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Perhaps the most famous epic poems ever written, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey have been read for nearly 3,000 years, making them also two of the oldest written works in the Western world. The Iliad covers the end of the Trojan War, making characters like Paris, Helen, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and Ajax instantly recognizable, and the Trojan Horse made people caution of “Greeks bearing gifts.” Its sequel, The Odyssey, chronicles Odysseus’ return home to Ithaca after the burning of Troy, and the adventures his crew experiences as they combat sirens, gods, and a Cyclops. Homer’s poetry influenced Virgil and every other great poet ever since, and it literally put Troy on the map, motivating Heinrich Schliemann to search for and ultimately find the city of Troy in the 19th century.
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Homer is best known as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He was believed by the ancient Greeks to have been the first and greatest of the epic poets. Author of the first known literature of Europe, he is central to the Western canon. When he lived, as well as whether he lived at all, is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived no more than 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE or later. Pseudo-Herodotus estimates that he was born 622 years before Xerxes I placed a pontoon bridge over the Hellespont in 480 BCE, which would place him at 1102 BCE, 168 years after the fall of Troy in 1270 BCE. These two end points are 252 years apart, representative of the differences in dates given by the other sources.
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