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Homer, Odyssey revisited > Books 13 and 14

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments This is the comment topic for Books 13 and 14.

I have had a somewhat challenging few days, so haven't prepared book summaries this week. But let the discussion start!


message 2: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments After Athena reveals herself to Odysseus, she tells him Penelope longs for his return. He replies,

"Oh! I would have died like Agamemnon
in my own house, if you had not explained
exactly how things stand.


I'm wondering what people make of that. Does he suspect Penelope plans to kill him or am I misreading it?


message 3: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments Odysseus seems to be fairly critical of Athena. He accuses her of abandoning him after he left Troy. He doesn't believe her when she tells him he is in Ithaca:

Please, by your father Zeus! I cannot think
that this is Ithaca. I must be elsewhere.
You want to fool me and make fun of me
"Tell me the truth! Is this my own dear home?"

(Wilson; lines 325-329)


message 4: by Lia (new)

Lia Tamara wrote: "After Athena reveals herself to Odysseus, she tells him Penelope longs for his return. He replies,

"Oh! I would have died like Agamemnon
in my own house, if you had not explained
exactly how thing..."


I take it to mean he would have died in the hands of the suitors/ usurpers after a long absence, like Agamemnon. Just because he technically owns the palace, doesn’t mean people will still be loyal to him after a long absence.

I would also like to frame this in the context of everything else Odysseus had been through — the quickest route often turns out to be the deadliest (Agamemon got home the quickest and died swiftly. Elpenor reached Hades the quickest and he didn’t get to come back.) Safest-looking options routinely turn out to be deceptively dangerous (Laestrygonians harbor bottle neck is case in point, tidy Cyclopes’ cave turns out not to be friendly to stranger. Utopia like Scheria is supposedly hostile to strangers, at least according to Nausicaa and Athena. Circe charmed his crew with standard hospitality and they got enchanted. Calypso’s paradise turns out to be a prison.) I think he’s saying, despite everything he had learned through his journey, he would have foolishly rushed home and revealed himself, if it weren’t for Athena’s warning that his palace is swarming with suitors.

Athena tells him Penelope desires his return, but outwardly leads the suitors on, explicitly saying her mind “moves elsewhere,” i.e. her motive is not congruent with her actions. It makes no sense for him to interpret that as disloyalty on Penelope’s part. It sounds like he understands Athena as saying Penelope is setting a trap for the suitors, but if Odysseus unknowingly walks into that uninformed, blithely expecting safe reception, then he could have set things in motion in such a way that leaves Penelope with no option. Remember Penelope has no political power, everything she does is through tricks and deceptions. She could lose control of the situation if something unexpected triggers a sudden turn.


message 5: by Lia (new)

Lia Tamara wrote: "Odysseus seems to be fairly critical of Athena. He accuses her of abandoning him after he left Troy. He doesn't believe her when she tells him he is in Ithaca:

Please, by your father Zeus! I canno..."


She DID abandon him though. She didn’t start helping him until he’s stuck on Calypso’s Island, she did nothing to help him from Laestrygoinians all the way to the Island of Halios. Athena was actively helping the Argives throughout Iliad, her interactions with them were direct and visible. To suddenly withdraw and let them suffer and die is a kind of abandonment. Even after she returns to help him (i.e. after 7 years with Calypso), she did so in disguise.

I think people in Homer’s world look for signs that they have Gods’ favor when they set out to do things. Telemachus was really deflated UNTIL Athena turned into an eagle in front of his eyes and he confirms the gods are on his side. For Athena to reveal herself regularly in Iliad, but then suddenly disappears through 10 years of god-inflicted disasters, would reasonably make Odysseus conclude he’s been abandoned. If gods’ favor means so much to Telemachus, imagine Odysseus going through the last 10 years with the awareness that the gods are no longer on his side. He had to fight to survive DESPITE being abandoned by the gods.

I think Athena didn’t answer him truthfully either, she stopped helping him long before Odysseus offended Poseidon. And Athena DID magically change the appearance of Ithaca (to slow down Odysseus and make sure he doesn’t rush home without a plan.). It’s not unreasonable that Odysseus mistrusts her (she’s not trustworthy, and she did make things unbelievable.)


message 6: by Tamara (last edited May 15, 2018 05:50PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments Lia wrote: "Tamara wrote: "After Athena reveals herself to Odysseus, she tells him Penelope longs for his return. He replies,

"Oh! I would have died like Agamemnon
in my own house, if you had not explained
ex..."


Odysseus' statement comes immediately after Athena has assured him of Penelope's loyalty. So I am reading it this way: Penelope is loyal; therefore, I won't die like Agamemnon.


message 7: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments Lia wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Odysseus seems to be fairly critical of Athena. He accuses her of abandoning him after he left Troy. He doesn't believe her when she tells him he is in Ithaca:

Please, by your fathe..."


I wasn't defending Athena. I was merely pointing out Odysseus doesn't fully trust her.


message 8: by Lia (new)

Lia Tamara wrote: "Lia wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Odysseus seems to be fairly critical of Athena. He accuses her of abandoning him after he left Troy. He doesn't believe her when she tells him he is in Ithaca:

Please, b..."


Got it. I just thought I’d side with Odysseus for once and point out how nasty Athena had been.


message 9: by David (last edited May 15, 2018 06:15PM) (new)

David | 2739 comments A little more context from a different translation might make it more clear it is the suitors to be worried about, not Penelope:
[390] Odysseus, the master tactician—consider how You’re going to get your hands on the shameless suitors, Who for three years now have taken over your house, Proposing to your wife and giving her gifts. She pines constantly for your return, [395] But she strings them along, makes little promises, Sends messages—while her intentions are otherwise.”
And Odysseus, his mind teeming:
“Ah, I’d be heading for the same pitiful
death That Agamemnon met in his house [400] If you hadn’t told me all this, Goddess. Weave a plan so I can pay them back!



message 10: by David (new)

David | 2739 comments And Athena's defense for not helping:
[XIII.352] But I couldn’t bring myself to fight my uncle,
Poseidon, who had it in for you,
Angry because you blinded his son.



message 11: by Lia (new)

Lia Tamara wrote: "Odysseus' statement comes immediately after Athena has assured him of Penelope's loyalty. So I am reading it this way: Penelope is loyal; therefore, I won't die like Agamemnon. "

I see where you're coming from. I'm reading this as Athena sitting Odysseus down to explain why he can't just saunter into his palace; you're reading this as Odysseus confessing he expected he would end like Agamemnon until Athena informed him that she's loyal.


message 12: by Lia (new)

Lia I’m worried about this:

Accept my loving prayers,
and I will give you gifts, as in the past, |360|
if my commander, child of Zeus, is kind
and lets me live and raise my son.”

Athena
looked straight into his eyes and said, “Be brave.
You need not worry. Let us hurry now
to hide the treasure safely in the cave.


She did not promise. I’ve learned by now, when they dodge a direct request with misdirection (something Odysseus did to the Phaeacians when they initially asked about his identity), there’s a good chance they are scheming to manipulate.

“Please let me live and raise my son.”
“Let’s hide your treasure.”


message 13: by David (last edited May 15, 2018 07:20PM) (new)

David | 2739 comments
[XIV.60] That he welcomed him like this, and said so:
“May Zeus and all the gods bless you, stranger, For welcoming me with such an open heart.”
And you answered him, Eumaeus, my swineherd:
“It would not be right for me to show less respect
Who is telling the story here, Homer or Odysseus? The first sentence seems to be Homer. And you answered him, Eumaeus, my swineherd, seems to be Odysseus.

This sentence occurs 8 times between book 14 and book 17.


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments I noticed that change in address, but I took it as Homer expressing his affection/respect for Eumaeus. He really is quite a character — no-nonsense, plain-spoken, hard working, and faithful to the interests of Odysseus, Penelope and Telemachus.


message 15: by David (last edited May 15, 2018 07:27PM) (new)

David | 2739 comments Lia wrote: "She did not promise. I’ve learned by now, when they dodge a direct request with misdirection (something Odysseus did to the Phaeacians when they initially asked about his identity), there’s a good chance they are scheming to manipulate."

Good point! Do you think Athena is going all Oracle on him and giving vague impression that could mean anything but what he wants to think? Dead men don't worry. Or do they?


message 16: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "Who is telling the story here, Homer or Odysseus? ..."

It sounds like Homer is telling the story and inserting himself. I don't know if that's unusual in narratives as early as Homer, but it's extremely common in later works. Ovid, Tolstoy etc regularly intrude into their "epic" to directly address a character, an event, a development. For the narrator to completely "evaporate" himself and leave no hint of his own opinion was supposed to be a kind of innovation (Flaubert?) In older literature, authors almost always intrude.


message 17: by David (new)

David | 2739 comments Susan wrote: "I noticed that change in address, but I took it as Homer expressing his affection/respect for Eumaeus. He really is quite a character — no-nonsense, plain-spoken, hard working, and faithful to the ..."

Ok, I can see that, it just seems out of place this far into the story. Why not, "Polyphemus, my Cyclops"?


message 18: by Lia (new)

Lia David wrote: "Lia wrote: "Do you think Athena is going all Oracle on him and giving vague impression that could mean anything but what he wants to think? Dead men don't worry. Or do they?"


I've seen enough "bad Djinn" in Greek deities to be extremely suspicious about what they decree!

Jokes aside, I am very serious about this. Seriously spoiler-->
Don't click if you haven't finished. (view spoiler)


message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "David wrote: "Who is telling the story here, Homer or Odysseus? ..."

It sounds like Homer is telling the story and inserting himself. I don't know if that's unusual in narratives as early as Homer..."


It's a rhetorical technique called "apostrophe." I think this is the only time Homer uses it in the Odyssey but he uses it several other times in the Iliad.


message 20: by Lia (new)

Lia Thomas wrote: "It's a rhetorical technique called "apostrophe." I think this is the only time Homer uses it in the Odyssey but he uses it several other times in the Iliad..."

Thank you, I didn't know that.

The invocation in the beginning is a kind of apostrophe too, right? Other than the Muse and Eumaeus, I can't think of other instances of apostrophe in the Odyssey either. (In the Iliad, Homer addresses multiple characters directly.)

Which makes me wonder if there's something special about Eumaeus.


message 21: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments Someone will have to look at the Greek, but my guess is that "O, my swineherd" in the vocative case is metrically better than "Eumaeus the Swineherd" is the nominative.

Wish I could say more, but- news flash- I don't rilly know what I'm talking about.

Check this out:

https://books.google.com/books?id=fAR...


message 22: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Lia wrote: "The invocation in the beginning is a kind of apostrophe too, right?"

I would say so, and it somehow seems more appropriate for an invocation than it does here.

It turns out the characters in the Iliad who are apostrophized are Patroklos and Menelaus. The swineherd is in illustrious company.


message 23: by Lia (new)

Lia Great find, Donut. I might have to read that book too.

I just want to point out that there are academic debates about that (i.e. apostrophe use due to the meter.) It seems scholars have come up with different explanations for Homer's use of apostrophe in different cases (Eumaeus, Patroklos, Menelaus...), but then there are rejoinders, and to those rejoinders there are more rejoinders. Not everyone agree that it just sounds better (meter.) I got bored and stopped reading. I don't know if they've moved towards consensus more recently.


message 24: by David (last edited May 16, 2018 10:24AM) (new)

David | 2739 comments Thomas wrote: "It's a rhetorical technique called "apostrophe."

I wonder if it caused the listening audience to look around to see if the swineherd was actually in their midst or to look around at each other with warm thoughts of loyalty and hospitality in their heads?

ETA: Or maybe not. The definitions of apostrophe I have read since indicate the writer is often addressing a person who is not present or dead, or an inanimate object.


message 25: by David (new)

David | 2739 comments
“Only a master thief, a real con artist,
[XIII.300] Could match your tricks—even a god
Might come up short. You wily bastard,
You cunning, elusive, habitual liar!
Even in your own land you weren’t about
To give up the stories and sly deceits
[XIII.305] That are so much a part of you.
The amount of fabricating he does in book XIII with the disguised Athena and in Book XIV with the swineherd made me wonder if everything he said previously was a lie until Athena corroborated part of it.
[XIII.352] But I couldn’t bring myself to fight my uncle,
Poseidon, who had it in for you,
Angry because you blinded his son.
But after these lies, it is easy to conceive Athena saying that in jest at his wild tales. . .wink, wink, nudge nudge.


message 26: by David (last edited May 16, 2018 02:07PM) (new)

David | 2739 comments
But when thundering Zeus opened the war
[XIV.260] That unstrung the knees of many heroes,
I was urged to go with glorious Idomeneus
And lead our ships to Troy. I could not refuse.
I found Odysseus' link to Idomeneus an interesting one. Idomeneus was a fellow suitor of Helen and Trojan Horse filler. He also pulled a "reverse Agamemnon" by tragically sacrificing his son upon his return from the war. Lucretius strikes again: Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.


message 27: by David (new)

David | 2739 comments Cphe wrote: "Mandelbaum keeps referring to Odysseus as being wily. For me that has a connotation of not being able to completely trust."

He would most likely be psychologically projecting his own wily behavior to other people with the result he is always trying to protect himself from his own behavior in others.


message 28: by Lia (new)

Lia So, Athena changed the appearance of Ithaca, technically she deceived Odysseus, but she did so in order to "help him". Indeed, if he rushes home unprepared, he would likely be ambushed by the suitors. (I suspect Athena also has self-serving motives.)

Which reminds me of the "noble lies" Thomas talked about, when Odysseus deceived his shipmates by omission (about Scylla and Charybdis).

It seems Athena and Odysseus are made for each other.


message 29: by David (last edited May 17, 2018 08:51AM) (new)

David | 2739 comments Lia wrote: "It seems Athena and Odysseus are made for each other."
[XII.306] . . .{Athena speaking to Odysseus} Here we are,
The two shrewdest minds in the universe,
You far and away the best man on earth
In plotting strategies, and I famed among gods
[XIII.310] For my clever schemes.



message 30: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments David wrote: "
The amount of fabricating he does in book XIII with the disguised Athena and in Book XIV with the swineherd made me wonder if everything he said previously was a lie until Athena corroborated part of it."


Some think of the Iliad as a tragedy and the Odyssey as a comedy. Some of the most comic moments in the Odyssey come when Odysseus is talking to Athena in disguise. It's quite fun for the audience to listen to Odysseus brazenly lie to Athena, knowing what he doesn't know; it's a wonderful dramatic device that Shakespeare uses frequently in the comedies, and it's not hard to find it in contemporary use as well. It works well enough that Homer is now going to extend its use as Odysseus presents himself in disguise, (view spoiler)

I also find it comical to watch Odysseus fret over what to do with his newly gifted treasure trove. "I'd have been better off if the goods stayed with the Phaecians!'

Mo' money, mo' problems.


message 31: by David (last edited May 17, 2018 11:43AM) (new)

David | 2739 comments There are no fantastic elements to the stories Odysseus tells the swineherd; no cyclops or other mythical monsters, no interviews with famous dead people, no long term stays with gods or witches, etc. Why is that?

Are different classes of people affected differently by the stories Odysseus tells? Is Odysseus aware of this and does he tailor his stories for each?

The slave does not seem as credulous as royalty but provides the requisite hospitality to the best of his ability to "the stranger" almost despite the stories Odysseus tells. Does the swineherd believe Odysseus' stories?


message 32: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments It's funny how epic poetry deals with everyday facts. When Odysseus asks Athena where they are she could answer: Ithaca, directly but she prefers say: the land where this..., the land where that..., the island of this..., the island of that...


message 33: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments David wrote: "Does the swineherd believe Odysseus' stories?.."

It seems as if he believe parts of it but not the part about Odysseus:

Eumaeus, you replied,
"Poor guest! Your tale of woe is very moving,
but pointless; I will not believe a word
about Odysseus. Why did you stoop
to tell those silly lies?

(Wilson; lines 360-364)

I don't know why Odysseus fabricates such an elaborate tale about where he's from and how he got to Ithaca. It goes on for a couple of pages. I guess it's to make his lies sound more convincing.


message 34: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments Rafael wrote: "It's funny how epic poetry deals with everyday facts. When Odysseus asks Athena where they are she could answer: Ithaca, directly but she prefers say: the land where this..., the land where that......"

That is funny.


message 35: by Tamara (last edited May 17, 2018 12:03PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments I'm wondering if there is any significance to the fact that when he is questioned by Athena and then by Eumaeus, Odysseus claims he comes from Crete.
I find it interesting because in Homer's Hymn to Demeter, when a disguised Demeter is questioned by the daughters of Keleos and Metaneira at the well of Eleusis, she, too, claims to come from Crete.
Crete was the last surviving culture of goddess worshipping communities. I don't know if that has something to to do with it. Or maybe it's just coincidence.


message 36: by David (new)

David | 2739 comments Tamara wrote: "I'm wondering if there is any significance to the fact that when he is questioned by Athena and then by Eumaeus, Odysseus claims he comes from Crete."

I would guess he chose to be from a remote island that is still part of Greece in order to make it harder for the mainland Greeks to know or follow-up on his false story. Like telling the people in Florida that you are originally from Alaska, or Hawaii.


message 37: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1748 comments David wrote: "I would guess he chose to be from a remote island that is still part of Greece in order to make it harder for the mainland Greeks to know or follow-up on his false story..."

That makes sense. Thanks.


message 38: by Ian (last edited May 17, 2018 02:31PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments David wrote: "I would guess he chose to be from a remote island that is still part of Greece in order to make it harder for the mainland Greeks to know or follow-up on his false story. Like telling the people in Florida that you are originally from Alaska, or Hawaii...."

I think you are most probably right.

In the "Homeric" Hymn to Demeter, the disguised goddess also claims to come from Crete (line 123). Some commentators on the Hymn point to this passage in the Odyssey as a source, while others see it as the common use of a conveniently distant, but still Greek, place, where it would be hard to check the story.

It is perhaps worth noting that, as some of the commentators point out, by the sixth century BC the Cretans had a reputation in Greece for dishonesty -- possibly spread by Odysseus' use of their name among those who couldn't keep things quite straight, and didn't remember that the lying "Cretan story" was originally one told by a non-Cretan.....

There is somewhat famous saying, perhaps related: "'All Cretans are liars,' said Epimenides the Cretan."

It has its own article in Wikipedia ("Epimenides paradox"), but the article on Epimenides himself is much better on the literary (and religious) background, and uses of the saying (including incorporation of a version in the Epistle to Titus, where the paradoxical element is omitted).


message 39: by Lia (last edited May 17, 2018 06:29PM) (new)

Lia Odysseus ran into Polyphemus early in his misadventures, when he learned that identifying himself might get him cornered; and he got out of it by first using a pun to make Polyphemus think he is “nobody”, when he’s actually offering a pseudonym that hints at his real identity. In the end, he triumphantly revealed his name, his lineage, his address, his place in the world.

So: he started out as a typical warrior, ended up concealing his heroic identity for survival, and then triumphant return to his famed identity after the concealment. No concealment, no return.

He did something like that at Scheria — concealing his junk with an olive branch and pretending to be just a helpless civil man in front of Nausicaa, pointedly suppressing his warrior identity; he delayed telling his name but offered a bunch of clues that could hint at who he is, he threw a discus to “beat” his interlocutors, and then triumphantly reveal his identity, adding that his kleos reaches the heaven and god knows what other enhancement to make himself seem more charming.

The lies to Eumaeus sounded like another iteration of the same scheme: he physically returned to Ithaca, but he’s going to conceal and control his return as a father, a king, a husband, a son. He does so by doing what worked on the Cyclopes — offering something that obliquely hints at his true identity, yet functions to conceal it temporarily.

Why this particular lie? I suspect he wants people to read between the lines and mistaken him for Meriones, without saying he is Meriones. He makes it seem like he's intimately familiar with and peer of Idomeneus, but is obviously lying about his identity. (He claims to be Idomeneus's brother Aethon later on.) Idomeneus is hardly mentioned in The Odyssey, but Idomeneus and his companion Meriones are described at length in the Iliad.

One interesting thing to consider is that Plutarch remarked that helmets with the names of Meriones and Odysseus were consecrated at a temple to goddesses known as the Mothers in the Sicilian town Enguium source: https://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/d... Assuming this predates Homer, the most obvious reason for Odysseus to borrow Meriones’ identity would be that there are existing lores that link them together, and they are already worshipped together in some kind of hero cult.

But they are also similar in other ways: Meriones won first prize in the archery contest in the Iliad — Odysseus could be obliquely boasting of his own archery skills, which might be foreshadowing … something.


Also, in the Iliad, both Odysseus and Meriones offered to accompany Diomedes on the Doloneia night raid, Diomedes chose Odysseus, Meriones lent Odysseus his bow and boar tusk helmet — apparently Odysseus’s maternal grandfather Autolycus had stolen this helmet at one point, but eventually it was inherited by Meriones. Boar tusk is famously linked to Odysseus’ own “initiation” into adulthood, and his growing into his name at a boar hunt. So, again, it could be concealment with implicit self-revelation, that is, another version of saying “I am nobody” in order to set up for the major triumphant return.


message 40: by Marieke (new)

Marieke | 98 comments I'm not sure wether this comment has already been made (I just saw a comment remarking the same thing), but in my footnotes was a remark about people from Kreta being widely known as insincere in ancient times. (actually it just said that they were known as liars).

This made me wonder about a few things:
1. does this mean that in the time the Oddyssea takes place people from Kreta were viewed upon as liars, thus Odysseus' use of Kreta as place of birth, even twice, reveals him as a liar to the person he is talking to (or at least points the person he's talking to that the story as a whole or parts of it might be untrue?
2. or does this mean that later on the people from Kreta got a reputation of not telling the truth, further enhancing the dramatic irony of the listener, who already knows Odysseus of course is not telling the truth?


message 41: by Ignacio (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Lia wrote: "It seems Athena and Odysseus are made for each other."

I think so. I love the scene of recognition and appreciation Athena gives Odysseus when he is spinning tales about being from Crete. It seems she appreciates his cunning and caution, but also just his delight in telling tales, or lies:

. . . You love fiction
and tricks so deeply, you refuse to stop
even in your own land. Yes, both of us
are smart. No man can plan and talk like you,
and I am known among the gods for insight
and craftiness
(Wilson 13.295-300)

Also:

With glowing eyes she said, 'You always have
such keen intelligence, and that is why
I cannot leave you when you need my help.
(Wilson 13.329-31)

Wilson explains in her introduction that the word "wisdom" is not the most ideal to translate Athena's attribute of "metis," which is closer to cunning, skill, scheming, or purpose, rather than the reposed intelligence "wisdom" connotes (Wilson 36).


message 42: by Ignacio (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments I also wonder why Odysseus needs to spin such an elaborate tale for Eumaeus, which ironically he prefaces by:

Odysseus said cunningly, 'I will
tell you the truth, the whole truth. . . .'
(Wilson 14.191-92)

The main purpose in the poem seems to be to "test" his listeners for their reactions, to gauge their loyalties. But I'm starting to see a pattern, where our hero just LOVES to tell tales and make up stories. And is that what makes him dear to Athena's heart--and to Homer's?

A third option is that he just uses the fiction to unburden his heart, telling stories about the Trojan war, pretending to be someone else so he can express these feelings without revealing himself. Perhaps, as Emily Dickinson recommended, he "tells the truth, but tells it slant." Or, as in Oscar Wilde's phrase: "give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth."


message 43: by Ian (last edited May 18, 2018 01:54PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Marieke wrote: "I'm not sure wether this comment has already been made (I just saw a comment remarking the same thing), but in my footnotes was a remark about people from Kreta being widely known as insincere in a..."

This is another of my long answers, with some limited information on where people can check out my sources for themselves (mostly, but not entirely, on-line).

I mentioned (in #39 above) that the belief that Cretans are (especially) dishonest may well be post-Homeric, and could even reflect a (somewhat confused) recollection that Odysseus lied about being a Cretan -- if the notion was common at the time the Odyssey was being composed, the cunning Odysseus presumably would have been made to use another false identity, instead of one that gave instant notice that he was not to be trusted. (This is pretty much your point 2.)

A comment to the "Homeric" Hymn to Demeter, in Crudden's translation, which I have available to consult, traces the notion of Cretan dishonesty back to the sixth century BC, which is probably too late to have played a role in the formation of the epics, but the chronology of pre-Classical Greek literature is anything but clear: there was once a vogue for "discovering" vast numbers of interpolations in the "original" versions of the Homeric poems, and some instances may actually be correct. At any rate in the Hymn, the goddess Demeter, in human form, claims to have come to the Greek mainland from Crete.

The crystallized form of the notion, in the saying that "All Cretans are liars,", may not involve Odysseus at all. The Wikipedia article on Epimenides (the Cretan), the apparent source of the saying, links to an early twentieth century article by J. Rendel Harris, in which he offers the "suggestion that the attack on the lying Cretans had a religious motive, and was due, in the first instance, to the repulsion of the pious Greek from the statement that the tomb of great Zeus was to be seen in Crete..." (This depends in part on Harris's reconstruction of the original form of the saying. His Wikipedia biography contains links to other publications, but not this one, nor does it mention his contribution to this issue.)

There is a problem with this suggestion too, since, as the Wikipedia article on Zeus points out that the "myth of the death of Cretan Zeus, localized in numerous mountain sites" is "only mentioned in a comparatively late source," the Hellenistic poet Callimachus.

The Greeks mostly agreed that Zeus was born on Crete -- in any of several caves pointed out there -- but the Cretans additionally worshiped Zeus in the form of a youth, instead of a bearded man. This was also weird in the eyes of other Greeks: the "Cretan Zeus" may have been another deity entirely, assimilated to the ruling god by a very old process of identification. (Again, see Wikipedia.)

This whole issue is probably addressed somewhere in the (original) six separately published tomes of A.B. Cook's "Zeus. A Study in Ancient Religion" (1914-1940), but I don't have the energy to search it out in the pdf files I have available.


message 44: by Lia (last edited May 18, 2018 09:00AM) (new)

Lia Ignacio wrote: "I also wonder why Odysseus needs to spin such an elaborate tale for Eumaeus ..."

I suspect it has to do with the idea of being "self-made." I know that sounds awfully 21st century and American, (or Protestant?) but if you look at his Cretan lies (more to come), they're mostly about marginalized men from noble families who can't rely on their inherited status / wealth, and earn their own fame, wealth, wife, status on their own, using methods not unlike what Odysseus went through -- pirating, cattle-raiding, kleos-winning, princess-charming.

There's also a kind of repetition/ similarity to what he did in Scheria (the Phaeacians'): rags to riches, from being a dispossessed nobody, to earning acceptance and recognition, through story-telling, manipulation, etc. He made himself seem vulnerable to Nausicaa and got clothes, and a ticket to the Phaeacians court. And ultimately the Phaeacians sponsored his return.

It seems he's doing that again: trying to get clothes from Eumaeus, and a way to sneak into his own palace, not by inherited status, not by his prior fame, but by wit, by story telling.

I've also noticed the only time Odysseus told the truth to Eumaeus, Eumaeus didn't believe him. ("All this will turn out as I say now. Odysseus will come within this very cycle...")

Also, this will come up soon, but (view spoiler) Presenting himself as a displaced man of royal blood might help him win Eumaeus' sympathy, and thus recruit him to help him accomplish his next project using his strategies and not his fame/status as Odysseus.


P.S. this might be bad manners, but I'm gleeful to discover Ian has his limit and there are tomes he would not swim through. Checkmate.


message 45: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 537 comments I am a little behind the reading, but I thought "All Cretans are liars," said the Cretan, was ultimately tied up with Goedel's incompleteness theorem, "This sentence is false."

Well, if the sentence is true, then it's false, but if the sentence is false, that makes it true.

I did download and re-read the very short dialogue Lesser Hippias, where Socrates gets Hippias to admit that the one who lies knowingly is better than the one who lies unknowingly (with Odysseus and Achilles as specific examples)).


message 46: by Lia (last edited May 18, 2018 09:16AM) (new)

Lia Ian wrote: "the Cretans additionally worshipped Zeus in the form of a youth, instead of a bearded man, This was also weird in the eyes of other Greeks.."

I wonder if this is somehow related to the Odyssey as well, or at least, related to why Odysseus identifies with Crete. I've certainly noticed how Odysseus sometimes turn younger (looking) by Athena's crafts (Circe also turned his crew younger after the piggy retransformation.) And Odysseus was cajoled into participating in - and winning - youthful games in Scheria. And now he's going to (view spoiler) It is as though Odysseus himself is going through a second youth, a second maturation, after the "die twice" predicament (i.e. Circe's trip to Hades and subsequent "burial" by Calypso, and rebirth at Scheria.)

If Zeus is worshipped as a deceptively youthful figure, that would seem to parallel how Odysseus is portrayed.


message 47: by Ian (last edited May 18, 2018 12:45PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lia wrote: "Presenting himself as a displaced man of royal blood might help him win Eumaeus' sympathy, and thus recruit him to help him accomplish his next project using his strategies and not his fame/status as Odysseus..."

I think that Odysseus is wrapping himself in layers of protection, as well as deception. He's the "rightful" ruler of a kingdom that has had to get on without him for twenty years, and there are probably plenty of people who benefited from that status quo, and would not hesitate to preserve it. So his suspicions aren't necessarily paranoia. (Then again, paranoids sometimes have real enemies...)

I may be reading novelistic overtones into an originally oral epic where they wouldn't work, but I would speculate that he thinks that if Eumaeus doesn't know that the "man from Crete" is Odysseus, he can't accidentally give it away. And Odysseus seems to take some pains to present himself as a man of upper-class origins, perhaps so Eumaeus won't be surprised if he acts accordingly.


message 48: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments Cphe wrote: "Tamara wrote: "After Athena reveals herself to Odysseus, she tells him Penelope longs for his return. He replies,

"Oh! I would have died like Agamemnon
in my own house, if you had not explained
ex..."


Be captive for so many years, be victimized by the universe, literally, makes anyone mad. Probably he has posttraumatic stress disorder.


message 49: by Lia (last edited May 19, 2018 07:49AM) (new)

Lia Ian wrote: "there are probably plenty of people who benefited from that status quo, and would not hesitate to preserve it...

if Eumaeus doesn't know that the "man from Crete" is Odysseus, he can't accidentally give it away. ..."


All good points, and more obvious reasons than manipulative stratagem.

I just didn’t want to let go of the idea that Odysseus is “metis”, counting on his wooden horse to take him home.


message 50: by Ignacio (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Lia wrote: "I suspect it has to do with the idea of being "self-made." I know that sounds awfully 21st century and American, (or Protestant?) but if you look at his Cretan lies (more to come), they're mostly about marginalized men from noble families who can't rely on their inherited status / wealth, and earn their own fame, wealth, wife, status on their own'..."

That's an interesting point. Even though he is a king, he still has to prove his worth, to achieve honor and fame, as well as material wealth. This may help explain why protecting his treasure is important--though that scene with Athena helping him to hide his treasure in a cave may seem humorous to modern readers--because it is the visible extension of his status and "fame." Partly, he is a noble king, but to some extent, he is also "self-made."

I also like this idea that he has to be reborn or, at least, it appears that part of the theme of the Odyssey is that a middle-aged man must rediscover his old strength and "reconquer/reclaim" his home and his family.


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