Journal Entry 8
This week, I read Books 9–14 of The Odyssey. I spent about an hour for each Book so I could read and analyze the text. Notes from class discussions are also shown below.
October 19, 2017: (11am-12:30pm) The first thing I learned this class period was that the word “journal” comes from the Greek word “dies” meaning “day.” We talked about the value of a book that translates and summarized the Iliad. This kind of book may be more familiar to novice readers and more interesting, but it will probably be less accurate. This book tells more about the author’s point of view. The real Iliad, however, allows for room for your own perspective, whereas the translated version tells you how to perceive it. It plugs holes and makes you lazy because instead of thinking about who the characters are and how the scenes are important, it tells you have to perceive them and spells everything out for you. The professor explains that it is like food in America. You bring in Asian, Mexican, and Italian food as “authentic” and cover it with salt, sugar, etc. to make it familiar to you but it loses its authenticity. Today we also talked about the settings of The Iliad and The Odyssey. The setting of the Iliad was a battlefield, while the setting of The Odyssey is palaces. The Phaeacians in The Odyssey are well meaning but they do not have guests often so they do not know how to be hospitable. Athena had to spray him with a mist so he would shake anybody up. The Phaeacians are an athletic and matriarchal people. They have to get approval from the queen with a lot of things. We also talked about how the ability to dissolve a dispute is the most favorable leadership skill that Arete has. She is like a mediator or a judge. She is valued for her wisdom. I learned that Arete is actually Alcinous’ niece because in this area at this time, they wanted to keep royalty in the family.
October 20, 2017: (9am-10:30pm) Today, I spent an hour and a half reading Book 9 of The Odyssey. In this book, Odysseus tells the Phaeacians the story of how he’s ended up there. After leaving Troy, him and his men sail to Ismarus, city of the Cicones. The men go throughout the land and , filled with greed, ravage the land until the Cicones attack them. Odysseus and his men escape the attack but six mean per ship die. While on the boat, a storm sent by Zeus comes and drags them along for 9 days until they reach the land of the lotus-eaters. Here the natives give Odysseus and his men a fruit that makes them lose all thoughts of home and want nothing more than to stay there and eat more of the intoxicating fruit. Odysseus is able to drag his men from the island to the ship and lock them up so that they can get away. They then sail through the night to the land of the Cyclopes, an uncivilized race of one-eyed giants. After eating some wild goats on an island, they go to the mainland. There they find a cave full of sheep and crates of milk and cheese. The men convince Odysseus to go and get some of the food from the cave, but he decides to linger. The cave belongs to the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. Polyphemus comes back while Odysseus is still in the cave. At first Polyphemus is hospitable but he then eats two of Odysseus’ men and imprisons Odysseus and his men for later meals. Odysseus could have killed Polyphemus but there is a boulder in front of the cave that only Polyphemus can move. Odysseus devises a plan. The next day, while Polyphemus is pasturing his sheep, Odysseus finds a wooden staff in the cave and hardens it in the fire. When Polyphemus comes back, Odysseus gets him drunk on wine. Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is “Nobody.” When Polyphemus collapses because of his drunkenness, Odysseus and his men stab him in his eye with the staff. Polyphemus screams and when his neighbors come asking what happened, Polyphemus says, “Nobody is killing me,” which causes the neighbors to go away. In the morning, Odysseus and his men leave the cave by clinging to the sheep’s bellies as they go out to graze. When they are finally safe on board their ships, Odysseus reveals his true identity to Polyphemus. Polyphemus asks his father, Poseidon, to punish Odysseus and his crew.
October 20, 2017: (6pm-7pm) Tonight, I spent one hour reading Book 10 of The Odyssey. In this book, Odysseus and his men leave the land of the Cyclopes and go to the home of Aeolus, ruler of the winds. Aeolus gives Odysseus a bag with wind and he stirs up a wind to guide them back home. Within 10 days, they are almost home to Ithaca. However, Odysseus’ men think that Aeolus has secretly given Odysseus silver and gold and they rip open the bag, unleashing all of the wind. The wind brings them back to Aeolia. This time Aeolus figures that the gods hate Odysseus and are trying to punish him so he refuses to help them get back home again. The crew rows to the land of the Laestrygonians, a race of giants. Their king, Antiphates, and their queen eat some of Odysseus’ men and the rest of them flee to their boats. The Laestrygonians throw boulders and sink their ship. Only Odysseus’ ship escapes. After that, his men they go to Aeaea, home of the goddess Circe. She drugs Odysseus’ men and turn them into pigs. Hermes, disguised as a young man, tells Odysseus to eat a herb called moly to protect himself from Circe’s drug and to lunge at her when she tried to hit him with her sword. Odysseus obeys and forces Circe to change his men back into humans. Odysseus and Circe soon become lovers and they live together in luxury for a year. His men persuade him to continue their voyage home and Odysseus asks Circe for the way home. Circe tells him to go to Hades, the realm of the dead and talk to Tiresias, a bling prophet who knows the way. The next morning, the men leave. The youngest of the men, Elpenor, got drunk the night before, slept on the room, then fell and broke his neck when he heard the men shouting.
October 22, 2017: (11am-1:30pm) Today I spent two and a half hours reading Book 11 and Book 12 of The Odyssey. In Book 11, Odysseus goes to the tiver of ocean in the land of the Cimmerians. He performs sacrifices as Circe told him to do to attract the souls of the dead. The first person he talks to is Elpenor. Elpenor begs Odysseus to go back to Aeaea and give him a proper burial. Odysseus then talks with Tiresias who tells him that Poseidon is punishing him for blinding his son. He foretells Odysseus’ fate that he will return home, reclaim his wife and palace from the suitors, and then make a trip to a appease Poseidon. H warns Odysseus not to touch the flocks of the sun when he reaches Thrinacia or else he won’t return without many more hardships and losing all of his men. Then Odysseus talks to other spirits like his mother, Anticleia, who tells him about what is happening in Ithaca and how she dies waiting for his return. He also speaks with Agamemnon, Achilles, Heracles, King Minos, Orion, and others. He witnesses the punishment of Sisyphus, who struggles to push a boulder over a hill only for it to roll back down when it gets to the top. He sees tantalus, who is hungry and thirsty and who sits in a pool of water and has grapes above his head. But when he reaches up for grapes, they rise out of reach and when he bends down to drink, the water sinks out of reach. He is overwhelmed and goes back to his ship and sails back to Aeaea.
In Book 12, Odysseus gives Elpenor a proper burial and spends one last night with Circe. She describes the obstacles that he will face and tells him how to deal with them. As he sets sail, they approach the land of the lovely sirens and Odysseus plugs the men’s ears with beeswax and has them tie him to the ship. He hears their song. The sirens’ song is so seductive that Odysseus begs to be untied but his men tie him tighter. Once they pass the island, they have to navigate through Scylla and Charbdis. Scylla is a six-headed monster who, when ships pass by, swallows one sailor for each head. Charybdis is a whirlpool that threatens to swallow the whole ship. Scylla eats six of Odysseus’ men. Next they go to Thrinacia. Odysseus wants to avoid is entirely but Eurylochus pursuades him to stop so they can rest. A storm keeps them there for a month and at first they live off of what is on the ship. But when those run out, the men disobey Odysseus and kill the sheep there. When the sun finds out, he asks Zeus to punish Odysseus and his men. When the men leave Thrinacia, Zeus kicks up another storm and destroys the ship and sends the entire crew except Odysseus to their deaths. He eventually reaches Ogygia, Calypso’s island. Here Odysseus stops his story for Alcinous and Arete.
I believe that Odysseus decided to tell the story to the Phaeacians because he figures out that they are kind and trustworthy people. He must feel like he was backed into a corner because of they way he was showing his emotions when Demodocus was singing. The Phaeacians had been very kind and hospitable up until that point so he figured that he could trust them and tell him his real story.
October 24, 2017: (5pm-6pm) Today I spent one hour reading Book 13 of the Odyssey. In this book, Odysseus looks forward to leaving Scheria. The next day, Alcinous gives Odysseus his gifts and puts them on the ship that will take him back to Ithaca. Odysseus sails as soon as the sun goes down. He sleeps the whole night, while the Phaeacians sail the ship. They finally reach Ithaca the next morning and then go back home. When Poseidon sees that Odysseus is in Ithaca, he gets angry and complains to Zeus who tells him that he can punish the Phaeacians. As the Phaeacian ship pulls into the harbor at Scheria, the ship turns to stone and sinks to the bottom of the sea. The Phaeacians decide that they will no longer assist wayward travelers. Back in Ithaca, Odysseus finds himself in a country that he does not recognize. At first he is angry that the Phaeacians dumped him in an unknown land, but Athena, disguised as a shepherd, meets him and tells him that he is in Ithaca. Odysseus acts to hide his identity from her until she reveals hers. Athena tells him to hide out in the hut of his swineherd, Eumaeus. She tells him about how Telemachus has gone to look for news of him and gives him the appearance of an old vagabond so that nobody will recognize him.
October 25, 2017: (5pm-6pm) Today I read Book 14 of the Odyssey. In this book, Odysseus finds Eumaeus outside his hut. Eumaeus does not recognize his master, but he invites him inside. There they eat pork and Eumaeus talks about the memory of his former master, who he fears is gone for good. Eumaeus talks about how the behavior of the suitors is vile. Odysseus predicts that Eumaeus will see his master again soon but Eumaeus says that too many vagabonds come around looking for a handout from Penelope in return for fake news of Odysseus. Eumaeus puts Odysseus up for the night and lets him borrow a cloak to stay warm. Odysseus makes up a story about how he is from Crete and how he fought at Troy but made it home safely. He claims that a trip to Egypt went bad and left him broke.
I do not believe that the people Odysseus encountered on his journey home were civilized, except the Phaeacians and Aeolus. They went around eating people, sinking ships, poisoning people, and it just seemed like a bunch of chaos. The Phaeacians and Aeolus were actually pretty normal in my opinion because they treated Odysseus and his men like real people and not animals.