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Portraying Greek Culture

anthropocentric – human centered. Gods were created from man gnothi seauton – Know thyself.
Inscribed at Temple of Apollo at Delphi the religious center of Greece, the seat of prophecy. People from
all over came to consult oracle. Identity not in psychological term, initially – know what it means to be a
mortal, in which you are small, you have little or no control.

Socrates 469 – 399 B.C. Teacher of Plato. Developed the concept of gnothi seauton. Said the unexamined
life is not worth living. One ought to know what one spends one’s life doing. Rationally examine the self.

Distinctive Qualities of Greek Literature and Art

Had only social and functional art. No such thing as private art – art was for and presented in communities.
Iliad was recited in public every four (4) years. Written for all. The Iliad and Odyssey equivalent to Bible
for Greeks.

Tragedy performed only in Athens and only in the 5th century B.C. They were original productions.
Stopped after the 5th century. Done in Spring once a year for the god Dionysius. Paid for by public and
private grants.

Athens trading center. Fleet dominated the Mediterranean. History started by Greeks – Heroditus. Most
writers were from Athens, the center of culture. Lived in the Pentaconta Itea – 50 Golden Years. Persian
influences. Thales of Myletas – first philosopher, engineer of Darius.

Art was in the open, in public temples. Statues were a part of communal life. Vases were a part of
everyday use: they were primarily storage facilities. Art was functional. There was no such thing as a
museum nor was there private ownership. Art for art’s sake was a foreign idea.


Both Plato and Socrates thought a solitary thinker could not achieve truth, they needed at least two people,
for their search for truth was a question and answer process known as the dialectic. Non-truth was
eliminated till the final truth was arrived at. Addressed social question’s: how are people to live in society?
More like the modern term, ethics.

Greeks were gregarious. They spent time and interacted with one another. Could not live meaningfully by
themselves. Their lives were communal – part of a whole. A person not engaged in community was an
idiôtês – pejorative for a private person. Citizenship was by way of land (only males could own land).
There was also a large number of metics – non-citizens. Slaves performed societal sustaining work. The
slave trade was not based on race. It was rather based on fortunes of war. Men were killed, women and
children were used as slaves. They could be brought out of slavery for a price. Greeks were not perfect by
any means. They were extremely flawed.

Extremely competitive. There were many athletic festivals. Olympian games started in 776 B.C. Staggered
so that no conflicted in times.

                           Pythian Games at Delphi        4 years
                           Menean Games at Nemea          2 years
                           Isthmian Games at Corinth      2 years

They were religious festivals. Athletes from all over Greece came. Chariot racing was premiere. Pythian
games had a musical competition. Fights were held to parallel war. In Athens competitions were held to
find top three plays, which in turn competed to find best play. Competition in ancient Greece was very
common. It was not a matter of killing an enemy but one of competing with a fellow enemy for timê –
honor. Greeks were competitive to the point of self-destruction. Competitors couldn’t learn to get along in
the government. They had a passion for excellence. The natural outcome of competition was the best.
Outcome of a judicial case was usually dependent on better speaker. Aretê – excellence. The Homeric
warrior was aretê if he found the most timê.

The Odyssey

An epic attributed to Homer – a writer of whom we know nothing. Homer is said to have come from Island
of Chios. His supposed blindness is a legend. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have to do with the Trojan
War. The Trojan War was fought in modern day Turkey, lasting about 10 years – ca. 1240 - 1230 B.C.

The kings were kings of palace-kingdoms. The kingdom consisted of a fortress or a hill, or countryside
such as: Mycenea, Pylos, Sparta, Ithaca and others. The cause of the war was the abduction of Helen by
Paris Alexandros. Menelaus and Agamemnon formed expedition of Greek kings (who were suitors to
Helen previously).

The Iliad narrates several weeks, but not all 10 years. The theme of the Iliad is the wrath of Achilles,
foremost among Achaians, he was aretê. He killed Hector which marked the beginning of the end for Troy.
The Odyssey is the return to Ithaca and about Odysseus. Odysseus was gone for a total of 20 years.

The Iliad was composed in mid to late 8th century B.C. ca. 750, the Odyssey ca. 725. Both were composed
500 years after the Trojan War.

The books are oral poetry – which were composed orally. The songs that make-up the two books were
probably shorter tales. Some were books, some lists. Had been prior to Trojan War, the after the war
writing was lost and poetry became oral. Poets would perform or sing at festivals, and past on orally songs.
Old ones were reworked and refined – eventually a repertoire was developed. A poet could recite 2 ,000 to
3,000 lines from memory, by way of rhythm and formulas. Both books were written in dactylic hexameter
– one long followed by two short. Dactyl means finger. The formulas were longer than words and shorter
than sentences. The poets could sing it from memory without the aid of writing. Short simple, descriptive
statements make the books sound generic. They tell not a story, but the story. It was never told the same
way twice. Repetition of epîthets make it seem authoritative. There were songs that used formulas but they
were not as long as the Iliad. These poems were of monumental length. The Iliad is comprised of 15, 693
lines and the Odyssey of 11, 670 lines.

The first four books are self-contained: they tell about Telemachus finding his father. It is no coincedence
that when writing appeared that the Iliad and Odyssey were written down. Homer or whomever made use of
the alphabet. Each has over-arching themes, both are unifying marks of art. The Iliad and Odyssey of today
are traced back to the 6th and 5th century B.C. The ruler of Athens, Pysistratus, wanted an authoritative
text of the two books. Greece was not yet a nation, but was sometimes made of warring rivals, but all loved
the Iliad. The Iliad and Odyssey were like the Bible of the ancient times. Most people could recite lines
from the works. They influenced the tragedians. historiê – researches. Heroditus and Thucydides wrote of
the Pelopenessean war and commemorated Homer’s influence. The Iliad and Odyssey were the first works
of literature in the West, but are at the end of a long tradition of oral poetry. Epics today are used mainly in
movies and film, but much to the same original meaning. Epics are long in size, they present an entire
world in its story. Presents an ethos – a set of beliefs and values and way of living. One gets a complete
and fairly detailed picture of the people. Can gather their implicit and explicit values and ideas. They give
us gods, values, warriors, codes, kings, honor, excellence, competition, and much more.

The Iliad – Background and Info

Cedric Whitman in The Heroic Paradox, wrote that the Greek hero in the Iliad feels himself a law unto
himself. Therefore the heroic ideal is not the same throughout society. Motivated by a) urge toward
divinity and b) necessity of remaining mortal. Homeric heroes thought themselves possible gods, that they
could transcend to a god-like state. There is also self-knowledge that they are fated to die. The wrath of
Achilles is the theme of the Iliad. Conflict of Achilles and Agamemnon over division of spoils (timê)
source of honor (timê). Achilles angered at Agamemnon taking his spoils away from him. Agamemnon had
to give up a girl of his while sacking a town near Tory because her father was a priest of Apollo.
Agamemnon would not give her back, so a priest called on Apollo who afflicted the Greeks with a plague,
so Agamemnon finally consented to give her back. He took Achilles’ girl away from him. Achilles almost
kills Agamemnon, but Athena intervenes and tells Achilles to fight with words. He then withdraws from the
fighting. He then begins to question the system of values he’s strove to achieve.

Achilles asks if honor is worth his life? Forerunner of Socrates: unexamined life is not worth living. When
Greek forces are losing he feels vindicated. Patroclus pleas, Achilles then sends Patroclus into battle with
Achilles’ armor. Thus Achilles can lend to absolutism, while also yielding to honor. Urge to divinity lends
to absolutes – i.e. trying to be as god when their own mortality opposes that. Want to act and live as an
absolute. Achilles’ recognition of mortality makes him send in Patroclus. Achilles tries to have it both

Instead Patroclus is killed, and Achilles then enters the battle. His wrath is godlike. He defeats Hector.
Prophecy has it that Achilles will die soon after Hector dies. He, in a way, kills himself. He sacrifices
himself to the idea of his heroism. He forces a reconciliation of the paradox not only by death. Achilles
“asserts” his own death. Odysseus lives no paradox: he knows he is mortal, his primary urge is to go home.
Odysseus has no urge toward divinity. If he cannot go home he would just as soon die. He succeeds, he is
in fact a survivor. For Achilles, self-destruction is his ultimate goal, for it is the inevitable outcome to fulfill
urge towards divinity, for he is mortal.

Survival, or self-construction, is needed for Odysseus to return home. If Achilles asserts death through
action, Odysseus asserts life through action. Achilles’ action is always simple: to fight or not to fight. What
is worth losing one’s life for is not a simple question. Odysseus too is a thinker, but he thinks not of the
purpose of his action, but only the action itself. For example, the scene with the suitors.

Odysseus is not an Achilles. His every effort is devoted to preserving his life. Achilles is affected by
realization that life is unfair. He meditates on the value of his life. He sees the flaws in the heroic code. He
comes to this wisdom by way of great losses. But his losses teaches him to see Priam’s loss of Hector.
After Achilles kills Hector, his wrath is still not over. The dragging of Hector’s body, is out of fury and
anger. Priam goes into the tent of Achilles and petitions for Hector’s body, on his knees. Achilles sees a
grief in Priam that equals his own. The Iliad is a tragedy of self-awareness. Achilles can’t see humanity of
Priam until he sees his grief. Teaches that human conflict is inevitable and after the fact comes recognition,
recognition grief, of enemies likeness to you. Only growth possible is tragic awareness – tragic because it
cannot be undone. The only redemption is recognition of enemies humanity as equal to one’s own.

Odysseus never learns Achilles tragedy, nor does he ponder ontological questions. He is the hero of
survival, he is no philosopher – Odysseus is intelligence in action. Achilles is a philosopher. For Odysseus,
thought precedes action, but not digressive. Thinking about how to survive is only means of survival.
Home is what searches for. His possessions and surroundings give him his heart. Home for Odysseus is the
place where he is himself. When he returns home, he returns to himself. Odysseus has a simple passion for
the ordinary life.
Divisions of the Odyssey

Howard Porter makes a different but interesting division of the poem. Porter calls the Odyssey a poem of
rebirth. In developing this idea, Odysseus’ situation in Ogygia is like Adam in Paradise. Yet in the first
view, he sits weeping. In the end, he is shouting happily. A journey from west to east. From abstract to
concrete: Ogygyia is fantasy, Ithaca is real. Movement from sterility to fertility. Calypso means

Porter identifies a leitmotif: Odysseus falls into a deathlike sleep under or near an olive tree, under or near a
cave. First is in Book V (page 94). After rising as naked shipwrecked sailor to honored guest in Book XIII
(page 231). Now from wandering beggar and settling matter with suitor family one more time he sleeps
with his wife (page 438). All three of these tree scenes arrive at crucial points. Porter suggests these
images evoke the idea of death and rebirth. First time it is as if he dies. The cave resembles a womb or
tomb. Olive tree is a symbol of regeneration.

                                     Porter would block sections thusly:

                                      SECTION I         Books 1-5
                                      SECTION II        Books 6-13
                                      SECTION III       Books 13-23
                                      EPILOGUE          Book 24

Theme of SECTION I is Odysseus’ rebirth from Troy and his wandering into domestic world. The theme
of SECTION II is Odysseus’ rebirth on Ithaca. Theme of SECTION III is rebirth of family and marriage
and master of house. Porter’s idea agrees with idea of self-construction of Odysseus.

But if it is a reconstruction, a reconstruction from what? Odysseus fought at Troy for ten years. Return
from Troy is a return home which might have seemed foreign. Odysseus has to change from battlefield
warrior to husband/king. The metamorphosis is almost like Vietnam veterans trying to acquiesce to normal

Ten years were spent at Troy, another ten were spent wandering. Odysseus narrates the wanderings in
books 9-12. Can looks at some of his experiences at ordeals or temptations which he must overcome if he
is to return. Some are preparations for his return. There are in total 12 different experiences:

ORDEALS OR TEMPTATIONS:                                                    PREPARATIONS

    Kikones                          Circe                                 Cyclopes
    Lotus-Eaters                     Sirens                                Hades
    Laistrygones                     Son-god Island
    Circe                            Calypso

It is not to say that Odysseus’ adventures are symbolic or allegorical, but it is saying that they can be read as
exhibiting a transformation from Homeric warrior to a hero of intelligence, with a passion for returning.
Ethos – values, or literally character. When Odysseus successfully gets past Sirens, he subdues the
temptation to give into nostalgia. He can’t leave the Siren’s island once on it. Tells his shipmates to tie him
to the mast, and put wax in his ears. But he doesn’t wax his own ears. The sings sing of his past. They
represent the pull of nostalgia.

The trip to Hades, where he encounters the ghost of his mother, Tiresias, Agamemnon, Achilles and Ajax
points forwards to Ithaca because of what Tiresias tells him, but also points backwards to Troy because of
Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ajax.
Circe and Calypso are the temptation of false domestic. They are an unreal physical ease with an ideal
companion. If he were to stay he would not regain his identity left behind in Ithaca. Polyphemos can be
read as a surreal analog of the suitors in the real world. Both suitors and Polyphemos disobey laws of
hospitality. Cyclopes cannibalism manifest in eating six men parallels the suitors who eat Odysseus out of
house and home. Odysseus’ identity is lost in the cave of the Cyclopes where he calls himself “Nohbody.”
Polyphemos is a preparatoin for the dangers the suitors represent. Eolis and Scylia don’t fit into the
preparatory scheme. Most of Odysseus’ adventures relate to the process of departing from the battleground
of Troy and returning to Ithaca and what it represents: home.

The Story of the Odyssey

1. The story of Odysseus begins with his son, Telemachus. The first four books tell of a man who wasn’t
there. A gradual revelation is given until he appears in Book V. Technique heightens the dramatic effect,
we get enough information to from a complete idea about him. Dramatic climax turned into anticlimax
when we first see Odysseus. We meet him dejected and weeping (page 85). Is this the mighty Odysseus,
Telemachus and everyone dreams of? Can this Odysseus put everything to right? The anticlimax
intensifies reader’s suspense. At the beginning of the poem, Homer shows state of Odysseus home when
he’s not there. Our first view makes it clear that he wants to go home. Telemachus begins to mature in first
four books. Galvanized by meeting with Athena to pursue his father, Telemachus stirs for his father;
Odyssues likewise stirs for his son. Shows the rehabilitation his goal requires.

Odysseus can’t simply travel from point A to point B. When he arrives home, his journey only begins. He
has to prove himself. Has to convince Penelope he is truly her Odysseus. Not until Penelope accepts him,
can he truly be Odysseus. One’s identity is involved in proving identity. His return is more a physical one,
it is also a mental one. Firsthand facts of Odysseus living are given by Menelaus. Here is a movement from
general to specific. Proteus tells where he is. But the question is, can Odysseus get from Calypso’s island
to Ithaca?

2. The maturing of Telemachus. His maturing parallels the return of Odysseus and the two are interrelated.
As first step of maturing process, Telemachus goes in search of his father, provides us and him with a sense
of Odysseus. One could say that Telemachus initiates his father’s return. Without Telemachus’ help
Odysseus could not repossess his home, and defeat the suitors. When Telemachus goes in search of info on
his father, he himself goes on a type of odyssey. Maturing is the processing of establishing one’s identity.
Odysseus re-establishes his identity. Twin processes. For Telemachus it is a “birth” into manhood, for
Odysseus it is a “rebirth” into who he really is. Telemachus does not know who he is (page 8 – line 259).

3. The suitors and their crime. The suitors plot again Telemachus for that they deserve to die. What about
their wooing of Penelope and their behavior in general? Trojan war has been over for ten years. Most
surviving generals and soldiers have returned. M. I. Finley in The World of Odysseus says that no one in all
Greece knew what had befallen Odysseus. W. K. Lacey in The Family in Classical Greece states that it is
clear that wooing is wrong because it is not known if Odysseus is dead. Penelope would do wrong to
remarry. In his parting instructions, Odysseus said for his wife to remarry if he was not back by the time
Telemachus had grown a beard.

Wooing also reveals Homeric customs of headship of following. Odysseus still remained head of the
family. The kyrios – lord. Every female had a kyrios who was master over her. When Telemachus is old
enough to claim kyrios over Penelope. Part of confusion is about kyrios over Penelope, i.e. who owns her.
Wooing of Penelope also parallels with wasting away of assets. The suitors are young aristocrats and hope
to acquire rule over Ithaca, obviously Telemachus have to be out of the picture. The 108 suitors are a
considerable drain. Behavior grows unchecked, offensive than violent. The very number of suitors gives
Penelope the ability to keep them at bay. There are simply too many to choose from. Penelope does not
want the suitors there. Offensive behavior is evident from the beginning.

3. Inappropriateness of wooing of suitors. xenia – code of hospitality among Greeks. The wooing of the
suitors is inappropriate. The way they court her violates the code of xenia. The are arrogant, consuming
early and late, eating too a much and plotting to kill Telemachus. The code specified that you received all
strangers and guests no matter what, and after feeding them, asked them from whence they came and who
they are. Xenia made it possible for Odysseus and Menelaus to travel home. Strangers were said to be
under the care of son of Cronos, Zeus Xenios – the god of hospitality. Xenia applied to all strangers in
every part of the world. Zeus wasn’t exclusively the god of hospitality, all gods were concerned with xenia.
High values makes saying good manners are good moral an accurate truth of Homeric values.

Polyphemos is the archetypal violator xenia. Cyclopes are pre-figuring analog in the surreal world ot the
suitors in the real world. Standard way of greeting was to invite the strangers in, give food, and then ask
them who they are and where the came. Nausikaa very benevolent to strangers. Not just nobles practice
xenia, but also the poor such as Eumaios. Hospitality revolves around food, which is what is needed to live.
Eating that is done communally binds people together. Bread taking was at the heart of civil life. Suitors
consume food rapaciously and one even throws a cow’s foot at Odysseus. Violations involves food, which
parallels Polyphemos eating his guest. Lystragonians were cannibals also. Odysseus’ crew perish because
they eat the cattle of the sun god as Tiresias foretold, which Circe also echoed.

4. immanent – remaing inside. From the way gods appear one could assume that they play with humans as
puppets. But it is not so. No god controlled the crew to eat cattle, but it was foretold. Likewise suitors not
compelled by the gods to murder Telemachus, they act on free will. Gods try to warn mortals, but the
mortals pay no heed.

The Greeks had many gods, they were polytheistic. Poseidon controlled the sea, if one offended him he
could wreck one’s ship, such as in Odysseus’ case. The gods worked through natural forces, for the most
part. Zeus caused and was lightening. Aphrodite caused and embodied erotic action. Lloyd-Jones says that
“the gods are not transcendant but immanent (i.e. remaining in). They do not interfere from outside the
course of nature, but through human passions.” Zeus was like a president of the gods. He can’t supervene
in their individual areas of power. In making power or forces gods, they gave them human characteristics.
Over time their behavior became more human. Gods have human characteristics and actions. Like humans
they were pleasure seekers.

Gods like to be worshipped, they could be murderous if forgotten. But by worshipping one, you might
offend another. The Greeks practiced sophrysyne – moderation or safe-mindedness. Inscribed at the
Temple of Delphi: “Nothing too much” which was the best way to avoid offending the gods. Gods are in
way morally superior to the mortals. They were powers and forces, in which case power in neither moral
nor immoral. They are immortal which in itself is a power. Athena is the patroness of Odysseus because
intelligence characterizes him.

Home is basis of civilized life. Walter Burkert in Greek Religion gives full description of Athena. Athena
is inventor and patroness of the home, carpentry. The olive tree is sacred to her – watches over olives in
general. Athena is always near her protégé’s Athena usually approaches them in disguises.

BOOKS 5 - 12

Odysseus’ chief resource is his wit – he is a thinker. He doesn’t think of the purpose of his actions, but does
think of what actions to take. Being able to think in the midst of danger precedes action.

i. Odysseus’ first appearance and significance of Calypso. We first see the great hero sitting on shore of
Calypso’s island weeping where he has best of food and drink and the promise of immortality if he so
chooses. Calypso means concealer. Odysseus weeps on her island because he is “buried alive” in paradise.
He prefers to be “alive” in the world of struggle than “dead” in paradise. When he leaves her island he goes
from death to life. George Dimock in The Name of Odysseus says whole problem of Odyssues is for him to
establish his identity. Leaving Calypso’s island is like leaving the security of the womb. Non-entity and
identity are the poles between which the actors in the poem move. For Porter the main theme is rebirth, but
both seem to talking of the same thing.

ii. Odysseus hero meaning is language and intelligence. Language is Odysseus’ chief way of surviving.
The Cyclopes for example where by the name of Nohbody. Odysseus adroitly eliminates a serious threat of
the brother Cyclopes when Polyphemos shouts to brothers, Odysseus’ trick is made plain, although it is
naïve and simplistic. Nausikaa – Odysseus is brine-streaked and named when he meets her and her
consorts. Uses words rather than supplication to confront her. The extremely awkward situation is easily
disengaged. He only has one opportunity to please her. Odysseus swiftly and shrewdly flatters her in a
skillful way. We know marriage is much on Nausikaa’s mind and Odysseus is keen enough to address this.
Odysseus tells her that he is not simply a shipwrecked bum come from the sea, but that he commanded
troops. Simply asks her for food and clothes or where can find these. He is so successful that Nausikaa
begins to think of him as a marriage candidate.

Odysseus is also a poet. Odysseus reveals himself to the Phaiakhians in a poet performance. Altinoos says
he “speaks with an art.” In trip to underworld, Odysseus encounters Achilles. Ghost though he is, Achilles
has not changed. Achilles still thinks of the worth of his actions. Whishes to be a peasant on a farm and
alive than the king of the dead. By end of meeting however, Odysseus makes Achilles forget, if only a
moment his death. Tells him his son’s arete equals that of his father. Odysseus gives Achilles a fix, but one
of words. Achilles runs off happy in the yellow asphodel. Then we see Ajax and his failure with Ajax.
Ajax responds uniquely to Odysseus: through silence. Does Ajax know that he could not win the war of
words with him. The Sirens: represent temptation of nostalgia to Trojan War. The Sirens sing of past
glories. Odysseus puts beeswax in shipmates ears, but not himself. He is susceptible to Siren’s song.
Although he knows full-well the danger of listening of them, he does so anyway. Is strange that a song can
kill you. Anyone else in Odysseus place would have avoided the temptation. Can’t pass up the opportunity
to listen to a song more dangerous than his.

iii. Transformation of Odysseus. Odysseus experiences bring about a transformation in him. The Sirens
provide a focus for this: they represent the temptation of giving into deadly nostalgia – which Odysseus
does not give into. He purges himself the desire to return to a glorious past. Those who give into the
nostalgia destroy themselves. Note the extent that the Trojan war plays in adventure to underworld.
Achilles and Ajax are the two of the three greatest warriors of Troy (Odysseus being the third). Achilles
and Ajax are still psychologically at Troy. Time stopped at Troy for them. Achilles and Ajax will never
acquire more experience from what they had at their moment of death. Their souls continue to exist, find in
a world where they died. When Odysseus “relives” Troy in Hades, the message is given that Troy itself is
dead and war is dead. The past is past. After this experience Odysseus faces the Sirens with the temptation
of nostalgia. Once Odysseus is out of Hades, past the Sirens, he is more “returned” – advanced in his
return. Land of Phaiakhians is the outer borders of the surreal world of nostalgia. In Hades Odysseus is
freed psychologically from the Trojan war. The narration to Alkinoos is a kind of emptying out. Moved
from gravitational pull of Troy to grain field of Ithaca. He has physically returned but is still not yet home.
For the last phase of his return, his essential return, Odysseus needs to summon all his intelligence
previously displayed and use it. He has re-establish identity in order have a complete form.

BOOKS 13 – 24

Recognition is major theme of second half of Odyssey. A character realizes that figure he or she thought to
be someone else is indeed Odysseus. Revelation is a kind of epiphany. A revelatory manifestation – a
sudden recognition. There are recognitions in the first half of the Odyssey but many more in the second
half. First on Ithaca is Athene, then Telemachus. Two other secondary themes: 1) emphasis on arrogance
and transgression and violence of suitors, all of which are portrayed as significantly increasing. 2) Emphasis
on Penelope’s dilemma and her psychological state. These features gain prominence. Reader has growing
sense that story is growing to climax. Transgression increases and becomes more blatant as Penelope
becomes more frustrated.
i. Suitors arrogance and violence. Eumaius speaks to Odysseus about their violations. Athena warns
Telemachus that suitors plan to kill him (268). Odysseus speaks to son before recognition scene. The plot
to ambush Telemachus fails. Antinoos suggests another try. Penelope having learned that suitors plot to
kill Telemachus, confronts the suitors. Antinoos reproaches Eumaios for bringing beggar, who is Odysseus
in disguise, into the dining hall (323). Antinoos reviles the disguised Odysseus enough to throw a shot at

Recognition dominates second-half of the Odyssey – begins in Book 13 – with meeting of Athena and
Odysseus. Two other themes: 1) Increasing arrogance of the suitors and 2) Penelope’s intensifying

1. Suitor’s increasing arrogance. Suitors plot to ambush Telemachus. Antinoos retries. Penelope confronts
the suitors. Antinoos reproaches Eumaios for bringing beggar in. Even throws a stool at beggar.
Eurymachos taunts beggar, throws stool – breach of xenia – ultimate violation of order. Ktesippus throws
cow’s foot. Throwing becomes a habit. Ignore prophecy given to the them by Theoklyminus. Hustles him
out. Their good sense has been perverted and clouded and distorted.

2. Penelope and her dilemma. Athena tells Penelope that her father and Eurymachus wants her to marry.
Theoklymenus tells Penelope in a meeting that Odysseus is still on Ithaca. Penelope herself tell
Eurymachus Odysseus’ parting words to marry when Telemachus’ beard has grown. Odysseus as beggar
tells Penelope that Odysseus will return. Penelope tells Odysseus her dilemma. Odysseus encourage her to
have the contest to string the bow. All three elements increase suspense and heighten drama.

3. Recognition. Each involves important domestic aspect of Odysseus life. These recognition are important
in “essential” return. Odysseus is recovering, rebuilding: identity of what he ceased to be after ten years of
absence. As each character recognizes Odysseus, each gives back to him that part of his identity. Odysseus
is not a father until Telemachus recognizes him as a father. Has no home till suitors recognize him. Is not a
husband till Penelope recognizes him as a husband. Returns as Nohbody – then gradually he is transformed
into Ithacan Odysseus. All recognitions together make Odysseus what he is and make him whole.

Athena and Odysseus. Almost if it’s his reflex to assume a false identity. Two clever, cunning characters
have a mutual recognition. Happens right after return and deep sleep. First event in reborn state –
intelligence is recognized here. Most important aspect of he is is recognized first. Their encounter affirms
his identity and genius – Latin for divine or spiritual part of individual which makes him what he is.

Odysseus and Telemachus. Athena physically transforms him, enhances him. Telemachus doesn’t believe
him though, believes he is a god. Telemachus recognition of father is climax of Telemachus’ story.
Odysseus, now having a son becomes a father.

Eurykleia and Odysseus. The means to Eurykleia’s recognition is a scar on Odysseus’ thigh. She knows
him from his scar. We learn how he got his scar, then his name – a vital part of being known. Significance:
having an identity is core of defining him. Recognition is main part of identity. Odysssasthai – occurs
several times in the Odyssey, translated to mean “to cause pain and be willing to do so.” Dimick makes
verb for his name. Odysseus has been one who was Odysssasthai. He was one who has pain brought to
him. To be Odysseus is both to injure and suffer injury. Name comes from boar hunt, kills boar, causes
pain, as sufferer he is slashed by it. In the Cyclopes, Odysseus (Nohbody) causes pain to Cyclopes eye,
brings pain to his comrades by giving voice and hence direction to the Cyclopes. Deliberate exposure to
show he is somebody – to pass from being Nohbody to someboyd. – to gain identity. Scar an emblem of
pain emblem of pain received and given – linked with his very name. Urge to establish identity is as basic
to Odysseus as intelligence, as inflicting pain.

4. Suitors and Odysseus. Recognition is simultaneous to their downfall. It’s kill or be killed. Suitor would
not have allowed Odysseus to return and live. The three prior elements combined united by trial of bow.
Suitors reveal arrogance and inability to string bow. The bow is handled and touched by suitors, Penelope,
Telemachus, and Odysseus – the bow links them all. To enhance bow, Homer tells us its history. Homer
describes door and store room, and how Penelope opens door – slows down narration. For a moment
Penelope cries because bow reminds her of Odysseus. Storeroom evokes Odysseus, bow is in some ways
Odysseus. Antinoos replies characteristic arrogance common to Leodes.             All suitors but Antinoos
recognizes Odysseus. Death is fitting for his arrogance, Description of death Eurymachos and Antinoos are
important. They flagrantly violate xenia. Not only their rapacious appetite, but also their violence. Die in
place where they sinned -- fall on table or ground – knocks food and drink about. Graphic image of moral
mess of xenia.

5. Penelope and Odysseus. When Eurykleia tells Penelope that Odysseus was the beggar, she is happy.
Doesn’t believe he killed all 108 men. Olive tree symbol of their marriage. Penelope finally recognizes
Odysseus when he talks of their marriage bed. Two things: 1) First means to recognition: the olive-tree
marriage bed. The third of olive trees mentioned by Porter, symbolizes heroes rebirth. Means of
Penelope’s recognition of her husband. Symbol of birth made a part, of marriage bed – in fashioning bed
posts, incorporating it, rooting it. Penelope recognizes central characteristic of him: passion for home. His
rebirth as Odysseus, husband of Penelope, is integral to his identity. 2) involuntary nature of Odysseus’
response. Penelope controls the scene here. He can’t make her accept it or identify him, by losing self-
control she finds recognition. Provides her with enough to make her accept him as husband. His passion
made him her husband. Now that Penelope recognizes him he can turn to Laertes and then community.

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Description: The Odyssey Bees wax