Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
FAQ, Books 13-24
Why doesn't Odysseus just come out and announce himself to everyone?
Odysseus keeps Eurycleia from revealing his return  This aspect of the plot seems very strange on the first reading. Odysseus appears a little cold and calculating. Why doesn't he embrace his son and wife, overcome by emotion, after not seeing them for so many years? Odysseus has been shown to be wily and crafty many times in the epic, and his indirect approach is in keeping with this aspect of his character. Also, the text makes reference several times to Agamemnon and his troubles. As Homer's audience would have known, Agamemnon comes home to a wife who has taken up a lover and stealthily kills him. Things change as time passes, and after 20 years, Odysseus can't be too careful.
Why does Odysseus lie all the time?
  Homer doesn't seem to care too much that his great hero is a big liar. He makes it out to be a sort of charming character trait. Once again, and indication of his cleverness.
Why do characters often repeat verbatim what others said earlier instead of giving a summary?
  Probably because it would have been slightly easier for a bard giving a performance to recite words that he's already said.
(13.98)Who is Phorcys?
  According to Hesiod, Phorcys is the son of Nereus and Gaia. He marries his sister, Keto, and begets the Graiai, sisters who possess only one eye and one tooth between them, and who pass them around as one of the sisters wants to see or eat. He also begets the Gorgons, the most notable of whom (as well as the only mortal Gorgon) is Medusa, whom Perseus slays. In general, he is the father or leader of sea-monsters.
(13.130) Why is Poseidon out to get Odysseus, and why does Athena always favor him?
  Poseidon is out to get Odysseus mainly because Odysseus mistreated his son, the Cyclops. Many of the gods' alliances with mortals stem from the Trojan War. In this war, Aphrodite favored the Trojans because Paris picked her out as the fairest of all the goddesses. (This is the fatal choice that started the war, since Aphrodite bribed Paris by giving him license to kidnap Helen, the incident that triggered the Greek assault on Troy). Athena and Hera favored the Greeks because they were angry with Paris for not picking them. Athena just seems to have a special affiliation with Odysseus, which could have to do with their matching attributes of cunning.
(15.453-464)Why did Apollo and Artemis come to the island of Syrie and slay each generation to death with their arrows?
  Apollo and Artemis are twins, and both are associated with the bow. The island of Syrie is some sort of fantasy land where the inhabitants never have to deal with hunger or sickness, and, accordingly, their deaths are relatively mild compared to men of other lands, as there are far worse ways to die than by the "gentle" arrows of Apollo and Artemis (note that Apollo is a god of healing.)
(15.533-538) If Artemis can bring such gentle deaths to the inhabitants of Syrie, why does she slay the mother of Eumaeus so viciously?
  Contrast the goodness of life at Syrie with the wickedness of Eumaeus' mother (selling her own son off to slavery in exchange for safe passage with the Phoenician traders!). The virtuous Syrieans experience gentle deaths, while the vile mother of Eumaeus suffers a rotten death and is thrown into the sea.
(16) Why doesn't Odysseus reveal himself to Telemachus as soon as he sees him?
  Keep in mind that Odysseus has been gone for twenty years, and he's never met his son (nor has his son ever met him.) In addition, he is dressed as a beggar until Athena intercedes, and Odysseus probably would want to make a better impression upon his son than the one he would have in those clothes.
(Book 22) When Odysseus takes revenge on the suitors, why is he so merciless in his treatment of the servants, particularly the women?
Suitors are disloyal servants are killedThis is another aspect of the story that is hard for modern readers to accept. Rather than try to explain it away by claiming that the servants somehow deserved their treatment, we are probably better off saying that the Greeks had starker notions of justice that we do today. All those involved in an evil situation, however remote their involvement, bear some taint. Also, it is clear from Odysseus' behavior that the Greek heroes sometimes just went over the top. Cruelty seems to be part of what makes up a Greek hero.
(22) Why doesn't Athena just rout the suitors, and why is Odysseus still afraid, even though Athena's told him he's going to win?
  The gods never like to make things so easy for mortals, even when they're on the same side. Odysseus certainly would not sit back and wait for Athena to make everything better, since he is eager for glory and eager to take back his house. Additionally, Odysseus, his son, and the herdsmen are far outnumbered, enough to make anyone in their place nervous.
Book 24 doesn't really seem to fit all too well. Doesn't the story really come to an end in book 23?
  You're not the only one who thinks book 24 is tacked on, and not well integrated with the rest of the narrative. Some scholars suggest that this part of the tale must have been added by a later author. Those who defend it as being important to the story suggest that it demonstrates Odysseus' inability to sit still, and is an appropriate conclusion to a tale about a wandering adventurer.
Timeline of Relevant Events
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