- Slides: 8
Odyssey Part 1 Books 1 -5
• Odyssey as nostos (return home) of Odysseus • Relationship between Iliad and Odyssey? • Question of who is the “best [aristos] of the Achaeans”: how does each poem answer this question? • How do Achilles and Odysseus compare to each other?
One attempt at plotting places mentioned in the Odyssey on a map. Several locations are controversial: e. g. location of island of Ithaca, islands of Calypso, Circe etc.
Book 1 • • • In medias res [Latin: “in the middle of things”] opening. Odysseus is in 10 th year of wanderings, stuck on Calypso’s island. How does this compare with the opening of the Iliad? Odysseus is called in the opening lines “the cunning hero” – in Greek, polumêtis, “one who has much mêtis, mêtis in many ways/things”. Mêtis as trickery, cunning, wisdom – as a goddess she is impregnated and swallowed by Zeus, result is Athena. Note role of Athena in the Odyssey as guide for Odysseus and Telemachus. Root men (see below on Mentes). Odysseus has noos – “mind, sense” – connected with word nostos “homecoming, return to light and life” Problem of nostos and memory. Why is memory and not forgetting important? Where do we see this theme elsewhere in the Odyssey? Whose anger begins the Odyssey and what is it caused by? Theme of recklessness of mortals [Greek atasthaliê: combines recklessness and arrogance, connection with hubris] : Odysseus’ men who eat the cattle of the Sun god and lose their nostos (“homecoming”) (p. 241), taken up by Zeus in his remarks about Aegisthus (p. 242 – note: how does this account compare with Aeschylus’ account in the Agamemnon? ) Theme of excessive or wrongful consumption of meat in Odyssey (cf. descriptions of suitors on p. 244) – where have we seen meat at the center of myth before? Decision by Athena (in disguise of Mentes: cf. etymology Gr. root men “mind, intelligence, memory”) to send Telemachus out to look for more information about his father. Is this necessary? Paradigm of Orestes p. 250 Situation on Ithaca and in Odysseus’ palace: wife Penelope is surrounded by parasitic and arrogant (hubris) suitors, eating away the wealth of the house. Cf. how this theme of the resources of the house and environment comes up in Clytemnestra’s response in the carpet scene in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, p. 77. Change in Telemachus’ behavior. Note device of Phemius’ song about the nostoi of the Greeks after Troy (p. 251) and different reactions to it depending on degree of involvement (and cf. reactions of the audience in the Helen episode in Book 4)
Odyssey Book 1 opening lines Speak, Memory [Muse], of the cunning [polumêtis] hero, The wanderer, blown off course time and again After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights. Speak Of all the cities he saw, the minds [noos] he grasped, The suffering deep in his heart at sea As he struggled to survive and bring his men home But could not save them, hard as he tried— The fools—destroyed by their own recklessness [atasthaliê] When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun, And that god snuffed out their day of return [nostos].
Book 4 • • Telemachus arrives in Sparta at the court of Menelaus and Helen Note Helen’s attempts at exculpation (p. 255, 259): how does this compare with her portrayal in the Iliad? Helen changes mood of company from sorrow and weeping (penthos, akhos) at remembering loss of loved ones at Troy (p. 257) using drug (pharmakon) added to mixing bowl of wine (p. 258). This pharmakon is nêpenthês (nê- “no, without” penthos “grief, sorrow”) – the company is able to talk about Troy as if they were not involved (cf. the singer Phemius’ song in Book 1 about the nostoi from Troy and the different reactions the suitors and Penelope have to it) Note conflicting accounts of where Helen’s sympathies lay at Troy: Helen claims she helped Odysseus (p. 259), Menelaus tells how she attempted to get the Greeks in the Wooden Horse to reveal themselves by imitating the voices of their wives (pp. 259 -260) – but note husband wife do not quarrel (“But Menelaus slept in the innermost chamber of that high house next to Helen, Zeus’ brightness upon her”) Special fate given to Menelaus: p. 268. Why is this? Menelaus’ news (from Proteus, shape-shifting old man of the sea) of the nostoi of Ajax, Agamemnon (NB how does this account compare with that of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon? ), and Odysseus: p. 266 -268. Constrast perfect nostos of old hero Nestor (whose name is connected with nostos! Root nes/nos “return to light and life”): p. 257.
Map showing some of the places mentioned in the Iliad and Odyssey
Book 5 • • Odysseus on Calypso’s island (cf. etymology of name: root kalupt- “to hide”. Relevance? ) Visit of Hermes to tell Calypso about Zeus’ command to send him home Fate of goddesses who love mortals: p. 273 Odysseus’ choice here between nostos and immortality (like a god, not that of cult hero) Odysseus cunningly makes Calypso swear oath by river Styx that she is not trying to destroy him by sending him off by sea (p. 274 -275). What is special about swearing by the river Styx? Wrath of Poseidon and destruction of raft, intervention of Ino the “White Goddess” (Leukothea) and her life-saving veil Background myth: Ino, sister of Semele, who helps raise Dionysus after death of Semele, pursued by husband Athamas (driven mad by vengeful Hera), leaps into sea off a cliff while carrying her baby son, Melikertes. Body of Melikertes washes up and is given hero cult, Ino becomes a sea-goddess. Appropriateness of simile of Odysseus holding onto rocks like octopus (p. 282): octopus renowned among Greeks for being versatile, clever, adaptive and having mêtis (“cunning, adaptive intelligence”) – Odysseus is also given these qualities and called polumêtis (“having much mêtis”).