Homer the Poet
Welcome to my Homer page. On this page I provide links to the expositions of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. I wrote the former, on Book I of the Iliad, at the end of 2009-mid 2010, and published it in book form as Everyone is Angry: Homer's Iliad Book I. The essays linked below are lightly edited versions of the chapters of that book. As time and interest permit, I look forward to writing expositions of the Odyssey and other sections of the Iliad. Though there is abundant information on the Net about Homer, just a few words here will orient us to these projects.
We don't know more about these epics than we know. For example, we don't know : 1) if the name "Homer" stands for an individual, a committee or a continuing interpretive process ending sometime in the early Hellenistic Era; 2) when these two poems emerged in their earliest and final forms; 3) where they were written; or 4) whether the dialect of the poems was widely shared or was simply itself a rare offshoot of an eastern Aegean dialect of Greek. We know that by the time of Herodotus in the fifth century BCE and Plato most of a century later, Homer was already known as the "teacher of Greece." Apart from some negative comments of occasional snarky critics, this position morphed into a "teacher of classical antiquity" and, later, "a teacher of western civilization." Through the generally unsung work of the Alexandrian grammarians of the third -second centuries BCE, the text of Homer became relatively fixed or, more accurately stated, the problems of the text of Homer were probed in detail.
These epics retained their importance in western civilization not only because they were the first works of that tradition, but because they explore perennially important themes of human life (the Iliad presents life as a battle, the Odyssey presents life as a journey) as well as a host of minor, but still important, themes, such as the role of pride, anger, family, honor, pleasure and duty in shaping one's life. Homer does so through a style that is distinctive and often quite elegant. In 2020, when I am writing this, Homer is largely ignored or downplayed in much of American education (Europe is better in this regard) or, even worse, is beginning to take it on the chin because of the deft thrusts of twenty-first century post-colonial literary and gender critics. Yet, just as a thorough knowledge of the contents and cadence of the Bible is one of the most valuable tools to understand western literature and civilization, so a more than passing acquaintance with Homer will give one stories to tell, will lend precision to one's thinking, will stimulate one's imagination and give one an appreciation of great literature. By studying Homer closely, one might even be able to establish a connection to a living tradition of thought that still throbs below the surface of the roiling politics of the twenty-first century.
By clicking on the essays below , you will go to my detailed exposition of the Iliad, Book I. When essays on the Odyssey and other sections of the Iliad are posted, you will be the first to know.