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 Homer
Greek Art, Archaic Period
700-480 BC

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Archaic Period 
(700-480 BC)
Classical Period
(480-330 BC)
Hellenistic Period
(330-150 BC)

Homer is the name traditionally assigned to the reputed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two major epics of Greek antiquity. Nothing is known of Homer the individual, and in fact the question of whether a single person can be said to be responsible for the creation of the two epics is highly controversial. 

Linguistic and historical evidence, however, allows the supposition that the poems were composed in the Greek settlements on the west coast of Asia Minor sometime in the 7th century BC.  Both epics deal with legendary events that were believed to have occurred many centuries before their composition.  

Greece. Archaic Art. The main characters from the Odyssey, drawn 1801 by Johann Heinrich Tischbein.

This beautiful set of stamps, issued 1983 by Greece, illustrate major events from the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad is set in the final year of the Trojan War, which forms the background for its central plot, the story of the wrath of the Greek hero Achilles.  Insulted by his commander in chief Agamemnon, the young warrior Achilles withdraws from the war, leaving his fellow Greeks to suffer terrible defeats at the hands of the Trojans.  

The Greek army had besieged the city of Troy for ten years in an attempt to liberate the Beautiful Helena, who had been abducted by Prince Paris, son of King Priam.  Pretending to stop the siege, the Greeks sent a big wooden horse as an atonement to Pallas Athene, and at the same time let their fleet sail away from Troy.  But the belly of the Trojan Horse was hollow and contained some of the best Greek warriors.  When the citizens of Troy had dragged the huge wooden horse behind the city walls, the warriors in the horse's belly climbed out in the darkness of the night, and the Greek fleet returned.  The city of Troy fell, King Priam was assassinated, and the Greeks had their revenge.  Since that time the Trojan Horse has been a symbol of cunning and malice.  

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Abduction of Helena by Prince Paris (ancient pottery). Greece 1983. Archaic Art. The Trojan Horse (wood carving).

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Battle between Ajax and Hector (a dish).

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Achilles.

The Odyssey describes the return of the Greek hero Odysseus from the Trojan War.  The opening scenes depict the disorder that has arisen in Odysseus' household during his long absence: A band of suitors is devouring his property as they woo his wife Penelope.  The focus then shifts to Odysseus himself.  

 
Greece 1983. Archaic Art. King Priam requesting the body of Hector (pottery). Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus' cave. Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Hector receiving arms from his parents (vase). Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Heroes of the Iliad, painted on a cup.

The epic tells of his ten years of travelling, during which he has to face such dangers as the man-eating giant Polyphemus and such subtler threats as the goddess Calypso, who offers him immortality if he will abandon his quest for home. 

The second half of the poem begins with Ulysses' arrival at his home island of Ithaca. Here, exercising infinite patience and self-control, Odysseus tests the loyalty of his servants, plots and carries out a bloody revenge on Penelope's suitors, and is reunited with his son, his wife, and his aged father.  
 

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Ulysses and Sirens.

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Ulysses meeting Nausicaa.

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Odysseus slaying suitors.

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Blinding of Polyphemus.

Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Achilles throwing dice with Ajax (ancient jar). Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Bust of Homer. Greece 1983. Archaic Art. Deification of Homer.

The stamps on this page is a complete set, Scott # 1472-1486, all commercially used.  

Sources and links: 

Archaic Period 
(700-480 BC)
Classical Period
(480-330 BC)
Hellenistic Period
(330-150 BC)

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Forward to Etruscan Art


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Revised 24-jul-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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