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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

The Iliad and The Odyssey are ancient Greek poems that are concerned with the events and consequences of the Trojan War. Nothing conclusive can be said about the actual history of that war. It is conjectured that some contest between peoples of more or less kindred stocks, who occupied the isles and the eastern and western shores of the Aegean, left a strong impression on the popular fancy. Many older myths, stories, and legends which previously floated unattached now gathered around the memories of this contest. Later, minstrels, poets, and priests shaped all these materials into a definite body of tradition. Thus, scattered stories were united into national legends.


When The Odyssey was composed, the poet must have had before him a well-arranged mass of legends and traditions from which to select his material. Homer had an extremely consistent knowledge of the local traditions of Greece and of the memories that were cherished by Thebans, Pylians, Mycenaeans, and others. He assumed that his audience shared this knowledge, as well as that of certain legends, such as the Argonautic Expedition. One of the chief proofs of the unity of authorship of The Odyssey is the extraordinary skill with which originally unconnected legends and myths are woven into a single poetic plot so that the marvels of savage and barbaric fancy have become indispensable parts of an artistic whole.

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