Homer himself was called Meles or, according to different accounts, Melesigenes or Altes. Some authorities say he was called Homer, because his father was given as a hostage to the Persians by the men of Cyprus; others, because of his blindness; for amongst the Aeolians the blind are so called. We will set down, however, what we have heard to have been said by the Pythia concerning Homer in the time of the most sacred Emperor Hadrian. When the monarch inquired from what city Homer came, and whose son he was, the priestess delivered a response in hexameters after this fashion:
`Do you ask me of the obscure race and country of the heavenly siren? Ithaca is his country, Telemachus his father, and Epicasta, Nestor's daughter, the mother that bare him, a man by far the wisest of mortal kind.' This we must most implicitly believe, the inquirer and the answerer being who they are -- especially since the poet has so greatly glorified his grandfather in his works.
Now some say that he was earlier than Hesiod, others that he was younger and akin to him. They give his descent thus: Apollo and Aethusa, daughter of Poseidon, had a son Linus, to whom was born Pierus. From Pierus and the nymph Methone sprang Oeager; and from Oeager and Calliope Orpheus; from Orpheus, Dres; and from him, Eucles. The descent is continued through Iadmonides, Philoterpes, Euphemus, Epiphrades and Melanopus who had sons Dius and Apelles. Dius by Pycimede, the daughter of Apollo had two sons Hesiod and Perses; while Apelles begot Maeon who was the father of Homer by a daughter of the River Meles.
According to one account they flourished at the same time and even had a contest of skill at Chalcis in Euboea. For, they say, after Homer had composed the "Margites", he went about from city to city as a minstrel, and coming to Delphi, inquired who he was and of what country? The Pythia answered:
`The Isle of Ios is your mother's country and it shall receive you dead; but beware of the riddle of the young children.' (1)
Hearing this, it is said, he hesitated to go to Ios, and remained in the region where he was. Now about the same time Ganyctor was celebrating the funeral rites of his father Amphidamas, king of Euboea, and invited to the gathering not only all those who were famous for bodily strength and fleetness of foot, but also those who excelled in wit, promising them great rewards. And so, as the story goes, the two went to Chalcis and met by chance. The leading Chalcidians were judges together with Paneides, the brother of the dead king; and it is said that after a wonderful contest between the two poets, Hesiod won in the following manner: he came forward into the midst and put Homer one question after another, which Homer answered. Hesiod, then, began:
`Homer, son of Meles, inspired with wisdom from heaven, come, tell me first what is best for mortal man?'
HOMER: `For men on earth 'tis best never to be born at all; or being born, to pass through the gates of Hades with all speed.'