Textbook Leftovers

Archive for October 2011

I checked out the table of contents again. We’re gonna be in Greece for a while, guys. Today’s selection begins on page 258 and we leave Greece to head to China on page 804. I intend to stick with it; just a heads up. After Greece, we travel to China, then India, and finally Rome before finishing this volume. There are some truly epic and historic works in our path, and The Odyssey is not a lightweight. Let’s carry on, shall we?

We pick up, you remember, with Telémakhos arriving at the home of Meneláos at the beginning of Book Four. Meneláos is celebrating the wedding of two of his children (to two other people, not to each other, ew). As Telémakhos and Peisístratos (a son of Nestor) arrive, they are seen by Eteoneus, a friend of Meneláos. Eteoneus asks “should we greet them or tell them to move on” because of the celebration. Meneláos tells him that’s stupid, and to go out and greet the newcomers.

Homer gives us yet another of his beautiful descriptive scenes as Telémakhos settles in. Meneláos welcomes him and Peisístratos to the party (another example of how important hospitality is in Homer’s culture). Telémakhos is in absolute awe at Meneláos’ court, but Meneláos just says that while all his treasure is great (and imma let you finish) but he’d gladly trade it all if he could have his dead friends back. He mentions that he misses Odysseus most of all, and Telémakhos tears up at the mention of his father. Meneláos knows now that this must be Odysseus’ son, but he says nothing.

Gozo, Malta, is said to be the home of Calypso (or Kalypso)
This is the island of Gozo, Malta, said to be the Isle of Kalypso, where Odysseus is currently being held prisoner. Image from Tertium Quid. Read the rest of this entry »

So I just now looked at the table of contents and noticed that, unlike The Iliad, the entirety of The Odyssey is included in Norton. Therefore, I’m going to try to condense so we aren’t on this work for 3 months (there are 24 books!). So far, though, I must say, I am deeply enjoying this. No complaints at all. Homer is frequently hilarious, and offers a number of absolutely stunning descriptive passages. I commented about The Iliad that one can imagine how gorgeous it would have been to see the poet perform his work, and that holds true here as well.

Image on pottery, apparently depicting Telémakhos and Nestor

Book 2 sees Telémakhos call for an assembly of the Akhaians. Aigýptios, an old man mourning his son, calls the meeting to order. (Homer continues his pattern here of really making a connection to the background characters.) Telémakhos declares to the crowd that he is extremely displeased with this whole suitor business. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry again for the delay, folks. I had some stuff to work out (I’m lying, I was just lazy). I’ve started a blog schedule over at my other blog, so check it out if you like. And now, with no more stalling, the first installment of our study of The Odyssey!

Image from Ed O'Keefe Photography, used without permission
An image search for the Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful thing. I recommend it.
Image © Ed O’Keefe

First, I want to flip back a few pages and revisit the introduction Norton gives to the Homeric epics. Both of these massive works are a clear reflection of the times. Greece as a whole was undergoing gigantic changes in its culture, politics, and social structure. Remember that the Iliad and the Odyssey were always publicly performed – while they were shaped by events, they no doubt had a hand in shaping the events themselves. The Iliad clearly deals with the ideas of peace and war, but especially grapples with the question of who should have power – the ones with merit (Achilles) or the ones with position (Agamemnon)? It never answers the question, but makes a valiant effort to explore it from many angles, including that of the women and the slaves, and even from the outsiders.

The Odyssey has a central question as well – what is a community? What is a culture? Why do we do things the way that we do? Over the course of his decade of adventuring, Odysseus encounters and experiences many different kinds of cultures and the people that live in them. This is compared with the breakdown of order at home. The epic never declares any one kind of culture to be the best – the “normal” civilized life of Greece is riddled with violence and betrayal, and the others are shown to have gaping flaws as well. It just endeavors to examine them and lay them out to be seen for what they are.

It is into this complex question that we now dive. I’m only dealing with Book One today. Read the rest of this entry »