Do you know why the famous character, slayer of Troy, maximum deceiver, and greatest traveller of all times, inmortalized by Homer in his Odysseia is called Ulysses?
Well, it's a story worth knowing, trust me. The Greek name is Odysseus, son of Laertes, which in Greek is written Ὀδυσσεὺς Λαερτιάδης. The funny thing is that Homer didn't write in this elaborate, cool Greek script, with spirits, accents, and whatnots.
Actually, he didn't write at all!
The Illiad and the Odysseia were written some centuries later, after lots of oral transmission. Now, for an illiterate society, oral transmission is very important, bards have extraordinary memories, and stories can be transmitted faithfully from generation to generation with a great deal of fiability (i.e. it's not gossip!).
When they were first written, however, the Academics in Alexandria hadn't worked out the alphabet, and most of the usual Greek notation used today got fixated in Byzantine times (!). They wrote in what they had, a variation of the Phoenician alphabet, and every state-city had a particular variation of it, several letters had different representations (a cool example: the letter 's' was sigma: Σ, but it was also written as C. This is seen in the non-capital letters, where sigma is σ, but when it cas the last letter of the word (in many nominatives and accusatives!) it was written as ς. From this last way the Romans, through the Etruscians which got the script from the Greek colonies in the Magna Graecia and elsewhere in the West Mediterranean, got their 'S', which is ours. From the other capital sigma, the one we use to write the C of 'cat' the Russians got their cyrillic script 'C' (and from there the famous CCCP = SSSR, where P is the capital rho, of course).
So, we don't actually have Ὀδυσσεύς, but ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ, no spirits, no accents, no nothing!
Now, let's suppose you are copying (by hand!) a manuscript you got in a clay tablet, a caw hide, a papyrus leaf or even a sheet of Pergamus, and you are trying to decypher the original scribe's particular way to put the sigmas, and the ypsilons, and he's using the infamous digamma, by Zeus! Damn him and damn you for trusting a book to a Naxian... They are good sailors, but literature... Ah! That's something only Athens can be proud of.
You finish your copy and it's sent to, dunno, Siracuse, where it's copied again, and from there to, say, Taras (Tarento). Now, in the way, a little copy typo has got in the middle.
The first time the copyist read the starring's name, he thought someone in Siracuse had a funny way to write the lambdas. Yes! He should have read ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ, but Δ had the lower stroke written in a funny way, and he though it was Λ.
Thus, from ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ we get ΟΛΥΣΣΕΥΣ. From ODYSSEYS we get OLYSSEYS. This happened with other combination of letters and accents, and we also got OYLYSSEYS, OYLYSSHS (where H is the long E, eta), etc...
Now you can see the trend, right? Guess that OYLYSSEYS was read by a Roman, aloud, many times, but something didn't sound right. He was getting VLYSSEYS (OY is a false diphthong in Greek, and was read like English 'oo', remember that Y is like a French u or a German ü, midway between U and I), but the final Y wasn't necessary and it didn't really fit with any Latin declension, and thus someone (*) wrote VLYSSES, and VLYSSES he was ever since. We can also find VLYXES, though, as it's said, "your mileage may vary".
Basically somewhat different accents, and little differences in writing gave us two apparently different and unrelated names. Remember your school days?
"Homer was an Antiquity poet. He composed two most famous poems, the Illiad, which talks about the war of Troy, and the Odyssey, which talks about Ulysses's travels."Illiad = Troy, Odyssey = Ulysses. Yeah, very intuitive titles, yessir! Of course, time got in the middle, and a lot of time at that! Illiad comes from Illión, the Myceanean name for the town.
Well, after this fun, I'll comment about a little update on my novel draft, The Goth. It's peculiarly difficult to write about a time period which is fairly well documented but you lack the sources! I'll try to go to the only library I've found that has the 400 pages book about Valens, that may help...
For the rest of all of us, nice weekend and ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗ.
(*) that someone is unknown, but a well know someone else that used it was called PVBLIVS VERGILIVS MARO, who wrote a book called AENEIDA in the I Century CE which got very famous, specially since it finally told, after many centuries, how the damned horse had made Troy to fall! :-) We know him as Virgilius nowadays, but, remember, he was also called Publius, like me. ;-)