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Homer, His Works and Homeric Culture

Introduction

Homer is known and remembered as the most significant Greek and Roman writer. In the olden days, the Romans and the Greeks only believed they were educated if they could quote his poems. He wrote a wide range of literature on ethics and morality from his works of art. He was also a renowned poet who was believed to have been the writer of heroic poems like the Iliad and the Odyssey. The olden Greeks alleged that Homer was a historical person, but today’s intellectuals are not convinced because there is no reliable information to support this conviction. This is because most of his poems are based on conclusions derived from oral stories that had been told over time as well as from well-organized poetic compositions. The date of his existence has been a cause of dispute up to date. Some historians believe that Homer lived 400 years before the time he is projected to have lived. This means that he lived around 850 BC but earlier sources claim he lived at the time of the hypothetical Trojan War. Homer was an artist as well as a singer and was mostly referred to as a bard. Since there is a belief that he was blind, people called him the blind bard. There are a lot of speculations as to where he lived and it is also difficult to say with conviction that he composed both poems. Historians believe that he lived in one of the Greek city-states in Asia Minor. (Arkwight, Eichenlaub, & Ramsey)

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Body

Over the years of intellectual assumptions, the theories and information that were told about Homer and his work have changed from time to time. On various occasions, historians have come up with the theory that he was only a transmitter while others suggest that he did not exist and that the poems that were associated with him were pieced together by an earlier generation of poets. (Foley 200) Modern intellectuals are however inclined to believe that the Iliad and Odyssey are a mixture of poems that have been handed over from ancient times. They claim that for the poems to be in their current form they should have been created by a talented poet. It is also evident that some of the works in the Iliad had not been finished and that these projects have been modified over the years during its life. As an artist, Homer may have worked on the epics while combining with previous work, writing, and reworking as well as verbal improvement of the contents. There is nothing much that can be acknowledged with conviction but his poems will always remain whole. (Janko 234) His work has influenced a lot in the establishment of western writing that has been pursued over the years while his personalities and narrations in his work have had a great impact on millions of readers for a long time. This was a great legacy he was able to leave behind and his mastermind work will always remain impeccable no matter what theories are put across.

The Iliad is a classic poem that is associated with homer. The poem was composed during the time of the Trojan War. It describes the war and proceedings that took place at a time when a dispute had emerged between King Menelaus and a young fighter known as Achilles. The story mainly focuses on the end of the war and it tells of the Greek myths as well as the siege. Iliad is among the oldest existing western written materials written in the Greek language. The author of the poem is not well known. (Janko 240)

Homer begins the story at a point where Chryses Apollo’s priest presented the Achaeans with gifts in exchange for his daughter Chryseis who had been taken prisoner by Agamemnon. Most of the Achaeans agree on her release but the King refuses to prompt Chryses to ask Apollo for assistance. This leads Apollo to send a plague all over the Greek army. Achilles the leader of Myrmidon calls a meeting to find a solution for the plague and this leads to Agamemnon returning to Chryseis but in, turn takes Achilles’ concubine Briseis into slavery. This causes Achilles to resign from Agamemnon’s army together with his men. Odysseus then takes Chryseis to his father prompting Apollo to stop the plague. Achilles then pleads with his mother to request Zeus on his behalf to let Trojans attack the Achaeans so that Agamemnon learns a lesson. Zeus grants the wish by letting Agamemnon have a dream that he can defeat the Trojans. Immediately after this, fighting breaks out among the army and Odysseus assisted by Athena stops the unrest. (Foley 206) The Achaeans make plans to attack the Trojans and when they learn about the attack, they too prepare themselves. The troops convene at the battlefield and there Paris challenge Menelaus for a contest. Menelaus defeats Paris but before he can kill him, the god Aphrodite rescues him.

On the battlefield, one man fires an arrow and injures Helen’s husband and Machaeon from Achaeans starts to work on Menelaus’ injury. Both armies start to prepare themselves and the fighting begins leading to the death of many people. Diomedes is given great fighting skills by the god Athena to overcome any mortal. He is able to kill many Trojans and overpowers Aeneas who Aphrodite protects before Diomedes attacks her. He also injures Ares who in turn is not able to participate in the war. Helenus who is King Priam’s son is an intelligent prophet and starts to address Hector who is on the same side as Aeneas taunting him to return to Troy and look for his mother. (Foley 206)

Diomedes and a Trojan warrior get together for war and start to tease each other. Glaucus talks extensively about his family lineage and it is at this point that Diomedes realizes that their earlier relatives were acquaintances and partners. Diomedes does an exceptional thing and asks that they call for peace between them. They also agree to trade their armor to seal their agreement. Hector convinces Paris to go back to war then he goes to see his family and bids them goodbye to rejoin the battle. Hector fights with Ajax from the Greek side but they are forced to stop when it becomes dark giving the Greeks time to build a wall to protect themselves. (Janko 244)

Paris decides to return all possessions he stole from Menelaus and more wealth as payment, but the Achaeans refuse. Now, Zeus prohibits all the gods from siding with any army during the battle. The Trojans overcome the Greeks, they are forced back, and when it becomes dark, the Trojans camp around the field so that they can attack in the morning when it lights up. Agamemnon decides to apologize to Achilles and returns Briseis with other gifts but Achilles declines his apology. Later that night Odysseus and Diomedes attack the Trojans killing some of them and by morning the battle is violent leading to Agamemnon, Diomedes and Odysseus being injured. (Janko 245)

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Achilles sends his friend Patroclus to see how the Greeks are fairing and he is motivated by Nestor’s words. Hector leads his men and they wreck the Greek wall and many of them die and at this point, Hera the goddess ensures that Zeus falls asleep and then sends Poseidon to help the Achaeans and the Trojans. When Zeus wakes up, Poseidon angers him, he in turn asks Apollo to help the Trojans, and this time the war gets to the ships. (Foley 208) Patroclus speaks with Achilles to be allowed to guard the ships to which Achilles agrees and lends him his armor warning him not to go after the Trojans. He does not follow Achilles’ advice and goes after the Trojans where Apollo stops him and Hector kills him. Hector takes Achilles’ armor and when Achilles learns of Patroclus’s death he is grief-stricken and vows to get back at Hector.

Achilles growls with anger and scares the Trojans away and the Achaeans can take Patroclus’s body. Achilles puts on the new armor that Hephaistos had made for him and goes to battle. He kills many Trojans and throws their bodies in the river and then Apollo helps the Trojans go back to the city but Hector stays back and vows to face Achilles. When Achilles moves toward him, Hector flees but Athena tricks him and he stops running. Achilles takes this opportunity to kills him. Patroclus ghost appears to Achilles and he decides to bury his body and the Greeks mourn for him. (Griffin 39) Priam goes to the Greeks campsite and he begs Achilles for his son’s body and Achilles is moved with compassion gives him Hector’s body and he is buried while the Trojans mourn for him.

In the poem of Odyssey, Homer tells of the legend of a man who has conquered so many tough experiences during the Trojan War while he was trying to go home. Athena tells her father Zeus of Odysseus who was estranged from his family. She asks that the gods should start again being his friend and ask Hermes to go help free him in Calypso. The gods agree to this and she covers up like a fighter and goes to see Telemachus, who is the son of Odysseus. When she gets to Ithaca, she realizes that the castle of Odysseus is filled with men trying to court Penelope who was the wife of Odysseus. She calls herself Mentes claiming she is an old friend of Odysseus and Telemachus welcomes her. She asks Telemachus to tell the men to leave the side and to go looking for his father and insists that if his father is dead, he should prepare to take over the throne and then she leaves. (Foley 211)

Telemachus prepares a meeting and condemns the men who were wasting his father’s property in the name of courting Penelope. Antinous one of the suitors insults him claiming that Penelope was flirting with all men and declined to choose one for them to go seek other women. Then another man Eurymachus says that they could not move from that place until Penelope accepts one of them. Telemachus then declares that he be offered a ship and men so that he can go look for his father and if he finds out he is dead he will talk with his mother to select a suitor. (Griffin 40) He also adds that if he finds his father is alive he will require all the men in the house to leave but they do not agree with him.Telemachus then leaves for the sea and there he prays to Athene for assistance.

During the night, Athena covers up as Telemachus she looks for a vessel and goes for the real Telemachus. Together with Athena who acts as his friend’s Mentor, they head for the Greek land and the home of Nestor. Telemachus then traveled overland with Nestor’s son all the way to Sparta and they found Helen and Menelaus who had gone back together. (Janko 252) They also learned that Calypso was enslaving Odysseus.

Homer describes how Calypso is convinced to let him go by the messenger of the gods Hermes. Odysseus then constructs a raft and is offered garments, food and water by Calypso. The raft is destroyed by Poseidon and hence he had to swim to shore on the island of Sherie and since he was tired and had no clothes on he hid on a heap of grass and fell asleep. The next day he woke up because of the noise of young girls who had gone to wash clothes at the shore and there he asked a girl named Nausicaa for assistance. She allows him to go home with her so that her parents could help and they welcome him without asking his name. He stays there where he sees a blind man Demodocus sings two poems about the Trojan War and another about a love issue about Ares and Aphrodite. Then he tells Demodocus to tell about the Trojan War specifically the Trojan horse where he himself was the hero. He was unable to conceal his sensation and told everyone of his identity and then started to tell his story of his homecoming from Troy. (Foley 214)

Odysseus and his twelve ships were taken in the wrong direction and that is when Cyclop, who was the one who controlled the winds detained them and he gave Odysseus a carrier full of all the winds apart from the west wind that would take him safely home. During the night, the crew opened the bag and all the wind came out leading to a storm and the ship went back as Ithaca came to sight. His own ship endured the storm and he went to goddess Circe and he and his sailors remained with her for a whole year. (Griffin 48) Then Odysseus and his men decided it was the right time to go back to Ithaca and they traversed the ocean and he prayed to prophet Tiresias for help.

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There he also met the ghost of his mother thus learning about the greedy suitors in his homestead and he was given counsel about the rest of the trip home. They went round many islands until they arrived at Thrinacia and that is where Odysseus’ men overlooked the counsel of Tiresias and Circe and there they killed the holy livestock of the sun god Helios. They were punished by drowning except for Odysseus. He was taken by the ocean currents to the shore, and met Calypso who forced him to be her lover for seven years. There he met the Phaecians and they decided to help him go back home hence they took him at night while he was asleep to a hidden harbor on Ithaca. Then he was able to locate the house of one of his former laborers Eumaeus and he pretended to be a homeless person. At the same time his son Telemachus cruises from Sparta trying to avoid being attacked by his mother suitors to Ithaca and goes to Eumaeus’s house as well. Here Odysseus tells his son his identity and they discuss and agree that the suitors have to be executed. Telemachus goes to the house first and Odysseus goes in while pretending to be homeless. (Janko 254)

Soon, the housemaid Eurycleia finds out who he is while cleaning his feet because of a scratch he had gotten while hunting and Odysseus ask her not to tell anyone. The next day Penelope calls the men asking for her hand in marriage and gives them a challenge with Odysseus’ bow. She informed them that whoever coils the bow from end to end in a dozen machete heads would be named the winner. Odysseus decided to participate and he was the only strong man who was able to complete the challenge. Odysseus with assistance from Athena, Telemachus, Eumaeus and Philoteus who was in charge of the cattle executed all the suitors. They also executed all the maids who had been disloyal to Penelope by having sex with the suitors. Penelope accepted Odysseus and they lived as a family once again. The residents of Ithaca were angry with Odysseus for killing their sons but Athena intervened and peace prevailed in Ithaca. (Griffin 50)

Conclusion

Comparison of Greek and Homeric culture

The political, as well as economic patterns in Homeric culture, were not well developed as is seen in ancient Greek culture. In Homeric times, there was no state that was referred to as Greek. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey the people were named Achaeans, Argives and Daanas unlike in the ancient Greek with well-defined systems with the nation called Greek. In the Homeric culture, the associations of the city-states and a common language connected people to one another. (Foley 215)

The Homeric culture is portrayed as tribal culture run by group of people called Basileis that was composed of a King, general and moderator who had various religious responsibilities. In the ancient Greek culture there is a well-defined system of governance, political systems as well as religious society. In Homeric culture, women had a status of freedom unlike in ancient Greek where women did not have much freedom and their duties were to stay at home and bear children. (Foley 130)

The activities that were mostly done in Homeric culture included fighting, hunting, grazing, and undeveloped type of agriculture. In ancient Greek, people practiced agriculture as the main source of income. In Homeric culture, there was no formal structure of governance or trade and industry. Instead, there was a simple system of exchange. Trade was well defined in Ancient Greek with money as form of exchange.

Works Cited

Arkwight, Tony, Eichenlaub, Jastin, & Ramsey, John. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.1998. Web.

Foley, M.John. Homer’s Traditional Art. Penn State Press.1.1 (2008):125-384

Foley, M.John. The singer of tales in performance. Indiana University Press.1.2 (1995):128-235.

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Griffin, J.”The epic cycle and the uniqueness of Homer”, journal of Hellenic studies 97.1 (1977):39-53.

Janko, Richard. Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction. Cambridge University Press.2.1 (2007):270-340.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 18). Homer, His Works and Homeric Culture. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/homer-his-works-and-homeric-culture/

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