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The philosophy of the ODYSSEY

  • R. B. Rutherford (a1)


The ancient critics are well known—some might say notorious—for their readiness to read literature, and particularly Homer, through moral spectacles. Their interpretations of Homeric epic are philosophical, not only in the more limited sense that they identified specific doctrines in the speeches of Homer's characters, making the poet or his heroes spokesmen for the views of Plato or Epicurus, but also in a wider sense: the critics demand from Homer not merely entertainment but enlightenment on moral and religious questions, on good and evil, on this life and the after-life. When they fail to find what they seek, they follow Plato and find him wanting.



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A slightly shorter version of the text of this paper was read to a meeting of the Oxford Philological Society in January 1985. Since then I have attempted to take account of some of the criticisms and suggestions made by my audience. I am grateful to Nicholas Richardson and Oliver Taplin for more detailed advice.

1 See further e.g. Pl. Rep. x 620, Antisth. frr. 51–62 Caizzi, Sen. Const. Sap. 2.1, Dio Chr. Or. lv, lvii, Plut. de audiendis poetis, M. Aur. xi 6, Max. Tyr. Or. xxvi Hobein, [Plut.] de vita et poesi Homeri 133–40, etc., [Heracl.] Alleg. Hom. 70 and passim. For the Stoics, see esp. de Lacy, P., AJPh lvi (1948) 241–71. For a very full and thorough history of such criticism see Buffière, F., Les mythes d'Homère et la pensée grecque (Paris 1956), esp. 365–91; also Stanford, W. B., The Ulysses theme 2 (London 1963), esp. ch. ix;Rahner, H., Greek myths and Christian mystery (Eng. tr., London 1963), esp. ch. viii.

2 Cf. esp. Sen. Ep. 88.5–8, with A. Stuckelberger's commentary; early instances cited by him include Anaxag. A1 D.-K., Pl. Prt. 316d.

3 Pl. Rep. x 607b ‘there is an ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy’; and for Homer as the poet par excellence see 595b, 607d1, and passim. Further, see Plut. aud. poet. 15c, i6a–d, 17de, etc. (with E. Valgiglio's notes on 16a–b); [Heracl.] Alleg. Hom. 1 πάντα γὰρ ἠσέβησεν, εἰ μηδὲν ἠλληγόρησεν; [Longin.] 9.7 init.

4 On the gods see esp. nn. 13–18 below. On the institution of ξενία, see Finley, M. I., The world of Odysseus 2 (London 1980) 95–103: see e.g. Od. iv 169 f., ix 125 ff., 267–80, 477–9, xiv 56–9, 402–6. Guests and suppliants associated: e.g. viii 546 ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου ξεῖνος θ' ἱκέτης τε τέτυκται. On supplication in the Odyssey, see Gould, J., JHS xciii (1973) 74 ff., esp. 80, 90–4. The pattern of hospitality and generosity granted (as by Nestor, Menelaus, the Phaeacians and Eumaeus), denied (as by the Cyclopes, the Laestrygonians and the suitors), or offered on certain terms or after delay (Calypso, Circe) is as vital to the poem's structure as to its ethics.

5 Cf. Rahner (n. 1) passim; Dodds, E. R., Pagan and Christian in an age of anxiety (Cambridge 1965) 100–1.

6 Anderson, W. S., in Essays on the Odyssey, ed. Taylor, C. H. Jr.,(Indiana 1963) 7386 on this episode; also Griffin, J., Homer on life and death (Oxford 1980) [hereafter Griffin] 59–60;Fenik, B., Studies in the Odyssey, Hermes Einzelschr. xxx (Wiesbaden 1974) 62.The temptation to forget home and abandon oneself to a softer, less demanding existence is another recurrent challenge for Odysseus and his companions (the Lotuseaters, life with Circe; the temptation of knowledge offered by the Sirens; Calypso, Nausicaa). On the Sirens see further Rahner (n. 1) 354 f.; Vermeule, E., Aspects of death in early Greek art and poetry (Berkeley and L.A. 1979) 201 ff. Vermeule 131 suggestively speaks of ‘Lethe, … the key theme of the Odyssey’; cf. Austin, N., Archery at the dark of the moon (Berkeley and L.A. 1975) 138–9. Calypso, as her name implies, seeks to conceal Odysseus, to rob him of fame and memory (cf. i 235–43); she beguiles him (i 55–6), trying to make him forget Ithaca (56 ἐπιλήσεται; cf. ix 97, 102, x 236, 472). In the Odyssey, importance also attaches to remembering or failing to recall the past: see, from various angles, iii 103 ff., iv 118 (contrast the drug-scene, 219 ff.), xiv 170, xix 118; also ii 233–4, xvi 424–447.

7 E.g. Eris, Hypnos, Phobos, Thanatos, Kudoimos, Ate and the Litai. For stout denial of allegory's presence in Homeric poetry, see Page, D., History and the Homeric Iliad (Berkeley and L.A. 1959) 303;contra, see West's, M. L. commentary on Hesiod's Theogony (Oxford 1966) 33–4;Clarke, H. W., Homer's readers (London and Toronto 1981) 64 ff.

8 E.g. Sen. Const. sap. 2.1, Tranq. 16.4, Epict. i 6.32–6, iii 22.57 with Billerbeck's note; Dio Chr. Or. vii. 28–35; Max. Tyr. Or. xv 6, xxxviii 7; Galinsky, G., The Heracles theme (Oxford 1972) chs. v and ix; Buffière (n. 1) 377.

9 The social dimension of the Odyssey means that we should not be concerned solely with Odysseus, but also with his people: see e.g. xiv 92 ff., xvi 360 ff., xx 105 ff., 209–25, xxi 68 ff. Further, H. D.Kitto, F., Poiesis (Berkeley and L.A. 1966) ch. iii, esp. 133–40. The suitors want not only Penelope, but the throne: cf. Thornton, A., People and themes in Homer's Odyssey (Otago 1970) ch. vi; Clarke, H., The art of the Odyssey (New Jersey 1967) 20–3; Finley (n. 4) 88–91, etc. For the passage from Book xix, see esp. West on Hes. Op. 225 ff.; also Aesch. Supp. 625 ff., Eum. 916 ff.; Quesnay, I. du, PLLS i (Liverpool 1976) 61–6.Havelock, E. A., The Greek concept of justice (Cambridge, Mass. and London 1978) chs. viii–x also discusses these topics.

10 On this issue see most recently the thoughtful paper by Gill, C., CQ xxxiii (1983) 469–87. Tacitus' account of Tiberius (esp. Ann. vi 51) is usually prominent in such discussions, but vi 48 (Arruntius' comment) shows that a more developmental model of character was available to Tacitus; conversely, modern accounts of personality also stress the emergence of potential and the development of already existing tendencies (which is what I essentially argue for Odysseus: cf. n. 41). The debates of the sophists (Pl. Meno 70a, with Thompson's n.; Clitopho 407b; Eur. El. 367 ff., I.A. 558-62, Antiph. B. 62, etc.) reveal a keen interest in the relative importance of φύσις, ἄσκησις, and διδαχή: cf. Guthrie, W. K. C., Hist, of Greek philosophy iii (Cambridge 1969), esp. 250 ff.;Dover, K. J., Greek popular morality (Oxford 1974) 8595.

We may distinguish between the development of a young man's character (scholars have long recognised the Telemachy as the ancestor of the Bildungsroman; cf. the case of Neoptolemus in Sophocles' Philoctetes), and the rarer but not unknown phenomenon of character changing once the personality is adult and mature. In early literature, besides the case of Achilles, see esp. Croesus in Hdt. i 207, iii 36 (another case of ‘learning through suffering’: i 207.1); Croesus advances in understanding sufficiently to assume himself the role of ‘wise adviser’ which Solon had played to him, i 30-33. (For a different view, see Stahl, H. P., YCS xxiv [1974] 1936.) Note also Adrastus in Eur. Supp. (n. 62); Soph. O.C. 7–8 (significant even if disproved by events, cf. 854–5, 954). And in Euripides the corruption of individuals through hardship or ill-treatment is a recurring theme (esp. Med., Hec, El., Or.). In comic vein, compare Ar. Vesp. 1457 f., Men. Dysc. 708–47 with Handley's n.; Ter. Ad. 855–81.

11 For the debate on Achilles see e.g. Griffin 50 n. 1; Wilson, P. C., TAPhA lxix (1938) 557–74; F. Hirsch, Der Charakter Achills und die Einheit der Ilias (diss. Innsbruck 1965).

12 Macleod, C. W., Homer: Iliad xxiv (Cambridge 1982) 23, speaking of Achilles.

13 See e.g. Dodds, E. R., The Greeks and the irrational (Berkeley and L.A. 1951) 10–11, 2935; Griffin 164–5.

14 See esp. Dodds (n. 13) 31–3.

15 Wilamowitz, , Der Glaube der Hellenen 3 i (Basel and Stuttgart 1959) 311–34;Murray, G., Rise of the Greek epic 4 (Oxford 1934) 145, 265;Calhoun, G. M., in A companion to Homer, edd. Wace, A. B. and Stubbings, F. W. (London 1962) 442–50;Burkert, W., Griechische Religion der archaische und klassische Epoche (Stuttgart 1977) 191–6 ( = Eng. tr., 1985, 119–25).

16 I allude particularly to Iliad xiii 1–9, cf. Griffin 131. Contrast Il. xvi 388 and context, or Hes. Op. 248–55, passages which imply that the gods maintain a constant surveillance over the doings of mankind. In the Odyssey, note esp. the contrast at vii 78–81 (the departure of Athene to Athens and her place of honour), juxtaposed with αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς … (81), as the all-too-human hero prepares to enter a new and unfamiliar society. Contrast also v 478 ff. with vi 41 ff. (C. W. Macleod, marginalia). For Virgilian developments of this vital contrast, see e.g. Aen. v. 859–61 (the falling, dying Palinurus contrasted with the effortless flight of the god); x 464-73 (developing the passage of Iliad xiii); xii 875–884.

17 Note esp. the tactics of disguise and deception that Athene adopts in relation to Telemachus and Odysseus (contrast her openness with Diomedes in Iliad v). See also vii 199–203: the gods' practice with the fairy-tale Phaeacians, who are akin to them (v 35, vii 56 ff., xix 279) offers a contrast to their behaviour with ordinary men. Further, H.Rose, J., HThR xlix (1956) 6372.

18 Note esp. that the Phaeacians are seafarers, protégés of Poseidon (and their king is his descendant, see vii 56–63).

19 So too in the Iliad Aphrodite favours Paris, whose view of life and whose amorous gifts are like her own: cause and effect are inseparable (cf. Il. iii 39, 64–6, 391–4).

The ‘piety’ of Odysseus is embodied in his sacrifices; compare the praise of Hector in Il. xxiv 34, 69–70 (cf. xxii 170, etc.; Griffin 185 f.; h. Dem. 311–2 and Richardson's n.). It thus remains ambiguous, and deliberately so, how far the gods favour mortals for their virtue and how much they are swayed by personal motives and consideration of their own τιμή. In the last book of the Iliad the poet seems to bring this question—whom and for what reasons will the gods support?—sharply into focus: cf. Macleod (n. 12) on xxiv 33–76 and add xviii 356–68. Cf. nn. 43–4.

20 Cf. esp. Il. vii 442–63 (Poseidon protests at the building of the Achaean wall). Here κλέος, human and divine, is the issue (451, 458): Poseidon is jealous of the Greek achievement. Cf. Od. xiii 128 f. οὐκετ' ἐγώ … τιμήεις ἔσομαι, ὅτε με βροτοὶ οὔ τι τίουσι, 141 οὔ τι σ' ἀτιμάӡουσι θεοί, (140 = Il. vii 455).

21 For the parallel between gods and kings cf. Griffin 186.

22 The epithets of Odysseus are studied by Austin (n. 6) 40–53; Whallon, W., Formula, character and context (Washington 1969) 6–9, 8791.

23 See esp. Stanford's absorbing study (n. 1), not entirely superseding a series of earlier articles by the same author.

24 On Odysseus in Sophocles see Stanford (n. 1) 104–11.

25 Richardson, N. J., CQ xxx (1980) 273. On Odysseus in the Iliad see Stanford (n. 1) 12–21, 25–9; Griffin 15–16; Folzenlogen, J. D., Cl. Bull. xli (1965) 33–5.

26 Contrast the deeper humanity and sensitivity of Achilles' words to Priam in Book xxiv, where again persuasion to eat is in question. So also in Iliad ix, Odysseus' highly rhetorical and calculated speech employs the arguments which would convince himself: gifts, glory and gain, with added touches of flattery.

27 See S. West's commentary ad loc.; G. Murray (n. 15) 129–30.

28 Lattimore, R. in Classical studies presented to B. E. Perry (Illinois 1969) 101 n. 41. I owe my knowledge of this essay to the late T. C. W. Stinton.

29 See further the surveys by Lesky, A., Homeros (repr. from RE Suppl. xi, [1968]) coll. 108–23;Heubeck, A., Die homerische Frage (Darmstadt 1974) 87130; H. W. Clarke (n. 7) esp. ch. iv. For speculation on the pre-Homeric Odysseus see Stanford (n. 1) ch. ii; Philippson, P., MH iv (1947) 822.

30 Cf. Schadewaldt, W., HSCPh lxiii (1958) 1532, Studi in onore di L. Castiglioni (Florence 1960) 861–76, both reprinted in his Hellas und Hesperien i (Zurich-Stuttgart 1960). For comment, see Fenik (n. 6) 208 ff.; Clarke (n. 7) 182–6.

31 These generalisations are doubtless questionable, and I would admit e.g. Euripides as a notable and influential exception; but a full defence of the assertion in the text would require at least an article of its own; I hope to return to the topic elsewhere. For ancient concepts of unity and diversity see esp. Brink on Hor. Ars 1 ff. (Horace on Poetry ii, 77–85); for unity of character, esp. Arist. Poet. xv. 1454a 22–36, Hor. Ars 125–7. For an interesting modern discussion, see Dihle, A., Studien zur Griechischen Biographie (Göttingen 1956) 6981.

32 Further, see Od. xi 364 ff. (Alcinous' complimentary remarks nevertheless associate Odysseus—and poetry—with lies: cf. Hes. Th. 27, Solon fr. 29 West, etc.); Juv. 15.16, with Courtney's notes; Lucian VH i 3. See also Suerbaum, W., ‘Die Ich-Erzählungen des Odysseus’, Poetica ii (1968) 150–77.

33 For further possible touches of bravado and boastfulness in the first–person narrative see ix 19–20, 160, 213–5 (this foresight seems somewhat implausible, cf. Page, D., The Homeric Odyssey [Cambridge 1955] 8), 442–5, 550–1, x 447 (?), xi 512, 524, xii 208–212 (contrast the humility of Aeneas in Virgil's imitation of the last passage, Aen. i 198–208). I would also include in this category xi 565 f. (contra Page, op. cit. 26–7).

34 228 ἀλλ' ἐγὼ οὑ πιθόμην echoes 44 οὐκ ἐπίθοντο (of the companions); cf. also 500.

35 See e.g.Fenik, B., Typical battle scenes in the Iliad, Hermes Einzelschr. xxi (Wiesbaden 1968) 222.

The episode is also disquieting because of Odysseus' possible blasphemy in 525, which already worried ancient critics: see Antisth. fr. 54 Caizzi, Arist. fr. 174 Rose, Buffière (n. 1) 370–1. Readers may differ as to whether this does constitute blasphemy, but if it does, the ancient excuses are certainly not sufficient to palliate it.

36 For this interpretation see further Reinhardt, K., Tradition und Geist (Göttingen 1960) 47124, esp. 65 ff.; also Fenik, Studies (n. 6) 161.

37 For ἀτασθαλίαι cf. Il. iv 409, xxii 104 (only); Od. i 7, 34, xxii 437, xxiii 67, etc. (normally used of the suitors). Note that Odysseus does later attribute ἀτάσθαλα to himself (below, p. 156 on xviii 139)—again an indication of his greater insight and his increased capacity for self-criticism.

38 There is a pointed discrepancy between Odysseus' account to his men (xii 160 οἷον ἔμ' ἠνώγει ὄπ' ἀκουέμεν) and Circe's actual words (49 αἴ κ'ἐθέλῃσθα)! Circe suspects that Odysseus himself will not be able to resist listening.

39 Cf. Griffin, J., Homer (Past Master series, Oxford 1980) 57.

40 On these lines see further Fränkel, H., Early Greek poetry and philosophy, Eng. tr. (Oxford 1975) 49;Moulton, C., Similes in the Homeric poems (Göttingen 1977) 104, 119. Note the reversal in xxii 383 ff., where Odysseus is the fisherman viewing his dying catch. So too xxii 388 (τῶν μέν τ' ἠέλιος φαέθων ἐξείλετο θυμόν) recalls the wrath and vengeance of Helios in Book xii; now Odysseus fills a comparable role (cf. nn. 73–4 below).

41 Telemachus too has to learn to conceal his emotions (as he fails to do in book ii) and to contain his wrath: see esp. xvi 274–7, xvii 484–91, xxi 128–9. This is one of many ways in which the development and adventures of Telemachus parallel those of his father: cf. n. 10, and PCPhS n.s. xxxi (1985) 138–9. Notice also, of Odysseus himself, xi 84–9, xvii 238, 284, xviii 90–4, xx 9–30. In xix 479 ff. (esp. 481 ἐρύσσατο), Odysseus restrains Eurycleia, as also in book xxii, when the nurse is about to utter a cry of exultation over the dead suitors (cf. n. 79).

Odysseus' self-restraint is not altogether a new thing: see Menelaus' narrative, iv 269–89, esp. 270–1 (271 ἔτλη), 284 κατέρυκε καὶ ἔσχεθεν ἱεμένω περ, and compare the description of him as ταλασίφρων in 241, 270. Both Menelaus' and Helen's tales prefigure later events of the poem (thus S. West on iv 244, comparing xix 386 ff.); either we must see Odysseus' endurance here as a thematic reflection of a major motif of the poem, or we may suppose that self-restraint of this kind, in a martial context, is exceptional but less demanding, more conventional, than Odysseus' later ordeals (for heroic ‘endurance’ see Macleod (n. 12) 22 n. 2; and for the qualities required of a hero in an ambush, Il. xiii 275–86).

42 On ἄτη see Dodds (n. 13) 5 f.; Barrett on Eur. Hipp. 241.

43 Contra Dodds (n. 13) 1–6, 13–16. This passage, like Priam's words to Helen in Il. iii 164–5, has perhaps been too readily treated as central in discussions of Homeric theology and psychology. Dodds himself observes (ibid 11) that we must distinguish between the poet's statements and the words of his characters (cf. Arist. frr. 146, 163 Rose); in the passages in question, Agamemnon seeks a portentous formulation which will appease his opponent without putting himself in a bad light; and Priam's generosity to the guilt-ridden Helen exemplifies his typical kindness to her (cf. xxiv 770). This principle also affects the view we take of the gods' concern for justice in the Iliad: the Greeks, believing themselves in the right, sometimes declare that the gods must think likewise (esp. as regards the breaking of the truce): cf. iv 157 ff., 235 ff., vii 350 ff; xiii 623–32. But the scenes on Olympus which the poet allows us to witness do not generally bear this out. See also Hutchinson on Aesch. Sept. 4–9.

44 See esp. Exodus vii–ix, x 1 (cf. Hdt. vii 12 ff., ix 109.2, etc.); A. Dihle, The theory of will in classical antiquity (Berkeley and L.A. 1981) 75 f., 198 n. 31. In the Odyssey, note especially the way in which Athene leads the suitors on into further crime: xvii 360–4, xviii 155–6, 346–8 = xx 284–6 (contra Lloyd-Jones, H., The justice of Zeus [Berkeley and L.A. 1971] 29, 31 f., 44).

45 Cf. JHS cii (1982) 149, esp. n. 21, adding Aesch. Septem 778, Ag. 709, and esp. Fenik, Studies (n. 6) 158 ff.

46 Fenik (n. 6) 208–232.

47 Cf. J. E. B. Mayor's comm. (London 1873) on Od. ix and part of x, on x 72, citing e.g. xiv 366, xix 275, 363 f.

48 On Aeneas' praemeditatio here (glossed by Sen. Ep. 77. 33 ff.), cf. Norden on 103–5; further, Nisbet-Hubbard on Hor. Odes ii 10.14; Rabbow, P., Seelenführung (Munich 1954) 160 ff., 182 ff., 344 ff.

49 Note esp. the skilful use of repetition at viii 166 (Odysseus' retort ἀτασθάλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας snubs Euryalus and caps his sneer at 164 οὐδ' ἀθλητῆρι ἔοικας). See also Alcinous' embarrassed speech at viii 236–55 (esp. 248–9; in 251–3 he has to revise his claims for his people, using the same phrasing as in 101–3!). As Plutarch observed, the tale of Ares and Aphrodite is appropriate to the pleasure-loving Phaeacians (aud. poet. 18F, 19F–20A). See further Lattimore (n. 28).

50 On these topoi, see further Richardson on h. Dem. 147 f.

51 Segal, C., Arion i 4 (1962) 1763, PP cxvi (1967) 321–42; Fenik (n. 6) 54–5; Vidal-Naquet, P., in Myth, religion and society, ed. Gordon, R. (Cambridge 1981) 90–4, 248 n. 58.

52 Cf. PCPhS n.s. xxxi (1985) 140143. I should also have mentioned there that from this perspective the notorious ‘recapitulation’ of Odysseus' adventures to Penelope (xxiii 306–343) corresponds to the full narrative to the Phaeacians in the first half of the poem.

53 Cf. the suggestive comments of Buffière (n. 1) 384; also Colin Macleod's review of Griffin, Homer on life and death, in London Review of Books 6–14 Aug. 1981, p. 21: ‘If the Iliad is “the poem of death” … the Odyssey might be called the poem of social existence, or, to use the more eloquent Latin word, of humanitas.’

54 See esp. Macleod, C. W., Collected essays (Oxford 1983) ch. i.

55 See Finnegan, R., Oral poetry (Cambridge 1977) 188–92, 226–7. In later Greece, we may compare the ‘court poetry’ of Simonides, Bacchylides and Pindar, though the Homeric influence enriches their encomia with an awareness of the temporary and fragile quality of their addressees' achievements.

56 There is a somewhat similar progression in the third book of the Aeneid. In 1. 273 the Trojan refugees pass Ithaca, and curse the ‘terram altricem saevi … Ulixi’ (cf. ii 762, etc.). Later in the book, the pathetic Achaemenides (an honest version of Sinon) supplicates them, presenting himself as ‘comes infelicis Ulixi’ (613). After hearing his tale and escaping from the perils which Ulysses had endured before him, Aeneas himself finds it possible to use the same epithet when speaking of Ulysses (691).

57 So Fenik (n. 6) 102–4.

58 Cf. JHS cii (1982) 158–60; add esp. Hornblower, J., Hieronymus of Cardia (Oxford 1981) 104–6.

59 Compare and contrast the world of the gods: in the song of Demodocus, although Aphrodite is caught in flagrante, she may depart with impunity (cf. n. 72), though there is some talk of compensation and surety (esp. viii 348). But this is a very different thing from the ‘payment’ Odysseus will exact. Note that the suitors do try to offer compensation at xxii 55–67, but Odysseus rejects their pleas in words that seem to echo those of the impassioned Achilles (xxii 61–4, compared with Il. ix 379–87, xxii 349–54; on the general question whether the Odyssey-poet knew the Iliad, see n. 87).

That the suitors are aspiring to the condition of gods is further suggested by the close analogy between Od. xviii 401 ff. (cf. xvii 219–20, 446), and Il. i 575–6 (Hephaestus). Everlasting and contented feasting is godlike: cf. Pind. Py. 10.30 ff.

60 The significance of this speech is also observed by Macleod (n. 54) 14, and treated from a more sociological standpoint in a thoughtful essay by Redfield, J. M., in Approaches to Homer, edd. Rubino, C. A. and Shelmerdine, C. W. (Austin, Texas 1983), esp. 239–44. For its legacy in tragedy see esp. Aesch. Pers. 588 ff., Ag. 1327–30, Eur. Held. 608 ff.; contrast the lighter, more hedonistic attitude deduced from the same premisses by the buffoonish Heracles in Eur. Alc. 780–96 (see further Bond on Eur. Her. 503–5). See also n. 62.

61 For instance, the father and brothers of xviii 140 can be related to the fuller version in xiv 199–210 (cf. xix 178–81); the ‘me quoque’ structure (138 καὶ γὰρ ἐγώ) and the reference to past prosperity are analogous to xvii 419–24 and xix 75–80, and so on. For other aspects of this and parallel speeches, see Fenik (n. 6) 185.

62 See further Odysseus' speeches at xvii 414 ff., xix 71 ff., Eurycleia's at xix 370 ff., Philoetius' at xx 194 ff., 205 ff., all of which reinforce these themes.

In tragedy, a further parallel is provided by Euripides' Supplices, in which we should note the fresh authority with which Adrastus, enlightened by experience, breaks his long silence at 734 (in a speech which echoes that of Theseus earlier, 549 ff.): see Collard ad loc. and on 634–777 in general. Acknowledgement of past folly and error leads the ὀψιμαθής to a clearer view of human rashness and of morality in general. Now Adrastus is to teach the young Athenians (842–3). Note also Soph. O.C. 607 ff.: Theseus is wise and compassionate (562 ff), but idealistic; the insight that Oedipus has gained through age and suffering means that he can see further than the young king.

63 On the scene, see the admirable discussion in Fenik (n. 6) 30–7; also Erbse, H., Beiträge zum Verstandnis der Odyssee (Berlin 1972) 143–65. Athene's practical motives are explained in xiii 189–93, which have been unjustly attacked by analytic criticism. Moreover, like Odysseus himself, she enjoys deception and partial or gradual revelation: cf. esp. xviii 160–2 (crassly handled by Page [n. 33] 124 f.); here, as in ibid. 191, the motives described are Athene's, not Penelope's (cf. Emlyn–Jones, C., G&R xxxi [1984] 912). On divine deception cf. n. 71. In Book xiii, notice the subtle ironies of 219–20, 230 (Athene really is a goddess; contrast the successful flattery of vi 149–52); 234 (εὐδείελος is elsewhere used only of Ithaca); and especially the mischievous delaying tactics of Athene in 237 ff. The phrases she uses there to describe Ithaca, before actually naming it, echo more explicit descriptions of their homeland by Telemachus and Odysseus himself (iv 605 ff., ix 25 ff.)—yet another self–conscious and creative use of formulaic language.

63a For Odysseus' name and interpretations thereof, see i 55, 60–2, v 340, 423, in contrast with the explicit etymologising at xix 407–9. In the first four cases Odysseus is the victim and sufferer, and the etymological play presents him as persecuted by the gods. In xix 407 ὀδυσσάμενος may be middle or passive; if middle, and active in sense, this again brings out the reversal of fortunes in the second half of the poem. Odysseus, who was dogged by ill fortune, now becomes the persecutor and punisher. See further Rank, L. P., Etymologiseerung en verwante Verschijnselen bij Homerus (diss. Utrecht 1951) 5260, who seems also to prefer the active sense here, as preparation for the slaughter. See also Stanford, W. B., CPh xlvii (1952) 209–13.Dimock, G. E., ‘The name of Odysseus’, The Hudson Review ix (1956) 5270, reprinted in various collections, is also suggestive, though some of his interpretations are wild. In general on significant names of this kind in Homer and elsewhere, see Rank, op. cit.; Pfeiffer, R., History of classical scholarship i (Oxford 1968) 45; Fraenkel on Aesch. Ag. 687, Collard on Eur. Supp. 497, Griffith, M., HSCPh lxxxii (1978) 83–6; and the brilliant discussion of Oedipus' name by Knox, B., Oedipus at Thebes (New Haven and London 1957) 127 f. (esp. O.T. 397).

64 Further, Moulton (n. 40) 132–3. Cf. xvi 25 and 60, in which Eumaeus calls the boy τέκος and τέκνον. The swineherd greets Telemachus as though he has been parted from him for ten years; Odysseus really has been separated from him for twice that time. The simile speaks of an only son, μοῦνον; compare the actual circumstances of Odysseus' house (xvi 118–20).

65 A further simile at xvi 213–9 marks the moment of acceptance and recognition by Telemachus and ‘caps’ the simile used of Eumaeus. By drawing a parallel with the loss of children, the poet stresses what might have been (Telemachus has just escaped the suitors' ambush). But the comparison with birds of prey reminds us of what is in store, revenge and punishment (for warriors compared with birds see e.g. Il. xiii 531, xvi 428, Od. xxiv 538; Moulton [n. 40] 35). Thus the similes are complementary; but whereas the first seemed to mark a conclusion, with the long-lost son happily home, the second looks ahead to new and destructive action. The sinister implications of the comparison are intensified in Aeschylus' imitations (Ag. 49–59, Cho. 246–9).

66 For a fine treatment of this scene, see Emlyn-Jones, C., G&R xxxi (1984) 114 (besides its positive merits, his article decisively refutes the mistaken view, held in various forms by different critics, that Penelope recognises Odysseus, whether subconsciously or otherwise, before the dénouement of Book xxiii). Judicious observations also in Fenik (n. 6) 39–46. Buffière (n. 1) 310 points out the contrast between Odysseus' selfdiscipline and the suitors' brash and emotional responses to Penelope's appearances.

67 On the phrasing here see Macleod (n. 12) 41. On the stylistic devices of this passage see also Denniston, J. D., Greek prose style (Oxford 1952) 80. Note that the key word τήκετο was also used of Odysseus' weeping at the end of Book viii (522).

68 On recognition in Homer and tragedy see esp. Arist. Poet. xiv and xvi; also Satyrus, vita Eur., fr. 39. vii Arrighetti. For modern studies see Solmsen, F., Kl. Schriften iii (Hildesheim 1982) 3263;Richardson, N. J., PLLS iv (Liverpool 1983) 219235.

For the testing-theme, see esp. Od. xi 442 ff., 454–6, xiii 336, xiv 459, xv 304, xvi 304–5, xvii 363, xix 45, 215, xxiii 108–10, 114 πειράӡειν, 181, 188, 202, 206. Anticipations of the theme do appear in the first half, e.g. at ix 74; but there Odysseus' expedition is imprudent, and no effective test takes place. See further Thornton (n. 9) ch. iv; Havelock (n. 9) 163–76.

69 Cf. n. 63. Note also how Odysseus' speech at 311 ff., after Athene has revealed herself, picks up and counters some of her phrasing: thus 312 ἀντιάσαντι echoes 292 καὶ εἰ θεὸς ἀντιάσειε; and each begins by praising the other and proceeds to criticise, Athene fondly and humorously, Odysseus with genuine chagrin. Such responsion between speeches is a frequent and highly-wrought Homeric technique: cf. Macleod (n. 12) 9–10, 52–3, and in the Odyssey compare especially xxiii 166–80 (n. 77 below).

70 Cf. esp. xiv 459, xv 304, xvi 304 f., xix 215.

71 See Fenik (n. 6) 38. On a grander and far from light-hearted scale in the Iliad, compare the deception or delusion of Hector, who is led on by Zeus to his disastrous end (cf. Griffin 41, 169). For deception of man by the gods see esp. Il. ii 1–83 (Agamemnon's dream sent by Zeus), iv 68–104 (Pandarus deceived by Athene with divine approval), xxii 214–299, esp. 247, 276 (Athene and Hector). Deception is again contemplated in Il. xxiv 24, but is ruled out by Zeus (71–2); in the end Achilles is told outright what is to happen and why (xxiv 133–40), and Hermes deals kindly, if not altogether openly, with Priam.

72 Cf. n. 59; and esp. the laughter of the gods in the tale: see viii 326, 343. Yet at the end of the story Aphrodite remains φιλομμειδής (362); she is unashamed and unrepentant (cf. Griffin 200–1). The laughter of the gods is employed to similar effect in the Iliad (esp. i 595–6, 599; also in the theomachy, e.g. xxi 389, 408, 423, 434, 491, 508).

73 See esp. Kearns, E., CQ xxxii (1982) 28.

74 Further, cf. Genesis 18.1 ff., 19.2; Richardson on h. Dem. 93, 96; Hollis on Ov. Met. viii 611–724; Kearns, art. cit. esp. 6.

75 Elsewhere in the poem the same pattern of encouragement and good news being met with disbelief is used with Telemachus (esp. iii 218–21) and Eumaeus (xiv 121–32, an important passage; 166–7, 361–8). The encounter with Eumaeus and his refusal to accept Odysseus' assurances foreshadow the more emotional ὁμιλία with Penelope: cf. Fenik (n. 6) 155, 157, and compare esp. xiv 151 and 391 with xxiii 72.

76 For seminal observations on the deceptive move here, see Arist. Poet. 24 1460a 18 ff., with Richardson (n. 68), esp. 221–3; Hor. Ars 150 ‘atque ita mentitur, sic veris falsa remiscet’, with Brink's note.

77 Further, compare above all the paired similes at v 394–9 and xxiii 231–40 (cf. Moulton [n. 40] 128 f.): these similes are complementary in their application and parallel in structure (note esp. the triple repetition of ἀσπάσιος in both). Also parallel and equal in length are the probing speeches by Odysseus and Penelope before the latter's test (xxiii 166–72, 174–80): δαιμονίη is answered by δαιμόνιε; both address the old nurse; both feign a concession while hoping for submission or revelation; both give instructions about a bed (171, 179). For further cases of affinity compare xxiii 168 with xiii 333–8 (Macleod, marg.); xix 325 ff. with 107 ff. (κλέος in 108 echoed in 333); xx 87–8 with 93–4 (telepathy?). The praise grudgingly given to Penelope by Antinous (ii 116–22) emphasises her exceptional intelligence; and her character throughout the poem reveals her selfcontrol and restraint. She is regularly ἐχέφρων (e.g. xxiv 294), as is Odysseus (xiii 332).

78 Cf. Stanford (n. 1) 57–9 and the note in his commentary on xxiii 182.

79 In xxii 409 Odysseus restrains the overjoyed Eurycleia (411–2 ἐν θυμῷ, γρηῦ, χαῖρε …οὐχ ὁσίη κταμένοισιν ἐπ' ἀνδράσιν εὐχετάασθαι). Contrast the typical behaviour of the Iliadic hero (cf. n. 35; Adkins, A. W. H., CQ xix (1969) 20 ff. on εὔχομαι et sim.). This again shows the authority and wisdom of Odysseus. It is not simply a matter of different rules for wartime and peace; the behaviour of Clytemnestra in Aeschylus (Ag. 1394 ἐπεύχομαι) or of Electra in Euripides (El. 900 ff.) makes plain the degree of callousness and pride which was conceivable, even if horrifying, in success. Note also xxiv 545, where Odysseus rejoices at Athene's command to make peace (χαῖρε δὲ θυμῷ, a phrase ridiculed by Page [n. 33] 114). Odysseus welcomes peace in Ithaca; to battle without cause, against his own people, would be folly indeed.

80 On Odysseus' lies see further Tranham, C. R., Phoenix vi (1952) 3143;Walcot, P., Anc. Soc. viii (1977) 119; Fenik (n. 6) 167–71.

81 Cf. nn. 58, 60–2 above. Does Od. xiv 156 f. mischievously allude to the famous opening of Achilles' main speech in Iliad ix, lines in which he implicitly criticises Odysseus (308 ff.)?

82 I am of course aware that the status of the so-called ‘Continuation’ of the Odyssey (xxiii 296–xxiv 548) is still very much sub judice, and it seems to me that there are good arguments on both sides. Those who are convinced of the spuriousness of the scene under discussion may be reassured to know that I intend to base no important conclusions on that scene alone. Arguments for excision, good and bad, are assembled by Page (n. 33) ch. v, esp. 111–2; contrast Stanford, W. B., Hermathena c (1965) 121; Erbse (n. 63) esp. 166–250; Wender, D., The last scenes of the Odyssey, Mnem. Suppl. lii (1978); Fenik (n. 6) 47–53. Moulton, C., GRBS xv (1974) 153–69 is perhaps the most balanced short account.

83 Page, loc. cit. (n. 82).

84 Fenik, loc. cit. (n. 82); also, with some additional points, Richardson (n. 68) 227–9.

85 It may be objected that to attribute complex motives of this kind to the hero without the support of comment from the author is to come dangerously close to the documentary fallacy. But Homer does sometimes leave the reader to draw his own conclusions or deductions (Griffin 51, 61–6), and if we reject authorial incompetence as an explanation, then the oddity of Odysseus' behaviour compels us to explore these possibilities.

86 Fenik (n. 6) 48–9 also sees this scene as the closest analogy to the encounter with Laertes.

87 Perhaps not only an analogy but a direct imitation, as Mr E. L. Bowie suggests to me. Achilles weeps with and for a substitute father, his true father being far away, helpless and grief-stricken (Il. xxiv 538–42, imitated (?) at Od. xi 494–503). But Odysseus regains his real father, and is able to do for him and his family what Achilles longs to do (Od. xi 496, 501–3).

The comparison of Achilles' fate with Odysseus' is prominent at the beginning of Od. xxiv, as it was in the first Nekuia: cf. Wender (n. 82) 38–44. In particular, Agamemnon's words at xxiv 192 cap his words of greeting to Achilles earlier in the scene (36), and strikingly modify a standard formula. 7 times in the Iliad and 15 times in the Odyssey, Odysseus is addressed with the line διογενές Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν' Ὀδυσσεῦ. Here alone the phrase is modified, and the line begins ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάι …, for only now could Odysseus be so described. Only Achilles and Odysseus are addressed as ὄλβιε in the whole poem, and it seems plausible to see the poet as measuring Odysseus against the great figures of the Iliad, and above all its hero. Already these characters are natural opposites: cf. further Pl. Hipp. Min. 365e; Hor. Odes iv 6.3–24. The Odyssey is often thought to be an attempt to rival the Iliad in scale (the Cyclic poems, to judge by the numbers of books recorded, were notably shorter); and, as [Longinus] 9.12 observed, it forms a fitting sequel, filling in the story since the tale of the Iliad with remarkable economy. For further argument, see nn. 59, 81; Heubeck, A., Der Odyssee-Dichter und die Ilias (Erlangen 1954) 39 (analogies between Od. ii and Il. ii); Macleod (n. 12) 1–4.

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The philosophy of the ODYSSEY

  • R. B. Rutherford (a1)


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