Homer’s secret Odyssey

crescent moon - colour

Photo: Fotolia

by Florence and Kenneth Wood 

For many centuries after the death of Homer, the ancient world’s renowned epic poet, there were intriguing but unexplained references to him also being skilled in the field of astronomy. Such was his reputation that Heraclitus (c. 535-475 BCdescribed him as ‘Homer the Astronomer, Wisest of all Greeks’.

Homer’s Secret Odyssey contends that in addition to preserving the cultural heritage of the Greeks of antiquity, Homer (c.745-700 BC), and many earlier generations of bards in the Late Bronze Age, had a vital practical role to play.

They were also the guardians of wide-ranging knowledge of astronomy and calendar-making woven into the stories they memorised and passed down by word of mouth during the centuries the Greeks are not known to have had a writing system.

Based on astute observations of the sun, moon and stars, Homer’s luni-solar calendar system would have been as essential to life in pre-literate Greece as systems known to have existed in contemporary - and literate - Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Without a calendar system the organisation of family, community, trading, farming, travel, military and religious life would have been impossible.

This study enhances Homer’s reputation not only as the creator of two classical masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey, but also as a learned and practical man of science and offers a sublime dimension to the intellectual achievements of the pre-literate Greeks.

Homer, Astronomer & Mathematician

Homer & numbers panel

There are two key elements in exploring the Odyssey as a source of calendrical and astronomical knowledge:

challenging new reading of the epic as extended metaphor provides the structure of a luni-solar calendar system.

Powerful support arises from mathematical analysis of the surprisingly extensive numerical data embedded in the Odyssey which Homer manipulated to preserve essential knowledge of astronomy and cycles of the sun, moon and planet Venus.  

Such is the volume and accuracy of the Odyssey’s numerical content dirctly related to astronomy and calendar-making that mathematical probablility indicates that Homer could not have selected it purely by chance.

The initial breakthrough in recognising that numerical data in the Odyssey had more to do with astronomy and calendar-making than merely enhancing literary narrative, was made by Edna F Leigh      (1916-1991) whose ground-breaking research has been continued and expanded by Florence & Kenneth Wood.  

The Odyssey includes such basic knowledge as the days, months and seasons of the lunar year as well as detail of the solar year. Homer then moves into higher gear and introduces data concerning sophisticated luni-solar cycles which keep the 354 days of the lunar year in step with the 365 days of the solar year. These cycles range from four years (an Olympiad), eight years (an octaeteris) to the 19-year  cycle commonly attributed to Meton who lived some 300 years after Homer. 

Homer also defines the 223 synodic months of the Saros cycle which can be used to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon. 

Homer’s Iliad as a source of much other astronomical knowledge concerning stars and constellations and an ancient concept of the universe, was published in Homer’s Secret Iliad (John Murray, 1999).

Next:  Adventures in the Heavens         

    Other Page Links 

Goat island and the lunar year

Cycles of the sun, moon and Venus

Circe and Magical ‘Moly’

Moly revealed

Homer’s Secret Iliad

See also on YouTube:  Homer the Astronomer-1   Homer the Astronomer-2

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