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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

slide2
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
slide3
Homer’s stories probably can be traced to historical struggles for control of the waterway leading from the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea
    • 1200 BC (as long ago for Homer as the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth Rock is for us)
slide4
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)
slide5
The ODYSSEY – the attempt of one Greek soldier, Odysseus, to get home after the Trojan War
    • All epic poems in the Western world follow these basic patterns
epics values
Epics & Values
  • 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
slide7
Rome – AENEID
  • France – SONG OF ROLAND
  • Italy – THE DIVINE COMEDY
  • India – MAHABHARATA & RAMAYANA
  • Mali - SUNDIATA
slide8
ILIAD – primary model for the epic of war
  • ODYSSEY – the model for the epic of the long journey
    • THE WIZARD OF OZ
    • STAR WARS
    • ODYSSEY is the more widely read of the two stories
the war story background violence brutality
The War-Story Background: Violence & Brutality
  • 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
slide10
Greeks were eventually victorious
    • 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
slide11
Odysseus
    • Subject of THE ODYSSEY
    • Known as much for his brains as his strength
odysseus a hero in trouble
Odysseus: A Hero in Trouble
  • 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”
slide13
Odysseus is different
    • He is a hero in trouble
    • We can relate to Odysseus
slide14
THE ODYSSEY
    • 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
slide15
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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
slide19
Odysseus is stranded on an island, longing to find a way to get back to his wife, child, and home
    • 10 years since Odysseus sailed from Troy
    • 20 years since he left Ithaca
    • Odysseus searching for inner peace (as we are all in search of our true selves)
relationships with the gods
Relationships with the gods
  • MYTHS – traditional stories, rooted in a particular culture, that usually explain a belief, a ritual, or a mysterious natural phenomenon
    • Essentially religious
slide21
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?
  • 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
slide23
RHAPSODES, or “singers of tales” – historians and entertainers as well as they mythmakers of their time
    • No written history
    • No movies & no TV; no Bible or book of religious stories
    • Minstrels traveled from community to community singing of recent events
how were the epics told
How Were the Epics Told?
  • 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
slide26
HOMERIC or EPIC SIMILES
    • Similes that compare heroic or epic events to simple & easily understandable everyday events
slide27
A story as long as THE ODYSSEY (11,300 lines) would not be told at one sitting
    • Summarize parts & tell the rest in detail
a live performance
A Live Performance
  • 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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