The whole framework of the Odyssey has been conjectured to be a sun myth, the archer hero (cf. Apollo and William Tell) being absent from his wife as many years (after the end of the Trojan War) as the sun is hours absent from the earth. Certainly most of the material in Books IX-XII is of this type, even if the Sirens and Scylla and Charybdis be proved to be of Phoenician origin. Scylla and Charybdis are easily identifiable features of the Strait of Messina, and Polyphemus is generally considered a degenerate sun myth (cf. Alfred Noyes's suggestion of the moon in "Forty Singing Seamen").
goes in for more specific detail than even I would want. (Fortunately, some of it confined to the notes.)
One of the things I hope my analysis illustrates is the way the Odyssey evokes different but mutually reinforcing mythological patterns to create what might be called a symphonic effect, with different themes creating a harmonious but complex whole and never converging into monotonous sound.It is within this framework that I offer my observations regarding the solar themes in the Odyssey, observations that I feel require a special explanation in view of persistent scholarly aversion to solar mythology in the wake of Müller’s excesses. To make explicit what I hope will be obvious, I do not suggest that the Odyssey should be interpreted as a solar myth. But I do think the Odyssey evokes solar myths, and that this evocation is, within the Odyssey, a matter not only of poetic technique but also of ritual speech.The notion of the sun’s disappearance and return parallels, of course, the basic initiatory scheme of separation and reintegration, as it does the “New Year” scheme of dissolution and restoration, and the basic pattern of departure and return that is undeniable in the Odyssey. And so it may come as no surprise that all these mythic complexes are alluded to in the poem. That this is done at all, however, is only a starting point. My interests lie in how it is done, and to what effect.
So she spoke, and the golden-throned Eos came at once.
“the most salient and therefore the least variable feature of the myth: that Penelope falls into the sea but returns to shore, thanks to her avian namesakes.The plunge into the sea is yet another link between Penelope and Alkyone, and for both of them it has to do with birds. If that is so, then it seems that Penelope has deep ties to the theme of solar-like disappearance and re-emergence that is so prominent in the Odyssey. There is, in other words, a diachronic dimension to her complexity and her very name signals not only her fidelity to her husband, but her intrinsic connectedness to the cyclic sequence of darkness, disappearance, and lament, followed by light, return, and rebirth. The effects of this diachronic depth are felt synchronically in the Odyssey as we have it, where Penelope is both a figure of lament and a figure of return to light and life. Her tears are more visible than her links to the theme of rebirth, but both aspects of her mythic personality are active in the Odyssey.”Excerpt FromEve of the Festival Making Myth in Odyssey 19Levaniouk, Olga
when people in the city grow old, Apollo of the golden bow comes along with Artemis and approaches and kills them with his gentle arrows. The description of Eumaeus’ Syria fits its location at the ends of the earth: it is reminiscent of blissful golden age lands like that of the Phaeacians or Hyperboreans. One aspect of the inhabitants’ charmed existence is a gentle death by the arrows of Artemis and Apollo, comparable with Odyssey 5.123–126, where Orion is the victim of the goddess’s shafts. Ortygia evidently belongs to this environment. Moreover, the island is again associated specifically with the solar theme, since it is located near the ‘turning places of the sun’, presumably a reference to the solstices. What happens to Eumaeus in this setting is abduction by a Sidonian woman. She dies shortly after, and the manner of her death is significant:And then Artemis of the arrows struck down the woman, and she fell with a thud into the bilge, like a diving sea bird [kex]. Eumaeus’ story presents a non-fabulous version of abduction and also a realistic, even comic, version of the plunge into Okeanos. These details are part of Eumaeus’ supposed biography, but they are also a variation on an already familiar theme, and again Artemis’ arrow is combined with a watery fall and the fall is compared to the dive of a sea bird (kex).
when people in the city grow old, Apollo of the golden bow comes along with Artemis and approaches and kills them with his gentle arrows.
And then Artemis of the arrows struck down the woman, and she fell with a thud into the bilge, like a diving sea bird [kex].
In Simonides (PMG 563), Idas abducts his bride Marpessa from Ortygia, (the one located in Chalcis, on the island of Euboea). Her father, Euenos, pursues them up to the river Lykormas in Aitolia, where he commits suicide by casting himself down into the river, which henceforth is called Euenos. Next, Apollo appears and takes hold of Marpessa, but Idas resists and lifts his bow against the god. The duel is judged by Zeus, who gives the choice to Marpessa, and she chooses Idas.The first thing to observe about this myth is its striking structural similarity to the story of Odysseus and Penelope, if the latter story is considered as a chronological whole, including parts that are not mentioned in the Odyssey. In both cases, the hero has to win his bride not once, but twice. When Idas abducts Alkyone from her father that is not the end of the story because he still has to face Apollo.Similarly, Odysseus first has to win Penelope’s hand in marriage and then to regain her with his bow.
The myth of Phaethon is, of course, full of solar themes since Phaethon is Helios’ son, and is driving his father’s chariot when he dies and falls into the streams of Eridanos, (an image that seems to be a parallel to the sun’s setting into Okeanos). In keeping with the solar theme, Phaethon’s sisters are turned into amber-producing trees. In Sophocles, a similar fate befalls Meleager’s sisters: according to Pliny, Sophocles located them in countries beyond India, in other words, in the far East rather than the far West, and instead of turning into trees they are turned into birds, but like Phaethon’s sisters they eternally shed tears, which become amber. Meleager’s sisters are turned into meleagrides, the birds that share Mnases’ amber-bearing lake with penelopes. Meleagrides, in other words, have a reason for swimming in the amber lake, and presumably so do penelopes. If penelopes come from the ends of the earth in Alcaeus and are set in a typical ends-of-the-earth solar landscape in Mnases, this suggests that there was an association between the penelops and the ends of the earth, and this association probably had something to do with the sun. If so, a connection to this bird would not be amiss for a heroine of the Odyssey
Mnases mentions Sicyon, a place in Africa, and the river Crathis, which flows into the Ocean out of a lake, in which there live birds, called meleagrides and penelopes. It is said that amber arises there in the same way as described above
Pliny is quick to debunk the Greek notion that amber is to be found in the Eridanus, or that there are islands in the Adriatic known as “Electrides” because the amber is carried there by the water. He concludes that the Greek poets are terribly ignorant both of amber and of geography (Natural History 37.11)
It is noteworthy that the solar theme is present in both (Phaethon and Meleager) cases, since the life of Meleager himself is inextricably joined with fire of the hearth, and thus with the theme of the celestial fire. Nagy (1992:148–150) suggests that Greek words for dawn (Ionic ἠώς/Aeolic αὐως) and for hearth (ἑστία) ultimately go back to the same root meaning ‘shine’ and observes that “the semantic connection between the macrocosm of dawn and the microcosm of the sacrificial fireplace is explicit in the Rig- Veda, where the coming of the dawn is treated as an event parallel to the simultaneous kindling of the sacrificial fire.” Pliny (Natural History 37.11) is amusingly outraged by the notion that so respectable a character as Sophocles could entertain a notion that amber is produced (and in large quantities) from birds’ tears
Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.