Introduction to *.. The Odyssey

Experience the oldest literary form
Study and analyze the genre of epic
Study and analyze other elements of
literature (character, theme, etc.)
Look for archetypes
Enjoy a fascinating adventure tale
Today we will discuss three things:
Greek/Roman mythology, Background of
The Iliad and Odyssey, Hero Cycle
Definition: A traditional story rooted in
primitive folk beliefs of cultures
Uses the supernatural to interpret natural
Explains the culture’s view of the universe
and the nature of humanity
FYI: The two major, influential
deities that you need to be familiar
with are Poseidon and Athena.
Roman Name:
Jupiter (also Jove)
Supreme god of
the Olympians.
Fathered many
characters in
Roman Name:
God of the Seas and
Waters- tempestuous,
violent and cruel
“The Earthshaker”
The god who opposes
Odysseus is also quick
to anger, violent and
cruel at times to this
Roman Name:
Goddess of
Wisdom and War
a war goddess
who fights to
protect the
Sprang from Zeus’s
goddess who
favors Odysseus
Roman Name:
Messenger of
the Gods
Appears in
more myths
than any other
Nine daughters of
Zeus and
Inspired artists of
all kinds
Goddesses who
presided over the
arts and sciences
“He is happy whom
the muses love.”
Clio, Urania, Thalia, Melpomene, Erato, Calliope, Euterpe, Terpsichore, Polyhymnia
Roman Name: Parcae, Moirae
Three sisters
Clotho (“The Spinner”)
Lachesis (“The disposer of lots”)
Atropos (“The cutter”)
They weave, measure, and cut the thread
of life for humans.
In The Odyssey
One eyed
monster, son of
Sea nymph
bladder of a
creature whose
face was all mouth
and whose arms
and legs were
flippers and who
swallows huge
amounts of water
grotesque sea monster, with six long necks three times a day
equipped with grisly heads, each of which before belching
them back out
contained three rows of sharp teeth.
again, creating
is a minor goddess
of magic, a witch
and enchantress
It’s good to know, during the Odyssey when we talk about
3000 years ago also can mean 1000 B.C.E
B.C. = Before Christ
B.C.E= Before the Common Era
A.D. = After Death
A.C.E.= After the Common Era
Definition: Long, narrative poem about
the adventures of a hero
Shows values & beliefs of a culture
Includes a journey / quest
Encompasses vast setting (world)
Involves supernatural forces
Hero’s actions determine nation’s fate
Concern eternal human problems such as the
conflict between GOOD and EVIL
Written or told on a grand
in ceremonial style
scale and often
The hero is a great leader who is identified
strongly with a particular people or society.
The setting is broad and often includes
supernatural realms, especially the land of the
The hero does great deeds in battle or undertakes
an extraordinary journey or quest.
Sometimes gods or other supernatural or
fantastic beings take part in the action.
The story is told in heightened language
Invocation to the muse or other deity ("Sing,
goddess, of the wrath of Achilles")
Story begins in medias res (in the middle of
Epic simile (a long simile where the image
becomes an object of art in its own right as well
as serving to clarify the subject).
Frequent use of epithets ("Aeneas the true";
"rosy-fingered Dawn"; "tall-masted ship")
Use of patronymics (calling son by father's
name): "Anchises' son"
Previous episodes in the story are later
The epic hero is a “LARGER THAN LIFE PERSON” who
embodies the highest ideals of his culture and embodies LOYALTY,
PERSISTENCE, and many other traits of the Anglo-Saxon culture
The epic hero usually undertakes a QUEST/ JOURNEY to
achieve something of great value to themselves or society
Not a “Superman” with magical powers but a “REGULAR”
human whose aspirations and accomplishments set him/her apart
Overcomes great obstacles/opponents but maintains
Epic hero experiences typical HUMAN EMOTIONS/
FEELINGS, yet is able to master and control these human traits to
a greater degree than a typical person
The epic hero is an ARCHETYPAL character.
Adjective or descriptive phrase regularly
used to characterize a person, place, or
thing. We speak of “Honest Abe,” for
example, and “America the Beautiful.”
Homeric Epithet: compound adjective
that modifies a noun. Ex: “wine-dark sea,”
“rosy-fingered dawn,” “the gray-eyed
goddess Athena.”
Homeric Simile:
A Homeric or heroic simile compares heroic events to
everyday occurrences.
Example: “A man in a distant field, no hearth fires near, / will
hide a fresh brand in his bed of embers / to keep a spark alive
for the next day; / so in the leaves Odysseus hid himself,
(Lines 119-122)
The way Odysseus hides himself in the leaves to sleep is
compared to the way a burning coal is buried deep in the
embers to preserve a spark for the next day.
Iliad: the archetype of the war epic.
A story of the 10 year Trojan War
(estimated to have occurred around 1200
Began with Paris a Prince of Troy who took
Helen, wife of King Menelaus.
Odyssey: the archetype of the story of a long
journey; the long journey can be see as a
metaphor for living one’s life.
A story of Odysseus’ long and wayward
journey from the Trojan War.
Who was Homer?
No one knows for sure
Greek storyteller
composed the Iliad and the
Odyssey around 800 BC
may have been blind, a group
of poets, or even a woman
Trojan War was fought over Helen.
Although, their were underlying currents of tension as the Greeks wanted to
control the trade of The Mediterranean.
Menelaus, king of Sparta, wanted his wife back.
Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, gathered the army together.
Agamemnon got the wind to sail the ships to Troy by sacrificing his
daughter to the gods.
Greeks won the war through trickery, the Trojan horse, created by
Achilles, greatest Greek hero, died young in the last year of the
Agamemnon, killed when he returned home by his wife who had taken
another lover.
FYI: For many centuries it was believed that the 'Iliad' was a
piece of imaginative and inventive fiction . In 1870, however,
the German scholar Heinrich Schliemann began excavations
at the place where Troy was believed to have stood. He
satisfied himself, and eventually the rest of the world, that
there had actually been a war fought there. The excavations
revealed that several cities had stood on the spot before the
one Homer celebrated.
The Illiad:
Achilles’ role in the Trojan Wars
Achilles was the most important warrior in the
Greek ranks. His argument with King
Agamemnon led to his brooding and isolation from
the war. His friend, Patroclus, disguised in Achilles’
armor, leads the men into battle. Hector bravely
fought whom he thought was Achilles and killed
the youth. Achilles, in rage, reenters the battle
after the funeral of Patroclus.
The Iliad takes place in the 10th and final year of
the Trojan War
The Greek concept of a hero
In the Homeric epics, the heroes give the reader (or
listener) the impression that, in order to be the best, to
achieve arête, an individual must sacrifice for the
Greek heroes often had superhuman powers, though all
Greek heroes and gods had a classic flaw.
In the Iliad, Homer uses Achilles as a central figure to
illustrate the power of the gods, the role of fate in ones life
and the ways man should deal with the travails of life in a
way that continues tradition and protects the values of the
A hollow wooden horse the Greeks built,
supposedly to honor the Trojans.
The Greeks pretended to leave and the horse
was brought inside the gates of Troy.
When compared to its source material (Homer's The Iliad)...
 In the movie Troy was sacked about a month after the Greeks
landed, whereas in the book the siege lasted over ten years.
 Menelaus was not killed by Hector but instead outlived him and
went on to live with Helen until his death.
 Agamemnon was not killed by Briseis. Actually, he was,
according to the story, killed by his own wife and her lover, after
he returned home.
 Achilles was killed long before the Greeks built the horse, by one
arrow. He is killed by an arrow through his heel that was shot by
Paris of Troy. Thus, by the time the Trojan Horse is built and
wheeled into the city of Troy, Achilles is dead.
 Hector didn't kill Ajax; Ajax committed suicide.
 The Illiad ends with Hector’s family mourning.
The rest of the story is recounted in The Odyssey.
Where in the
Like Homer’s other epic, the Iliad, Odyssey begins in
medias res, or in the middle of things. Rather than open the
story with the end of the Trojan War, Homer begins midway
through Odysseus’s wanderings.
This is the primary story, the first and best example, the
archetype of the story of a long journey. Because the long
journey can be seen as a metaphor for living one’s life, this
story has been examined more closely. The Odyssey contains
the morals, themes and values of the Greek society about
adventure, hardship, and life.
Odysseus is a very human hero. More than his strength, which was great, Odysseus
was known for his clever and agile mind. It was he who thought of using the Trojan
horse to gain entrance to the impregnable walls of Troy.
The story of The Odyssey follows his wayward struggle to return home to his wife,
Penelope, and son, Telemachus, after The Trojan war
Odysseus, who was later called Ulysses by the Romans, was king of Ithaca, a small
island on the west coast of Greece.
By the war's end he had been away from home for ten years. He filled his ships with
treasure taken from the Trojans and set sail. Ordinarily the trip from Troy to Ithaca
would have taken only a short time. The Greek gods, however, decided that it should
take Odysseus ten years to reach his wife and son. During those years he and his
men endured a series of hazardous and remarkable adventures.
Religious Figures
Star Trek
Harry Potter
The Matrix
Finding Nemo
I, Robot
Batman (any of the films)
Spiderman (any of the films)
Ice Age
Lion King

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