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Are Homer's Works Historical?

Updated on December 16, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Reading a book takes you to a different time in a different place. The more adventurous, the more romantic, the more unusual it is, the more we like it. When it comes to fiction books, the question arises whether or not anything in it can be trusted as truth or is everything considered fictional.

The works of Homer are one of the most well disputed works of literature the world has ever known. Did Homer write anything of historical value? Or did Homer write a complete fantasy? Are his works historical?

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The Source of the Myth

If you have never read any of Homer's works, The Iliad or The Odyssey, then you are missing something. These are tales warriors, beautiful women, gods and goddesses, and some of the most unusual creatures you could ever meet. Homer weaves tales that have lasted centuries and have been found referenced in movies, music, and books by the million.

The seduction of another man's wife by handsome young Prince, the tale of nations coming together to bring one woman back home, the love of a man that would fight all the gods and goddesses to get back to his wife, and the lovable wife abandoned for two years holding out hope that her husband would return have captivated us and never let us go.

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Fiction with a Little Truth?

Yes, these are fictional tales. We cannot say for certain that Homer knew word for word what Achilles said to Agamemnon or what Hector really said as he rallied the Trojan troops.

We might not know exactly for how many days each will battle was fought within the war. We may never know the exact details of anything. But does the fact that Homer created the dialogue, created the description, and created the relationship makes this story any messes store all?

The Gods

One of the reasons that Homer's works have been questioned aside from the mythical stories of gods and goddesses that were included in the Iliad and the Odyssey, is the fact that Homer's works are the earliest known pieces of writing that emerged after the Greek Dark Ages.

It was with in the Dark Ages of Greece that all writing was forgotten and much of the grandeur of the Bronze Age vanished. There was no glorious fighting. There were no magnificent Warriors conquering nations. There was a time where Greece became quiet so that it could emerge glorious and its future classical period.

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Popularity of Homer's Stories

Were the stories that Homer told world traditions handed down? Were these stories based on historical fact that father passed throughout the dark ages? If Homer heard these stories from his father, what a wonderful basis for epic or two was made available to him. It's a possible homework took these historical accounts and spun a little more romance into it along with a little more heavenly influence? This is something historians have debated for thousands of years.

Alexander the Great was reported to have carried a copy of Homer's works with him and consider them factual. Many others down through the ages have also considered Homer's work as fact. One of them was Heinrich Schliemann who believe with all his heart the Troy did exist. He took a copy of the Iliad and with various research plotted out where Troy might have possibly been on the Mediterranean map of ancient Greece. Under the earth a new city was discovered that Heinrich claimed was ancient city of Troy. Many scholars dismissed this as wishful thinking on Heinrich's part. Further archaeological investigation began to show that Heinrich might've been right. He just might not a dumb far enough to find the Troy that housed Paris and Helen.

The Location Was Right Where Homer Said It Was

The city was found exactly where Homer said it was located. Since Heinrich's discovery, Hittite writings has shown the city of Troy. They talk about city to the West that was in the exact location is Troy and that it was attacked by great army. Even the father of history, Herodotus, wrote in his Book I that the Persians even referenced Paris is a production of Helen and the battles that ensued later on that completely destroyed the city of Troy.

Even the myths gave evidence to the location. Ancient texts gave credence to them.

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Original Question

Let us return to the original question of whether or not Homer's works to be considered historical. How can you define historical? According to Webster's dictionary, historical means that it refers to something in the past or in history. If that is the case, Homer's works are in fact historical. Is every single scene in Homer's epics completely true? Probably not, since he never personally saw it or was able to interview a witness. Therefore, dialogue and detailed events should not be considered historically accurate.

Historical his works may be. Historically accurate they are only partially.

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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      I agree, these stories are historical without being completely accurate. It amazes me how much I liked these tales, when they have been around so long.