so much whether we are looking at one or two authors, but whether there was an author at all. The apparent inconsistencies within the poems have prompted some to suggest that they are in fact compilations of smaller poems, that have either been brought into the shape we now have them by a collective effort over a period of time, or the efforts of a single man, of whose personal input we can have no clear knowledge. That this theory has gained support is, in part, due to the work of the American Milman Parry (1902-35), who first suggested that the poems were the product of an oral poetic tradition, which saw the same mythological tales reformulated, recycled and handed down from generation to generation. The question of whether the Iliad and the Odyssey are 'oral poems' later is discussed in the Style section, but it is clear that if they are then claims of single authorship are extremely difficult.

There is much to be said, in any case, for ignoring the problem of authorship and concerning ourselves solely with the poems themselves. There is so little that we can hope to ascertain about Homer the man, that we are perhaps better off simply considering Homer to be the poems alone, with no other aspects external to them. Certainly, we can take into account the fact that the poems might be the result of an oral tradition, indeed it is hard not to, but this should aid us in understanding the Iliad and the Odyssey, rather than Homer.

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