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Introduction to Homer's Odyssey
Transcript of Introduction to Homer's Odyssey
Author of Iliad and Odyssey
There is no evidence he existed
Similarities between the Illiad and Odyssey point to one author
Homer may have lived in Ionia (on the western coast of Turkey) around 750 B.C.E.
Ancient Greece and The Aegean
v. Greek alphabet developed during Homer’s time
(8th century B.C.E.)
iv. Each telling of a story was unique—our version of the
Odyssey is just one of several variations
iii. “The bard would…compose his own version
of the tale extempore”
ii. Structured, routine formulas
i. Audience had background knowledge of stories
(e.g. Trojan Wars, Greek gods)
Oral Poetic Tradition
Chronological vs. Narrative Time
Chronological time sequence of events
Narrative time sequence of storytelling
Chapter divisions imposed by later editors
Books 1-12 Odysseus’ journeys
Books 13-24 Odysseus’ homecoming
Structure of the Odyssey
A Companion to Homer’s Odyssey, James Morrison
Structure of the Odyssey
Divided Plot: Telemachy and Odyssey
(all flashback - action is prior to book 1)
Reunion - single plot
The Bronze Age
The Poem's creation is a process that spans several centuries
The Bronze Age began around 1550 BC and is sometimes called the Mycenaean era.
This was a time of relative stability.
The dominant powers in the eastern Mediterranean were the Hittites in central Turkey, the Egyptians , and the Mycenaean kings in Greece and the surrounding islands.
These three powers were complex, literate societies
Even though transportation was primitive, trade in these areas was flourishing
The Trojan War
The Trojan War, if it took place at all, came very near the end of this flourishing civilization.
The Greeks, using generational calculations, set the date of the war at around 1184 BC;
modern scholarship, based on archaeological evidence at Troy and other sites, puts it some 75 years earlier, around 1250 BC.
But the traditional victors at Troy did not have very long to enjoy their victory
The Dark Age
This civilization began to die out around 1220 BC with the mysterious destruction and abandonment of Pylos.
This ushered in a period of decline that lasted until roughly 1050 BC, when the Mycenaean civilization disappeared
This marked the start of about 250 years of very difficult times in Greece: the Dark Age.
This period has its end with the traditional date of the first Olympiad in 776 BC, very close to the time when we think Homer lived.
Writing was lost, and with it, most trade seems to have disappeared .
Some historians suggest that there may have been as much as a 75% decrease in population from Bronze Age levels
The Iron Age
Beginning aroune the 11th c. BC, the greeks began to use iron instead of bronze
By Homers day, mid 8th c. things were beginning to look up
The Greeks begin to develop a national identity
Homer's works were disseminated
The Style of The Odyssey
Homer’s style is famous for its flow and pacing. It is easy to follow and meant to be read briskly.
There are a wealth of details in descriptions, unlike other contemporary writings such as the Bible.
Characterization is strong in Homer’s writing; each character, large or small, is a distinctive individual with independent motivations.
On the other hand, character development over the course of the narrative is minimal; characters are what they are and changes in personality are usually insignificant.
The Origins of the War
The war was incited when Paris, prince of Troy, abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus of Sparta
Menelaus called on Helen's former suitors to honor their oath to defend her honor
Odysseus was one of these suitors
After difficulty determining who had Helen and finding Troy, the Greeks finally reached their foe
For the next nine years the war raged on
The Greeks won many battles but they could not breech the walls of Troy
Odysseus was one of the Greek Heroes, capturing the son of Priam and devising the plan for the Trojan horse
The Trojan Horse
Giant horse - Greeks inside
Fleet sailed away
Trojans thought they were victorious and brought the statue inside and began to celebrate
When the Trojans were sleeping or passed out from the celebrations, the Greeks slaughtered them
After the War
The victors looted the city, destroyed the temples, and killed all but women and children that were to be kept as slaves
This behavior angered the gods and they decided to punish the Greeks by not allowing them to return home
The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus' ten year journey to get home
Themes in The Odyssey
Heroism - Is Odysseus heroic? In what ways? How does his heroism extend beyond the battlefield
The Human Condition - What does it mean to be human? Look to ALL the human characters in the story
Love and Loyalty - What is it that keeps Penelope from remarrying? Why doesn't Odysseus give up? Why do the servants and soldiers remain loyal
The Role of Women - What archetypes are represented by the women in the story? What different roles do women play in this society?
Man's Relationship with the Gods - How do the gods interfere with the lives of humans?
Triumph Over Temptation - Why do some give in to temptation? What are the consequences? What gives us the strength to resist?
The Physical Journey vs. The Spiritual Journey - How is the physical journey a metaphor of and a mechanism for spiritual growth? What is the purpose of the journey? What is the result?