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Middle East Abeja Dispatch

Homer -Epic Poet or the Puff Daddy of Ancient Greece? You Be The Judge…
March 1, 2000


The DJ of Mystery

I never rapped, I think it's time,
that this ol' trekker learned to rhyme.
Inspiration is the key
from ancient rappers' rhapsodies.

Because the DJ of Mystery
rhymed da bomb history.
The Illiad,
The Odyssey.
The ancient rappers' rhapsodies.
In history
we will see
just how rappin'
came to be!

We are searchin' for the source
The Odyssey is goin' to court.
Was Homer a real brother
bustin' rhymes like no other?
What's the deal?
Was he real?
what I know
I will reveal.

Click image for
larger view
He was black, some people claim
rhymin' stories brought him fame!
Know his name?
It's kinda lame.
(Think "Bart's father"
It's the same.)

Others say that he was blind
rhymin' stories in his mind.
writin' hadn't yet been made.
So freestylin' was his trade.

It was at least 700 years
before the time that Christ appeared
rhymin' clear
for all to hear
the rhapsodies wandered far and near.

That's when the DJ of Mystery
rhymed da bomb history.
The Illiad,
The Odyssey.
The ancient rappers' rhapsodies.
Listen Please!
Stick with me.
I'm a writer, not a rapper,
as you can see!

Click image for larger view
Homer's homies listened in
rhymin' men
like his kin.
Homer's homies listened long
learned the song
carried on.

Homeboy Homer bust da rhymes
way back in ancient times
and because he was so fine
they're remembered line for line.
Now you're readin' them in school.
Did you know they were so cool?
(I know you think I am a fool!)

Now you know the DJ of Mystery
rhymed da bomb history
The Illiad,
The Odyssey.
The ancient rappers' rhapsodies.
Don't laugh at me.
I write for free!

--Abbey da rhymin' bee

Translation for the Rhythmically Challenged:

Click image for larger view
The epic poems of The Illiad and The Odyssey are credited to a man named Homer, who is said to have lived in the ancient Ionian town of Smyrna, which is modern-day Izmir. No one knows if he really existed, because the poems were probably composed between 800 and 700 BC, long before writing was invented. They were created in the traditional style of oral storytelling through rhyming songs, which were easier to remember and share. without the tool of writing. But, these two classic epics that tell the story of the battle of Troy and of Odysseus's fantastic journey home were the only ones of their kind.

Click image for larger view
At that time, singers known as "rhapsodes" traveled around singing poetry to tell stories. The poems had a basic structure within which the rhapsodes could improvise, based on the situation. For example, they could make up more verses to praise a local hero or leave out slow scenes when people looked bored. Basically, poets learned a specialized language of rhyme-sort of like modern rap. Each poem was particular to the poet, and changed with each performance-until Homer's epics came along and were memorized word for word by many rhapsodes. The ancient Greek poetic tradition was much stricter in meter and syntax, and all poems were composed in what it called "dactylic hexameter"-in lines of six syllables, in a fixed form.

Repetition was an important part of Homer's epic poetry, both to keep the syntax and to make it easier to remember. For example, the phrase "Diomedes, good at the war cry" (boên agathos Diomêdês) occurs twenty one times in The Iliad (I didn't count them myself, I'm just trusting my sources). This was not because Diomedes' war cry was all that important to that part of the story, but the phrase fits neatly at the end of a line segment. What he probably meant was "everybody get down!"


epic - pertaining to a poetic composition, usually centered on a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated continuously and at length in an elevated style
meter - a poetic measure; arrangement of words in regularly measured, patterned or rhythmic lines or verses
syntax - the rules for the formation or patterns of sentences in a language
rhapsode - a traveling performer who sang poetry to tell stories, or rhapsodies in classical times

Homer's students would memorize his epics, and travel around performing them. It wasn't until the Library at Alexandria was built in the 3rd century BC, that the poems were written down-and that's the source of the books we read in school. Imagine someone being forced to read Busta Rhymes or Queen Latifah, in translation, 2000 years from now, in school. The rhyming would be gone, the slick lingo lost on those poor students too! So, as you're reading your classics, remember, in his day, Homer was one fly rapper!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


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