Odyssey - Greek epic (special topics course that wasn't on list)

12 Pages
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Department
Classical Studies
Course Code
Classical Studies 3612F/G
Professor
Richard Brown

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Description
Odyssey Product of the same formulaic tradition as the Iliad Comes from a very different place Much more wide ranging in terms of geographical coverage Has a closer affinity to a more cosmic register The Iliad explores the human condition from a narrow & focused perspective (i.e. what we get from the point of view of war/conflict); the Odyssey looks at who we are from the perspective of a more settled society (more interested in the broader sense of the human nature; how the human animal makes sense as the human animal) Opening words Iliad: wrath/anger Odyssey: man; maleness = not the nature of people Odysseus Chieftain from the Iliad Has a wife (Penelope) and a son (Telemachos) Has been disconnected from his world Poem concerns his voyage back to his home to be who he is Isolated from human society Little by little he comes back Returns to Ithaca as a beggar Poet reflects on how society works throughout the course of his journey by exploring so many places & ways of life Poem comes together during the time of the polis formation Book I In the beginning, we see him knocked out of his proper place Epic poet brings us right into the middle of the story Begins with conversation between Zeus & Athene (32 onward) Zeus speech = programmatic speech; lays out moral program for the entire poem General statement about mortals; illustrated by the example of Agamemnons homecoming Seems to pick up & reject the scene from Iliad-24 where Achilles posits that Zeus doles out fortunes from one of two jars; the Odyssey says that humans orchestrate their own suffering through their recklessness (atasthalia = used of actions/decisions that contradict common sense/divine command & thus lead to ruin) Says that humans suffer beyond what is given (hyper moron) should be read beyond what is fated Controversial passage with many questions View of humans having an impact on their own fate? more developed? Belief that evil is dispensed independently of the gods Makes us wonder what Odysseus did to deserve his own suffering Perhaps he fits the paradigm that Aigisthos has modeled When he escapes Polyphemus, he sacrifices the ram on which he escaped to Zeus, in whose name he punished Polyphemus More accurately translated, the passage says that bad things come from the gods, AND from our actions We have the ability to affect our own suffering, but we can only make it worse, but we cant make it better Odyssey Greeks believed in the Aoroi, spirits that took men from the world before their time Suggests an element of flexibility in the worldview Athene thinks that Odysseus is of a separate category than Aigisthos Refers to Odysseus as an unhappy man (dysmoros), or an ill-fated man; however, he hasnt made his lot worse, so Athene takes charge in trying to get him home, which is his ultimate fate Two resolutions emerge from this dialogue Athene goes to Ithaca to motivate Telemachos Odysseus has been gone for a long time Telemachos is now of age, and has his hands full with the suitors trying to win the hand of Penelope Social history debate Perhaps men need to marry the queen in order to acquire kingship Want to marry Penelope to gain access to wealth Suitors embody various kinds of bad behaviour Portrayed as great consumers who give nothing in return; breaks down the norm of reciprocal obligation thats vital for Greek society; tested by the appearance of a beggar (Odysseus in disguise); communal feast are important scenes that clarify how society is structured A herald (Hermes) is sent to Calypsos island This & the next book take place in Ithaca First book shows that Odysseus oikos is dysfunctional; second book shows that Ithaca itself is dysfunctional (polis) When Telemachos travels to Pylos, the first scene is one of a large communal sacrifice; shows that entire polis is functioning properly When Telemachos travels to Sparta, he discovers an oikos that is functioning properly The poem shows us how human societies work & do not work, and also what kinds of societies are not human (i.e. Phaiakans) Odysseus is marooned on Ogygia, the island of Calypso Book V Council of the gods Zeus says that Odysseus must endure hardships to get home, although he will reach home He will return home after these hardships with more than he would have had if he came straight home from Troy; evidence for divine favour Odysseus destiny is to come home & see his family again This destiny is fulfilled by Book 13, although it takes a lot longer for him to resume his natural position in Ithaca Calypso Name means concealer/hider; poem is about revealing Odysseus as himself, so he must overcome forces that conspire to conceal him (i.e. Calypso, the sea, disguises, etc.) Hermes sent to Calypsos island because the gods want her to let Odysseus go; interesting dialogue ensues Anger of Athene was the reason that the Greeks were shipwrecked Athene was angered because the lesser Aias raped Cassandra on the altar of Athene Athene used her fathers thunderbolts to destroy the lesser AiasOdyssey Anger of the gods is very blunt; the hubris of one person can affect an entire village/crew of people; imprecisely directed (in terms of the person or the time); this view, from a social perspective, will make people more responsible for their actions because their compatriots will be more watchful & less tolerant; therefore, Odysseus is due to suffer because of the actions of another Calypsos response to Hermes is typical of Homeric dialogue: repetitive She saves Odysseus from Zeus anger Odysseus is anxious to get back to his family for reasons that arent explicit in the text; strong tradition of the dangers for mortal men who sleep with goddesses (much less common than the opposite orientation); Calypso & Circe share these traits, which make them dangerous Alcman (ancient Spartan poet) warns not to seek marriage with Aphrodite; Anchises (father of Aeneas) was terrified when he realized that he slept with Aphrodite, asking her not to leave him without menos (strength, perhaps literally semen/male potency) Odysseus refuses Calypsos offer to stay because he is the paradigm of human intelligence; therefore, he obeys the basic human laws (i.e. know yourself and nothing in excess); he knows who & what he is, and he knows where he makes sense, which is at home in Ithaca, not with Calypso Odysseus was in complete isolation at this time, but the Greeks have a very defined idea of what humans are supposed to be; Aristotle says that man is a creature of the polis, and that is where we make mos
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