Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Influence of Homer

Ancient Greece is generally considered to be a time in history of prosperity and true development of great civilization. Philosophical and learned men were composed in the time of ancient Greece, setting beliefs and systematic ways of thought which can still be used in modern society. Although the ancient Greeks weren't without flaws, they accomplished an insurmountable quantity of the development of all things, which later set basis for society in Western civilization. The Greeks were a huge influence on speech, government, schooling, philosophy, science, art, and poetry. The Roman Empire was developed on the foundations of culture in Greece; this foundation also carried throughout Europe.

“Homer and Sophocles saw clearly, felt keenly, and refrained from much. Their power of inhibition enabled the Greeks to look long and steadily at every object, great and small, from the structural features of the landscape, the mountains and the clouds, to man both as an individual and in combination of others of his kind, and from man to the wasp and the frog or the meanest flower that blows; and their sensitiveness made the impression distinct and permanent… This accounts for their discovery of order and organization on the world around them… it accounts also (if genius can be explained) for their own constructiveness – for the perfection of their architecture, and for the architectonic qualities of their prose and poetry.” (The Greek Genius and Its Influence: Select Essays and Extracts, Cooper pg. 6-7)

The Greeks also achieved significant accomplishments in mathematics. Contributions were made toward geometry and other mathematical principles, but never approached algebra or trigonometry, however, the Greeks did come close to integral calculus. Although the concepts of mathematics in Greece are invalidated today, it served as a starting point for reasonable scientific inquisition. Sculpting and pottery were also achievements which, in the time of ancient Greece, weren't valued much at all. The potters were seen as laborers who were of the lower class, however, today pottery and sculptures of ancient Greece are valued greatly. In addition to the art of the Greeks, their architecture was equally influential and great. An excellent example of the Greeks' architectural skills, along with several others, is the Parthenon, which still stands today. Most of the structures of ancient Greece didn't survive, as a result researchers depended partly on Roman buildings for information of Greek culture, as much of Roman lifestyle was derived from the Greeks. Literature in ancient Greece consisted of only poetry until the late Archaic Age. The start of Greek poetry was initialized by Homer with his two, grand scale epic poems: the Iliad and the Odyssey.

In ancient Greece, poetry was considered an art of which only few knew and could impose. Those who didn't know how to write memorized the stories depicted by the poets. There was the category of poetry known as epic, which is displayed by Homer to its full extent with unequalled precision, and there was the category known as lyric. Epic was the poetry that was very extensive and lengthy with a wide vocabulary used throughout and which told stories of adventure and heroism, whereas lyric poetry was considerably shorter than epic and of a different style; lyric was expressed publicly with the accompanying of the lyre, a musical instrument similar to the harp. Poets didn't just serve as entertainment, they were also educators. Poetry was part of Greek daily routine; it was taught in schools and set examples for the Greeks to strive for and live by. Homer's writings set basis which were used for teaching throughout all of Greece.

"Plato tells us that in his time many believed that Homer was the educator of all Greece. Since then, Homer’s influence has spread far beyond the frontiers of Hellas [Greece]… The Greeks always felt that a poet was in the broadest and deepest sense the educator of his people. Homer was only the noblest example, as it were the classic instance, of that general conception.” (Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, Jaeger pg.3)
Homer is that of a mystery; knowledge of his life and who he was is indefinite. All that is really known of him is his two famous writings, the Iliad and the Odyssey, however, in relation to a hymn written in honor of Apollo, Homer was a blind man from the island Chios. Although there are many theories of who Homer was and what time window he was located in, most of it is speculation. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were the corresponding stories which defined Greek culture. The Iliad was the famed illustration of the Trojan War where Paris kidnaps the beautiful Helen, and Helen's husband Menelaus, along with Agamemnon, the Greek army, and other famed characters, pursues Paris in Troy. Although the Iliad depicts the Trojan War, it is based around the anger of Achilles, the great Greek warrior. The Odyssey, in a way, is the epilogue of the Iliad. The Odyssey is the tale of the brilliant Odysseus, who fought and helped the Greeks in the Iliad, and his grand return to Ithaca, where he ruled and was happily married to Penelope.

Homer's teachings through his writings defined who the Greeks were. Greeks looked to Homer's writings as a rule of thumb for how they wanted to live their lives. People of ancient Greece strived to carry traits represented throughout the famed epics. The monumental influence of Homer is nothing but undeniable; the depictions given by Homer could easily be labeled as the most important writings in Greek culture, and are still used in modern schooling today, however, not as extensively. The reason for the huge impact of influence is because to this day no other poet, author, novelist, etcetera, has ever encompassed what Homer achieved. His writings survived through a more than a considerable time, disappearing in certain times and being rediscovered later on, claiming its place as of the greatest writings of all history. People and historians may theorize how and why the writings of Homer survived for such a great deal of time, but the truth is if something truly is great, it will remain great.

Cooper, Lane. The Greek Genius and its Influence: Select Essays and Extracts. Yale University Press, 1917.

Jaeger, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. Oxford University Press, 1939.

Homer (9th Century B.C.). Frederic Harrison. 2004. September 27th, 2007. <http://www.usefultrivia.com/biographies/homer_001.html>

Homer. Richard Hooker. 1996. October 27th, 2007. <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/MINOA/HOMER.HTM>

Homer. Thinkquest. 2005. <http://library.thinkquest.org/17709/people/homer.htm>

Homer's History. Tony Arkwright, Justin Eichenlaub, John Ramsey. 1998. October 27th, 2007. <http://library.thinkquest.org/19300/data/homerhist.htm>

An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander. Thomas R. Martin. October 27th, 2007. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0009&query=6%3A32>