Homer: The Blind Bard

By Doorley, Rachelle; King, Judith | School Arts, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Homer: The Blind Bard


Doorley, Rachelle, King, Judith, School Arts


The Blind Bard

Homer, the legendary Greek poet famed as the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, is sometimes referred to by the nickname the Blind Bard. In the days of ancient Greece, bards were professional storytellers who composed and recited poetic songs and stories of historic or cultural significance. Often, bards were those who could tell tales of the mysteries of gods and goddesses, and were able to see beyond the human world. They spoke publicly, and were at the cultural center of Greek society. In Homer's day, there was no written language but a strong oral tradition. Bards were responsible for transmitting stories to future generations.

Although there is little evidence that Homer was blind, some believe his blind bard Demodocus in The Odyssey might have been an autobiographical invention.

From all who walk the earth our bards deserve Esteem and awe, for the Muse herself has taught them paths of song.

She loves the breed of harpers. The herald placed the gift in Demodocus' hands And the famous blind bard received it, overjoyed. *

Others believe that Homer earned this nickname for reciting poetry with his eyes closed. Unfortunately, there are no firsthand accounts or pictorial representations of Homer. In fact, many scholars question whether or not he was a real person. Some believe that Homer was a pseudonym for a collection of poets. The Homeric Question, which refers to the mystery of Homer's existence, remains unanswered.

About the Artist

Roman sculptures were often created to please affluent patrons, rather than to communicate the artist's creativity. They are rarely signed. We do not know the name of the artist who created the sculpture of Homer on the next spread. We do, however, have an idea where this piece was made and for whom it was made. By studying this object, scholars have concluded that this sculpture was either brought to or created in central Italy around the end of the Roman Republic, and was probably created for a wealthy patron.

Romans Copy Greek Originals

With Rome's expansion into the Mediterranean, the people of the Roman Empire learned about Greek art and literature. Roman citizens greatly admired Greek art for its refinement and beauty. Many upperclass Romans desired such magnificent sculptures for themselves. To fill the demand for Greek art, Roman artists began producing Roman copies of Greek sculpture. The original Greek bust on which this work was based was also made of marble. It may have been commissioned by a Greek city with a literary spirit (such as Smyrna).

About the Art

Roman artists admired the style of Greek art that embodied naturalistic features and realistic emotions. Lacking evidence of Homer's actual appearance, many artists have created an idealized Homer. …

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