Homer’s Odyssey named ‘world’s greatest tale ever told’


Homer's Odyssey

BBC Culture asked writing experts around the globe to pick stories that have endured across generations and continents and changed society. It comes as no surprise that Homer’s Odyssey topped their poll of 100 Stories that has shaped the world.

“If any story can be considered the greatest tale ever told, Homer’s Odyssey has a better claim than most. Twenty-four books long, it runs to more than 12,000 lines of hexameter verse (the poetic form used in Greek epic and Latin epic after it) and follows the adventures of the wily, complicated Greek hero, Odysseus, in the aftermath of the Trojan War. The Odyssey has been valued as a cultural highpoint for millennia: in the 5th Century BCE, the Athenian playwright Aeschylus referred to his tragedies as “slices from the banquet of Homer.

Writers from Dante to James Joyce to Margaret Atwood have taken inspiration from this original quest story. But Odysseus’ quest itself is an almost mundane affair, amid the gods and monsters which populate the poem. Because it is not about sailing off to find something wondrous and new (a golden fleece, for example, or an undiscovered land). It’s about a man trying to get home at the end of a 10-year war.” In April this year, BBC Culture polled experts around the world to nominate up to five fictional stories they felt had shaped mindsets or influenced history. They received responses from authors, academics, journalists, critics and translators from 35 countries, who looked at novels, poems, folk tales and dramas in 33 different languages."

Homer’s Odyssey topped the list, followed by Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


Here is the list of Top 20-

  1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
    2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
    3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
    4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
    5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
    6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
    7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
    8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
    9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
    10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
    11. Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)
    12. The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308-1320)
    13. Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, 1597)
    14. The Epic of Gilgamesh (author unknown, circa 22nd-10th Centuries BC)
    15. Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling, 1997-2007)
    16. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)
    17. Ulysses (James Joyce, 1922)
    18. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
    19. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
    20. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)

*Read the entire list from BBC here 

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.