The Odyssey

By Homer


The works of Homer are the keystones of Western literature. The influence of the Odyssey and the Iliad are central to nearly all ancient fiction, ranging from casual allusion to structural adaptation on a grand scale. The most famous example is of course Virgil's Aeneid, which can be divided into Odyssean and Iliadic sections. Homer was evidently a standard classroom author to be studied in ancient schools, as papyrus finds from Oxyrhynchus and elsewhere in Egypt testify, with well over half of all literary fragments on the papyri coming from one of his two works. Homer was seen not just as a great writer of literature, but even as a teacher of morality to many ancients. Thus Cephalus in Plato's Republic (Book 1) can explain his view of justice in Homeric terms, and Plutarch in his Moralia litters his moral instruction with quotes from the Odyssey and the Iliad. Homer's influence has extended even to modern times, with the most notable example being Joyce's Ulysses, which is loosely based on the plot of the Odyssey.