First seeds of poetry were born among the Greeks even before writing was invented. Poets were bards, chanting gripping narrative epic war poems and emotional ballads.
Homer was a Greek poet, to whom are attributed the great epics, the Iliad, the story of the siege of Troy, and the Odyssey, the tale of Ulysses’ wanderings. The place of his birth is doubtful, probably a Greek colony on the coast of Asia Minor, traditionally is described as blind and is believed to have lived in Ionia around 800 BCE. Of the true Homer, nothing is positively known. Arguments have long raged over whether his works are in fact by the same hand, or have their origins in the lays of Homer and his followers (Homeridae).
Earmarks of oral poetry in the works, such as formulaic phrases, make it believable that the contribution of Homer was to collect and record the ballads which had been passed on orally from storyteller to storyteller for centuries before his time. There seems little doubt that the works were originally based on current ballads which were much modified and extended. There is, however, another tradition that Homer’s poems were not written down and standardized until Peisistratus, tyrant of Athens, commissioned this work in the first half of the sixth century.
Homer’s works appealed greatly to the Greeks of his time and even to the modern readers, due to the thrilling adventures and tragedies featured in them. Homer’s epics enhanced the ideas of heroism and courage, ideas which deeply fascinated the Greeks of the Dark Age Greece and satisfied their hunger for such compositions. Homer’s creations kept alive the traditional songs about the heroes of the Mycenaean age, which were naturally regarded by the Greeks of the time as the good old days.
Homer’s contribution to the Greek Culture was enormous. From about 1200 B.C. and for seven hundred years until Plato’s his two famous epics were the basis of Greek religion and morals, the chief source of history, and even of practical information on geography, metallurgy, navigation, and shipbuilding. Homer’s impact was so colossal that he is often referred to as the “Shaper of the Greek Spirit”. In Homer we find the beginnings of Greek humanism – a concern with man and his achievements . Homer was one of the few things the Greeks could agree on. The term arete emphasizes Homer’s ideals, arete stands for excellence on the battle field, courage and cunning, win fame and honor against impossible odds. The idea of arete so widely spread by Homer formed the foundation of the Greek view of the world.
Homer’s impact on the Greek Culture was so tremendous that in the Hellenistic Age, after the death of Alexander the Great, educated Greeks continued to learn Homer by heart, the way people in the West would know the Bible, or as Muslims the Koran.