The Odyssey is one of the two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to the poet Homer. The other is the Iliad.
The Odyssey is commonly dated to between 800 and 600 BC. The poem is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, and concerns the events that befall the Greek hero Odysseus in his long journey back to his native land Ithaca after the fall of Troy.
Homer's poems were stories transmitted orally by traveling poets. These poets had the creativity and the good memory to be able to sing thousands of lines and dozens of stories.
The Odyssey was put into writing in the 8th century B.C. Scholars believe that the poem had undergone extensive period of pre-composition by poets who improvised versions of the story that became the current epic.
It is assumed that The Iliad is the earlier of the two epic poems by Homer. Being the earlier poem may have less significance given that the two poems were composed over 500 years.
Homer's epic poems, originally developed by Sumerians and then by Ancient Greeks three thousand years ago, were not originally written. They were spoken and passed down orally generation to generation.
We have traditionally assumed that our Homer was a redactor or perhaps a compiler of episodes, operating somewhere in the unclear historical penumbra of the 9th or 8th c. BC. Homer has information from the Trojan Wars of some three centuries earlier, and although his data is incomplete and in some cases corrupted, he must have heard an oral tradition chanted down stories from the past.
Nothing is known of Homer as an individual, and in fact it is a matter of controversy whether a single person can be said to have created both the Illiad and Odyssey. However, the two epic poems are attributed to Homer.
Homer's name is derived from the Greek word 'home:ros" meaning 'a hostage.' The word "Homereia" means the political exchange of important persons in the ancient world, ensuring that neither state will violate the rules of agreed upon political behavior. This is much different than the current use of the word 'hostage.'
Recent evidence strongly suggests that the Iliad is the work of a single poet. Modern scholars are generally agree that there was a poet named Homer who lived before 700 B.C., and that the Iliad and the Odyssey are each the product of one poet’s work. Some assign the Odyssey to a poet who lived slightly after the author of the Illiad.