Study Guide

The Odyssey

by Homer

The Odyssey eText - eText

This eText contains embedded glossary terms and other notes added by our community of educators. Simply mouseover or tap on the yellow highlighted words within the text to see the annotations.
Turn Off

Notes

What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

What is known about the life of Homer is based primarily on scholarly speculation, not hard facts. His birth has been dated as far back as 1200 B.C., but based on the style evident in his two major poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, some historians think he lived much later. In fact, a few ancient Greek writers who investigated his life believe that the works attributed to him were actually written by a woman. Some modern critics and others come to a different conclusion: a group of Homer's students or followers, who adapted and lengthened popular ballads of the time, composed both epic poems.

Seven different Greek cities claim that Homer was born within their boundaries, but since scholars cannot even agree whether Homer was an actual person, there is much doubt about these claims.

In the sixth century B.C., the stories of the Trojan War and Odysseus' long journey home were gathered and arranged in the order they are in at present so they could be recited at an Athenian festival. The Odyssey and the Iliad, as we know them, both date from these oral presentations.