Homer’s Iliad originated at the beginnings of Western civilization. Its power is so timeless that it has been read continuously for more than 2500 years. Yet its origin lies shrouded in mystery, tangled in mythology, religion, and ancient tribal history. Aside from these elements, the real excitement of the Iliad lies in its brilliant poetry, which is sustained for more than 15,000 lines, bringing an age of heroes and their exploits to life with clarity, complexity, and depth of feeling.

Homer has been known since classical Greek times as the author of the Odyssey and the Iliad — and that is about all that can be said for certain about him. The ancients regarded him as practically a god, equal to the muses (who were the divine inspiration for all arts). Facts about Homer the man have long been the subject of hot debate among scholars. Perhaps Homer also wrote a group of long poems, still called the Homeric Hymns. Perhaps Homer didn’t actually write the two great epic poems but merely pieced together small sections written by many different poets over centuries. Perhaps there was no Homer at all, and the poems were a kind of oral history, written and recited by numerous poets and much later collected into the books we now know. Each of these theories has been offered as true, and each remains unproven.