Homer is one of the most well-known, studied, and referred to poets in the history of the world. That he has been a literary figure since ancient times is a feat in itself, and the influence of his pieces, particularly The Iliad and The Odyssey, have lasted throughout thousands of years. Because he was born well before history was recorded in written word, it is thought that his year of birth was sometime between the 12th and 8th centuries BC on the coast of Asia Minor.
Homer's most significant works are The Iliad and The Odyssey, which are both epic poems that have influenced culture in the Western world throughout time. It is believed that each is a compilation of stories from a great number of people, and Homer was the compiler who kept the tales alive through recitation and committing it all to memory. For this reason, many see Homer as a performing poet or balladeer, especially since literature was not commonly written down at the time when he lived. Though he is thought to have recited poetry with an instrument called a lyre in hand, Homer's work isn't considered to be lyrical poetry or songs.
Because of the content of The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer has come to be seen as a historical figure in addition to being a literary great. Discussions of either work usually include a discussion of the life and history of Homer himself, and how he fits into the stories told by the epic poems. The Iliad, also known as the Song of Ilion, is about the Trojan War as well as the dispute between King Agamemnon and Achilles. The poem abounds with descriptions and stories of Greek heroes and history.
The Odyssey came next, is also attributed to Homer, and contains a character named Demodocus. This particular character is a blind poet and minstrel, with features that are allegedly similar to Homer's. Due to Demodocus's depiction, and accounts from other historical figures, it's believed by some people today that Homer himself was blind and that character is partly based upon himself. However, other literary analysts contend that Demodocus was the exact opposite of Homer in life and in the way he chose to orate his poems.
Homer's works have generated an entire field of study which include research into his life in ancient times, Homeric dialect and style, and the history behind The Iliad. Many today consider Homer to be a hero of sorts, and the fact that his stories and poetry were preserved for so long -- even throughout thousands of years where the only means of preserving and passing on tales was through oral traditions and traveling performances -- is a marvel. The Iliad and The Odyssey are also the basis for many modern works of fiction literature, and themes from each piece have been replicated in hundreds of poems throughout time.
Homer likely died on the Greek island of Ios, although his year of death is uncertain. Both The Iliad and The Odyssey have been printed, published, performed on stage, and turned into movies countless times since Homer started the tradition of passing the stories on. In addition to his work being carried through millennia, Homer's image has been preserved in statues and paintings. Some of the statues and art are idealized and some are based on what are believed to be Homer's true physical features, but all of it portrays a man who was -- and still is -- respected and heralded as one of the greatest poets and writers of all time.