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Basic Information

Homer may be an actual historic figure, a blind poet-bard of great skill who lived sometime between the 1200 BC and 800 BC. Scholars who accept his historicity are divided on whether he was a wandering minstrel or an official poet to a single royal court. Either way, his work is widely credited with shaping and influencing all of subsequent Greek culture and art.

On the other hand, Homer might be just mythic or legendary figure, a metaphorical pseudonym for great poetry, to whom any potent work of unknown ownership was assigned after the fact. Effectively, assigning authorship to Homer may just mean "Anonymous" or "I forgot who wrote that one".

He also might be a god. In several cities during the Hellenistic period, Hero Cults devoted to Homer sprang up. A large shrine was devoted to him in Alexandria. One surviving sculpture from Egypt depicts Homer's apotheosis from man to god.

Homer is widely credited as the author of the Illiad and the Odyssey, but tradition also holds that he wrote the Homeric Hymns, the entire Epic Cycle of poems on the Trojan War and the Theban tales of Oedipus and his sons, the comedic Batrachomyomachia (which means "The Frog-Mouse War"), and just about any other ancient work in hexameter verse. Stylistic and historical analysis of those various works suggest they can't all be written by the same man. Some scholars suggest that even the Illiad and Odyssey existed only in somewhat variable oral tradition form until possibly as late as 100 BC.

Tradition holds that Homer was blind. It also holds that he was Babylonian by birth, and was kidnapped and taken hostage by the Greeks. Both seem to be assumptions based on linguistic similarities between the name Homer and the Ionic Greek words for blind and hostage.

Debate on his origins surfaced even during the classical era. The ancient world was swarming with no less than 10 biographies of Homer by people who lived no earlier than Christ. When Emperor Hadrian asked the Oracle at Delphi who Homer was, she claimed he was the son of Telemachus. Such debate and mystery continues to today, with scholars disagreeing (as mentioned above) when, or even if, he lived. The book Where Troy Once Stood even alleges Homer was a Celt.

See Also:

Ancient Greece
Celtic Troy
Epic Poetry
Heinrich Schliemann
Trojan War


2. Book: Where Troy Once Stood by Iman Wilkens

Game and Story Use

  • Can appear as a character in any game set in Ancient Greece before 300 BC or so.
    • May be mortal or divine, due to apotheosis.
      • May be a Mythago built from peoples belief that he existed.
    • If he catches wind of the PCs exploits, he may compose a poem about them that spreads their fame and renown.
      • Don't worry that such a poem doesn't exist in the real world. Most of the Epic Cycle has been lost to antiquity, surviving only as fragments and references in other works that were preserved. That it's not available 2,500 years later doesn't they weren't real popular in their day.
    • In proper Julius Beethoven Da Vinci fashion, Homer may also be Demodocus, Tiresias, Orion, Appius Claudius Caecus, Herodotus, Oedipus, Hadrian, or any other famous Greek or Roman who is blind, a poet, obsessed with Homer, or some combination of the above. Do your own research, I just threw out names that struck my fancy.
  • If you accept Wilkens' controversial protoceltic theory, Homer could be living anywhere in Europe centuries before the rise of Greece. Wilkens goes on to suggest the Oddyssey is Coded Myth.
  • Homers works (or, at any rate, those whichever works you're willing to credit to him) can be mined for lots of great inspiration.
    • Your players will have a least a popfinition of them, and will recognize the names of characters, grok most of your storyline parallels, etc. Basically, Homeric Reference is a way for the GM to actually do less work yet look more artsy and clever in the process. Gotta love that.
  • A lost Homeric text can serve as a good MacGuffin, extremely valuable to collectors, historians, and museums.
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