Homer is known to have authored the first known literature of Europe. Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan War has inspired writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens’ song and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal wife.
With real poetic power… his book is one no lover of living poetry should miss. —The New York Times
About the Author:
Homer is best known as the 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.
When he lived, as well as whether he lived at all, is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived no more than 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE or later. 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.
The importance of Homer to the ancient Greeks is described in Plato's Republic, where he is referred to as the protos didaskalos, "first teacher", of tragedy, the hegemon paideias, "leader of learning", and the one who ten Hellada pepaideuken, "has taught Greece". Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds.
Robert Fagles's 1990 translation of The Iliad was highly praised; here, he moves to The Odyssey. As in the previous work, he adroitly mixes contemporary language with the driving rhythms of the original. The first line reads: "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns/ driven time and again off course once he had plundered/ the hallowed heights of Troy." Hellenic scholar Bernard Knox contributes extensive introductory commentary, providing both historical and literary perspective. Notes, a pronouncing glossary, genealogies, a bibliography and maps of Homer's world are included.