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Izmir – A trip to the homeland of the Great Homer

The founder of European literature, the creation of the first literary Greek language. The poet-storyteller who glorified the historical events of deep antiquity, Homer Melesinger, is one of the most mysterious people in history. Over the past 2500 years, researchers and fans of the great poet’s work have been collecting information about him bit by bit. However, neither the exact meaning of the name nor the place of Homer’s birth is known. However, first things first.

New Smyrna in the heart of Izmir.  Here and below the photo "The world in its diversity"
New Smyrna in the heart of Izmir

Meaning of the name

In ancient times, a person’s name could be assigned not only by parents, but also by the public. It is known that Homer got his name when he was old enough. According to the ancient Greek historian Ephor Kimsky, Homer is translated as “blind man” . 

Hesychius of Alexandria is sure that Homer is translated as “hostage” , since the poet with honor survived the difficult conditions of captivity in the city of Colophon (the ancient Greek city where the famous resin “rosin” was produced). 

Alcidamant and Aristotle suggest that Homer got his name because of the lost poetic duel with Hesiod, as a result of which he was forced to leave the island of Euboea and wander around Ionia, which is why he received the nickname “exiled” or “persecuted”(the fight turned out to be a fictional Alcidamant). 

Some modern researchers adhere to the hypothesis that, after all, the meaning of the name may sound like “storyteller” or “writer” and was given to the poet precisely for the creation of the Iliad.

Was he really blind?

From school history lessons, we are used to hearing that Homer was blind. However, the poet traveled freely through the cities of Greece and was well versed in geography. He accurately describe the location of Troy. Was the poet really blind? There are two versions here. Either Homer became blind at an advanced age. Or it is a tribute to tradition. 

The fact is that in Ancient Greece it was customary to portray all the legendary sages as blind. For example, the owner of the prophetic gift, the Theban soothsayer Tiresias, was blind, because according to the ancients, such people do not need physical vision. Because they already see more than the sighted. Apparently, Homer still had good eyesight and photographic memory.

What Homer wrote?

Half of the ancient Greek manuscripts that have come down to our time belongs to the work of Homer. In addition to the famous poems “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, Homer is credited with many other works of antiquity. In particular the comic poem “Margit” , hymns dedicated to the gods “Homeric Hymns”, “Fokas”, “Taking Echalia” (also attributed to Creophilus of Samos). A parody poem about the war of frogs and mice “Batrachomyomachia” , a poem. It is assumed that the poet’s creative heritage was ordered to collect and formalize in writing the Athenian tyrant Pisistratus , who later created a library of Homer’s works.

When the poet lived?

The events described by Homer in the Iliad date back approximately to the 12th century BC. That is why one of the first assumptions arose that the poet lived around that time. However, even Herodotus and Strabo pointed out that Homer lived around the middle of the 9th century BC. 

The famous American scientist Barry Powell, having analyzed the text of the Iliad and the Odyssey, agrees with Herodotus and points to the date in 800-750. BC. But the British philologist Martin West is sure that Homer lived in the 7th century BC – in 700 – 650 years. BC e. Currently, most researchers agree that Homer lived between the 9th and 8th centuries BC.

Homer and the education system of the ancient world

The education system of the numerous policies of Ancient Greece was built on the study of the works of Homer. The historical component of that was not questioned. Young men in gymnasiums learned by heart not only poems, but also excerpts from the Iliad and Odyssey. Later, a similar system was adopted by Rome. It is important to note that over the centuries not one of the poets and scientists even tried to reform the existing system. Simply because of believing that the perfect cannot be made perfect.

Where Homer was born

This is the most difficult question in Homer’s biography. According to the ancient Roman writer Aulus Gellius, seven ancient Greek cities competed for the right to be called the homeland of Homer.

Athens, Rhodes, Argos, Salamis, Colophon, Chios and Smyrna. Ancient Greek scientists long before Gellius narrowed the circle of “suspected” cities to Chios and Smyrna. Modern linguistic analysis of the Iliad and Odyssey poems determined that they were based on the so-called “Homeric” dialect of the ancient Greek language created on the basis of the Aeolian and Ionic dialects, which are just characteristic of Smyrna and Chios. But which one? 

Strabo notes that the inhabitants of Smyrna were sure that Homer was their fellow countryman. So they erected in their city “the library and the sanctuary of Homer [Homereum]. Actually a quadrangular portico with a temple and a statue of Homer. Indeed, the Smyrneans ardently take Homer for themselves, so that from even one copper coin of them bears the name Gomereya “. (Quote from Strabo’s Geography).

Smyrna is a very unusual city with a rich history and famous people. Here lived and worked the grandson of Aristotle, the outstanding physician Erasistratus. The poetess Sappho, one of the Nine Lyrics, wrote her poems and poems . Here, Alexander the Great helped the inhabitants to rebuild the city. The Roman emperor Hadrian honored the inhabitants of Smyrna with his visit 

A special page in the history of the city is occupied by the activities of the founders of Christianity. Here the “beloved disciple” of Jesus Christ, John the Theologian, who compiled the “Revelation” before moving to Ephesus. And then his disciple Polycarp of Smyrna(executed for refusing to renounce the faith), who wrote the Epistle to the Philippians. In turn, the work of Polycarp was continued by his student Irenaeus of Lyons . 

Smyrna has always been famous for its natives and guests

As you can see, the city of Smyrna has always been famous for its natives and guests. So why not Homer be born here? A small pointer to the truth is Homer’s nickname, which he received during his lifetime – Melesiger . If initially it was assumed that this means “son of Meles”, then already in the era of Herodotus and Strabo they drew attention to the stream Meles (Melet) flowing near the fortress wall of Smyrna. 

It is assumed that Homer lived in a cave near the Meles stream and wrote his poems . Not far from this cave, the sanctuary of Homer was later erected, which is mentioned by Strabo and the Roman historian Aristides. Currently, as many as three streams with the name Meles are known in the territory of Izmir., of which the most probable are Meles in the Buka region and Meles in the Bayrakli region (located in different parts of the city). In the Buka area there is a grotto, which in the 19th century was dubbed the “Homer’s cave”, but archaeological excavations here did not reveal traces of a person’s stay here, and there is no cave in Bayrakly, but the local authorities have already managed to organize the “Homer’s valley” in order to attract tourists.

There is no doubt that Smyrna (Izmir) was the birthplace of the great poet

Homer met the end of his life on the island of Ios, where his dilapidated tomb is now located near the abandoned settlement of Plakotos . There is no doubt that Smyrna (Izmir) was the birthplace of the great poet , but the question of the location of Homer’s cave in the sprawling Turkish metropolis remains open. At the moment, only the central part of New Smyrna, the Agora , has been excavated . We are not talking about further excavations, since Izmir is tightly surrounded by the ancient city. 

The entrance fee to the Agora in 2021 is 25 liras.

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