"Like leaves on trees the race of man is found, / Now green in youth, now withering on the ground; Another race the following spring supplies: They fall successive, and successive rise." - The Iliad
"Tell me, Muse, of the man of many wiles." - The Odyssey, Book I, Line 1
Perhaps the most famous epic poems ever written, the Iliad and the Odyssey have been read for nearly 3,000 years, making them the oldest written works in the Western world. The poems made characters like Paris, Helen, Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, and Ajax instantly recognizable, and they also influenced other ancient poets like Virgil, whose Aeneid is clearly modeled after them. The epic poems also literally put Troy on the map, motivating Heinrich Schliemann to search for and ultimately find the city of Troy in the 19th century.
Believed to be penned around the seventh or eighth century BC, the Iliad and the Odyssey served as both entertainment and a moral guidebook of sorts for ancient Greeks, as well as the foundation for Western literature. Although there is some scholarly debate regarding the epic's authorship, It is generally attributed to a poet named Homer. Given that he lived nearly 2,800 years ago, not much is actually known about Homer. His birthplace is debated, but due to the dialect of Greek in which the works attributed to him were written, it is generally believed that he lived in Iona. The only other aspect of Homer's life that is generally agreed upon is that he was a blind poet, possibly also a bard. That naturally raises the question of how he wrote his epic poetry, but scholars assume he probably dictated them to a scribe, as the format suggests they were comprised from various shorter forms of oral poetry.