Perhaps the most famous epic poem ever written, the Iliad has been read for nearly 3000 years, making it also one of the oldest written works in the Western world. Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the Trojan War, the poem has made characters like Paris, Helen, Achilles, Hector, and Ajax instantly recognizable. The Iliad and the Odyssey influenced Virgil, whose Aeneid is clearly modeled after them, and every other great poet since. 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 2800 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.