One of the best-known and most influential of the Greek epics, Homer’s The Illiad is set during the ten-year siege of Troy. It regales stories of battles and events that take place during a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles in the final year of the war. The Illiad —along with the accompanying Odyssey—are distinguished as the oldest extant works of Western literature, and are fundamental to the modern Western canon. Their style and content played such an important role in shaping subsequent Greek culture that Homer was often called the teacher of Greece.
Like the works of Cicero, Homer’s work remains widely studied for its eloquent use of language. Innumerable works of literature, theater, and poetry have been written based on or responding to the Homeric epics, with the influence carrying up to today. For anyone interested in the study of rhetoric, literature, or Greek, The Illiad is a must.
Homer (ca. 8th century BC) is the subject of intense debate regarding his life and origins. No solid biographical information exists for Homer, though legends abound. His name is related to a Greek word meaning “blind,” giving rise to the tradition of Homer as the blind bard. Many modern scholars dismiss the notion of Homer as a single author, arguing that the works attributed to him are based on many generations of oral story telling. When speaking of Homer, these scholars are referring to the date in which the works attributed to Homer were created. Some scholars suggest that Homer refers to the function of redacting oral tradition into a coherent whole.