What is it in Homer's Odyssey that has so enthralled readers from around the world for thousands of years? By joining Professor Vandiver for these 12 lectures on the Odyssey, you'll find out why.
This literary exploration centers on a single provocative question about the epic poem's protagonist, Odysseus: Why does he long so powerfully to go home? To probe the depths of this question, you'll embark on meticulous, insightful examinations of the most important episodes in the Odyssey. In doing so, you'll understand the cultural assumptions that lie behind Homer's lines and the critical and interpretive issues involved in truly unpacking this ancient masterpiece.
Among the range of episodes, themes, and topics you'll explore are: Odysseus's superb skills as a rhetorician; the abrupt break in the text at the end of the "Great Wanderings" episode, when the poem briefly returns to the third-person narrative; Penelope's knowledge and motives as they relate to the inevitability of her suitors' doom; the effectiveness (or possible lack thereof) in the poem's ending; the historical basis for the Trojan War from which Odysseus returns; and more.
For anyone who's loved the stories of Odysseus's encounters with witches, monsters, and vengeful gods; for anyone who's longed to truly grasp the intricate nature of Homer's epic; or for anyone who has been looking for ways to approach a work that can often be intimidating to first-time readers, these lectures are an invaluable resource and a helpful introduction to the grandest adventure story in Western literature.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys,
after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel. Many were they whose cities
he saw, whose minds he learned of, many the pains he suffered in his
spirit on the wide sea, struggling for his own life and the homecoming
of his companions. Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness, fools,
who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God, and he took away the day
of their homecoming. From some point here, goddess, daughter of Zeus,
speak, and begin our story.
Then all the others, as many as fled sheer destruction, were at home
now, having escaped the sea and the fighting. This one alone, longing
for his wife and his homecoming, was detained by the queenly nymph
Kalypso, bright among goddesses, in her hollowed caverns, desiring that
he should be her husband. But when in the circling of the years that
very year came in which the gods had spun for him his time of homecoming
to Ithaka, not even then was he free of his trials nor among his own
people. But all the gods pitied him except Poseidon; he remained
relentlessly angry with godlike Odysseus, until his return to his own
But Poseidon was gone now to visit the far Aithiopians, Aithiopians,
most distant of men, who live divided, some at the setting of Hyperion,
some at his rising, to receive a hecatomb of bulls and rams. There he
sat at the feast and took his pleasure. Meanwhile the other Olympian
gods were gathered together in the halls of Zeus. First among them to
speak was the father of gods and mortals, for he was thinking in his
heart of stately Aigisthos, whom Orestes, Agamemnon's far-famed son, had
murdered. Remembering him he spoke now before the immortals:
'Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame upon us gods, for they say
evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own
recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given, as now lately, beyond what
was given, Aigisthos married the wife of Atreus' son, and murdered him
on his homecoming, though he knew it was sheer destruction, for we
ourselves had told him, sending Hermes, the mighty watcher,
Argeiphontes, not to kill the man, nor court his lady for marriage; for
vengeance would come on him from Orestes, son of Atreides, whenever he
came of age and longed for his own country. So Hermes told him, but for
all his kind intention he could not persuade the mind of Aigisthos. And
now he has paid for everything.'
Then in turn the goddess gray-eyed Athene answered him: 'Son of Kronos,
our father, 0 lordliest of the mighty, Aigisthos indeed has been struck
down in a death well merited. Let any other man who does thus perish as
he did. But the heart in me is torn for the sake of wise Odysseus,
unhappy man, who still, far from his friends, is suffering griefs, on
the sea-washed island, the navel of all the waters, a wooded island, and
there a goddess has made her dwelling place; she is daughter of
malignant Atlas, who has discovered all the depths of the sea, and
himself sustains the towering columns which bracket earth and sky and
hold them together. This is his daughter; she detains the grieving,
unhappy man, and ever with soft and flattering words she works to charm
him to forget Ithaka; and yet Odysseus, straining to get sight of the
very smoke uprising from his own country, longs to die. But you,
Olympian, the heart in you is heedless of him. Did not Odysseus do you
grace by the ships of the Argives, making sacrifice in wide Troy? Why,
Zeus, are you now so harsh with him?'
Then in turn Zeus who gathers the clouds made answer: 'My child, what
sort of word escaped your teeth's barrier? How could I forget Odysseus
the godlike, he who is beyond all other men in mind, and who beyond
others has given sacrifice to the gods, who hold wide heaven? It is the
Earth Encircler Poseidon who, ever relentless, nurses a grudge because
of the Cyclops, whose eye he blinded; for Polyphemos like a god, whose
power is greatest over all the Cyclopes. Thoosa, a nymph, was his
mother, and she was daughter of Phorkys, lord of the barren salt water.
She in the hollows of the caves had lain with Poseidon. For his sake
Poseidon, shaker of the earth, although he does not kill Odysseus, yet
drives him back from the land of his fathers. But come, let all of us
who are here work out his homecoming and see to it that he returns.
Poseidon shall put away his anger; for all alone and against the will of
the other immortal gods united he can accomplish nothing.'
Then in turn the goddess gray-eyed Athene answered him: 'Son of Kronos,
our father, 0 lordliest of the mighty, if in truth this is pleasing to
the blessed immortals that Odysseus of the many designs shall return
home, then let us dispatch Hermes, the guide, the slayer of Argos, to
the island of Ogygia, so that with all speed he may announce to the
lovely-haired nymph our absolute purpose, the homecoming of enduring
Odysseus, that he shall come back. But I shall make my way to Ithaka, so
that I may stir up his son a little, and put some confidence in him to
summon into assembly the flowing-haired Achaians and make a statement to
all the suitors, who now forever slaughter his crowding sheep and
lumbering horn-curved cattle; and I will convey him into Sparta and to
sandy Pylos to ask after his dear father's homecoming, if he can hear
something, and so that among people he may win a good reputation.'
Speaking so she bound upon her feet the fair sandals, golden and
immortal, that carried her over the water as over the dry boundless
earth abreast of the wind's blast. Then she caught up a powerful spear,
edged with sharp bronze, heavy, huge, thick, wherewith she beats down
the battalions of fighting men, against whom she of the mighty father is
angered, and descended in a flash of speed from the peaks of Olympos . .
Excerpted from "The Odyssey of Homer" by Homer. Copyright © 2007 by Homer. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.