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The Ancient Greeks

Wesleyan University ^ Professor A. Szegedy-Maszak SP2013 Lecture Transcripts date: _________ pp___of____

Wk. 1 prehistory to Homer Lecture 6 Homer 2 Odyssey in either of the surviving epics. I mentioned a moment ago, this term The Iliad ends under a haze of smoke But which we know about from, of polytropos, meaning versatile, adaptable from course, and even well traveled. a funeral pyre. from other stories. That's Odysseus too. And really one of the striking things He's curious. But another key element of the Odyssey about the Trojan War is how in The beginning of the Odyssey is tell me, is subsequent muse, of a man of many turnings, a very important cultural value called literature, it's not the good war. polytropon. xenia. It's depicted as being sort of We'll come back to that in a moment. This is the ritualized exchange between a catastrophic for both victims and victors And Odysseus is a man of twists and host and a guest. alike. turns. This is one of the most important cultural But, there is another epic attached to it. He is also, and quite unusually, values that the Homeric poems convey. And that is the Odyssey. interested in food. To give you just one very small example, Generally thought to be a little bit later There's no other hero who talks so much in Book Five of the Iliad, a Greek than the Iliad. about eating as does Odysseus. warrior Perhaps composed by a bard, or brought And in fact, the Odyssey has been named Diomedes is in a condition of into some sort of compositional unity by described, and I think accurately, as a aristeia. a poem of appetite versus intelligence. He's killing every Trojan who gets in his master bard who took a whole bunch of In a very real sense, you are what you eat way. different stories and brought them and how you eat it. And he finally winds up face to face with together. And we'll come back to that too. a Trojan named Glaucus. And we talked a little bit last time about Moreover, Odysseus's weapon of choice And Diomedes says, tell me who you are theories of Homeric authorship and how is so they have changed. the bow. you, so I'll know who I'm killing. But the Oddessey has a very different He's a great archer. And Glaucus says, give me a break or tone Now, what is it about the bow? something, the Greek equivalent of it. from the Illeiad. Well, it puts you at a little bit safer And tells him his lineage. In fact, its hero, Odysseus, has been distance from the enemy than does hand And as Glaucus describes his family. called an atypical hero. to Diomedes, who, remember, has been in a This may or may not be Odysseus. hand combat with sword. killing fury, says, from now on, we must Some people identify this little figure as And spear and shield. avoid each other on the battlefield. being the hero himself. So Odysseus, after the fall of Troy, Why? But what makes him an atypical hero? wanders trying to make his way home Because their grandfathers had shared Well, he's short, unlike say Achilles or and to xenia. Ajax or Hector, are always described as bring his companions safely home. This is in a world of constant contest, being towering. This is also from the first few lines of strife, the need to excel. He's clever. the Odyssey. This a very important break on that. He's eloquent. And on his travels, Homer says, he saw But what has happened in Odysseus' He's a master of words. the absence In that embassy to Achilles, Odysseus is towns and learned the minds of many in his palace at Ithica is that a number one of the lead ambassadors. different men. of suitors have settled in to woo his And Achilles says to him, with scarcely What has happened at home is trouble, wife, Penelope, who is, after all, thought concealed irritation. and to be an eligible widow. I hate like the gates of Hades the man we'll come back to that in a moment. And what they do is take and eat, and who But I want to introduce you, introduce to take says one thing and keeps another in his you three more key terms. and eat without any gesture at heart. One of them is metis. reciprocity. Well, that's Odysseus all over. And this is a particular kind of cunning They're living in a constant violation of So he's short. intelligence. xenia. He's clever. It's different from wisdom. And there's nobody there, not even He's eloquent. It's different even from a kind of Odysseus's son Telemachus, who can get He's tricky. theoretical philosophical intelligence. rid It's Odysseus who's credited with the This is a kind of tricky, conniving of them, at least not yet. ruse intelligence. Where's Odysseus been? of the Trojan horse, which doesn't appear And that's Odysseus all over, too. He's been on the island of Calypso.

The Ancient Greeks

Wesleyan University ^ Professor A. Szegedy-Maszak SP2013 Lecture Transcripts date: _________ pp___of____

Wk. 1 prehistory to Homer Lecture 6 Homer 2 Odyssey And he's been living a life of total, one But even more important than that, the might say, physical satisfaction. cyclops is described as not eating bread, She's beautiful, she's a nymph, they have and as not performing sacrifice. sex a lot. A great french scholar, Pierre Vidal And yet what does he do? Naquet, has analyzed this. He often just sits on the shore weeping. And he has pointed out that not eating And as soon as he can, he takes the bread means that the cyclops don't do opportunity to leave. agricultural labor. Because a life of total physical And the fact that they don't perform satisfaction but without any kind of glory sacrifice means that they don't recognize is not a life a hero can live. the importance of the gods. And then he lands on the island of These two characteristics, that is, not Phiecia, is drawn slowly back into doing farmwork and not recognizing the society. gods, marks the cyclops as inhuman. And we have probably the best known Even more than does his enormous size part and of the Odyssey, the so called Adventure canabalistic appetite and single eye in Books. the middle of his forehead. These are interwoven tales. Using cunning, cleverness, Oddyseus They have some folktale motifs, but we and can his men blind the cyclops and manage to group them roughly. escape. And there are three groups of three, But as he's leaving, Odysseus taunts the interrupted with a trip to the underworld. cyclops. And in those three groups of three there Up to this point, Odysseus has called are, they're characterized. himself. Each tale is characterized, I'm sorry, I Ootus, no man. should say, by a monster or by But now he says, you can tell the other temptation cyclopes that the one who blinded you is or by folly. Odysseus. The monsters are generally identified as Bad mistake, it's a bad point for cannibals. Odysseus And the most famous is certainly the to claim his identity, because it give the huge cyclops the opportunity to curse him. one-eyed monster Polyphemus. If cyclops called that a curse on no man, The description that Odysseus gives of of course it wouldn't work. his But the cyclops's father is the great god interaction with Polyphemus involves of earth and sea, Poseidon, and he's not furious. only xenia and its violations. And Odysseus is set a wandering with I mean, Polyphemus isn't a great host, he Poseidon, Poseidon's rage kind of starts killing Odysseus's men and eating overshadowing him. them. Odysseus also meets temptation in Odysseus isn't a great guest, he comes in various and starts stealing stuff. forms. But even more than that, there are some Probably the most famous is in the form hints of the social reality of the time. of The island on which Polyphemus lives, the witch, Circe, who turns his men, by is means of a magic potion, into swine. described as having a good harbor, And we could hardly have a clearer plentiful timber, good water supply. illustration of what I was talking about, We'll see in a lecture or two that the in terms of appetite versus intelligence. Greeks are starting to send out colonies Odysseus gets a little bit of divine now into the Mediterranean. assistance, manages to overcome Circe. And this is a perfect site to set up a But she sends him on a quest, and the colony. quest is to the underworld. This is Book 11 of the Odyssey, and it gives us our first and in many ways, the most detailed description. Of what life was thought to be like after one died. It's not hell. That is, it's not a place of constant torment. It is instead a place that's cold, it's dark. And people exist in a kind of shadow form of themselves. When Odysseus descends to the underworld, he meets some of his former companions from the war at Troy. There's Agamemnon, who has been killed by his treacherous wife, Clytemnestra. There's always a tension in this poem about what's really going to happen when Odysseus gets home. That we know, so to speak, what's going to happen. But the, the poem keeps setting up a counter possibility, that faithful Penelope might not turn out to be so faithful after all. And maybe, like, Chlytemestra, wind up killing her hero husband when he finally shows up. Odysseus also sees Achilles. And with that same kind of directness that he had shown in the Iliad, Achilles says to him, what are you doing here? Odysseus says we're on a quest and he says, you have everything a hero could want. You have a great reputation. You have fame. You have clay offs everywhere. You have a son who's carrying on after you. And Achilles says, don't talk to me so lightly of death. You get to go back. And then in one of the most striking sentences in all of the Odyssey, Achilles says I would rather be a live serf. That is the lowest form of free agricultural laborer. I'd rather be a live serf than a dead

The Ancient Greeks

Wesleyan University ^ Professor A. Szegedy-Maszak SP2013 Lecture Transcripts date: _________ pp___of____

Wk. 1 prehistory to Homer Lecture 6 Homer 2 Odyssey hero. two others. than herself. So much for the heroic code. And they face off against the suitors. And Odysseus tells her his story. And then Odysseus sees Ajax, who had This is once again an instance of an So, where are we? committed suicide after Odysseus had absolute division between allies and Again, at the end of a far too cursory cheated him out of Achilles armor. opponents. introduction to this magnificent epic. Ajax just refuses to talk to him. The slaughter in the great hall, sorry, But we can also think about a couple of Even in the underworld, that help your this is a little blurry but you get some larger issues. friends in hurt your enemies, that code sense of the suitors cowering behind the One, the Iliad is generally described as persists. tables. being similar to tragedy and the Odyssey Odysseus also faces instances of folly, The slaughter in the great hall is awful. to comedy. but sometimes manages to follow No one is spared, not even the good It's got a much broader range, of course instructions. suitor. geographically, much more extensive. A famous scene has him fill his men's The only ones who are spared are the And it's sort of atypical hero at the ears bard, center of things. with wax. Phemius, and the herald. But we also have, and we will talk much And he has then tied himself to a mast so They're too precious to waste, they're too more about this later on, the introduction he can listen to the song of the sirens, precious to kill. of the gods. who otherwise lure ships to destruction So, we have Odessyus home, he's gotten I want to make one point, and only one on rid point only. the rocks. of the suitors. The gods are powerful. Some wonderful paintings shows a siren There still remains a reunion with They can take favorites, or have enemies with a harp. Penelope that has to be accomplished. among humans. And people have suggested that what she Recent scholarship has paid much more But the only thing that really might be singing is heroic verse. attention to the role of women in general distinguishes the gods from us is that we The songs of the heroes, like Homer. in the ancient world. die and they don't. The Odyssey is full of these folk tales To women in the Odyssey, there are The gods are not in any way morally which are sort of spun into the main many, exemplary. narrative. many more powerful female characters They're not meant to be looked up to, in And when Odysseus gets back to Ithaca in that regard. he the Odyssey, certainly than in the Iliad. The great historian, Herodotus, says that has to find out who's been loyal and who We've seen one of them already, Circe, Homer and Hesiod gave the Greeks their hasn't. but gods. And so he disquises himself as a beggar. Penelope is so to speak the center of We'll talk about Hesiod soon. The whole question of recognition and these. But for now, you may want to think identity comes to the fore. She is in some ways the ideal Greek about Odysseus has managed to achieve the 1st wife, the fact that human life, as depicted in of faithful, an extraordinary weaver, a good the Homeric poems, is much more his goals, which is to get himself home. manager of the household. serious But here in this wonderful plaque, he is But at the end of this poem, she also than divine life. disgusted as a beggar, and he is talking reveals that she is a master of trickery, The gods simply don't have any to his wife Penelope. a peer of her long-wandering husband. consequences for what they do. But the old heroic code from the battle When she tricks him into identifying For humans, male and female, all of us, field is now brought into the hall at himself by saying that he has to move thethere are real consequences. Ithica. bed. And at the outset, at the sort of Odysseus lines up allies. He says, you can't move the bed, I put wellspring of Western literature, we are There is the noble swineherd Eumaeus. that bed there. so lucky to have Homer with the two There is his own son, Telemachus, who It's built into the trunk of an olive great has tree. epics. now come to a kind of maturity and one And Penelope finally realizes that he is To give us some sense of how we put or the only one who knows the secret other ourselves into the world.

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