Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Homer, Odyssey revisited > Books 7 and 8

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Athena comes to the rescue yet again, helping Odysseus get safely and unrecognized to the palace of the Phaeacians. Then after advising him to appeal to Queen Arete, she returns to Athens, of which she is the patron goddess.

Odysseus finds the Phaeacians holding a festival in honor of Poseidon, their patron god, and they offer him a ship to proceed with, which is ironic given that it is Poseidon who has opposed his travels for years.

After the festival, Odysseus, still withholding his name, talks with Arete and Alcinous about his journey from Ogygia and is offered Nausicaa in marriage (of course, nobody bothered to ask her whether she wanted to marry a so far unnamed stranger).

Next day there is an assemblage of the Phaecians, where giving him the ship and crew is formally approved, and then the Phaecians proceed to a feast and games in honor of their guest. During the feast Demodocus, a blind bard (is Homer inserting himself in the story here?) sings of the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles, at which Odysseus weeps at the memories the song raises. Alcinous, seeing his distress, ends the feast and starts the games. Odysseus is invited to participate. He at first demurs, but when challenged he participates and wins the discus toss, which leads to some heated words. But Alcinous calms things down by calling for another feast, at which Demodocus sings about Ares and Aphrodite.

At dinner, Odysseus asks Demodocus to sing of the Trojan horse and the sack of Troy, which he does, but once again Odysseus is distraught, so Alcinous stops the song.

At last, Alcinous asks Odysseus to tell who he is, where he is from, and where he is going. (Interesting that the Phaecians have promised him a ship without knowing who he is or where he’s going, but presumably that is required by the principles of hospitality.)


message 2: by David (last edited Apr 24, 2018 08:14PM) (new)

David | 2737 comments Odysseus' main antagonist is Poseiden. Why would Athena take Odysseus to Alcinous and Arete, Poseiden's grandson and great granddaughter who are uncle and niece and married to each other. There are enough ingredients for several disasters right there. And then Athena leaves for:
[VIII.89]. . .the great house of Erechtheus.
Lombardo translation
I looked this up and the mythological Erectheus appears to be another name for. . .wait for it. . .Poseiden. In the last book she did not appear to Odysseus after hearing his prayer to her out of respect for Poseiden, but once again she clearly seems to be messing in his business and entering his temple. Is this a wise plan of action?


message 3: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Everyman wrote: "Odysseus is invited to participate. He at first demurs, but when challenged he participates and wins the discus toss. . ."

I wonder if things would be different if Odysseus had lost or tied? Also, should we think a little less of Odysseus because Athena helped him win, or more because he is still favored by a god?


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments I was so struck with the image used to describe Odysseus' crying as the bard sings about the sack of Troy in Book 8. Wily Odysseus "let the bright molten tears run down his cheeks,/weeping the way a wife mourns for her lord/on the lost field where he has gone down fighting/the day of wrath that came upon his children./At sight of the man panting and dying there,/she slips down to enfold him, crying out;/then feels the spears, prodding her back and shoulders,/and goes bound into slavery and grief./but no more piteous than Odysseus' tears..." Such a powerful image, but it seems strange to compare Odysseus' victor's grief over the Trojan War to a wife's grief from a losing side.


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments David wrote: "Odysseus' main antagonist is Poseiden. Why would Athena take Odysseus to Alcinous and Arete, Poseiden's grandson and great granddaughter who are uncle and niece and married to each other. There are..."

I wondered at this as well, but apparently Athena thinks that for Odysseus the way home goes through Arete. It's interesting that Arete has qualities similar to Athena -- intelligence, power, prudence, and she is respected as a divinity. And when Odysseus appears miraculously from Athena's mist, he flings his arms around Arete's knees, as he was told to do by Athena. Alcinous does all the talking after this, but there's something special about Arete.


message 6: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "Odysseus' main antagonist is Poseiden. Why would Athena take Odysseus to Alcinous and Arete, Poseiden's grandson and great granddaughter who are uncle and niece and married to each other. There are..."

Athena also “ate” Poseidon’s hecatomb while he’s on vacation and took his job. Nestor ended up hosting another sacrifice for Athena, and Nestor’s son, Pisistratus, traces his descent from Poseidon. This seems personal.

At assembly, Zeus said Poseidon can’t go against the will of all the other gods. It’s a marked departure from Iliad where the gods were in open conflicts. Eventually they grudgingly submitted to Zeus, (IIRC Poseidon and Hera grudged the hardest), but that kind of confrontational relationship and open threats seems to be gone here — instead we get a kind of … coalition of the willing? Maybe that’s what “respect for Poseidon” meant — it’s a respect for this new status quo of truce.

Is this a wise plan of action?

Taking the hardest choice seems to be a consistent theme so far; as though the longest way around is the shortest way home. Athena didn’t tell Telemachus dad is coming home either, she pushed him out of the nest and set the suitors on edge.

Doing what is straightforward and easy is apparently not the point. (Neat contrast with the suitors, who apparently are doing what is most comfortable. IMO, Menelaus is like that as well. And that’s what staying with Calypso was like.)

I wonder if things would be different if Odysseus had lost or tied? Also, should we think a little less of Odysseus because Athena helped him win, or more because he is still favored by a god?

I’m thinking he’s not just acting for himself, he’s like an agent of Athena. So Poseidon failing to “help” his descendants against Athena’s chess piece is manifested in Odysseus winning. Whether Odysseus wins by his own muscle or by divine assistance makes no difference — they’re both his “player stats."


message 7: by Lia (new)

Lia Susan wrote: "I was so struck with the image used to describe Odysseus' crying as the bard sings about the sack of Troy in Book 8. Wily Odysseus "let the bright molten tears run down his cheeks,/weeping the way ..."


Even weirder considering he was wishing he had died in Troy not a few days ago (when Poseidon was tossing him around.) I think it’s interesting that Homer is showing us the winners and the losers alike suffer greatly. I wonder if Odysseus still thinks the war and the “kleos” (the glory of being subject in songs) is worth it.


message 8: by Lia (new)

Lia Thomas wrote: "... apparently Athena thinks that for Odysseus the way home goes through Arete. It's interesting that Arete has qualities similar to Athena -- intelligence, power, prudence, and she is respected as a divinity. And when Odysseus appears miraculously from Athena's mist, he flings his arms around Arete's knees, as he was told to do by Athena. Alcinous does all the talking after this, but there's something special about Arete. "

What I find particularly interesting about this situation is that Nausicaa and Athena (in disguise of a little girl) signalled to Odysseus that in order to get home, he must win Arete’s approval.

IIRC from reading Aristotle, Arete means virtue. Maybe Athena’s agenda is to convince Poseidon’s “followers” (or protectorates) that Odysseus’ way is the just/virtuous/choice-worthy way, even if it’s more painful. Imaginably, that would resolve Zeus’ concerns about being blamed for all the ills in the world.


message 9: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1725 comments Susan wrote: "I was so struck with the image used to describe Odysseus' crying as the bard sings about the sack of Troy in Book 8. Wily Odysseus "let the bright molten tears run down his cheeks,/weeping the way ..."

I’m wondering if it’s possible that Odysseus weeps to solicit sympathy from his audience as he needs their help to get home. In her introduction, Emily Wilson suggests that perhaps his identification with a victim of war demonstrates he feels guilt over the suffering he caused. Or perhaps it downplays his guilt by inviting us to see him as a suffering victim.

But the thing is we are not given a reason for his weeping. The poet only tells us he weeps. Maybe he weeps because he feels sorry for his diminished stature. From the strong, breast-thumping warrior of the Iliad, he has now been reduced to relying on others for help—especially women. Maybe he weeps because he just wants to get home and will do anything to get there. I don’t see him as feeling any remorse for his past actions in Troy. On the contrary, he brags about his past atrocities.

Is his weeping another one of his ploys? He is the master manipulator, after all. Or perhaps his tears are genuine and the comparison of Odysseus’ tears to the tears of a female victim as she is being dragged off to slavery is the poet’s attempt to soften Odysseus’ image.


message 10: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1725 comments One thing that struck me here is the gender roles in Scheria.

Odysseus has been told by both Athena and Nausicaa that he needs to get Arete’s support if he wants to get home. Evidently, she holds the power. So, like Circe and Calypso, Arete is a powerful female and, not insignificantly, she lives on an island.

And then there is Alcinous. When Odysseus weeps, it is Alcinous who notices his behavior and intervenes to stop the bard’s singing on two occasions. He does this to give Odysseus time to compose himself.

Scheria is an unusual place. A woman has power and we are told her opinions are sought even in matters outside the domestic sphere. And a man exhibits the nurturing and sensitive qualities traditionally associated with the feminine.


message 11: by Lia (last edited Apr 25, 2018 05:10AM) (new)

Lia Tamara wrote: "One thing that struck me here is the gender roles in Scheria.

Odysseus has been told by both Athena and Nausicaa that he needs to get Arete’s support if he wants to get home. Evidently, she holds ..."



Nausicaa was also deciding for her brothers what they should wear; and treated them like valets. I wonder if the apparent female leadership in Scheria signals to the ancient audiences that there’s something wrong with this otherwise very blessed place.

Early in Book 7, Athena (in disguise) explained the history of the Phaeacians. Their ancestors were violent giants that killed indiscriminately. Now, Arete dissolves disputes; they cajoled Odysseus a bit in the athletics, as soon as he got angry (and defeated them) they backed way off from confrontation, placated him with “offerings,” and switched from showing off their “wrestling or boxing” to “the feast, the lyre, dancing and varied clothes, hot baths and bed.”

As soon as Odysseus weeps, Alcinoos stops the song and directs the crowd to do something else — there’s something extreme about their avoidance of offence, pain, or confrontation. (reminds me of Helen's drug.) It’s like they’ve completely suppressed their ancestor’s brutish way and flew to the other extreme.


message 12: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1725 comments Lia wrote: "It’s like they’ve completely suppressed their ancestor’s brutish way and flew to the other extreme..."

This might be because the Phaeacians are leery of strangers. It's obvious their way of life and the values they uphold differ significantly from main land Greece. So perhaps they don't want their way of life or values corrupted by outsiders.

Another factor might be because they know that some strangers come to pillage the land and rape their women. They don't know yet Odysseus' real intentions, so they try to placate him. That's possibly also the reason Alcinous is so quick to offer Nausicaa in marriage to Odysseus even before he knows his identity--as a way to co-opt him and ensure stability in their way of life.


message 13: by Lia (new)

Lia All good points Tamara. Nausicaa also revealed that they prefer oars over archeries (6.270) , if that implies they don't have an advanced military, then their survival depends on continued isolation. It makes sense for them to be guarded.

And yet, Alcinous readily promises to help Odysseus get home, they also seem eager to show off their athletics/ refinements to Odysseus, presumably so that Odysseus can tell the world about how glorious they are. It's a bit puzzling.

Their abundance, refinement, and generosity also reminded me of Menelaus's spacious, grassy Sparta, and his generosity towards Telemachus. And Menelaus seems to be under Helen's thumb. I wonder if "blessed paradise" is a necessary condition for female leadership.


message 14: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Athena does assist Odysseus with magic tricks, but he throws the discus on his own.

If anything 'helps' him there, it is his desire to show up the taunting 'host.'


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "IRC from reading Aristotle, Arete means virtue. Maybe Athena’s agenda is to convince Poseidon’s “followers” (or protectorates) that Odysseus’ way is the just/virtuous/choice-worthy way."

Arêtê (the Queen) is spelled with two etas, which differentiates it from manliness or valor (later "excellence" in Aristotle.) The derivation of her name is unclear, but it appears to be related to the verb araomai, to pray (or pray against) or perhaps related to Ares the god. In any case, it's very close to arete, which in Homeric Greek especially is very male-related. Something weird is going on with gender here.


message 16: by Ian (last edited Apr 25, 2018 08:31AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments David wrote: "And then Athena leaves for:

[VIII.89]. . .the great house of Erechtheus.
Lombardo translation

I looked this up and the mythological Erectheus appears to be another name for. . .wait for it. . .Poseiden. In the last book she did not appear to Odysseus after hearing his prayer to her out of respect for Poseiden, but once again she clearly seems to be messing in his business and entering his temple. Is this a wise plan of action? ..."


I was hoping to find a concise note on this to just quote, but instead I've had to piece material together (rather than relying on my memory).

The Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad (Book 2, 546ff.) supplies information which may have been in the minds of the original audiences of the Odyssey:

But the men who held Athens, the strong-founded citadel,
The deme of great-hearted Erechtheus, whom once Athene
Zeus' daughter tended after the grain-giving fields had born him,
and established him to be in Athens in her own rich temple....
(Lattimore translation)

No hint about Poseidon.

Now, Erechtheus (Ἐρεχθεύς) is the name of one of the mythical kings of early Athens -- or two of them depending on who was arranging the genealogy, the older being also known as Erechthonius, the son of Hephaestus and Earth (note "the grain-giving fields" in the Iliad passage).

In Classical times, he (or one of them) *is* closely associated with Poseidon in Athenian cult: the temple he shares with Poseidon is the Erechtheion -- although this close association of the two may date only from the rebuilding after the second Persian War, when, post-Salamis, the sea-god's status as a co-guardian deity of the city became more important.

It even contained a joint altar to Poseidon and Erechtheus, which may account for their identification in some reports.

The temple was supposed to mark the place where Poseidon, in competition with Athena to be the chief deity of the city, struck the ground with his trident, and produced a spring of water -- unfortunately for him, salt water. (Athena produced the olive tree, a foundation of the city's economy in the classical period, and probably well before.)

The Erechtheum also had an altar to Butes, a seer who was the brother of Erechtheus (II, the younger one), which makes some sense, but there was also one to Hephaestus, perhaps regarded as the patron of Athenian craftsmen, but perhaps as the father of Erechthonius (= Erechtheus I) -- in which case Butes is superfluous. So the relationship of mythology to the Classical temple on the Acropolis is more than a little foggy.

Jenny March's "Dictionary of Classical Mythology" was a great help, and supplied a lot of specific information on the ancient source texts. I then ran down some of the references on the Logeion site, Perseus still being unresponsive to me.


message 17: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Christopher wrote: "Athena does assist Odysseus with magic tricks, but he throws the discus on his own."

I was assuming all the muscles Athena put on Odysseus to impress Nausicaa were still there.


message 18: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments David wrote: "Christopher wrote: "Athena does assist Odysseus with magic tricks, but he throws the discus on his own."

I was assuming all the muscles Athena put on Odysseus to impress Nausicaa were still there."


Well, that raises a question: Does Athena alter his form or his appearance?

I really can't picture O. "hulking up." I can imagine a mass delusion, or just a general 'favorable impression' created by a supernatural force.

The point is, the discus throw is real. (Although Athena is standing there saying 'omfg. No one will beat this throw.')


message 19: by David (last edited Apr 25, 2018 01:32PM) (new)

David | 2737 comments Lia wrote: "Susan wrote: "I was so struck with the image used to describe Odysseus' crying as the bard sings about the sack of Troy in Book 8. Wily Odysseus "let the bright molten tears run down his cheeks,/we...

I wonder if Odysseus still thinks the war and the “kleos” (the glory of being subject in songs) is worth it."


kleos seems to be taking a big hit in this book. By the way, the Netflix production of Troy: Fall of a City, 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.


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Cphe wrote: "@ Thomas,

Could the gods switch genders at will or were they intersex?"


We have seen Athena appear as a man, right? But that is only appearance. The Greek gods are unabashedly anthropomorphic, and this would suggest that in reality, (however we want to apply "reality" to the gods) they can change genders as easily as humans can -- not easily. But they could certainly appear as the other gender. Perhaps this is enough?


message 21: by Thomas (last edited Apr 25, 2018 09:02PM) (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Here's an odd thing about the Wilson translation. At 7.66, Athena is describing Arete and says that

Alkinoos made her his wife, and gave her
such pride of place as no other woman on earth is given
of such women as are now alive and keep house for husbands.
(Lattimore)

Wilson translates, ...Alcinoos, made her his wife. No woman
is honored as he honors her.



message 22: by Lia (new)

Lia Thomas wrote: " At 7.66, Athena is describing Arete and says that

Alkinoos made her his wife, and gave her
such pride of place as no other woman on earth is given
of such women as are now alive and keep house for husbands. (Lattimore) "


Pride goeth before a fall? Lattimore’s word choice made me think there’s something “prelapsarian” about Scheria.

By that I mean it’s out of sync with the “fallen world” where men have to toil for a living, and bloody wars are lived realities, not entertaining songs to laugh at. Everything comes easily to the Phaeacians, they don’t even have to learn to steer their ships — their boats “intuit” all by themselves. And the gods “used to show themselves to us directly/ whenever we would give them hecatombs/ They sit and eat among us. Even if / just one of us meets them alone, out walking, / they do not hide from us; we are close friends.” They might as well be talking about Eden (or the Golden Age.)

The Phaeacians are only a few generations from Poseidon, right? If half-blooded sons of gods (Achilles) become heroes, what about daughters (Arete, Nausicaa) and sons (Alcinous and Rhexenor) a few generations away? Do they have some kind of special rights to stay in the “golden age”?

Speaking of, all the other politically powerful female figures had been goddesses or half-blooded goddess (Helen), and Arete is treated like a goddess. Maybe this arrangement is available to them because they are still genetically close to the gods.

It’s ominous how easily Alcinous and Nausicaa are “charmed” by wily Odysseus, the lord of lies. I hope he isn’t the serpent, rhetorically (or visually) smuggling Athena’s forbidden fruit.


message 23: by Lia (last edited Apr 25, 2018 11:45PM) (new)

Lia Christopher wrote: "Well, that raises a question: Does Athena alter his form or his appearance?

I really can't picture O. "hulking up." I can imagine a mass delusion, or just a general 'favorable impression' created by a supernatural force.

The point is, the discus throw is real. (Although Athena is standing there saying 'omfg. No one will beat this throw.') "


If the gods can physically transform Tiresias's genitals (Some snake god?), turn Io into a heifer (Zeus), gluttonous men into chauvinistic pigs (Circe), or annoying gatekeepers into stones (Hermes), surely Athena can transform Odysseus into an exceptional tosser. (sorry)


message 24: by Chris (new)

Chris | 405 comments Reading the beginning of book seven was the first time I really felt immersed in the place with all the rich description of Alchinous' house, especially the courtyard. It was a strong reminder that this originally was an orally-related story and the descriptions brought the listener right there with Odysseus or any of the other players that were center stage in the story.

I am taken also, with all the various transformations of appearance that happen and assistance by the Gods to humans.


message 25: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Lia wrote: "Christopher wrote: "Well, that raises a question: Does Athena alter his form or his appearance?

I really can't picture O. "hulking up." I can imagine a mass delusion, or just a general 'favorable ..."


Well, actually, those examples kind of prove my point (if I have one)- those are transformations (not in Homer, btw). Is Odysseus transformed here? I would say he isn't. Athena casts a spell on the Phonecians (are they Phonecians?), and they SEE Odysseus a different way.

My impression is that if Athena had helped Odysseus win the discus throw, it would have been cheating.

This observing of the city under a mist is of course 'stolen' by Virgil for the first book of the Aeneid, where Aeneas observes the building of Carthage. It's Venus, and not Athena, (Minerva) who helps him out.


message 26: by Lia (new)

Lia Athena poured a special product across Odysseus's "head and shoulders" (!) Presumably, attractive shoulders are hulk shoulders? (Good thing they didn't compete in sprinting).

(I'm only half-serious, for all I know it was just another smoke-screen or deception.)

Funny you should bring up Aeneid... I've been thinking Nausicaa's coyness (about being seen together etc etc) sounded a lot like Aphrodite pretending to be a chaste princess when she seduced Anchises.


message 27: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: the Netflix production of Troy: Fall of a City, 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.

I'm planning to binge it this weekend. Do you know if they filmed the Kassandra/ Aias scene? I've always want to see Athena's reaction as she did nothing and just let that happen on her altar.

I take it that you think Odysseus was weeping for the Trojans?

(How do they find out about these things anyway, the Phaeacians seem so isolated. Maybe the bard's got wifi.)


message 28: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "Athena poured a special product across Odysseus's "head and shoulders" (!) "

That would be charis, as in charisma. Wilson translates it as "attractiveness," but Lattimore and Sachs translate it as "grace." A nice touch for Odysseus as he wanders into Eden.


message 29: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Charis is grace.


message 30: by David (last edited Apr 26, 2018 03:39PM) (new)

David | 2737 comments Christopher wrote: "Well, that raises a question: Does Athena alter his form or his appearance? . . .The point is, the discus throw is real. (Although Athena is standing there saying 'omfg. No one will beat this throw.')"

If Athena only makes him appear to be so strong and athletic, it follows then that he is not as strong and athletic as he is made to appear. If he is not as strong and athletic as he is made to appear, how could he throw it so far?

Maybe the question should be, was the throw real or did the throw that only appear to win by a mile? Just some food for thought.

Regardless of how he threw or appeared to throw the discus so far, point of the event is that he is taunted by Alcinuous' sons and we want him to win, and win big to shut them up. The rude and insulting behavior by Alcinuous' sons put me in mind of the suitors rude and insulting behavior. Is this a preview of things to come?


message 31: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments David wrote: "If Athena only makes him appear to be so strong and athletic, it follows then that he is not as strong and athletic as he is made to appear. If he is not as strong and athletic as he is made to appear, how could he throw it so far? ..."

I think the point is, Odysseus is always stronger than he appears.


message 32: by David (last edited Apr 27, 2018 07:46AM) (new)

David | 2737 comments Lia wrote: "I'm planning to binge it this weekend. Do you know if they filmed the Kassandra/ Aias scene? I've always want to see Athena's reaction as she did nothing and just let that happen on her altar.

I take it that you think Odysseus was weeping for the Trojans?"


Expecting it to be a Game of Thrones meets Homer I cheated and only watched the last episode, 10, so I do not know about the scene you are asking about.

We have mentioned that kleos seems to take big hit in this story. I have read that other bits from the Epic Cycle indicated Odysseus was told it would take forever to return and did not want to go to war, but was tricked into it. It is easy to imagine a reluctant soldier feeling all kinds of things, even pity for a defeated enemy, especially amidst the atrocities committed of which some sources depict Odysseus playing a lessor or greater part in or at least witness to

But I can hear Tom Hanks as Socrates in an incredulous exclamation, "Crying? There's no crying in baseball Greek war epics!" It is just this sort of weeping hero he was critical of the poets for.

Can Odyssey, with all of its non-kleos telling of the negative consequences of war be considered an anti-war story?


message 33: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lia wrote: "How do they find out about these things anyway, the Phaeacians seem so isolated. Maybe the bard's got wifi ..."

An interesting point: a plot-hole that would cry out for patching in a modern book. The Phaeacians are good seafarers, with magically fast ships: they *could* have regular contact with part of the outside world, but never take anyone back home with them. But no one says so.

In any case, the transfer of information probably wasn't instant -- they've had ten years to learn the Troy story (longer if they began hearing of it while the war was still in progress), and we don't know how often it has been sung there before.

Then again, who knows what an inspired singer could have learned directly from the Muses?


message 34: by Lia (last edited Apr 27, 2018 12:22AM) (new)

Lia David wrote: But I can hear Tom Hanks as Socrates in an incredulous exclamation, "Crying? There's no crying in baseball Greek war epics!" It is just this sort of hero weeping he was critical of the poets for.

Can Odyssey, with all of its non-kleos telling of the negative consequences of war be considered an anti-war story? 


I suppose any interpretation is possible.

Looking at the three songs though: the Phaeacians chose the first two, one made Odysseus weep, the other made everyone laugh, and Odysseus chose the third that made him weep even harder. It’s obvious it pains him (I assume those weren’t narcissistic tears of joy, since Homer calls his tears “piteous”), but it’s also obvious that it’s his calculated, considered choice.

Also, they insulted Odysseus at the athletics, profusely apologised with gifts, and then they picked a song depicting “cucked” Hephaestus’s laughing acquiescence coupled with lame (sorry) compensations. Odysseus responded by choosing a song of savage, merciless revenge over Helen’s infidelity.

That doesn't sound anti-war to me, he seems to signal war is choice worthy, knowing full well the cost to both the winners and the losers.

There’s another nice parallel: Athena helped the Greeks sack Troy, and Athena just helped Odysseus beat the Phaeacians. Obviously the Phaeacians didn’t know that so I can’t argue Odysseus is rubbing it in.

David wrote: The rude and insulting behavior by Alcinuous' sons put me in mind of the suitors rude and insulting behavior. Is this a preview of things to come?

I don’t think Odysseus is saying the gifts from the Phaeacians aren’t enough to placate him after the thoughtless insult — but I think his choice of songs could be an ominous preview of what’s coming to the suitors.


message 35: by Lia (last edited Apr 27, 2018 12:19AM) (new)

Lia Ian wrote: "The Phaeacians are good seafarers, with magically fast ships: they *could* have regular contact with part of the outside world, but never take anyone back home with them. But no one says so.

Good point, but now I want the documentations for their self-steering, possibly GPS guided (8.556) boats that "fly like wings, or quick as thoughts." (7.34) (hydrofoils?)

Advanced alien civilisation confirmed?


Ian wrote:Then again, who knows what an inspired singer could have learned directly from the Muses? "

That's true, we don't ask how Homer found out about what the gods said at assemblies either.


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris | 405 comments Christopher wrote: "Athena does assist Odysseus with magic tricks, but he throws the discus on his own.

If anything 'helps' him there, it is his desire to show up the taunting 'host.'"


I had to laugh a little with the taunting and retorts. Trash talk in ancient times!!


message 37: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Chris wrote: "Christopher wrote: "Athena does assist Odysseus with magic tricks, but he throws the discus on his own.

If anything 'helps' him there, it is his desire to show up the taunting 'host.'"

I had to l..."


I recommend Nietzsche's early essay on "Homer's Contest," where he distinguishes "good strife" and "bad strife" (based on Hesiod) and says how important competition was for the Greeks.

Early Greek Philosophy and Other Essays

(this e-book may be out of print in this form)


message 38: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments PS- I've probably quoted this before (from "Homer's Contest"):

(a paraphrase of Hesiod)

“One would like to praise the one Eris, just as much as to blame the other, if one uses one’s reason. For these two goddesses have quite different dispositions. For the one, the cruel one, furthers the evil war and feud! No mortal likes her, but under the yoke of need one pays honour to the burdensome Eris, according to the decree of the immortals. She, as the elder, gave birth to black night. Zeus the high-ruling one, however, placed the other Eris upon the roots of the earth and among men as a much better one. She urges even the unskilled man to work, and if one who lacks property beholds another who is rich, then he hastens to sow in similar fashion and to plant and to put his house in order; the neighbour vies with the neighbour who strives after fortune. Good is this Eris to men. The potter also has a grudge against the potter, and the carpenter against the carpenter; the beggar envies the beggar, and the singer the singer.”


message 39: by Ian (last edited Apr 27, 2018 10:43AM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Christopher wrote: "I recommend Nietzsche's early essay on "Homer's Contest," where he distinguishes "good strife" and "bad strife" (based on Hesiod) and says how important competition was for the Greeks....."

Thanks for the pointer. The e-book to which you linked is one of many derived from an early twentieth century "Complete" translation, which wasn't complete, and many of the translations in it are considered inadequate.

For "Homer's Contest," there is a selection in pages 32-39 of Walter Kaufmann's "Portable Nietzsche" (as "The Viking Portable [Library] Nietzsche," 1954). The Portable Nietzsche Unfortunately this is rather high-priced. However, there is a scan available at https://archive.org/details/ThePortab...

(The Portable Nietzsche should not be confused with another Kaufmann collection, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, which is surprisingly inexpensive in its Modern Library Kindle edition.)

Kaufmann used to be the gold-standard for Nietzsche in English, but there are now a couple of projects to re-translate him, possibly including every surviving text. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the recent bibliography, and don't know which, if any, has covered this early work. There is string of recent translations from Cambridge University Press, which can be tracked using a Wikipedia article on his bibliography:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedri...

The Wikipedia biography is also useful -- but it is rather long and detailed, with extensive documentation (which is good, but may be annoying to the casual reader who is overloaded with information).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedri...

I'm not sure if the complete "Homer's Contest" has been re-translated yet. However, I am familiar with two recent articles on the subject, both by James I. Porter.

One, "Nietzsche and Homer, is from "The Homer Encyclopedia," available at
https://www.academia.edu/26783301/Nie...

The other is "Nietzsche, Homer, and the Classical Tradition"
https://www.academia.edu/23929654/Nie...

Note that both are available free from academia.edu, but you will need to create a (free) account in order to read them on-line or, if necessary. download them as pdfs. (Not all of its offerings are readable on-line.)


message 40: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Off topic, but from what little side-by-side comparison I did, I think The Dawn of Day is a better translation than Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality.

I also preferred the old translation of The Case of Wagner/Nietzsche Contra Wagner/Selected Aphorisms
to Kaufmann's.


message 41: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments To get back on topic, I noticed that the comic story of Hephaestos and Ares went into much more detail than the Trojan War stories, which are narrated only obliquely.

Was the story, in fact, comic? Notice how Poseidon, the remorseless, in fact shows some magnanimity- offering to pay his brother's indemnity.

The theme seems to be that it's pointless to hold a grudge for too long, and it comes right after Odysseus buries the hatchet with the taunter.


message 42: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments This story is interesting in one point. Even the gods suspect each other. They are superior than us and equal to each other, but they seem human in this aspect too.


message 43: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Rafael wrote: "This story is interesting in one point. Even the gods suspect each other. They are superior than us and equal to each other, but they seem human in this aspect too."

Human qualities in gods is not very godlike, but it does seem to explain a lot.


message 44: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Rafael wrote: "This story is interesting in one point. Even the gods suspect each other. They are superior than us and equal to each other, but they seem human in this aspect too."

Human qualities..."


Indeed.


message 45: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "Rafael wrote: "This story is interesting in one point. Even the gods suspect each other. They are superior than us and equal to each other, but they seem human in this aspect too."

Human qualities..."


This really threw me off, actually.

Humans have to learn things the hard way, right? Odysseus learns to be suspicious, tread carefully, poke around and figure things out before committing to a course of action.

But the gods don’t live in caves, I thought everything is fully transparent to them — they hear what’s not spoken out loud in Odysseus’ heart. It shouldn’t be possible to deceive, to “trick” them.

And yet,

and shamed the bed of Lord Hephaestus, where

they secretly had sex. The Sun God saw them,

and told Hephaestus—bitter news for him. |270|


Only The Sun saw them. Homer also went out of his way to highlighted the blindness of the bard. So here, mortals get to “see” what some gods failed to see through a blind man.

My first thought is that we are meant to distrust Demodocus, he’s telling lies about the gods. OTOH, I have also read about Hephaestus‘s trap from many other sources, so he couldn’t have made it up. So maybe not all gods have full exposure to “light” all the time. They live in caves too.


message 46: by Lia (new)

Lia I suppose Athena is also “deceiving” or hiding something from Poseidon. And Hermes famously stole cattles from the Sun. So it’s always been possible for the gods to deceive other gods. I wonder if “the Sun” has special superpower to see everything, or to see more than the other gods, because he’s the one to shine light on things.

BTW, Odysseus has been carefully withholding his name, his identity, right? Did he just rage-leak himself?

I am not weak at any sport men practice.
I know the way to hold a polished bow.
I always was the first to hit my man
out of a horde of enemies, though many
comrades stood by me, arrows taking aim.
At Troy, when the Achaeans shot their bows,
the only one superior to me
was Philoctetes. Other men who eat
their bread on earth are all worse shots than me.



message 47: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Lia wrote: "
At Troy, when the Achaeans shot their bows,
the only one superior to me
was Philoctetes. Other men who eat
their bread on earth are all worse shots than me."
I like Odysseus' honest modesty in claiming the number two spot.



message 48: by David (last edited Apr 27, 2018 07:53PM) (new)

David | 2737 comments Lia wrote: "Homer also went out of his way to highlighted the blindness of the bard. So here, mortals get to “see” what some gods failed to see through a blind man."

Everyman suggested that Demodocus was Homer inserting his blind self into the story.

Demodocus also got Odysseus to weep, which may end up causing everyone to see who he really is.

For the rest of it, all I know is I am going to leave someone in charge while I am on my next vacation to Ethiopia.


message 49: by Lia (new)

Lia Sorry about the grammar/ typo >_< (Too late to edit, I'm now "caught" in a quote for all the gods to laugh at.)

I doubt Demodocus is a stand-in for Homer. Homer wrote (?) songs for Achilles and Odysseus as two different types of heroes; Demodocus pit Odysseus and Achilles against each other in his song. (in the Iliad, Achilles quarrels with Agamemnon, not Odysseus.)

Demodocus depicts gods and adultery as light hearted matters fit for jokes, Homer takes the same subjects (gods, marriage institution) much more seriously.

Blind singer seems like a common trope -- there are tales of bards being blinded for songs that offended the gods; one sang a palinode about Helen's adultery and the gods restored his vision; the rumour is that Homer refused to rescind his song (also about Helen,) and stayed blind. Tiresias is also kind of a blind traveling story-teller who traded his vision for special knowledge.

Watch your house? Why not set a trap and get compensation? :D


message 50: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Sorry, Lia, the poet who wrote the palinode about Helen (after being stricken blind) was Stesichorus:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stesich...

I always think it's Simonides, whoever HE was, so it's easy to get wrong.
(Is Simonides the poet who visits Hiero in Xenophon's dialogue?)

Hiero

But I wonder if the tradition that Homer was blind in fact derives from the blind bard here Books 7 and 8 of the Odyssey?


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