Homer is one of those people near the edge of our history who may or may not have existed. He is honoured as the author of two ancient Greek epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. These works began their lives as poems which were learnt by heart to be sung and were passed on from one bard to another, so to some extent they will have developed over a few generations into the form in which they were first written down. While the poems are thus unlikely to be, word-for-word, the work of a single mind, it is likely that one brilliant author formulated them, although basing his work on much older existing oral traditions of the Trojan War and the hero Odysseus. The early Greeks were in a better position than we are now to give that poet a name, and their tradition was that he was called Homer, was blind, and was a native of Chios (in some accounts) or Smyrna (in others) - two cities of Greek-speaking Iolia in Asia Minor, which is now the mainland of Turkey. If there was a Homer, all certain details of his life have been lost in the mists of time, including even the years of his birth and death, although ancient literature has fragments of traditional anecdotes of him. An unidentified Greek historian of about the second or third century B.C. who is now called Pseudo-Herodotus wrote a biography, On Homer's Origins, Date, and Life, which was put forth misleadingly as being the work of Herodotus himself, preserving some of those traditions. Unfortunately, Pseudo-Herodotus was inclined to make things up. There are several other unreliable ancient texts, including The Contest of Homer and Hesiod, Pseudo-Plutarch's On the Life and Poetry of Homer, a Life of Homer by Proclus, and anonymous medieval Lives from manuscripts such as the Vita Romana. None of these should be confused with fact, and are summed up thus by the writer Ian Myles Slater: "Some of them are amusing, and all illustrate that the genre of 'celebrity biography' is very old, and has never let a lack of facts get in the way."
As to Homer's era, scholars now have a broad consensus that The Iliad and The Odyssey were probably composed in the decades around the year 700 B.C. Other poems, called The Homeric hymns are now known to be of a later age, so are evidently not by the same author.One school of thought has it that Homer is not the name of a man but represents a group of poets who worked together. However, if this is so, the evidence for it is also lacking. Read translations into English of The Iliad (by Samuel Butler) and The Odyssey (by Andrew Lang) here.… Expand