The Odyssey is considered the first “novel” of the european literature.
Ten years after the fall of Troy, the victorious Greek hero Odysseus has still not returned to his native Ithaca. A band of rowdy suitors, believing Odysseus to be dead, has overrun his palace, courting his faithful wife, Penelope, and going through his stock of food. With permission from Zeus, the goddess Athens, Odysseus’ greatest immortal ally, appears in disguise and urges Odysseus’ son Telemachus to seek news of his father at Pylos and Sparta. However, the suitors, led by Antinous, plan to ambush him upon his return.As Telemachus tracks Odysseus’ trail through stories from his old comrades-in-arms, Athena arranges for the release of Odysseus from the island of the beautiful goddess Calypso, whose prisoner and lover he has been for the last eight years. Odysseus sets sail on a makeshift raft, but the sea god Poseidon, whose wrath Odysseus incurred earlier in his adventures by blinding Poseidon’s son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, conjures up a storm. With Athena’s help, Odysseus reaches the Phaeacians. Their princess, Nausicaa, who has a crush on the handsome warrior, opens the palace to the stranger. Odysseus withholds his identity for as long as he can until finally, at the Phaeacians’ request, he tells the story of his adventures.Odysseus relates how, following the Trojan War, his men suffered more losses at the hands of the Kikones, then were nearly tempted to stay on the island of the drug-addled Lotus Eaters. Next, the Cyclops Polyphemus devoured many of Odysseus’ men before an ingenious plan of Odysseus’ allowed the rest to escape but not before Odysseus revealed his name to Polyphemus and thus started his personal war with Poseidon. The wind god Ailos then provided Odysseus with a bag of winds to aid his return home, but the crew greedily opened the bag and sent the ship to the land of the giant, man-eating Laistrygonians, where they again barely escaped. On their next stop, the goddess Circe tricked Odysseus’ men and turned them into pigs. With the help of the god Hermes, Odysseus defied her spell and metamorphosed the pigs back into men. They stayed on her island for a year in the lap of luxury, with Odysseus as her lover, before moving on and resisting the temptations of the seductive and dangerous Sirens, navigating between the sea monster Scylla and the whirlpools of Charybdis, and plumbing the depths of Hades to receive a prophecy from the blind seer Tiresias. Resting on the island of Helios, Odysseus’ men disobeyed his orders not to touch the oxen. At sea, Zeus punished them and all but Odysseus died in a storm. It was then that Odysseus reached Calypso’s island.Odysseus finishes his story, and the Phaeacians hospitably give him gifts and ferry him home on a ship. Athena disguises Odysseus as a beggar and instructs him to seek out his old swineherd, Eumaeus; she will recall Telemachus from his own travels. With Athena’s help, Telemachus avoids the suitors’ ambush and reunites with his father, who reveals his identity only to his son and swineherd. He devises a plan to overthrow the suitors with their help.In disguise as a beggar, Odysseus investigates his palace. The suitors and a few of his old servants generally treat him rudely as Odysseus sizes up the loyalty of Penelope and his other servants. Penelope, who notes the resemblance between the beggar and her presumably dead husband, proposes a contest: she will, at last, marry the suitor who can string Odysseus’ great bow and shoot an arrow through a dozen axe heads. Only Odysseus can pull off the feat. Bow in hand, he shoots and kills the suitor Antinous and reveals his identity. With Telemachus, Eumaeus, and his goatherd Philoitios at his side, Odysseus leads the massacre of the suitors, aided only at the end by Athena. Odysseus lovingly reunites with Penelope, his knowledge of their bed that he built the proof that overcomes her skepticism that he is an impostor. Outside of town, Odysseus visits his ailing father, Laertes, but an army of the suitors’ relatives quickly finds them. With the encouragement of a disguised Athena, Laertes strikes down the ringleader, Antinous’ father. Before the battle can progress any further, Athena, on command from Zeus, orders peace between the two sides.
The plot is more complicated that the Iliad’s one, the social context is really different and more advanced, women are more present, the psychological aspects are really evidenced and Gods are less present (We mainly see Athena and Poseidon).
The contradictions extend to Odysseus’ intellect. Blessed with great physical strength, he has an equally keen mind that bails him out of many difficulties. There is no better “improviser” or “strategist” in Greek mythology, though the label attached is often “cunning” or “deceiver”; indeed, many Greeks saw Odysseus’ habit of lying as a vice and a weakness. His predilecyion for disguise complements his ability to make up plausible stories about his background. Although Odysseus’ ingenuity comes across as his chief weapon, his Achilles’ heel is the frequency with which he falls victim to temptation and makes bad tactical errors (when adding insult to injury to Polyphemus and revealing his true name). Still, Odysseus is aware of this flaw, and bids his men to tie him up when they pass by the Sirens, the exemplars of temptation. By the end of his journey, he has learned to resist temptation, willingly suffering abuse by the suitors to meet his eventual goal of destroying them.
Odysseus’ son, Telemachus is extremely scared of the suitors at the beginning but, thanks to Athena, he becomes braver and an assured, mature, young man ready to fight them. We clearly see a character development.
Extremely wise and beautiful, Odysseus’ wife is contended by many man and tries everything to not get married with one of them because she’s waiting for his beloved husband. It’s described as extremely intelligent-like the husband- and cunning, especially when she pretends to accept to marry one of the suitors. She’s the representation of faith and devotion in marriage.
They ungratefully live off Odysseus’ estate in their pursuit of the beautiful and wealthy Penelope. They revel nightly with Odysseus’ food and his willing female servants and bully around Telemakhos, defying the sacred Greek value of “xenia” (hospitality). Homer’s unsympathetic portrait of them ensures that the audience enjoys the suitors’ extremely violent end.
Circe is a goddess of magic or sometimes a nymph, witch, enchantress or sorceress in Greek mythology. She’s the Titan Helios’ daughter.
She is the daughter of King Alcinous and her name, in greek, means “burner of ships”. She’s the first to help Odysseus when he is shipwrecked on the coast of Scheria, an island.
Zeus himself, king of the gods, is known as the greatest advocate of hospitality and the suppliants who request it; yet even he allows the sea god Poseidon to punish the Phaeacians for their generous tradition of returning wayfarers to their homelands. Civilized people make an investment in hospitality to demonstrate their quality as human beings and in hopes that their own people will be treated well when they travel. Hospitality, or the lack of it, affects Odysseus throughout the epic. An example?Odysseus’ own home has been taken over by a horde of suitors who crudely take advantage of Ithaca’s long-standing tradition of hospitality.
The most accurate example of loyalty in the epic is, of course, Penelope, who waits faithfully for 20 years for her husband’s return. Another example is Telemachus, who stands by his father against the suitors.
Poseidon and Odysseus are the most noticeable examples of the theme of vengeance. In order to escape from the cave of Polyphemus, Odysseus blinds the one-eyed giant. Unfortunately, the Cyclops is the sea god Poseidon’s son; Odysseus has engaged a formidable enemy. Poseidon can’t kill Odysseus because the Fates have determined that he will make it home. However, the sea god can help to fulfill his son’s wish that Odysseus should arrive in Ithaca late, broken, and alone.
Odysseus gets his revenge on the suitors and his disloyal servants. He kill them all in the 22nd book.
The theme of spiritual growth is central to The Odyssey, especially as it relates to Telemachus and Odysseus. When the epic opens, Telemachus is desperate and he doesn’t know how to fight the suitors. Then we see this change and, helped by Athena, He faces various barriers, falters temporarily, but eventually prevails. Odysseus’ growth is less linear. He was already quite a man when he left for the Trojan War 20 years before. His trials have more to do with refinement of spirit; his growth is in the kind of wisdom and judgment that will make him a better king.
How are we supposed to read this epic poem?
In the greek language, reading follows a certain rhythm that we call “meters”. There are different types but the meter used here is called hexameter. This is also used in latin.
A dactylic hexameter has six feet. In strict dactylic hexameter, each foot would be a dactyl (a long and two short syllables), but classical meter allows for the substitution of a spondee (two long syllables) in place of a dactyl in most positions.The sixth foot can be filled by either a trochee (a long then short syllable) or a spondee.
Here we have the dactylic meter:
— u u | — u u | — u u | — u u | — u u | — X
Hexameter also have a caesura, a break between words and there are frequent enjambements.
This could be an interesting source to know more about it Hexameter .
(Latin and greek dactylic hexameters are a bit different but not much. The basic concept is the same).