The Homeric Legacy
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are two of my favorite books. As a child, I was mesmerized by the heroic and tragic tales woven together in these great works. As an adult and a history buff, I was intrigued by the possibility that some of these stories could well be true.
The pantheon of characters who have shared my fascination with all things Homeric is impressive. King Xerxes of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman Emperors Caesar, Augustus and Trajan, among others, all made a point of visiting the plains of Troy during their lifetimes. Lord Byron not only visited the site, he later joined the Greek war of independence and died in this struggle.
Elements of Homer’s stories have found their way into a host of iconic works. Virgil’s Aeneid traces the founding of Rome to Aeneas, the son of a Trojan prince fleeing the destruction of his home city. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain” continued this sequel, tracing the original British royal line back to Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas. Still others, like Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, incorporated parts of Homer’s tales into their famous plays.
So, I guess it would be fair to say that although Helen’s beautiful face may have “launched a thousand ships” (Christopher Marlowe, “The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus”), Homer’s stories launched a thousand times that many new stories, tales, poems and movies.