the appearance of the Greek alphabet, but it could have been originally oral. The Iliad is mentioned by name in Herodotus with regard to the early 6th century, but there is no telling what Iliad that is. Almost all the ancient sources from the very earliest appear determined that a Homer, author of the Iliad and Odyssey, existed. The author of the Hymn to Apollo identifies himself in the last verse of the poem as a blind man from Chios.

Nevertheless it is possible to make a case that Homer was only a mythological character, the supposed founder of the Homeridae. Martin West has asserted that "Homer" is "not the name of a historical poet, but a fictitious or constructed name."[9] Oliver Taplin, in the Oxford History of the Classical World’s article on Homer, announces that the elements of his life “are largely … demonstrable fictions.”[10] Another attack on the biographical details comes from G.S. Kirk, who said: "Antiquity knew nothing definite about the life and personality of Homer."[11] Taplin prefers instead to speak of Homer as “a historical context for the poems.” His dates for this context are 750-650 BCE, without considering Murray’s “fluid state.”

With or without Homer, according to Murray, there is little likelihood that the Iliad and Odyssey of the early sources are the ones we know. Based on the fact that the Iliad was recited at the Panathenaic Games, which started in 566 BCE, Gregory Nagy selects a date of the 6th century for the fixation of the epics, as opposed to Murray’s 150 BCE.[12] All of these views are only philologic. Regardless of whether there was or was not a Homer, or whether the texts of the Homerica were or were not close to the ones that exist today, philology alone does not shed any light on the similarities between Mycenaean culture and the geographical and material props of the world of Homer.

Archaeology, however, continues to support the theory that much detailed information survived in the form of formulae and stock pieces to be combined creatively by the rhapsodes of later centuries. A number of combined archaeological and philological works have been written on the topic, such as Denys Page’s “History and the Homeric Iliad” and Martin P. Nilsson’s “The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology.” The linguist, Calvert Watkins, went so far as to seek an inherited Proto-Indo-European language origin for some epithets and the epic verse form.[13] If he is correct, the stock themes and verses of rhapsodes may be far older than the Trojan War, which would, in that case, be only the latest opportunity for an epic.

Homer cannot be presented as a single author of a set of works as they are today describing events of history that are more or less real, apart from the obvious mythology. Homeric studies are like the proverbial apple of philosophy. There is no beginning and no end. No matter what starting problem is selected, it leads immediately to another. The total sum of all the problems is known as the Homeric question, which is, of course, generic and not singular.


Life and legends

"Lives of Homer"

Various traditions have survived purporting to give details of Homer's birthplace and background. The satirist Lucian, in his True History, describes him as a Babylonian called Tigranes, who assumed the name Homer when taken "hostage" (homeros) by the Greeks.[14] When the Emperor Hadrian asked the Oracle at Delphi about Homer, the Pythia proclaimed that he was Ithacan, the son of Epikaste and Telemachus, from the Odyssey.[15] These stories were incorporated into the various "lives of Homer",[16] "compiled from the Alexandrian period onwards".[17]


The "lives of Homer" refer to a set of longer fragments on the topic of the life and works of Homer written by authors who for the most part remain anonymous. Some were attributed to more famous authors. In the 20th century CE, all the vitae were gathered into a standard reference work by Thomas W. Allen and made a part of Homeri Opera, "the Works of Homer", first published in 1912 by Oxford University Press. This edition has been informally known as "the Oxford Homer" and the Vitae Homeri section as "the lives of Homer" or just "the lives". The relevant part of Volume V in scholarship on the vitae is often called just "Allen" with page numbers denoting the vita.[18]


Allen records some several vitae collected from various sources: the Vita Herodotea, pp 192–218, now known as Pseudo-Herodotus, because probably not of Herodotus; the Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi, pp 225–238, with fragments on 218-221; the two Plutarchi vitae (now Pseudo-Plutarch), pp 238–244 and pp 244–245 respectively; some vitae identified as IV (elsewhere known as Vita Scorialenses I[19]), pp 245–246, V (Vita Scorialensis II), pp 247–250, VI (Vita Romana[20]), pp 250–253, and finally VII, which is really three, giving extracts from Eustathius, pp 253–254 and 255, John Tzetzes, pp 254–255, and Suidas, pp 256–268, now identified as Hesychius Milesius. Nagy reorganizes the list into eleven, Vita 1 through Vita 10, with Plutarch being divided into 3a and 3b. In addition he adds Vita 11 from the Chrestomathia of Proclus, pp 99–102.[21] The varying and contradictory biographical information in these sources is termed humorously by Nagy "Variations on a Theme of Homer" after the model of the names of certain musical compositions.[22]


For more details on this topic, see Ancient accounts of Homer, Life of Homer (Pseudo-Herodotus).


Etymological theories

“Homer” is a name of unknown origin, ostensibly Greek. However, many Greek words, and especially names in the east, where the Greeks were in contact with eastern language speakers, were loans, approximations, or paraphrases of foreign words. For example, Darius to the Greeks was Dārayava(h)uš, "holding firm the good", to himself and the other Old Persian speakers. Cadmus, overthrown king of Thebes, reported to have been Phoenician, was probably seen as an “easterner,” from Hebrew/Phoenician qdm, "the east". Priam was perhaps from Luwian Priya-muwa-, which means "exceptionally courageous.” Many names have a derivation from a foreign language but also fit or partially fit derivations from Proto-Indo-European through Greek. There are but few rules to assist the linguist in identifying which is the most likely.


Etymologies for the name Homeros reach beyond the Greek. On the one hand, he may have a Hellenized Phoenician name. West conjectures a Phoenician prototype for Homer's name as a patronymic, Homeridae (male progeny from the line of Homer), *benê ômerîm ("sons of speakers"); id est professional tale-tellers.[23] Here the patronymic would designate the guild. In Greek, the Homer in Homeridae would have to be in the singular, the implied single ancestor of a clan practicing a hereditary trade. The hypothetical semitic ancestors are in the plural; where "ben" can be used for one "father", the id- construction can never designate a plural father.


On the other hand, Proto-Indo-European etymologies are also available. The poet's name is homophonous with Greek ὅμηρος (hómēros), "hostage" (or "surety").[24] This word is in the Attic dialect, and was a word in general use. In the vitae of Pseudo-Herodotus and Plutarch, it had a relatively obscure meaning: "blind", which is interpreted as meaning "he who accompanies; he who is forced to follow" a guide.[25] The geographic specificity of the word typically is explained by a presumption that it was known mainly in Aeolis on the coast of Asia Minor, the locale where Homer performed, and therefore is a word of the Aeolic dialect.[26] There is no linguistic reason other than usage for thinking so. The letter eta brands the word as being East Greek, as opposed to the West Greek Cretan form, which has an alpha instead. Ionic and Attic also were East Greek. Proclus' Chrestomathia, however, explicitly says, "the tuphloi were called homeroi by the Aeolians"[27] Throughout Pseudo-Herodotus, ὅμηρος (hómēros) is synonymous with the standard Greek τυφλός (tuphlós), meaning 'blind'.


The characterization of Homer as a blind bard begins in extant literature with the last verse in the Delian Hymn to Apollo, the third of the Homeric Hymns,[28] later cited to support this notion by Thucydides.[29] The author of the hymn claims to be a blind bard from Chios. This claim is quite different from the mere attribution of the hymn to Homer by a third party from a different time. The claim cannot be false without the supposition of a deliberate fraud, rather than a mere mistake. Also, critics have long taken as self-referential[30] a passage in the Odyssey describing a blind bard, Demodocus, in the court of the Phaeacian king, who recounts stories of Troy to the shipwrecked Odysseus.[31]


Despite the insistence of the surviving sources that Homer was blind, there are many serious objections to the "blind" theory. A few of the vitae imply that he was not blind. If he could not write, then he was illiterate and incapable of composition. A large poem would have been beyond the capacity of human memory without the assistance of written cues. Moreover, the images in the poem are very graphic, but a blind man would never have experienced the scenes of the images. Answers exist to all the objections.[32] The example of John Milton, who composed and dictated "Paradise Lost" while totally blind, demonstrates that a blind man can compose an epic. Albert B. Lord's "The Singer of Tales", on the topic of epics sung by modern rhapsodes, shows that epics of that size have been in fact being composed spontaneously from memorized elements in modern times. The problem of visual cues can be solved if Homer can be presumed not to have been blind from birth, but to have become blind, which is the point of view of Pseudo-Herodotus.


In the latter source, Homer, after losing his sight to disease, embarks on a career as a wandering rhapsode, or impromptu composer of poems at public gatherings. Either at the beginning of his career or early in it, he assumes a stage name, reputedly "the blind man", which declares himself to be in the category of blind prophets, who see with inspired inner vision, but not with outer, bringing a sort of divine glamor to the performance. Not all the vitae agree on the meaning of the name. There is nothing biological about the Greek roots. The word is segmented Hom-eros, where Hom is from Greek homou, "together",[33] and the second -ar- in arariskein, "join together",[34] the eta in -eros being East Greek. The "blind" meaning joins together the blind man and his guide. Other unions are certainly possible, provided they are attested. Gregory Nagy uses a phrase, phone homereusai, "fitting [the song] together with the voice" found in Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer, to interpret Homeros as "he who fits (the Song) together".[35]


Consideration of the name as a type leaves open the possibility that any rhapsode could conform to it; that is, there was no biographic original named Homer. West says "The probability is that 'Homer' was not the name of a historical Greek poet but is the imaginary ancestor of the Homeridai; such guild-names in -idai and -adai are not normally based on the name of an historical person".[23] They were upholding their function as rhapsodes or "lay-stitchers" specialising in the recitation of Homeric poetry.


Cultural background

William Ihne examining the sources counted as many 19 locations in classical times that claimed Homer as a citizen, including Athens, which accepted Smyrna as Homer’s native city, but insisted the city was its colony. The cause of these multiple claims was civic competition for the honor.[36] Ihne chose Smyrna because some of the Vitae identify the word Homer as Aeolic, and Smyrna had an Aeolic background. These circumstances give precedence to the longest, most detailed vita, that of Pseudo-Herodotus, which is one of the sources that identify Smyrna as originally Aeolian.


The Aeolians were one of the three major ethnic groups of ancient Greece, the other two being Ionians and Dorians. Aeolians came mainly from Thessaly, occupying also Boeotia at an early date, after the Trojan War, in parallel to the occupation of Peloponnesus by the Dorians. They had their own dialect of East Greek. Hesiod as a Boeotian was a member of the group, which is substantiated by the Aeolic phrases related to the name of Homer found in his works. The Aeolians colonized the northwest coast of Asia Minor, calling their region Aeolis, and Lesbos.[37] The villages to which they immigrated were already populated by the descendants of the Trojan War population. They were keeping the lore alive, according to Pseudo-Herodotus. Aeolis extended from the coast opposite Lesbos to Smyrna on the edge of Ionia. The Aeolian League contained 12 cities, including Smyrna. To the south were the 12 cities, or dodacapolis, of the Ionian League. At about 688 BCE Smyrna was taken by Colophonians who had ostensibly come to a festival there and passed into Ionian hands.[38]

The political relevance of the two leagues came to a practical end in the latter half of the 5th century BCE when most of the cities around the Aegean joined, or were forced to join, the Delian League, a koine implementing the hegemony of Athens. Each city must contribute men and ships or money to a common defense force. The treasury was kept at Athens. The details and conjoined events are the topic of ThucydidesHistory of the Peloponnesian War. Inscriptions from those times offer a basis for the study of Aeolic. Buck distinguished three dialects, Thessalian, Boeotian, and Lesbian.[39]


The Ionian cities in Asia Minor spoke a dialect of Ionic. In the border region between Ionia and Aeolis it was modified to include features taken from Aeolic, creating an Ionic-Aeolic mixture similar to that of the Homeric poems.[40] For example, Chios had always been a member of the Ionian League,[41] and yet Chian “contains a few special characteristics, which are of Aeolic origin.”[42] The same sort of admixture did not occur at the Ionic-Dorian border in southwestern Anatolia.


From the fact that Lesbian acquired more Ionic features in poetry over the course of time Janko argues for “a northward expansion of Ionian population and speech at the expense of the Aeolians.”[43] Aeolic was gradually assimilating to Ionic, but after the 5th century BCE both began to assimilate to the now widespread sister dialect of Ionic, Attic, and the koine that developed from it in the Hellenistic period. Attic began to appear in the inscriptions of Ionia in the 4th century BCE and had displaced Ionian by about 100 BCE. In 281 BC the new kingdom of Pergamon acquired the Aeolic coast of Anatolia, separating Lesbian, which was gone from the kingdom by the 3rd century BCE. Lesbian went on until the 1st century CE and was the last Aeolic dialect to disappear.[44]


G.S. Kirk, who tends to be somewhat skeptical concerning the biographic details given in the vitae, at least extends a limited credibility to some basic circumstances as “at all plausible.” Homer is most frequently said to have been born in the Ionian region of Asia Minor, at Smyrna, or on the island of Chios, dying on the Cycladic island of Ios.[17] These areas were either Aeolian or partially so. Smyrna had not yet been taken by the Ionians. Chios had been settled by pre-Hellenic tribesmen from Thessaly, but the language remains unknown. They may have been Aeolic-speaking. The association with Chios dates back to at least Semonides of Amorgos, who cited Iliad 6.146 as by "the man of Chios".[45] An eponymous bardic guild, known as the Homeridae (sons of Homer), or Homeristae ('Homerizers')[46] existed there, tracing descent from an ancestor of that name. On Ios were used some words known to be Aeolic; for example, Homêreôn was one of the names for a month in the calendar of Ios.[47] The Smyrna connection is alluded to in the original name posited for him by several vitae: Melesigenes, “born of Meles", a river which flowed by that city.


The poems give evidence of familiarity with the natural details and place-names of this area of Asia Minor;[48] for example, Homer refers to meadow birds at the mouth of the Caystros,[49] a storm in the Icarian sea,[50] and mentions that women in Maeonia and Caria stain ivory with scarlet.[51] However, Homer also had a geographical knowledge of all Mycenaean Greece that has been verified by discovery of most of the sites. Wilhelm Dörpfeld, the classical archaeologist,[52] suggests that Homer had visited many of the places and regions which he describes in his epics, such as Mycenae, Troy and more. According to Diodorus Siculus, Homer had even visited Egypt.[53]


Biographical assertions

Some vitae depict Homer as a wandering minstrel, like Thamyris[54] or Hesiod, who walked as far as Chalkis to sing at the funeral games of Amphidamas.[55] We are given the image of a "blind, begging singer who hangs around with little people: shoemakers, fisherman, potters, sailors, elderly men in the gathering places of harbour towns".[56] The poems, on the other hand, give us evidence of singers at the courts of the nobility. There is a strong aristocratic bias in the poems demonstrated by the lack of any major protagonists of non-aristocratic stock, and by episodes such as the beating down of the commoner Thersites by the king Odysseus for daring to criticize his superiors. Scholars are divided as to which category, if any, the court singer or the wandering minstrel, the historic "Homer" belonged.[57]


Most of the twelve vitae have little concern for historicity. Scorialenses I says “we only hear the report, and do not know anything.” Most therefore report several origin stories. They are typically at least in part mythical. Whether the latter are given unfeigned credibility is not clear. For instance, Homer was the son of the river Meles and a nymph. Pseudo-Plutarch I, relying less on mythology, presents an alternative genealogy that makes Homer and Hesiod cousins. The only account that presumes a historical character and a real-life setting without resorting to mythology is the more lengthy Pseudo-Herodotus.


In the vita, a colonist of Cyme, Cleanax of Argos, was given custody of the orphaned Chretheis, daughter of deceased friends and fellow colonists, by her parents before their deaths. When she became pregnant without a husband he sent her in disgrace to the new colony of Smyrna in the custody of a protector, a friend from Boeotia, Ismenias. Attending a festival on the banks of the River Meles she gave birth unexpectedly to a son, whom she called Melesi-genes, “river-born.” A single mother, she left the protection of Ismenias, becoming an itinerant laborer. She found work with a schoolmaster, Phemius, processing wool he had been paid by the students. A relationship having developed, he convinced her to live with him (syn-oikein), promising to make the boy his own son, support and educate him.

A prodigy, the young Melisigenes was successful in school. On the deaths of Phemius and his mother years later he inherited the school. He also opened his home hospitably to merchants passing through. A merchant, Mentes, convinced him to leave the school and sign on as a seaman in his ship. He is said to have made the most of his ports of call by researching each one and taking written notes. Having contracted an eye disease he was put ashore for treatment and recovery with a friend of the captain in Ithaca. He used the time to research the story of Odysseus. Having recovered on that occasion, he later suffered a relapse in Colophon, losing his vision altogether.


Retiring to Smyrna he decided to pursue the recitation of poetry. When his resources were exhausted, he went on the road looking for opportunities. In Neonteichus, a colony of Cyme, he stopped by chance before the shop of a shoemaker, Tychius, and began to beg in dactylic hexameter, stringing formulae together. Thus began a habit that he kept for the rest of his life, of communicating in verse about ordinary matters to advertise his skills. On this occasion he was successful. The shoemaker opened his home and allowed him to recite in the shop. He became for a time a fixture in Neontychus, but unable to prosper there, he returned to Cyme. In Larissa en route he was hired to write an epitaph for the tomb of Midas, deceased king of Phrygia.


In Cyme he recited in the salons. He was so successful that he asked the city council (boule) in session for support at public expense, the quid pro quo being that he would make the city famous. One of the councilmen argued that if they were going to support homeroi, or “blind men,” they would soon have a useless crowd of them in Cyme. The measure was defeated. He subsequently departed for Phocaea, an Ionian city. He rhymed, “I will endure the fate that the god gave me when I was born, bearing defeat with a patient heart, but no longer do my limbs wish to remain in the sacred streets of Cyme.” Then he cursed the city, that no poet should be born there to make them famous. Meanwhile, hearing of the incident, the people began to call him Homeros, “the blind man.”


After frequenting the salons of Phocaea without much success, he entered into an agreement with one Thestorides, who would support him in exchange for the title to the authorship of his work. Thestorides wrote down the current works as they were orally composed. After a time he abandoned Phocaea, breaking the support agreement, and went clandestinely to Chios to found a school there, reciting Homer’s verses as his own. Some merchants informed Homer that his verses were being recited on Chios under another name. Attempting to find passage to Chios Homer was turned down by some fishermen but was taken by some woodcutters to the beach at Erythraea opposite. From there he found passage with other fishermen, who landed him at an unnkown beach.


The location was the Troad, near Mount Ida. Homer, following the sound of goats, was beset by the herd dogs, and rescued by the herder, Glaucus. After a night of regaling Glaucus with verses by the campfire, Homer was introduced to his master the next day, who hired him as a tutor for his children. He became successful for the first time, composing many of the poems. Hearing of his fame, Thestorides abandoned the school at Chios. Crossing to the island, Homer founded another, prospered, married, had two daughters, and wrote the Iliad and Odyssey. Going on tour to mainland Greece he stopped at Samos for the festivals there. Heading for Athens in the spring his ship was blown to Ios. While waiting for favorable winds he grew ill and died. The author then goes on to make a case that Homer was Aeolian, not Ionian. He gives the date of his birth as 622 years before Xerxes, which if true would make his mention of writing anachronist if the writing was in the Greek alphabet.


Works attributed to Homer

The attribution of a work is not the same meaning as a known authorship, the difference being an element of doubt. The Greeks of the sixth and early fifth centuries BCE understood by the works of "Homer", generally, "the whole body of heroic tradition as embodied in hexameter verse".[58] The entire Epic Cycle was included. The genre included further poems on the Trojan War, such as the Little Iliad, the Nostoi, the Cypria, and the Epigoni, as well as the Theban poems about Oedipus and his sons. Other works, such as the corpus of Homeric Hymns, the comic mini-epic Batrachomyomachia ("The Frog-Mouse War"), and the Margites, were also attributed to him. Two other poems, the Capture of Oechalia and the Phocais were also assigned Homeric authorship.



Herodotus mentions both the Iliad and the Odyssey as works of Homer.[59] He quotes a few lines from them both, which are the same in today’s editions. The passage quoted from the Iliad mentions that Paris stopped at Sidon before bringing Helen to Troy. From the fact that the Cypria has Paris going directly to Troy from Sparta, Herodotus concludes that it was not written by Homer. The doubting process had begun.


In Works and Days, Hesiod says that he crossed to Euboea to contend in the games held by the sons of Amphidamas at Chalcis.[60] There he won with a hymnos and took away the prize of a tripod, which he dedicated to the Muses of Mount Helicon, where he first began with aoide, “song.” One of the vitae, the “Certamen”, picks up this theme. Homer and Hesiod were contemporaries, it says. They both attended the funeral games of Amphidamas, conducted by his son, Ganyctor, and both contended in the contest of sophia, “wit.” In it, one was required to ask a question of the other, who must reply in verse.


Unable to decide, the judge had them each recite from their poems. Hesiod quoted Works and Days; Homer, ‘Iliad’, both as they are now, but neither poem can have been the modern. Hesiod cannot have described beforehand the very event in which he was participating. The Iliad is supposed to have been written already. It is not called that, however. The victory was given to Hesiod because his poem was about peace, but Homer’s, about war.


After the contest, Homer continued his wandering, composing and reciting epic poetry. The “Certamen” mentions the Thebais, quoting the first line, which differs but little from the first line of the Iliad as it is now. It had 7000 lines, as did the subsequent Epigoni, with a similar first line. The “Certamen” qualifies the attribution to Homer with “some say ….”


Subsequently he wrote the epitaph for Midas’ tomb, for which he got a silver bowl, and then the Odyssey in 12,000 lines (today’s is 12110). He had already written the Iliad in 15,500 lines (today’s is 15693). Just these three epics alone are 34,500 lines, word-for-word, we are asked to believe, without reference to the rest of the prodigious Epic Cycle. Then he went to Athens, and to Argos, where he delivered lines 559-568 of Book 2 of the Iliad with the addition of two more not in the current version. Subsequently he went to Delos, where he delivered the Hymn to Apollo, and was made a citizen of all the Ionian states. Going finally to Ios he slipped on some clay and suffered a fatal fall.


The term “Epic Cycle” (Epikos Kuklos) refers to a series of ten epic poems written by different authors purporting to tell an interconnected sequence of stories covering all Greek mythology. Themes were selected from them for Greek drama as well. The name appears in the Chrestomathia of Eutychius Proclus, a synopsis of Greek literature, known only through further abridged fragments written by Photios I of Constantinople. No etymology was given. Evelyn-White hypothesizes that they were “written round” the Iliad and Odyssey and had a “clearly imitative” structure.[61] In this view Homer need have written no more than the Iliad, or the Iliad and Odyssey, with the Homeridae responsible for all the rest. The unity of theme and structure came from the close association of the authors in the guild or school.


Proclus does not subscribe to the authorships of the “Certamen”. He provides the names of other authors where they were available in his sources. These 10 epics, of which only Photius’ abridgements of Proclus’ synopses survive, and scattered fragments of other authors in other times, are as follows. First and oldest, the “War of the Titans” (Titanomachia), eight fragments, is said to have been written by either Eumelus of Corinth, floruit 760-740 BCE, or Arctinus of Miletus, floruit in the First Olympiad, starting 776 BCE.[62]

The Theban Cycle consists of three epics:[63] “Story of Oedipus” (Oidipodeia), 6600 lines by Cinaethon of Sparta, floruit 764 BCE;[64]Thebaid” (Thebais), attributed to Homer;[65] and “Epigoni (Epigonoi), attributed to Homer.[66] The Trojan Cycle consists of six epics and the Iliad and Odyssey, eight in all:[61]Cyprian Lays” (kupria) in 11 books, attributed to either Homer, Stasinus, a younger contemporary of Homer, or one Hegesias;[67]Aethiopis” (Aithiopis) in five books, sequent of the Iliad, which is a sequent of Cypria, by Arctinus;[68]Little Iliad” (Ilias Mikra) in four books by Lesches of Mitylene, floruit 660 BCE;[69] “Sack of Ilium” (Iliou Persis) by Arctinus;[70] “Returns” (Nostoi) by Agias of Troezen,[71] floruit 740 BCE; and “Telegony” (Telegonia), by Eugammon of Cyrene, floruit 567 BCE.[72]


Identity and authorship

For more details on this topic, see Homeric Question.

The idea that Homer was responsible for just the two outstanding epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, did not win consensus until 350 BCE.[73] While many, such as Gregory Nagy, find it unlikely that both epics were composed by the same person,[74] others, such as W. B. Stanford,[75] argue that the stylistic similarities are too consistent to support the theory of multiple authorship. One view which attempts to bridge the differences holds that the Iliad was composed by "Homer" in his maturity, while the Odyssey was a work of his old age. The Batrachomyomachia, Homeric Hymns and cyclic epics are generally agreed to be later than the Iliad and the Odyssey.


Most scholars agree that the Iliad and Odyssey underwent a process of standardisation and refinement out of older material beginning in the 8th century BCE. An important role in this standardisation appears to have been played by the Athenian tyrant Hipparchus, who reformed the recitation of Homeric poetry at the Panathenaic festival. Many classicists hold that this reform must have involved the production of a canonical written text.


Other scholars still support the idea that Homer was a real person. Since nothing is known about the life of this Homer, the common joke—also recycled with regard to Shakespeare—has it that the poems "were not written by Homer, but by another man of the same name."[76][77] Samuel Butler argues, based on literary observations, that a young Sicilian woman wrote the Odyssey (but not the Iliad),[78] an idea further pursued by Robert Graves in his novel Homer's Daughter and Andrew Dalby in Rediscovering Homer.[79]

Independent of the question of single authorship is the near-universal agreement, after the work of Milman Parry,[80] that the Homeric poems are dependent on an oral tradition, a generations-old technique that was the collective inheritance of many singer-poets (aoidoi). An analysis of the structure and vocabulary of the Iliad and Odyssey shows that the poems contain many formulaic phrases typical of extempore epic traditions; even entire verses are at times repeated. Parry and his student Albert Lord pointed out that such elaborate oral tradition, foreign to today's literate cultures, is typical of epic poetry in a predominantly oral cultural milieu, the key words being "oral" and "traditional". Parry started with "traditional": the repetitive chunks of language, he said, were inherited by the singer-poet from his predecessors, and were useful to him in composition. Parry called these repetitive chunks "formulas".


Exactly when these poems would have taken on a fixed written form is subject to debate. The traditional solution is the "transcription hypothesis", wherein a non-literate "Homer" dictates his poem to a literate scribe between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. The Greek alphabet was introduced in the early 8th century BCE, so it is possible that Homer himself was of the first generation of authors who were also literate. The classicist Barry B. Powell suggests that the Greek alphabet was invented c. 800 BCE by one man, whom he calls the "adapter," in order to write down oral epic poetry.[81] More radical Homerists like Gregory Nagy contend that a canonical text of the Homeric poems as "scripture" did not exist until the Hellenistic period (3rd to 1st century BCE).


New methods also try to elucidate the question. Combining information technologies and statistics stylometry analyzes various linguistic units: words, parts of speech, and sounds. Based on the frequencies of Greek letters, a first study of Dietmar Najock[82] particularly shows the internal cohesion of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Taking into account the repartition of the letters, a recent study of Stephan Vonfelt[83] highlights the unity of the works of Homer compared to Hesiod. The thesis of modern analysts being questioned, the debate remains open.


Homeric studies

Main article: Homeric scholarship

The study of Homer is one of the oldest topics in scholarship, dating back to antiquity. The aims and achievements of Homeric studies have changed over the course of the millennia. In the last few centuries, they have revolved around the process by which the Homeric poems came into existence and were transmitted over time to us, first orally and later in writing.

Some of the main trends in modern Homeric scholarship have been, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Analysis and Unitarianism (see Homeric Question), schools of thought which emphasized on the one hand the inconsistencies in, and on the other the artistic unity of, Homer; and in the 20th century and later Oral Theory, the study of the mechanisms and effects of oral transmission, and Neoanalysis, the study of the relationship between Homer and other early epic material.


Homeric dialect

Main article: Homeric Greek

The language used by Homer is an archaic version of Ionic Greek, with admixtures from certain other dialects, such as Aeolic Greek. It later served as the basis of Epic Greek, the language of epic poetry, typically in dactylic hexameter.


Homeric style


The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion of assumptions  about the existence or non-existence of Homer as a real person may be found at length at


Aristotle remarks in his Poetics that Homer was unique among the poets of his time, focusing on a single unified theme or action in the epic cycle.[84]


The cardinal qualities of the style of Homer are well articulated by Matthew Arnold:

[T]he translator of Homer should above all be penetrated by a sense of four qualities of his author:—that he is eminently rapid; that he is eminently plain and direct, both in the evolution of his thought and in the expression of it, that is, both in his syntax and in his words; that he is eminently plain and direct in the substance of his thought, that is, in his matter and ideas; and finally, that he is eminently noble.[85]


The peculiar rapidity of Homer is due in great measure to his use of hexameter verse. It is characteristic of early literature that the evolution of the thought, or the grammatical form of the sentence, is guided by the structure of the verse; and the correspondence which consequently obtains between the rhythm and the syntax—the thought being given out in lengths, as it were, and these again divided by tolerably uniform pauses—produces a swift flowing movement such as is rarely found when periods are constructed without direct reference to the metre. That Homer possesses this rapidity without falling into the corresponding faults, that is, without becoming either fluctuant or monotonous, is perhaps the best proof of his unequalled poetic skill. The plainness and directness of both thought and expression which characterise him were doubtless qualities of his age, but the author of the Iliad (similar to Voltaire, to whom Arnold happily compares him) must have possessed this gift in a surpassing degree. The Odyssey is in this respect perceptibly below the level of the Iliad.


Rapidity or ease of movement, plainness of expression, and plainness of thought are not distinguishing qualities of the great epic poets Virgil, Dante,[86] and Milton. On the contrary, they belong rather to the humbler epico-lyrical school for which Homer has been so often claimed. The proof that Homer does not belong to that school—and that his poetry is not in any true sense ballad poetry—is furnished by the higher artistic structure of his poems and, as regards style, by the fourth of the qualities distinguished by Arnold: the quality of nobleness. It is his noble and powerful style, sustained through every change of idea and subject, that finally separates Homer from all forms of ballad poetry and popular epic.


Like the French epics, such as the Chanson de Roland, Homeric poetry is indigenous and, by the ease of movement and its resultant simplicity, distinguishable from the works of Dante, Milton and Virgil. It is also distinguished from the works of these artists by the comparative absence of underlying motives or sentiment. In Virgil's poetry, a sense of the greatness of Rome and Italy is the leading motive of a passionate rhetoric, partly veiled by the considered delicacy of his language. Dante and Milton are still more faithful exponents of the religion and politics of their time. Even the French epics display sentiments of fear and hatred of the Saracens; but, in Homer's works, the interest is purely dramatic. There is no strong antipathy of race or religion; the war turns on no political events; the capture of Troy lies outside the range of the Iliad; and even the protagonists are not comparable to the chief national heroes of Greece. So far as can be seen, the chief interest in Homer's works is that of human feeling and emotion, and of drama; indeed, his works are often referred to as "dramas".


History and the Iliad

Main article: Historicity of the Iliad

The excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik in the late 19th century provided initial evidence to scholars that there was an historical basis for the Trojan War. Research into oral epics in Serbo-Croatian and Turkic languages, pioneered by the aforementioned Parry and Lord, began convincing scholars that long poems could be preserved with consistency by oral cultures until they are written down.[80] The decipherment of Linear B in the 1950s by Michael Ventris (and others) convinced many of a linguistic continuity between 13th century BCE Mycenaean writings and the poems attributed to Homer.


It is probable, therefore, that the story of the Trojan War as reflected in the Homeric poems derives from a tradition of epic poetry founded on a war which actually took place. It is crucial, however, not to underestimate the creative and transforming power of subsequent tradition: for instance, Achilles, the most important character of the Iliad, is strongly associated with southern Thessaly, but his legendary figure is interwoven into a tale of war whose kings were from the Peloponnese.  Tribal wanderings were frequent, and far-flung, ranging over much of Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.[87] The epic weaves brilliantly the disiecta membra (scattered remains) of these distinct tribal narratives, exchanged among clan bards, into a monumental tale in which Greeks join collectively to do battle on the distant plains of Troy.


Hero cult

In the Hellenistic period, Homer was the subject of a hero cult in several cities. A shrine, the Homereion, was devoted to him in Alexandria by Ptolemy IV Philopator in the late 3rd century BCE. This shrine is described in Aelian's 3rd century CE work Varia Historia. He tells how Ptolemy "placed in a circle around the statue [of Homer] all the cities who laid claim to Homer" and mentions a painting of the poet by the artist Galaton, which apparently depicted Homer in the aspect of Oceanus as the source of all poetry.


A marble relief, found in Italy but thought to have been sculpted in Egypt, depicts the apotheosis of Homer. It shows Ptolemy and his wife or sister Arsinoe III standing beside a seated poet, flanked by figures from the Odyssey and Iliad, with the nine Muses standing above them and a procession of worshippers approaching an altar, believed to represent the Alexandrine Homereion. Apollo, the god of music and poetry, also appears, along with a female figure tentatively identified as Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses. Zeus, the king of the gods, presides over the proceedings. The relief demonstrates vividly that the Greeks considered Homer not merely a great poet but the divinely inspired reservoir of all literature.[88]


Homereia also stood at Chios, Ephesus, and Smyrna, which were among the city-states that claimed to be his birthplace. Strabo (14.1.37) records an Homeric temple in Smyrna with an ancient xoanon or cult statue of the poet. He also mentions sacrifices carried out to Homer by the inhabitants of Argos, presumably at another Homereion.[89]


Transmission and publication

An account of the transmission of the Iliad from oral tradition through wax pad, papyrus, parchment, to paper (editio princeps) is given by Nioletseas M.M[90] Though evincing many features characteristic of oral poetry, the Iliad and Odyssey were at some point committed to writing. The Greek script, adapted from a Phoenician syllabary around 800 BCE, made possible the notation of the complex rhythms and vowel clusters that make up hexameter verse. Homer's poems appear to have been recorded shortly after the alphabet's invention: an inscription from Ischia in the Bay of Naples, c. 740 BCE, appears to refer to a text of the Iliad; likewise, illustrations seemingly inspired by the Polyphemus episode in the Odyssey are found on Samos, Mykonos and in Italy, dating from the first quarter of the seventh century BCE. We have little information about the early condition of the Homeric poems, but in the second century BCE, Alexandrian editors stabilized this text from which all modern texts descend.


In late antiquity, knowledge of Greek declined in Latin-speaking western Europe and, along with it, knowledge of Homer's poems. It was not until the fifteenth century CE that Homer's work began to be read once more in Italy. By contrast it was continually read and taught in the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire where the majority of the classics also survived. The first printed edition appeared in 1488 (edited by Demetrios Chalkokondyles and published by Bernardus Nerlius, Nerius Nerlius, and Demetrius Damilas in Florence, Italy).

One often finds books of the Iliad and Odyssey cited by the corresponding letter of the Greek alphabet, with upper-case letters referring to a book number of the Iliad and lower-case letters referring to the Odyssey. Thus Ξ 200 would be shorthand for Iliad book 14, line 200, while ξ 200 would be Odyssey 14.200. The following table presents this system of numeration:














book no.


































































See also

·      Achaeans (Homer)

·      Achilles

·      Aeneid

·      Aoidos

·      Ancient accounts of Homer

·      Aristarchus of Samothrace

·      Bibliomancy

·      Catalogue of Ships

·      Cyclic Poets

·      Dactylic hexameter

·      Deception of Zeus

·      Epic Cycle

·      Epic poetry

·      Epithets in Homer

·      Geography of the Odyssey

·      Greek mythology

·      Hector

·      Historicity of the Iliad

·      Homer's Ithaca

·      Homeric Greek

·      Homeric nod

·      Homeric Question

·      Homeric scholarship

·      Ithaca

·      Life of Homer (Pseudo-Herodotus)

·      List of characters in the Iliad

·      Odysseus

·      Peisistratos (Athens)

·      Rhapsode

·      Shield of Achilles

·      Sortes Homerica

·      Tabula Iliaca

·      Telemachy

·      The Golden Bough (mythology)

·      Trojan Battle Order

·      Trojan War

·      Trojan War in art and literature

·      Troy

·      Troy VII

·      Venetus A Manuscript

·      Zenodotus of Ephesus

Modern scholars

·      Richard Bentley

·      Ioannis Kakridis

·      Adolf Kirchhoff

·      Geoffrey Kirk

·      Karl Lachmann

·      Walter Leaf

·      Albert Lord

·      David Binning Monro

·      Karl Otfried Müller

·      Gilbert Murray

·      Gregory Nagy

·      Gregor Wilhelm Nitzsch

·      Milman Parry

·      Barry B. Powell

·      Heinrich Schliemann

·      William Bedell Stanford

·      Jean-Baptiste Gaspard d'Ansse de Villoison

·      Alan Wace

·      Martin Litchfield West

·      Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff

·      Friedrich August Wolf


^ Herodotus 2.53.

^ "Vita Herodotea", Chapter 38. An analysis can be found in Graziosi 2002, pp. 98–101 A summary of the main traditional dates and sources can be found in Smith, William; Marindin, G.E. (1919). A classical dictionary of Greek and Roman biography, mythology and geography, by Sir William Smith. Revised throughout and in part rewritten by G. E. Marindin. London: J. Murray. pp. 422–425.

^ Paragraph 595c lines 1-2, paragraph 600a line 9, paragraph 606e lines 1-2, respectively. The references are collected and interpreted in Too, Yun Lee (2010). "Chapter 3, Section V". The Idea of the Library in the Ancient World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

^ Griffin, Jasper (2004). "The Speeches". In Fowler, Robert. Cambridge Companion to Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 156.

^ Nünlist, René (2012). "Homer as a Blueprint for Speechwriters: Eustathius’ Commentaries and Rhetoric". Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 52: 493–509.

^ Finley 2002, pp. 11–2 Finley's figures are based upon the corpus of literary papyri published before 1963.

^ A summary of the sources and an analysis of textual uniformity can be found in Murray 1960, Chapter 12 The Text of Homer From Known to Unknown.

^ Murray 1960, pp. 297–298

^ West, Martin (1999). "The Invention of Homer". Classical Quarterly 49 (364).

^ Taplin, Oliver (1986). "2 Homer". In Boardman, John; Griffin, Jasper; Murray, Oswyn. The Oxford History of the Classical World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p. 50.

^ Kirk, G.S. (1985). The Iliad: A Commentary. Volume I: books 1-4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 1.

^ Nagy, Gregory (2001). "Homeric Poetry and Problems of Multiformity: The "Panathenaic Bottleneck". Classical Philology 96: 109–119. doi:10.1086/449533.

^ Watkins, Calvert (1995). How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press; Internet Archive.

^ Lucian, Verae Historiae 2.20, cited and tr. in Graziosi 2002, p. 127

^ Parke, Herbert W. (1967). Greek Oracles. UK: Hutchinson Educational. pp. 136–137 citing the Certamen, 12. ISBN 0-09-084111-5.

^ Stoessl, F. (1979). "'Homeros'". Der Kleine Pauly: Lexikon der Antike in fünf Bänden: Bd. 2. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. p. 1202.

17. ^ a b Kirk, G.S. (1965). Homer and the Epic: A Shortened Version of the Songs of Homer. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 190. ISBN 0-521-09356-2.

^ Allen, Thomas W., ed. (1912). Homeri Opera (in Latin and Ancient Greek). Tomus V: Hymnos Cyclum Fragmenta Margiten Batrachomyomachiam Vitas Continens. Oxonii: Typographeo Clarendoniano.

^ The name means any vita located on a manuscript at the Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, "Royal Library of the Monastery of Saint Lorenzo of Escorial", Royal because it is in the king's palace, El Escorial, near Madrid. The palace was once a monastery.

^ So-called because the main manuscript is at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, formerly known as the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II.

^ Nagy 2010, p. 29

^ Nagy 2010, p. 133

23. ^ a b West, M.L. (1997). The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 622.

^ Liddell & Scott 1940, ὅμηρος

^ Chantraine, P. (1968). "Homer". Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque (in French). vol. 2 (3–4). Paris: Klincksieck. p. 797. This long-standing view is the one adopted by many Greek etymological dictionaries. See also the word history as the name Homer in Liddell & Scott 1940, Ὅμηρος

^ Silk 1987, p. 4. Silk generalizes to "Aeolic-speaking districts", but the only district mentioned in Pseudo-Herodotus is Cyme (Aeolis). Still, he did perform over the entire area, according to the source, and many cities of the region claimed to be his native city.

^ Allen p. 99.

^ Homeric Hymns 3:172–3

^ Thucidides, The Peloponnesian War 3:104

^ Graziosi 2002, p. 133

^ Odyssey, 8:64ff.

^ Beecroft, Alexander (2011). "Blindness and Literacy in the Lives of Homer". Classical Quarterly 61.1: 1–18. doi:10.1017/S0009838810000352.

^ Liddell & Scott 1940, ὁμοῦ

^ Liddell & Scott 1940, ἀραρίσκω

^ Nagy 1979, pp. 296–300

^ Smith 1876, Homerus

^ Smith 1876, Aeolis

^ Smith 1876, Smyrna

^ Buck 1928, pp. 147–156

^ Beaumont, Lesley (2013). "Smyrna". In Wilson, Nigel. Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. New York: Routledge.

^ Smith 1876, Chios

^ Buck 1928, p. 143

^ Janko 1982, p. 178

^ Browning, Robert (1983). Medieval & Modern Greek (2nd ed.). Cambridge: University of Cambridge. p. 51.

^ Semonides (1989). "Fragment 19". In West, Martin L. Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum cantati (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

^ Gilbert Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epic, p. 307

^ Liddell & Scott 1940, Ὁμηρεών

^ Scott, John Adams (1965). The Unity of Homer. New York: Biblio & Tanner Publications. pp. 4–8.

^ Iliad 2.459–63

^ Iliad 2.144–6

^ Iliad 4.142

^ "Troja und Ilion" and "Alt-Ithaka: Ein Beitrag zur Homer-Frage, Studien und Ausgrabungen aus der insel Leukas-Ithaka"

^ The Historical Library of Diodorus Siculus, Book I, ch. VI.

^ Iliad, 2.595

^ Hesiod, Works and Days, 654–5; Nilsson, Martin P. (1972). Homer & Mycenae. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 207ff.

^ Latacz, Joachim; Holoka, James P., tr. (1996). Homer: His Art and His World. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 29.

^ Graziosi 2002, p. 134

^ Murray 1960, p. 93

^ 11.116.

^ Lines 646-662.

61. ^ a b Evelyn-White 1914, p. xxx

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 481–482

^ Evelyn-White 1914, p. xxix

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 484–485

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 485–487

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 486–489

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 489–507

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 506–509

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 508–519

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 520–525

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 524–529

^ Evelyn-White 1914, pp. 530–532

^ Gilbert Murray: The Rise of the Greek Epic, 4th ed. 1934, Oxford University Press reprint 1967 p. 299

^ Gregory Nagy: "Homer the Preclassic", passim

^ W. B. Stanford, "The Ulysses Theme", Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1968, p. v

^ "Classics in the History of Psychology -- Baldwin (1913) Volume I, Preface".


^ Butler, Samuel (1897) The authoress of the Odyssey : where and when she wrote, who she was, the use she made of the Iliad, and how the poem grew under her hands London: Longmans, Green

^ "Mary Ebbott "Butler's Authoress of the Odyssey: gendered readings of Homer, then and now," (Classics@: Issue 3)" (PDF).

80. ^ a b Adam Parry (ed.) The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1987.

^ "Signs of Meaning" Science 324 p. 38, 3 April 2009, reviewing Powell's Writing and citing Powell's Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet CUP 1991

^ Najock, Dietmar (1995). "XXXI, 1 à 4". Letter Distribution and Authorship in Early Greek Epics (PDF). Revue informatique et Statistique dans les Sciences Humaines. pp. 129–154.

^ Vonfelt, Stephan (2010). "Archéologie numérique de la poésie grecque" (PDF). Université de Toulouse.[dead link]

^ Aristotle, Poetics, 1451a 16–29. Cf. Aristotle, "On the Art of Poetry" in T.S. Dorsch (tr.), Aristotle, Horace, Longinus: Classical Literary Criticism, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965 ch. 8 pp. 42–43

^ Matthew Arnold, 'On Translating Homer' (Oxford Lecture, 1861) in Lionel Trilling (ed.) The Portable Matthew Arnold (1949) Viking Press, New York 1956 pp. 204–228, p. 211

^ Dante has Virgil introduce Homer, with a sword in hand, as poeta sovrano (sovereign poet), walking ahead of Horace, Ovid and Lucan. Cf. Inferno IV, 88

^ Gilbert Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epic, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1907, pp. 182f., slightly expanded in the 4th. ed. (1934) 1960 pp. 206ff.

^ Morgan, Llewelyn, 1999. Patterns of Redemption in Virgil's Georgics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 30.

^ Zanker, Paul, 1996. The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, Alan Shapiro, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press).

^ Nikoletseas, M. M. (2012) The Iliad - Twenty Centuries of Translation. pp 19-40. ISBN 978-1469952109


Selected bibliography


Texts in Homeric Greek

·      Demetrius Chalcondyles editio princeps, Florence, 1488

·      the Aldine editions (1504 and 1517)

·      Th. Ridel, Strasbourg, c. 1572, 1588 and 1592.

·      Wolf (Halle, 1794–1795; Leipzig, 1804 1807)

·      Spitzner (Gotha, 1832–1836)

·      Bekker (Berlin, 1843; Bonn, 1858)

·      La Roche (Odyssey, 1867–1868; Iliad, 1873–1876, both at Leipzig)

·      Ludwich (Odyssey, Leipzig, 1889–1891; Iliad, 2 vols., 1901 and 1907)

·      W. Leaf (Iliad, London, 1886–1888; 2nd ed. 1900-1902)

·      William Walter Merry and James Riddell (Odyssey i–xii., 2nd ed., Oxford, 1886)

·      Monro (Odyssey xiii.–xxiv. with appendices, Oxford, 1901)

·      Monro and Allen (Iliad), and Allen (Odyssey, 1908, Oxford).

·      D.B. Monro and T.W. Allen 1917-1920, Homeri Opera (5 volumes: Iliad = 3rd edition, Odyssey = 2nd edition), Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814528-4, ISBN 0-19-814529-2, ISBN 0-19-814531-4, ISBN 0-19-814532-2, ISBN 0-19-814534-9

·      H. van Thiel 1991, Homeri Odyssea, Hildesheim. ISBN 3-487-09458-4, 1996, Homeri Ilias, Hildesheim. ISBN 3-487-09459-2

·      M.L. West 1998–2000, Homeri Ilias (2 volumes), Munich/Leipzig. ISBN 3-598-71431-9, ISBN 3-598-71435-1

·      P. von der Mühll 1993, Homeri Odyssea, Munich/Leipzig. ISBN 3-598-71432-7


Interlinear translations

·      The Iliad of Homer a Parsed Interlinear, (2008) Text ISBN 978-1-60725-298-6


English translations

·      Main article: English translations of Homer

·      This is a partial list of translations into English of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

·      Augustus Taber Murray (1866–1940)

o   Homer: Iliad, 2 vols., revised by William F. Wyatt, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press (1999).

o   Homer: Odyssey, 2 vols., revised by George E. Dimock, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press (1995).

·      Robert Fitzgerald (1910–1985)

o   The Iliad, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2004) ISBN 0-374-52905-1

o   The Odyssey, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1998) ISBN 0-374-52574-9

·      Robert Fagles (1933–2008)

o   The Iliad, Penguin Classics (1998) ISBN 0-14-027536-3

o   The Odyssey, Penguin Classics (1999) ISBN 0-14-026886-3

·      Stanley Lombardo (b. 1943)

o   Iliad, Hackett Publishing Company (1997) ISBN 0-87220-352-2

o   Odyssey, Hackett Publishing Company (2000) ISBN 0-87220-484-7

o   Iliad, (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ISBN 1-930972-08-3

o   Odyssey, (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ISBN 1-930972-06-7

o   The Essential Homer, (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ISBN 1-930972-12-1

o   The Essential Iliad, (Audiobook) Parmenides (2006) ISBN 1-930972-10-5

·      Barry B. Powell (b. 1942)

o   "Iliad", Oxford University Press (2013) ISBN 978-0199326105

o   "Odyssey", Oxford University PressI (2014) ISBN 978-0199360314

o   "Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: The Essential Books", Oxford University Press (2014) ISBN 978-0199394074

·      Samuel Butler (1835–1902)

o   The Iliad, Red and Black Publishers (2008) ISBN 978-1-934941-04-1

o   The Odyssey, Red and Black Publishers (2008) ISBN 978-1-934941-05-8

·      Herbert Jordan (b. 1938)

o   Iliad, University of Oklahoma Press (2008) ISBN 978-0-8061-3974-6 (soft cover)


General works on Homer

·      Carlier, Pierre (1999). Homère (in French). Paris: Les éditions Fayard. ISBN 2-213-60381-2.

·      de Romilly, Jacqueline (2005). Homère (5th ed.). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. ISBN 2-13-054830-X.

·      Fowler, Robert, ed. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-01246-5.

·      Latacz, J.; Windle, Kevin, Tr.; Ireland, Rosh, Tr. (2004). Troy and Homer: Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926308-6. In German, 5th updated and expanded edition, Leipzig, 2005. In Spanish, 2003, ISBN 84-233-3487-2. In modern Greek, 2005, ISBN 960-16-1557-1.

·      Monro, David Binning (1911). "Homer". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 626–639.

·      Morris, Ian; Powell, Barry B., eds. (1997). A New Companion to Homer. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-09989-1.

·      Nikoletseas, M. M. ( 2012). The Iliad - Twenty Centuries of Translation. ISBN 978-1469952109

·      Powell, Barry B. (2007). Homer (2nd ed.). Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Carlton, Victoria: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-5325-6.

·      Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (2000). Le monde d'Homère (in French). Paris: Perrin. ISBN 2-262-01181-8.

·      Wace, A.J.B.; F.H. Stubbings (1962). A Companion to Homer. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-07113-1.


Influential readings and interpretations

·      Auerbach, Erich (1953). "Chapter 1". Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11336-X. (orig. publ. in German, 1946, Bern)

·      de Jong, Irene J.F. (2004). Narrators and Focalizers: the Presentation of the Story in the Iliad (2nd ed.). London: Bristol Classical Press. ISBN 1-85399-658-0.

·      Edwards, Mark W. (1987). Homer, Poet of the Iliad. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3329-9.

·      Fenik, Bernard (1974). Studies in the Odyssey. Hermes, Einzelschriften 30. Wiesbaden: Steiner.

·      Finley, Moses (2002). The World of Odysseus. New York: New York Review of Books. ISBN 978-1-59017-017-5.

·      Nagy, Gregory (1979). The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

·      Nagy, Gregory (2010). Homer: the Preclassic. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520950245.



·      Iliad:

·      P.V. Jones (ed.) 2003, Homer's Iliad. A Commentary on Three Translations, London. ISBN 1-85399-657-2

·      G. S. Kirk (gen. ed.) 1985–1993, The Iliad: A Commentary (6 volumes), Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-28171-7, ISBN 0-521-28172-5, ISBN 0-521-28173-3, ISBN 0-521-28174-1, ISBN 0-521-31208-6, ISBN 0-521-31209-4

·      J. Latacz (gen. ed.) 2002–, Homers Ilias. Gesamtkommentar. Auf der Grundlage der Ausgabe von Ameis-Hentze-Cauer (1868–1913) (6 volumes published so far, of an estimated 15), Munich/Leipzig. ISBN 3-598-74307-6, ISBN 3-598-74304-1

·      N. Postlethwaite (ed.) 2000, Homer's Iliad: A Commentary on the Translation of Richmond Lattimore, Exeter. ISBN 0-85989-684-6

·      M. M. Nikoletseas, 2012, The Iliad - Twenty Centuries of Translation.. ISBN 978-1469952109

·      M.W. Willcock (ed.) 1976, A Companion to the Iliad, Chicago. ISBN 0-226-89855-5

·      Odyssey:

·      Heubeck (gen. ed.) 1990–1993, A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey (3 volumes; orig. publ. 1981–1987 in Italian), Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814747-3, ISBN 0-19-872144-7, ISBN 0-19-814953-0

·      P. Jones (ed.) 1988, Homer's Odyssey: A Commentary based on the English Translation of Richmond Lattimore, Bristol. ISBN 1-85399-038-8

·      I.J.F. de Jong (ed.) 2001, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-46844-2


Dating the Homeric poems

·      Janko, Richard (1982). Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23869-2.


Further reading

·      Buck, Carl Darling (1928). The Greek Dialects. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

·      Evelyn-White, Hugh Gerard (tr.) (1914). Hesiod, the Homeric hymns and Homerica. The Loeb Classical Library. London; New York: Heinemann; MacMillen.

·      Ford, Andrew (1992). Homer : the poetry of the past. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-2700-2.

·      Graziosi, Barbara (2002). Inventing Homer: The Early Perception of Epic. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

·      Kirk, G.S. (1962). The Songs of Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

·      Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (Revised ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press; Perseus Digital Library.

·      Murray, Gilbert (1960). The Rise of the Greek Epic (Galaxy Books ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

·      Schein, Seth L. (1984). The mortal hero : an introduction to Homer's Iliad. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05128-9.

·      Silk, Michael (1987). Homer: The Iliad. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 0-521-83233-0.

·      Smith, William, ed. (1876). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Vol. I, II & III. London: John Murray.



·      Works by Homer at Project Gutenberg

·      Works by or about Homer at Internet Archive

·      Works by Homer at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

·      Homer; Murray, A.T. The Iliad with an English Translation (in Ancient Greek and English). I, Books I-XII. London; New York: William Heinemann Ltd.; G.P. Putnam's Sons; Internet Archive.

·      The Chicago Homer

·      Daitz, Stephen (reader). "Homer, Iliad, Book I, lines 1-52". Society for the Reading of Greek and Latin Literature (SORGLL).

·      Heath, Malcolm (May 4, 2001). "CLAS3152 Further Greek Literature II: Aristotle's Poetics: Notes on Homer's Iliad and Odyssey". Department of Classics, University of Leeds; Internet Archive. Retrieved 2014-11-07.

·      Bassino, Paola (2014). "Homer: A Guide to Selected Sources". Living Poets: a new approach to ancient history. Durham University. Retrieved November 18, 2014.




5.  The Importance of Homer to Ancient Greek History




No other texts in the Western imagination occupy as central a position in the self-definition of Western culture as the two epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey.  They both concern the great defining moment of Greek culture, the Trojan War.  Whether or not this war really occurred, or occurred as the Greeks narrate it, is a relatively unanswerable question.  We know that such a war did take place around a city that quite likely was Troy [and] that Troy was destroyed utterly, but beyond that it's all speculation.  This war, however, fired the imaginations of the Greeks and became the defining cultural moment in their history.  Technically, the war wasn't fought by "Greeks" in the classical sense, it was fought by the Myceneaens; the Greek culture that we call "classical" is actually derived from a different group of Greeks, the Dorians and Ionians.   However, the Greeks saw the Trojan War as the first moment in history when the Greeks came together as one people with a common purpose.  This unification, whether it was myth or not, gave the later Greeks a sense of national or cultural identity, despite the fact that their governments were small, disunified city-states.   Since the Greeks regarded the Trojan War as the defining moment in the establishment of "Greek character," they were obsessed about the events of that great war and told them repeatedly with great variety; as the Greek idea of cultural identity changed, so did their stories about the Trojan War. 


If the Greeks regarded the Trojan War as the defining moment of their culture, they did so because of the poetry of Homer.  It would not be unfair to regard the Homeric poems as the single most important texts in Greek culture.  While the Greeks all gained their collective identity from the Trojan War, that collective identity was concentrated in the values, ethics, and narrative of Homer's epic poems.  Just as the Greeks were obsessed about the Trojan War, they were equally obsessed about the Homeric poems, returning to them over and over again, particularly in times of cultural crisis.  The Greeks didn't believe that the Homeric poems were sacred in any way, or even flawless history.  For most of Greek history, Homer comes under fire for his unflattering portrayal of Greek gods.  The Greeks understood that the poems were poetry, and in the Hellenistic period came to the understanding that the poems had been deeply corrupted over the ages.  So unlike most ancient cultures, which rooted collective identity in religious texts of some

sort, the Greeks turned to literature.


As the Trojan War was the product of Mycenean culture, the Homeric poems were the product of the Greek Dark Ages.  Whatever happened at Troy, the events were probably so captivating, that the Greeks continued to narrate the stories long after they had abandoned their cities and abandoned writing.  The history of the war was preserved from mouth to mouth, from person to person; it may be that the stories of the Trojan War were the dominant cultural artifact of the Greek Dark Ages.  These stories probably began as short tales of isolated events and heroes; eventually a profession of story telling was established—classical scholars call this new professional a "bard." This new professional began combining the stories into larger narratives; as the narratives grew, the technique of story-telling changed as well.  Whereas early bards probably memorized their stories with great exactitude, the later bards, telling much longer stories, probably improvised much of their lines following sophisticated rules.  Maybe.  We have evidence from the Classical age in Greece of people memorizing the complete poetry of Homer word for word (over 25,000 lines of poetry); it may be possible that the Homeric poems

were memorized with more exactitude than scholars believe.  No matter what the case, by the end of the Greek Dark Ages, these bards or story-tellers were probably the cultural center of Greek society; their status improved greatly as Greeks began to slowly urbanize.


On an average night in the late Greek Dark Ages, a community, probably the wealthiest people, would settle in for an evening's entertainment.  The professional storyteller would sing the stories of the Trojan War and its Greek heroes; these songs would be the Greek equivalent of a mini-series, for the stories were so long that they would take days to complete.  The Greeks believed that the greatest of these story-tellers was a blind man named Homer, and that he sung ten epic poems about the Trojan War, of which only two survived (although the Greeks seem to have known them).  As a group these poems told the entire history of the Trojan War; each poem, however, only covered a small part of that history.  Many classicists believe that the two surviving Homeric epics (probably the only Homeric epics) were in fact composed by several individuals; [but] in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, most classicists accept the overall Greek idea of a single author.  Whatever the compositional history of the poems, they were set down into writing within a few decades of their composition; the growing urbanization of Greek society led to the rediscovery of writing (learned from the Phoenicians this time), and the Homeric poems were committed to writing very quickly.  Time and transmission added much extraneous material to the poems, but in their basic character and outline they seem to be the original compositions.  [tkw note – there is a theory that the desire to set down the epics is what caused the re—introduction of writing.}


The Iliad is the story of a brief event in the ninth year of the war (which the Greeks claim lasted ten years); the great hero Achilles is offended when the leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, takes a slave girl Achilles has been awarded.  Achilles withdraws from the battle and prays to his mother, Thetis, a goddess, to turn the tide of battle against the Greeks.  The gods grant Achilles his prayer, and he does not return to battle until his best friend is killed by the great Trojan hero, Hector.   Achilles throws himself into the battle, fights Hector, and kills him; in a final gesture of contempt, he drags Hectors lifeless body around the walls of Troy.  If there is a "theme" to the epic (and one should resist simplifying large and complex literature), it is "Achilles choice." Achilles has been offered a choice: either he can be a great and famous hero in war and die young (Achilles does die in Troy when a poison arrow strikes him in the ankle), or the can live a long, happy life without any lasting fame whatsoever.  Although Achilles initially chooses not to die young, the death of his friend forces him to make the choice that will make him famous for all time, but tragically dead at a young age.


The Odyssey is the story of the homecoming of another of the great Greek heroes at Troy, Odysseus.  Unlike Achilles, Odysseus is not famous for his great strength or bravery, but for his ability to deceive and trick (it is Odysseus's idea to take Troy by offering the citizens a large wooden horse filled, unbeknownst to the Trojans, with Greek soldiers).  He is the anthropos polytropos , the "man of many ways," or the "man of many tricks." His homecoming has been delayed for ten years because of the anger of the gods; finally, in the tenth year, he is allowed to go home.  He hasn't been misspending his time, though; for most of the ten years he has been living on an island with the goddess Kalypso, who is madly in love with him.  Odysseus, like Achilles, is offered a choice: he may either live on the island with Kalypso and be immortal like the gods, or he may return to his wife and his country and be mortal like the rest of us.  He chooses to return, and much of the rest of the work is a long exposition on what it means to be "mortal." If the Odyssey has a discernible theme, it is the nature of mortal life, why any human being would, if offered the chance to be a god, still choose to be mortal.  This choice becomes particularly problematic when Odysseus, in Book XI, meets the ghost of Achilles in the Underworld; Odysseus remarks to Achilles how all the shades of the dead must worship and serve Achilles, but Achilles replies that he would rather be the meanest and most obscure slave of the poorest landholder than be the most famous of the dead.  If being dead is so awful, what is it about being human that makes up for the infinite suffering that attends our deaths?  As part of this question concerning the nature of human life, much of the book deals with the nature of human civilization and human savagery.  The question also deepens in the latter half of the poem; while the first half of the epic deals with the question of the value of a mortal life, the last half of the epic introduces the question of the value of an anonymous human life.  What value can be attached to a life that will be forgotten at its conclusion?


The Greeks in general regard Homer's two epics as the highest cultural achievement of their people, the defining moment in Greek culture which set the basic Greek character in stone.  Throughout antiquity, both in Greece and Rome, everything tended to be compared to these two works; events in history made sense when put in the light of the events narrated in these two works.  As a result, then, these two epics are the focal point of Greek values and the Greek world view despite all its evolution and permutations through the centuries following their composition. 


There are two very important words repeatedly used throughout the Homeric epics: honor (timé ) and virtue or greatness (areté ).  The latter term is perhaps the most reiterated cultural and moral value in Ancient Greece and means something like achieving, morally and otherwise, your greatest potential as a human being.   The reward for great honor and virtue is fame (kleos ), which is what guarantees meaning and value to one's life.  Dying without fame (akleos ) is generally considered a disaster, and the warriors of the Homeric epics commit the most outrageous deeds to avoid dying in obscurity or infamy (witness Odysseus's absurd insistence on telling Polyphemos his name even though this will bring disaster on him and his men in the Polyphemos episode).  The passage from Odyssey XI discussed above presents Achilles's final judgement on kleos and its value when he tells Odysseus that he would rather be alive and the most obscure human on earth than dead and famous. 


Richard Hooker

Washington State University





6. Trojan War

From Ancient History Encyclopedia:



by Mark Cartwright   published on 15 May 2013

The Trojan War, fought between Greeks and the defenders of the city of Troy in Anatolia sometime in the late Bronze Age, has grabbed the imagination for millennia. A conflict between Mycenaeans and Hittites may well have occurred, but its representation in epic literature such as Homer’s Iliad is almost certainly more myth than reality. Nevertheless, it has defined and shaped the way ancient Greek culture has been viewed right up to the 21st century CE. The story of gods and heroic warriors is perhaps one of the richest single surviving sources from antiquity and offers insights into the warfare, religion, customs, and attitudes of the ancient Greeks.


The main source for our knowledge of the Trojan War is Homer’s Iliad (written sometime in the 8th century BCE) where he recounts 53 days during the final year of the ten year conflict. The Greeks imagined the war to have occurred some time in the 13th century BCE. However, the war was also the subject of a long oral tradition prior to Homer’s work, and this, combined with other sources such as the fragmentary Epic Cycle poems, give us a more complete picture of what exactly the Greeks thought of as the Trojan War.


The Trojan War, in Greek tradition, started as a way for Zeus to reduce the ever-increasing population of humanity and, more practically, as an expedition to reclaim Helen, wife of Menelaos, King of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. Helen was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris (also known as Alexandros) and taken as his prize for choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess in a competition with Athena and Hera at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Menelaos and the Greeks wanted her back and to avenge Trojan impudence.



The coalition of Greek forces (or Archaians as Homer often calls them) were led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Amongst the cities or regions represented were Boiotia, Phocia, Euboea, Athens, Argos, Corinth, Arcadia, Sparta, Kephalonia, Crete, Rhodes, Magnesia, and the Cyclades. Just how many men these totalled is unclear. Homer states an army of ‘tens of thousands’ or rather more poetically ‘as many [men] as the leaves and flowers that come in springtime’.


Amongst the Greek warriors were some extra special heroes, leaders who were the greatest fighters and displayed the greatest courage on the battlefield. Also, they often had a divine mother or father whilst the other parent was a mortal, thereby creating a genealogical link between the gods and ordinary men. Amongst the most important were Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax, Diomedes, Patroklos, Antilokus, Menestheus, and Idomenus. 


The Greeks were aided by several of the Olympian gods of Greek religion. Athena, Poseidon, Hera, Hephaistos, Hermes, and Thetis all gave direct or indirect help to the Greeks in Homer’s account of the war. The gods had their favourites amongst the men fighting down on the plains of Troy and they often protected them by deflecting spears and even spiriting them away in the heat of battle to put them down somewhere safe, far from danger. 



The Trojan army defending the great city of Troy, led by their king Priam, had assistance from a long list of allies. These included the Carians, Halizones, Kaukones, Kikones, Lycians, Maionians, Mysians, Paionians, Paphlagonians, Pelasgians, Phrygians, and Thracians.


The Trojans, too, had their semi-divine heroes and these included Hektor (son of Priam), Aeneas, Sarpedon, Glaukos, Phorkys, Poulydamas, and Rhesos. The Trojans also had help from the gods, receiving assistance during the battle from Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, and Leto.



Most of the Trojan War was in a fact a protracted siege, and the city was able to resist the invaders for so long principally because its fortifications were so magnificent. Indeed, in Greek mythology, the walls of Troy were said to have been built by Poseidon and Apollo who, after an act of impiety, were compelled by Zeus to serve the Trojan King Laomedon for one year. There were, though, battles outside the city where armies fought, sometimes with chariots, but mostly by men on foot using spears and swords and protected by a shield, helmet, and armour for the chest and legs. War waged back and forth across the plains of Troy over the years, but the really exciting battles seem to have been reserved for the final year of the siege and the following are a selection of the highlights.



Tiring of indecisive battles, Menelaos offered to fight Paris in single-combat and so settle the issue of the war. Agreeing to this, the two warriors drew lots to see who would have first throw with their spear. Paris won and threw first but his spear landed harmlessly in the shield of Menelaos. The Greek king then threw his weapon with tremendous force and the spear went through the shield of Paris and carried on through to pierce his armour. If Paris had not swayed at the last moment, he would surely have been killed outright. However, Menelaos was not finished and with his sword he struck a fearful blow on the Trojan prince’s helmet. The sword shattered, though, and fell in pieces into the dust. Menelaos then grabbed Paris’ helmet with his bare hands and proceeded to drag him from the field. Choking as his helmet strap wrapped around his neck, Paris was only saved through the intervention of Aphrodite who broke the helmet strap and, covering the prince in a thick mist, spirited her favourite back to the safety of his perfumed bedroom.  



The meeting of the two great heroes echoes that of Menelaos and Paris. Each throw their spears but to no effect. Hektor then threw a large rock at the Greek, only for him to fend it off with his shield. Ajax then returned the favour with an even bigger rock, smashing Hektor’s shield. They then drew their swords and closed for mortal combat but were each stopped by their comrades who called for an end to the fighting as night was approaching. Displaying the code of honour for which the good old days were famous, the two warriors even said goodbye on friendly terms by exchanging gifts, Hektor giving a silver-hilted sword and Ajax giving a splendid purple belt.



Following a tremendous day of fighting, Hektor led the Trojans in an attack on the very walls of the Greeks’ camp. Breaking through the gates, the Trojans sent the Greeks fleeing in panic back to their ships. However, as Zeus was momentarily distracted by the charms of Hera, Poseidon stepped in to encourage the Greeks who rallied and forced the Trojans to retreat. Then the tide of battle changed again and, with the support of Apollo, an inspirational Hektor, in his finest hour, once more beat the Greeks back to their ships where he sought to set them ablaze. 



Invincible Achilles was quite simply the greatest warrior in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter. Much to the Greek’s frustration, though, he sat out most of the war in a big sulk. Agamemnon had stolen his female war-booty Briseis and consequently the hero refused to fight. Agamemnon at first doesn’t seem to have been too bothered about losing his temperamental talisman but as the Trojans started to gain an upper hand in the war, it began to look like Achilles would be needed if the Archaians were to actually win the protracted conflict. Accordingly, an increasingly desperate Agamemnon sent an appeal to Achilles with promises of vast treasure if he would only re-join the conflict. These Achilles refused but with the Greek camp under attack, Patroklos appealed to his mentor and great friend Achilles to rejoin the conflict and, when he still refused, Patroklos asked for permission to wear Achilles’ armour and lead the fearful Myrmidons himself. Achilles, on seeing one of the Greek ships already ablaze, reluctantly gave his consent but warned Patroklos to only repel the Trojans from the camp and not pursue them to the walls of Troy.


Patroklos then led the Greek fight-back, the Trojans were swept back and he even managed to kill the great Trojan hero Sarpedon. Flushed with success, the young hero then ignored Achilles’ advice and rashly carried the fighting on towards Troy. However, at this point, great Apollo intervened on behalf of the Trojans and struck the helmet and armour from Patroklos, shattered his spear and knocked his shield from his arm. Thus exposed and defenceless, Patroklos was stabbed by Euphorbos and then Hektor stepped in to deal the fatal blow with a pitiless stab of his spear.



When Achilles discovered the death of his great friend Patroklos, he was overcome with grief and rage and he swore to take terrible revenge on the Trojans and Hektor in particular. After a suitable show of mourning, Achilles finally decided to enter the battlefield once more. It was a decision which would seal the fate of Troy.


Before he could enter the fighting, though, Achilles needed new armour and this was provided by his divine mother Thetis who had Hephaistos, the master craftsman of Olympus, make him the most magnificent set of armour ever seen. Using bronze, tin, silver, and gold, the god made a massive shield which depicted a myriad of earthly scenes and all the constellations. So too, he made a dazzling, gold-crested helmet for the hero. Resplendent in his shining armour, Achilles, still mad with rage, predictably routed the Trojans who fled in panic behind the safety of their city walls. 



Hektor alone remained standing outside the walls but at the sight of the awesome Achilles on the rampage, even his nerve gave way and he made a run for safety. Achilles, however, gave chase and pursued the Trojan prince three times around the city walls. Finally catching him, Achilles killed his quarry with a vicious stab of his spear in Hektor’s throat. Achilles then stripped the body of its fine armour and, tying Hektor by the ankles to his chariot, Achilles dragged the body back to the Greek camp in full view of Priam standing atop the fortifications of the city. This was a shockingly dishonourable act and against all the rules of ancient warfare.


Having avenged the death of Patroklos, Achilles arranged funeral games in his fallen friend’s honour. Meanwhile, Priam entered the Greek camp in disguise and begged Achilles to return the body of his son that he might be given proper burial. Initially reluctant, the emotional pleas of the old man were finally heeded and Achilles consented to return the body. Here the Iliad ends but the war still had a few more twists of fate to turn.



The war involved several more exciting episodes including Achilles’ fight with and killing of the Ethiopian King Memnon and the Amazon Penthesilea who both came to the aid of the Trojans. Achilles was even said to have fallen in love with the beautiful Amazon just at the moment he killed her with his spear. Achilles himself met his destiny and was killed by an arrow to his only weak spot, his ankle, shot by Paris and guided by Apollo. Odysseus and Ajax squabbled over the hero’s magnificent armour and Ajax went mad with disappointment when he lost out on the prize. Slaughtering a herd of sheep he thought were Greeks, he fell on his sword in a messy and pointless suicide. Philokteles got revenge for his father, Achilles, by fatally shooting Paris with the legendary bow of Hercules. Finally, Odysseus even managed to get into the city in disguise and steal the sacred Palladion statue of Athena.


The final and decisive action was, though, the idea of the wooden horse. Odysseus, inspired by Athena, thought up the ruse to get a body of men inside the walls of Troy. First, the Greeks all sailed off into the sunset leaving a mysterious offering to the Trojans of a gigantic wooden horse which in reality concealed a group of warriors within. Just to make sure the Trojans took the horse within the city, Sinon was chosen to stay behind and tell a cock and bull story about the Greeks having given up and left a nice present. The Trojans did take the horse inside the city walls but whilst they were enjoying a drunken celebration of their victory, the Greeks climbed out of the horse, opened the city walls for the returning Greek army, and the city was sacked and the population slaughtered or enslaved. Helen was taken back to Argos and of the Trojan heroes only Aeneas escaped to eventually set up a new home in Italy.


Victory had its price though. Due to their pitiless ravaging of the city and its people and even worse, outrageous sacrilegious acts such as the rape of Kassandra, the gods punished the Greeks by sending storms to wreck their ships and those who did eventually return were made to endure a protracted and difficult voyage home. Even then, some of the Greeks who did make it back to their homeland only did so to face further misfortune and disaster.



Troy and the Trojan War became a staple myth of Classical Greek and Roman literature and were revisited many times by writers in works such as Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Euripedes’ Trojan Women, and Virgil’s Aenid. Also in pottery decoration and in sculpture, artists were captivated by the Trojan War. Scenes of the judgement of Paris, Achilles fighting Hektor, Achilles playing dice with Ajax, and Ajax falling on his sword were just some of the myriad scenes from the story that would appear in art again and again over the centuries. Perhaps more importantly, the Trojan War came to represent the struggle of Greeks against foreign powers and it told tales of a time when men were better, more able, and more honourable.



There has been much scholarly debate as to whether the mythical Troy actually existed and if so, whether the archaeological site discovered in Anatolia which revealed a city which had prospered over thousands of years of habitation was actually the same city; however, it is now almost universally accepted that the archaeological excavations have revealed the city of Homer’s Iliad.


Of the several cities built on top of each other, Troy VI (c. 1750-1300 BCE) is the most likely candidate for the besieged city of Homer’s Trojan War. Impressive fortification walls with several towers certainly fit the Homeric description of ‘strong-built Troy’. The lower town covers an impressive 270,000 m² protected by an encircling rock-cut ditch and suggests a grand city like the Troy of tradition.


Troy VI was partially destroyed but the exact cause is not known beyond some evidence of fire. Intriguingly, bronze arrow heads, spear tips, and sling shots have been found at the site and even some embedded in the fortification walls, suggesting some sort of conflict. The dates of these (c. 1250 BCE) and the site destruction correlate with Herodotus’ dates for the Trojan War. Conflicts over the centuries between the Mycenaean and Hittite civilizations are more than probable, colonial expansion and control of lucrative trade routes being prime motivators. However, such conflicts are unlikely to have been on the scale of Homer’s war, but collectively they may well have been the origin of the epic tale of the Trojan War which has fascinated for centuries.







7.  Was There a Trojan War?


by Manfred Korfmann


Archeology Archive Volume 57 Number 3, May/June 2004

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America


Despite assumptions to the contrary, archaeological work of the new Troy project has not been performed for the purpose of understanding Homer's Iliad or the Trojan War. For the past 16 years, more than 350 scholars, scientists, and technicians from nearly 20 countries have been collaborating on the excavations at the site in northwestern Turkey that began as an Early Bronze Age citadel in the third millennium B.C. and ended as a Byzantine settlement before being abandoned in A.D. 1350. However, as current director of the excavations, I am continually asked if Homer's Trojan War really happened


The Size of Troy

Troy appears to have been destroyed around 1180 B.C. (this date corresponds to the end of our excavation of levels Troy VIi or VIIa), probably by a war the city lost. There is evidence of a conflagration, some skeletons, and heaps of sling bullets. People who have successfully defended their city would have gathered their sling bullets and put them away for another event, but a victorious conqueror would have done nothing with them. But this does not mean that the conflict was the war--even though ancient tradition usually places it around this time. After a transitional period of a few decades, a new population from the eastern Balkans or the northwestern Black Sea region evidently settled in the ruins of what was probably a much weakened city.


The main argument against associating these ruins with the great city described in the Iliad has been that Troy in the Late Bronze Age was a wholly insignificant town and not a place worth fighting over. Our new excavations and the progress of research in southeastern Europe has changed such views regarding Troy considerably.


It appears that this city was, by the standards of this region at that time, very large indeed, and most certainly of supraregional importance in controlling access from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and from Asia Minor to southeast Europe and vice versa. Its citadel was unparalleled in the wider region and, as far as hitherto known, unmatched anywhere in southeastern Europe. Troy was also evidently attacked repeatedly and had to defend itself again and again, as indicated by repairs undertaken to the citadel's fortifications and efforts to enlarge and strengthen them.


A spectacular result of the new excavations has been the verification of the existence of a lower settlement from the seventeenth to the early twelfth centuries B.C. (Troy levels VI/VIIa) outside and south and east of the citadel. As magnetometer surveys and seven excavations undertaken since 1993 have shown, this lower city was surrounded at least in the thirteenth century by an impressive U-shaped fortification ditch, approximately eleven and a half feet wide and six and a half feet deep, hewn into the limestone bedrock. Conclusions about the existence and quality of buildings within the confines of the ditch have been drawn on the basis of several trial trenches and excavations, some of them covering a very large surface area. The layout of the city was confirmed by an intensive and systematic pottery survey in 2003. We have also discovered a cemetery outside the ditch to the south. The most recent excavations have determined that Troy, which now covers about seventy-five acres, is about fifteen times larger than previously thought.


The Setting of the Iliad

Homer took for granted that his audience knew a war had been fought for what was alternately called Ilios or Troy. The bard was mainly concerned with describing the wrath of Achilles and its consequences. He used Troy and the war as a poetic setting for a conflict between men and gods. From the archaeologist's point of view, however, the Iliad can be interpreted as a "setting" in an entirely different sense. One may see Homer or his informants as eyewitnesses to Troy and the landscape of Troy at the close of the eighth century B.C., the period when scholars generally agree Homer composed his epic.


Troy was largely a ruined site in Homer's day, but the remains of Troy VI/VIIa, both the citadel and the lower city, were still impressive. Contemporary audiences and later ones from the area around the city were supposed to be able to recognize the general outlines of places where the action happened from descriptive references in the Iliad. They could visualize it, for instance, whenever they climbed up a slope to a sanctuary in "holy Ilios." "Holy Ilios" is the most frequently repeated epithet in the Iliad, and one would expect to see a sacred building in such a place. We can make a convincing case for a sanctuary or sanctuaries, maybe in the form of a wooden building, from the early seventh century B.C. at the latest--roughly contemporary with Homer--on this site, which subsequently served as a cult center into the late Roman Empire. There is nothing in the archaeological record to contradict the assertion that Troy and the surrounding countryside formed the setting for Homer's Iliad in 700 B.C.


Evidence from Homer

by Joachim Latacz

Recent Homeric scholarship has shown that the Iliad is the culmination of a protracted oral transmission of past events, transmitted by epic poetry improvised and performed by singers. Comparative historical linguistics has shown that the poetic medium in which the Iliad was passed on through the ages, the hexameter, in all probability was in use in Greece at the latest by the fifteenth century B.C., so that kernels of information transmitted via hexametric formulas from that time on could have been conveyed in Greek epic poetry. Here are a few examples of critical information transmitted in the Iliad from the Late Bronze Age to the period of Homer in the eighth century B.C.:

The city called "Ilios" that sustained the attack in the Iliad must still have been known as "Wilios" in Bronze Age Greece. The sound /w/, spoken and written in Greek until at least 1200 B.C., was increasingly slurred in the dialect that Homer used around 450 years later until it was finally left off altogether. Consequently, the "Ilios" of the Iliad must have been the "Wilios" of the Late Bronze Age and in this way identical with "Wilusa," as Troy was known by the Hittite rulers of Anatolia at that time and in all probability by its inhabitants themselves.


The Greek aggressors who attack Troy in the Iliad are called consistently "Achaiói" (which was in the Late Bronze Age "Achaiwói") or "Danaói," but at the time the Iliad was composed in the eighth century B.C., there were no such names for the Greek people. The "Achaiwói" of the Iliad must, therefore, be identical with the inhabitants of Ahhiyawa, a western kingdom implicated in Hittite documents of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. in attacks on the western Anatolian coast. (The "Danaói" of the Iliad, on the other hand, must be identical with the inhabitants of "Danaya," a northern kingdom described in Egyptian documents of the fourteenth century B.C.)


From this, Homeric scholars can conclude that remnants of the memory of, among other things, one or several acts of aggression against the western Anatolian coast could have been transported via the hexameters of Ahhiyawan poetry down through the centuries between about 1200 and 800 B.C. Furthermore, Homer's Iliad has in all probability preserved remnants of the memory of one or more acts of aggression perpetrated by the Ahhiyawans against Wilusa in the thirteenth century B.C.


So did a "Trojan War" take place? Even with qualifications and certain reservations, I can give a basically positive answer. We still cannot prove that the Trojan War took place. However, all circumstantial evidence points to armed conflicts around 1200 B.C. between the area we now call Greece and the area that was called Wilusa at the time of the Hittite kingdom. The historical event or events left a mark in Greek poetry of that time, and because of the distinctive nature of the orally improvised Greek epic poetry of the Dark Ages, traces of this were preserved down to the time of Homer.


Joachim Latacz is professor of Greek philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. The English version of his book Troy and Homer will be released by Oxford University Press in October.



The Hittite Connection

Although Troy is in Anatolia, Carl Blegen, who directed excavations at the site in the 1930s, regarded Troy VI/VIIa as a Greek settlement. The idea of a Greek Troy, one that had also been entertained by Schliemann, became firmly established. These excavators had come from Greece to Troy, both literally and figuratively, and later returned to Greece, and were biased, most likely unconsciously, in their outlook. However, until the 1930s there was very little archaeologically within Anatolia that might have been compared with Troy, and certainly not in western Anatolia.

We know today, from our own excavations and even from earlier ones, that in all main respects, Bronze Age Troy had stronger ties with Anatolia than with the Aegean. We've learned this from the tons of local pottery and small finds, such as a seal with a local hieroglyphic inscription, as well as the overall settlement picture, mud-brick architecture, and cremation burials. Research by Anatolian specialists has shown that what we today call Troy was in the Late Bronze Age the kingdom of Wilusa, powerful enough to conclude treaties with the Hittite Empire; even the Egyptians seem to have been familiar with the city. Furthermore, according to Hittite records, there were political and military tensions around Troy precisely during the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries B.C.--the supposed time of Homer's Trojan War.


Evidence from Hittite Records

by J.D. Hawkins

The Hittites were a powerful civilization that controlled most of Anatolia in the second millennium B.C. Their language, written in cuneiform script on clay tablets, was recovered and deciphered in the first decades of the twentieth century, but scholars are still wrestling with the problem of placing the cities and countries named in their ancient texts onto modern maps. The kingdom of Arzawa, located roughly in western Anatolia, was a threat to the Hittites throughout most of the fourteenth century B.C. but toward the end of that period was decisively defeated and broken up into provinces. The treaties concluded with the vassal rulers of these provinces are known among the Hittite texts.


Recent inscription readings have allowed scholars to locate the two main Arzawa lands in the central-west part of Turkey, extending from the inland plateau to the coast. The recent recognition that another kingdom, which the Hittites referred to as the Lukka lands, occupied what is now southwest Turkey thus leaves only northwest Anatolia as yet-to-be-filled space on the Hittite map.


One Arzawa land, Wilusa, is known principally from the treaty between its ruler Alaksandu and the Hittite king Mutawalli II (who ruled circa 1295-1272 B.C.). Sparse references in other texts of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. imply that Wilusa was the remotest Arzawa land and lay on the coast, and this may be combined with that rare item, a Late Bronze Age city in northwestern Turkey. The evidence of its citadel and lower city is sufficient to suggest the seat of a local ruler of the period; and while the textual evidence points to Wilusa as a land, it would be usual for its capital city to have the same name.


A long letter from a Hittite king, probably Hattusili III (who ruled circa 1267-1237 B.C.), to the king of Ahhiyawa mentions that Wilusa was once a bone of contention between the two. The location of Ahhiyawa has been controversial since its earliest recognition in the Hittite texts in the 1920s. The scattered references to it suggested that it lay across the sea and that its interests often conflicted with those of the Hittites. What is now known of the geography of western Anatolia makes it clear that there could be no room on the mainland for the kingdom of Ahhiyawa. Furthermore, the references to the political interests of Ahhiyawa on the west coast mesh well with increasing archaeological evidence for Mycenaean Greeks in the area, so that it is now widely accepted that "Ahhiyawa" is indeed the Hittite designation for this culture.


From what we now can understand from the Hittite sources, the Arzawa land Wilusa, identified with the archaeological site of Troy, was a point of conflict between the Hittites and the Ahhiyawa. This provides a striking background for Homeric scholars researching the origin of the tradition of the Achaean attack on Ilios. There is every likelihood that the Iliad and the traditions of the Trojan War, however immortalized in epic narrative, do indeed preserve a memory of actual events of the Late Bronze Age.


J.D. Hawkins is professor of ancient Anatolian languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.