Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Homer, Odyssey revisited > Books 11 and 12

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Odysseus continues to relate his adventures to the Phaeacians.

After their year of luxury in Aeaes, Circe warns them that they cannot sail directly home, but must go first to Hades for Odysseus to consult the blind seer Teiresias. Circe gives them good wind, and off they sail in their one remaining ship until they reach Oceanus, which according to Greek geography is a river that runs completely around the disk of the earth. There they land, and come to “the place of which Circe had told us.”

Here Odysseus digs a pit and pours into it drinks for the dead, first honey and milk, then wine, and then water. After prayer, he then kills two sheep and lets the blood flow into the pit, at which point the dead start emerging from Erebus. But Odysseus will not let them drink until Teiresias answers his questions.

But first, Elpenor, who had died falling from the roof of Circe’s house begs Odysseus to return there to offer him proper funeral rites, which Odysseus promises to do. He also sees the ghost of his dead mother, but will not let her drink, and so has no conversation with her yet.

Finally Teiresias comes up, and after Odysseus lets him drink from the blood Teiresias prophesies that although Poseidon is angered against Odysseus, still Odysseus can get home to Ithaca if he curbs his spirit and that of his men. First they must travel to the island Thrinacia, where the sun god grazes his cattle and sheep. As long as they leave these beasts alone, they may reach Ithaca. But ‘if thou harmest them, then I foresee ruin for thy ship and thy comrades, and even if thou shalt thyself escape, late shalt thou come home and in evil case, after losing all thy comrades, in a ship that is another's, and thou shalt find woes in thy house...”

Teiresias then returns to the underworld, and Odysseus lets other spirits drink the blood so they can converse with him, including his mother, who tells him of the situation in Ithaca after he had left for Troy. And he sees and converses with many other spirits. Is there logic to which spirits he spends time with?

At this point he breaks his story, Arete praises him, and Alcinous confirms the decision to give Odysseus a ship and send him on to Ithaca. Is there any particular meaning to this break at this point in his narrative?

Odysseus then continues to tell the tale of his adventures, conversing with many of the spirits of Hades who fought with him in the war against Troy, including Agamemnon, Achilles, Patroclus, and Ajax. Those who have read the Iliad will certainly remember these names. And we also get to see a number of the characters whose names are familiar from various myths – Hercules, Minos, Sisyphus, Tantalus among them. Eventually, though, Odysseus is mobbed by spirits wanting news of their families and, panic-striken, sails quickly away.

Still relating his adventures, he tells of his return to Circe’s island to give the funeral rites to Elpenor and get advice from Circe on his next steps. And as she predicted, he encounters the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and the sun-god Hyperion. Recalling the warnings of Tieresius and Circe he wants to pass by Hyperion’s island, but the men revolt and want to come land to rest. At first they leave the sun god’s cattle and sheep alone, but a storm keeps them cooped up and they run out of the food that Circe has provided, so while Odysseus sleeps his crew start to kill the cattle. Hyperion appeals to Zeus to punish them, and he sends a great storm which destroys their ship, drowns all the sailors, and leaves Odysseus alone alive and clinging to wreckage, eventually winding up on Calypso’s island of Ogygia. Here Odysseus ends the telling of his wanderings, since he has already related his time on Ogygia.


message 2: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Odysseus' mother tells him that Penelope has remained faithful, but she also tells him that "Telemachus holds undisturbed possession of the royal lands, and everyone invites him to banquets where he's treated as an equal."

Does she have an imperfect vision of what is happening back in Ithaca, or is she being purposely dishonest? (Maybe it runs in the family?) If so, what is her purpose?


message 3: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments These two chapters are very interesting.

I have two doubts.

Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?

The gods are quite sadists. Circe recommended to Odysseus' men do not kill Helios' cattle, but it's probable that they already knew what will happen. So, why send them to that island if they do not wanted this thing happening? In the same subject. The gods are quite childish too. The way the helios demands Zeus punishment to Odysseus' crew or the sun will not shine again it's very manipulative.


message 4: by Lia (new)

Lia Thomas wrote: "Odysseus' mother tells him that Penelope has remained faithful, but she also tells him that "Telemachus holds undisturbed possession of the royal lands, and everyone invites him to banquets where h..."

With the exception of Tiresias (whose vision is divine gift), it sounds like the residents of Hades have limited visions, limited knowledge of what’s going on, and rely on hearsay of “new arrivals” to speculate on what’s happening “up there.”

Maybe Anticleia is describing Ithaca a few years ago, around the time of her death, before the suitors turned aggressive.


message 5: by Lia (last edited May 09, 2018 11:56AM) (new)

Lia So, the “secret” to manhandling the dead:
At that, I sheathed
my silver-studded sword. When he had drunk
the murky blood, the famous prophet spoke.



Sounds like he’s practicing Hermes’ lesson. First Hermes shows Odysseus the nature of the herb Moly by exposing the dark root to light; and then his “ritual” against Circe is repeated in Hades — a realm of darkness that most mortals don’t “envision”, don’t contemplate.

Also:

‘My child! How did you come here through the darkness
while you were still alive? This place is hard
for living men to see.


Again, this sounds just like Hermes — Hermes told Odysseus that the herb Moly is difficult, but not impossible, for mortals to dig up.


message 6: by Lia (new)

Lia
When those men are dead,
you have to go away and take an oar
to people with no knowledge of the sea,
who do not salt their food. They never saw
a ship’s red prow, nor oars, the wings of boats.
I prophesy the signs of things to come.
When you meet somebody, a traveler,
who calls the thing you carry on your back
a winnowing fan, then fix that oar in earth
and make fine sacrifices to Poseidon—
a bull and stud-boar. Then you will go home
and offer holy hecatombs to all
the deathless gods who live in heaven, each
in order. Gentle death will come to you,
far from the sea, of comfortable old age,
your people flourishing. So it will be.’

I said, ‘Tiresias, I hope the gods
spin out this fate for me.


Yikes, he knows what retirement in Hades will be like, and he “hopes” for this fate — I wonder how Calypso feels about that: he’d rather die than to get immortality if it means living with her.

I thought it’s neat that he’s made to “compensate” to Poseidon. Like some kind of fair trade, hopefully Poseidon is a good sport.

Also, the unsalted food reminds me of Dante.


message 7: by Lia (last edited May 09, 2018 12:08PM) (new)

Lia Rafael wrote: "The way the helios demands Zeus punishment to Odysseus' crew or the sun will not shine again it's very manipulative."

I thought it's kind of neat that the Sun cannot harm Odysseus directly -- he has to pressure Zeus to do it.

Also, it turns out Poseidon's grudge only accounts for some of Odysseus' suffering, the Sun is responsible for a portion, but ultimately Zeus is the one who enacts their will. A bit like what Zeus was saying to Athena: Poseidon can't go it alone, he will have to yield to everybody else eventually.

Are we witnessing the formation of a "coalition of the willing?"


message 8: by David (last edited May 09, 2018 12:56PM) (new)

David | 2738 comments I had a couple of thoughts for why Odysseus' mother provided the fake news.
1. She believed it but was too old and lost without Odysseus to realize what was really going on with all of those suitors visiting all the time.
2. She worried herself to death over Odysseus being gone and did not want Odysseus to worry himself to death over Telemachus.

Either way, ghosts can lie. Maybe Tiresias and the others were not being 100% truthful either?


message 9: by David (last edited May 09, 2018 03:27PM) (new)

David | 2738 comments I am curious to know the Wilson translation of Agamemnon's "original sin" rant:
Nothing
Is more grim or more shameless than a woman
[XI.445] Who sets her mind on such an unspeakable act As killing her own husband. I was sure
I would be welcomed home by my children
And all my household, but she, with her mind set
On stark horror, has shamed not only herself
[XI.450] But all women to come, even the rare good one.’

Lombardo Translation



message 10: by David (new)

David | 2738 comments Odysseus chooses to steer around Charybdis and thus closer to Scylla to lose 6 men instead of the whole ship. Then his men, in an act only Clara "where's the beef" Peller would approve of, eat the sun's cattle causing the ship to ends up being swallowed and spit out by Charybdis anyway.

What are we supposed to learn from this? Choosing the lesser of two evils does not remove the suffering from both evils, or just don't eat the beef?

Odysseus needs to stop taking naps. Maybe now without his men he can finally catch up on some sleep more safely?


message 11: by Ian (last edited May 09, 2018 04:04PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?..."

I'm not sure if I can clarify what is going on here.

The whole passage is confusing: an older generation of critics blamed this on interpolations, but differed on what was original and what was added.

Sometimes we see Odysseus at the boundary of the world of the living and the dead, summoning up strengthless -- that is, bodiless -- ghosts who need something substantial to bring back their mental faculties, although they remain immaterial.

This may connect to the libations and other offerings made at the tombs of dead ancestors. It might also, but awkwardly, be related to the (usually) special style of offering made in historical times to appease, and attract the attention of, dead, but still powerful, Heroes.

Neither ritual, being part of basic Greek religious practices, would need an explanation for the original audiences.

At other times, Odysseus seems to be *within* the borders of the world of the dead, and able to see older heroes, like Minos and Orion, and villains like Tityrus and Tantalus, in something like their own (new) environment, apparently without having them waiting in line for a good drink of blood. This sounds like a "descent into Hades," which is more closely associated with Heracles (Hercules), Orpheus, and, in Roman literature, Aeneas.

Confusingly, again, the material on the Agamemnon and Achilles seems to undercut the view of Heroes being potent, helpful or dangerous, beings, even in their graves or at their cult shrines.

Another issue, which I have seen pointed out, but have lost the reference (and exact line numbers, which I'm too lazy to check), is that Circe directs Odysseus to sail *farther* west, that is, across Ocean (Okeanos), at the edge of the world, but when they return to her island it seems to be in the east of Greece.

Despite the geographic vagueness on where Odysseus is, this latter makes some sense, as she is usually considered a daughter of Helios, the sun, and naturally resident near where he rises -- or, alternatively, she could be at home where he descends! (She figures as his daughter, and is thus a close relative of Medea, a grand-daughter of Helios, in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, which is set mainly in the Aegean and Black Seas: but in Hellenistic re-tellings of that story, her island is in the western Mediterranean....)


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Thomas wrote: "Odysseus' mother tells him that Penelope has remained faithful, but she also tells him that "Telemachus holds undisturbed possession of the royal lands, and everyone invites him to banquets where h..."

If my math is right, Odysseus saw his mother in the third year of his travels, so seven years before. I don’t think the suitors moved in until later.


message 13: by Lia (last edited May 09, 2018 03:53PM) (new)

Lia David wrote: "Odysseus chooses to steer around Charybdis and thus closer to Scylla to lose 6 men instead of the whole ship. Then his men, in an act only Clara "where's the beef" Peller would approve of, eat the ..."

Kill the whiny ones while you can? (Eurylochus begged Ody to abandon his mates back at Circe’s.)

When Odysseus says “trust me,” it means he’s not telling you the whole truth? (He told them the irrelevant bits, implied Circe gave instructions for him to listen to the Sirens, and neglected to tell them that 6 of them are going to die. I hope the Phaeacians are paying attention.)

I know he said they wouldn’t be able to face it if they knew ahead, a bit like Achilles going gaga after his mom told him his fate, I suppose. But still, if his crew were informed, some might choose to give up going home and stay with Circe (or even back at the Lotus Eater place.)

So their own folly did not cause all of their deaths. At least some died because of Odysseus’ calculated decision to let them die.

Speaking of ... I haven’t seen any of Odysseus’ shipmates eaten by Polyphemus down in Hades. What happens to people who get eaten? Where do they go?


message 14: by David (new)

David | 2738 comments All the name dropping in the trip to Hades is like a mini whirlwind tour of Greek mythology. Nice touch! I am sure Odysseus was working those in to his advantage with the Phaeacians as much as Homer was with his audience.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "Maybe Anticleia is describing Ithaca a few years ago, around the time of her death, before the suitors turned aggressive. "

I see Susan @12 is on the same track. This makes sense to me.


message 16: by Lia (new)

Lia Everyman wrote: "At this point he breaks his story, Arete praises him, and Alcinous confirms the decision to give Odysseus a ship and send him on to Ithaca. Is there any particular meaning to this break at this point in his narrative?"

I thought Arete had been pretty "cool" to Odysseus up until this point. This "intermission" is when she finally, enthusiastically expressed approvals. It looks like Alcinous is maybe also waiting to watch her reaction.

Another thing I noticed is that Odysseus stopped parading his "binder full of women" after that. Up until this point, we have Odysseus focusing on varieties of female concerns: his enchanted men treating him like he's their "mother" at Circe's, Calypso, mothers evaluating their "telos" in Hades etc etc. Once Arete is won over, Odysseus seems to shift to a male-centered perspective, talking about heroes, wars, honors etc.

I like to think that break is probably Odysseus checking his audience's pulse, and Homer letting us know that he's been effective.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments David wrote: "I am curious to know the Wilson translation of Agamemnon's "original sin" rant:Nothing
Is more grim or more shameless than a woman
[XI.445] Who sets her mind on such an unspeakable act As killing ..."


"There is no more disgusting act
than when a wife betrays a man like that.
That woman formed a plot to murder me!
Her husband! When I got back home, I thought
I would be welcomed, at least by my slaves
and children. She has such an evil mind
that she has poured down shame on her own head
and on all other women, even good ones."

(In Wilson's translation, and in the Greek, these are lines 427-434.)


message 18: by Lia (new)

Lia Odysseus sounded a little resentful when he questioned how Elpenor got there so fast

‘Elpenor, how did you come here, in darkness?

You came on foot more quickly than I sailed.’


Sounds like a race to live fast, die young, and leave behind the best looking corpse.


message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Is there any chance that the Phaeacians aren't taking Odysseus' story literally? I'm wondering if Alcinous is perhaps being a little facetious at 11.362:

"Odysseus, we as we look upon you do not imagine
that you are a deceptive or thievish man, the sort that the black earth
breeds in great numbers, people who wander widely, making up
lying stories, from which no one could learn anything. You have
a grace upon your words, and there is sound sense within them...

But come now, tell me this and give me an accurate answer." (Lattimore)

Alcinous says, "that's a very shapely story, Odysseus." (I'm not sure where Lattimore gets "grace." The Greek is morphe.) "But now tell us something genuine" ἀτρεκέως κατάλεξον -- literally, tell it truly. Which doesn't necessarily mean that Alcinous doesn't believe Odysseus, but am I wrong to see a hint of suspicion?

Odysseus responds by saying he'd like to go to sleep now... but grudgingly goes on.


message 20: by David (new)

David | 2738 comments Cphe wrote: "What are the purple cheeks? "

He is probably referring to the ship's sails. Can you provide the book and line#?


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Ah, another color word problem: there is some difference of opinion as to the exact color intended (of course), and to what it refers.

The word in question seems to be φοινικοπάρῃος. It appears in Teiresias's prophecy to Odysseus, at 11.124, and in the repetition of the passage in 23.271.

Lattimore also renders it as "ships whose cheeks are painted purple," without specifying what the "cheeks" are, although his interpretation "painted" presumably refers to part of the ship, rather than a sail. (Unless it is just a metrical substitute for "dyed.")

One of the dictionaries on the Perseus site is fairly explicit: "epith[et] of ships, the bows of which were painted red." Another offers "purple or red-cheeked, epith. of painted ships," without specifying the part.

I haven't tried to locate a comment in my pdf of the old Hayman commentary, which isn't really navigable. (Hmm, that can be read as a pun....)

My first impression was that it referred to the bow, although the sail would be a good parallel to the oars in the same passage.


message 22: by David (last edited May 10, 2018 09:36AM) (new)

David | 2738 comments Lombardo translates it as prow, the portion of a ship's bow above water, instead of cheeks.
[XI.120]    Until you come to men who know nothing of the sea, Who eat their food unsalted, and have never seen Red-prowed ships or oars that wing them along. And I will tell you a sure sign that you have found them, One you cannot miss.



message 23: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Odysseus needs to stop taking naps. Maybe now without his men he can finally catch up on some sleep more safely?"

Indeed. Everytime that he naps something bad happens.


message 24: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments Ian wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?..."

I'm not sure if I can cla..."


Interesting, so if this practice is contemporary, surely Homer would not explain it.


message 25: by Lia (new)

Lia Ian wrote: "Ah, another color word problem: there is some difference of opinion as to the exact color intended (of course), and to what it refers.

The word in question seems to be φοινικοπάρῃος. It appears in..."

Seymour Thomas discussed boats and sea life inLife in the Homeric Age. He argues “cheek” epithet would imply the bow of the ship was not sharp, and are designed to slip over the water rather than cleave the waves. Those are the ones for transport and not for naval warfare, with no beak or ram. They were “blackened, probably with pitch, but often had red or blue prows.”

I imagine Tiresias meant Odysseus is meant to wander inland until he encounters people who don't even know sea-trades or sea-transports, and don't have salt, don't know anything about the sea or about Poseidon.


message 26: by David (last edited May 11, 2018 04:56AM) (new)

David | 2738 comments Rafael wrote: "Ian wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?..."

More than you wanted to know about Greeks and Blood
The Beliefs, Myths, and Reality Surrounding the Word Hema (Blood) from Homer to the Present
The ancient Greeks considered hema as synonymous with life. . .

. . .There is one point in Homeric mythology which is uncannily similar to modern hematology and more specifically with blood transfusions, namely, that the only one way for the “shadows” of the dead to recover their senses and be brought back to life is by being enriched with blood, even sheep’s blood [8, 9, 53]. In this extract, Odysseus uses two sheep, sorceress Circe’s gift, to bring the soothsayer Teiresias back to life, so that he can ask him about his companions and about the day of his return.


John Meletis and Kostas Konstantopoulos, “The Beliefs, Myths, and Reality Surrounding the Word Hema (Blood) from Homer to the Present,” Anemia, vol. 2010, Article ID 857657, 6 pages, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1155/2010/857657.
Apparently blood was a big deal in Ancient Greece. The connection to modern blood transfusions is an interesting one.


message 27: by David (last edited May 10, 2018 02:50PM) (new)

David | 2738 comments Is the tale of Charybdis and Scylla the Ancient Greek version of the Trolley Problem?


message 28: by David (new)

David | 2738 comments Circe says to Odysseus:
[XII]Most men die only once, but you twice.
Lombardo
Did Odysseus actually die by visiting Hades? Is there something transformative in Odysseus trip to and return from Hades?

And again, Odysseus the hero ignores the common sense advice of, when you are going through hell, keep going. Instead he stops and does interviews.


message 29: by Lia (new)

Lia Thomas wrote: "Is there any chance that the Phaeacians aren't taking Odysseus' story literally? I'm wondering if Alcinous is perhaps being a little facetious at 11.362:

"Odysseus, we as we look upon you do not i..."


Just like Odysseus “sensibly” omitted part of Agamemnon’s message to Achilles in the Iliad; Odysseus again omitted part of Circe’s instructions to his crew.

The Phaeacians no doubt noticed the calculated omission in Odysseus’ narrative. Alcinous is supposed to be “mighty minded”; I would not be surprised if he also noticed something is dodgy about Odysseus’ narrative. I think this “confession” of deviousness is meant to be noticed, maybe not by all the Phaeacians, but to the properly equipped.


message 30: by Lia (new)

Lia Hmm, Odysseus told his Crew:
My friends, the revelations Circe shared
with me should not be kept a secret, known
to me alone. I will share them with you,


Then again, in Hades,
‘Woman, be glad about this love. You will
bear glorious children in the coming year.
Affairs with gods always result in offspring.
Look after them and raise them. Now go home;
tell no one who I am. But I will tell you.
I am Poseidon, Shaker of the Earth.’



I guess keeping secret wasn’t really a thing back then.


message 31: by Lia (new)

Lia Remember Rhexenor, brother of Alcinous, father of Arete? (Wasn’t incest taboo to the Greeks?)

Apollo shot that Rhexenor when he
was newly married, with no son. He left
a daughter, our Arete,


According to Odysseus:
And then I saw
Iphimedeia, wife of Aloeus,
who proudly said Poseidon slept with her.
She had two sons whose lives were both cut short:
[...]They might have managed it, if they had reached
full adulthood. Apollo, son of Zeus
by braided Leto, killed them: they were both
dead before down could grow on their young chins,


I wonder if that’s a warning to Arete/ Alcinous: your daddy is nothing compared to ... the other skydaddies. He couldn’t save Rhexenor, just like he couldn’t save Otus and Ephialtes.


message 32: by Lia (new)

Lia
And then I saw Tyndareus’ wife,
Leda, who bore him two strong sons: the horseman
Castor, and Polydeuces, skillful boxer.
Life-giving earth contains them, still alive.
Zeus honors them even in the underworld.


Is it weird for Odysseus to omit her daughters, Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra? IMO they are far more “famous” than Leda’s sons. Did Leda fail to mention them and Odysseus is just reporting what she bragged about? Or is he judiciously leaving out the offensive bits?


message 33: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Who is the guy who, even in the underworld, herds the ghosts of his dead sheep?

And why does Helios keep a herd of oxen he will never eat?

Is it just me who thinks that if no one needed to herd animals, no one would herd animals?

Whereas for Homer, it seems to be an activity pleasing or worthwhile in itself.


message 34: by Lia (new)

Lia Christopher wrote: "Is it just me who thinks that if no one needed to herd animals, no one would herd animals?"


... you’ve never seen a sheepdog have you?

Maybe it’s like Bartleby.


message 35: by Lia (new)

Lia Is the cattle of Helios the same as the herd Hermes stole from Apollo?

If it’s the same herd, I bet the meat is really tough by now. Hermes is all grown up here.


message 36: by David (last edited May 10, 2018 07:27PM) (new)

David | 2738 comments Christopher wrote: "And why does Helios keep a herd of oxen he will never eat?"

It seems Helios just liked to look at them. I guess those spiral horns have a calming affect on the old Sol.
‘Father Zeus, and you other gods eternal,
Punish Odysseus’ companions, who have insolently
[390] Killed the cattle I took delight in seeing Whenever I ascended the starry heaven And whenever I turned back from heaven to earth.



message 37: by David (new)

David | 2738 comments I often suspend belief too much for fiction to notice things like this, but I have to say I appreciate the many layers of hearsay required here for Homer to explain to us how Odysseus explained to the Phaecians how he knows the details of a conversation between gods.
[XII.400]All this I heard from rich-haired Calypso, Who said she heard it from Hermes the Guide.



message 38: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?"

The story isn't really consistent here. The dead aren't supposed to talk or have memories until they drink this stuff. But he talks to shades all the time who haven't yet had a sip. Elpenor, for example.


message 39: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Everyman wrote: "But first, Elpenor, who had died falling from the roof of Circe’s house begs Odysseus to return there to offer him proper funeral rites, which Odysseus promises to do. He also sees the ghost of his dead mother, but will not let her drink, and so has no conversation with her yet."

This seems like a really distinct place for the narrative to address proper rites for the dead. Agamemnon also mentions that his traitorous wife didn't even close his eyes.


message 40: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Lia wrote: "Odysseus sounded a little resentful when he questioned how Elpenor got there so fast

‘Elpenor, how did you come here, in darkness?

You came on foot more quickly than I sailed.’

Sounds like a..."


I don't think they knew he had died at the time. So... a bit resentful, a bit surprised...


message 41: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Rafael wrote: "Circe recommended to Odysseus' men do not kill Helios' cattle, but it's probable that they already knew what will happen. So, why send them to that island if they do not wanted this thing happening?"

Odysseus tried to avoid the problem altogether by encouraging his men to continue to sail, but that made the idea made them mutinous.


message 42: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments David wrote: "Either way, ghosts can lie. Maybe Tiresias and the others were not being 100% truthful either? "

I don't think they can lie. Wasn't there something about this blood-drinking where they could only speak the truth? I'll have to look it up when I have some time with my book.


message 43: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Lia wrote: "Sounds like he’s practicing Hermes’ lesson. First Hermes shows Odysseus the nature of the herb Moly by exposing the dark root to light; and then his “ritual” against Circe is repeated in Hades — a realm of darkness that most mortals don’t “envision”, don’t contemplate."

Holy moly!


message 44: by Rafael (last edited May 10, 2018 08:53PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Ian wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?..."..."

Probably I should read this book, but why the blood has this power? Greeks have the blood in high regard in their religion?


message 45: by David (last edited May 10, 2018 08:51PM) (new)

David | 2738 comments Ashley wrote: "Elpenor, for example."

I think because Elpenor had died so recently and had not yet been properly buried had something to do with why he could speak without need of blood.


message 46: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments Ashley wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Why the deads need blood to be able to speak to Odysseus? If I did not understand wrongly they need blood to be able to remember their past lives. Why?"

The story isn't really consi..."


Well noticed. I had not realised that until now.


message 47: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments I think the gladiatorial combat was also originally a means of providing dead ancestors with fresh blood.

[citation needed]


message 48: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Rafael wrote: "Probably I should read this book, but why the blood has this power? Greeks have the blood in high regard in their religion? .."

A quick note, which I may expand on when I'm more awake, if requested.

Greeks generally avoided having flowing blood on the altars of the Olympian gods: when used, it seems to have been reserved for earth-deities (the technical term is "chthonic") and divinized Heroes, for whom the blood of a sacrificed animal might be drained into a pit, or 'bothros,' which was either a permanent fixture of a shrine or temple, or dug for the occasion. However, the common libations were of wine, honey, milk, etc.... -- which Odysseus also offers, following Circe's instructions.

Unfortunately, most discussions of these rituals that are readily available also draw directly on the passage in the Odyssey, and, being circular, are of little help in interpreting just what the Homeric poem means in terms of Greek religion in general, or are based on practices in Roman times, which may or may not be genuinely archaic.


message 49: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "Is it weird for Odysseus to omit her daughters, Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra? IMO they are far more “famous” than Leda’s sons. Did Leda fail to mention them and Odysseus is just reporting what she bragged about? Or is he judiciously leaving out the offensive bits? "

Good question, which is along the same lines as the one Everyman asks: Is there any logic to which spirits he spends time with?

Is this underworld a place of justice or is it just a warehouse of souls? We see some souls who are being punished (justly or not) but others just seem to be hanging out. Why is the "phantom" of Heracles (a son of Zeus) in Hades, while "he himself is among the deathless gods"?

Hades is a confusing place, just confusing enough to make me think it's no more than a "shapely story." Even so, the way Odysseus tells it might show us something about his character.


message 50: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Christopher wrote: "I think the gladiatorial combat was also originally a means of providing dead ancestors with fresh blood.

[citation needed]"


You may be right, although it is not certain how much blood was likely to have been shed in ritual combats. (In later times, trained gladiators did not routinely fight to the death -- they were too expensive to train and maintain.)

One theory of the origin of the gladiatorial "games" is that they were originally designed to honor dead ancestors (including the recently deceased), rather like the funeral games one finds in the Iliad. They might be a generally Italian, or perhaps especially Etruscan, variation on Greek practices, eventually assimilated and developed by the Roman Republic.

The logic of the Greek games in Homer, and elsewhere, is unclear, however. They may be viewed as entertainment, for the gods or for the dead man being honored, or, in some other modern interpretations, were originally meant to provide (ritually) strength to the dead. Some of the major Games (Olympic, Isthmian, Nemean, and Pythian) had more than one story to explain its origin, which may reflect some Greek confusion on the matter.

I may be omitting something in this summary -- I'm NOT familiar with the modern literature on the subject, having mostly seen it noted in passing while reading about other things. In fact, the discussion I specifically remember reading is a chapter by F.M. Cornford on the origin of the Olympic Games (in particular) in Jane Ellen Harrison's "Themis," published in 1911....


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