Today is a great day for history and literature lovers everywhere as Greek and German archaeologists have just announced the surprise discovery of what they believe to be the oldest known fragment of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, which was found in Greece.
As Keep Talking Greece reports, the Greek Culture Ministry has announced that the inscriptions were found on a large slab of clay along the Peloponnese peninsula in Olympia, where the Olympic Games first had their glorious start back in 776 BC.
The Ministry explained that after three years of hard work by dedicated archaeologists at the Ancient Olympia site, the last thing that anyone had expected to find were clay engravings of Homer’s beautiful poem.
Yet find them they did, and these lines that were faithfully inscribed into clay from The Odyssey have been described as “a great archaeological, epigraphic, literary and historical exhibit.”
“After three years of research in areas around the sanctuary in the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, archaeologists found themselves in front of a particularly important discovery!”
The clay block that archaeologists discovered was found to contain a full 13 verses that were taken from the 14th Rhapsody of The Odyssey, according to Reuters. This marks the part of the poem in which the great Odysseus is found to be speaking with dear friend and swineherd Eumaeus.
With around 12,000 lines in The Odyssey, it is believed that the original composition of this epic poem dates to around the 8th century BC. This would have been back when the adventures of Odysseus would have been described through the ancient oral tradition, which is how the poem first circulated for hundreds of years before it was finally written down for posterity.
This would have been Homer’s second epic poem, taking place after the events that were told in The Iliad, with Odysseus wandering the earth for 10 years trying his hardest to reach his home and faithful wife Penelope.
Preliminary dating of the stone slab has shown that the inscriptions of The Odyssey are believed to be of Roman origin and are most likely from sometime before the 3rd century AD.
According to the Greek Reporter, the Greek Culture Ministry have said that if the dating of the inscriptions of Homer’s Odyssey that were just found in Greece are discovered to be from the 3rd century AD, then “the clay tablet would preserve perhaps the oldest extant written excerpt of the Homeric Epics that has been found.”