The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (known as Ulysses in Roman myths) and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. In his absence, it is assumed he has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres or Proci, who compete for Penelope's hand in marriage.
It continues to be read in the Homeric Greek and translated into modern languages around the world. Many scholars believe that the original poem was composed in an oral tradition by an aoidos (epic poet/singer), perhaps a rhapsode (professional performer), and was more likely intended to be heard than read. The details of the ancient oral performance, and the story's conversion to a written work inspire continual debate among scholars. The Odyssey was written in a poetic dialect of Greek—a literary amalgam of Aeolic Greek, Ionic Greek, and other Ancient Greek dialects—and comprises 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. Among the most noteworthy elements of the text are its non-linear plot, and the influence on events of choices made by women and serfs, besides the actions of fighting men. In the English language as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to refer to an epic voyage.
The Odyssey has a lost sequel, the Telegony, which was not written by Homer. It was usually attributed in Antiquity to Cinaethon of Sparta, but in one source was said to have been stolen from Musaeus by Eugamon or Eugammon of Cyrene (see Cyclic poets).
Homeros, In the Western classical tradition, Homer (Ancient Greek: Homeros) is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest of ancient Greek epic poets. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.
When he lived is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BC, while other ancient sources claim that he lived much nearer to the supposed time of the Trojan War, in the early 12th century BC. Most modern researchers place Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BC.
The formative influence of the Homeric epics in shaping Greek culture was widely recognized, and Homer was described as the teacher of Greece. Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds.
For modern scholars "the date of Homer" refers not to an individual, but to the period when the epics were created. The consensus is that "the Iliad and the Odyssey date from around the 8th century BC, the Iliad being composed before the Odyssey, perhaps by some decades," i.e. earlier than Hesiod, the Iliad being the oldest work of Western literature. Over the past few decades, some scholars have argued for a 7th-century BC date. Oliver Taplin believes that the conclusion of modern researchers is that Homer dates to between 750 to 650 BC. Some of those who argue that the Homeric poems developed gradually over a long period of time give an even later date for the composition of the poems; according to Gregory Nagy for example, they only became fixed texts in the 6th century BC. The question of the historicity of Homer the individual is known as the "Homeric question"; there is no reliable biographical information handed down from classical antiquity. The poems are generally seen as the culmination of many generations of oral story-telling, in a tradition with a well-developed formulaic system of poetic composition. Some scholars, such as Martin West, claim that "Homer" is "not the name of a historical poet, but a fictitious or constructed name."
Since it was first published more than twenty-five years ago, Robert Fitzgerald's prizewinning translation of Homer's battle epic has become a classic in its own right: a standard against which all other versions of The Iliad are compared. Fitzgerald's work is accessible, ironic, faithful, written in a swift vernacular blank verse that "makes Homer live as never before" (Library Journal).
This edition includes a new foreword by Andrew Ford.
Episodes of the story of Odysseus' protracted wanderings from fallen Troy to his island home of Ithaca are pungently interspersed with a commentary by the blind singer Billy Blue. Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, the giant Cyclops, Circe and her revellers, ghosts, and mermaids are among the cast. With its vast sweep and richly figurative language, The Odyssey confirms that Derek Walcott is as compelling a playwright as he is a poet.
"[The Odyssey features Walcott's] voluptuous metaphor making and severe truth telling."--Time