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Homer's Odyssey A Commentary   By: (1841-1925)

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Homer's Odyssey.

A Commentary


Denton J. Snider

The Sigma Publishing Co. 10 Van Buren St., Chicago, Ill. 210 Pine St., St. Louis, Mo.






ULYSSIAD 121 (1) OCYGIA 129 (2) PHÆACIA 156 (3) FABLELAND 231


ITHAKEIAD 396 BOOKS 13 16 (PREPARATION) 407 BOOKS 17 24 (EXECUTION) 461 (1) WRONG (17 21) 468 (2) PUNISHMENT (22) 495 (3) RECONCILIATION (23 4) 500




The Odyssey starts by organizing itself; it maps out its own structure in what may be called a General Introduction. Herein lies a significant difference between it and the Iliad, which has simply an Invocation to the Muse, and then leaps into the thick of the action. The Iliad, accordingly, does not formulate its own organization, which fact has been one cause of the frequent assaults upon its unity. Still the architectonic principle is powerful in the Iliad, though more instinctive, and far less explicit than in the Odyssey. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the poet has reached a profounder consciousness of his art in his later poem; he has come to a knowledge of his constructive principle, and he takes the trouble to unfold the same at the beginning. To be sure, certain critics have assailed just this structural fact as not Homeric; without good grounds, in our judgment.

The First Book, accordingly, opens with an Introduction which belongs to the entire poem, and which embraces 95 lines of the original text. This portion we shall look at separately in some detail, as it throws a number of gleams forward over the whole action, and, as before said, suggests the poetic organism. It has three divisions, the Invocation, the Statement of the Obstacles to the return of the Hero, and the Assembly of the Gods, who are represented as organizing the poem from Olympus. The Divine thus hovers over the poem from the first, starting with one grand, all embracing providential act, which, however, is supplemented by many special interventions of deities, great and small.

The Invocation. The first line speaks of the man, Ulysses, and designates his main attribute by a word, which may be translated versatile or resourceful , though some grammarians construe it otherwise. Thus we are told at the start of the chief intellectual trait of the Hero, who "wandered much," and who, therefore, had many opportunities to exercise his gift. In the second line our attention is called to the real starting point of the poem, the taking of Troy, which is the background of the action of the Odyssey, and the great opening event of the Greek world, as here revealed. For this event was the mighty shake which roused the Hellenic people to a consciousness of their destiny; they show in it all the germs of their coming greatness. Often such a concussion is required to waken a nation to its full energy and send it on its future career.

Note that Ulysses is here stated to be the taker of Troy, and this view is implied throughout the Odyssey. Note Achilles is the final Greek hero; he perished without capturing the city, and in his hands alone the Greek cause would have been lost. The intellectual hero had to come forward ere the hostile town could be taken and Helen restored. Herein the Odyssey does not contradict the Iliad, but is clearly an advance beyond it... Continue reading book >>

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