The critical reputation of the Iliad is perhaps best demonstrated by noting that it is generally regarded as the first work of true “literature” in Western culture. This is significant not only because the poem stands at the head of the list, as it were, but also because it had to beat out a fair amount of competition to achieve that status.
By the middle of the sixth century BC, around the same time as the Peisistratids in Athens ordered the first “standard edition” of Homer’s works to be made, there were at least six other epic poems treating various parts of...
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