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Marble Portrait Bust of the Blind Poet Homer

Portrait Bust of Homer

Portrait Bust of Homer

This marble portrait bust of the blind poet Homer is a Roman copy from the second century AD, portrayed in the traditional iconography of a Greek original dating to the Hellenistic period.

Homer was the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature.

The impact of Homer’s epics on Western civilization has been significant, inspiring many of its most famous works of literature, music, art, and film.

The Iliad is set during the Trojan War. The Odyssey focuses on the journey home of Odysseus after the fall of Troy.

Many accounts of Homer’s life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey.

The source and origins of the Iliad and Odyssey are debated. Some believe that they are the works of a single poet of genius.

While others believe the poems to be the result of a process of working and reworking by many contributors.

It is generally accepted that the poems were composed in the late eighth or early seventh century BC and that the lyrics were initially transmitted orally.

Homer lived before the age of realistic portraiture. Roman authors tell us that the poet’s portrait type was invented in the second century BC for the library of the Kings of Pergamon.

Homer’s influence on ancient Greek and Roman culture and education was such that many copies of this ‘portrait’ were made in the Roman period.

Iliad

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, attributed to Homer, and set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states.

It tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

The Iliad is the oldest surviving work of Western literature.

Although the story covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad reflects on many of the Greek legends.

It includes stories from the siege, the gathering of warriors, and the cause of the war. The epic also prophesies events, such as Achilles’ death and the fall of Troy, and covers the tale of the Trojan War.

The Iliad is followed by the sequel, the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer.

Odyssey

The Odyssey focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus, known as Ulysses in Roman myths. Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, and the Odyssey narrates his journey home after the fall of Troy.

It takes Odysseus ten years to reach his home after the ten-year Trojan War. In his absence, it is assumed Odysseus has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of aggressive suitors, who compete for Penelope’s hand in marriage.

The first printed edition of Homer was produced in 1488 in Milan. Today scholars use medieval manuscripts, papyri, and other ancient sources.

Portrait Bust of Homer

  • Title:                Portrait Bust of Homer
  • Date:               2nd Century
  • Culture:           Roman from Hellenistic original
  • Inscriptions:    Greek letters carved on each side.
  • Findspot:         Baiae, Baia, Campania, Italy in 1780
  • Materials:        Marble
  • Acquisition:     1805
  • Dimensions:    Height: 57.15 centimetres
  • Museum:        The British Museum

Quotes by Homer

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“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”

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“I detest that man who hides one thing in the depths of his heart and speaks for another.”

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“Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.”

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“Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.”

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“A man who has been through bitter experiences and traveled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time.”

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“Be still my heart; thou hast known worse than this.”

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“There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”

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“Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing, and dancing sooner than of war.”

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“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”

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“A sympathetic friend can be quite as dear as a brother.”

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“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”

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“Whoever obeys the gods, to him, they particularly listen.”

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“The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”

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“Without a sign, his sword, the brave man draws and asks no omen, but his country’s cause.”

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“A guest never forgets the host who has treated him kindly.”

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“Even where sleep is concerned, too much is a bad thing.”

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Explore the Collections of the British Museum

Ancient Egypt and Sudan Collection

Middle East Collection

Ancient Greece and Rome Collection

Britain, Europe, and Prehistory Collection

Asian Collection

Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection

Prints and Drawings Collection

Information on The British Museum

History-Makers: Homer

Everything you need to know to read Homer’s “Odyssey” 

Great Books: HOMER’S ODYSSEY

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“The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”
– Homer

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM 

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