Homer, Odyssey, Volume I

LCL 104: 1

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Introduction

There was a rich tradition of epic poetry in early Greece. We know of epics dealing with legends of the royal house of Thebes, with the voyage of the Argo, with the deeds of Heracles and of Theseus, with the events surrounding the Greek expedition against Troy, and with many other myths and legends of the Heroic Age. Apart from brief quotations and later paraphrases or allusions all but two of them have perished. The two that have survived, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were from earliest times attributed to the same poet, Homer, and appear to have been valued above all others for their quality and authority. Both dealt with the Trojan War, the Iliad centering on an incident in the final year of the Greek siege of Troy, the Odyssey recounting the long return home of one of the commanders after the victory.

Even in antiquity a few thought, as many do today, that the Odyssey was not composed by the same poet as the Iliad, but no one doubted that each was the work of a single poet. An era of scepticism, however, began at the end of the eighteenth century. Following the suggestions of F. A. Wolf and others, scholars argued that both epics had been woven or patched together from shorter poems composed at different times by various poets. This view, which dominated most critical discussion for more than a century, seemed to explain the inconsistencies and repetitions

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