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The Ultimate LIT HUM Study Guide

COMPILED BY RYAN MANDELBAUM, slightly beautified by Mer :)

“Holey moley, I didn’t read _______ last night!”

The Iliad……………………………….(1)
The Odyssey……………………………….(5)
Hymn to Demeter……………………………….(9)
The Histories……………………………….(12)
The Oresteia……………………………….(13)
The Medea……………………………….(21)
History of the Peloponnesian War……………………………….(24)
The Symposium……………………………….(31)
Gospels of Luke and John……………………………….(39)

The Iliad
By Homer
(Books I – XII)

(plot summary one)

The Iliad picks up at the end of the Trojan War –a ten-year long war fought between the Achaeans (Greek) and the Trojans. Chryses, the priest
of Apollo, pleads with the Achaeans to return to him his daughter who they captured in battle. When the Achaean’s refuse, Apollo plague’s the
Achaean’s. Agamemnon, leader of the Achaean’s, finally gives up the daughter in order to end the plague, but only after he is fairly compensated by
taking the girl previously given to Achilles. Achilles, the greatest Achaean warrior, is dishonored and insulted by the unfair exchange, and resorts to
withdrawing from the war in order to punish the Achaeans. To further hinder the Achaeans in battle, Achilles also attempts to seek out help from Zeus,
by asking his own mother, the goddess named Thetis, to persuade him. Without support from Achilles or Zeus, the Achaeans face difficult challenges
against the powerful Trojan army.
The Achaean’s meet the Trojans and a duel between Menelaus and Paris ensues to try and settle the war for good. The gods intervene and the
duel is left unresolved. Fighting continues back and forth between the two sides. Both sides agree to have a day of peace to bury their dead, and
strengthen their defenses. Afterwards, the fighting continues for a few days, and the Trojans, with the help of the gods, begin to take the lead in the war.
The Achaean’s unite and recall that Troy is destined to fall. Agamemnon, fearing the Trojan’s victory, offers Achilles great wealth if he rejoins the war,
but Achilles refuses. The Achaean’s send spies across the Trojan border, who encounter one of their enemies. They threaten him to gain information
about the Trojans, which they use to launch several successful attacks. The next day the Trojans attack the Achaean’s camp, breaking through the walls
of the camp and forcing the troops all the way back to their ships.

(major themes)
Honor –
-Achilles is so dishonored when Agamemnon takes Briseis from him, that he withdraws from the war (Book I). Later, when Agamemnon
attempts to win Achilles back by offering him gifts, Achilles denies, claiming that “There was no gratitude given for fighting incessantly

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forever against your enemies. Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard" (Book IX: 316). This shows Achilles de-
glorifying war because he chooses to stay home and live a long and happy life, rather than return to the battlefield and die “honorably.”
-As Paris and Menelaus get ready to fight, Paris begins to show signs of fear and cowardice. His brother Hector mocks him, and Paris is
moved to fight, but he soon escapes from the field. Paris is looked down upon, in contrast with his brother, who is a great Trojan warrior and
a well-respected leader.
- Nestor upholds honor in war by giving uplifting speeches to the Achaeans. In book VII he preaches about the glory of victory to his troops,
convincing them to step forward, and fight Hector. Again, in Book IX, while Agamemnon has lost hope and is ready to head back home,
Nestor brings reassurance to the troops through a sense of glory, and the troops spirits are again raised.
The Shield –
The shield which Hephaestus welds together for Achilles is described in
great detail in Book 18 (you may want to look this chapter over). The elaborate designs on shield depict not only the war, but also life outside
of the war (ie dancing, children, and harvest). The shield emphasizes both peacetime and wartime to show that life exists outside of war, and
that war is not all which matters.
Burial – Homer gives great importance to burial rituals:
- both armies engage in a day of peace to bury their dead (Book VII)
- when Patroclus dies, Achilles refuses to eat to morn his death, and he is given proper burial (Book XIX and XXIII)
- when Hector dies, Priam goes to the Achaean camp to claim his body and grant him proper burial (Book XXIV)
Structure –
- The Iliad is divided into three 8-book units and each unit begin with a decision made by Achilles, and end with one made by Zeus.
- Book I mimics events which occur in Book XXIV, Book II mimics Book XXIII, and Book III mimics Book XXII, etc, etc.
- The Iliad is intended to be an enormously long poem, in order to reflect the magnitude of its greatness.

(plot summary two)

Book 13 - With Zeus backing the Trojans, the Achaeans have now been forced as far back as their ships. Zeus now takes his attention away from the
battle and Poseidon takes advantage of this. In the form of Calchas, he rekindles the Achaeans’ spirit. Consequently, the Achaeans drive Hector back
but Hector wounds Poseidon’s grandson and so Poseidon imbues Idomeneus with super strength. Hector continues the assault, but having lost some of
their soldiers, the Trojans lose confidence. Polydamas persuades Hector to fall back and regroup. Hector tries to do so, but most of his front line is
dead. Great Ajax then insults Hector and he has an eagle flying on his right, a good omen for the Achaeans.
Book 14 – The Achaeans analyze their situation and again Agamemnon suggests retreating. Odysseus calls him a coward and Diomedes rallies the
troops together. Meanwhile, away from the battlefield, Hera tricks Aphrodite to give her a breast band with the power of love and longing and then by
promising Sleep one of her daughters, she tricks Zeus. When Zeus sees Hera wearing the band he is immediately seduced and has sex with her. Sleep
then makes Zeus fall asleep and allows Hera to tell Poseidon to help the Achaeans while Zeus is asleep. The Achaeans, with new help, charge the
Trojans. Great Ajax knocks over and injures Hector with a boulder forcing him back to the city. Without Hector the Trojans are forced back easily into
the city.
Book 15 - Zeus wakes up and sees the turmoil. Hera tries to direct the blame on Poseidon but Zeus promises that he will continue to help Trojans but
has no personal interest in the war. He also knows that Troy is still fated to fall. Zeus then has Iris stop Poseidon from helping Achaeans and orders
Apollo to help Trojans. Hector again charges and again progresses all the way to Achaean ships. Teucer who had killed many Trojans that day breaks
his bow (because of Zeus) and is stopped from killing further.
Book 16 - Patroclus begs Achilles to fight or at least let him wear his armor. Achilles still refuses to fight but agrees to let him wear armor. With
Patroclus wearing Achilles’ armor, the battle turns again in favor of Achaeans. Patroclus goes on a killing spree and even kills Zeus’ son Sarpedon.
Zeus decides to kill Patroclus after he has slain the Trojans more. Zeus imbues Hector with cowardice and he leads the Trojan retreat. Patroclus chases
the Achaeans up to the Trojan gates. Apollo finally persuades Hector to stand up to Patroclus but Patroclus spears Hector’s charioteer though and in the
frenzy to get the charioteer’s armor, Apollo wounds Patroclus before Hector finishes him off.

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Book 17 – A fight breaks out over Patroclus’ body in order to take the armor. In the end it is Hector who gets it. Zeus continues to support the Trojans,
but not whole-heartedly. He allows the Achaeans to take away Patroclus’ body.

Book 18 – News of Patroclus’ death makes Achilles decide to rejoin war. He is convinced by Iris to make an appearance on the battlefield. His mere
appearance makes the Trojans retreat in fear. That night, Hector decides foolhardily to continue with the assault, despite advice from Polydamus. The
other soldiers all agree with Hector because Athena has robbed them of their wits. Hephaestus also makes Achilles a new armor. Night falls for first
time since book 10 marking Achilles’ entry into the war.

Book 19 – Achilles upon getting new armor rejoins the battle. He reconciles with Agamemnon, who returns Briseis. Achilles wants to waste no time
and wishes to join the fight immediately but he is persuaded to let the army eat. He, however, vows to not eat until Hector is slain. Zeus pities him and
has Athena fill his stomach with food. Achilles then blames the horses for leaving Patroclus’ body behind, but horses respond by telling him that there
was divinity at work.
Book 20 – Zeus fearing that Troy will fall before its fated time, allows the gods to intervene. At first the gods hurry down, but eventually they decide to
let the soldiers fight for themselves. Apollo encourages Aeneas to fight Achilles. They begin dueling and as Achilles is about to kill Aeneas, Poseidon
saves him. Hector then also wants a piece of Achilles but is told to wait by Apollo until Achilles comes to him. However, Hector is too anxious and
challenges Achilles. He fights poorly and Apollo saves him from defeat.
Book 21 – Achilles continues to slaughter the Trojans and each time he kills someone, he tosses the body into the river Xanthus. The river god protests
because the bodies are clogging up the river so Achilles agrees to stop throwing them into the river but he does not slow up on the killing. The River
god, witnessing the onslaught, pities the Trojans and asks Apollo to help them. Achilles hears the plea and attacks the god. The River God takes him
downstream and almost kills him but from Hephaestus saves him by setting fire to a nearby floodplain and boiling the river. The gods now begin to
argue. Athena defeats Ares and Aphrodite, while Poseidon challenges Apollo. Apollo refuses to fight over mere mortals and when Artemis tries to
encourage Apollo to fight, Hera overhears her and pounces on her.
Book 22 - Priam sees the carnage and opens the city gates so soldiers can come in. Hector remains only soldier left outside. Despite Priam’s pleading
Hector refuses to come inside as he feels ashamed of giving the order to charge the Achaeans. As a result, Hector and Achilles finally meet. Hector flees
at first. Zeus considers saving him but Hera persuades him not to. She claims Hector’s time has come. Athena appears in front of Hector as one of his
allies and convinces him to fight Achilles. They exchange spear throws but both miss. When Hector turns to his ally, his ally has disappeared and he
realizes he has been tricked. In a final, desperate bid for glory he charges Achilles. Hector is wearing Achilles’ old armor and Achilles knowing it’s
weak points, times a spear throw that goes through Hector’s neck. While dying, Hector pleads to be returned to the Trojans but Achilles lets him get
ravaged by dogs and birds.
Book 23 - Achilles holds Patroclus’ funeral the next day and then holds some ceremonious games in his honor. However, a chariot race which
Diomedes wins with the help of Athena, spurs trouble. Achilles wants to give Antilochus’ 2nd place prize to the last place finisher because Athena has
robbed him. The men get into a huge argument but they eventually reconcile.
Book 24 - Achilles continues to abuse Hector’s body, though Apollo prevents it from being damaged and staves of dogs and birds from feeding off it.
Apollo persuades Zeus that Achilles must let Hector’s body be ransomed. Priam goes into the Achaean camp and begs for Hector’s body. Achilles
finally agrees and takes the treasures offered by Priam in exchange. Priam leaves with Hector’s body and a funeral is held. Achilles finally realizes that
he is soon to die and that his father will soon suffer the pain being suffered by Priam. This finally melts his rage.

(character analysis)


Achilles – Hero of Achaean army, but to modern reader he is not so heroic. His refusal to fight is initially warranted but after Agamemmnon’s plea, his
refusal is childish and stubborn. In a certain way he is the villain because many Achaeans die due to his refusal to fight. His supremacy as a warrior is
unchallenged, despite his strong divine backing. Anger and Pride are his weaknesses. He prays Achaeans lose because of insult delivered by

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Agamemnon. Despite these 2 flaws, he is otherwise a great gentleman as shown by the way he treats his friends when they come to persuade him to
rejoin the war.
Agamemnon – Leader, also short tempered like Achilles. He insults Achilles and orders him to give up Briseis. He takes the least risks in battle but
expects the greatest share of the loot. He is cunning and untrusting as shown when he tests his army’s loyalty in Book 2. After reconciling with
Achilles, he does not admit to his own fault but blames it on fate and the gods. His rage is based on selfishness and thus the reader does not feel
sympathy for him in the same way they do for Achilles. He lacks certain kingly qualities. He panics when faced with confusion and twice he suggests
fleeing. Odysseus, Nestor and Diomedes guide him and rally his troops when he is in despair. His despair is brought about by his concern for the lives
of his troops though.
Odysseus – A crafty, resourceful, daring, and merciless man. While not the smartest, he makes the most of his qualities. He is the opposite of Achilles
in that he does not let his passions cloud his judgment. Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon are flawed geniuses. Odysseus is an unflawed regular guy
driven by his desire to go home and see bring order to his household. He is not the noblest nor stateliest but he is the only one that survives to go home.
Aias – Greatest warrior after Achilles. Always fights unaided by gods. Best soldier especially when on defense.
Diomedes – The youngest of the Achaean commanders, Diomedes is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws from combat,
Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually wounds two gods, Aphrodite and Ares.
Great Ajax - An Achaean commander, Great Ajax is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after Achilles. His extraordinary size and strength help him
to wound Hector twice by hitting him with boulders. He often fights alongside Little Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as the "Aeantes."
Nestor – King of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken much of Nestor's physical strength, he still has left a great deal of
wisdom. He often acts as an advisor to the military commanders, especially Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus are the Achaeans' most deft and
persuasive orators.

Menelaus – King of Sparta and the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the abduction of his wife, Helen that sparks the War, Menelaus proves
quieter, less imposing, and less arrogant than Agamemnon. Though he has a brave heart, Menelaus is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.


Hector – Leader of the army. He is overrated as a warrior but still greatly feared. He kills many Achaeans but only one significant warrior, Patroclus
but this is when Patroclus is already down. He is given divine support from Apollo and Zeus. He’s a big family man who loves his wife, children, and
brother (Paris). He remembers his duty to the army is foremost and in the end he chooses to die in battle than live with his family. The tragedy is he is
killed fighting a needless war and fights only because of his sense of duty.

Priam – King of Troy and husband to Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan warriors, including Hector and Paris. Although too old to fight, he has
earned the respect of both the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue of his levelheaded, wise, and benevolent rule. He treats Helen kindly, even though he
laments the war that her beauty has sparked.

Paris – A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector. Paris's abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked the Trojan War. Paris is
self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively with a bow and arrow but lacks the spirit for battle. He prefers to be at home making love to
Helen while others fight for him. This earns him a great deal of disrespect.

Apollo – A son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god of the arts and archery. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes in
the war on their behalf.

(close reading)
Book 4 a Homeric simile.
This passage describes full-scale war for the first time in the Iliad. The passage compares the two armies to fast flowing rivers, heading
towards each other. When the two armies meet, the clash of their armor and the war cries are so loud that they can be heard far away, just as
the shepherd can hear the crashing rivers. The rivers are carrying so much energy that they have forced a new course and discarded the

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original route. The streambed is described as hollow (4.454) with only the white-water generated from the collisions falling back into the
original river’s course. The image of two armies traveling towards each other, eroding away the battlefield, just as the river has done, is
forged into the reader’s mind. The white-water could symbolize the recoil of the two armies colliding or even slain soldiers being tossed up
and aside. In addition, the white-water generated by the two rivers cannot be traced back to either river. Homer is making the statement that
even though there are two armies, once a soldier dies and his armor is stripped, there is no distinction between a Greek and a Trojan body.
The shepherd is a somewhat ambiguous character. In the Iliad the main focus is on the leaders and gods. There are very few references to
those who live in and around Troy who are not involved with the war. The shepherd may represent these common people. The use of the
word “thunder” (4.455) suggests that the shepherd does not know what the noise is nor where it is coming from. The reader also gets the
impression that the shepherd doesn’t really care much about the noise either because there is no mention of him later on. This is perhaps a
rare insight into civilian life around Troy and that people are generally indifferent to the conflict

Comparisons to other Texts

• Odysseus can be compared to himself in the Odyssey. In both he is shown to be very smart and a good speaker, but in the Odyssey his arrogance
is exposed in the land of the Cyclopes and he is constantly being aided by most of the gods.

• Agamemnon can be compared to himself in Orestia.

• Achilles can be compared to Medea in that they share the same reaction when their pride is wounded. They are both overcome by an
uncontrollable rage and neither are willing to make compromises until they have exacted some form of revenge.

• Hector and Medea make similar choices. Hector chooses to die with honor on the battlefield and lose his family. Medea chooses to lose her family
in order to exact revenge and get her pride back.

The Odyssey
By Homer

(plot summary)
The Odyssey takes place a decade after the citadel of Troy is sacked. It focuses on the journey of Odysseus from Troy to his island of Ithaca.
While away, his wife Penelope is being courted by a crowd of unruly suitors who are literally eating the family “out of house and home.” She wards
them off by having them wait for her to finish weaving a blanket for Odysseus’ father, but she unravels it every night. Telemachus, Odysseus’ only son
who he has not seen since he left for the war, is the only one left to guard the fort. Young and inexperienced, he is really no challenge to the suitors.
The story actually begins with the Telemachia (story of Telemachus). Deeply bothered by the disrespect of the crowd in his house, and
commanded by Athena, Telemachus sets off to find word about his father’s whereabouts and health. Penelope is kept in the dark of the whole but the
suitors learn of his journey and conspire to kill him on his way back home so that they may marry his mother and take his household. With Athena’s
protection the entire time, Telemachus travels to the homes of Nestor and Menelaus. The former does not have much information to offer, but the latter
tells what he has learned from the Old Man of the Sea about Odysseus and then lets Telemachus return home.
Book five introduces Odysseus when Hermes is sent to release Odysseus from Calypso’s island. Odysseus builds a raft and travels to the land
of the Phaiakians. En route, his ship is smashed by Poseidon, who is angry with him for hurting Polyphemos. He arrives at the island and is taken in by
Nausikaa, who is under the influence of Athena. He enters the city and ends up at the knees of King Alkinoos. They feast and play games in which
Odysseus excels and are later sung to by a singer. The songs are about Odysseus and the War and they cause him to weep. Eventually, he reveals his
identity and tells the story of his long journey from Troy to their island. In order, he tells them of the Kikonians, lotus eaters, Cyclops, Aiolos,
Laistrygones, Circe, Hades, Sirens (after a return to Circe), Skylla and Charybdis, island of Helios, and then Kalypso. They then offer him a high place in

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the city, and the hand of Nausikaa, but instead he asks for safe passage back to Ithaca. They drop him off on the island with his gifts as he sleeps. On
their way back, Poseidon turns the Phaiakian ship to stone, for he is angered at the safe return of Odysseus.
Athena shrouds Odysseus in cloud so that he will not be bothered while he sleeps. She disguises herself as a young boy and eventually
reveals to him the truth about where he is and the situation in Ithaca. She disguises him as an old beggar and tells him to stay with his swineherd for a
while. There, Odysseus tests the swineherd’s loyalty and is briefed of the situation in Ithaca. Telemachus arrives and when they are alone together,
Odysseus reveals himself to his son. The two begin plotting an attack on the suitors and Odysseus returns to his home still disguised as a beggar. He
spends time amongst the suitors, testing the loyalty of his wife and his servants. After Penelope arranges for marriage games to take place, the suitors
return home and in their absence, Odysseus and his son hide all the weapons. Before the games, Odysseus servant Eurikleia recognizes him by his scar.
On the day of the games, none of the suitors can string the bow and Odysseus is granted a try. After stringing it and shooting an arrow through the ax-
loops, he begins to attack the suitors with his son. With the help of Athena, they kill each suitor and then Odysseus cleans the house before he allows
Penelope to enter. She initially does not believe it is he, but after he speaks of the bedroom he built, she is convinced of his identity. Odysseus visits
Laertes, his father where he is welcomed warmly. While there, the relatives of the suitors attack Odysseus’ family but after a battle with Laertes,
Odysseus, and Telemachus, Athena tells them all not to fight.

(major characters)
Odysseus is the protagonist of the Odyssey. He is known across the world for his wisdom and intelligence. He holds favor in the heat of Athena, but is
hated by Poseidon. Though he is wise and clever, he is very flawed and he allows his pride and hasty judgment to make him do unwise things, such as
taunt Polyphemos. He begins his journey from Troy with a ship full of men but ends up alone by the end. He is a war hero but he also has a place in
peace. He is responsible for building his bedroom, particularly structured around a large tree.

Penelope is the wife of Odysseus. She is known repeatedly as “circumspect,” hinting that her character complements that of her husband quite well. She
remains in tears and in retreat for a good part of the text, but she also demonstrates a clever side and strength of conviction in warding off the suitors.
She remains faithful to Odysseus.

Telemachus is Odysseus’ only son. He is an adult, but has no battle experience and is not capable of resisting the many suitors alone. There are times
when he gets bold and makes great threats, insults, and speeches, and others when he feels a bit scared. Athena helps him as well, so that the final plan
may be accomplished.

Athena is the most active goddess in this tale. She supports Odysseus and his family the entire time. She transforms people and gives strength,
protection and advice.

Antinous and the suitors are living off of Odysseus’ riches and preying on Penelope. They are completely violating all the rules of hospitality
established elsewhere in the text. Antinous is the most hostile and bold of the suitors and Odysseus kills him first.

Eurycleia was nurse to both Odysseus and Telemachus and she is faithful to the family when other servants are not. Her recognition of Odysseus’ scar
sheds light on the life of the young Odysseus.

Eumaios is Odysseus’ loyal swineherd, while Philoetius is the loyal cowherd. They rejoice at the return of their master and help secure his victory.
Melanthius, however, is the goatherd who chooses sides with the suitors and is therefore brutally mutilated.

Laertes is Odysseus’ aged father who lives on a farm in Ithaca. He is in severe decline until the return of his son.

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The Kikonians inhabit the first island that Odysseus reaches after Ilion. He sacks their city and takes their possessions, but his men get drunk and feast,
while the surviving Kikonians went to recruit others and attack them. The Achaians had to retreat.

The Lotus Eaters offer Odysseus’ men some lotus to eat, which causes them to lose sight of their “nostos” (homecoming), and makes them wish to stay
with the lotus eaters.

The Cyclops’ land is plentiful in resources. Here Odysseus intrudes upon the home of Polyphemos expecting gifts, only to be trapped and have some of
his crewmembers eaten. To escape, Odysseus creates a plan to poke out the eye of the Cyclops. After this is accomplished, he tells the Cyclops that his
name is Nobody, so when Polyphemos cries out to the other inhabitants of the island, he will tell them that Nobody has hurt him. The men escape under
some sheep. After they are in the water, an overly proud Odysseus taunts Polyphemos and reveals his true identity. For this, Polyphemos curses him
and asks his father, Poseidon, to avenge him.

The Aiolian island is kind to the travelers, and gives Odysseus a skin filled with the winds. While sailing, his men get jealous of him and open his bag
while he is sleeping. After unleashing all the winds, they wind up back at the island, but are refused further help.

The Laistrygones is a land of giants. Odysseus sends men in the city to see what type of people they are. While in the palace, one man is eaten while the
other two run back to the ship. The entire town chases after them and kills many of his men.

In Circe’s island, Odysseus first sends men in to see who in habits the place. When they arrive at Circe’s home, they are all turned into swine who
escapes to tell the story. Hermes tells Odysseus how to transform his men back into humans. He wins over Circe and becomes her lover and the witch
turns his men back to humans and shows them hospitality. She tells the men that in order to get home they must first travel to the city of the Kimmerian
people, or the land of the dead.

At the land of the dead, Odysseus encounters the spirit of Elpenor, one of his crew who fell of a roof at Circe’s island. They converse and then, in front
of a pool of blood, he waits for Teiresias, the blind prophet, to tell him how to get back home. Teiresias tells him what he must do and then he talks to
his mother, who died waiting for his return. She tells him about what is happening in Ithaca. He then sees the daughters and wives of many men,
Agamemnon’s, Achilleus, Ajax and the heroes in torment, such as Tantalos, Sisyphos, and Hercules.

The island of the Sirens is one from which no man has returned. Anyone who hears their song is enchanted to their land and dies there. For this reason,
Odysseus has his men jam their ears with beeswax. He, however—proud man that he is—desires to hear the song himself. Therefore he has his men tie
him to a pole and when he asks to be released, they only tighten the ropes.

Skylla is a monster with multiple heads. No ship passes without losing some of its men. She lives high up in a cave and eats six of the men.

At the island of Thrinakia, the men are told that if they do not eat the cattle, they will have a safe passage. Odysseus falls asleep and the men begin to
feast. This deeply angers Hyperion who smashes the ship and drowns them all.

Charybdis swallows and spits the ocean up. Odysseus escapes by holding onto a tree branch.

Kalypso is a beautiful goddess who lives on Ogygia. She is more beautiful than Penelope, but Odysseus still chooses his wife and home over
immortality as Kalypso’s lover. She takes care of him and sleeps with him every night for nine years until Hermes arrives to tell her that Odysseus must
be set free.

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The Phaiakians are closer to the gods than humans and are the best sailors in the known world. They are somewhat inhuman because they have never
known war. They listen to war stories with a somewhat voyeuristic approach but do not truly understand the nature of human failings.

(major themes)
1. Judging
The Odyssey is an epic about interpretation as well as action. Odysseus judges each place differently. Each time he lands on an island he must figure out
what kind of people live there. The reader must also judge.
• Odysseus thinks that he is traveling around to see who is a good host when in fact he is being judged as a good guest and in many cases is
found lacking
• Odysseus judges places by his own standards in an almost Herodotus way. The Cyclops are uncivilized because they are unlike him and the
giants are beastly because they do not welcome him. As his journey progresses he has to learn to judge more carefully, if for no other reason
but his own safety.
2. Sujet/Fabula
The order we experience Odysseus’ journey home is very different from the order in which it takes place for Odysseus.
• The sujet starts with Kalypso because this is the point when he chooses mortality and makes the ultimate decision to return home. It also begins when
he is alone (after he has lost all of his men). So we begin the story at its most difficult point (the temptation of Kalypso). The flashback begins with the
Phaiakians because storytelling must occur with humans.

3. Peacetime
The Odyssey reveals the social climate of peacetime as well as what is possible in times of peace.
• Hospitality is possible in a time of peace because you can invite strangers into your home and they are expected to be good. While wartime is based on
compensation, peacetime is based on reciprocity and hospitality is the fundamental expression of the rules of reciprocity. The suitors in Odysseus’ home
do not follow the rules of hospitality.
• Odysseus cries when he hears the song of the Iliad. The crying and emotion repressed in war can be expressed in peacetime. After the war, warriors
need to hear their story again so that they may experience it emotionally. In peacetime, you can cry.
• In peace you can be clean and be concerned with bathing, bedding, games and also craftsmanship. Odysseus’ bed is a representation of the glorious
things people can make during peacetime. Odysseus is not just the “sacker of cities” but also the “maker of beds”

4. Storytelling
• This is the most essential human interaction and it must occur between humans. For this reason, Odysseus’ story does not begin until he is with the
Phaiakians. Storytelling is expected of all guests. It is the exchange for hospitality. Storytelling is also a mark of civilization as well as intimacy and when
Odysseus returns home he and Penelope tell each other stories when they make love.
• Storytelling is also a way in which The Odyssey is intentionally framed and mediated. Odysseus’ storytelling is filtered and it is important to
remember that everything in his account is in quotation marks. This becomes very important during his account of the Cyclops when Odysseus is
revealed as an unreliable storyteller. He is inconsistent about the nature of the Cyclops and their ways of life.
- He says the Cyclops are without community, help from gods or civilization when in fact the Cyclops live within communities and are
descended from the gods and take great cares with such domesticities as cheese making and goat herding.
• Stories should be of things you know. In the case of the Phaiakians, they do not cry during the stories of the war because they do not know war.

(close reading: 5.55-65; 81-4, 92-4)

This is the introduction of Odysseus and also the setting in which Odysseus must make his most important decision. By this point in the Odysseus’ story
he has lived and slept with Kalypso for nine years. The reader sees the scene as it unfolds before Hermes. Kalypso’s cave is surrounded by a seductive

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nature. The cave in lines 5.57-5.65 is described as pleasing, sweet, warm and satisfying on all sensory levels. Kalypso attempts to seduce him into staying
not only by making her cave pleasing but also by creating the domesticity Odysseus so misses. There is fire, singing and even weaving but the
domesticity of Kalypso’s cave is too good to be true. In this passage, Odysseus is sitting alone on the beach crying. Ultimately, Odysseus tells Kalypso he
would prefer the less pretty and mortal Penelope to a life of immortality with the perfect goddess. Odysseus recognizes something trivial in the never-
ending existence he is offered. Odysseus is given the choice of immortality but he denies it because he wants to complete his story and because he wants
a human ending.

(comparisons to other texts)

• Homecoming (nostos)
It is very important in The Odyssey to have an appropriate homecoming. Odysseus is faced with many alternative fates.
-He could return home and be denied his nostos like Agamemnon who, upon returning, was killed by his wife.
-He could die before he gets home and be denied his nostos
-Or he could live with Kalypso forever and never complete his journey
• Choice of Achilles vs. choice of Odysseus
Achilles has to choose between love at home or honor in the battlefield while Odysseus must choose between immortality with Kalypso or honor at
home when he returns. Both men choose honor.
• Weaving in The Iliad vs. The Odyssey
Helen represents the plot with her weaving but Penelope changes the plot with her weaving and unweaving.
• Chronology
The Iliad is told almost entirely in order and in The Odyssey, everything is told out of order.
• Judging by inversion
On the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus’ judges by inversion just as Herodotus often does in The Histories.

Hymn to Demeter
By Homer

(plot summary)
The story unfolds with Persephone playing in a beautiful lush garden. Soon thereafter, Hades abducts Persephone and brings her into the underworld.
While Persephone does release a scream when she is initially kidnapped, no god or human hears her except for Hekate and Helios. Demeter senses that
something has happened to her daughter and frantically searches for Persephone for nine days, during which time she refuses to eat or drink. On the
tenth day of her search, Demeter discovers Zeus gave Persephone to Hades to take as his bride. In her anger with Zeus, Demeter withdraws from
Olympus and retreats to a mortal household where she functions as nurse to a newborn male baby. She disguises herself as an old woman named Dos
who was abducted by men and escaped during a feast, which she refused to partake in. While performing a ceremony to make the newborn baby
immortal and to thus bring him everlasting honor, the mother of the child releases a wail that interrupts the ritual and angers Demeter, who then
retreats from making him immortal. In her anguish for the loss of her daughter, Demeter brings infertility to the fields for one whole year, and thus
deprives all of the gods with sacrifice and honor. Zeus sees this, and tires to persuade Demeter to bring bounty back upon the earth, offering her gifts
and honor. Demeter refuses. Finally, Zeus persuades Hades to allow Persephone to resurface and see her mother. Hades, however, gives Persephone a
pomegranate which she eats before leaving. Because Persephone ate of the Pomegranate, Zeus ordains that she must spend one part of the year with
Hades and the other two parts with Demeter on earth. Thus Demeter restores bounty upon the earth, and each time Persephone resurfaces from the
underworld, prosperity is lavished onto the world.

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(major characters)

Persephone: The daughter of Demeter, she is associated with beauty, sexual allure, and lushness. She is often compared to a blossoming flower, and
indeed Hades kidnaps her from a garden full of flowers. Persephone is the object of desire in the text. Both Demeter and Hades desire Persephone and
the plot of the story is based on this conflict.
Persephone’s character is full of ambiguities. It is not certain, for example, if Persephone was forced to eat the pomegranate offered by Hades
as she tells her mother or if she did so willingly and indulgently as the text also alludes to. Other ambiguities and dualities are reflected in even the
nature of Persephone herself. Persephone, because of her great beauty, is a sexual lure or trap, but because she enjoys beauty so much, Persephone is
the trap. She is both the trap and falls for the trap.
Such dualities and ambiguities in Persephone’s character reflect the complicated nature of sexual awakening. Both good and bad things
happen, and the objective, ambiguous, and unbiased description of Persephone lends to this concept.

Demeter: The mother of Persephone, extremely powerful in the text. Demeter wields her power with inaction, or withholding action. Because she was
angered with Zeus for allowing Hades to take her daughter, she withdraws from Olympus and refuses to eat, drink, and bring bounty to the harvest.
Consequently, she brings hurt to both mortals and immortals alike, displaying the fast breadth of her power.
Demeter ‘s power is further exemplified in the fact that Zeus, the most powerful entity that exists, cannot force her to do something she does
not wish to do. He tries bribing Demeter so she will rescind the famine on earth. She refuses. It is only by making concessions to Demeter’s desires that
Zeus can finally persuade her.

Hades: The God of the underworld, Hades rules all of the dead. He is a god of action, as he exerts his power in either actions or in ways that requires
actions of others. He abducts Persephone, an action. When Persephone is going back to her mother, he gives her a Pomegranate to eat, an action that
would trap part of Persephone in Hades.
Hades is very strong and powerful, and has much to offer Persephone in terms of power and honor. He offers Persephone the status of being
the most honored god, as well as being able to have anything she wants whenever she wants it (365-369).

(major themes)
1.) Eating: Eating, in the text, is an extremely important action. Eating is a way of taking something in and becoming part of a community.
Eating occurs in the following places in the text:
§ Persephone eats the pomegranate offered to her by Hades. Therefore, she becomes a part of the community of the
underworld. It is uncertain whether or not Persephone chose to eat and thus contain some Allegiance to Hades or she
was forced. Indeed, Hades power and honor is alluring. However, Persephone describes the eating of the Pomegranate
as something forced when she recounts the tale to her mother. Either way, because she has engaged in this action of
eating, Persephone must spend one part of the season in the underworld with Hades.
Equally as important as eating in the text is the refusal to eat, which is the manner in which Demeter exerts her power. Whereas eating draws
one in, not eating puts up barriers and creates boundaries, as is apparent in the instances in which they occur within the text:
§ Demeter refuses to eat immediately following her daughter’s abduction, and thus puts up boundaries between her and
the rest of the gods and mortals. Because Demeter brings bounty of harvest to mortals, her involvement in mortal affairs
is imperative to their survival. Similarly, because humans make offerings to the gods with such substances, the gods too
are dependent on Demeter for their own glorification. By putting up boundaries between mortals and immortals,
Demeter wields power and eventually gets what she wants.
§ Dos refuses to eat the meal prepared by her captors (129). By telling the fictional story of the abduction of Dos, Demeter
is stating what she hopes to be the actions of Persephone. Because Dos did not eat and drink with her captors (and thus

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did not become part of their community) she was able to escape. Likewise, Demeter hopes that Persephone doesn’t eat
with Hades so she in turn can hopefully escape.
2.) Ambiguity: In numerous points, the text displays ambiguity that captures certain elements of the text. Some spots are:
§ Ambiguous whether Demeter was forced to eat the Pomegranate or if she choose to eat the pomegranate. This
ties in to the concept of force vs. persuasion.
§ Ambiguity of adolescence: The text portrays both appealing and unappealing aspects of being with Hades, both
good and bad things occurring.
3.) Withholding
§ The act of withholding is extremely important within the text. Demeter exerts her power by concealing or
withholding seed so humans are not able to harvest any food and then cannot give offerings to the gods.
Persephone is trying to withhold sex with Hades. Both Demeter and Persephone are trying to withhold generation
as means of power.

(close reading)
- In lines 305-313, Demeter’s power is displayed. Demeter conceals the seeds in the ground so that farmers are not able to reap any crop. Because seeds
are associated with generation, and yield the basic sustenance for both humans and gods alike, Demeter’s power is exerted through withholding.
- Lines 405-413 show the ambiguity in which Persephone describes her eating of the pomegranate. While Persephone insists that she ate the fruit “by
force” she describes it as something appealing, “sweet as honey to eat.” It thus becomes unclear whether Persephone wanted to eat the fruit, or was
forced to eat the fruit.

(points of contact)
1.) Plato’s Symposium: In Aristophanes’ speech, he recounts the tale of humans trying to overthrow the gods. The gods, thinking of ways to
subdue the strength of humans, consider wiping out the whole race. However, just like in Hymn to Demeter, the gods need humans for
glorification. They therefore cannot kill humans, because they are dependent on them, just like the gods cannot allow all the humans to die at
the hands of Demeter because all the gods are dependent on them.
2.) Lysistrata, Aristophanes: In an attempt to end war, the women in Lysistrata withhold sex as a means of power. This withholding of action as a
means of power is similarly found in Hymn to Demeter where Demeter withholds growth and fertility as a way to get back Persephone.
3.) The Medea, Euripides: Medea withdraws from society over the disgrace befallen on her by her husband. By separating oneself from society,
Medea, like Demeter, sets up barriers.
4.) Agamemnon, Aeschylus: The power of the spoken word is emphasized in this text when Agamemnon puts a bit in his daughter’s mouth so
she cannot utter a curse when he is sacrificing her. Similarly, in Hymn to Demeter Persephone’s initial cry for help is not heard because she
doesn’t have the strength and power of voice yet. In each text, power is equated with word.

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The Histories
By Herodotus
Selection one: book one, 1-140; book two, 1-5; 33-51; 112-120, book three, 17-38

(plot summary)
Herodotus starts his story with Candaules, the king of Lydia, who was so proud of his wife’s beauty, that he made his bodyguard Gyges hide
in his bedroom so that he can see his wife naked. The queen saw Gyges and made him kill the king and seize the throne in order to revenge the
impropriety of the act. That’s how Gyges became the king of Lydia and a prophecy by the oracle was made that the murder would be revenged in
Gyges’ fifth generation. Then Herodotus goes on to tell some memorable achievements of Ardys, Sadyattes and Alyattes which are the heirs of Gyges.
Croesus (the fifth generation) overrun the Aiatic Greeks and established the Lydian empire. This is when the Athenian philosopher Solon visited him.
When Croesus asks him who is the happiest person Solon knows (thinking he will say Croesus) Solon tells him that a truly happy person must have a
happy death and only then can he be considered truly happy since life is a chance and happiness is temporary. After that Croesus accepts in his home
and cleanses Adrastus who later goes on to kill Croesus son Atys by accident making Croesus prophetic dream come true. Later on Croesus is mislead
by an oracle message and he goes on to attack Cyrus and the Persians. Cyrus manages to win the war and takes Croesus prisoner. In this way the killing
of Candaules was revenged in the fifth generation. Then Herodotus goes on to explaining how Cyrus came to power. His grandfather Astyages had a
dream that his daughter urinated that it swamped the whole Asia. Thus he decided to kill her son Cyrus. Through some accidents the child was not
killed and later on, this was found out so Astyages sent Cyrus to Persia. When he grew up he conquered Astyages and Medes fulfilling the dream. After
finishing Cyrus’ story Herodotus goes on to describe the Persian customs. Cyrus was succeeded by Cambyses who attacked Egypt and Ethiopia. The
Herodotus describes Egyptian customs (who do everything opposite to the Greeks) and Ethiopian customs. Cambyses sent spies to Ethiopia and later
on he becomes a mad man and starts the expedition to Ethipia. On the way to Ethiopia the soldiers are starving so they turn to cannibalism after which
they head home.

(major characters)
Gyges – with his seizing of the throne Herodotus starts the explanation of the war. Gyges is blindly following the orders of his king and this is his main
flaw. He kills the king and thus five generations later Croesus loses his throne in order to achieve the cycle of revenge. Candaules, whom Gyges kills is a
representation of hubris – he thinks his wife is so pretty and in order to show off with her he comes up with the plan that Gyges must see her naked.
This is only one of many incidents of hubris in the Greek texts (compare with Agamemnon mainly)
Croesus – he is in general a good king but he becomes too confident in himself which is evident in his conversation with Solon over happiness. He
thinks himself to be the happiest person in the world. This is again a form of hubris but it is not as heavily punished as Candaules’ (why?) Croesus
wants to kill his grandson Cyrus because of his dream. Still, Cyrus fulfills the dream which once again shows that destiny cannot be overturned.
Croesus realizes the wisdom of Solon and how fleeting happiness is.
Solon – he appears for a very short time setting some very important themes in the Histories (mentioned below). He is an Athenian philosopher who
goes to visit Croesus.
Cyrus -Cyrus spent his childhood in a poor family but he demonstrated his kingly blood even in the games with the other children. He conquers
Croesus but keeps him in his palace and takes care of him. Cyrus is the one who brings great glory to the Persians. The first instance when a child’s
character gains that much attention and still it is not fully developed but serves the larger story of the text.
Cambyses –He starts out to be a king who wants to attack Egypt and Ethiopia but later goes mad and kills his sister and his brother. He also offends the
Egyptians but this is again contributed to his madness. Herodotus speaks in Book 3, ch. 38 about the importance of custom and that Cambyses couldn’t
have possible outraged Apis and all customs of the Egyptians if he was not mad which is again a kind of deductive logic since for him customs are so
important that only a mad man would transcend them.

(major themes)
Purpose of the Histories: The Histories opens with a promise by Herodotus to describe all marvelous acts both by Barbarians and by Greeks. He wants
to give an account of why they fought and examine the causes of these wars, so for him it is not only important that we describe what happened in order

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to preserve the memories but to also understand the causes and analyze the events. Herodotus describes multiple causes of the war and he doesn’t favor
one over the other because he believes that causes are immensely complicated and there are always many reasons why something happened.
What is knowledge: Herodotus says that he knows everything he writes because he asked people and these people were not eye-witnesses but their
word is taken for the pure truth. Also, Herodotus deducts a lot of information. Also, Herodotus deducts his knowledge of the other barbarian1 cultures
because he thinks that the further they are from Greece, they would do more things in the opposite ways. He believes that the world is symmetric. For
Herodotus extremity in the customs of other cultures is worth describing. Thus, he does not describe things that the barbarians do in the same way as
Greeks. Herodotus is different than Odysseus since he does not judge the other cultures but he is genuinely interested in their customs. He does not
hold an ethno-centric view.
Cycle of Revenge: We may call it God, faith, destiny or just cyclical structures but in the Histories things happen because they had to. In a sense there is
some very strict order of the world where everything is interconnected. Thus, if Gyges kills the king five generations later Croesus has to lose his
kingdom. This feeling of order is reemphasized through the numerous omens and dreams. People try to escape their destiny but they can never do that
(Cyrus vs. Croesus)
Temporal happiness: from the very beginning Herodotus says that “For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to
be small are great.(p.5) This is the main wisdom of Solon when he visits Croesus and tells him that if he is happy today it is luck but not happiness.
Oracles: Herodotus is very skeptical of religion and the oracles and he questions them often in the Histories. This is a great major difference from the
Odyssey and the Iliad of Homer. There are no gods in the Histories but there are dreams and omens which are thought to be credible by all.

(close reading)
Book 2; 34 – This is a great example of Herodotus’ deductive extraction of knowledge. He does not know anything about Nile but he beliefs it should be
in the middle of Africa and must be the longest river since in Europe the Danube (the longest river) crosses Europe through the middle. Also he says
that Nile should be the same length as the Danube since the world for Herodotus is very symmetric, i.e. if Europe has a long river passing in the middle
than Africa should also have a long river passing through the middle.
Points of contact:
The Iliad and the Odyssey and how Homer’s account is different than Herodotus’. How is Thucydides different in his History of the Peloponnesian
Why do Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides write their historical accounts? What is important to them? (to preserve, to analyze, to glorify?)
The role of Gods in this text vs. the Gods in the Homeric epics
Knowledge in the Histories and knowledge in Agamemnon and Oedipus the king
Dreams in the Homeric hymns, in other Greek texts vs. dreams in the Bible

The Oresteia
By Aeschylus

(plot summary)
The Oresteia is composed of three plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.
Agamemnon begins with the sudden presence of a beacon light that signals the victory of the Atreidae in Troy. The chorus, the elder men that
did not go to war, enters the stage and summarizes the cause of the Trojan War as well as Agamemnon’s decision to slaughter his daughter, Iphigeneia,
for the sake of the war. In the midst of the chorus speech, the Herald brings news that confirms the Achaean success and praises Agamemnon for his
valiance and greatness. Agamemnon returns home with Cassandra, a captured girl from the war who is seen as a barbarian. While Agamemnon and
Clytaemestra are in the house, Cassandra cries to the chorus that she will die alongside Agamemnon. Cassandra, cursed by Apollo to know the future

1 In the Histories “barbarian” does not have a derogatory meaning

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but have no one ever believe her, prophesizes of the death of Agamemnon and the return of Orestes in vengeance. Cassandra enters the house, and
Agamemnon cries offstage that he has been stabbed. The doors of the palace open and the audience sees Clytaemestra standing over the dead bodies of
Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytaemestra reveals that she killed Agamemnon in revenge for her daughter and for punishment of his infidelity.
Aegisthus enters and states that that he has avenged the sins of Atreus in feeding the father of Aegisthus his own children. Clytaemestra and Aegisthus
are in power, while the chorus begs for the return of Orestes to purify the house of Atreidae.
The Libation Bearers opens with the return of Orestes to witness the chorus, black veiled women from the house, and Electra bearing libations
to pour over the grave of Agamemnon. Electra finds a lock of hair that matches her own that Orestes in sign of grief had laid for all the dead. She
begins to pray of his return, and Orestes reveals himself to them. They rejoice and Electra claims that her mother had wrongly buried her father in the
absence of his citizens, and Orestes tells of the oracle from Apollo that he will punish his father’s murderers. The chorus relates a dream of Clytaemestra
that she had suckled a snake and the serpent drew in blood. Orestes and Pylades devise a plan to enter the house disguised as an outlander. Orestes
enters as a messenger with the news that Orestes has died and questions his parents what they would like to do with his body. Clytaemestra and
Aegisthus both feign remorse over his death. Aegisthus would like to speak to the messenger alone to question him, and Orestes kills him in the room
offstage. Orestes catches Clytaemestra speak words of affection over the death of Aegisthus, and takes her into the room to kill. The doors of the palace
open, as Orestes stands over the bodies of Clytaemestra and Aegisthus. Nevertheless, Orestes grieves for the death of his line, and how his victory is
soiled. He claims himself an outcast and leaves.
The Eumenides begins when a priestess of Apollo, the Pythia, sees the temple of Apollo with Orestes, blood dripping from his hands and
sword, surrounded by black and repulsive creatures. Apollo tells Orestes to go to the citadel of Pallas Athene so that she can judge the case and clear
him of his affliction. The ghost of Clytaemestra appears to waken the Furies and sends them to hunt down Orestes. Apollo rids the Furies from his
home, and decides to provide help in the trial. The setting switches to Athens where Orestes is embracing the statue of Athene awaiting his trial. The
Furies find him and claim that they will seek revenge for the murder of his mother. Athene asks Orestes to answer their claim, and he responds that he
shall accept whatever fate that is decided. Athene claims that the case is too large even for her to analyze, and calls upon twelve of her finest citizens to
judge justly. The trial is held and Apollo speaks on behalf of Orestes against the Furies. Athene claims that she has no mother and is always for the
male in case of marriage. She casts her vote for Orestes in the case of a tie. When the ballots have been cast, there are an equal number on both sides,
and Orestes is saved. The Furies feel they have been dishonored in the face of the new gods, and Athene appeases them with the power to straighten
the lives of the citizens of Athens. The Furies become the Eumenides.

(major characters)
Agamemnon – Agamemnon is the king of Argos, and brother of Menelaus. When the play begins, Agamemnon is not present because he is away
fighting the Trojan War. Agamemnon and the men of Argos have been in Troy fighting for the last ten years. The people of Argos are angry with him
because the war has lasted for such a long time, and so many young men have died. When Agamemnon returns to Argos, he brings Cassandra, the
daughter of Priam, home with him.
Agamemnon is a character with immense hubris, and he displays this hubris when he walks on the purple robes that Clytaemestra laid down
for him (63-64). This hubris is one of the reasons why Agamemnon’s death must occur. Another reason for Agamemnon’s death is fate because his death
is completing the blood cycle that began when his father fed Thyestes his sons. His death also is revenge for his sacrifice of his own daughter,

Clyatemestra – Clytaemestra is the wife of Agamemnon, and Queen of Argos. When the play opens, she seems to be a wife very concerned about her
husband’s well being and his safe return home. While he has been fighting, however, she has found a new lover, Aegisthus. Clytaemestra is portrayed
with strong male qualities because she has had to rule Argos for the last ten years. Her manliness is also present when she murders Agamemnon instead
of Aegisthus. She is consumed with anger at Agamemnon for his sacrifice of Iphigenia. She views her murder of him as an act of fate that had to be

Aegisthus - The lover of Clytaemestra. He wants revenge on Agamemnon for the murder of his two brothers. However, a weakness of character is
apparent when it is Clytaemestra that performs the killing instead of he.

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Cassandra – Cassandra is a woman brought to Argos from the war by Agamemnon. Apollo has given her the power to foretell prophecy, however, she
is cursed for no one can understand her prophecies. When Clytaemestra takes Agamemnon into the house and kills him, Cassandra speaks of his death,
as well as of the cycle of revenge that is present. However, her warnings are unrecognizable and are not understood. Clytaemestra then murders her as

Chorus from Agamemnon - The chorus is composed of Argive elders. They are critical of Agamemnon for the lengthy war and high death toll.
Consequently, they are not completely sympathetic to him. However, they disapprove of the murder of Agamemnon and cry for their actions to be

Orestes – Orestes is the son of Clytaemestra and Agamemnon. In The Libation Bearers, he slays his mother to avenge his father’s death. Apollo leads on
his desire for revenge. There are many similarities between Orestes and Clytaemestra. Both kill a family member out of revenge, and their methods on
stage are very similar.

Chorus from The Libation Bearers – The chorus is composed of a group of servant women from the house of Agamemnon. They clearly have sympathy
for Electra and Orestes. Along with Electra, they are the first to discover the return of Orestes. The women aid in Orestes’ plan.

Electra – Electra is the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemestra, and the sister of Orestes. While her mother and Aegisthus rule, she lives in the palace
as a virtual slave. Electra has immense sympathy for her father, and repeatedly fails to notice his own shortcomings. She strongly supports her brother,
for he is the only person that she has.

The Furies (Chorus from The Eumenides) – The role of the chorus in society is to punish murderers. The Furies represent the older generation of gods in
Greek culture. Throughout the story, there is a contrast between this older generation and the new. The ghost of Clytaemestra calls them to punish
Orestes for the matricide he committed. They are angry with Apollo for his support of Orestes. They believe that the relationship between mother and
son is stronger than husband and wife. At the end, they are renamed the Eumenides, which has a more neutral connotation, and they are given a real
position in Athens where they can oversee the lives of the people.

Athene - Orestes escapes to Athens, so that Athene can clear him of his guilt. She calls twelve men to decide the outcome of Orestes fate. Athene
ultimately casts the deciding vote that declares Orestes innocent. Athene ends the blood curse on the house of Atreus and the cycles of revenge. She
represents the new generation of gods, and the new order. She is an opposition to the Furies, who are the old order of gods. Her decision celebrates an
era of democracy and reliance on the justice system.

(major themes)
1. Seeing
The drama of a play is immediate and simultaneously occurs to the audience and the characters in the play. Therefore, in this play, knowledge is
obtained directly through seeing the action that takes place.
(The doors of the palace open, disclosing the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, with Clytaemestra standing over them.)
Stage directions: After Line 1371
Why is the murder not seen? Why must the murderer stand over the dead characters? Why does the audience only see that image?
1. When the palace doors open, the audience sees the Clytaemestra standing over the bodies at the same time as the rest of the kingdom. The actual
action of the murder is hidden from sight because it is more significant that the murderer is standing over the body of the king and his mistress. The
sight shows that power is now in the hands of Clytaemestra.
2. The sight of the Agamemnon’s dead body would shock the audience. The body of a dead king is a powerful symbol of the overturn of social

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3. The same palace doors are opened to the audience when Orestes stands over the bodies of Clytaemestra and Aegisthus. The audience sees the cycle
of revenge and the prophecy being fulfilled.
“Seeing” and failing to see
• The lights in the beginning of Agamemnon are beacons that signal the victory of the Argives in Troy. As the light travels from one point to the
next, the audience and the characters understand the overthrow of Ilium.
• Agamemnon tramples upon the robes. It is an action reserved only for the gods, but due to pride, he steps upon them.
• Orestes returns to the palace disguised as an outlander. As a person exiled from his home, those people closest to him cannot recognize him
and see his return.
• The Pythia, Apollo’s priestess, cannot bear the sight of Orestes, his hands and sword covered in blood, surrounded by the disgusting Furies.
It is a sight that relates is terrible to see.
The Oresteia creates a catharsis and serves as a social function to engage the emotions of pity and fear. Although the concept of a dead king is difficult to
imagine, the audience can identify with the characters on stage simply through the way the action is presented on stage. Instead of seeing the murder
occur, the audience sees the palace doors open with Clytaemestra over the bodies much like the rest of the kingdom would see it. Therefore, the play
proves to cause an even more effective unsettling feeling.
Nevertheless, seeing is just one form of the discovery of information:
1. Prophecy – Cassandra speaks of the fate of Agamemnon and the return of Orestes.
2. Suffering – Stories from the characters that involve pain from surrounding forces.
3. Report – The Herlad informs both the audience and the characters that the Argives have been victorious in Troy and that Agamemnon is due
home shortly.
4. Patterns – Cycles of Revenge, repetitive imagery, and metonymy trace action throughout the play. One object or piece of figurative language
is used to convey a recurrent action.

(web imagery)
In Agamemnon, there are many uses of imagery that refer to webs or nets. The meaning of this imagery changes with each different character that uses it.
In one instance, Agamemnon uses the word "web" when really he is referring to the purple robes that Clytaemestra has laid on the ground for him. His
odd word choice somewhat foreshadows his own death for only gods perform this action. When Clytaemestra uses the net imagery, it is twice in
reference to fishing that signifies her murder of Agamemnon as something that is a necessity and life sustaining.
• The Chorus: (355-60) (1047-9) AG
In this quote, the chorus uses net imagery to depict the sacking of Troy. They later use it to explain the fate of Cassandra.
• Clytaemestra: (866-8) (1373-5) (1381-3) AG
In these passages, Clytaemestra comments on rumors she heard about Agamemnon’s death while at war. When saying this, she foreshadows her
murder of him. She also describes her need to murder Agamemnon.
• Agamemnon: (944-9) AG
Agamemnon uses "webs" to mean the robe that Clytaemestra has put on the ground for him. His word choice is ironic.
• Cassandra: (1125-8) AG
Cassandra is trying to tell the chorus what is about to happen, but of course they cannot understand her. The web that she describes is much like
the Clytaemestra and Agamemnon’s web that she is caught in.
• Aegisthus: (1580-2) AG
Aegisthus uses "nets" to refer to the cycle of revenge that is caused by the curse of the house of Atreus.

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(old/new order)
The Eumenides centers around the division between the old order of gods and the new order. The roles of Athene and Apollo represent the new order
and The Furies are the old. The trial of Orestes embodies the conflict between the two sides:

society natural
House Cave
Marriage Birth
Father Mother
Apollo—Masculine Furies—Feminine
Sun Night
Newer Generation (gods) Older Generation (gods)
Relationship of husband/wife Relationship of mother/son
Speak for men Speak for women

Throughout the texts, there exist binary references that contrast the two orders of gods. The natural represents the older generation, while society
signifies the new. The idea of femininity and masculinity are separated between the two orders. The old order appears to be that which is uncivilized
or dark, while the new generation is the product of civilization and is seen as the light.

(revenge vs. justice)

There are two forces that are at conflict in the motives of the characters. Equally, while Clytaemestra and Aegisthus are punished for their actions,
Orestes is found to be free of punishment for his actions. The two abstract ideals are explored in contrast to each other in each story.
Why is Clytaemestra punished for killing Agamemnon, but Orestes not punished for killing his own mother?
• The motive of revenge cannot be deemed right or wrong in the stories. Revenge is an action of loyalty and a protection of one’s beliefs.
Aegisthus aided the killing of Agamemnon in response to Atreus feeding his father his own children.
• Justice is not necessarily right or wrong, but it is guided because it seeks right. Although it may not follow morality or equality, it searches for
a balance within disorder.
• In The Eumenides, justice prevails to save Orestes from death. The story is a support for the system of liberal democracy and celebrates the
power of the court system. There is no better judge or law than that of the divine Athene.

(close reading)
Lines 1371-1392 (Agamemnon)
• Clytaemestra has just committed the murder of Agamemnon and is explaining to the chorus how she killed the king. She relates that it was not an
act that was new in her mind, but was “pondered deep in time” (1378). She is like a hunter in this passage and is describing how she caught her
prey. It is this feature of hunter that gives Clytaemestra masculine qualities throughout the play. She shares, “…as fishermen cast their huge
circling nets, I spread deadly abundance of rich robes, and caught him fast” (1382-3). There is a prevalent image of pain and death in the passage,
but the picture is blurred when the scattering of blood accounts for a growth and renewal of life. Within death, Clytaemestra is glad “as garden
stand among the showers of God in glory at the birthtime of the buds” (1391-2). The passage is important because it helps to explain the vicious
nature of Clytaemestra and her masculine description. The prevalent net imagery is also used to bind Agamemnon. The same nets or robes that he
ironically stepped upon in glory are the weapons for his destruction.

Lines 179-713 (The Eumenides)

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• In this passage, Apollo is commanding the Furies to leave his sanctuary. This is where the struggle between the two types of gods begins. The very
graphic descriptions of bodily punishment and harm depict the focus of the Furies. There is also a focus on blood in this passage. These numerous
mentions of blood point to the importance of the bloodline, blood cycles, and the literal blood from mother to son. In this passage the idea of
pollution of the blood is introduced. This was the Greeks’ feeling about culpability.

(more concepts!)
• Husband/wife relationship:
Clytaemestra and Agamemnon are involved in a web of infidelity and end up destroying each other in the end.
Penelope and Odysseus have the opposite relationship where Penelope practices complete fidelity in the face of her suitors at home.
• Cycles of Revenge:
In the Iliad, a cycle of revenge begins with the destruction of Patroklos, where Achilleus, must take revenge on Hektor for the loss of his friend.
• Nostos (Homecoming):
Odysseus receives a long-awaited homecoming after years of hardship at sea. Agamemnon received an inversed nostos. Agamemnon returns
home quickly, only to face the most dishonorable end of his glory.
• Ethnography:
Cassandra is viewed much like the characters in Histories and The Odyssey. Those individuals that are not from Greece and far from known
civilization are viewed completely as foreigners. Cassandra is seen by Clytaemestra and a Greek perspective as a barbarian.
• Hubris:
Characters that believe they can bypass the laws of their natural surroundings. Xerxes believed he could punish the land and sea, while
Agamemnon stepped upon the robes, an action reserved for the gods. Both are punished for their actions.

By Aeschylus

(plot summary)
The play begins with a plague that has stricken Thebes. Seeking an oracle at Delphi, Thebes and its king, Oedipus, are told the plague will
end when the murderer of the former king, Laius, is caught and expelled. Teirasias, the blind prophet of Apollo, is summoned to reveal who the
murderer is. Under questioning he tries to refuse to answer Oedipus; after Oedipus accuses him of being the murderer, Teirasias reveals that Oedipus is
in fact the murderer. Oedipus flies into a rage and accuses his brother-in-law Creon of concocting a scheme through which to seize the throne. Creon
protests that he is innocent of these charges, and to prove it explains that he and Jocasta (Creon’s sister, Oedipus’ wife, Laius’ window) are as happy as
they could conceivably be and thus he has no motive to be king. Jocasta intercedes on Creon’s behalf, attesting to his innocence. Jocasta and Oedipus
talk and compare stories of the dead king’s murder. Gradually, prophesies come together. Jocasta explains that her and Laius’ son was prophesied to
kill Laius. Laius pierced the baby’s ankles and told others to leave him out to die. Oedipus tells how, when he was a young man, it was prophesied he
would kill his father and lie with his mother, causing him to run away from his parents, Polybus and Merope of Corinth. While fleeing, Oedipus met
and killed a rude old man and the better part of his entourage at a crossroads. A messenger comes to tell Oedipus and Jocasta that Polybus is dead,
which initially brings them great joy because clearly Oedipus didn’t kill him, thus rendering the prophesy false. However, their joy is short lived
because the messenger also reveals that Polybus is not Oedipus’ blood father; Oedipus was saved from being left out to die, and his ankles were pierced.
Oedipus, being characteristically slow on the uptake, thinks that the messenger’s story just means he is of plebian rather than royal blood, even while
Jocasta panics as she realizes the truth. A herdsman comes and reluctantly reveals that baby Oedipus was sent off to die, only to be saved by Polybus.
After this revelation the audience learns that Jocasta has killed herself. When Oedipus discovers her, he gouges out his eyes with her “gold chased

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brooches, attempting to ease the pain of seeing and realizing his crime and his guilt. Oedipus prepares to go into exhile and asks Creon, the new king,
to please take care of his daughters, Antigone and Ismene. After bidding his daughters a tearful farewell, Oedipus leaves.

(major characters)
Oedipus: Powerful king of Thebes renowned for saving the city from the Sphinx. An exemplar of Freudian theory, he takes on the role of a paternal
figure early in the play. He greets the townspeople numerous times as “children” (lines 1 and 57). He has a fiery temper and is quick to fly into rages.
This tendency towards quick and decisive action does, however, have its good side when he is a king; he can anticipate his subject’s needs by sending
Creon to the oracle at the play’s beginning. He is also the last person in this play to understand anything; not only the audience but nearly every other
character understands that he murdered Laius and caused the plague on Thebes long before Oedipus himself understands. Nearly until Jocasta kills
herself, Oedipus is constantly in action, threatening, calling, and commanding in a frenetic (perhaps unconscious) attempt to race his fate.

Creon: Oedipus’ brother-in-law and uncle, he is honest and loyal to what he sees as the ultimate interest of Thebes. He seeks the help of oracles and
prophets and, while he makes no move to alleviate the pain of Oedipus’ final fate, he did send his daughters to say goodbye, which comforted Oedipus.

Jocasta: The sister of Creon, wife and mother of Oedipus, and widow of Laius. She stands by Oedipus throughout in the best ways she knows how. At
first she joins him in trying to prove the prophecies false. Then, when she realizes the truth before Oedipus, she tries—in a notably maternal gesture—to
protect him from the truth by attempting in vain to stop him from searching for the truth.

Laius: The murdered former king of Thebes and husband of Jocasta. He attempts, like nearly everyone else, to avoid their fate, and fails miserably. At a
crossroads, he’s killed by Oedipus, the son he tried unsuccessfully to have killed.

Teiresias: The blind oracle who reluctantly—and only when accused of being Laius’ murderer—reveals to Oedipus that he is the polluter of Thebes. The
irony is that while Teiresias doesn’t have literal sight he has metaphorical sight.

Minor characters: Chorus of Old Men of Thebes, Priest, First Messenger, Second Messenger, Herdsman
Non-speaking characters: Polybus, Merope, Ismene, Antigone

(major themes)
Don’t try to escape your fate. In this play pretty much everybody tried, to their eventual doom. Laius and Jocasta tried to kill their child to
avoid a prophesy, Oedipus tried to run away from his fate. Fate still caught up with them, seemingly because they tried to avoid it (i.e. Oedipus
wouldn’t have killed an old man on the crossroads is he hadn’t been running away from Polybus and Merope). This is a play about fate, not free will.
Sight. There’s the great irony that Teirasias, who is literally blind, is the one who actually sees, while Oedipus is metaphorically blind. He
blinds himself at the play’s end, so that he “will never see the crime I have committed or had done upon me! Dark eyes, now in the days to come look
on forbidden faces, do not recognize those whom you long for” (lines 1271-4). Vision is symbolic of knowledge.
Guilt and the irrelevance of intention. Intentionality is not a factor in considering guilt; Oedipus has no conscious knowledge that is committing
parricide and incest, but because he committed the acts, he is equally guilty as someone who had full conscious knowledge.

(aristotelian definition of tragedy)

Hamartia: keeps character from doing what they should; tragic flaw (Greek: “to err”)
Peripeteia: change of fortune (Greek: “to change suddenly”)

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Anagnoresis: moment of recognition (Greek: “recognition”)
Main ideas:
A tragedy follows a trajectory of linear events that begin in the middle of the action. The protagonist, at the tragedy’s beginning, has a high
status and generally seems to be in a great position in life. The tragedy essentially explains and chronicles his fall. The tragedy should ideally climax
with anagoresis. Oedipus perfectly embodies this definition of tragedy.
From Aristotle’s Poetics, translated by Gerald Else:
“Tragedy…is a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language
which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the persons themselves and not presented
through narrative; though a course of pity and fear completing the purification of tragic acts which have those emotional characteristics.”

(comparisons to other texts)

Speech acts
Speech acts are actions fulfilled simply through speaking. Cursing, for instance, is a big speech act. Compare God’s creation of the world in
Genesis and the power of Jesus’ Word in John with the power of speech acts in Oedipus.
Sight and knowledge
Really seeing and really knowing what’s going on isn’t necessarily such a great thing. In Oedipus knowing his own guilt and realizing what
he’s done brings him torment and exile. In Genesis, Adam and Eve get expelled from Eden for eating the apple and Lott’s wife gets turned into a pillar
of salt for looking back.

Structure of the city

In Oedipus, the citizens of Thebes are remarkably involved, and the play begins with Oedipus addressing them. They seem to play more of an
active role in their own fate than the nameless and faceless Trojans that live behind the wall in the Iliad. Also, the violence and threat that Troy faces
comes from an invasion outside its walls, while the pollution that threatens Thebes comes from within.


Jocasta’s role in Oedipus is a pawn of fate. She is not a character taking action, but riding along with those who are making action. As a
mother she neither orders nor stops baby Oedipus’ death sentence nor does she appear to be any less passive as a wife. While Demeter is active in
trying to rescue Persephone, Clytenmnestra avenges the death of her daughter, and Medea is responsible for the death of her children, Jocasta emerges
as perhaps the most passive figure of the group.

Other prophesies about the danger posed by family members.

In The Histories, fears about the danger posed by children come not from oracles but from dreams. Astyages dreamt first that his daughter
Mandane urinated so much that it swamped Asia, and then that vines grew from her genitals and spread all over Asia. An interpreter decided that this
was indicative of a threat posed to Astyages by Mandane’s child, Cyrus, and Astyages ordered the death of his grandson. Like in Oedipus, the
compassion of strangers botches this and Cyrus did indeed live to fulfill the prophesy (pages 49-50).

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The Medea
By Euripedes

(plot summary)
Medea opens with a speech by the nurse, who explains the backstory of the play. In order to help Jason obtain the Golden Fleece, Medea killed
her brother and abandoned her homeland. Medea and Jason then settled in Iolchus, where, for Jason’s political benefit, Medea contrived the death of his
uncle. The couple fled from Iolchus and adopted Corinth as their homeland. Here, Jason rejected Medea and married a Corinthian princess.
After the nurse reminds the audience of Medea’s misadventures and current situation, Medea enters and expresses hatred towards her
children, her husband, and herself. Creon, the king of Corinth, enters and gives Medea one day to leave the city. After Creon leaves, Medea vows to kill
Jason, Creon, and the princess but recognizes that no city will receive her after she commits this act. Disavowing any responsibility for Medea’s
impending exile, Jason enters and asserts that his new marriage will protect himself and his children against exile.
In contrast to Creon and Jason’s rejection of Medea, Aegeus, the king of Athens, agrees to offer Medea unconditional refuge in his city.
Knowing that she can flee to Athens, Medea resolves to kill her children after destroying Jason’s new marriage. To carry out the first half of her plans,
Medea sends her children to the palace with a poisoned robe for Jason’s new wife. The robe kills both the princess and Creon, who touches the dress
while trying to save his daughter. A messenger warns Medea that a search party has been sent to apprehend her for this crime. In response, Medea
quickly slays her children. Jason reaches Medea’s home and finds her in a magical chariot with the children’s bodies. Medea refuses to give the bodies
to Jason and flies away, presumably to Athens.

Medea is a sorceress with divine connections. She comes from the “opposite shore of the Greeks,” and is therefore considered a barbarian
(210). Medea’s cleverness, coupled with eastern magic, poses a threat to the Greeks that they cannot fully understand. Creon banishes Medea, because
she is a “clever woman, versed in evil arts,/ And...angry at having lost [her] husband” (68). Creon oversimplifies Medea’s character, fearing her without
fully grasping her mindset or motives. Creon and others assume that Medea is a dangerous and exotic mystery. Medea contradicts this mystification of
her character. She facetiously claims that her “cleverness/ Is” actually “not so much” (pg 69). Medea portrays her ways as being simple but tragically
Both Creon and Medea’s characterizations are oversimplified. She is neither crazed and conniving nor transparent and guileless. Medea’s
many reasons for murder reveal the complex reality of her character:
Ÿ Jason’s broken marriage oath: “Indeed, I cannot tell/ Whether you think the gods whose names you swore by then/ Have ceased
to rule and new standards are set up” (493-4). Medea has fulfilled her obligation to Jason in marriage. She left her homeland, bore
children, and assisted Jason in his voyage home from Colchis. Medea believes that Jason has no grounds for remarrying.
Ÿ Medea’s refugee status: “...I am deserted , a refugee, thought nothing of by my husband--something he won in a foreign land”
(255-6) Medea has uprooted herself for her husband, but cannot remarry and tie herself into a new household, as Jason did.
Ÿ Children’s refugee status: “My children, there is none who can give them safety.” (793) Medea finds it unacceptable to leave her
children with her husband or bring them Athens (where she believes they will be subject to ridicule).
Ÿ Reciprocity: “To pay my husband back for what he has done to me” (261) Jason has destroyed Medea’s family home. By
murdering Jason’s new family and old children, Medea will strip him of any familial ties.
Ÿ Love/Passion/Anger: “When once [a woman] is wronged in the matter of love,/ No other soul can hold so many thoughts of
blood” (265-6)
Ÿ Pride: “Let no one think me a weak one, feeble-spirited,/ A stay at home, but rather just the opposite,/...For the lives of such
persons are most remembered” (807-9)

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Though Medea is never apprehensive about killing Creon and his daughter, she has several second thoughts concerning the murder of her children. She
contemplates taking them to Athens to avoid personal suffering.

Jason is Medea’s ex-husband. He has replaced Medea with the Corinthian princess. When Jason discusses his new wife (446-625), he seeks to
distance himself from all accusations of lust. He claims that the new marriage is designed to protect himself, his children, and Medea from exile. Jason
is so disinterested in sex that he believes “life would [be] good” if men could asexually reproduce (575). Yet, it is reproduction with the princess that
remedies Jason’s refugee status. Through the prospect of creating a “royal progeny” with the princess, Jason incorporates himself into Corinthian
society (596). Greek marriage roles are reversed in this situation. Wives are usually uprooted from their homelands, depending their husbands and
children for social stability (as was the case with Medea). Here, Jason takes on the wife-like role. Jason, who has been removed from his homeland in
Iolchus, finds security in his new wife’s social ties to Corinth. Moreover, he feels that having children with the princess will firmly establish himself in
the city.
Jason depends on his new wife for security in the same way Medea once depended on Jason. However, Jason does not see this similarity. He
believes that Medea is upset over losing the sex life she once enjoyed with him (570-5). He does not recognize that, without a husband and a homeland,
Medea has become a refugee with only her children to cling to.

Chorus of Corinthian women

The chorus interacts mainly with Medea--questioning, criticizing, or empathetically elaborating on her feelings. The chorus’ reactions to
Medea change throughout the play. The chorus members:
Ÿ console Medea on her lost husband and urge her not to commit suicide (148-159);
Ÿ fear that Medea might harm her children (180-4);
Ÿ agree that Medea should seek revenge for her husband’s actions but do not respond to her claims of inequality between husbands
and wives. (268-270);
Ÿ bemoan Medea’s forced exile from Corinth (358-363);
Ÿ frenziedly decry the deceitfulness of men, role of women in literature, and Medea’s refugee status (410-45);
Ÿ comment on the anger between Medea and Jason (520-1);
Ÿ weakly scold Jason for leaving Medea (576-8);
Ÿ discuss love and homeland in a general manner and wish to experience none of Medea’s hardships (627-662);
Ÿ advise Medea against murdering Creon and his daughter (811-3);
Ÿ “beg” Medea to not “be the murderess of [her] babes” (854-5);
Ÿ cry over Medea’s murder plans (996-7);
Ÿ mourn the fate of the princess, Jason, and Medea (976-1001);
Ÿ declare that those without children are fortunate (1081-115)
Ÿ beg the Sun and Earth to prevent Medea from murdering her children (1251-70);
Ÿ sharply chastise Medea for killing her children (1279-92);
Ÿ unemotionally comment on the deus ex machina ending (1415-9).

The chorus members are most supportive when discussing issues unspecific to Medea’s situation. They strongly sympathize with the loss of
homeland or women’s unjust depiction in literature. Yet, when speaking about the specifics of Medea’s situation, particularly her plans for murder,
they become much less supportive. They criticize Medea’s plans for murder and sympathize with those she plans to kill. The chorus’ role is somewhat
hypocritical--they call for the “world’s great order to be reversed,” but they criticize Medea’s bloody means for reversing Jason’s fortune (411).
A particularly interesting choral response is the unemotional reaction to the deus ex machina (1415-9). Perhaps Euripides is commenting on
this hackneyed element of drama. If so, what is he trying to say through the chorus’ indifferent response?

Creon & Aegeus

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Creon, the king of Corinth, and Aegeus, the king of Athens, can be viewed as foils. Creon banishes Medea from Corinth, while Aegeus
welcomes Medea into Athens. Moreover, Creon fears Medea might hurt his daughter, whereas Aegeus trusts Medea to help him conceive a child. This
sharp contrast between two political leaders might have served propagandistic aims. Euripides wrote for an Athenian audience that would have
appreciated Aegeus’s depiction as a benevolent Athenian leader. Euripides praises Athens’ liberality through its acceptance Medea, who acts a
hyperbolic representation of an outsider. Athens is so accepting that it even welcomes misunderstood, barbarian sorceresses who kill their children.

(major themes)
Inverted roles
Medea: Warrior v. Mother
Medea takes on warrior characteristics like those exhibited in the Iliad. She has concern for her children’s honor, worrying that they will be
subjected to ridicule by her enemies in Corinth and Athens. Moreover, Medea is very concerned with her own legacy. She thinks about how she will be
remembered by future generations if she does not act boldly and avenge the wrongs inflicted on her. This idea of revenge and reciprocity is another
warrior-like philosophy that Medea adopts.
The chorus reveals that Medea’s actions are a striking aberration from what they consider motherly. They question how Medea can “kill” the
“fruit of [her] own womb,” remarking that only one other women in history has killed her children (1280-1). This woman, Ino, was driven out of her
home by Zeus, who “made her wander” (1285). Husbands deny Medea and Ino their roles as wives and mothers. There therefore, the two women
destroy the product of marriage and motherhood--children.

Jason: Husband v. Wife

In his marriage to the Corinthian princess, Jason takes on a more wife-like role. He depends on his wife for social ties in the same way he once
provided social ties for Medea. See the character analysis of Jason above for more details.

Reversal of Fortune/Status
Medea’s murders act as the climax of the play and the axis about which Jason and Medea’s fortunes
are inverted.

MEDEA (before murders) JASON (before murders)

1) spouseless 1) has a new wife
2) refugee 2) established in Corinth
3) barbarian 3) Greek
4) no prospect having more children 4) prospect of having more children with his new wife
5) unclear whether she or Jason will keep their 5) unclear whether he or Medea will keep their
children children

MEDEA (after murders) JASON (after murders)

1) spouseless, but close friends with Aegeus 1) spouseless
2) becomes citizen of Athens 2) refugee
3) barbarian 3) Greek
4) opportunity to create children for 4) no opportunity to create more children
Aegeus and his wife 5) not even allowed to touch the bodies of his
5) reclaims her children, though dead dead children

• 23 of 46 •
Without a husband and homeland, Medea’s is tied to society only through her children. By murdering her children, Medea breaks this last tie
to society and declares her total refugee status. Paradoxically, this extreme break enables Medea to be ultimately reintegrated into society. She returns
to Athens with the bodies of her children the prospect of helping Aegeus and his wife conceive a child. With a welcoming adopted homeland, ties to the
royal family, and the opportunity to produce new children, Medea has everything (though in imperfect forms) that Jason enjoyed in Corinth. Her
voyage back to Athens, a city from an earlier time in her life, suggests a cyclical renewal for Medea, in which new ties to society are regenerated out of
the destruction she caused in Corinth.
Medea’s murder of Creon and the princess brings Jason down to her own level--a refugee without a homeland or family ties. When Medea
murders their children, it destroys Jason’s last tie to any sort of society (as well as her last tie to any sort of society). Only through deus ex machina is
Medea able to escape this utter refugee status, while Jason is left on the ground, without even the bodies of his children.

Medea is often uses deceptive speech, misleading others to serve her ultimate goals. For example, Medea feigns approval of Jason’s marriage so she can
send a poisoned dress to the princess. In another instance, Medea uses supplicating language in a conversation with Creon to delay her expulsion.

Oaths, on the other hand, presume honest interaction and a roughly even exchange. A concrete example of this occurs in Book VI of the Iliad, in which
Glaucos and Diomedes exchange armor to seal their oath of friendship. Medea expects this same reciprocity in her marriage. Medea’s husband,
however, breaks the oath and “betray[s] both her bed and her marriage” (208,6). Medea’s situation highlights the one-sidedness of marriage oaths, in
which men can freely leave their wives, while women have “no easy escape” (236). Marriage oaths involve unequal exchange and are binding only
because they invoke “the Justice of Zeus” (208).

Medea is very concerned with the distinction between oaths and regular speech. When Medea convinces Aegeus to give her refuge, she insists that he
make an oath. After her experience with Jason, Medea seems foolish to trust another man’s oath. However, she makes sure that they seal the oath by
exchanging equally important things. Aegeus provides Medea refuge while Medea promises to help Aegeus conceive a child with his wife.

(significant passages)

Lines 1156-1170
In this passage, a messenger relates the princess’s reaction to Medea’s gifts. The gifts have strong symbolic connotations. The dress connects
to an earlier place and time in Medea’s life. She explains that “Helius of old,/[her] father’s father, bestowed” the dress “on his descendants” (955). The
crown also relates to royal lineage, perhaps representing the position Medea once enjoyed in Colchis. Curiously, the princess is never named and her
character is physically absent from the play’s action. This suggests that the malicious gift giving is not so much revenge against the princess in
particular, but rather a symbolic dramatization of Medea’s usurped position.
The princess’ acceptance of the dress represents her excessive pride. When the princess dons the robe and crown, she hubristically usurps
Medea position as Jason’s wife. Her vanity reflects her hubris: “Often and Often/ She would stretch her foot out and look along it” (1165-6). The
princess’s prideful admiration of her own beauty accentuates her daring, prideful replacement of Medea.

Lines 416-430
The chorus criticizes the treatment of women in literature, particularly stories of women’s “unfaithfulness” (422). The chorus does not directly
criticize the “ancient singers,” who were apparently all men (421). Rather, they implore the singers’ “muses” to “cease” telling tales of female
“unfaithfulness” (421-2). Perhaps these muses represent archetypes of female behavior perpetuated in literature. One can find unfaithful women in the
Iliad (Helen), Oresteia (Clytaemestra), and the Bacchae. In Medea, does Euripides break from this pattern of assigning women “evil-sounding fame” (420)?
Does he assign it instead to men?

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The chorus wishes that women had the ability to “[sing] an answer” to male writers (426). This raises many questions concerning Euripides
self-awareness as an author. Did Euripides feel that he was representing a more female voice in Medea? Was he giving women in literature “their due”

History of the Peloponnesian WaR

By Aeschylus

Plot Summary
The Peloponnesian War was fought between Athens and Sparta. The war was mostly a demonstration and challenge of power between the
two Hellenic forces. The tension between the two nations spawned from conflicts over shipping, trade and colonial expansion. The result of these
conflicts was a twenty-seven year war in Northern Greece. This account of the war details the disastrous conflict that led to the downfall of the Athenian
• Athens (and it’s allies)–
Takeover of its allies - don’t care about the internal politics of the other countries…rules allies through global imperialism…post politics
- Athens liked to be innovative and to change, they were a liberal society, which continually changed their model of society and
philosophized about their culture. > Athens cared a lot about the physical structure of their society and culture…this says a lot
about the way that they view themselves.
- They had a lot more money than Sparta.
- The laws were more revisable depending on who could convince the will of the mass. > The “mass”, there is almost no majority.
• Spartans (and it’s allies) –
Controls their allies, but works with them…their allies were controlled politically instead of economically.
- Spartans were a conservative and traditional power.
- Spartans were the first to have laws free from tyranny and kept those laws
- Not democracy nor tyranny (may feel safer in Sparta because of the consistency of law)
*Similarities – viewing alliances as a superstructure

(major themes)
Speeches - the decline in the quality of the speeches represent the quality of Athens.

• Dispute over Corcyra (1.31-43) – Corcyra and Corinth are on the verge of war, both go to Athens to present why they should be supported
instead of the other. Corcyra speaks first. They speak of being the neutral victims, and ways which they can help Athens by being allies.
Corinth responds by saying that they are not innocent victims, and with point out that they have a peace treaty with Athens that will be
broken if they become allies of Corcyra. Abstract: Both sides present a case, second case clearly responds to the points of the first.
• Debate at Sparta (1.66-78) – Many of Sparta’s allies send delegates to Sparta, and delegates of Athens were there on business. The speeches
given are by Corinth and Athens. Corinth says that Sparta needs to prepare as much as Athens does for war. Athens responds by saying that
they are not to be blamed for the state of affairs, that if Sparta were in their position they would have done the same. Abstract: Second case not
a direct response to the first, but a defense by point out different aspects. All speakers are in first person plural, speech coming from a group
of people.
(1.80-87) – When the speeches are done, Spartans ask all others to leave and have an internal debate. King and an ephor (congressmen type
position) give speech. King presents the point that they should not go to war since they are not adequately prepared to fight Athens, as
Athens has many more resources. Ephor says that he did not understand the Athenians’ speech, and that Athens was too proud and already

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acting aggressively, so they should go to war. Abstract: Second is not a response of the first. First uses everything Corinth said above to reach
different conclusion, second does the same to Athens’ speech. Speeches are in first person singular.
• Speech given by the Spartan King (2.11) - Given to the generals right before they depart for battle with Athens. Warning them to not be too
cautious because Athens has the ability to defend herself. Abstract: Not a debate, instead a warning to Spartan allies that if they want to win
not to underestimate the greatness of Athens.
• The funeral oration – (2.34-46) Details given in close reading. Abstract: Not a debate. Saying the greatness of Athens.
• Policy of Pericles (2.60-64) – After plague, Athenian assembly questions if they should have gone to war. Pericles (general who had voted for
war) defends himself and says they should expect great disasters because of their greatness. Abstract: Not a debate. But Athens is no longer
great because of the plague. Plague is the turning point, the beginning of the end.
• Speech of the Mytlenians (3.9-14) – Mytlene was an ally of Athens that revolted. They went to Sparta to ask to be taken into their alliance.
Their point was that Athens really used their allies as slaves, and thus were being treated unfairly and wanted to end their affiliation with
Athens. Sparta takes them. Abstract: Not a debate. It claims to show how awful Athens is to its allies.
• The Mytlenian Debates (3.37-48) – Athens debating on whether they should kill all of the Mytlenians for revolting. First speaker says that
killing them would give them what they deserved and it would deter future rebels. Says that the Mytlenians were not badly treated. Also that
if they wait too long to punish, that feelings of anger will lessen, and they will not receive proper punishment. Second speaker begins by
attacking the first speaker personally. He also says that acting in haste and anger will only bring ruin to Athens because they will have to
follow the precedent and it will be extremely costly to put kill rebels because they will hold out for as long as possible. Abstract: Debate.
Really shows how awful Athens can be to its allies (although second speaker won, and so a second mission was sent to stop the first, which
was ordered to kill everyone).
• The Melian Dialogue (4. 85-114) – Melos was a colony of Sparta. Athens made an expedition to the island, and instead of destroying it
immediately, representatives went and spoke. Instead of being allowed to speak in front of the people, they had to speak before a small
governing group. Athens wants Melos to follow Athens’ self-interest, but it was not to Melos’ self interest. Melos did not give in. Athens
blockaded them in completely. Abstract: This is the end of the downfall of speeches as it is not a speech at all; it is a dialogue to the point that
it is written as a play. It is this point that represents the downfall of Athens.

(close reading)
Pericles’ Funeral Oration (book 2. 34-46)
Pericles’ Funeral Oration is one of the key passages of the book. The form of the oration is as important as they content discussed. Pericles
begins his speech by addressing the form and purpose of a funeral oration, he discusses his personal disagreement with it’s traditional implications, but
decides that as a tribute to the men who died, he will continue to speak, but only after acknowledging his feelings that the fact the mere actions of a
funeral are honor enough for any man. He goes on to say that he feels men can only listen to the praises of other men for so long, and that is why he has
decided to speak about greater forms of honor that applied to the men who had died and to the people listening to him speak. The first group of people
he praises is the ancestors of the Athenian people because they created the Empire of Athens. He then goes on to praise their just and premiere
government. He discusses the ways in which he feels Athens stands apart from it’s peers, as an empire full of people who know how to abide by law
and also know how to celebrate. He praises the people of Athens for creating a courageous and loyal military, superior to all others they fight and for
their ability to fight their own fight. He praises the characteristics of men in Athens, their rationality and deliberateness in battle, in addition to
understanding their priorities and not flaunting extravagance in their lives. He goes on to say that it is because of all these reasons that Athens will be
remembered. Their legacy will live on through what they have left behind at every battle, what has been traded in every exchange, in what kindness has
been on in every gift and that any man who tries to record this through his own estimation of the facts would fall short. It is here that his speech shifts
focus toward the soldiers, although not describing them individually, he does describe individual characteristics of the whole that he feels should be
represented by the Athenian people. He describes their honor and spirit and asks that the people of Athens adopt that same energy and aim it against
their enemies. Towards the end of his speech he consoles the families who have lost loved ones, but tells them that their soldiers died with pride and

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honor, and that honor is the one thing one will always have and never looses. Finally Pericles makes a comparison between the women that these men
have loved and Athens. Athens is seen here as the ultimate perfect woman, one any person should be willing to die for.

The plague is described in the section of the story right after the funeral oration. Thucydides narrates himself into this section more than he did in the
previous one. He acknowledges this by saying that although he himself did not experience the plague; he wants to record it if it should ever happen
again. Initially in the section he describes the symptoms of the disease in great length and discusses the ways in which people’s bodies reacted to the
disease. He does not however address particular cases of sickness, but rather sticks to a general overview of those affected. The plague marked a time of
great migration from the country in to the city of Athens and this migration also coincided with the unraveling of the city. Lawlessness and civil unrest
were rampant, men were dying inside Athens and outside land was being laid to waste. There is an oracle towards the end of this section that the
Athenians interpreted as a description of their situation ad at the same time an oracle was sent to the Spartans telling them to go to war. An important
note is that although this was the goriest part of the book, a war story, the plague took place when no actual fighting was going on between the Spartans
and the Athenians.

• The two passages are connected through opposition. They are recounted side by side because they symbolize a complete reversal of fortune >
• In the funeral oration he is constructing an honorable and courageous view of death and in the plague death is this awful experience that is
deconstructing the honor and structure of the city.
• In the plague, he describes how the plague destroyed everything that they had honored in the oration. > Example – culture is disrupted in the
plague and was very important in the funeral oration, as well as honor.
• The funeral oration is the one surviving account of Athenian democracy (from a supporting viewpoint) and the bulk of the images from the
plague are about lawlessness and disregard for order.

(points of contact)
1. Reversal of Fortune: connections to Oedipus, Medea and the Bacchae. Peripeteia, the idea that there can be a complete change of fortune in
one moment. This is seen in the plague in Thucydides, in Medea, the peripeteia happened before the play actually began and in the Bacchae it
is when Pantheus’s mother realizes what she has done (actually killed her son.)
2. Oracles: they happen and they matter. They also happen in Oedipus. You get the idea.
3. HONOR – there are several points of contact between the idea of honor in Thucydides and in other texts such as the Iliad. Honor is mentioned
in other texts, however, as two stories about war, the connection is strongest here. However, in Thucydides honor is only mentioned on a
“citywide” or non-individual basis. In the Iliad fallen soldiers are individually talked about in accordance to their honor.

By Aristophanes

(plot summary)
Lysistrata gathers the women of Athens and Sparta in the front of the Akropolis for the purpose of formulating a plan to help stop the war
between Athens and Sparta. Lysistrata asks the women if they would like their husbands to return to them from the war, and the women at first, claim
that they would do just about anything to get their husbands back. Then, Lysistrata proposes her plan, to stop sexual activity with their husbands. The
women, after hearing this, back down and hesitate to concur to such an act, except Lampito. Soon, however, with the help of Lysistrata’s persuasive
arguments, the women consent to her plan. Lysistrata has arranged the seizure of the Akropolis, the Athenian treasury, so no money will go toward the
war effort. Kleonike proposes that the women swear on a cup of wine, that they “won’t…dilute it with water,” and the women agree to swear to the
plan (366). After all the women swear, the women enter the Akropolis. The elder Athenian men march to the Akropolis carrying firepots with the

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purpose of burning down the gates of the seized building. The elder women encounter the Koryphaios of Men at the gates, and the women pour water
all over the men, putting out their fire. At this moment, the Commissioner of Public Safety arrives to try to settle the dispute. Before the Commissioner
and the other men are able to break open the gates with a crowbar, Lysistrata comes out of the Akropolis. Archers attempt to arrest Lysistrata, but all
four of the archers that the Commissioner sent forth fail with the help of the other women. After the archers are scared off, Lysistrata begins to tell the
Commissioner that the women will stop the war. Then Lysistrata places her veil on the Commissioner’s head and the other women help dress him up
as a woman and then beat him off the stage. Then the Chorus of Women and the Chorus of Men display a sexual battle, which results in both the men
and women naked. The women soon become filled with desire for sex and make excuses to Lysistrata as to why they have to leave. Then, Kinesias,
with his son, arrives at the Akropolis gates, “in erection and considerable plain” (419). He tries to woo his wife, Myrrhine, into returning home to her
beloved son who needs her care. Myrrhine pretends she will have sex with her husband, who insists on do on the ground outside the Akropolis.
Myrrhine, all the while delays intercourse, making Kinesias very frustrated. Then she leaves her husband on the ground for good since he would not
agree to vote for peace, as she wished. A Spartan herald arrives, bringing news of the Spartan’s suffering due to the women’s refusal of sex. He and the
Commissioner agree to settle a treaty for the war, bringing their respective delegations to the scene. Lysistrata emerges from the Akropolis with a naked
girl, Peace, whose body would be used to map out the portions of the land each side received in the treaty. After the Athenians and Spartans agree to
the terms, order is restored in Greece and the poepel resume sexual activity.

(major characters)
Lysistrata: She is the Athenian who formulated the plan to seize the Akropolis and to thwart the sexual activity between the women and their husbands
in order to stop the war. Her actions portray her as very manly, as she controls most of the action in the play.
Kleonike: The neighbor of Lysistrata, she acts very feminine, unlike Lysistrata.
Myrrhine: She is the wife of Kinesias. Later in the play, Kinesias comes to the Akropolis with their son. Myrrhine leads her husband on, as she agrees to
have sex with him, but she finally denies him. This scene highlights her strength in this play, being able to stand up to her husband and command him.
Lampito: She is the beautiful woman from Sparta who is first to agree with Lysistrata’ scheme. Her actions, along with Lysistrata’s, depict her as a
Commissioner: Although he is supposed to be a strong enforcer according to his title, he and the other policemen are very cowardly when they tried to
arrest Lysistrata and the other women. This woman-like characteristic that he displays is only highlighted when Lysistrata dresses him up as a woman.
Kineisas: He is the husband of Myrrhine. In attempt to get his wife back, he goes to the Akropolis, suffering from the pain of an erection.
Peace: She is the beautiful handmaid of Lysistrata whose naked body the men use at the end of the play to divide the land when formulating an
agreement to end the war.

(major concepts)
• Power
The women in Lysistrata have power at home, with control over the sex and household money [Lysistrata: “We budget the
household accounts” (391)] and seize control over the state, as they detained the Akropolis in attempt to withhold the money from the war
Do do withhold
–– force no force
female male ––
family state individual/couple

• Sex :

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-Importance of sex is for social order. When the women abstain from sex, there is chaos in the society. When they begin having sex
again, the men are back at home, the war ends, and the chaos stops.
-The women want their husbands home from the war so they can have sex with them, but at the same time, they are practicing
abstinence so their husbands will stop the war. This is very inconsistent.

• Heterosexuality
Throughout the play, there is a free floating erotic energy, until the end of the play, when the only sexual connections are shared
between husband and wife.
• Reunification
What should be kept together is separated by war in this play. Husband and wife are separated, as the men have to fight in the war.
The division in Greece, between its two major cities, Athens and Sparta, is only elevated by the war. The marital bed becomes the
reunification of Greece, as peace is restored after the males are denied sex

(connections to other texts)

In this text, the purpose of sex is pleasure, which is unlike other texts. In other texts, such as Hymn to Demeter and Genesis, the purpose of sex
was for reproduction. However, in Symposium, sex is also for pleasure.

This text can be viewed as a text about heterosexuality, whereas Symposium focuses a lot on homosexuality, as the men express their love for
each other. Alcibiades expressed his love for Socrates in his speech

Symposium has the same theme that love or sex is power, or rather the withholding is power over those who want it. Socrates is like the
women in Lysistrata, as he withheld love from those who wanted it.

Just as in The Baccae, the a man is dresses up like a woman. In The Baccae, Pentheus disguises himself as a woman in order to spy on the actions of the
drunken women. In Lysistrata, Lysistrata drapes her veil on the commissioner, making him look like a woman.

As in The Iliad, a warrior sees his wife and son. In The Iliad, Hektor has a moment outside battle with his wife and his son. The difference between this
and the encounter between Myrrhine and her husband and son is that the warrior brings the son as bait, to draw his wife out of the Akropolis to have
sex with him.

(close reading)
“But when the swallows, in flight from the
hoopoes, have flocked to a hole
on high, and stoutly eschew their
accustomed perch on the pole,
yea, then shall Thunderer Zeus to
their suff’ring establish a stop,
by making the lower the upper…But should these swallows, indulging their
lust for the perch, lose heart,

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dissolve their flocks in winged dissension,
and singly depart
the sacred stronghold, breaking the
bands that bind them together-
then know them as lewd, the pervertedest
birds that ever wore feather.” (414)

This is the prophecy of the war’s fate that Lysistrata read to women. This inversion is like what Jesus had done consistently in Luke, as he made the poor
rich and the blind see. means that the women, who were thought to be below men in the society, would be raised above men when they seized the
Akropolis (414). This inversion is like what Jesus had done consistently in Luke, as he made the poor rich and the blind see. The swallows here
represent the women of Greece.

Comparison: Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides

Homer Herodotus Thucydides

Memorializing glory of individual Memorializing collective cultural Analyzing the causes of war (not
warriors (to please readers) glory (to please readers) memorializing, not to please)
Recognizing inevitability (possibly a
WHAT HE IS DOING: Social criticism Social criticism
criticism of inequality)

FOCUS: Individuals/culture (no distinction) Cultures Political Systems of the cultures

Journalism Academic criticism

METHOD: Invention
(Stories to entertain) (Instruction/ information)

BLAME: One cause Multi-cause Chain of events

Speaks of only Greek, and they are

POSSIBLE MODES OF Speaks of individuals (Achaeans and Speaks of foreign countries in very divided, but mostly into two

IDENTIFICATION: Trojans) relation to Greek major groups: Athens (and allies)

vs. Sparta (and allies)

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The Symposium
By Plato

(chapter summaries)
Introductory Dialogue
The Symposium opens with an unnamed man asking Apollodorus, to recount the story of the symposium too him. Apollodorus agrees, but
explains that he is telling the story, which in turn he was told by Aristodemus who attended the party. Apollodorus then tells how the dinner
proceeded, and how after the eating was done the men decided to send away the flute-girl and have a discussion on the subject of love. Apollodorus
also apologizes because he cannot remember all the speeches and cannot even remember all that Aristodemus told him.
This idea that the story we are about to receive is much removed from the original source is somewhat related to the Theory of Forms, in that
there are several levels between the present discussion and the truth. The absence of the flute-girl, which might carry some sexual connotation, makes
the room now completely male, and thus increases the focus on homosexual love in the following speeches.

The Speech of Phaedrus

Phaedrus speech depicts Love as an ancient god born out of Chaos. He explains, “I cannot say what greater good there is for a young boy than
a gentle lover, or for a lover than a boy to love. There is a certain guidance each person needs for his whole life, if he is to live well; and nothing imparts
this guidance – not high kinship, not public honor, not wealth – nothing imparts this guidance as well as Love,” (178C-D). This passage captures the
essence of Phaedrus speech. He believes that Love is a great teacher; it educates the youth and promotes virtue among men. Phaedrus bases his
argument in Homeric myth and literature. He cites several well known stories and extracts his points from there. It is important to realize that this
speech does not address Love so much as it addresses the effects of Love. Phaedrus concludes his speech, “Love is…the most powerful in helping men
gain virtue and blessedness,” (180B).

The Speech of Pausanias

Pausanias begins his speech by drawing a distinction between Heavenly Love and Common Love. Pausanias believes that Common Love is
the lesser of the two forms because it is equally directed at women and boys, and because it pertains more to the physical body and not to the mind.
Heavenly love is a bond between a man and an adolescent boy, and as Pausanias describes it, “Love’s value to the city as a whole and to the citizens is
immeasurable, for he compels the lover and his loved one alike to make virtue their central concern,” (185B-C). Pausanias is just like Phaedrus in that he
explains the effects of love, and more specifically focuses on how love relates to virtue. However, where Phaedrus grounded his argument in literature,
Pausanias grounds his argument in his knowledge of Greek culture and social expectations.

The Speech of Eryximachus

Eryximachus opens his speech by continuing to develop the idea of a dichotomy in love. Eryximachus takes it in another direction and tries to
expand the idea to account for the harmony which exists in nature between asymmetrical objects. Eryximachus explains that love comes from the music
of two gods and acts like gravity, as a constant force in this world. Eryximachus speech is different from the first two because he tries to broaden the
scope of what love is responsible for. He states, “Such is the power of Love - so varied and great that in all cases it might be called absolute. Yet even so
it is far greater when Love is directed, in temperance and justice, toward the good, whether in heaven or on earth: happiness and good fortune, the
bonds of human society, concord with the gods above – all these are among his gifts,” (188D). Eryximachus scope is wide, and he constantly changes his
metaphors in order to appear convincing, so that in the end his comes off as pompus and distinctly unconvincing.

The Speech of Aristophanes

With Aristophanes speech there exists a clear departure from the first three speeches. Aristophanes tells a myth about three species of human
that inhabited the earth and then were divided by Zeus to become the humans, which inhabit the world today. This myth introduces the origins of love
and acknowledges the idea of love as desire. Aristophanes intention is to describe human nature. Although his myth is fictional, his description is
insightful. Aristophanes says, “Now, since their natural form had been cut in two, each one longed for its own other half,” (191A). This is where
Aristophanes places the moment in which ‘longing’ or ‘desire’ was born. Because of the split humans no longer have their other half and they now

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desire something, which they are missing. Socrates returns to this idea of desiring what you do not have when he questions Agathon. Aristophanes then
goes on to conclude his speech by expounding male/male relationships as the ideal relationship.

The Speech of Agathon

Agathon’s speech stands in contrast to every speech preceding it, but is a useful foil for Socrates speech, which will follow. Agathon declares
that he is not going to discuss the effects of love, but instead focus on the character of the god himself. He grants every possible accolade to love, and his
speech becomes grossly exaggerated, and unfounded in logic. His speech is highly rhetorical and so it seems fitting that it should be the playwright who
composes a speech that is so dramatic. He does not contribute much to the definition of love.

Socrates Questions Agathon

Socrates accuses Agathon of sophistry in his speech about love. Not only, says Socrates, does he talk about the objects of love, rather than love
itself, he attributes beautiful characteristics to love with no regard for the truth of his assertions. Socrates, for his speech, begins by questioning Agathon
and thus begins constructing an argument. Socrates leads Agathon to the initial conclusion that one must love something, specifically something that
one does not already have; something which one desires. To love what one has, in terms of Socrates argument, is to desire what one has in the present
to be what one has in the future. Socrates concludes the argument by refuting Agathon’s point that love is beautiful; if it is true that love desires what it
does not have, but that one loves beauty, then love itself cannot be beautiful.

Diotima Questions Socrates / the Speech of Diotima

Diotima’s questioning of Socrates, as told by Socrates, complicates the subjectivity of the story by a third degree (Apollodorus-Socrates-
Diotima); it is also the most philosophically important speech in the book. While Agathon had described the objects of love, Socrates’ (Diotima’s) speech
is concerned with describing love itself. Diotima claims that love is not a great immortal god, nor a mortal; love is a spirit that exists in between these
extremes, one that dies and is reborn intermittently.
The theme of love as a medium is further developed as the chapter progresses; love is never without resources, nor is he rich, he is in between
ugliness and beauty, and he is neither ignorant nor wise. Love desires what it does not have; as such, love desires beauty and wisdom. Diotima goes on
to state that the lover of good and beautiful things loves them because he wishes them to become his own; this progression from one opposite to another
constitutes “happiness.”
Reproduction in this passage functions as the method by which lovers can attain immortality; the method by which they can keep the things
they love in the future. There are two types of reproduction, though: pregnancy of the body and pregnancy of the soul, yielding offspring and creative
works respectively. Those that are pregnant in body are those that love women, but those that are pregnant in soul look for a different immortal beauty.

Alcibiades’ Entrance
Socrates’ speech comes to a conclusion with a drunken crowd of revelers knocking on the door. Alcibiades, drunk, shouts up to the group,
and he is let in. Alcibiades wears a crown of ivy and violets on his head. He intends to give to the crown to Agathon, but it blinds him as he enters,
possibly symbolizing how Alcibiades, a politician, is blinded by his prominent social position. When Alcibiades realizes that Socrates is there, he is
surprised and taken back. Eventually, Alcibiades is roped into giving a speech of his own about love.

The Speech of Alcibiades

Alcibiades speaks in praise of Socrates. He begins by describing Socrates as a man who could care less about physical beauty or riches, but a
man who has incredible riches inside. Alcibiades goes on to describe his relationship with Socrates; he had thought that Socrates wanted to be his lover,
which was acceptable to him because although Socrates was ugly, Alcibiades knew he would learn a lot from such a relationship. Over time, Alcibiades
sets up a number of meetings designed to bring him and Socrates together, such as wrestling and a private visit at Alcibiades mansion, but Socrates
never responds to these seemingly obvious provocations. Alcibiades becomes confused, eventually realizing that it is not Socrates who is in love with
him, but he who is obsessed with Socrates. Socrates speaks to this, and explains his actions, when he says, “You (Alcibiades) seem to me to want more
than your proper share: you offer me the merest appearance of beauty, and in return you want the thing itself…” This is consistent with Diotima’s

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hierarchy of love, which prioritizes the form Beauty, which belongs to the realm of the abstract, over physical beauty. Thus, Socrates theorizes that it
would have been an unfair relationship; Socrates has no use for Alcibiades’ physical beauty having already attained the greater metaphysical Beauty
that Alcibiades really desires. The last parts of Alcibiades speech goes on to describe Socrates’ actions when they served together in battle.

Final Dialogue
Socrates accuses Alcibiades of being in love with him, and trying to separate him and Agathon. Suddenly, a boisterous, drunk crowd comes
in and people beginning drinking out of order (chaos). Socrates stays up philosophizing all night with Agathon and Aristophanes; when they fall
asleep, he leaves and goes directly to the Lyceum.

(major themes)
The Theory of the Form:
The Socrates/Diotima speeches hint at the form, Beauty, as the ultimate desire of the lover pregnant in soul. The idea of the Form separates
the world into the realm of the physical and the realm of the ideal, the imperfect and perfect correspondingly. To attain Beauty, one must first love
imperfect things, such as a single boy, and abstract further from there, from many boys, to all boys, to all bodies, and on. In this way, love works in the
Socrates/Diotima speech as a progression between opposites. The lover moves from mortality to immortality, ugliness to beauty, and ignorance to
wisdom. The goal of this progression is the Form; as Diotima says, love is desiring what one does not have.

Socrates is the embodiment of Diotima’s lover. Love is described as never having anything himself; neither wisdom nor beauty. Socrates,
described ugly in the text, also never claims to be wise; in this way Socrates matches the description. Furthermore, Socrates desires what he does not
have, devoting his life to the attainment of wisdom and beauty. Alcibiades’ speech in praise of Socrates is also consistent with this description.

Old Testament

(chapter summaries)
1,2: Creation A and B
3: Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God evicts them from Eden even though he said he would kill them.
4: Cain and Abel are born. Cain kills his brother and God curses him. Eve gives birth to Seth.
6: The Lord regrets creating man because of man’s violence and corruption. He vows to destroy all humanity but to spare Noah.
7-8: Noah enters the ark. The flood comes and goes in forty days. Noah builds an altar to god.
9: God blesses Noah, forges a covenant with Noah, symbolized by the rainbow. While Noah gets drunk and is seen by his son Ham, who he later curses.
11: People attempt to build the Tower of Babel.
12: Abram leaves his homeland at the bequest of God, who forges a covenant with him.
13: Abram leaves Egypt. He and Lot split up, and Abram moves to Hebron.
14-15: Lot is taken captive and Abram saves him. God promises Abram an heir.
16: Hagar, Sarai’s maid, gives birth to Ishmael, Abram’s first son.
17: God forms another covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah. The birth of Isaac is promised.
Abraham circumcises himself and his household.
18: The birth of Isaac is predicted by three men (angels) who are on the way to destroy Sodom.
19: A mob surrounds Lot’s house, where the angels are staying. The angels save Lot and Sodom is destroyed. Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt,
and he sleeps with his daughters.

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20: While in Gerar, Sarah is taken by the King. He is punished, but gives gifts to Abraham.
21: Isaac is born. Sarah kicks out Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham forges a covenant with Abimelech.
22: Abraham is tested by God, who asks him to sacrifice Isaac.
23: Sarah dies. Abraham chooses to buy a cave for her burial rather than receive it as a gift.
24: Abraham sends his servant to find Isaac a wife from Abraham’s own people; Rebekah is chosen.
25: Abraham’s second wife; his death. Ishmael’s children and his death. Jacob and Esau are born.
26: Isaac moves to the land of King Abimelech. He has problems with locals over wells and leaves.
27: Jacob deceives Isaac with the help of his mother and takes Esau’s blessing.
28: Jacob leaves for Laban’s house. He dreams about the ladder.
29: Jacob marries Leah and Rachel. He only wants Rachel. Leah has four sons. Rachel is barren.
30: Leah bears more children. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Jacob wishes to return home.
31: Laban chases Jacob. Jacob curses the thief of Laban’s idols (Rachel); the men form a covenant.
32: Esau and a party of four hundred people come to greet Jacob who has split his party into two camps out of fear of his brother. Jacob wrestles with
the angels and his name is changed to Israel.
33: Jacob and Esau reunite warmly.
34: Dinah is taken and raped by a local prince. His father tries to negotiate a marriage with Jacob. Simeon and Levi destroy the entire city.
35: God moves Jacob to Beth-El. Isaac dies, as does Rachel.
36: Esau and Jacob cannot inhabit the same land. Esau moves away with his large family.
37: Joseph is in constant conflict with his brothers who are annoyed with his dreams and attitude. When away from their home, they throw him into a
pit and later sell him to a band of Ishmaelites.
38: The story of Judah’s sons and Tamar, and of Judah and Tamar
39-45: The stories of Joseph in Egypt. He is thrown into jail by his master, and then becomes the viceroy of Egypt after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.
He makes peace with his brothers and his entire family comes down to live in Egypt. Jacob dies.

(major characters)
Adam: The first being. His name and the word ‘man’ are used interchangeably in the text because they are the same in Hebrew. He eats from the Tree
of Knowledge because of his wife and is forever expelled from the Garden of Eden.
Eve: The first woman: created from the flesh of Adam. She is manipulated by the serpent into eating from the tree. This story, which involves a
tremendous act of Hubris, can be compared to the moment when Clytaemnestra tells Agamemnon to step on the crimson robes: both women are
responsible for the downfall of their husbands and they are both significantly manipulated by an outside male figure.
Noah: The only ‘righteous’ man in his generation. He is commanded to build and ark and is saved from the flood. Afterwards, god promises him that
he will never again flood the earth, forming a covenant that is symbolized by the rainbow.
Abraham (also known as Abram): Is constantly being tested by god, who forms many covenants with him. As Zoe mentioned in class – it causes one to
wonder why god seems to be ‘going back on his word’ again and again by constantly re-promising the land to Abraham and his descendants.
Lot: Abraham’s nephew, and a frequent ‘thorn-in-his-side.’ He is saved from the destruction of Sodom. Lot, while drunk, sleeps with his daughters.
Isaac: Abraham’s son and heir through Sarah. Husband of Rebekah and father of Jacob and Esau. Mistakenly blesses Jacob with Esau’s blessing.
Jacob (also known as Israel): Isaac’s second son. He steals the birthright from his brother and also takes his blessing. His name is changed twice: first by
the angel who he wrestles with before encountering Esau, and second by the Lord.
Joseph: Jacob’s favorite son. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, but eventually becomes the viceroy of Egypt. He is very skilled at interpreting

(minor characters)
Sarah (also known as Sarai): Abraham’s first wife and mother of Isaac.
Hagar: Sarah’s maid; given to Abraham as a wife. Mother of Ishamel.

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Rebekah: Isaac’s wife. Mother of Jacob and Esau. She helps Jacob obtain Esau’s rightful blessing.
Esau: Firstborn son of Isaac. Is tricked out of his birthright, but eventually forgives his brother.
Laban: Father of Rachel and Leah; Jacob’s employer for a long time; deals dishonestly with him.
Rachel: Jacob’s favorite wife. Mother of Joseph and Benjamin.
Leah: Jacob’s first wife. Mother of six of his children.
Dinah: Jacob’s only daughter. She is capture by a local prince and raped.
Simeon and Levi: Two of Jacob’s sons. They destroy the city of the prince who raped their sister.

(important concepts)
Covenants: Covenants play an extremely significant role in Genesis. People use covenants to forge alliances and God uses them to make promises
and/or to appease nervous followers. Covenants take two forms: the verbal, which is merely a promise (usually by god), and the physical, which can be
anything from a monument erected from stones to a circumcision. Jacob and Laban make a covenant for the sake of peace (31). God makes a covenant
with Noah and symbolizes it with a rainbow. Repeated covenants between god and Abraham make Abraham’s people the chosen people. Isaac is
promised a great nation. God uses covenants to test Noah (flood), Abraham (sacrificing Isaac), and Jacob (moving his family to build a tribute). The
really unique importance of covenants can best be understood through the story of Dinah (34).
Sexuality: In Genesis, sexuality is something to be ashamed of. Gaining knowledge is equated with gaining sexual humility when Adam and Eve become
ashamed of their nakedness.
Sexual Ethics: Sex is appropriate and goes unpunished by god and the community when families of those involved have formally approved it or when
those having sex are doing so with the intent of carrying on a family line. The rape of Dinah shows that Genesis is not tolerant of sexual acts that do not
have formal and communal consent. Schehem is also punished because he isn’t circumcised. The marking of circumcision is only seen when a man is
about to have sex, which shows that a person’s membership and association with a particular group is important even in the most intimate times. In
contrast, Tamar is not punished because she deserved impregnation and Lot’s daughters are not punished because they only seduced him in order to
carry on the family line and. Onan, however, is punished because he wasted what could have become life and the Sodomites wanted to have sex that
would not lead to reproduction, so God destroyed them.
Childbirth: God has direct control over conception. The ability to have children causes contempt (Sarah and Hagar). Having children ensures that the
family line will continue so investing in an area of land or in a city becomes worthwhile. God gives fetuses to women to balance uneven relationships.
Since Rachel and Jacob hate Leah, God opens Leah’s womb and leaves Rachel Barren. God gave Leah three sons to compel Jacob to need Leah. After the
sisters’ maids bore Jacob children and Leah had more children, God finally opens Rachel’s womb. Rachel has a second son and dies after the hard labor.

(comparisons with other texts)

Eating fruit: Adam, Eve, and Persephone all become aware of their sexuality from eating fruit. The fruit also marks a separation between parent and
child where God is the parent figure in Genesis. With the attainment of sexual knowledge, the characters from both texts step into adulthood. They
remove responsibility for their actions from themselves. Eve attributes responsibility to the serpent and Persephone blames Hades. This way, their deeds
were reactions to a temptation, and not premeditated intentions. Persephone is tied to Hades by eating, but Adam and Eve are exiled.
Dreams: In the Iliad, Agamemnon is sent a dream of victory but he loses.
Dreams in the bible are portents of truth. Joseph’s two dreams about bushels of wheat bowing to him and stars and the moon bowing to him are signs
that his brothers will be subordinate to him. The pharaoh’s dreams about seven skinny cows and seven fat cows, and seven ears of full corn and seven
ears of thin corn correctly predicted dreams that his brothers’ bushels of wheat bow down even years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Punishments: The entire city of Thebes suffers because Oedipus killed Laius. Similarly, God would have punished Abimelech’s entire kingdom if he
had sex with Sarah. Things happen to the nation on behalf of an individual.
Virginity: Virginity is valuable and important in Hymn to Demeter and Genesis.
Burial: Proper burial is important in Genesis (Sarah) and in the Odyssey.

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Gift vs. Exchange: Any gift that Jacob gives to Esau is Esau getting back what was his in the first place. Abraham insists on paying for the cave for Sarah
because he wants the land to belong to him forever. This is comparable to gifting and exchanging in the Odyssey, and the Iliad.
Curses: Clytaemnestra curses her son. Iphigenia is gagged so that she can not curse Agamemnon. Jacob says whoever took Laban’s idols will be cursed.
Sacrifices: When Noah leaves the ark he sacrifices animals to god and Abraham sacrifices a ram when God says he can spare Issac. Sacrifices are
important in the Iliad, Odyssey and Hymn to Demeter.
Homosexuality: Sodom is destroyed in part because of its evil homosexual practices, but in the Symposium, homosexuality is more virtuous.

(close reading: creation stories)

Differences between the two creations stories exemplify the multiple authorships in the Bible. The importance of beginnings is emphasized by having
two distinct descriptions of them.

Creation A
1. The first creation story has a high level of generality. God starts by creating very abstract categories and moves to more specific categories. (lightàday
and nightàliving creaturesàman) Creation A illustrates the imposition of order on chaos. The process follows a certain order. The most basic units are
established first and then built upon to make higher and more complicated units. The beauty of the order of creation is celebrated.
2. The replicated use of parallel structures makes any deviation from the parallel structure stand out. For example, the use of “and it was good” verses
“and it was so.” Each new day starts with “And then God said,” until the paragraph where god creates man, which starts, “Then god said.” After God
created man, the text returns to using, “And then God said.”
3. An emphasis is placed on the fertility of humans and how they should be fruitful and multiply. Family Tree

Adam – (Eve)
Creation B
1. Starts en medias res Cain Seth Abel
2. The repeated use of ‘and’ causes horizontal movement. Nothing is subordinate to anything ---------------------
(Many generations)
else. “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…And out of the ground the LORD ---------------------
God made to grow every tree.” The creation of man and plants are explained in very similar Noah
terms where man is not explicitly superior to plants.
Ham Shem Japheth
3. The two adjectives used in the main section detailing creation (2:5-10) are “pleasant,” and ---------------------
“good.” “The LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for (Many generations)
food.” Aesthetics are mentioned before food, which is essential for survival, but Adam and Eve Abram-(Sarai)
become aware of their bodies as visual spectacles after they eat the fruit. ---------------------
Ishmael Isaac- (Rebekah)
4. Since woman is created as a companion for man, the emotional ties between men and women
are explained. Esau Jacob-(Leah and Rachel: Laban’s daughters,
Bilhah, Zilpah: maids.)
CREATION A CREATION B Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon,
Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin, and
Plural God Singular God
“God” “the LORD God”
Man made last. Everything made for man. Man created first.
Created in 6 days Created in one day
Speech acts then rests Growing and making Bold indicates the husband of the women in the
God is distant and all powerful God is humanlike parenthesis and the father of the children listed
All things come from God’s speech acts. All things come from the earth. in the next generation.
Women and men equal. Women are subordinate to man.
---------- the dashed lines separate generations.
Old Testament

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(plot summary)
There are two stories in Job- the framing story which is 2.5 chapters long, and the interior story, which is written in poetry and is 40 books
long. The beginning prose introduces Job as a ‘blameless and upright’ man who was very prosperous. God converses with Satan, and brags about Job’s
goodness. Satan then challenges God to test Job. God does indeed test Job and in one day four messengers come to Job reporting that his fields,
livestock, servants, and children have all been burned or perished. In response to this Job still praises God, which causes Satan to request another test.
This time God afflicts Job himself. Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to mourn with him and the poetry section of the text begins. Job
begins to speak after seven days and a situation similar to that in The Symposium ensues with each of the men speaking several times on the subject of
suffering (chapter 3-31). The men tell stories and Job questions God and the reasons for suffering. Job, who has faith in the legal system, speaks of
meeting with God and putting him on trial. Zophar leaves before the third round of speeches and is replaced by Elihu, who is very young. Job pays no
attention to the speech that Elihu makes. Job rests his case in chapter 31 and the Theophany, or seeing of God, takes place from 38-42. Job questions God
although differently than he had practiced earlier, and God questions Job to prove that Job knows nothing. Job admits to God’s unlimited power and
‘repents in dust and ashes” (42:6). The prose then returns for the last half of chapter 42, when He returnes to Job his health and two fold his previous

(historical context)
The bible deals with knowledge of suffering and Gods role. Not much is know about Job except that is was written between the 9th and 11th
centuries B.C. The authors are not known however it is thought that the prose was written well before the poetry. For one of the first time the subject of
individual responsibility is brought into question as opposed to the group responsibility that was assumed earlier.

(major characters)
Job- Job is a God fearing man who God blessed with good fortune because of his goodness. Job remains faithful during the first course of punishments
and then starts to question suffering as the text progresses. Through the conversations, Job wants to put God on trial because Job has faith in the legal
system and wants a reason for why he is suffering.
Job is a representation of mankind in totality here as he suffers even after believing in God. Humans, as Job does, want to have reasons for
their suffering and pain. Yet through this search for understanding in the end the only thing Job understands is the power of God and that there is no
justification for his actions.

God- In this text, God tends to be condescending especially compared to Genesis. He asks Job who he is to question his power. God tests Job only to
appease Satan and will provide no explanation to Job as to why he made him suffer. Instead God is sarcastic and put Job back in his place. When Job
questions God and essentially put him on trial, God proves that he is above the legal process and above anything human. Because of his power and
absoluteness he does not need to answer questions from a human.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar- Job’s three friends serve as a forum for suffering and God’s ways to be discussed. Eliphaz know from experience and tries
to give advice via that pathway whereas Zophar knows because of the divine. And so, a balance is being stuck as they lament over why God would
make them suffer. Their stories become increasingly more unreasonable as the text progresses.

Satan- Satan is not bad as we think of him to be bad, but rather the representation of the opposite of God. Satan is also a heavenly being and therefore
can talk to God. Satan persuades God to test Job and to see if Job is good because he actually believes in God or because he has been prosperous.

(understanding suffering)

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Humans have trouble understanding why the God that loves them and created them allows them to suffer. The move to individual
responsibility comes into play in this text and Job questions why he, who is a faithful man, is being punished while his neighbor, who is a sinful man, is
being rewarded. Job thinks that the legal system is the answer to his problems because the legal system is a way of questioning the party who has done
wrong and finding out why they did this thing. However God appears and Job does not follow through with his plans of interrogating God. Instead
God interrogates Job and shows Job that not everything is suppose to make sense. Some things, such as God, are above reason and do not need reason to
perform/ carry out a task and he even says that his power is beyond divine justice and humans should not expect justification.
This tension is amplified for the reader, as he knows that God is only punishing Job because Satan challenged him.
• 1:1 Job believes blindly and is faithful
• 3 Job curses the day that he was born
• 9 Job was to contend with God and bring him to trial
• 10 Job is dissatisfied with God and questions why humans were made
• 3-31 the four men question why suffering exists and why God inflicts it
• God comes and uses rhetorical questions to prove that Job and humans are not worthy of questioning God
• God emphasizes that he is far above courts of law and he does not have to justify what he does to humans
God does say that while humans are nothing compared to him, they are still important to him.

(human shortcomings)
Another main theme and one that ties in closely with the previous one is that of human shortcomings. Beginning with Job praying for the sin
of his children it is known that humans are not perfect and they do not worship perfectly. Job then falls by cursing his own birth and then when God
comes further along, Job realizes that speech is an imperfect way of believing, even though God had to show himself and speak to Job for Job’s faith to
be restored. Sight is a much more powerful way of knowing and seeing God is to realize all that you don’t know. Job has this epiphany and realizes the
complete awesomeness of God in comparison to himself, while Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are stuck on the physical magnitude of God. Job
understands that because he is human he cannot fully comprehend all that is God and all that God does.

(close readings)
Chapter 28-31- This speech of questioning delivered by Job is central to the human’s confusion concerning God. Job compares humans to gems and
metals that are removed from the earth and darkness, or unknowing in the case of the humans, to be polished into bright silver or knowing of the glory
of God. He shows all that man can do and know in comparison to animals in 28:7-11. Job knows that man can accomplish much on his own and is able
to know much.
In 28:12 Job addresses what he does not know. He asks the source of wisdom and how it, unlike silver, cannot be found just by looking. The
value of wisdom is that above any earthly product and Job says that God is the only one who knows how to obtain it. The fear of the lord is wisdom. Job
goes on to explain that he had the fear of God and that everything he did was for the Lord but now he is made fun of and has been humbled by God.
This speech highlights why Job, and men in general, are baffled by the act of God and are confused about the way to wisdom. Job was
innocent, always fearing God, and yet God turned on him and struck him down. This behavior is troubling to the humans who do not understand how
the Lord works. The main argument of Job lies in this speech and the unrest of humans is found in his words. God speaks in response to this speech
saying that Job has no right to have any of these questions.

(connections to other texts)

Like The Symposium, this is a discussion of something abstract by several people with differing opinions.
Odyssey- Job has had bad and good so he knows what good is. This is a more extreme example than the one found in the Odyssey

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41.11- related to Genesis and the covenant that Abraham has with God. The conflict between exchange versus giving and how since Adam everything is
an exchange rather than a gift. Also exchange in Hymn to Demeter

The Gospels of Luke and John

New Testament

(plot summary: luke)

The Archangel Gabriel visits Zechariah, who was a priest, while he was serving and tells him that his old wife Elizabeth is to give birth to a son whose
name is to be John, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit and prepare the nation for the Lord. Yet, due to his lack of faith, Gabriel makes Zechariah
mute until the birth of John. Six months later the angel goes to a virgin named Mary who is engaged to a man named Joseph and tells her that the Holy
Spirit would impregnate her with a son whom she would call Jesus, who would be the Son of the Most High and have an everlasting kingdom. In
Bethlehem, Jesus is born in a manger, and angels tell shepherds of His birth.

When Jesus is twelve, his family travels to Jerusalem for Passover. When they leave, Mary and Joseph think that Jesus is with their relatives, but they
cannot find him. They return to Jerusalem and find him in the Temple. Many years later, John begins teaching and baptizing and telling of He who is to
come (Christ). Eventually, Jesus is baptized and his lineage is traced back to Adam. Jesus then goes into the wilderness and eats nothing for forty days
and is tempted by the devil who mocks and taunts him for being the Son of God.

Jesus then begins to collect disciples to follow him, eventually finding twelve main me and later, seventy others. During Jesus’ ministries, he heals many
illnesses including blindness, leprosy, and withered hands, and he cures people filled with demons. Moreover, he resurrects numerous individuals and
also pardons the sins of many. All of this is done through faith. The Pharisees, however, constantly try to find flaws in Jesus’ actions, yet Jesus always
finds a way out of their traps.

Jesus tells numerous parables throughout the text; some of the major ones include: the parable of the brides waiting for the bridegroom; the parable of a
man who throws a party and invites poor people to it; the parable of the lost sheep; of the prodigal son; and the one of a man who plants a vine in his
home and is killed by the servants who tend it year after year.

Some major events and interactions during Jesus’ ministry include:

- Jesus Christ is in a boat with his disciples and falls asleep while there is a storm and He reassures the disciples that nobody would perish because of
their faith.
- He feeds the multitudes by multiplying the two fish and five loaves of bread that a young boy supplies him with.
- A rich man asks Jesus Christ what he has to do to achieve eternal life, and Jesus Christ tells him to obey the commandments and give away all of his
fortune, which the man admits that he cannot do. To this, Jesus Christ says that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than a rich
man to enter heaven.
- He tells the citizens to give Caesar whatever belongs to him (taxes)

Upon entry into Jerusalem, Jesus Christ prophesizes the end of the world, where one would see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and for those who
have faith not to lose it because they will be saved. He then eats for the last time with his disciples: he gives them unleavened bread and wine, and
washes their feet to show them brotherly love.

That night, Jesus Christ is arrested and put on trial by his enemies, the religious leaders of Israel. He is turned in by his astray follower, Judas, who sells
the secret of his location. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the area, finds Jesus not guilty, but Pilate knows that he must crucify him in order to
keep peace amongst the nation of Israel. Jesus is crucified and buried and then is resurrected on the third day following his death. He appears to his
disciples a few days later.

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(plot summary: john)
John begins with a explanation of the origin of Jesus Christ with respect to God (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God”). A
description of the birth of John the Baptist is provided as well. The text then skips some thirty odd years to the main part of Jesus’ ministry.

The first thing Jesus does in the text is to turn water into wine at a wedding upon the request of his mother. Later, he scolds the worshippers at the
Temple because they are selling in the House of God. He heals many individuals through faith; some examples include: curing blindness and the
resurrection of Lazarus.

Jesus is followed by people because they ate to their fill with him, but he tells them not to seek perishable bread, but everlasting bread from his Father.
Also, on numerous occasions Jesus tells his disciples that he will be leaving soon and that one of them would betray him, however, they can never
understand what he means by this. Eventually, while teaching in the Temple, some ask him to stop speaking in riddles and tell them who he truly is.
Once he does, some believe his story while others do not. Still, some Jews continue to ask him who he is, and he tells them that by now they are so
sinful that they no longer have the same Father as he does.

After more healings, Jesus eats his last supper with his disciples. There are few major differences in description when comparing this version to the one
in Luke. The few changes include that Jesus reassures his disciples that even after his death he will still be with them. He then washes their feet,
prophesizes that Peter will abandon him that night before the cock would crow three times, and sends Judas on his way to do his evil deed.

Jesus is arrested and when the soldiers come, Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek. Peter then cuts the ear of one of the high priest’s slaves.
Later that night, Peter denies being one of Christ’s disciples three times, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy.

Jesus is then put on trial and mocked for claiming to be the king of the Jews. Soldiers gambled for his robe which was without seam, thus fulfilling one
of Isaiah’s prophecies. On His cross was written “Here Lies the King of the Jews.”

Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb that following Monday and finds that the stone had been removed from the opening of the tomb. She calls Peter
and they find the linen in which Jesus Christ’s body had been wrapped in a corner of the tomb. Mary stands weeping outside the tomb and she see a
figure which is Christ. He tells her not to touch her for “[He] had not yet ascended to the Father.” Later that day, he visits the Apostles who are in
hiding for fear of the Jews. One of the Apostles, Thomas, is missing and when told that Jesus Christ had visited them, did not believe it was true. Jesus
comes later on to prove to Thomas that he had indeed risen from the dead. He then reveals himself to the disciples again by telling them where to cast
their nets when they are fishing.

(major characters)
Jesus – His name means “Lord, save,” and is also called Christ, which means “anointed one” and refers to his role as the Messiah, or Savior. As
described in the Gospels, Jesus is the Son of God – the very human incarnation of God – both God and human. He is sinless, has divine knowledge, and
is able to overcome death and return to visit his followers. The central character of the entire New Testament, the Gospels tell of his ministry, death, and
miraculous resurrection from the dead. Both Luke and John follow Jesus’ life, telling of the miracles he performs. John refers to him as “The true light
that enlightens every man” (John 1:9)

John the Baptist – son of the elderly Jewish parents Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were of a priestly family. Because his mother was previously barren,
his birth was miraculous. When an angel told his father about his birth, he was prophesied to “drink no wine nor strong drink,…turn many of the sons

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of Israel to the Lord their God,…go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the
wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17). His mission was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah
by baptizing people with water.

Mary – The mother of Jesus, she is impregnated by God, the Holy Spirit, while betrothed to Joseph, and still a virgin. It is the angel Gabriel who
announces her pregnancy to her, and she accepts the will of God. She is one of the few women at the crucifixion and burial of her Son.

Joseph – The husband of the Virgin Mary, and therefore the human representation of a father to Jesus.

Elizabeth - the mother of John the Baptist, daughter of Aaron, and wife of Zechariah. She was barren until she became pregnant with her son. She is also
a relative of the Virgin Mary, making John the Baptist a relative of Jesus.

Zechariah – the husband of Elizabeth, and the father of John the Baptist. On the occasion of Zechariahs’ duty of burning incense in the temple at
Jerusalem, an angel appeared to him, informing him that his prayers had been heard, and that his barren wife would bear a son.

Judas Iscariot – One of the first of the twelve disciples, and was personally called by Jesus. In following with Jesus’ prediction, Judas betrays Jesus for
money, to the “chief priests and captains” (Luke 22:4) after the Last Supper, and therefore is the cause of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The Twelve Disciples – The first twelve Disciples of Christ were: Simon Peter, Andrew, John, James, Levi, Philip, Bartholomew/Nathanael, Thomas,
James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot. In the Gospel of John, however, the disciple preveiously referred to as
Bartholomew is now called Nathanael. Christ appears to all of the disciples with the exception of Judas Iscariot – the man who betrayed Jesus. In the
Gospel of John, Christ appears to them twice for all except Thomas, who, because of his initial doubt, was absent for the first appearance.

Pharisees and Scribes – The Pharisees were one of the major Jewish groups during Jesus’ lifetime. They had political power and would read the Hebrew
Scriptures with strict literalism and legalism. Throughout each of the gospels, they are hostile towards Christ, constantly testing his character and
knowledge of law, as they feared that he might challenge their laws. The Scribes were experts in the law and interpretation of the scriptures, and were
very likely the legal counselors to the Pharisees. They were also against the “mission” of Christ, and were amongst those who plotted Christ’s murder.

Pilate – The roman Governor at the time of Jesus’ death. Although he declares Jesus innocent of any crime, he is pressured into allowing the crucifixion,
sentencing Christ to death.

Mary Magdalene – One of the woman followers of Jesus, and is one of the women who sees the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and who goes to the
tomb on the third day after his death to attend to the body. In the Gospel of Luke, Christ removes evil spirits from her, while in the Gospel of John, she is
the first person to whom Christ appears once resurrected.

Lazarus – John tells the story of his resurrection as the seventh and last miracle that Jesus performs in his gospel. In this miracle, Jesus raises Lazarus,
the brother of Mary and Martha, after being dead for four days. John interprets the significance of Lazarus’ story from a statement that Jesus makes: “I
am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John
11:25-26). Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, is typical of all human beings – with the presence of the Spirit of God, one is no longer dead, but instead partakes of
the (spiritual) life that is eternal.

Angel Gabriel – An archangel of God – a messenger who announces the future births of both Jesus and John the Baptist.

Joseph of Arimathea – The follower of Christ who secretly asks Pilate for the permission to take the dead body of Jesus for a proper Jewish burial. He
removes Jesus from the cross, covers his body in the traditional ointments and linens, and buries him in an empty tomb.

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(major concepts: luke)
Inversion (Chaismus)
Much of the structure in Luke is presented in the inversion style, which emphasizes the change in status between the world and the afterlife. Jesus,
the son of God, is brought to earth to live among the lowliest individuals rather than in luxury and comfort. This inversion allows for the
concentration on the afterlife rather than on the worldly: those who are poor now become rich after death, and vice versa.
Major examples include:
1) 3:5 – “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low…” Jesus is quoting Isaiah’s prophecy and begins the pattern of
2) 6:20-26 – Jesus preaches to the disciples that those who are poor will reap in heaven, while those who have plenty now shall hunger later
3) 12:3 – Jesus speaks to his disciples: “Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms
shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
4) 16:19-31 – Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man, in which the poor and sick Lazarus becomes comforted in heaven, while the rich man
suffers in Hades
5) 17:33 – Jesus speaks the disciples about gaining everlasting life: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve
This technique of inversion is present in all three levels of Luke: the structural form of the sentence, in the parables and miracles, and finally, in the
general theology of Christianity (Jesus comes to save the sinners and not the rich). At the same time, however, it is important to note that some of
the inversions have no counterparts: in many of the miracles, the blind or the mute are given the ability to see or speak, respectively, and yet, there
is no foil—no one is made blind literally. Yet, spiritually, those who have no faith in Jesus (and thus cannot reap the benefits of his powers) are
blind to his works and his divinity.

Faith is of primary consideration in Luke rather than the idea of obedience, which is found in Genesis. While the two may appear to be equivalent,
no physical action is necessary to prove one’s faith—only spiritual and emotional responses are considered. The idea of faith is prevalent
throughout the text, particularly in the context of the miracles and the parables, where the faithful are blessed and the faithless criticized.
Major examples:
1) 8:43-48 – While passing through a city, Jesus is mobbed by people and a sick woman touches Jesus’ clothes so that she may be healed. Jesus stops
and demands to know who touched him. The woman professes her faith, and Jesus responds, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in
2) 19:35-43 – Once again, Jesus heals a blind man because he claimed his faith in Jesus.
3) Numerous parables deal almost exclusively with the idea of faith to God and the rewards that follow (The Faithful Steward in 12:42-8 and the
Prodigal Son in 15:11-32 are key).
In the midst of all this faith, there are instances of faithlessness: the actions of the disciples are good instances. For example, the disciples are never
truly convinced of Jesus’ divinity; they continually question him, and even when he has risen again, some still do not believe—and yet, they are
chosen by Jesus to continue his work. Furthermore, Peter refuses to acknowledge his relationship to Jesus after Jesus is captured. Although this
was predicted by Jesus, Peter’s faithlessness should still be noted.

(major concepts: john)


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The idea of life after death is of main concern in John, as it was in Luke, as well. Jesus comes to earth in the interest of saving souls and offering
“eternal life” (3:16 and 12:47). This is the essence of Jesus’ ministries, and therefore John’s account of Jesus’ life. While Jesus travels, he often
speaks that those connected with the world will not cannot reap the benefits of the afterlife:
1) 8:23-4 – Jesus speaks in the temple: “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” This idea connects with
Jesus’ sayings that it is only through him that man can come to heaven (14:6).
2) 12:20 – In a parable about a seed, Jesus says, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
3) 17:9 – Jesus prays to God: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me.” By not praying/speaking for the world, and
those associated with it, Jesus excludes them from the possibility of a blessed afterlife.
Yet, then the question remains as to how does one actually leave the world, become favored by Jesus, and live fruitfully in the afterlife. Jesus
speaks of worship (4:22-23), faith by following (8:12), and obedience in the form of love (14:23) as the keys to a blessed eternal life.

Stasis/The Essence of Existence

John is a text that is very stationary in terms of syntax. Rather than incorporating verbs of action and describing the progress of events, ideas and
individuals are described only in the context that is relevant to the text. For example, the narrative begins by describing the creation of the world
and incorporating Jesus into the creation (something Genesis does not do). The text then skips directly to the start of Jesus’ ministry, skipping thirty
years in his life to the part that is of main interest. Therefore, there is no idea of “becoming” in John, only existence in the present is valued.
Also, as was previously discussed in class, the opening lines of the text (1:1-5) reflect the stasis nature of the text: verb usage is limited to stationary
words such as “was” and “has.” This is rather odd for a text that is describing the creation of the entire world, which should theoretically be full of
action and moving events. Instead, the text expresses this creation with minimal action: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him…” (1:1-3).

(gospel comparisons: quick notes)

1) Parable v. Metaphor
Luke relies more heavily on the parable style (Jesus tells a story that is related his mission on earth) to convey his message to the public,
whereas John uses the metaphor (Jesus is “the Word” [1:14], “the bread of life” [6:35], the “good shepherd” [10:14], and “the true vine” [15:1]
throughout the text.).
2) Presence of Jesus
Jesus is frequently present in Luke, while in John Jesus is constantly going away form the masses and spending time alone. For example, in
John 7:10 Jesus leaves his disciples and “[goes] up, not publicly, but in private.” Also, in John, Jesus speaks much less frequently than in Luke.
3) The Human and Divine Sides of Jesus
Luke: Jesus is in theory a biological descendant of God (while Jesus has no relation to Joseph, Luke incorporates a long listing of descendents)
and is born of Mary. In the divine sense, he is metaphorically associated as the Son of God.
John: Physically, Jesus is the manifestation of the Word into flesh (1:14), with no direct ties to the earth or Mary as his mother (oddly enough
however, Mary is referred to on numerous occasions as Jesus’ mother—19:25 is an example). On a spiritual level, Jesus is divine as the true
Son of God, no questions asked.

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(close readings)
Luke, 6:20-46
The passage from chapters 20 to 46 describes the kingdom of Christ, and what it means to reach it. Christ delineates that suffering in this
world will be rewarded in the next (the next being an everlasting kingdom). In chapters 20 to 26, he classifies people into categories which
will rejoice on the day of judgment (i.e. those who are hungry, persecuted unjustly and not consoled), and which will be led to demise on that
day (i.e. the rich, the satiated and those who live in luxury). In the following chapters (27-46) Jesus tells his followers how to live their lives,
with the “new commandment” he has given them (this commandment being to love one another and forgive those who do us wrong), and to
live their lives without passing judgment on others and giving as much as they can and with all their hearts.

This passage encompasses the “chiasmus” of the Gospel according to Luke. Here, as before, there is an emphasis on the switching of roles
that occurs as a result not of acquired wealth, but of deeds done in one’s lifetime. The “inner self” is brought into light, a concept that governs
much of Jesus’ teachings. It is a self which must be in contact with God, and which must have faith in the power that God has to redeem and
to make good what begins as bad: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke, 6:21). The “chiasmus” (or reversal of roles
which have opposite endpoints but cross paths on their ways there) of this passage maps out what is now and what will happen. It reinforces
the duality of life and how the afterlife is something completely different and unknown to the rules of man; for example, Jesus does not have
to prove to the Pharisees anything and does not wash himself before dining with them. It is though this inversion that Jesus brings to light in
his new way of living. In fact, this inversion becomes more of a way to dissolve the past and start anew with his followers than it is an
addition onto the old rules. On the final day of judgment, there will be more chiasmus and during this time, they will be made literal. In the
end of this passage, readers become aware that it is a person’s faith which lifts them to an eternal life.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from
the Father, (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was
before me.’”) And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth
came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”
(John 1:14-18)

The passage in verses14-18 explains the significance of Christ’s appearance on Earth. As John’s primary mission in writing his
gospel was to prove the existence of Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus’ deity is constantly emphasized. John describes metaphorically how God
became human in the body of Jesus, and the good characteristics that he embodies. John’s reaffirmation of Jesus as the Son of God is used as
further proof of his existence.
The structure used in the sentences is characterized by its use of repetition of sentence content by the rearranging its context. John’s
heavy reliance on the words used emphasizes his own belief in the extreme significance of Jesus’ words. Throughout the text, we know that
John uses Jesus’ words as a tool for the gaining of followers – the Word is the Spirit of God, and it is permeated through the body of Christ
and through his Words to the people who become his followers. These Words show the glory and grace of God. And because “no one has
ever seen God,” Jesus uses his words and therefore “has made him known.”

(comparisons to other texts)

1) Jesus and Dionysus – In both texts, the leaders of groups are trying to persuade people to follow them and worship them. In Luke, however,
those who follow Jesus are rewarded spiritually and in the afterlife. Dionysus promises only physical rewards.

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2) Family Relationships – Jesus tells many to leave their families (9:60-62) for “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the
kingdom of God.” In Genesis, however, the major theme that carries the text is generations and the importance of biological families. Luke, on
the other hand, deals exclusively with the bond between individuals and Jesus, and the new, spiritual family that is present with God as the

1) Love in Symposium, God in John – In Symposium, Plato describes how beauty is represented on earth in the form of beautiful boys, but their
beauty is not as great as the abstract form of beauty itself. In the same sense, God comes to earth in the form of Jesus, which then raises the
question, is Jesus imperfect? If so, how can Jesus be imperfect if he is a part of God (“the Word was God…and the Word became flesh”
[1:1,1])? This contradiction is one to be noted.
2) Worship v. Obedience – Genesis and Job call for obedience for God in order to receive blessings and rewards. John, however, claims that
worship and faith are the necessary elements to enjoy the rewards of god.

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(You Will Need It.)

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