In the study of Greece, to read Homer is considered essential. It has been written by many authors of present, and spoken of in many of the universities and schools of the past that you cannot know Greece, unless you have read Homer's, The Illiad, and The Odyssey, and even his other poetic works. Homer's work is still considered a main staple to the literary library of any student, and in some regards, his work is used as historical evidence of the life within Bronze Age, or Mykenean Greece.
Little is known of who Homer actually was, and by and large, many sources dispute whether biographical information is actually important toward a scholarly understanding of his literary works. In part, this is due to several factors within his work which are for the most part historical discrepancies relating to the time Homer's works were supposed to have been written and the archeological evidence found from excavated sites in the present day. In addition, there continues to be debate between scholars as to whether or not Homer was the true and only writer of his works. The supposition that it was perhaps a series of bards who wrote upon the works of Homer, and who created a tradition based upon his work, still remains a viable theory, though largely debated as improbable. What remains clear about Homer's work is that in the scheme of Ancient Greece, one cannot be free from his works, but at the same time, putting his work into a historical perspective remains largely a matter of debate.
Partially, the problems of context which relate to Homer's writings can be related to the reliance of Ancient Greek bards on an oral tradition. In the case of Homer, there is an obvious change from a completely oral tradition, toward an actual written script. This change meant several things to Homer's writing which remain in dispute. First, it is obvious that his original writings were as a result of spoken work, and were easily open to editing in later dates. Second, the oral tradition allows for embellishment of events and much more story telling leeway to achieve the desired effect of awe on a given audience; which in turn allows for the story to change from audience to audience. In these regards, the works of Homer cannot be thought of as actual historical works of the Trojan Wars and Bronze Age Greece (for example, historical discrepancies such as Iron axes found in Bronze Age Greece are written of in Homer's works), but more so as historical works which tell about the transition between bardic traditions, and further, the literary style of the time. Taken in this context and regard, Homer's works are utter masterpieces.
The two works which have borne Homer into the realm of literary immortality are The Illiad and The Odyssey. Though Homer wrote many works, these two remain the staples of his literary body. Though the two works are considered masterpieces, and are thought to compliment one another, from the perspective of genre they are as different as night and day. The Odyssey is written in the format of a fantastic novel and catalogs the adventure of Odysseus and his quest to return to his native land of Ithaca after many years of being gone. With its many subplots and dynamic stories, it is a master work of the adventure novel writing, and well worth the great read. In contrast, The Illiad
is a work which depicts the ravages of war during the Greek Siege of Troy nearing the end of the Bronze Age period. The work itself is considered by many to be quite graphic and details many of the sieges and internecine wars which rippled through the landscape of Greece during the end of the Bronze Age. The graphic and power of the Illiad
was best written by the author Peter France, "If you read
it, you will be changed by it".