Homer’s The Odyssey Background Notes
An Ancient blind poet The “bard” who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey between 900 and 700 B.C.
Homer did not compose each epic all at once: he told them in a series of short episodes that could be recited in an evening. • Editors, not Homer himself, organized the epics in 24 books.
The Epic… • A long narrative poem that tells the adventures of a hero • Used to teach virtues of a civilization
Characteristics of an Epic • A physically impressive hero (usually famous) • A quest or journey • A vast setting involving much of the known physical world • Descent of the hero into the underworld • Supernatural Forces • Glorification of the hero at the end
Famous Epics from Around the World • Iliad and Odyssey Greece • Gilgamesh Sumeria • Aeneid Rome • Song of Roland France • Divine Comedy Italy • Mahabharata, Ramayana India • Sundiata Mali
Heroes During Homer’s Time • Heroes were a special class of aristocrats, in between gods and ordinary human beings. • No matter what pain they may have experienced, they always displayed CONFIDENCE .
The Iliad • Setting: 10th year of the Trojan WarGreeks vs. Trojans • Theme: War • Important Characters: • Helen, the “face that launched a thousand ships.” • Menelaus, Helen’s Greek Husband • Paris, the prince of Troy • Climax: Trojan Horse (Odysseus’s idea)
The Odyssey • Setting: 10 years after the end of the Trojan War • Theme: A Long Journey • A Hero In trouble: • Odysseus, a Greek soldier trying to find his way home to Ithaca • People of Ithaca have forgotten about him • His war-hero status is not important anymore
“In Medias Res” • Means: “In the middle of a sequence of events” • The Odyssey does not begin at the beginning; it starts with Telemachus at 20 years old trying to figure out what to do about his missing dad.