Textbook Leftovers

Posts Tagged ‘history

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 »

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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 »

When we left our tale, the Trojans were rallying and the Greeks were falling back without Achilles. In Book Nine, the Greeks are frightened by a storm and decide to man up and get Agamemnon to apologize to Achilles. Agamemnon (surprisingly) agrees, and waxes eloquent about the extravagant gifts he will give (it begins to sound sarcastic after a while). At the end of his list of gifts, he says he’ll give all this if Achilles will submit to him – now is it just me or is that not an apology at all? The other Greeks think this is a swell idea, and send Ajax and Odysseus to talk to Achilles. This goes about as well you expect.

Achilles tells them in no uncertain terms that he hates Agamemnon and hates this selfish war. He will have no part of this, not for all the prizes that the king will offer. He has decided to sail for home. They all take their turns to soliloquize, but Achilles will not budge. After this wordy interlude, the Greek army girds its loins to fight on, but fail pretty miserably. Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus are all wounded, and Achilles refuses to relent. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Four of the Iliad begins in a strange way. Two heroes, one from each side of the battle, meet in the no-man’s-land. They begin to taunt each other and it really begins to feel like a WWE match complete with ceiling-microphones. Each of the heroes ties his own heritage to legend, telling great tall tales about his forefathers. They end their verbal battle by acknowledging each other as friends and trading armor as a token of friendship (except one of them totally robs the other).

After that one-off scene, the Hero appears. Hector, Prince of Troy, enters the city. He asks his mother to beg Athena for mercy, and goes to find his brother Paris and tear him a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

Here we go with the Iliad! Norton includes selections from several of the books, with summaries of the omitted parts. Today, I’m dealing only with Book One.

It is fitting that the first word of this epic poem is Rage, because just about everyone in this part of the poem is mad as hell. I actually made an “Angry List” in my margins. The list of the pissed includes: Achilles, Agamemnon, the priest of Apollo, Apollo himself, Hera, and Zeus. And probably quite a few of the non-speaking roles, as well.

Now, if you don’t already know, the vast Acheaen (aka Greek) army, is currently waging war on Troy in retribution for the “kidnapping” of Helen (the wife of Menelaus, one of their kings). Read the rest of this entry »

After leaving the Bible, Norton moves on to the next big thing in ancient history: Greece!

It seems that, in the deep dark past of Greek history, there was a great deal of prosperity. The Minoan ruins on Crete, the great city of Mycenae, and the epic palace of Pylos show all the signs of a flourishing, wealthy civilization. But then, there was a great catastrophe. It doesn’t seem that anybody knows what exactly happened, but the entire civilization was nearly lost. Greece was illiterate for centuries. (The catastrophe has to be bad if the entire population forgets how to read and write.) Read the rest of this entry »