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Lecture

CLA160H1 Lecture Notes - Eumaeus, Scheria, Odysseus


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA160H1
Professor
Timothy Perry

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Lecture #8 Page 1
Week Nine - Odyssey 13-24
Monday, March 01, 2010
Themes of Books 13-24:
oNostos
Still a crucial theme, maybe even more so in the latter half of the
poem
oXenia
e.g.) How is Odysseus treated when he appears as a stranger in Ithaca?
oLies and Deceit
Odysseus comes up with a lot of lying tales to tell of his presence
in Ithaca
oTesting
Important part of Odysseus' reintegration
Odysseus' tests people to make sure they are still loyal (some
pass, some fail)
o Recognition
After testing someone, you reveal yourself to them
Summary of Books 13-24:
oOdysseus is brought to Ithaca by the Phaeacians
oMeets the goddess Athena in disguise who warns him of the dangers he
is going to face
She disguises Odysseus as a beggar
oSpends some time in the hut of his loyal swine-herder, Eumaeus where
he meets his son Telemachus and reveals himself to him
oTravels to his palace, finds the suitors still trying to win over Penelope
Is given a very rude reception by the suitors
Eventually reveals himself to the suitors
Odysseus and Telemachus kill all the suitors, Penelope and
Odysseus are reunited
oDisguise is an important element of the latter half of the poem
Odysseus is in disguise for most of the last half
Book Thirteen:
oOdysseus achieves his Nostos
Phaeacians treat Odysseus properly according to xenia
Odysseus is asleep when he arrives in Ithaca
The Phaeacians don't wake him, leave him and gifts to him
on the shore
Unknown why the poet had Odysseus be asleep
Way of marking transition? --> From the world of
fantasy to the world of reality
Why does Odysseus not recognize Ithaca?
Author is pointing out that Odysseus has been gone for a
long time
The goddess Athena has been working behind the scenes
to prevent him from recognizing his own land
Athena surrounds him in a magical mist to prevent
others from recognizing him

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Lecture #8 Page 2
Odysseus wonders again if he is a violent, savage land or in
a civilized, god-fearing land
Uses exactly the same language and lines when he
arrived in the land of the Cyclopiads and of the Phaeacians
Repetition is used to emphasize that
Odysseus has been in this situation before
"Man of misery whose land have I landed on
now?"
Curses the Phaeacians because he thinks they have
left him on an unknown shore
Disguise
The land is not as it seems, Athena is not as she seems and
Odysseus is not as he seems
Homecoming and Lies
oOdysseus does not initially recognize Ithaca
oFirst 'person' he meets is Athena in disguise
oOdysseus pretends to be an exile from Crete
First of a string of lies
Odysseus has learnt that revealing the truth is not the best
option for him
Knows that if he is actually in Ithaca he is in some danger
(what he learnt from Tiresias)
oLies very skillfully
Invented on the spot
Number of the claims he makes seem to have a very specific
purpose:
Claim that he is an exile
Good way of explaining himself
Claims to be from Crete
Because it's a long way away (cannot be caught in
this lie)
Unlikely especially that a Shepherd could catch him
up
3. Claims he killed Idomeneus' son because his son was
threatening his property
Why he left Crete and why he is an exile
Is surrounded by wealth, is vulnerable
Saying that the last person who stole his
wealth ended up dead therefore the Shepherd would
think twice before trying to take his wealth
4. Claims he left children in Crete
Tells the Shepherd that there are people left behind
who would avenge Odysseus' death should he try to kill him
oWaste of a lie because he's really talking to Athena (this is the only time
his lies fail)
Athena approves of his use of lying and his skill
Athena says that as Odysseus is the most skilled of men in lying
she is the most skilled of the gods at lying
oAthena and Odysseus come up with a plan to make his nostos successful
This is when Athena disguises him as a beggar
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Lecture #8 Page 3
oOdysseus' Lies
Just about every time Odysseus meets someone from his past, he
tells a long and complicated lie
e.g.) Lies to Eumaeus, to Antinous one of the suitors, to Penelope, to
Laertes his father
Odysseus shows himself to be very skilled at adapting each lie to
the particular addressee and occasion
To Eumaeus: claims he has spent some time in slavery
from which he recently
escaped; says this because Eumaeus himself is a
slave
To Penelope: says he met Odysseus and talks a lot about
him; knows that
Penelope wants to hear about him
Lying and Heroism
oMost lying NOT disapproved of in the Odyssey
Lying not viewed as a moral flaw of Odysseus, is almost
celebrated in the poem
Only Odysseus' lie to Laertes is questionable in Book Twenty-Four
Seems morally questionable --> a cruel lie?
At this point, Odysseus had defeated the suitors and more-
or-less reestablished himself as King of Ithaca
Goes to visit his father in the country
Does not tell Laertes that he is Odysseus, say he saw
Odysseus before
Laertes does not respond well, is heartbroken so
Odysseus immediately reveals himself
Form of testing? But why would he need to test
Laertes?
Possible Explanations for this lie:
Poem saying that there are limits to lying?
Lying has simply become automatic for Odysseus?
Become so used to hiding his identity?
oAthena praises Odysseus' skill in lying
Athena claims that lying contributes to her kleos ("fame")
Lying is just another application of wisdom
Athena does not distinguish between lying and wisdom
Athena also doesn't view lying as morally reprehensible
Differences for Athena lying as a goddess and Odysseus as a
mortal:
Athena can afford to treat lying frivolously because there
would be no lasting consequences
For Odysseus, he doesn't just lie because he finds it
amusing, lies to keep himself safe (his life depends upon it)
oDeception is central to Odysseus' heroism
e.g.) The Trojan Horse deception, lie to Polyphemus about his name, lying
tales in Ithaca
oPenelope's Weaving
Penelope is also celebrated for her deception and lies
Told in Odyssey Two
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