Nilgün Bayraktar October 21, 2013 The Odyssey Travel and Hospitality
lecture outline • I- Homeric epic and the myth of the Trojan War (the mythic background of the the Iliad and the Odyssey) • II- The Odyssey: the proem and narrative structure • III- Travel, cross-cultural encounter and hospitality - Phaeacians vs. Cyclopes
Homeric Epic • Epic: Long narrative poems dealing with gods and heroes, and often associated with either war or adventure. • The Iliad and the Odyssey were developed as oral poems and transmitted orally trough several generations before they were written down. • Both poems are set against the mythic background of the Trojan War. Stories about the Trojan War survived orally for about 400 years until they were written down in the 8th century BCE.
basic timeline • The Mycenaean Age (1600-1200 BCE) • Trojan War (1184 BCE) • The "Dark Age" of Greece (1100s-700s) • First use of the Phoenician alphabet in Greece (700s-600s) • The Homeric epics— The Iliad and The Odyssey—were first written down in late 700s-early 600.
The Iliad and The Odyssey • The Iliad focuses on events that happened during a short period in the last year of the Trojan War. • The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus’s 10-year journey from Troy to his home on Ithaca.
Homeric epics as cultural texts • They were primary cultural texts for classical Greek civilization • They served as educational tools, as moral frameworks; provided examples of proper and improper behavior • They provided a reference point for the entire culture to use in its everyday existence
The Story of the Trojan War (1184 BCE) • Helen, daughter of the great god Zeus and wife of the Greek Menelaus, was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris. • Under the command of Agamemnon (brother of Menelaus), the Greeks decided to fight for Helen’s return.
... • The war against Troy lasted for10 years. • The greatest Trojan warrior, Hector, was killed by the greatest Greek warrior, Achilles, who was himself killed by Paris. • The Greeks resorted to trickery. Using the famous trick of the Trojan Horse, invented by Odysseus,they entered the city of Troy and destroyed it by night.
The ILIAD The Iliad focuses on the greatest fighter of the Greeks, Achilles, and describes a crucial period in the last year of the war. • Achilles quarrels with the Greek commander Agamemnon and refuses to fight any longer. He then changes course and returns to the battle-field to kill the greatest Trojan warrior, Hector. • This episode is decisive (the death of Hector assures Troy’s fall). The poem looks back to the beginning of the war. It also looks forward, both to the defeat of Troy and to Achilles’s own death in the battle.
The Odyssey • The Odyssey mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. • It takes Odysseus 10 years to reach Ithaca after the 10-year Trojan War. • In his absence, it is assumed he has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of suitors, who compete to marry Penelope.
Iliad vs. Odyssey • The Iliad is about glory (kleos) and warfare; The Odyssey is about homecoming (nostos) and adventure. • Kleos (Greek: κλέος): Imperishable glory. A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, often through battle. • Nostos (Greek: νόστος): Homecoming or return; the idea of returning home from a long journey.
Iliad vs. Odyssey II • Achilles makes his name with sword and spear on the battlefield; the hero Odysseus is a careful planner and strategist. • In theOdyssey, the concentrated focus of theIliad becomes more dispersed, both temporally and geographically. We follow Odysseus around the Mediterranean for 10 years.
Proem to the Odyssey Sing me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home. But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove — the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all (...) Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus, start from where you will — sing for our time too.
Proem continued... By now, all the survivors, all who avoided headlong death were safe at home, escaped the wars and waves. But one man alone... his heart sat on his wife and his return—Calypso,the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, held him back, deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband.But then, when the wheeling seasons brought the year around, that year spun out by the gods when he should reach his home, Ithaca — though not even there would he be free of trials, even among his loved ones — then every god took pity, all except Poseidon. He raged on, seething against the great Odysseus till he reached his native land. Translated by Robert Fagles (1996)
“Odysseus and Calypso” by Arnold Böcklin (1883) Odysseus has been trapped for 7 years on the island of the goddess Calypso on his way from Troy to Ithaca
Proem to the Iliad Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,feasts for the dogs and birds,and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles. . . . Translated by Robert Fagles (1990)
Odysseus“A man of many twists and turns” • Polutropos: many turns, many ways • Polumetis: many-wiles, a great cunning intelligence • Polutlas: of much suffering, much enduring • The repetition of the prefix “polu” suggests that our hero is very resourceful and flexible.
the narrative structure of the Odyssey • Books 1-4: the story of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, at home in Ithaca. • Books 5-8: Odysseus’s journey to Phaeacia, land of the Phaeacians, a people who will help him return home to Ithaca. • Books 9-12: Odysseus’ first person flashback narrative of his wanderings from the time he left Troy until arriving in Phaeacia. • Books 13-24: Odysseus’ arrival in his home, Ithaca, his slaughter of the suitors for his wife, Penelope, and his eventual reunion with his family.
definition of the word odyssey • a long journey full of adventures • a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding to someone (merriam-webster dictionary)
Travel, Colonization and Cultural Encounters • From the 8th century to 6th century BCE, the Greeks established many colonies from the Black Sea to the coast of Spain. • Increased population, the transformation of major economic institutions, overseas expansion and the development of polis (a city state with its own law code, army, and system of government). • Technological innovations in shipping produced faster, safer ships.
OdysseusThe hero of the colonial and commercial age • Odysseus travels to places that are foreign, far away, and fantastic: cannibal Cyclopes, women who turn men into swine, etc. • These encounters with unknown worlds and peoples highlight what it meant to be Greek: crafty, handsome, curious, proud, resourceful, articulate, and skilled with handling a ship.
Phaeacians (Book VIII) vs. Cyclopes (Book XI) • Phaeacians and their relatives the Cyclopes (the one-eyed giants) are both descendants of Poseidon (the god of the sea). • The Phaeacians represent an idealized world. They are civilized and welcome strangers with generous hospitality. • Their cannibalistic relatives, Cyclopes, are uncivilized and lawless.
Odysseus at the palace of Alcinous, the king of Phaeacia Painting by Francesco Hayez (1815)
Maritime activities, social structure and hospitality • Phaeacians are famous for their ships and maritime expertise whereas the Cyclopes have no experience with ships and overseas travel. • Phaeacians have great agricultural skills (sign of an advanced civilization). The absence of cultivation in the land of Cyclopes characterizes a primitive landscape. • The Phaeacian society has rules, customs, and a political structure. The Cyclopes have no such rules or practices.
Xenia: guest-host relationship • Xenia: hospitality; a reciprocal relationship between one xenos and another. • Xenos: guest, host, stranger, friend, and foreigner • Xenia is a divine obligation, protected by Zeus himself. One of his titles is “Zeus Xenios”, the god of xenia.
different models of xenia • The Phaeacians are dedicated to xenia and they provide transportation to any shipwrecked travelers who land upon their island (Odysseus is bathed, clothed, seated in the place of honor, feasted, entertained by the songs of a poet, and given guest gifts and personally escorted home) • The Cyclops Polyphemus does not follow the rules of xenia. He eats six of Odysseus’ men!
Odysseus at the palace of Alcinous, the king of Phaeacia Painting by Francesco Hayez (1815)
Odysseus:“Hoping you will be generous to usAnd give us the gifts that are due to strangers. Respect the gods, Sir. We are your suppliants, And Zeus guards strangers and suppliants, Zeus, god of strangers, who walks at their side.” Polyphemus: “You are dumb, stranger, or from far away, if you ask me to fear the gods. Cyclopes Don’t care about Zeus or his aegis Or the blessed gods, since we are much stronger. I wouldn’t spare you or your men Out of fear of Zeus.” (Book 9, pg. 132)
Alcinous: “Hear me Phaeacian lords and counselors, So I may speak what is in my heart. This stranger has come to my houseIn his wanderings. I don’t know who he is,Or if he has come from the east or the west.He asks for a passage home, and asks us to setA firm time for departure. Let us speed himOn his way, as we have always done. (…)We have a feast to prepare, and I will provide well for all!Those are my orders for the younger men.But you others, all the sceptered kings,Come to my palace and help me entertain The stranger in the hall. Let no one refuse. And summon the godlike singer of tales,Demodocus. For the god has given him, Beyond all others, song that delights However his heart urges him to sing. (Book 8, pg. 106-7).