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Discussion - Homer, The Odyssey > The Odyssey through Book 18

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Odysseus finally reaches home, but not the sort of homecoming he probably imagined when he left Troy! There are some nice touches here, and some nice foreshadowing. The contrast of the loyalty of Eumaeus versus the disloyalty of Melanthius and Melantho is striking. Will they all get their just desserts by the end of the Odyssey?

Telemachus also arrives back home in these books, and again the contrast of his homecoming and Odysseus's is striking.

What is the role of Irus here? There seems to be a lot going on with him in only a short passage. Is his defeat a warning to the suitors not to underestimate Odysseus the beggar?

And why the treatment of Amphinomus? He seems a reasonable man, is kind to Odysseus, and has a foreboding of evil to come, but Athena has destined him for death, and even his kindness and moderation can't save him from having his wings pulled off by Athena. (citing Lear)


message 2: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments These heroes are great on hospitality and generosity, not so much on compassion or forgiveness. The Lord was ready to spare Sodom if only 10 just men could be found in the city. All these suitors are doomed, the good as well as the bad.


message 3: by Thomas (last edited Jun 13, 2012 09:06PM) (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Eumaios makes an interesting comment about slavery as he explains the dog Argos to Odysseus:

He was very clever at tracking
But now he is in bad times. His master, far from his country,
has perished, and the women are careless, and do not look after him;
and serving men, when their masters are no longer about, to make them
work, are no longer willing to do their rightful duties.
For Zeus of the wide brows takes away one half of the virtue
from a man, once the day of slavery closes upon him.
17.318

What is Eumaios talking about? It sounds somewhat contradictory -- when the masters are no longer around to make them work, the servants are less free? Argos the dog has suffered because his master is gone. Are servants in the same position?


message 4: by Juliette (new)

Juliette Roger wrote: "These heroes are great on hospitality and generosity, not so much on compassion or forgiveness. The Lord was ready to spare Sodom if only 10 just men could be found in the city. All these suitors..."

Are there really good suitors? Would any of the men in this reading group have been among these suitors? If the answer is yes, then maybe you can give me some insight on this point.

As far as I'm concerned even the best man in the group of suitors is in the wrong. And that there is no "just" man in the lot of them.


message 5: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Juliette wrote: "Roger wrote: "These heroes are great on hospitality and generosity, not so much on compassion or forgiveness. The Lord was ready to spare Sodom if only 10 just men could be found in the city. All..."

Consider Amphinomus. He is doubtful about the plot to kill Telemachus (XVI ~400). He gives food to Odysseus as a beggar (XVIII 120) and also defends him from the anger of Eurymachus (XVIII ~414). He may not be totally innocent, but he is much less guilty than the others, and perhaps not deserving of death.)


message 6: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm not sure but what i thought of was the ring of gyges. That when the masters are not there to watch over things, the servants lose their virtue, which means they never really had virtue in the ..."

The ring of Gyges is an apt comparison, and I think the situation here is analogous. But what I find confusing is the statement that slavery takes away half the virtue of a man. In this case, isn't Eumaios, the slave, the better man? And wouldn't the suitors become more virtuous if they were enslaved and made to work like the honest servant?

Maybe Eumaios means that the suitors are slaves by nature and they are already bereft of half their virtue. Without a master they have no virtue at all.


message 7: by Juliette (new)

Juliette Roger wrote: "Consider Amphinomus ..."

I am reading Brothers Karamozov with another group and came across this lovely transaction.

"Has any man a right to look at other men and decide which is worthy to live?"

"Why bring in the question of worth? The matter is most often decided in men's hearts on other grounds much more natural. And as for rights-who has not the right to wish"


Amphinomus may not really deserve death, but between the Gods and fate, there's not much of a choice. Odysseus can spare him, but isn't Amphinomus the one that Odysseus recommended to leave and go home? In that way Odysseus is sparing him, but he chooses to stay. (yes, I know, I need to find that passage where Odysseus says something along the lines of "you seem like a nice man why don't you go home")


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Juliette wrote: "Are there really good suitors? Would any of the men in this reading group have been among these suitors? If the answer is yes, then maybe you can give me some insight on this point. "

I'm not sure I would have been a suitor, but I think some of them are getting a bad rap.

First of all, we have to keep in mind the psychology of crowds. People in crowds often do things that they wouldn't do otherwise. If a few of the suitors are acting badly, that tends to draw in others who are otherwise responsible, reasonable men but get drawn into the bad behavior. Not necessarily an excuse, but a very common human situation.

As to whether they should have been there in the first place, well, if Odysseus was indeed dead, they had a perfect right to seek Penelope's hand in remarriage. Women in that society gained their status from their relationship to men (still true in some countries today!), so without a husband she was seriously diminished as a person, and for her own interest she should have remarried. In a way, they were doing her a favor by seeking her approval rather than just going to her father and negotiating a proper bride price for her and getting her father's approval to marry her, her desires not consulted.

Also, Penelope does in a way lure them on. We don't know when the trick with the shroud started, but she had said that when it was done she would remarry, so it was reasonable of them to try to be the one she would choose. If she had said, for example, "I will only remarry when my son is of age and chooses a new husband for me," they would have had to go away and wait. But she held out the promise of remarrying, and so each of them naturally wanted to be there "on the ground" as it were staking his claim. That wasn't unreasonable behavior.

So for any individual suitor it wasn't unreasonable to hang around courting her, since she had said she would remarry when the shroud was done. And when thirty guys get together with plenty of wine on hand and nothing to do but wait for the woman to choose one of them, is it really reasonable, based on human nature, to expect them to act like monks while they're waiting? Especially since apparently at least some of the servant girls were quite willing to help them pass their time more enjoyably?

So while I don't completely condone what the suitors did, I do think they get a bad rap from Homer, because they were, when all is said and done, just looking out for their interests and being human.


message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver In regards to the suitors as their "guilt" or "innocence" as it may be, I cannot help but to think of "Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse" they are attempting court another man's wife, whom is still very much alive and well. Granted they do not know this for a fact and while it is very possible that he could have died (though even the suitors acknowledge that they cannot say for certain if he is truly alive or dead) the fact that do not know that Odysseus' is alive and making his way back home, is not really excuse enough to justify their actions.

They may not be aware of the fact they are doing anything wrong, but that does not change the fact that they are acting wrongly. Thus they must be punished for their actions in the eye of Homer, regardless of what their intentions (which don't seem all that good) or their own awareness of just how wrong their actions are might be.

It it similar to the what happened with the Phaeacians, they were punished for helping Odysseus even though they had no reason to suspect that helping him would be wrong, and to their own eyes it may have in fact appeared to be the right thing to do. Their actions were judged as being wrong in the eyes of the gods (or at least Poseidon.)

Athena judges the suitors actions as being wrong because she knew all along that Odysseus was still alive.


message 10: by Silver (new)

Silver Patrice wrote: "I think she does say that she started working on the shroud 3 years before.

Silver, do you really think that the suitors didn't know that the way they were behaving was wrong? My impression was t..."


I meant they had no way of knowing that Odysseus was alive, and would actually be returning home soon to reclaim his place. As far as they knew he was either dead, or lost at sea indefinitely.


message 11: by Silver (new)

Silver In regards to Penelope I think it is perhaps a bit unfair to judge her too harshly for her seemingly to lead the suitors on. She was placed in a rather perilous position in which she was aware of how completely powerless she was.

Realistically speaking I really do not think if she had declared her absolute refusal to remarry again the suitors would have been like "oh ok, well in that case..." and just peacefully returned back to their homes. Women were expected to marry, and remarry, and it would not have been accepted her, her attempting to declare in sort of independence for herself. Now to mention they wanted the perks that would come with marrying her, which I don't think they would easily give up just because she didn't want to marry. I don't think in Greek culture that would have been an acceptable action for her to take.

Her allowing them to think that she would eventually choose one of them I think was her only real defense to keep them at bay. As long as they believed that a choice would be made they would wait it out, but if they were made to think that they were in a hopeless situation and she had not intention of making a choice it may have drove them to more forceful action.

She also was probably aware of the fact that if her husband didn't return or if it was discovered that he truly was dead she was going to have to choose one of the suitors, and the situation was already starting to escalate more she knew she could not hold off much longer


message 12: by Juliette (new)

Juliette This is interesting, if you follow this discussion on the punishment of the suitors...the comments coming from the females seem to be for the killing of them all, where the males seem to want to give a few of the suitors (okay one) the benefit of the doubt.

It might be that the females relate to Penelope, but I don't. Truthfully, if Astyanax gets thrown off the top of a tower just for being Hector's son, then I really don't see a problem with killing all the suitors.


message 13: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I don't think all the suitors must die because they are all guilty. I think Odysseus needs to make a clean sweep to re-establish himself in Ithaca. How could he kill just the worst, and let the less guilty go? He would get all tied up in judging the merits of each individual case, and while he was working it out they would gang up on him.


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver The other thing which I found to be interesting, was the fact that the women servants who slept with the suitors were seen as being equally guilty and deserving of being put to death.

Also I thought there was at least one of the suitors who Telemachus pleaded mercy for, and was viewed upon as being considerably less guilty than the rest.

I do not know that I would say I identify with Penelope but I concur that I do have a kill them all approach to the suitors. And I got to admit while I an not necessarily a huge Odysseus fan, as there is a great deal I criticize him for, the image of his fighting off the suitors was one of my favorite Odysseus moments.


message 15: by Silver (new)

Silver Patrice wrote: "I was thinking of the servant girls too, although we haven't gotten up to that yet.

The entire sequence reminds me of how a male lion behaves when he finds a female lion with cubs. He kills all o..."


I do not know if it was so much about the possibility of them being pregnant as I think they were seen as being traitorous against Odysseus and his household for entertaining the suitors and perhaps part of it was just for their lack of chastity. A part of me always wondered just how much choice some of the women may have had, but of course in these cultures the women do tend to always be seen as the guilty party.

Also has had been mentioned by Roger, there is this need for this absolute cleaning out of the house, and making a defining statement, that he is back, and don't mess with me, and my family, so that he can reestablish control and leadership, of which it seemed he always held mostly be force considering how things dissolved as soon as he was gone. So all those who in anyway had anything to do with the suitors must be exterminated so that everything can start afresh. And maybe it also does help prevent any resentment any survivors might have had for him killing a friend, lover, or kin of one of the suitors. Just take them all out in one clean sweep and it sets an example for everyone else, and you don't have any further problems down the road.


message 16: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Patrice wrote: "Or was it just considered "justice"?"

Have we seen anything so far to indicate that Odysseus is a "just" man, or that he has any concern with justice? (And yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves and perhaps should wait to address the fate of the suitors and the serving women.)

But I'm wondering, thus far into the poem, if there anything to suggest that Odysseus is just. I can't recall if he punishes any of his men for their numerous lapses in judgment, but I don't think so.


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver I think it does depend upon ones perception of justice, can we apply a modern definition and understanding of what justice is to an Ancient Greek culture? They may have different ideas about justice.


message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Patrice wrote: "Retribution is a type of justice. I just looked up the definition! lol But yes, we'll wait to discuss the fate of the suitors."

Yes, indeed. Justice is the advantage of the stronger, or in Odysseus' case the stronger and the smarter.


message 19: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Odysseus's first stop on the way home was to plunder the city of the Cicones and slaughter the inhabitants, just because he could. That doesn't show much concern with justice.


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments I think you are right that retributive justice is a form of justice, but it's not a very evolved form of justice. What Silver said about a "modern definition" very much applies. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Odysseus is very much concerned with justifying his actions to anyone.


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments The problem with the "advantage of the stronger" is that it is an entirely subjective standard. One man's crime is another man's justice, as Socrates shows in the Republic. But I think that's the philosophically untenable standard at work here -- the machinery of justice is dependent on the rule of force.

But Homer makes us ask these questions, even if it he doesn't give us the answers. I suppose that's why Plato quotes him so much, criticizing all the while.


message 22: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments When Eumaeus and Odysseus are walking to the palace, they meet the goatherd Melanthius, who predicts that the suitors will throw footstools at Odysseus, then kicks him in the hip (XVII 249-257, Fagles). The rock-steady Odysseus is not moved. However, Melanthius' prediction is fulfilled when Antinous flings a footstool at Odysseus (509-513)--Odysseus is hit but unstaggered--and again when Eurymachus flings another one (XVIII 444-446), which hits a wine-steward. The irony of this fulfilled prophecy is delightful. It's also wonderful to see how Odysseus, even when hit, is not moved either in body or purpose, and he is master of himself enough not to fight back until the time is right.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "A few more thoughts on book l8.

The suitors now have names. I wonder if this has something to do with everyman's empathy? In the Iliad Homer names every soldier who is killed. He gives their ba..."


That's an excellent point. Now that they are about to be killed, we suspect, they have to be created individuals?


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Silver wrote: "[the suitors] are attempting court another man's wife, whom is still very much alive and well. "

But while they don't know for a fact that he is dead, all the other leaders have been accounted for. In modern times, a person can be assumed to be dead after seven years. In the much smaller Greek world, with active commerce going on throughout the area, and with the frequency of shipwreck or other cause of death, isn't it much more likely than not that he is indeed dead? They did, after all, wait quite a while.

Since if Odysseus had died in a shipwreck, it might never be known that he was dead. Should Penelope have to wait out the rest of her life (she isn't that old, after all; she was only married a few years before Odysseus left for war; Telemachus had just been born, and he was their first child). Is she only to have two or three years of married life in her entire life? Must she live out the rest of her years and die without a husband? How long is long enough to wait?

I do agree that there are reasons to criticize the suitors, but at the same time I don't think they're acting unreasonably in deciding that the odds are high that he's dead, and that it behooves them to get their claim in before somebody else grabs the still lovely and wealthy apparent widow.


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "I don't think all the suitors must die because they are all guilty. I think Odysseus needs to make a clean sweep to re-establish himself in Ithaca. How could he kill just the worst, and let the l..."

Good point. And he has to reassert his dominance, doesn't he? A king who has been away for twenty years must expect to face some challenge to his authority when he finally returns. If these suitors represent all the malcontents who might want to rise up and challenge him, it makes sense to dispatch them all pronto and clean house for his return (and, if Tennyson is correct, his re-departure!)


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Silver wrote: "I do not know if it was so much about the possibility of them being pregnant as I think they were seen as being traitorous against Odysseus and his household..."

I agree with you there. Also, they give an odor of unchastity to the house. Make a clean sweep of all the vermin and start over afresh. After all, there are plenty of slave women to be taken, aren't there? So killing the servant girls isn't a big deal, is it? (Okay, in case you missed, it, that remark had a huge tongue-in-cheek, though I wouldn't be surprised if that's the way Odysseus would have viewed it).


message 27: by Silver (last edited Jun 17, 2012 03:00PM) (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "[the suitors] are attempting court another man's wife, whom is still very much alive and well. "

But while they don't know for a fact that he is dead, all the other leaders have bee..."


I do not argue that it may not have been unreasonable of them to start courting Penelope under the circumstances, and that they had good reason to believe that Odysseus may be dead, or never to return home again, and under normal circumstances Penelope would be expected to marry again.

But the point I make is that the very fact that Odysseus is still alive and coming home makes what they are doing wrong, even if they are unaware of this fact. Athena knows Odysseus is alive for she is the one that has decided it is time for him to be allowed to return home, and she heavily condemns the suitors, as in the beginning she tells Telemachus that the time will come when they will all be killed.

So I think that by virtue of the fact that Odysseus is still alive and returning home to his wife, by default makes the suitors guilty in the eyes of the gods, even if the suitors themselves have no reason to suspect any wrong doing in courting Penelope, and the fact that they have every reason to believe in the probably death of Odysseus.

The very fact of his being still alive condemns what they are doing.

The suitors ignorance of this fact is irrelevant because the gods know they are guilty even if the themselves do not.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Silver wrote: "But the point I make is that the very fact that Odysseus is still alive and coming home makes what they are doing wrong, even if they are unaware of this fact. "

That's an interesting point of view. It conflicts with the modern concept of justice, I think, under which guilt requires both a bad act and a bad intention, but it does seem more in keeping with Greek belief; the prime example perhaps being Odysseus was punished for killing his father and marrying his mother even though he firmly believed that he had done neither.


message 29: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Patrice wrote: "One scene really cracks me up. When Penelope is lying, making up that story in order to trick the suitors, Odysseus looks on misty eyed. It just makes me laugh, he's watching her lie and twist an..."

How is it that Odysseus is so sure it's a trick?


message 30: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Patrice wrote: "i assumed he knew that none of what she said really happened. I didn't think she'd been left in control, for instance.
Line 295
"

All things heremust rest in your control"

Wasn't it Mentor who w..."


That must be it! Odysseus knows he never told her to remarry when Telemachus grew his first beard. (Should he have?) But how do we know Mentor was given charge of the estate?


message 31: by Silver (last edited Jun 18, 2012 12:43PM) (new)

Silver Roger wrote: "Patrice wrote: "i assumed he knew that none of what she said really happened. I didn't think she'd been left in control, for instance.
Line 295
"

All things heremust rest in your control"Wasn't..."


Also I think that perhaps his own ability as a skilled liar and deceiver may make him more apt to detect such things in other people, and maybe he knew his wife well enough, and knew her to be clever that he could perceive what she was doing.


message 32: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 461 comments I missed something about the narration in these chapters, maybe because I'm listening to the audio version. But did anyone else notice that these chapters are addressed to Eumaeus? Every so often, we are reminded of this. For example, 17:568-569 "'My queen,' you answered, Eumaeus, loyal swineherd, 'if only the lords would hold their peace a moment!'" Why is this story being addressed to Eumaeus? I'm confused...


message 33: by Silver (new)

Silver Kathy wrote: "I missed something about the narration in these chapters, maybe because I'm listening to the audio version. But did anyone else notice that these chapters are addressed to Eumaeus? Every so often, ..."

That was mentioned in the discussion for Book 14


message 34: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 461 comments Sorry--missed that! I'll go back and look...


message 35: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Kathy wrote: "Sorry--missed that! I'll go back and look..."

I don't think we were able to conclude anything from it, except perhaps that Homer likes Eumaios especially well. If you have any theories, let us have 'em!


message 36: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Patrice wrote: "Everyman mentioned it! ;-)"

...Next to stand
was Mentor, comrade in arms of the prince Odysseus,
an old man now. Odysseus left him authority
over his house and slaves, to guard them well.
2.235 (Fitzgerald)


message 37: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 461 comments Thomas wrote: "I don't think we were able to conclude anything from it, except perhaps that Homer likes Eumaios especially well. If you have any theori..."

According to the endnotes in Fagles (which I have a copy of, though I'm listening to Lombardo), Homer does this second-person thing with Patroclus and Menelaus in the Iliad as well. Fagles writes, "It may be a metrical convenience or a vestige of older, bardic practice..." or, as I think Roger noted earlier, "a mark of the poet's special affection for Eumaeus." I asked my husband, too, who teaches the Odyssey to eighth-graders (the whole text!)and he speculated that Homer was addressing a "Eumaeus-like" member of the audience, as a way of drawing the audience into the narrative. That seems as likely as anything. I like the image of that--the bard sort of assigning that character to an audience member and addressing him directly. It certainly is confusing, though, because on the page it makes it appear as if it were a large frame around a chunk of the text that is being retold later to the character Eumaeus, much in the same way that Odysseus retells his adventures to the Phaeacians.


message 38: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Kathy wrote: "It certainly is confusing, though, because on the page it makes it appear as if it were a large frame around a chunk of the text that is being retold later to the character Eumaeus, much in the same way that Odysseus retells his adventures to the Phaeacians. "

This fits with the theory that the works of Homer were a collective effort -- maybe the chunks that were written in second person were the result of one poet or school of poets. But it is really interesting that Patroklos and Menelaos are "apostrophized" in the same way. In looking over the literature (briefly) it doesn't appear that there is any consensus, but I like the notion that Homer reserved this technique for the characters he liked best. It's especially easy to see why with Patroklos and Eumaios.


message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Thomas wrote: "For Zeus of the wide brows takes away one half of the virtue
from a man, once the day of slavery closes upon him. 17.318

What is Eumaios talking about? It sounds somewhat contradictory -- when the masters are no longer around to make them work, the servants are less free?..."


Going back to this question in post 5, I took that as the explanation for Argus's sad state, beyond the dog's age. Argus had been neglected in Odysseus's absence. If virtu was the original Greek word, the literal translation is probably inadequate or misleading. Lombardo has it, "Zeus takes away half a man's worth/The day he loses his freedom."

Demeaned, and without hope, a slave has no motivation and his labor is automatically less effective than a freeman's. And without the master riding herd on him or her, the rest of his worth is likely to go, too.

If Argus was meant to carry any parallels, perhaps it was as a lighter and less-prescriptive motif relating to the two beggars coming into the scene -- also demeaned, aged, and apparently rather hopeless. But one of them was still the master.


message 40: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Homer suddenly begins an archery metaphor in Book 17. First there is much foreshadowing with Telemachus repeatedly "hefting his spear" as he leaves the swineherd's hut to head back to his house. And, when he gets there, Penelope is described emerging from her quarters "looking like Artemis or golden Aphrodite" (39). Artemis may have been mentioned once or even twice earlier in the poem, I don't recall, but the comparison gets extended here.

(Meanwhile, Telemachus is, once again, VERY cool to his mother. Why?)

In any event, the archer theme re-enters, ironically, in Melanthius's curse: "May Apollo with his silver bow/Strike Telemachus dead today in his halls..." (275).

When Telemachus responds to the suitors, he has "these fletched words" for Antinous. Eumaeus later whispers to him "these feathered words" (645).

And in between, Penelope brings the idea home after Antinous throws the footstool at the beggar Odysseus: "So may you be struck by the Archer God." (537)

A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps? : )


message 41: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Everyman wrote: "What is the role of Irus here? There seems to be a lot going on with him in only a short passage. Is his defeat a warning to the suitors not to underestimate Odysseus the beggar?..."

That is a good question, and I think your answer is good, too, Everyman. (And, yes, I am catching up to the discussion a little here, too!) Irus gets as cocky and overconfident as the suitors have been, so he is the first act. Or the antipasto. And perhaps, too, there is even greater stage-setting in having Odysseus first challenged by a beggar, the lowest of the low. Beggar Odysseus is rendered so lowly that even the Ithaca town tramp, Irus, thinks he can beat him up and chuck him out. Doesn't that make the eventual turning of the tables that much more thorough-going?


message 42: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Michael wrote: "Going back to this question in post 5, I took that as the explanation for Argus's sad state, beyond the dog's age. Argus had been neglected in Odysseus's absence. If virtu was the original Greek word, the literal translation is probably inadequate or misleading. Lombardo has it, "Zeus takes away half a man's worth/The day he loses his freedom.""

I think you're right to focus on the word "virtue," and it's helped me to understand this passage. The Greek word is arete, which is commonly translated "virtue" via the Latin equivalent, but also means "excellence." It implies power, as does virtue in the Latin sense. ("Virtue" has taken on a moral tang in English that I don't think applies here. This is very confusing in the translation.)

Argos is in poor shape simply because he has been in the care of men without arete. Slaves are only half-men, men without excellence, power, or ability. They simply don't do the right thing without a master (a man with arete) telling them what to do. I think this is what Eumaios is saying, and at the same time he is lamenting his own lack of power.


message 43: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Thomas wrote: "arete"

Whoops, yes -- thank you for untangling my confused thought, Thomas. I agree exactly with your point.


message 44: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Thomas wrote: "This fits with the theory that the works of Homer were a collective effort -- maybe the chunks that were written in second person were the result of one poet or school of poets..."

I don't know the scholarly views, Thomas, but for me, this poem exudes one authorial mentality. And that is especially true in these books set back in Ithaca with the returns of Odysseus and Telemachus, and the domestic scenes. Not sure I can articulate exactly why, other than the sense they give me as I read, of an identifiable voice speaking.

I suppose that could have been accomplished through one great poet-editor, too; maybe I just don't want to think of it as a work-by-committee.


message 45: by Roger (last edited Jun 22, 2012 11:51AM) (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Michael wrote: "Thomas wrote: "This fits with the theory that the works of Homer were a collective effort -- maybe the chunks that were written in second person were the result of one poet or school of poets..."

..."


I agree--there's one story here, and one storyteller. Think of all the old ballads about Robin Hood. They're a disconnected set of stories. Then someone from Hollywood or somewhere selects and arranges and adds to produce one story, with a beginning and a middle and an end.


message 46: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments I'm partial to the notion that the poems evolved as oral traditions, that they were passed along, memorized, embellished, and changed in small ways through generations of poets. The idea that the poems were made by contemporaneous poets (i.e., by committee) does seem a bit ludicrous. The advantage of multiple-poet theories is that they explain the inconsistencies in the poem (such as the second-person apostrophes) but I don't think these theories require that the poem be somehow incoherent or obviously fractured. It's clearly a well constructed whole, but that doesn't prove that one and only one person was responsible for its creation. There is also the "patchwork" theory that Homer was the editor or compiler of pieces of the poems, but I find this less compelling.


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