We start with Homer. We always come back to Homer. His two works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were like the Bible to the ancient Greeks.

When the painters and sculptors looked for inspiration for their works of art, they almost always turned to the stories of Homer.

Homer is a superb storyteller and his peculiar gift was to be able to combine so many short stories into one great epic.

The bust of Homer shows a mature man who is blind. Homer, we think, was blind, he could neither read nor write.

How then did he deliver to an audience poems of such great length?

Pick up a copy of the Iliad. Memorise it. Recite it. This is apparently what Homer and bards like him were able to do.

Compare Homer with Virgil, the Roman poet who wanted to emulate Homer.

Scope of the Topic

We cover a wide range of issues: the mythological background, moral and social values, honour, reputation, women in society, role of the gods and fate, the archaeology of Homer's world, oral tradition and literary techniques such as flashback, retardation, episodes and similes, and formulaic structure.

Mycenaean bard - Palace of Nestor

The Examination

For the examination we study one of the epics and there is a choice of one from two essay titles. ONE essay must be done plus ONE context question. A choice of one from two passages from one of the epics is given and there are comprehension questions to answer.

From January 2005 to January 2006 the passages for comment will be taken from prescribed books of the Odyssey (Books 5-7 and 17).

In the A2 year you have to study the Roman Epic by Virgil, called the Aeneid, and the examination is synoptic. This means you must understand the connections between the epics of Homer and Virgil.