Homer's two epics of the ancient world, The Iliad & The Odyssey, tell stories as riveting today as when they were written between the eighth and ninth century B.C. The Iliad, which tells of the siege of Troy by the Greeks, is an unforgettable tale of nations at war and of the courage and compassion heroic soldiers show upon the field of battle. The Odyssey is the story of the Greek hero Odysseus and the many marvels and challenges he encounters during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War. This edition employs Samuel Butler's classic translations of both texts.
Homer was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, now the coast of Turkey, but then really a part of Greece. Homer was the first Greek writer whose work survives.
He was one of a long line of bards, or poets, who worked in the oral tradition. Homer and other bards of the time could recite, or chant, long epic poems. Both works attributed to Homer - The Iliad and The Odyssey - are over ten thousand lines long in the original. Homer must have had an amazing memory but was helped by the formulaic poetry style of the time.
In The Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller's tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope.
We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact 'Homer' may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps 'the hostage' or 'the blind one'. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years' time.