The epic poems refer to the beginning of the Archaic period in Ancient Greek history. They were written in the second half of the 8th century BC as a nostalgia for the Mycenaean civilization. In his writing, Homer used historical facts and mythology to create a romanticized version of the past.
Historians traditionally divide Ancient Greek history and art into four epochs:
- Greek Dark Age (13th – 8th centuries BC)
- Archaic (8th century – 480 BC)
- Classical (480 – 323 BC)
- Hellenistic (323 – 30 BC)
Literary works are dated by the time of their creation, not by the time the events described in them took place. Researchers found that Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey in 762 BC. For this reason, these two epic poems refer to the beginning of the Archaic period of Ancient Greek history.
Archaic Greek art existed between the 8th century BC and the second Persian invasion in 480 BC. The Trojan War described in both poems took place at the beginning of the Greek Dark Age, marked by the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. The demise of the civilization lasted for centuries after 1200 BC. By 1100 BC, it had been extinguished. Many cities were destroyed, including Troy, or reduced to mere villages.
The Mycenaean civilization inspired the artists and poets of Archaic and Classical Greece starting from the 8th century. Like many other people of the Archaic period, Homer saw the Bronze Age as a golden one. They were nostalgic of the era when people believed in gods, warriors were more heroic, and life was more meaningful.