The background to the Odyssey
European literature springs into existence with two great poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, traditionally ascribed to the same poet. That, at least, is the way the Greeks thought of their own literary history, and the Romans adopted that view and transmitted it to the rest of the world. In reality, of course, such a story is impossible: works of massive scale and great sophistication do not come out of nothing, and there was a long history behind the Homeric epics. That history was dark to the Greeks, and we are obliged to use conjecture for much of it. The effort is worth making, because its results help to make many things about the poems intelligible.
The ancestors of the Greeks entered the country from the north about 1900 B.C. They belonged to the great Indo-European family of peoples, which also includes, among others, the Germanic, Celtic, Latin and Iranian peoples, and the Aryans who in the same millennium invaded and conquered Northern India. They brought with them their language and their religion. They came from a nomadic existence on the great plains; the world which they entered was one of an old and settled culture, with palaces, frescoes, writing, luxury artefacts. There was trade and correspondence between the princes of the Aegean, the Minoans as we call them, and the kingdoms of the East: Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Egypt. The incomers came face to face with new and impressive things.