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Who Should Read “The Odyssey”? And Why?
“The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” are the most famous and celebrated poems of Homer. Unlike “The Iliad,” which is a war epic, “The Odyssey tells an individual story of a man and his struggles on the way to go back home to his family.
We recommend it to all readers of classical stories, as well as to aspiring authors. Homer is considered as the well from which everyone can get inspiration.
Homer is one of the first authors of Ancient Greece whose work has survived until today.
It is still unknown if the name is of an individual author, or a collective name, which represents many collectors that have turned the oral tradition into writing in the course of many years.
Many theories are revolving around Homer’s identity, but whoever he was, it is certain that his works are one of the most influential and important pieces of writing ever created.
The book starts with an invocation to the Muse of poetry, which was the kind of beginning that ancient authors used when writing their books, believing that poetry and literature are a “gift” from the Gods.
After the invocation, the story begins in medias res, at the moment when Odysseus has been away from his home in Ithaca for two decades – the first of which he spent in the Trojan War, and the last ten years trying to return back home.
While Odysseus is wandering and looking for his way back, his wife Penelope struggles with the hundred suitors who have entered the royal palace to ask for her hand and marry her.
All of these suitors are a great experience for the palace since they indulge in great amounts of alcohol and food.
Penelope and Odysseus have a son, Telemachus, who wonders what the right step would be to take with the suitors. He and his mother pray for his father’s return.
This was the setting of the story which fully develops in 24 books.
It is interesting that the book does not start with its protagonist, Odysseus. In fact, we are unaware of his presence until the fifth book.
The first four books tell the story of Telemachus’s struggle which is also the secondary plot of the text – his coming of age and learning how to find his own path.
The young prince gets some help from the goddess Athena, who disguises herself to advise him to gather the island’s leaders to protest together against the suitors and their invasion of the palace.
At the assembly, two of the suitors confront the prince, saying that the queen has taken a long time to choose a husband.
Although Telemachus tries to speak to them and explain his family’s position, he does not accomplish anything.
The suitors come from some of the strongest families and do not have the patience to wait for Penelope that long.
Telemachus, not knowing what to do, secretly goes for Pylos and Sparta, to try to get some news of his father. In the meantime, the suitors decide to assassinate him and plot their murderous plan.
Homer knew how to tell exciting stories, so he ended the part about the young prince at the exact moment when his destiny is uncertain, and he is ambushed by the suitors on his return back home.
He then starts the story of Odysseus who is alive but held a prisoner by the goddess Calypso who is a nymph that wants Odysseus to marry her.
He has spent the last few years in her company – sleeping with her during the nights, and longing for his family during the day.
Athena urges the gods to free Odysseus from Calypso’s lustful prison. He then sets off to find his way back home. But his trip is nowhere near a smooth one.
The gods constantly block his path because of their own grudges.
Poseidon shipwrecks him because he wants to avenge his son whom Odysseus blinded.
Odysseus then ends up on Phaeacia where he is welcomed warmly, and the citizens ask him to tell his adventures.
Then, Homer takes us ten years back, through the tales of Odysseus.
The third section of the book is also known as “The Wanderings of Odysseus,” and it is the most popular part of the epic.
It starts at the end of the Trojan war and explains how Odysseus and his men lost their way, and he ended up as a captive of Calypso.
He tells a story filled with gods and mythical creatures who stand on his way of returning to his family.
Once he finished the story of his adventures, the fourth part of the epic starts, in which he receives gifts from the people who listened to his story.
They sail him to his homeland, just like they do with any other strangers that have mistakenly ended up there.
He returns to his home in the disguise of a beggar.
Since a long time had passed no one can recognize him, except the nurse who cared for him when he was a child and recognizes an old scar while she is bathing him.
Meanwhile, Penelope decides to arrange a contest in which whoever string Odysseus’ great bow and shoots an arrow through a dozen axes, is the one who will marry her.
Every one of the suitors fails, except Odysseus himself.
Then, he and his son manage to slaughter the suitors
The Odyssey Epilogue
The text ends with a scene where the gods help people once again – Athena makes sure that they retain peace in the country filled with vengeful families.
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“The Odyssey PDF Quotes”Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man. Click To Tweet There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. Click To Tweet A man who has been through bitter experiences and travelled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time. Click To Tweet Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this. Click To Tweet Each man delights in the work that suits him best. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Personally, for me, although I liked both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” this book was much more fun since it has incorporated a development of character and a personal touch.
In any case, I recommend both books, since they are considered the basis of world’s literature – for a reason.