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Showing posts from March, 2012

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 17 -- Glossary & References for Book VI

Book VI doesn't have a lot of new references, but it certainly has some, so here we go. Why I didn't think to make this a cumulative list sooner is completely beyond me. Sheer stupidity, I suppose. Now, if a name crops up that was mentioned in Book II but you've forgotten who or what it is, hey presto, "Ctrl+F" to the rescue.
New in Book VI:
Hyperia: Former homeland of the Phaecacians. They moved to Scheria because their neighbors, the Cyclops, were getting too hard to deal with.
Nausithous: Phaeacian king who led his people away from Hyperia and settled them on Scheria. Son of Poseidon.
Alcinous: King of Phaeacia, son of Nausithous, and father of Nausicaa and five sons. His name means "mighty mind."
Nausicaa: Perhaps the archetypal Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Nausciaa is the only daughter of the King and Queen and is the first person Odysseus talks to on Scheria. Young and beautiful and lively, she generally leaves a vivid image in the reader's mind--of…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 16 -- Thoughts, Questions, and Ideas on Book V

And so we finally come to Odysseus. As is my custom, this is going to be a pretty jumbled, stream-of-consciousness sort of thing, so please forgive any complete and total lack of style and/or polish.
We begin with another council on Olympus. Essentially, Homer's taking us back to the beginning with this. He's finished, for now at least, with Telemachus and his mini-odyssey, and is shifting the focus onto Odysseus. This is a book parallels and returning, so it's only fitting that we cycle back to the beginning and then essentially take the second leg of Athena's initial plan: she would handle Telemachus, while Zeus sends Hermes to spur on Calypso. (I love Hermes slight bitchiness about having to come so far out of the way to relay his message--gives him a nice little bit of character.)
Calypso, by the way, means "she who conceals"--fitting, as her island is hidden from the world of man and she has kept Odysseus there, essentially as a prisoner, for 7 years. Inde…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 15 --Gloss on Book V

This is probably going to be a quick one, because, unless you tried, I don't think you could lose the thread of what's happening in Book V of The Odyssey, which is a fairly linear recounting of Odysseus' departure from Calypso's island and his arrival at Phaeacia, destined to be his last stop before Ithaca. Still, in case anyone out there is cheating and reading these glosses instead of reading the poem itself (you really shouldn't be doing that, by the way), here's my gloss on Book V.
Lines 1-45: Council on Olympus. Athena asks Zeus to intervene in Odysseus' plight, and he agrees, sending Hermes to Calypso to make it clear that Zeus' will is that Odysseus be allowed to go home. (N.B.: This appears to be a different council than the one that opened the poem, but something seems to be off in the timeline. But more on that later.)
Lines 46-95: Hermes goes to Calypso's island and visits the cave where she and Odysseus make their home. Odysseus is out, cr…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 14 -- Who's Who and What's What in Book V

Hey, Odysseus is here everybody! Yay!!!
*ahem*
Yes, well, be that as it may, there are still quite a few references in this part of the poem that you may not recognize, so I'll do my best to fill in the blanks.
Tithonous: Mortal husband of Eos, the dawn. In later versions of the myth, when Eos asks Zeus to grant her mortal lover immortality, she forgets to ask for him also to have eternal youth. As a result, Tithonous cannot die but continues to age until he is eventually transformed into a cicada.
Scheria: Home island of the Phaeacians. Its geographical location is unknown, though the people of the island of Corfu long claimed that their island was Scheria. Some ancient geographers maintained that Scheria was an island in the Atlantic, and some have even speculated that Scheria was in fact the same as Atlantis. (Side note: That's almost certainly completely bonkers, as Atlantis doesn't appear as a idea until 500 years later when Socrates tells its story in Plato's dialogu…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 13 -- Thoughts, Questions, and Ideas on Book IV

Sorry about the delay in this post, but I was busy, and then I was sick...but here it is, finally--my random assortment of musings, questions, and riffs on Book IV of The Odyssey. As is my custom at this point, I'm not going to try to tidy these up, because I intend them more as a spur to your thinking than as a definitive "This is what this book is about."
We've had stories nesting within stories before in this poem, and indeed, the center of the book is Odysseus telling of his own exploits, and that theme is definitely repeated here. Menelaus' long recounting of his encounter with Proteus (not the son of Moira McTaggert in the X-man comics, but rather his mythological antecedent) takes up almost a full half of the book. We also, briefly, have Helen recounting her own tales of her time in Troy. Now, I see no reason to doubt Menelaus necessarily, but Helen is more a complicated question, as I discuss below. What does happen in this book, however, is that we essent…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 12 -- Gloss on Book IV

Well, now! At 850+ lines (depending on translation), Book IV is the longest in The Odyssey, so it might be easy to get a little lost as to what's actually, y'know, happening. Well, here's my gloss--caveat, caveat, caveat.
Lines 1-72: Telemachus and Pisistratus arrive in Sparta in the middle of a large wedding feast for two of Menelaus' children. They are seen by a servant of the king who asks the king if they should be invited to the feast. Menelaus insists that they be brought in, recognizes them as sons of royalty, and seats them beside himself at the feast.
Lines 73-125: Telemachus quietly expresses his wonder at the size and luxury of Menelaus' palace. Menelaus overhears and admits that he has amassed great wealth, but states that he only did so via traveling a great deal after the Trojan War. He laments the many great men lost during that struggle, singling out Odysseus.
Lines 126-134: Telemachus bursts into tears. Menelaus becomes certain that this strange visit…

The Odyssey Reading Club -- Entry 11 -- Glossary & References for Book IV

In this book, the last of the so-called "Telemachia," some more names and references are thrown the readers' way with little to no explanation. Below is my attempt at clearing up confusion. To avoid duplication, here are the glossaries for Book I, Book II, and Book III. As is often the case in Homer, there are also several names whose larger import is lost to history, if they ever had a greater import at all; many of these fall into the category of "X son of Y" where X is someone who may or may not be important and Y is essentially just a name. These can be glossed over lightly.
Helen: Variously known as Helen of Sparta or Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. The face that literally launched a thousand ships. Daughter of Leda and Zeus, who had taken the form of a swan to seduce her.
son of Achilles: Though not named, this is Neoptolemus, a major figure in his own right in several of the non-Homeric stories that deal with the fall of Troy and its …