Week Eight: The Odyssey

Sunday, October 11, 2015 12:00 pm

Book One

We learn that Poseidon is holding a grudge against Odysseus which is making his journey home long and treacherous. Meanwhile the gods discuss the murder of Agamemnon and Aigisthos. Orestes, Agamemnon’s son murders Aigisthos because of his long term affair with Agamemnon’s wife, Orestes mother. Aigisthos was warned that if he were to have this affair Orestes will pretty much kill him, but Aigisthos decided not to heed his warning from Hermes. Orestes decided to avenge his father by killing both him and his mother.

Now back to Odysseus; Athena asks Zeus if he can have mercy on her favorite mortal, (Odysseus) and send him on his way home. It’s been seven years now. Zeus revealed that Poseidon is mad at Odysseus for poking out his son’s eye. (Poseidon’s son is a CYCLOPS named Polyphemos)

Odysseus is being held captive as a sex slave on an island by sea nympho Calypso. Athena wants to send Hermes to Calypso and tell her that it is time to let Odysseus go, however, Zeus reminds her “who’s boss” and decides not to send Hermes just yet. As a response, Athena decided to show Zeus that “she’s boss” and disguises herself as Mentes, and old friend of Odysseus and flies to Ithaca.

At Ithaca, many suitors are trying to pursuit Penelope, Odysseus’ wife because they feel as though Odysseus is dead. However, they’ve been in his home for so long because Penelope refuses to marry any of them. Mentes (Athena) arrives to Ithaca and is welcomed by Odysseus’ son, Telemachos. He apologizes for the many suitors and even wishes that his father was home to fight them off. Athena advises him to go to Pylos to talk to Nestor, and to then go to Sparta to visit Menelaus, and after this, he should think about killing all of the suitors himself.

As Mentes leaves, Athena fills Telemachos’ head with a vision of his father and he then realizes he has been visited by a divinity, though he doesn’t know who exactly.

Phemios, a poet, starts singing about the Trojan War in and Penelope asks that he sings about something else because the war reminds her of her “dead” but not so dead husband. Telemachos says that it isn’t the poets fault that Odysseus hasn’t returned home yet, it’s Zeus’ and he tells the poet to continue to sing. Penelope runs upstairs in shock that her son is feeling “ballsy.” With this new courage, Telemachos decides to tell the suitors they need to go home. One of them. Antinoos, says that Ithaca needs a new king and that is why they are here. Another suitor by the name of Eurymachos asks Telemachos about Mentes and why he was here, but Telemachos lies to him and proceeds to go to bed. One of Odysseus’ old maids, Eurykleia, who was also a servant to Laertes, Odysseus’ father took care of Telemachos as he went off to bed.

Monday, October 12, 2015 5:00 pm

Book 24 of the Iliad vs Book 1 of the Odyssey

In the Iliad, the epic had a theme of menis while in the Odyssey the theme is xenia. In both poems, both themes of menis and xenia are prominent, which shows how the two stories compliment each other. The gods were on distinct sides throughout the Iliad in its entirety, the Trojans or the Acheans. However, in Book One of the Odyssey, it seems as though all of the gods, besides Poseidon, favor Odysseus and are on his side. Athena also plays a more active role in the Odyssey whereas it was Hera who played that role in the Iliad.

Telemachos, the hero?

In Book One Telemachos is hardly a hero. He starts off as appearing cowardly because he can not get the suitors out of his house. By now, you’d think that he can take care of the household, but with the absence of his father, and no male presence around to help him, he can only wish to be like Orestes and attempt to avenge his father like Orestes avenged Agamemnon. However, Telemachos does gain a little bit of courage after Athena talks to him; even his mother was a bit surprised when he told the poet to keep singing even though she asked him to stop. After that, Telemachos also told the suitors that they needed to go home.


Penelope is similar to Briseis in a way that she is wanted by so many suitors just as how Briseis was wanted by both Achilles and Agamemnon. She also compares to Helen in the sense that she is seen as very beautiful and a woman that many men want to pursue.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 2:10 pm

During class we discussed Book One and the similarities and differences between the Odyssey and the Iliad. We also defined the main theme of the Odyssey as “andra” which means man. The same way that the Iliad opened with “menin” which translates to menis. The Odyssey is about one man’s voyage home, a man of many turns (polytropos), Odysseus. We also translated Odysseus as “he who is hated” or “he who grieves”. With this translation we determined that Odysseus to received his kleos through algea, meaning sorrows.

Along with andra, oikos is another huge theme that is seen in the Odyssey and it is also prominent alongside xenia. Oikos meaning the house and household, the Odyssey reflects a coming of age story where a lot of detail is reflected around the household and xenia.

4:00 pm Book Two

Telemachos calls a meeting of all the Ithacan men including the suitors and he grouses about the suitors eating and drinking all his food and wine while they are not contributing to any of it in any way. He also dislikes the fact that they are all trying to pursue his mother. Antinoos challenges Telemachos’ anger by blaming Penelope for declining the suitors and is basically saying that it is her fault that they as still in his house.

When Odysseus did not come home, Penelope delayed having to marry one of the suitors by deciding not to remarry until her weaving for Laertes funeral shroud be finished. She’s taking a pretty long time and she actually spends all day weaving and all night taking it apart so there is no questions being asked about why she is not finished, that was until a maid snitched on her. Oh and Laertes isn’t even dead yet.

Antinoos issues an ultimatum to Telemachos and proposes that he chooses between getting rid of Penelope, or choosing a suitor for her himself. Telemachos is clearly not going to do either, so Zeus interferes by sending two eagles to attack the people of the city. Hailitheres reads the portentous sign as an omen that Odysseus will soon return home. Eurymachos laughs at the idea and declared that Odysseus is dead. The suitors are not afraid of him or any “stupid signs.”

Telemachos is over all of this drama and sails to Pylos where he can talk to Nestor. Mentor, another old friend of Odysseus speaks up and announced that he is sickened with the community as a whole that they have not risen up to speak out against the suitors. However, a townsmen quickly shut him up and nothing has been accomplished out of this assembly. Telemachos now prays to the divinity that visited him, Athena, in hopes that she will hear his prayer. As a response, Athena disguises herself as the old friend, Mentor and visits Telemachos and tells him to prepare provisions for the journey. He/She promises to find him a ship to sail off in.

Telemachos goes home and the suitors mock him, he tells Eurkleia to keep his trip on the down low from Penelope. Meanwhile Athena disguises herself as Telemachos to gather men to join him on his journey. While doing so she runs into a man by the name of Noemon and is able to use him and his ship. The book ends with Telemachos leaving for Pylos with Mentor (Athena) and the men she gathered for him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 1:00 pm

Telemachos Maturation

In Book One when we were introduced to Telemachos he seemed to be lacking in the “becoming a man” area. Since he has not had the presence of a male figure he is a little behind on what he is expected to do at the age of 20. All of the suitors are using this to their advantage and they are indeed taking advantage of the fact that he does not know how to get rid of them or even fight them off. He manned up for a brief moment toward the end of Book One where he stood up to the suitors telling them to go home and when he allowed the poet to sing his song although his mother did not agree. Now in Book Two he assembled his own and first town meeting with everyone in it and was able to express his concerns, and although they did not get anywhere with the meeting, he was able to take the first step in becoming as noble as his father, walking in his shadows. Along with that he also found the courage in him to finally sail off to Pylos which implies that he is actually taking Athena’s advice on what he needs to do to get rid of the suitors, which is kill them all eventually.

Thursday, October 15, 2015 2:10 pm

Scepter: a walking stick often used by elderly messenger gods.

During class on Thursday we discussed Book Two, after taking our quiz, and the maturation of Telemachos. My classmates agreed that in Book One and in Book Two Telemachos has matured through the preparation of his sail and talking to his mother.

Agore: any place where people gather to assemble. A market place for example.

Telemachos gained his aristeia through “agore”; assembling the town meeting.

Book Three

Telemachos arrives to Pylos and he finds their townspeople making sacrifices to Poseidon. He is also very nervous about making his speech in front of noble men such as Nestor, as this will be his first time doing so, and it is custom that you do so when visiting other places.

Athena gives him courage by reminding him that the gods are on his side which is a good sign for him. However, before any speeches are made, the Ithacans are invited to a sacrificial feast. Peisistratos, Nestor’s son offers Athena wine and asks that she makes a prayer to Poseidon, (still disguised as Mentor). She accepts the wine and makes the prayer to honor Nestor and his sons and his kingdom. After the feast Telemachos makes his speech and asks Nestor of any news about Odysseus. Unfortunately, Nestor can only lament over the Trojan War because that is his last memory of the warrior. He goes into detail about the voyage home and how the Acheans had some trouble returning home, some of the blame being on the gods, Athena for example.

Menelaus and Agamemnon, two kings, as well as brothers, argued after the war and decided to sail their ships home separate ways. Originally Odysseus went along with Menelaus, but due to his feelings of disloyalty to Agamemnon, he took some of Menelaus’ ships and men and sailed toward Agamemnon to go home with him instead. Bad move. Menelaus and the others, including Nestor made it home safely, however, Odysseus is now trapped. Agamemnon as we know has been killed by his vengeful wife and her lover. Telemachos envies Orestes for avenging his father and wishes that the gods can help him do the same. Nestor reminds him that Odysseus was a great favorite of Athena and he is sure to come home soon.

Telemachos has a hard time believing that the god are on his sides and nonchalantly brushes off what Nestor tells him. Mentor (Athena)n tells him that he is wrong and the gods can save a man just by wishing it. Then Nestor tells the story of how Agamemnon died; as soon as he comes home he is killed by Aigisthos and Clytemnestra. Menelaus is stranded in Egypt at the time while Aigisthos and Clytemnestra reign for seven years in Agamemnon’s kingdom Mykene. By the time he comes home from Egypt, on the day of the couple’s funeral he finds out his brother is dead and Orestes has avenged his father.

Nestor then warns Telemachos not to stay away from home too long, besides going to visit Menelaus in Sparta because the suitors are there unsupervised. He offers him a bed in his home and Telemachos accepts.

As Mentor/Athena and Telemachos head for the ships, Athena finally reveals herself by turning into an eagle and decided to stay and watch over Telemachos’ crew as he sails to Sparta. In awe, Nestor promises to make Athena steak by sacrificing a golden horned heifer. He gives Telemachos his horses so he can go to Sparta and his son, Peisistratos tags along for the ride.

Friday, October 16, 2015 3:00 pm

Book Four

In Sparta, Menelaus and Helen, are celebrating the separate marriages of their son and daughter. They happily greet Peisistratos and Telemachos, whom they recognize due to his high resemblance of his father. They sit down to eat as Menelaus and Helen lament and discuss events that happened at Troy. Many of them involve Odysseus’ cunning tricks. Helen tells them about the time Odysseus dressed as a beggar to infiltrate the city’s walls and Menelaus tells the famous story of the Trojan horse; This was Odysseus’ masterful plan that allowed the Greeks to sneak into Troy and slaughter the Trojans. The following day, Menelaus recounts his own return from Troy. He says that being stranded in Egypt, he was forced to capture Proteus, the divine Old Man of the Sea. Proteus told him the way back to Sparta and then told him of the fates of Agamemnon and Ajax, another Greek hero, who survived Troy only to kill himself back upon returning to Greece. Proteus also told him news of Odysseus; he was still alive but was imprisoned by Calypso on her island. Telemachos and Peisistratos return to Pylos to set sail for Ithaca.

The suitors at Odysseus’s house learn of Telemachos’ trip and plan to ambush him upon his return. The herald Medon overhears their plans and reports them to Penelope. She becomes distraught when she thinks about the fact that she may soon lose her son in addition to her husband. Athena sends a phantom in the form of Penelope’s sister, Iphthime, to reassure her that nothing will happen to Telmachos and that Odysseus is still live and well. Iphthime tells her not to worry, Athena will protect Telemachos.

Saturday, October 17, 2015 7:00 pm

Book Five

All of the gods, except Poseidon, gather again on Mount Olympus to discuss Odysseus’ fate. Athena’s makes a speech in support of the hero to Zeus in order for him to intervene. He finally sends Hermes to Calypso’s island to tell her that Odysseus must be allowed to leave so he can return home. In reply, Calypso indicts the male gods for having double standards. She complains that they are allowed to take mortal lovers while the affairs of the female gods must always be frustrated. However she ends up submitting to the will of Zeus.

By now, Odysseus is the only one remaining out of his men he led at Troy; his crew and ships in his force were all destroyed during his journeys so Calypso helps him build a new ship and stocked it with provisions from her island. With sadness, she watches as he sailed away.

After eighteen days at sea, Odysseus spots Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians, his next destination appointed by the gods. Poseidon returns from a trip to the land of the Ethiopians and realizes what the other gods have done in his absence. He stirs up a storm, that knocks Odysseus off course and nearly drags him under the sea. The goddess Ino comes to his rescue and gives him a veil that keeps him safe after his ship is wrecked. Athena comes along too as he is tossed back and forth, now out to the deep sea, and against the jagged rocks of the coast. A river up the coast of the island answers Odysseus’ prayers and allows him to swim into its waters. He throws his protective veil back into the water, as Ino had commanded him to do, and walks inland to rest in the safe cover of a forest.

Sunday October 18, 2015 10:00 am

Menelaus and Helen

The relationship between Menelaus and Helen is not the relationship of a typical husband and wife. They seem to have become distant after she was captured at Troy. I don’t know if they always had this relationship before Troy, but I do think that the war took a toll on their relationship. They are holding onto what little they have and it’s almost as if they are just staying together to keep the kingdom and its people together. They do seem as if they are in love because of the history they have together, but not close at all. However, they resemble an old married couple, those who don’t spend as much time together as they used to and are just married because they made vows to each other long ago.


Calypso is like a modern day feminist. She compares to Athena in many ways such that she is outspoken and she does not like ‘no’ for an answer. Just as Athena took it upon herself to visit Telemachos in Book One when she was denied her request of immediately sending Hermes to tell Calypso that Odysseus needs to come home; Calypso refused to send him home and indicted the male gods for their double standards. Although, she ended up sending him home eventually, she had a strong opinion in the process of doing so. Her motives were to simply keep Odysseus as her sex slave, however I think she was trying to touch on expressing that male and female gods should be allowed to do the same things with no further judgement. She thickens the plot of the Odyssey because she is the primary reason why Odysseus has been taking so long to get home.

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