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Homer, Odyssey revisited > General Discussion

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments This is a thread for general discussion of the Odyssey.

Be careful about spoilers. Some here have previously read the Odyssey so may not be paranoid about spoilers. But despite that, try to avoid spoilers, and if you post information or links which include spoilers -- for example, reviews of translations, commentaries, or maps which attempt to show the journey of Odysseus -- be sure to enclose those links in spoiler notations (see "some html is ok" above if you're not sure how to include spoiler links) and briefly note what sort of spoilers the links will include.

A starter comment: the Odyssey takes place after the end of the Trojan War, in which the forces of the Greeks after ten years of war finally sacked Troy and won the war. The Odyssey concerns certain of the Greeks, particularly Odysseus, king of Ithaka, as they start to sail back to their homes.


message 2: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Yes, but the Odyssey takes place TEN YEARS after the end of the Trojan War, which itself lasted ten years.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Christopher wrote: "Yes, but the Odyssey takes place TEN YEARS after the end of the Trojan War, which itself lasted ten years."

Yes, it starts then, but during the 24 books it covers events from the end of the war onward. Saying more, though, would be a spoiler.


message 4: by Cphe (new)

Cphe | 586 comments So Chris, are you saying that ten is a significant number in the Odyssey?


message 5: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments I don't know if Homer mentions ages anywhere, but if one figures Odysseus was 30 when he was 'recruited' for the Trojan War, then he is 50 when the Odyssey begins.


message 6: by Ian (last edited Mar 26, 2018 03:13PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Patrice wrote: "i read somewhere that ten was not necessarily the literal number of years. it was an expression, like nine out of ten times something is true. it meant a long time. i dont think anyone is sure of t..."

I had the feeling I had seen this before, and did a little searching of the Homeric material I have on hand. I found that Richard Martin's notes to the 2011 re-issue of Lattimore's Iliad include a passage which is quite explicit on this. On page 520, explaining line 53 of Book One, he informs us:

"A common pattern: nine days or years represented an unmarked stretch of time that is then contrasted with and fulfilled by a significant tenth day or year. The ten years of the war itself fit this template."

For those without a copy of the Iliad at hand, the passage in question concerns the plague Apollo sends against the Greeks at the beginning of the poem. In Lattimore's translation:

"Nine days up and down the host ranged the god's arrows,
but on the tenth day Achilleus called the people to assembly;"

Doing a word search for "tenth" in the Kindle book of the same edition of Lattimore's translation seems to confirm this pattern in the Iliad

So did a search of the Kindle edition of Lattimore's Odyssey (which is not annotated, so I can't rely on an editorial hand for guidance). Odysseus, especially when he is reporting the experience, repeatedly endures something for nine days and nights, and the resolution comes on the tenth -- but I won't quote any cases here, since some of us have yet to read it.


message 7: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Some books seem to favor certain numbers. I know of another book that has a penchant for the number 40. Do you know them all?

(view spoiler)

Did I miss any?


message 8: by Ian (last edited Mar 31, 2018 09:15AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments This looks like a long digression, but it does link up with the Odyssey, after a fashion, at the end.

The pattern of ninth / tenth shows up in other literature, if you know where to look (and follow the footnotes), apparently derived directly from the Greek models.

For example, the motif shows up, in a simplified form, early in Milton's "Paradise Lost," when Satan and his followers have just been thrust out of Heaven (Book I, lines 50-53):

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf
Confounded though immortal: ...."

Milton's source for the image was another Greek epic, Hesiod's "Theogony," ll. 713-735, which gives the full version.

In the passage in question (quoted from the old Evelyn-White Loeb Classical Library translation), the three Hecatoncheires, or "Hundred-Handers," sons of Earth and Heaven, who were confined in Tartarus by their father, avenge themselves upon their younger siblings and nieces and nephews, the Titans, who left them there when they overthrew Heaven (Ouranos). They are acting to support a still younger generation, Zeus and the other original Olympians, who had freed them:

"And amongst the foremost Cottus and Briareos and Gyes
insatiate for war raised fierce fighting:
three hundred rocks, one upon another,
they launched from their strong hands
and overshadowed the Titans with their missiles,
and buried them beneath the wide-pathed earth,
and bound them in bitter chains
when they had conquered them by their strength
for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth to Tartarus.

*For a brazen anvil falling down from heaven nine nights and days would reach the earth upon the tenth:
and again, a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartarus upon the tenth.*

Round it runs a fence of bronze, and night spreads in triple line all about it like a neck-circlet,
while above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea.
There by the counsel of Zeus who drives the clouds the Titan gods are hidden under misty gloom,
in a dank place where are the ends of the huge earth.
And they may not go out; for Poseidon fixed gates of bronze upon it,
and a wall runs all round it on every side.
There Gyes and Cottus and great-souled Obriareus live,
trusty warders of Zeus who holds the aegis."

(Briarieus and Obriareus are variants of the same name -- they may both be used here for metrical reasons.)

Note that Zeus, like the Titans before him, leaves the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus, but he cunningly changes their status from prisoners to jailers. Perhaps just as well, since they don't seem to be the brightest of the primeval gods.....

Zeus is also assisted by the Hundred-Handers' other brothers, who forge his thunderbolts, the elder Cyclopeans ("Round Eyes"). Their relationship to the giants encountered by Odysseus is unclear, since one of them seems to be a son of Poseidon, by a female Cyclops(?) unknown to Hesiod.


message 9: by Shelley (new)

Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments Not quite related to the interesting numbers discussion above, but here are some online resources that may be of interest to people:

Partially Examined Life has done two recent hour-long podcasts on the moral ethics of The Odyssey with Emily Wilson as guest. I've just finished the first one, which was very interesting and thought-provoking. Here they are if anyone would like to check them out:
http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2018...
http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2018...

I've come across the works of a Greek musicologist, Ioannidis Nikolaos, who put some of Homer's verses to music that was his best guess at what the bards may have been singing in classical Greek times. They songs are short (a minute or so) and available for download for a few dollars. They are quite interesting, and a good way to hear classical Greek for me.
http://homoecumenicus.com/homer_iliad...


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I'm putting this post under General Discussion, rather than Translations, because it is devoted to secondary sources.

I'm told that there was a time when classical mythology was taught in school, even if toned down quite a bit for children. That was barely true in my time -- I think my classroom exposure was limited to background in a Latin class. And if you did get it, you probably used Edith Hamilton's sanitized "Mythology," which did not quote or indicate ancient sources. (And also garbled the non-Greek mythologies she tacked on at the end). I doubt if the situation is any better today, barring some instances of home schooling, and some excellent on-line courses which support it.

The Odyssey is not as jam-packed with gods, mostly at cross-purposes, as The Iliad, but it still offers quite a bit for a novice to keep straight. Anyone who would like solid information (beyond X is god of Y, and is the son/daughter of Z), and doesn't have an edition with a good basic commentary or full introduction, to help with this, I've put together a short list of modern reference books, the first two in dictionary format.

My suggestion as a first choice would be the one available as a free pdf (although you have to create an account with academia.org if you don't already have one), "Cassell's Dictionary of Classical Mythology" (1998, by Jenny March), which the original publisher let go out of print. See
https://archive.org/details/March.Jen...

There is a second edition, a bit expensive for something you may not plan to use again, but very nice if you can afford it (and it fills a hole in your library), retitled just "Dictionary of Classical Mythology" (Oxbow Books, 2014), revised and expanded, and with new illustrations. It is even available as a Kindle book.
https://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Cla...

In either incarnation, it follows the good, but too-rare, practice of actually citing the ancient sources, instead of asking the reader to take the information on trust. It also provides occasional quotations.

Also out of print (at least so far as I could find on Amazon) is Edward Tripp's "Handbook of Classical Mythology," dubbed "Crowell's Handbook...." by the original publisher, and retitled "The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology" in paperback. This too is notable for actually giving the source texts for the information. There are various Amazon pages for it:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=...

For a great many years (since 1928), H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology, with its Extension to Rome" was a reliable, if not very attractive, guide, arranged in roughly chronological order (so finding anything in particular took either previous knowledge or an extended use of the index to find something you didn't know you didn't know....). It has been thoroughly revised by Robin Hard, as "The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology" (2003). This is a considerable improvement, but it is, unfortunately ungodly expensive, even in Kindle format.

https://www.amazon.com/Routledge-Hand...

Used copies of the Rose version are, of course, frequently available.


message 11: by Shelley (new)

Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments Ian wrote: "And if you did get it, you probably used Edith Hamilton's sanitized "Mythology," which did not quote or indicate ancient sources."

Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" is definitely less scholarly than a lot of the sources you listed, but to be fair she does quote and indicate ancient sources. She has a paragraph before each major section to discuss, albeit briefly, the sources. She also quotes directly from the originals using her own translation. That book was my intro to Greek mythology and still, in my mind, the most accessible and readable collection.

(Ditto about the Norse mythology at the end though. I still have no idea why she included that chapter.)


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Hamilton to me seems to fill a certain niche--it was certainly important to me as a young reader. Even before I found Hamilton, though, I was spellbound in my early years by D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. I bought them for my children when they were young, but evidently the magic was all gone. I still pull them down now and again though.

(Ian, I realize you weren't suggesting Hamilton had no place. The conversation just reminded me of the absolutely entrancing work by the D'Aulaire's.)


message 13: by Ian (last edited Apr 02, 2018 07:01PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it, and found it a good *introduction.*

My attitude toward Hamilton may be skewed by having an encounter with a couple of people (fellow students in college), who had stopped there, and were sure that the way Hamilton told a story is the way it *really* goes. (And never mind how she tiptoes around some topics.)

They would not accept that an allusion (in Milton, I think) to an unfamiliar telling or omitted detail was really there, despite the annotations in the edition we were using giving precise information on where it came from.

Yes, she does *mention* the sources -- that had slipped my mind -- but mentioning that something can be found in (for example) Hesiod's Theogony, or Ovid's Metamorphoses, is kind of vague. And she admitted changing one story (Philomena, if memory serves), so that it made more sense to her -- she did mention her source there, and I should have remembered that. The variation produced a certain amount of confusion in my Junior High Latin class, where there were two right answers to one question.

Graves' textual notes in his "Greek Mythology" were an eye-opener (despite his eccentric commentary).

Come to think of it, book and line numbers might have brought about quite a storm of protest from parents, if it lead to them finding out what Ovid really said..... Maybe she was right to be cautious.


message 14: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments We had mythology in 7th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade, to the point where I absolutely hate the subject.

12th grade was reading Ovid's Metamorphoses:

The Metamorphoses

I remember having D'Aulaire's book of Greek myths around when I was a kid, but I can't say I really liked it. There was a child's version of Aesop's Fables which I liked a lot more:




message 15: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Ian wrote: "I'm told that there was a time when classical mythology was taught in school, even if toned down quite a bit for children."

I did in fifth grade. We were introduced to the ancient Greeks with all their mythology, tragedies and of course, the Iliad and Odyssey. I was at a private school at the time, so this might have had some bearing on the more liberal arts oriented curriculum. At this early age we didn't read any of them. Our teacher told us the stories, which I am sure gave the advantage for making them age-appropriate.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments At the risk of sounding lowbrow, I actually found the Complete Idiots Guide to Classical Mythology a nice introduction for my grandkids -- easy and fun to read but seemingly having all the basic mythology that one needs to read classical works and works referencing the classical mythology. I have several other guides, including Bullfinch, Hamilton, the Oxford Classical Dictionary, and others, but for a quick check I am as willing to pull out the Idiots guide as anything else. Well, I used to -- it's now on what seems to be permanent loan to the grandkids!


message 17: by David (last edited Apr 03, 2018 06:18AM) (new)

David | 2681 comments I did not take a mythology class in college, but I saw the students who used Bulfinch's Mythology as one of the texts. It seems rather bulky and awkward which leads me to believe students were probably only given choice assigned readings. Is it the "definitive" guide?

I have only heard good things about the The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classical Mythology and it seems to be adequate for my needs. So far I have found enough information Googling what I need at the time.


message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Bryan wrote: "Hamilton to me seems to fill a certain niche--it was certainly important to me as a young reader. Even before I found Hamilton, though, I was spellbound in my early years by [book:D'Aulaires' Book ..."

"The Book of Greek Myths" is an old favorite for me, as well. Enough so that I bought a paperback (which was somewhat fragile, due to its odd size) as gift for a young relative, who I hoped enjoyed it (and passed it on to his younger brother).

Given the readership at which it is aimed, it is surprisingly comprehensive, and treats some out-of-the-way stories, like the birth of Pan (and his mother's terrified reaction to the "monstrous" child, contrasted with the delight of his father, Hermes).


message 19: by Ian (last edited Apr 16, 2018 04:47PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments David wrote: "I did not take a mythology class in college, but I saw the students who used Bulfinch's Mythology as one of the texts. It seems rather bulky and awkward ... Is it the 'definitive' guide?"

In a word, No.

But his work continues to be used as a text in certain environments, and it seems to be popular among those who have heard of it, and don't know there are other treatments.

Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" was in some sense a competitor for this classroom and family market. There have been some abridged editions of Robert Graves' "Greek Mythology" which may have had the same target, although Graves is a lot denser, and much less readable.

Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867) was a proper Bostonian (the son of an early American architect) who wrote a multi-volume series on myths and legends, of which the first was "The Age of Fable" (using the older sense of "Fabula" for stories of gods and heroes, rather than the more specialized use for stories with a "moral," like Aesop), which is quite often what people (who know it at all) are thinking about when they mention Bulfinch.

The whole series originally appeared as (dates from Wikipedia):
1. The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855)
2. The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur (1858)
3. Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of the Middle Ages (1863)

The three volumes were collected in 1881 (i.e. posthumously), and they do tend to be lumped together as just "Bulfinch's Mythology" -- a very thick single volume, if issued complete, as is sometimes the case.

There have also been editions joining volumes 2 and 3 together, and apart from the classical material, which makes a great deal of sense. (I used to have Mentor paperbacks using this two-volume arrangement of the original three volumes.)

Somewhat amazingly, there have been expanded editions, covering, for example, some medieval material he hadn't included, and, less surprisingly, revised and/or illustrated editions. Some are available from archive.org. I did a search for "Age of Fable" and found a lot of entries, but they have to be sorted out from other material, on

https://archive.org/details/texts?and...

(The other volumes can be found under their titles, of course.)

I haven't taken the time to sort out what is now in print, especially since the Amazon product descriptions sometimes seem to belong to a different edition than the one offered for sale.

Bulfinch included some Norse mythology -- via an eighteenth-century study and translation -- and the stories of Charlemagne and his Peers came mainly via the Renaissance Italian treatments by Boiardo and Ariosto. (He is still a useful summary for these last -- that is, he hasn't, so far as I know, been replaced by something better.)

As for his mid- to late-twentieth century usefulness (as a guide):

Bulfinch's professed aim was to make intelligible the allusions and retellings in English-language literature (mainly poetry), and he used the Roman names for the gods and heroes, which still predominated in English-language works when he was writing.

This object tended to limit his selection of material to what he found in the poets (mainly), but he probably would be very useful in a class which covered classical mythology in English literature; which may have been the case for the students you saw lugging it around.

(Unfortunately for his intended purpose, he was a little too early to make use of Tennyson's Arthurian "Idylls of the King," published in sections between 1859 and 1885.)

He was also pretty Victorian in what he chose to include or explain, which made it look safe for children.

There are a couple of other downsides.

First, "The Age of Fable" proper (the first volume) systematically used the Roman, rather the Greek, names of the gods and heroes, which did have the good excuse of matching the English-language references he was explaining. These days, it puts an extra burden on the student using other sources, as one has to get used to switching between, for example, Jupiter and Zeus, Ulysses and Odysseus, at short notice.

Second, Bulfinch also relied very heavily (if not exclusively) on Ovid and Virgil, who were indeed the major sources for the English-language writers he was explaining (except, I think, some exclusively Homeric material, but it has been a long time since I checked for that). The sheer diversity of Greek mythology was stripped away to provide one "canonical" version.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Christopher wrote: "We had mythology in 7th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade, to the point where I absolutely hate the subject.

12th grade was reading Ovid's Metamorphoses"


That is WAY too much, even for me, and I really enjoyed it from an early age (elementary school).

Not to mention a waste of valuable class time (my parents were teachers), if that was all in one school system, and the repetition was avoidable: those involved in setting the curricula needed a *long* talk about was necessary and practical! (I know some people who moved a lot, and tell me they sometimes got the same material over and over, at different grade levels, which was no one's fault, but bad luck all the same.)


message 21: by Ian (last edited Apr 03, 2018 10:37AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments An addendum to Bulfinch.

Wikipedia informs me of two books on the subject, which I have not seen, both by the same author, Marie Sally Cleary:

Myths for the Millions. Thomas Bulfinch, His America, and His Mythology Book. Kulturtransfer und Geschlechterforschung, 4. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007.

and, earlier

The Bulfinch Solution: Teaching the Ancient Classics in American Schools (1990)

See also, for an excerpt and a review of the two volumes:

https://www.fivecolleges.edu/mcleary

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2008/2008-09...


I should also have acknowledged that Bulfinch on "The Age of Chivalry" included a large selection derived from Lady Charlotte Guest's pioneering translation of "The Mabinogion," suitably censored, of course, but still a sign that he was keeping up with the known literature.


message 22: by Cphe (new)

Cphe | 586 comments Question:

Is it going to be necessary to also obtain a copy of mythology text to be able to read the Odyssey?


message 23: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Cphe wrote: "Question:

Is it going to be necessary to also obtain a copy of mythology text to be able to read the Odyssey?"


Cphe, although this thread has veered toward a discussion of books on Greek mythology, you don't need to obtain a mythology text to read the Odyssey.

If you go to the top of this thread and read Everyman's introductory post, you will know all you need to know for reading and enjoying the Odyssey. And, as always, if you have questions on the material once we start reading it, just ask.

You made it through Aristotle like a champ. Compared to Aristotle, this will be a walk in the park :)


message 24: by David (last edited Apr 03, 2018 02:59PM) (new)

David | 2681 comments Cphe wrote: "Question:

Is it going to be necessary to also obtain a copy of mythology text to be able to read the Odyssey?"


I would say no. But there might be some names or terms dropped that may inspire a desire to know a little more that could be easily satisfied with a quick Google or Wikipedia search, or a posted question.

For example, the aegis is mentioned a few times and I did not have a clue. The Wikipedia disambiguation page for the term lists 41 uses for the term but right at the top its reference in Odyssey became clear with
In Greek mythology, aegis is the shield used by the Greek god Zeus.
For me, that small description is adequate for understanding its few mentions in my translation. But if you want to know more, the full Wikipedia page on it provides enough information without going too deep down the rabbit hole: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis. Any more than that would be another story.


message 25: by Cphe (last edited Apr 03, 2018 03:22PM) (new)

Cphe | 586 comments Thank you - I tend to forget that google can be my friend at times.


message 26: by Ian (last edited Apr 04, 2018 09:41AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Cphe wrote: "Question:

Is it going to be necessary to also obtain a copy of mythology text to be able to read the Odyssey?"


Definitely not. I launched into this extended discussion with the proviso that you may easily get through the gods (and monsters) with the help of the translation's introduction, glossary, or notes.

Not all translations come with them, and of those which do, not all are equally useful, so a handy backup for the sometimes tangled stories could be useful.

Wikipedia is a good resource, but, like any other, it has to be read carefully, and all the way through. For example, it points out that the aegis is also used by Athena, as in the Odyssey. So far so good.

So Zeus is sometimes aegis-bearing, but in art and literature (including the Odyssey) it is quite persistently associated also with the goddess who emerged from his head.

Which is another story: Athena's *mother* was the goddess Metis -- that is, Cunning -- who Zeus swallowed when warned that she would bear him a son greater than his father -- which had befallen the first two world-ruling gods, Uranus and Kronos.

Homer doesn't seem to know, or at least use, this story: our first source is the slightly later Hesiod, whose work has other strange "births."

However, this special parental association with Zeus may explain Athena's frequent use of one of his attributes. And, assuming that the epic poet just didn't mention it, also explains why, in the Odyssey, she usually gets her way with Zeus, unless her uncle Poseidon is opposed.

(Or the aegis just may have been inconsistently associated with both of them to begin with, and trying to link up the stories to make sense of them is an idle exercise.)


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cphe wrote: "Question:

Is it going to be necessary to also obtain a copy of mythology text to be able to read the Odyssey?"


No. While sometimes knowing the facts about a given god or goddess will enhance understanding, it isn't essential to the story. If a given myth is essential to the reading I'm sure somebody will post the necessary information, or you can find out all you need to from the Internet, or just ask on the threads and I'm sure you'll get lots of great information. Trying to focus too much on the mythology of the particular gods and goddesses will probably be more a distraction from the story than a benefit, at least for first time readers.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments David wrote: "I saw the students who used Bulfinch's Mythology as one of the texts. It seems rather bulky and awkward which leads me to believe students were probably only given choice assigned readings. Is it the "definitive" guide?."

No. There really is no definitive guide, other than the original sources, such as Hesiod and Ovid and the Greek tragedies, which often differ because there are different versions of many of the myths.

Probably the closest thing to a definitive guide is the Oxford Classical Dictionary, but it's big and expensive and isn't a coherent rendition of the myths but is in encyclopedic format where it gives entries alphabetically. It's comprehensive, and authoritative, but far from necessary.


message 29: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments I had very little background in mythology, and it did not lessen my experience reading the Odyssey. The prose is so fluid, easy to read, and lovely, that I decided not to be distracted by interruptions like researching mythical characters. I waited until I was done to do that. And in fact, because of the Odyssey, I have dedicated 2019 as the year to discover all things mythical and mythological.


message 30: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments This question may be suited better for the Tea Room, but since it's Homer-related, I'll take my chances. Has anyone seen "Troy: Fall of a City"? I just noticed it's streaming on Netflix now, but it's a BBC One production. Reviews appear to be mixed.


message 31: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Continuing the discussion from Message 76 in Book III-IV.

Lia wrote: "Which means Plato, while laying charges against poets, is himself a poet. ..."

Socrates/Plato answers this charge
You and I, Adeimantus, aren’t poets, but we are founding a city. And it’s appropriate for the founders to know the patterns on which poets must [Republic II., 379] base their stories and from which they mustn’t deviate. But we aren’t actually going to compose their poems for them.

Plato. Plato: Complete Works (Kindle Locations 25984-25986). Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
A strong distinction is made between the museic of fiction and philosophical treatises.

You should have been here for our reading of Plato's Republic. and I recommend reading along with our discussion of it last year and an earlier reading in 2011-2012 on it if you want to tackle it. Unlike most of Plato's works it did not end in a total state of puzzlement known as aporia. However, it is clear that Plato/Socrates had a huge bone to pick with the poets and were so full of harsh judgements against the poets I was put in mind of the witch hunt against comic books in the 50's. Here is a short article you may be interested in: Plato vs. Homer: The Battle for Greece


message 32: by Lia (new)

Lia
You should have been here for our reading of Plato's Republic ...


Sure, like I’m not kicking myself hard enough already. You guys discussed so many books I’ve been dying to discuss — Ovid, Joyce, Aristotle, Plato. How come NOBODY ever tells me these things? blames Zeus.

I will look through the threads. I just thought the “weak defence” and “strong defence” ivory tower hoards won’t be easily overcome either. (two established schools of arguments saying Plato wasn’t actually against poets, the weak one says he’s only against bad poets … like Homer!)


message 33: by Lia (new)

Lia
You and I, Adeimantus, aren’t poets, but we are founding a city. And it’s appropriate for the founders to know the patterns on which poets must


Are you really really sure that’s not … satire? I get suspicious whenever people write about ideal cities, like Utopia, or Aristophanes’ Birds, more often than not the point is that such “perfect” city is a pipe dream and only exist at the expense of somebody else (not that the Greeks had any problems with building a great city at the expense of slaves and foreigners etc etc.)


message 34: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4434 comments Lia wrote: " You and I, Adeimantus, aren’t poets, but we are founding a city. And it’s appropriate for the founders to know the patterns on which poets must

Are you really really sure that’s not … satire? I..."


I probably disagree with David on this point, but I do think the Republic ends in aporia. The "city in speech" is a paradigm, or a pattern, and like all patterns (and all speech) it is something that cannot be realized in all its "perfection". Socrates rails against poets for the same reason he never wrote anything down -- art is incapable of demonstrating truth, and any attempt to prove truth via art (speech) will fail. I expect Plato agreed, but he also saw the power of fiction to tell a truth it cannot prove. At the same time, he knew that power was dangerous in the wrong hands, or mouth.

(In the passage we've been looking at in Book 3-4 thread, Nestor is amazed at how much Telemachus' speech resembles that of Odysseus, the master of tricks. The word for speech there is not logos, but mythos.)


message 35: by Rex (new)

Rex | 206 comments I too would have to disagree, tentatively, with the idea that Plato was as hard on poetry as those lines from The Republic (or from the Laws) would have us believe. What would we do then with the soaring imagination of the Phaedrus, for instance? Also, the tradition that followed Plato certainly made much of Homer. But I expect that debate isn't going to be settled any time soon.


message 36: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Rex wrote: "I too would have to disagree, tentatively, with the idea that Plato was as hard on poetry as those lines from The Republic (or from the Laws) would have us believe..."

Fair warning. 3. Republic, Books II, III, X from this article may produce a state of aporia in you concerning Plato/Socrates distaste for certain popular poety. I was going to try to summarize things myself from our reading of Republic last year, but this one is much better and is consistent with my more humble understanding of the text.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pl...


message 37: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Thomas wrote: "This question may be suited better for the Tea Room, but since it's Homer-related, I'll take my chances. Has anyone seen "Troy: Fall of a City"? I just noticed it's streaming on Netflix now, but it..."

I have queued it up to watch but I have a feeling that not only does it read between the lines, it reads far outside them as well.

Speaking of "new and related" material, I've been noticing adds for Circe, by Madeline Miller, which was just recently published on April 10th.


message 38: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments David wrote: "Thomas wrote: "This question may be suited better for the Tea Room, but since it's Homer-related, I'll take my chances. Has anyone seen "Troy: Fall of a City"? I just noticed it's streaming on Netf..."

Thomas, I've heard Troy is pretty awful. I haven't watched it myself but I've heard the production deviates considerably from Homer and transforms the characters into something unrecognizable from the original.

David wrote: "Speaking of "new and related" material, I've been noticing adds for Circe, by Madeline Miller, which was just recently published on April 10th."

David, I'm picking up my copy of Miller's Circe on Wednesday. It's been getting good reviews. I'm looking forward to reading it. I enjoyed her Song of Achilles.


message 39: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Patrice wrote: "are you thinking of Troy, the movie with brad Pitt as Achilles? it got horrid reviews but i enjoyed it. Low expectations always helps me enjoy...anything.
it sounds as though this is something dif..."


Hi Patrice,
There's a new series on Netflix called Troy: Fall of a City. It's not the movie with Brad Pitt.


message 40: by Rex (new)

Rex | 206 comments I've seen the first couple episodes of Troy: Fall of a City. I like aspects of its visual and narrative style, and the acting is pretty good, but the script is uninspired at best. The first couple episodes center on Paris and Helen, who are dreadfully dull as a leading couple. Paris seems utterly devoid of redeeming qualities, and although Helen is certainly beautiful, the writers put in her mouth jarringly anachronistic motivation. The earthy treatment of the gods is interesting, and I like Zeus so far (though not, for some reason, the goddesses). I think I like where they're going with Agamemnon, but the Iphigenia sacrifice, which they tried to make a wrenching emotional moment, fell mostly flat because Agamemnon's character was insufficiently established.

I have heard Achilles in battle is worth waiting for. Not sure if I'll wait.


message 41: by Ian (last edited Apr 18, 2018 04:49PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments This is sort of a follow-up to my earlier posting on handbooks and introductions to Greek Mythology (or generally Classical, i.e, including Roman).

I just discovered that a book that I thought had been dropped by archive.org (the Internet Archive) is in fact still available from them, free (in PDF and other formats).

https://archive.org/details/TheCambri...

The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythlogy, edited by Roger D. Woodard, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

It contains over 500 pages of intriguing, mostly not-too-technical, articles like "Politics and Greek Myth" and "Ovid and Greek Myth" (chapters 10 and 11, as it happens), including a fascinating article on classical mythology in the movies, which pays what I consider proper homage to Ray Harryhausen's version of Jason and the Argonauts, particularly the bronze giant Talus.

I went searching for this on-line (again) in part because I just discovered that there is a volume with a similar title now available on-line as well:

https://www.academia.edu/7333850/A_Co...

A Companion to Greek Mythology, edited by Ken Dowden and Niall Livingstone Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

As I've noted elsewhere in these threads for the Odyssey, academia.edu is free, but requires creating an account, which is easy enough.

The Wiley-Blackwell "Companion" has over 600 pages of text, and a similarly wide variety of articles, but, so far as I have checked, even the articles covering the same subjects as the "Cambridge Companion" do so from different points of view.

Note that I am NOT recommending that you try to read either in concert with the Odyssey: browsing the chapters on, say, Myth in Homer, would be more like it. However, if you are as fascinated with the subject as I am, you may wind up deciding to read through both -- eventually, and as a long-term project.

(Well, I pushed myself to read the Cambridge Companion over a week or so -- it was a distraction from things that weren't going to improve just because I sat around worrying about them.)

{Addendum: re-checking this for spelling, I realized instead that I had omitted the Amazon pages for the two books:

https://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Comp...

https://www.amazon.com/Companion-Myth... }


message 42: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Here is another large (500 pages) collection of articles (25, plus an introduction) which may be of interest to to those intrigued by how the Greeks saw their gods. It is also another which I thought had been dropped as a whole from archive.org., with only some chapters left posted for download.

"The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations," edited by Jan N. Bremmer and Andrew Erskine, Edinburgh University Press, 2010. 550 pages.

https://archive.org/details/TheGodsOf...

It turned out it had been given a somewhat odd subtitle (-relationToChristianity-), instead of the real one, originally leading me to think that the file was an excerpt. Eventually, I downloaded it to find out for sure: archive.org warns that there may not be files available, but the pdf is certainly there, and it is complete, including illustrations (which are often omitted) -- or at least most of them.

The book is still in print in paperback (Amazon has one copy left in stock, as of this morning), but kind of expensive, even in that format, (although not too bad by current standards, considering the length):

ttps://www.amazon.com/Gods-Ancient-Greece-Id...

This is not a handbook on the Greek Gods, but covers things like how they were collected into a pantheon, their use in magic, and, at the end of the story, how they appeared in Christian Apologists.


message 44: by Tamara (last edited Apr 23, 2018 06:50PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments David wrote: "Novel Reimagines Homer's Malevolent Witch Circe As Powerful Feminist Deity"

I just finished reading Circe. I found Miller's portrayal of Circe disappointing--nothing like the Circe in Homer and far from being a "powerful feminist deity."


message 45: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "Episode 10 portrays Odysseus walking past and observing the very scene he recalls here very effectively; It is no wonder that he weeps. The dropping of Astyanax from the walls was pretty gut-wrenching as well."

There are only 8 episodes right? I was shocked to see Odysseus dropping Astyanax himself, I've always thought Achilles' son dropped the baby. I googled it and it turns out some versions had Odysseus doing the killing.

Not sure how to feel about that in relation to Odysseus' tears in Scheria.


message 46: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Lia wrote: "I googled it and it turns out some versions had Odysseus doing the killing. "

I erred, I meant the last episode, which is in fact 8, not 10.

I found the same thing, There are several versions of the death of Astyanax with Odysseus playing several different roles, from no involvement, to urging it be done, to doing it himself.

Most succinctly, If Wikipedia is to be believed:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astyanax

The Netflix production (view spoiler)

I have to admit certain versions of Odysseus' involvement in the atrocity upset me quite a bit and I do not want them to be part of how I remember Odysseus' character, which prompted me to do some resurf™. I don't like certain versions of Odysseus and they detract from my liking him as much as I have in Odyssey, and will be searching the song for something more directly redemptive than the 20 years of pain he endures.

Are those tears Odysseus sheds crocodile tears, tears of regrets, tears of loss, or some mixture of all of the above? Probably all of the above. As a reluctant participant in a 10 year war I am sure he had a long list of things to weep over. And after all, we are being told "about a complicated man".


message 47: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments David wrote: "I have to admit certain versions of Odysseus' involvement in the atrocity upset me quite a bit and I do not want them to be part of how I remember Odysseus' character..."

There was a strain of thought in ancient times that systematically represented him as a treacherous schemer, and ruthless toward anyone who stood in his way -- or might someday be a threat.

There was even another clever character, Palamedes, whose sole purpose in the story seems to have been showing how wicked Odysseus was; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palamed...

(Palamedes' two known accomplishments seem to be (a) foiling Odysseus' trick to stay out of the war by feigning insanity, and (b) inventing dice and other games to amuse the Greeks during the long, and mostly boring, siege.)

The driving force behind this hostility may have been discomfort with the idea of a hero who used his wits rather than, like a proper aristocrat, brute force, but it was also popular in democratic Athens -- although the still-influential Athenian aristocracy may take some of the credit for keeping it alive.

This negative portrayal was used in Athenian tragedy, to judge from the title of a lost play by Euripedes, "Palamedes," which was part of a trilogy with the surviving "Trojan Women," in which Odysseus has an unsympathetic role.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tro...

On the other hand, Sophocles, in one of his surviving plays, "Ajax," portrays him rather sympathetically -- he is in fact probably the only wholly admirable character in the play, including Athena.


message 48: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Ian wrote: There was a strain of thought in ancient times that systematically represented him as a treacherous schemer, and ruthless toward anyone who stood in his way -- or might someday be a threat."

I wonder why there is such a disparity of representations of Odysseus? If he were a real person, which do you think we should be inclined to believe, and why?

Personally I tend to like my heroes secure in their all white hats but the flawed hero seems more believable.


message 49: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "I wonder why there is such a disparity of representations of Odysseus..."

Odysseus is so many things though, it seems impossible to pin him down to one categorical interpretation. His rhetorical manipulativeness is not unlike Socrates; his city-sacking ruthlessness is closer to Alcibiades. Neither turned out to be much loved; and different people hated them for different reasons.

You know how Hermes was meh about Ogygia for its lack of political development? (No hecatomb, the horror!) I think Odyssey is at least partly about advancing civilisation, which justifies whatever it takes to convert people who did not respect laws or worship the gods. (Sorry, that sounds colonial.) I suspect those justifications ring hollow at certain point in Greek political history — when laws seemed no more that sophistry, and many were ashamed (?) of their own role in sacking Melos. (This is just random speculation on my part, I have no citation to back this up.) The trickster credited with enabling human institutions could easily turn into a villain when people turn cynical about the Polis.

About Odysseus’ role in atrocities -- I’ve been reading Odysseus as “the one good Argive” who didn’t deserve to perish, like a prototype-Noah. The most immediate contradiction to this would be the fact that Aias was allowed to survive until he taunted Poseidon — to kill him for such trivial reason seems to disprove “good ones get saved” model. (He raped Athena’s suppliant on Athena’s altar, and failing to punish Aias was part of Odysseus’ “rap sheet”.)

But then I thought maybe that’s like hostage exchange with Poseidon — Athena spares Aias with limited punishment, Poseidon lets Athena get away with saving Odysseus after 7 years of Calypso.

For that frame to work, I need Odysseus to be mostly only guilty of “sin of omission” (i.e. failed to punish Aias, failed to stop corpse-abuse, failed to stop baby-killing, failed to discipline his crew, etc.) His own story telling in Scheria certainly suggests (view spoiler) And if he actively schemed a cruel act, he was more or less justified and moderate in his execution.

Odysseus is redeemable to me partly because he unflinchingly owns his “sins.” Later in the epic, Telemachus would (view spoiler) I thought that’s another case of “like father, like son.” But that falls flat if Odysseus turns out to be far darker than he lets on, and his song fails to justify his worst atrocities.


message 50: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 9 comments Thank each of you for your thoughtful comments and for sharing so many interesting resources for furthering our understanding. My own high school experience with this, if memory serves correctly, was more like seventh grade perhaps and without too much in depth discussion. I wish I had been taught more about Odysseus' background, the background if the war had completed, etc. We did an overview of the myths, but it was superficial. X of Greeks equals Y of Romans, may a thought or two beyond this.

I downloaded Ian's first recommended Mythology book. Very nice!

Just FYI for completeness, I am aware of A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong. A primer. :-) I haven't read this, so cannot comment on it.


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