The Odyssey Summary

The Odyssey became the second poem after the Iliad, the creation of which is attributed to the great ancient Greek poet Homer. According to researchers, the work was written in the VIII century BC, perhaps a little later. The poem is divided into 24 songs and consists of 12110 poems. Presumably, the "Odyssey" was created on the Asia Minor coast of Greece, where the Ionian tribes lived (currently Turkey is located in this territory).

Probably, the draft of the Odyssey does not exist. Nevertheless, many of the stories and mythological heroes mentioned in the poem already existed at the time of the creation of the work. In addition, in the poem, one can also find echoes of Hittite mythology and Minoan culture. Despite the fact that many researchers find features of Greek dialects in the Odyssey, none of the regional variations of the language corresponding to the work. Perhaps Homer used the Ionian dialect, but a huge number of archaic forms testifies to belonging to the Mycenaean epoch.

Summary of The Poem

Like the "Iliad," the "Odyssey" begins with an appeal to the Muse, which the author asks to tell about "the highly experienced man."

The poem describes the events that occurred 10 years after the fall of Troy. The protagonist Odysseus, returning home after the war, was captured by the nymph Calypso, who refuses to let him go. A faithful wife, Penelope, waits for Odysseus in Ithaca. Every day numerous applicants for the hand and heart are wooing to her. Penelope is confident that Odysseus will return, and refuses to everyone. Gathered on the council, the gods decide to make Athena their envoy. The goddess comes to Telemachus, the son of the protagonist, and encourages him to go to Sparta and Pylos to learn about the fate of Odysseus. Nestor, King of Pylos, gives Telemachus some information about the Achaean chiefs and then invites him to turn to Menela, in Sparta, from whom the young man learns that his father was captured by Calypso. Upon learning of the departure of Telemachus, the numerous brethren of Penelope want to ambush and kill him when he returns home.

Through Hermes, the gods give the order of Calypso to release the captive. After receiving the long-awaited freedom, Odysseus builds a raft and goes on a voyage. Poseidon, with whom the protagonist is in a conflict, raises a storm. However, Odysseus managed to survive and get to the island of Scheria. Here live seafarers, who have fast ships. The protagonist meets Navsikai, the daughter of the local king Akinori, who arranges a feast in honor of his guest. During the holiday Odysseus talks about his adventures that happened to him before he got to the island of Calypso. After listening to the guest's story, his new friends want to help him return home. Athena turned the main character into a beggarly old man. Odysseus goes to live with the swineherd Eumeus. Returning home, Telemachus was able to avoid an ambush, arranged by his mother's fiancés. Then the son of the protagonist goes to the swineherd Eume, where he meets his father. Arriving at the palace, Odysseus discovered that no one recognizes him. Servants scoff and laugh at him. The main character intends to take revenge on his wife's fiancées. Penelope decided to arrange a contest between applicants for the hand and heart: it is necessary to pass the arrow through 12 rings, using the onion of her husband. Only the true owner of the onion was able to cope with this task. Odysseus tells his wife a secret, which was known only to the two of them, so Penelope finally recognizes her husband. Enraged, Odysseus kills all the servants and grooms of his wife who mock him. Relative of the dead rise, but Odyssey manages to make peace with them.

Characteristics of the Hero

Despite the fact that the main character trait of Odysseus is heroism, the author does not attempt to emphasize this feature. Events take place after the end of the war in Troy, that is, the reader does not have the opportunity to assess the main character on the battlefields. Instead, the author wants to show completely different qualities of his character.

The image of Odysseus has two opposite sides. On the one hand, it is a patriot loyal to his homeland, a loving son, a husband and a parent. The protagonist is not just a talented military leader, he is well versed in commerce, hunting, carpentry and maritime affairs. All actions of the hero are guided by an irresistible desire to return to the family.

The other side of the Odyssey is not as perfect as the first. The author does not hide the fact that the brave warrior enjoys his adventures and at heart desires that the return home is prolonged. He likes to overcome all sorts of obstacles, pretend and go for cunning. Odysseus is capable of showing greed and cruelty. He, without hesitation, betrays his faithful wife, lies for his own benefit. The author points out insignificant, but very unpleasant details. For example, at the feast, the main character chooses the best piece for himself. At some point, Homer realizes that this was too exaggerated, and rehabilitates Odysseus, forcing him to mourn the lost comrades.

Features of the Work

"Odyssey" has a symmetrical composition. This means that both the beginning and the end of the poem are dedicated to the events in Ithaca. The compositional center is the story of the main character about his journey. The description of the wanderings is from the first person, that is, the main character speaks directly. This feature is traditional for works of this genre. A similar technique is known from Egyptian literature. It was often used in the folklore of seafarers. Perhaps, to describe the wanderings, the author chose geographical observations of Ionian seamen. However, the researchers' attempt to follow the route along which Odysseus moved during his travels was not successful.

Folklore Parallels

It is assumed that the character of Odysseus appeared long before the creation of the poem. Researchers believe that the protagonist is a pre-Greek figure, that is, the image was created not by the ancient Greeks themselves, but was borrowed. Going to Greek folklore, Odysseus got the Hellenized name.

In the poem, a reader can find at least two folk stories. First, this is a story about a son who went in search of his father. Secondly, it is the story of the head of the family, who returns to his homeland after many years of wandering for one reason or another. The husband, as a rule, returns on the day of his wife's wedding with another man. The spouse, considering that her first husband is dead, tries again to arrange her happiness. In the beginning, no one recognizes the wanderer, but then he still manages to be identified by some sign, for example, a scar.

The "Odyssey" and European Literature

Up to a certain time, Homer's works were not known in medieval Europe. The ancient Greek language was for a long time forgotten. Only after the fall of Constantinople Byzantine scientists were able to acquaint Europe with Homeric poems. The mention of "low-lying" elements for a long time made the "Odyssey" unacceptable for Europeans. A strange impression was made by the princess, who was washing her own clothes. "Inadmissible" to the commoner epithets (divine swineherd) also could shock the European reader. "Lowland" was already evaluated in modern times by theoreticians of bourgeois literature, who considered such elements a retreat from hypocrisy.