Tammy: Hello folks! Welcome to The Past Times. I’m your host, Tammy Turnback. Today, on our show, we have the best selling author Homer, writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Isn’t that right?
Homer: Oh, um yes, or at least according to tradition I am.
Tammy: Yes, two marvelously constructed poems, all about the superheroes of Greece, if only we had such talent today!
Homer: Well I wouldn’t exactly put it that way.
Tammy: And the most amazing thing is that you did it all without the help of your eyes!
Homer: Just because tradition claims that I’m blind doesn’t make me stupid.
Tammy: Well, it does make it harder for you to see where to put the pen down on the paper.
Homer: More like my fingers on my lyre. I’m just as illiterate as the next Greek over.
Tammy: How could you memorize such long poems?
Homer: The human brain is an amazing thing.
Tammy: oh isn’t it.
Homer: Besides, all you have to do is travel to Yugoslavia or Russia to see real live modern bards who recite poems that are as long or longer than my own.
Tammy: Really? And how do they do it?
Homer: It’s quite simple, they don’t memorize the words, they memorize the basic plot, characters, setting, etc. They always tell it slightly different at each recitation. Often they use and reuse many traditional phrases, lines or scenes. I did the same with the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Tammy: Amazing! But then there are the people who don’t believe you existed.
Homer: Oh the analysts. They seem to think that if it isn’t written down, you can’t remember it. They are right, though, about archeology not providing any proof for us Greeks having any alphabet in my day and age.
Tammy: I guess this would be a good time to ask, when did you live?
Homer: Somewhere between 800 and 700 BC.
Tammy: And what about those who do believe that you exist?
Homer: The unitarians say that my poems could have only of been written by one or maybe two people. They say that the unified plan of the poems and the consistent character portrayals point towards one author rather than many.
Tammy: But how did the poems get on paper?
Homer: Writing was introduced towards the end of my life. I then dictated my two poems to one of those new scribes. Historians find it hard to trace me, seeing as how I was a traveling bard and picked up a version of Greek that was not really native to any of the cities I traveled to.
Tammy: Interesting! What happened to the poems after your death?
Homer: They were recited as part of many great festivals. Copies became the basic textbooks that Greek children used to learn to read and to study the legends and myths. As a result the Greeks formed their religious views from my portrayals of the gods and goddesses. The poems also furnished characters and plots for the great tragic dramatists of the 400’s BC – Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles.
Tammy: Did the poems ever change after you had them written down?
Homer: Plenty. If you wanted copies of the poems I wrote, you had to write them by hand. Mistakes were often made, and some people even made “improvements”. In 300 to 100 BC scholars at the great Alexandrian Library in Egypt tried to correct the errors and restore them to original form. This was when the idea that there were two different poets originated. The scholars who thought this, the separatists, thought that the language, point of view, and subject matter in the two poems were so different that just one person could not have created them both.
Tammy: Fascinating! And just what did you base your poems on?
Homer: I got them from other bards, who got them from other bards, who got them from other bards, who got them from other bards, etc. etc. I imagine that if you go far enough back you would find a bard who was there when the Trojan War took place.
Tammy: Which brings up the question “did Troy exist?”
Homer: There is very good archaeological evidence for it.
Tammy: Like what?
Homer: Hienrich Schleimen, one of my biggest fans, discovered several cities in the hill called Hissarlik. He though that what he called Troy 2 was the one I talked about, Henry Durthbelt, a later excavator, discovered Troy 6, which matches pretty well with the descriptions I put in the Iliad. Another excavator said that an earthquake had destroyed Troy 6, and what he called Troy 7a, which was a city of soup kitchens and shanties, had been the one that had been ransacked by the Greeks.
Tammy: What do you think?
Homer: I know that I had changed a few details, so I wouldn’t put it past the bards who gave it to me. Maybe the wooden horse had just been a mix-up. Poseidon was both Earth-Shaker and the creator of the horse.
Tammy: Is he?
Homer: Yes.Tammy: Well that’s all the time we have for today folks. Thank-you Homer for your insight into the poems you wrote. I’m your host, Tammy Turnback, and thank-you for joining us on The Past Times!