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The Odyssey. Background Information. Almost 3000 years ago, people who lived in the starkly beautiful part of the world we now call Greece were telling stories about a great war Homer gathered these stories together telling them as one unified epic The Iliad The Odyssey.

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The odyssey

The Odyssey

Background Information




  • Homer’s first epic was the ILIAD – tells of a 10 year war fought on the plains outside the walls of a great city called Troy

    • Ruins in western Turkey

    • Trojan War – the people of Troy vs an alliance of Greek kings

    • The cause of the war was jealousy: Helen abandoned her husband Menelaus (a Greek king) and ran off with Paris (a prince of Troy)



Epics values
Epics & Values to get home after the Trojan War

  • EPICS are long narrative poems that tell of the adventures of heroes who in some way embody the values of their civilizations

    • Greeks used these poems for centuries in schools to teach Greek virtues

    • Later cultures imitated the style using their own value systems


  • Rome – AENEID to get home after the Trojan War

  • France – SONG OF ROLAND

  • Italy – THE DIVINE COMEDY

  • India – MAHABHARATA & RAMAYANA

  • Mali - SUNDIATA



The war story background violence brutality
The War-Story Background: Violence & Brutality to get home after the Trojan War

  • The ILIAD – set in the 10th and final year of the Trojan War

    • Greeks attacked Troy

    • Greek kings banded together under the leadership of Agamemnon

    • 1000 ships sailed across the Aegean Sea & laid siege to the walled city of Troy


  • Greeks were eventually victorious to get home after the Trojan War

    • Gained entrance to Troy

    • Reduced the city to smoldering ruins

    • Butchered all the inhabitants (took some as slaves back to Greece)

    • Achilles – greatest of the Greek warriors who died young in the final year of the war

    • Agamemnon was murdered by his unfaithful wife when he returned from Troy


  • Odysseus to get home after the Trojan War

    • Subject of THE ODYSSEY

    • Known as much for his brains as his strength


Odysseus a hero in trouble
Odysseus: A Hero in Trouble to get home after the Trojan War

  • Heroes were thought of as a special class of aristocrats

    • They were placed between the gods and ordinary human beings

    • Experienced pain & death BUT always “on top of the world”


  • Odysseus is different to get home after the Trojan War

    • He is a hero in trouble

    • We can relate to Odysseus


  • THE ODYSSEY to get home after the Trojan War

    • Melancholy & postwar disillusionment

    • Odysseus – great soldier in the war but the monsters he faces do not care about his war record

    • Ithaca lacks respect for him when he returns


  • Odysseus had married Penelope in the years before the great war

    • Had one son, Telemachus

    • He was still a toddler when Odysseus was called to war

    • Odysseus did not want to go to war even though he was under treaty to do so

    • Pretended to be insane to avoid going to war; but he was quickly figured out


The wooden horse trick
The Wooden-Horse Trick war

  • Odysseus performed extremely well as a soldier & commander once in Troy

    • He thought of the wooden-horse trick that would be the downfall of Troy


The ancient world ours
The Ancient World & Ours war

  • World of Odysseus was harsh & familiar with violence

    • Act like pirates on their journey home

    • Enter towns & carry off all their worldly goods

    • Pots, pans, cattle, sheep

    • “palaces” – elaborate mud and stone farmhouses


A search for their places in life
A Search For Their Places in Life war

  • Searching for right relationships with one another & with the people around them

    • Theme

    • Story begins with Telemachus who is now 20 years old

    • Threatened by rude, powerful men swarming about his own home, pressuring his mother to marry one of them

    • Men want to rob Telemachus of his inheritance



Relationships with the gods
Relationships with the gods get back to his wife, child, and home

  • MYTHS – traditional stories, rooted in a particular culture, that usually explain a belief, a ritual, or a mysterious natural phenomenon

    • Essentially religious


  • Homer is always concerned with the relationship between humans and gods

    • Homer is religious

    • The gods control all things

    • Athena, the goddess of wisdom (always w/ Odysseus)

    • ALTER EGO – a reflection of a hero’s best or worst qualities

    • Poseidon, god of the sea – known for arrogance and a certain brutishness

    • Odysseus himself can be violent & cruel


Who was homer
Who Was Homer? humans and gods

  • No one knows for sure!

    • A blind minstrel, or singer, who came from the island of Chios

    • Just a legend?

    • Too good to be true?

    • Model for a class of wandering bards or minstrels later called rhapsodes



How were the epics told
How Were the Epics Told? entertainers as well as they mythmakers of their time

  • Oral epic poets are still composing today in Eastern Europe & other parts of the world

    • ILIAD & ODYSSEY originally told aloud by people who could not read or write

    • Follow a basic story line

    • Singers were very talented & worked very hard

    • Audience must listen closely



  • HOMERIC or EPIC SIMILES entertainers as well as they mythmakers of their time

    • Similes that compare heroic or epic events to simple & easily understandable everyday events



A live performance
A Live Performance told at one sitting

  • Imagine a large hall full of people who are freshly bathed, rubbed with fine oils, and draped in clean tunics

    • Smell the meat being cooked over charcoal

    • Hear the sound of voices

    • Imagine wine being freely poured

    • See the flickering reflections of the great cooking fires & torches that light the room

    • A certain anticipation hangs in the air

    • Perhaps Homer himself is in town, and will appear and entertain tonight!


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