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20090901-930 The Odyssey, Books 13-16 (Group 2)

Page history last edited by Valerie White 11 years, 2 months ago



     On September first, we completed the discussion of Xenia as it relates to Homer's work, The Odyssey.  Xenia encompasses the hospitable relationship between a host and his guest.  As discussed in class, Xenia mandates how people should act based on the Greek culture.  Homer repeatedly sticks Odysseus in situations where Xenia is exercised correctly and incorrectly.  As a result, we were able to identify what the Greeks considered civilized and uncivilized acts.  All of the different civilizations Odysseus encounters fail to be definitively civilized except for the Greeks.

     We also compared the Greeks values as they relate to our culture today. Similar to our own culture, the Greeks valued normal family relationships (no incest), society, and democracy (especially the Athenian form of democracy).  Our societies differed in the use of prophecies (birds in particular), the common act of slave trading by pirates or raiders, the raising of slaves alongside the King's offspring, and the host's willingness to perform Xenia even though the guest has done him an injustice or is running away for committing a crime such as murder.  Also, Greek women played a very different role in Ancient Greek culture as evidenced in Penelope's character.  In our culture today, a woman would not have suitors courting her in her own house and would not tolerate Telemachus' attitude towards her.

     The final topic of the lecture was about the different forms of irony found throughout the epic.  The three types of irony are: situational meaning there is a contrast between what is expected and the actual result, dramatic meaning the audience knows something the characters do not, and verbal meaning a character says the opposite of what is meant.


Word Count: 279




Passages including prophecies: 




"At his last words a bird flew past on the right,

a hawk, Apollo's wind-swift herald-tiht in his claws

a struggling dove, and he ripped its feathers out

and they drifted down to earth between the ship

and the young prince himself...

The prophet called him aside, clear of his men,

and grasped his hand, exclaiming, 'Look, Telemachus,

the will of god just winged that bird on your right!

Why, the moment I saw it, here before my eyes,

I knew it was a sign.  No line more kingly than yours

in all of Ithaca-years will reign forever!'"

(Book XV, lines 587-598)


     This is just one more example of the way in which the Greeks looked at signs and believed in prophecies as an foretelling of the future. 

 This passage is an example of the various ways Greeks used prophecy in a daily setting.  The bird flying by is a symbol that Odysseus will soon return and this event is repeated again in other instances.  In this example, the Pheaechians' ship is turned to stone as a result of King Alcinous's unfortunate prophecy.  In response to the incident, King Alcinous quickly sacrifices 12 bulls to Poseidon and promises to discontinues his tradition of supplying a safe voyage to strangers.


Passages including dramatic irony:


"Never another master kind as he!

I'll never find one-no matter where I go...

it's longing for him, him that wrings my hear-

Odysseus, lost and gone!

That man, old friend, far away as he is..."

(Book XIV, lines 160-170)


     Eumaeus does not know that it is in fact a disguised Odysseus to which he is professing his longing for Odysseus to come home.  Eumaeus goes on to speak highly of his blessed king Odysseus on page 443 while Odysseus is still disguised as a beggar.


Other Examples: Book XVI, lines 16-20



Passages on the civilization of a people:


"What are they here -- violent, savage, lawless?

or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men? (Book XIII, lines 227-228)


     Homer uses this repeated statement that Odysseus asks when he reaches a new land.  He questions the unfamiliar land and people that reside there.  This use of repetition is used to emphasize the importance of a civilized people to the Greek culture.


Other Examples: Book IX, Lines, 118-128, Book X, lines 126-136)



Key Terms:


Xenia- hospitality as it relates to a guest and his host, the three components include:

          Respect between the guest and the host

          Respect between the host and the guest

          A parting gift from the host to the guest


Delphi- where the Greeks went to worship.  There was actually a methane leak at this spot and this now explains how they came up with the prophecies.


Zenith- the top part of a curve

Nadir- the bottom part of a curve

These two words can be used to describe the Greek culture.  The Greeks would see their society as the zenith of cultures where the  the Cyclops would be the nadir of cultures.


Irony- a contrast between what is expected and the actual result; the three types add a variation to the basic definition:

         Verbal- one thing is said and the opposite is what was meant

         Dramatic- the audience knows something key that the characters do not

         Situational- something occurs that is in contrast with what was expected



Comments (4)

schhoun@... said

at 10:38 am on Sep 3, 2009

Er.. Been editting the wrong class period the whole time I think..

glartma@... said

at 9:16 pm on Sep 3, 2009

A guys I don"t wanna run the word count over maximum but I did want to include the fact that when compared to today the principle of xenia seems flawed in that they make it easy to be a greedy beggar, however i would have sated that in a more profounnd way .

Brian Croxall said

at 2:30 pm on Sep 4, 2009

This first set of notes is in general a fairly complete representation of the important things that we talked about on Tuesday. I was a bit surprised that your summary didn't have more details or examples of how xenia is seen throughout the poem (after all, we spent a good portion of class looking at such examples). In the place of the examples were the basic rules of xenia. In some ways these belonged more to the previous day of class, but since it's such an important concept (and because we did put them on the board again) it's not bad that they are there. The specifics of how our cultures are similar or different don't matter nearly as much as observing that we are learning about the Greek culture through reading the poem.

Your passages are good and very complete. And you've already figured out an advanced method for writing these notes: using the passages to flesh out what you've talked about in the summary (or even bringing in completely new points that you don't have space for in the summary). The one thing that needs to be corrected is that you are only allowed to have 3 passages from the class discussion show up on the blog. Without exception we will read more than just three passages in class, but one of your tasks is to choose the three best ones. Or the three that, when combined with your summary, create the most complete picture of the day's work.

For the definitions there are some mistakes. First, the name of the place of the oracle was Delphi. Second, while "zenith" and "nadir" aren't bad words to have in here, but their definitions shouldn't have anything to do with the Greeks and their culture. Rather, they are descriptions of particular points on a curve.

Overall, however, this is a good start.

Brian Croxall said

at 5:22 pm on Sep 11, 2009

You've made some improvements to these notes along the lines that I discussed in my response to you. I was a bit surprised that nothing changed in the summary as far as indicating that what's important is not so much the differences in culture as that we can through the text observe the culture.

You've trimmed the passages down to the right number. There are some lines of commentary that didn't get edited out as they should have (see after the first passage), and some of the explanations of the passages could be a little more robust.

Finally, the definitions have been cleaned up. Having the mention of how "nadir" and "zenith" were used in class is understandable, but the way it appears in the notes is a tad confusing.

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