Odyssey
Homer and the Odyssey
• Following are some notes on Homer and what
scholars call the “Homeric Question,” as well
as an introduction to the text. My notes
follow for Books 1-10; you are responsible for
reading the whole epic, so read carefully!
Homer
• I. Homer
-nothing certain is known of his life
-according to tradition he was from Ionia,
possibly from Chios or Smyrna
-legend has it that he was blind
Homer
• II. The “Homeric Question”
-most ancient and modern scholars up to the 18th
century assumed that Homer wrote the Iliad and the
Odyssey
-Josephus, an ancient historian, is a notable early
exception
-in the 18th century, Robert Wood posed the idea
regarding oral composition again; F.A. Wolf suggested
that Homer composed shorter poems which were later
put together into the form that we now have them
-Wolf’s suggestion led scholars to try to separate out
the original parts of the poem from later additions =
Analyst School
Homer
• -Other scholars analyzed the actual language of
the epics, noting that the Greek of the epics is a
combination of Aeolic forms (early) and Ionic
forms (late), with some Attic forms present as
well.
-Historical clues in the text are also problematic
since there are artifacts from different time
periods.
Examples:
-both bronze and iron are used
-two marriage systems operate
Homer
• Eclectic conclusion: texts are a mixture of
different periods of time as well as dialects
-Unitarian Approach focused on the epic as a
whole, on its merits, its design, etc.
Homer
• III. Milman Parry and Albert Lord
-in the 1930s, the work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord
convincingly demonstrated the oral nature of the Homeric
poems.
-they showed that epithets and formulaic lines and
passages are the building blocks of the oral poet
-Epithet: noun-adjective group that fits into a particular
position of the metrical line.
Examples:
swift-footed Achilles
ox-eyed Hera
rosy-fingered Dawn
much-suffering Odysseus
Homer
• Oral composition conclusion: the epics are
improvisational poetry in many respects, as
the oral poet never delivers the same version
twice
Odyssey
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Five [-and-a-half] things:
Author
Homer
Title
Odyssey
Date
Late 8th century bc
Location
Greece
Language
Greek
Odyssey
• [textual tradition/edition]
•
Don't forget: this is a recent translation of
recent edition (Stanley Lombardo). Read the
intro and the translator's notes. Realize the
limitations and the assets this version
presents. On the tradition of the text, see pp.
lviii-lix in Murnaghan's introduction.
Odyssey
• Oral poetry (once again) transmitted to written form coincidentally
with the development of writing in the Archaic period; the stories
are important enough to be codified into forms in the 6th century
in Athens (beginning of the classical period); Alexandrian poetscholars and text critics divide the books into 24 in the 3rd century;
then follows a familiar story about copying and transmission from
then till the 1430's; the tradition is rich, though, and includes lots of
commentary (scholia) from the Alexandrian period through the Late
Antique. Manuscripts survive from 500 years after it was first in
written form (earliest papyrus evidence from 3rd c. bc: found in
mummy wrappings) but most of our evidence survives in
handcopied texts from the 10-15 c (mostly the 15th). A great many
MSS survive, more than the 108 that my old OCT uses, but of
course some are more or less complete than others (a verse here, a
word there, whole books and whole epics in other places).
Odyssey
• Major literary concerns:
• Greek epic and its conventions
• Thematic conventions
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Gods and men
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Heroism
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Class
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Violence
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Glory
Odyssey
• Literary conventions
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Language
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Meter
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In medias res
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Deus ex machina
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Orality and repetition
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Epithets
Odyssey
• Identity
• Nostos
• Civilization v barbarism (and attendant anxieties
and laws)
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Fathers and sons
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Women's work v men's work
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Xenia
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Women in the Odyssey
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The king
Odyssey
• Power of speech, including poetry and song
• The trickster
• Nekyia
Odyssey
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The text:
Setting: 13th - 12th c bc
1.1 Memory (muses); wanderer = POLYTROPON
1.13-16 nostos
1.15 Odysseus named (1.21 in greek): delayed identity
1.17, 25 gods and men
1.35: emphasis on the end of Agamemnon & Aegisthos (and connection with
Telemachus cf 315)
1.38 (cf. 1.54): witlessness v discerning / cunning (metis) (cf. 1.72)
1.47 etc.: Hermes, Zeus, Athena, be familiar with pantheon
1.68: the pun is there in Greek actually - a poetic translation here et passim
1.75-76 the plot: why Odysseus is off course: book 9; also cf. 1.9 (cattle of
Hyperion)
1.91 ff: 2-pronged approach (sympathetic magic): a Telemachid and an Odyssey
Odyssey
• 1.112: Mentis; cf. Mentor book 2
• 1.115 and many other places - notice the conventions of xenia: 129, 13233
• 1.165: phemius and song and poetry
• 1.198: iron (an anachronism: consider history vis a vis setting and telling)
• 1.201: xenia and how it works intergenerationally
• 1.218 prophecy and augury
• 1.230ff: it's a wise man who knows his own father: anxiety re women;
emphasis on male line
• 1.266 ruining the house
• 1.277 ff.: the wily and deadly one - that's the hero we know in Odysseus
• 1.287: coming into his own; the emphasis on public speech and boldness,
which will unfold first with mother then with suitors (cf 310; 365ff)
Odyssey
• 1.299, 302, 303: nestor, menelaus (know the
figures)
• 1.328-29 xenia
• 1.340 hidden identity and epiphany
• 1.343 nostos - autoreflexive (cf 390)
• 1.375-6 women's work v men's; telemachus lord
of the house
• 1.404ff antinous and his sass
• 1.452: notice eurykleia; and other women in the
Odyssey
Odyssey
• Book 2: understand the importance of
ekklesia; speech; role of king;
• Book 3: understand the importance of Mentor
/ Nestor / Peisistratus
Odyssey
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4.125 ff women's names and importance of women in Odyssey
4.151: helen's self-opinion: shameless
4.192: weeping: the ethos of the epic hero
4.233: drugs, especially in the hands of women (cf Circe etc; here
analgesic); also attendant ethnography with Egyptian and other
eastern exotica
4.265 etc Odysseus' trick with Helen in troy; cf. the horse, etc. (cf.
298: she's wily too)
4.313 iron again
4.325: innermost chamber: all speaks to anxiety of place and
civilization: cf end of the epic, etc
4.327: repitition of dawn and rosy fingers (epic convention and
epithet)
Odyssey
• 4.368 emphasis on athletics
• 4.378 what a line: the gods never allow us to forget
them - how often is that true in this epic?
• 4.413: again with the doubt of the father
• 4.439: shepherd: cf. Polyphemus
• 4.458 dawn
• 4.480 etc. notice emphasis on metamorphosis cf. wiles
• 4.536ff - long excursus on Agamemnon; notice 561ff
the odyssean version of his death (cf Aeschylus)
• 4.599: the reason to marry Helen
• 4.606 dawn
Odyssey
• 5.1 dawn again
• 5.8 still? (epic convention) - the end of telemachid, and now we get
the odyssey
• 5.10, 14 the king & father (and she's talking to Zeus after all)
• 5.40 etc: why it's good to be odysseus: kleios - glory
• 5.50: caduceus and other phallic symbols
• 5.55 etc: notice epic similes: comparatively rare in the odyssey (cf.
iliad)
• 5.66 women's work even among goddesses cf. circe and even
athene
• 5.70 ff interesting: catalog
• 5.102 the relationship between gods and men
• 5.118 sexual politics among gods and among goddesses with
mortals: dawn with tithonous; interesting nod to ortygia (asterie)
Odyssey
• 5.184 the oath by the styx - why powerful?
• 5.190 iron
• 5.211 ff the gulf between gods and men - or at
least between goddesses and women - beauty v
domestic assets - relation to nostos
• 5.227: made sweet love. brown-chicken-browncow!
• 5.330 epic simile
• 5.335 ino: an interesting history w cadmus
• 5.371, 397, 435, 493 epic simile
Odyssey
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6.40 laundry: women's work
6.49 dawn
6.101, 240 epic simile
6.148: the odyssean technique: soft and winning
speech
6.186: the asset of marriage; relationship to nostos
6.212: xenoi
6.229 pudicitia
6.235 epic convention: the class: the beauty
6.331 the patron athene
Odyssey
• Book 7: understand the importance of xenia
and athletics, odysseus glory in the discus;
• Book 8: understand the importance of
demodocus' song about ares and aphrodite
and the attendant connections with the
tbemes of men and women, rape of helen,
etc.; hidden identity of Odysseus, etc.
Odyssey
• 8.516: bards are revered
• 8.564-565, 585 weeping again: the ethos of
the hero
• 8.570 etc. epic simile
• 8.595-6 xenia again; plain truth, no trick (cf.
Polyphemus)
Odyssey
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9.21 identity: i am odysseus, laertes' son
9.37 nostos
9.62: #1 Cicones
9.85: #2 Lotus eaters
9.103: #3 Cyclopes
9.104-112: lots on civilization v barbarism; xenia; law & relationship to
gods
9.116 etc. goats (and sheep) and virgin land: the pastoral ideal
9.146: (et passim): more dawn
9.153: 12 ships
9.168-172: more xenia, civ, barbarism, etc.
9.182ff: what price barbarism (no society)
9.206: ditto
9.219-220: ditto
Odyssey
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9.246-247: the Cyclops' assumptions
9.258ff: the same issues
9.274: i knew all the tricks
9.280 ff: homophagia
9.288: outrage
9.321: glory from athene
9.330: fate: whom i would have chosen
9.348-9: irony: he doesn't WANT anyone to meet him
9.360ff: Noman: cf the rest of the identity delay thru
the piece etc.
• 9.368 the Cyclops' gift
Odyssey
• 9.380-392: the phallic, the similes, the anachronism - a
lot going on there
• 9.405: some kind of trick
• 9.410: again, what price loner
• 9.418, 421: as if i could be so stupid; i wove all sorts of
wiles
• 9.450: apostrophe to a ram
• 9.463 theft
• 9.474; 478-479: rubbing it in, and citing xenia the while
• 9.492, 498 again?!?!: the hero's heart
• 9.511-513: vis vs mens
Odyssey
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10.2 #4 Aeolus (an interesting figure)
10.26 bag o winds
10.86 cursed by the gods
10.95 #5 Laestrygonians (and more homophagia
10.135: like giants
10.149: 11 ships destroyed
10.153 #6 Aeaea and Circe and the relationship to Aeetes
10.237-242: Circe weaving
10.253-257: more drugs
10.280 v 10.315: sword on shoulder at first, highlighting the
phallic nature of drawing it from close to the thigh & the
point with Circe
Odyssey
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10.295 helped by hermes after all
10.322 anxiety about emasculation
10.325 moly
10.345: grabbed knees
10.352 you must be od of many wiles
10:355 sex for trust
10.442-444 nostos and its relationship to civilization
10.460 Eurylochus and leadership: kingship
10.488-493 a year? think about home (nostos again)
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