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Unformatted text preview: The Iliad Context Nearly three thousand years after they were composed, the Iliad and the Odyssey remain two of the most celebrated and widely read stories ever told, yet next to nothing is known about their composer. He was certainly an accomplished Greek bard, and he probably lived in the late eighth and early seventh centuries b.c. Authorship is traditionally ascribed to a blind poet named Homer, and it is under this name that the works are still published. Greeks of the third and second centuries b.c., however, already questioned whether Homer existed and whether the two epics were even written by a single individual. Most modern scholars believe that even if a single person wrote the epics, his work owed a tremendous debt to a long tradition of unwritten, oral poetry. Stories of a glorious expedition to the East and of its leaders fateful journeys home had been circulating in Greece for hundreds of years before the Iliad and Odyssey were composed. Casual storytellers and semiprofessional minstrels passed these stories down through generations, with each artist developing and polishing the story as he told it. According to this theory, one poet, multiple poets working in collaboration, or perhaps even a series of poets handing down their work in succession finally turned these stories into written works, again with each adding his own touch and expanding or contracting certain episodes in the overall narrative to fit his taste. Although historical, archaeological, and linguistic evidence suggests that the epics were composed between 750 and 650 b.c. they are set in Mycenaean Greece in about the twelfth century b.c., during the Bronze Age. This earlier period, the Greeks believed, was a more glorious and sublime age, when gods still frequented the earth and heroic, godlike mortals with superhuman attributes populated Greece. Because the two epics strive to evoke this pristine age, they are written in a high style and generally depict life as it was believed to have been led in the great kingdoms of the Bronze Age. The Greeks are often referred to as Achaeans, the name of a large tribe occupying Greece during the Bronze Age. But Homers reconstruction often yields to the realities of eighth- and seventh-century b.c. Greece. The feudal social structure apparent in the background of the Odyssey seems more akin to Homers Greece than to Odysseuss, and Homer substitutes the pantheon of deities of his own day for the related but different gods whom Mycenaean Greeks worshipped. Many other minor but obvious anachronismssuch as references to whom Mycenaean Greeks worshipped....
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This note was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course HUMA C1001 taught by Professor Armetta during the Fall '07 term at Columbia.
- Fall '07
- Pericles, Greek Mythology, Macbeth, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Agamemnon, Antigone (The Oedipus Plays), The Bacchae, The Clouds, Electra, Hamlet, The Iliad, The Libation Bearers, Lysistrata, Medea, Mythology (Book), The Oedipus Plays, Prometheus Bound, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Oedipus Rex