I think Dante himself makes an argument for Homer being the center of the canon in the Divine Comedy. Though he's gone he's not forgotten.
Just because they didn't have the text anymore doesn't mean they didn't know what was in it or the man's reputation in past ages. Petrarch even wrote a letter to Homer among his letters to famous dead people, so it shows his presence was felt, especially through Virgil. I might also remark that Ovid seems to have been more popular in the middle ages and during the Renaissance than Virgil was. To quote Petrarch himself from "An Excursion to Paris":Homer is he, the poets' sovran lord;
Next, Horace comes, the keen satirical;
Ovid the third; and Lucan afterward.
It seems as though Virgil has always been more admired than liked.But, lest you should be misled by my words, I hasten to add that there are no Virgils here, although many Ovids, so that you would say that the latter author was justified in his reliance upon his genius or the affection of posterity, when he placed at the end of his Metamorphoses that audacious prophecy where he ventures to claim that as far as the power of Rome shall extend, - nay, as far as the very name of Roman shall penetrate in a conquered world, - so widely shall his works be read by enthusiastic admirers.
Before the 19th century, can you see the influence of European literature on China? What impact did Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, or Goethe make in those circles?