CIRCA 750 B.C. Homer, a blind poet who lived around 750 B.C., created the greatest epics of ancient Greek for generations, his stories were among the first literature, the Iliad and Odyssey. Passed down orally Greek works to be written down. The story of Odysseus, Homer's hero, is an account of the Trojan Wars, which in Greek mythology were said to have been caused by a spat between goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. In their pages, these epics recount heroic deeds and tragic events, but they also explore moral, ethical, and psy-chological themes with remarkable subtlety. They record a way of life not far removed from that of Greek society in Homer's time. The Iliad and Odys-sey influenced much of Greek culture, including its literature, education, and an era of enormous creativity around 480 B.C. in Athens. Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes penned plays that often commented on the contemporary political situation, while exploring themes of power, love, and betrayal. The work of philosophers Socrates and Plato, and historian Thucydides, elucidated the ideas and events of Greek civilization and democ-racy. This era coincided with the rise of democracy. This new form of government, in which citizens elect their leaders, is without a doubt the Greeks' greatest legacy and an influence upon the Founding Fathers and the United States Constitution.
Achilles, painted in his chariot, is one of the most famous characters in the Iliad.
CONNECTIONS Although set in mythical times, Homer's epics infer real historic events. Today's archaeologists have excavated sites pointing to Troy, Odysseus's enemy.