Monday, April 29, 2013

Homer and his influence on Western Culture

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Homer and his Influence on Western Culture

Homer influenced Greek values by articulating the value of Archaic Period, otherwise known as Homeric Period. In his two most famous books, The Iliad and The Odyssey, those principles are seen in situations and characters. The Greeks in consider Homer’s two epics as the highest cultural achievement of their people, the defining moment in Greek culture, which set the basic Greek character in stone. These texts occupy a central position in the self-definition of Western culture. They both concern the great defining battle of Greek culture, The Trojan War.

The Iliad is the story of a short event that happened during the ninth year of a so-called ten-year war. There is a clash between the two Greek commanders, Agamemnon and Achilleus. Agamemnon is upset with Achilleus because he blames him for the loss of his concubine. For that Agamemnon revenges for Achilleus’s concubine. Achilleus is angered and departs from the Greek army. This departure leads to the defeat of the Greeks and the killing of Agamemnon by Trojan hero Hector. When this happens Achilleus joins the battle once again and kills Hector.

The Odyssey is the story of the homecoming of another Greek hero Odysseus. Odysseus was not famous for his strength or bravery, but for his ability to deceive and trick. He was not in good terms with the gods so they didn’t let him return home till his tenth year so he could fight off suitors of his wife. It talks about all the difficulties he faced over the course of ten years.

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One of the characteristics of a good story, now as then, is that the audience must be captivated. Homer achieves this using many different techniques. He composed the Odyssey and the Iliad in long lines of six beats each called Dactylic Hexameter, which the ancients thought suited the formality of epic poetry. In every other sense as well, including the nature of the language and the subject, the verse of Homer is poetry. Most significantly, Homers verses were meant to be heard, not read. Its power and beauty come from several effects, chiefly the musicality of the language and the marked rhythm of the line. He uses a lot of metaphors, suspense, and supernatural. Homer has a constant repetition of phrases, whole lines, and even passages that make his writing style very distinctive. This way of composing helps the audience in remembering details of the story. While we may find this merely repetitive, even annoying, the ancient audience was listening, not reading, and enjoying the play of words and language. These repetitions are essential to the oral style of composition called oral-formulaic. In oral-formulaic traditions, generations of poet performers develop a special poetic language that consists of a number of musical phrases and longer story elements out of which long narrative poems are constructed. In the Iliad when he mentions Achilleus it is complemented by the phrase “of the swift feet”. His began many speeches with phrases “Then in answer again spoke…” and “So he spoke.” There are very important words repeatedly used in Homer’s works honor, virtue, and greatness.

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