The Odyssey, translated by T. E. Lawrence, an epic 12,000-line poem composed over 2,700 years ago, is the first adventure story in Western literature. It describes the ten-year wanderings of Odysseus in his quest to return home after the Trojan War. Hounded by the sea-god Poseidon and championed by the goddess Athene, he encounters giants, sorceresses, and sea monsters before finally reaching his beloved Ithaca. There he must endure the taunts of the Suitors to his queen, Penelope, who have taken up residence in his palace. At once enchanting fairy tale and gripping drama, the Odyssey is eminently readable, not least for the rich complexity and magnetism of its hero. An inspiration to writers as diverse as Virgil, Swift, and Joyce, the Odyssey has proved enormously influential and continues to captivate readers of all ages.
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The identity of the writer of the Odyssey is a matter of some speculation. The ancients were convinced it was Homer, although they tended to disagree as to biographical details. The best supported evidence suggests he lived in Chios, an island off the west coast of Turkey, some time between 1100 and 700 BC, probably closer to the latter. Traditionally portrayed as revered, old, and blind, he composed the Iliad and Odyssey and possibly the Homeric Hymns, a series of choral addresses to the gods.
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