Homer is the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two greatest Greek epic poems. Nothing is known about Homer personally; it is not even known for certain whether there is only one true author of these two works. Homer is thought to have been an Ionian from the 9th or 8th century B.C. While historians argue over the man, his impact on literature, history, and philosophy is so significant as to be almost immeasurable. The Iliad relates the tale of the Trojan War, about the war between Greece and Troy, brought about by the kidnapping of the beautiful Greek princess, Helen, by Paris. It tells of the exploits of such legendary figures as Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus. The Odyssey recounts the subsequent return of the Greek hero Odysseus after the defeat of the Trojans. On his return trip, Odysseus braves such terrors as the Cyclops, a one-eyed monster; the Sirens, beautiful temptresses; and Scylla and Charybdis, a deadly rock and whirlpool. Waiting for him at home is his wife who has remained faithful during his years in the war. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have had numerous adaptations, including several film versions of each.
Albert Cook is Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and Classics at Brown University, where he has taught since 1978. Author, poet, and playwright, he is the author of the critical studies The Classic Line: A Study of Epic Poetry, Myth and Language, and Soundings: On Shakespeare, Modern Poetry, Plato, and Other Subjects; the poetry collections Adapt the Living, Modulars, and Delayed Answers; and the plays The Death of Trotsky and Recall. His articles and poetry have appeared in scores of periodicals.