Great Zeus!

When Was the Iliad Written?

Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP-Getty Images

The Athena Parthenon (C) and Erechteion temples are lit up in Athens on February 27, 2010. The buildings which dominate the Acropolis -- including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea and the temple of Athena Nike -- were built in the fifth century BC, during the golden age of Athenian democracy. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GO ULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Are geneticists DNA-testing Homer's hair? Not exactly, but they are helping to ascertain when the Iliad was written. In a recent study, an evolutionary theorist, a linguist, and a geneticist have used the same technique that tracks how genes mutate to estimate that the Iliad was written in 762 B.C., give or take 50 years. The researchers employed a tool called the Swadesh word list that contains about 200 concepts that exist in every culture, and they traced how those words changed from the ancient language of the Hittites to the language of the Iliad. Classicists are fairly certain that the supposed author of the epic, Homer, is not one individual man. Still, they believe that a military conflict at the Citadel of Troy occured around the 12th century B.C., and the Iliad was compiled centuries later, around the date the study is proposing.