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I think that Homer, if a real person at all, is usually supposed to have lived in the 8th century BC, that is to say, at the end of the "Greek Dark Ages". That is a few centuries after the collapse of the Mycenaeans, who had had a script and literacy, but only at the very beginning of the rise of Archaic Greek culture.

Supposing that Homer was a real person, and that he lived in a period in which writing existed, I ask: What script might he have used? Or at least, what script would his contemporaries have used, if he was personally illiterate? Or if he and all of his contemporaries lacked the written word, then what was the earliest Greek script to arise after his death? What was distinctive about that script?

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    We don't usually like hypotheticals, but I think the question in the parenthetical is on-topic here. Consider moving it out of that parenthetical, so its a bit more featured as the question.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 19 at 18:40
  • You might also want to try the Latin (and Greek!) site instead.
    – cmw
    Feb 19 at 19:10
  • @cmw - I'm not sure Latin would help, but Greek might. I'm guessing a Greek language site might have rather a lot of people familiar with ancient Koine Greek, but perhaps not many with even older variants.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 19 at 20:23
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    @T.E.D. Ancient Greek is on topic there.
    – cmw
    Feb 19 at 22:56
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    Homer's poems were transmitted orally. They were recorded only in the later epoch, as far as we know this happened when Peisistratus ruled in Athens, that is in 6-th century. Then the Greek writing was already in use.
    – Alex
    Feb 20 at 13:38

2 Answers 2

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The question is talking the dominant current view of "Homer", in that this was a person who created these poems sometime around the 8th or perhaps 7th centuries, and then someone familiar with them sat down with a scribe to transcribe them into written Geek sometime around the 8th Century BC. If one accepts that view, then both Homer's literate contemporaries and the scribe(s) in question would have been using an early version of The Greek Alphabet.

The Greek Alphabet was the worlds first true alphabet. It was developed from the Phoenician script from the 9th to 8th centuries BC. This Phoenician Alphabet actually had no vowel glyphs, since Semitic languages don't need them so much (so it was arguably the true innovation here). Either way, it was the new Greek Alphabet, with its easier-to-learn glyph set of around 20, that brought the Greeks back into history as a literate culture once more.

These Greek Alphabets weren't really standardized until the 4th Century BC, after the Peloponnesian War. I don't think we have any real clues about which part of the Greek World Homer hailed from, and in any event the whole area would have been speaking mutually-intelligable dialects of Greek at this point, so an illiterate bard probably would neither know nor care, so I don't think we have a way to pick one of the variants. However, here's a chart showing their names and how similar they were.

Early Greek Alphabet variants

I'll also post here a map I found of the places mentioned in the Iliad. Perhaps someone can glean out more clues to the likely home of Homer from that, but all I'm pretty sure about is that he's probably from the Peloponesian half (where nearly all the heroes and most of the mentioned places are from), rather than the Asia Minor half. So that may argue against the Ionic variant.

enter image description here

However, Ionic was very influential, as shown in the fact that its script eventually became the basis for the new standard in the 4th Century. Also, linguistic analysis of the dialect used in both works shows it to be largely Ionic. I don't think we can say that this means Homer himself used that as his native dialect, but it does seem to indicate that the most influential scribes who wrote down his stories did. However, the poems themselves still contain a lot of artifacts that are useful to bards reciting them from memory, which I'd say in fact argues for Homer speaking an Ionic dialect, either natively or as his professional dialect for the purposes of composition. Either the Ionic or the Euboan variants of the script would be the natural literary expressions of that dialect.

enter image description here

As a bonus answer, I'd say if this were a question about literate people from the time and place the Iliad and Odyssey are set, most likely a such a person would have been using the script we know today as Linear B, or something closely related to it.

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There are a few things that the Questioner should know about the Historical Homer:

  1. Homer did exist. He lived around 800 BC/BCE and was reported to have SUNG his two most famous Epics..."The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" to an exclusively Greek audience on the Aegean island of Chios....(his seat/bench still exists on the island nearly 3000 years later).

  2. Homer has been entombed on the Aegean Cycladic island of Ios for nearly 3000 years; one can still visit his Gravesite. It is unlikely that the Ios Gravesite is a cenotaph...the Ancient Greek Poet is probably buried at this site.

  3. Unless there was a very early version of Braile Code in Ancient Greece, it would have been impossible for Homer to have scripted/written either "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey". Homer...was a blind Poet who SANG both of these famed Epics.

Ancient Mycenaean Greek was deciphered 70 years ago by a Classical Philologist named Michael Ventris....the decipherment was referred to as, "Linear B". Since Mr. Ventris' landmark deciphering of Mycenaean Greek-(dating to around 1400-1500 BC/BCE), the scripted Greek language was in use throughout Mycenae proper and many other Mycenaean colonized towns in the Peloponnesian region of Southern Greece and the island of Crete until around 1100 BC/BCE.

It was around 1100 BC/BCE, when the city of Mycenae, as well as it many of its colonized towns, were abandoned altogether or replaced by conquering Dorian invaders-settlers from the Western Balkan region-(Northwest Greece, Albania and Montenegro). From 1100 BC/BCE, the Southern Hellenic mainland and much of Greece proper, had undergone a Dorianization demographic change....and with it....a 300 year loss of the original Greek script...this period is often referred to by Archeologists as, "The Greek Dark Ages."

It really wasn't until the arrival of Homer that the sophistication of the Greek language was reborn and revitalized through Lyrical Poetry. Following Homer, Greece, during the 700's-600's BC/BCE, witnessed both a Lyrical and Scripted Poetic movement through the Poetry of Hesiod, Sappho and others. This was also the same period when the newly revitalized Greek language adopted the Phoenician alphabetic system, which helped to commercially and intellectually broaden the Greek language beyond the more prosaically composed and locally rooted, Mycenaean script.

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    If everything you wrote were historically verifiable, then you could have included all the history in it. FWIW, almost no modern historian worth their salt takes ancient legends about Homer at face value. (Obligatory: not someone who downvoted this.)
    – cmw
    Feb 20 at 21:25
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    @Alex And just how do you suppose these supposed tombs and stones were remembered for so long as actually belonging to Homer? How can anyone even prove they're real, given absolutely ZERO evidence for their continuity since dark age Greece? They're tourist traps designated as such long, long, long after Homer's supposed life.
    – cmw
    Feb 21 at 0:02
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    I don't think you understood anything I said at all. I pointed to a book published 3 years ago. I just said it started with Wolf, not ended with him. Re: your first point. Again, anyone can make up anything. How do you know that's the real tomb? There isn't any evidence for it being Homer's. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
    – cmw
    Feb 21 at 1:35
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    The ancient Cretans and Arcadians both had competing areas for where Zeus was born. Which one is correct? Where was the historical god reared? And do their claims prove his existence? Your "original position" is straight up gullibility and naivete. And that's why this answer is bad and has been downvoted.
    – cmw
    Feb 21 at 1:38
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    Sure bud. My years of doctorate level courses on Homer, my dissertation on Homer, and my own classes that I taught at the university on Homer basically guarantees I have no idea what I'm talking about. This is a comment section on a bad answer. If you want to actually learn, you can ask your own question (or better yet, enroll in a few Classics courses, read some Classics monographs!) on the topic. If you want to continue to make baseless claims and refuse to cite your sources, I'm not going to engage with that, and you can't expect anyone else to take it serious.
    – cmw
    Feb 21 at 12:16

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