CLAS104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Odysseus, Irredeemable, Minos

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The Afterlife
Homer’s View
The Odyssey is about the hero Odysseus after the Trojan war and trying to get home – hard to
do b/c Poseidon stopping him. He is stuck on an island and meets this goddess (look up name)
and she says to go home he needs to go to underworld to consult the prophet Tiresias
Odysseus goes to one of the ends of the world (across Ocean – b/c they thought world flat
and ocean surrounding known world) to a place where it is completely dark (b/c sun doesn’t
reach there)
in Heisod’s version he seems to suggest that Tartarus extends through under the earth but at
the ends of the earth it opens up…
witless shades (except Tiresias) – corpseless, has no body, ghost like, are witless
"Persephone has given him wisdom, him alone, the rest of the dead are empty, flitting
shades" (10:492)
Tiresias was such an insightful and brilliant prophet while he was alive – he was given his
consciousness in the underworld
for him to get witless to talk: he digs a trough and sacrifices an animal, then witless comes and
drinks blood and then the shade can talk and have consciousness
The Unburied (Elpenor)
So first person Odysseus meets in Underworld is Elpenor – Elpenor was Odysseus’s shipmate
who they were all partying and go really drunk the day before set sail so Elpenor fell off ship
and died?, but Odysseus and men too busy to notice – so since the unburied can’t get into
underworld – Elpenor asks Odysseus to promise him that when he gets back he will bury him
idea that the unburied do not find rest in soul unless buried properly
after Elpenor, he sees Anticlea (his mother)
before he can talk to his mother, he talks to Tiresias who says when you get home, when you
get to the island____, don’t eat the cow there b/c belong to the sun god. He then asks how he
can talk to the shades so he sets up the trough and sacrifices animal and lets mother drink
from blood
he asks his mother why she died – mother said she died of a broken heart from missing the
love of his son
“Troubled in spirit I wished to embrace the soul of my dead mother; three times I made the
attempt, as desire compelled me, three times she slipped through my hands like a shadow or
a dream.”
My son, my son, the unluckiest man alive! This is no deception sent by Queen Persephone,
this is just the way of mortals when we die. Sinews no longer bind the flesh and bones
together the fire in all its fury burns the body down to ashes
once life slips from the white bones, and the spirit, rustling, flitters away... flown like a dream.
omortals are just shadow and nothing more when you die
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after sees his mother, he sees a whole list and description of other heroic women (mated w
God and produced heroes)
he is seen by Odysseus and talks to him
No strength now for the mightiest
oAgamemnon was high king of Greeks at Troy – he died noble death, got home after
war quickly and his wife was angry so his wife killed him – by wrapping him up in a
large bath towel after a bath and axed him to death
ohe was the most powerful of all Greek – politically and militarily
Misogynistic rant (and ironically – how important women are in this episode)
overy angry at his own wife – but he ends of speech by saying Odysseus wife Penelope
is very virtuous etc. s
No glory in death
ohe is much stronger and mightier in terms of physical strength than Agamemnon
oAchilles had choice – stay at Troy and in war and die a quick and glorious death – or go
home and live a long and unspectacular life  he chose the first for the glory
oOdysseus says to him for all the glory he had before, the underworld must be good for
Achilles – but Achilles said even for him it suck, he’d rather slave after the poorest
farmer away on earth than be here
ohe is regretting his decision
olesson is that cling as much onto life b/c underworld is terrible
Joy through offspring (Neoptolemus)
oAchilles asks about his son  Odysseus tells him that his son was amazing leader after
the fall of Troy
oso Achilles was happy
What you were, you are:
Ajax – the biggest and strongest of all heroes  not good at attacking like Achilles but good at
just standing there b/c he is huge
owhen Achilles died, there was contest for amazing armour – there was vote among
greek soldier of who was the most effective soldier after Achilles  even though it
should have been Ajax getting divine armour, Odysseus was such a good trickster that
he managed to get ppl to vote for him. Ajax so angry that he commit suicide
oAjax see Odysseus in underworld and won’t talk to him – turn away
King Minos
okept judging ppl and things in underworld
othe great hunter, still hunting underworld creatures
owas looking around looking very grim – it was only shade of Heracles, cuz real Heracles
was deified and went to Olympus
people were not judged for there life before, merely continuing existence in meaningless way
Punishment for Sinners
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Tityrus – his whole body was stretched out and had his liver plucked out by a bird everyday
that grew back b/c he tried to carry of Leto and rape her
Tantalus – had fed the Gods human flesh of his own sun – so his own punishment is being
tantalized (he was in a pit that filled with water right under his chin, so everytime he wanted
to drink the water would disappear and all the fruit that hung down near him, when he
wanted to eat the wind would blow it away), could never eat!
Sisyphus – had to roll rock up hill? (he did something against God – another version is that
maybe he was just being kept busy b/c he had tricked death a couple times)
only a few great sinners punished  not like hell
Descriptive or Literary?
was Homer putting forward a view of underworld (in book 11) that he thought was realistic
view or what people thought at the time?
suggest it’s the first – not what ppl thought at time
Book 24: Aggamemnon meets Amphimedon - story that Aphameddon (his enemy) was just
killed by Odysseus and they go to underworld and they all down there chatting and just
chilling – much less grim view all still by Homer!
otxb say maybe b/c story added by someone else after
Book 4: Menelaus to Elysian Fields (the isles of the blessed)
ob/c he is married to Helen of Troy (daughter of Zeus) – gets to go to a happy place and
not experience the grimness of death
grimness of death and underworld is not the only view Homer had of after life at time
Heroic Significance
the great hero Odysseus can conquer death!  only spectacular amazing person can come
back from underworld
maybe grimness of underworld – maybe to enhance his status of an noble person b/c of how
much he suffered when he was retelling story to Theasian royal people
Plato’s Vision: The Myth of Er
he is consciously playing off and contrasting Homer’s version…
he made up new stories that are more morally encouraging b/c didn’t like gods stories
Premise: the report of Er
ohe says his idea through the character Socrates in his book – Er was an easterner who
was involved in a battle and died, he went to underworld, was told to observe
everything he saw, and when his body was put on plier ten days later, his body was
put back to life (more realistic than Odysseus’ story)
o“I shall not tell a tale like that of Odysseus to Alcinous, but instead my story is of a
brave man, Er, the son of Armenius, a Pamphylian, who at one time died in war;” etc.
osee this is direct reference to Homer’s view so Plato is going to contrast it
Justice: the fate of the just, the unjust and the irredeemable
othere are two holes – if you are bad in past life, you went down into tunnel for a
thousand years (punished), if you were good, you go up into sky rewarded for
thousand year
othousand years b/c you rewarded ten times the average life span of 100 yrs
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