The Odyssey by Homer English 1B Honors - Aseltyne

Author Background

  • The Greek poet Homer was born sometime between the 12th and 8th centuries BC, possibly somewhere on the coast of Asia Minor.
  • Much speculation surrounds when Homer was born, because of the dearth of real information about him. Guesses at his birth date range from 750 BC all the way back to 1200 BC, the latter because The Iliad encompasses the story of the Trojan War, so some scholars have thought it fit to put the poet and chronicler nearer to the time of that actual event. But others believe the poetic style of his work indicates a much later period. Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC), often called the father of history, placed Homer several centuries before himself, around 850 BC.
  • Part of the problem is that Homer lived before a chronological dating system was in place. The Olympic Games of classical Greece marked an epoch, with 776 BC as a starting point by which to measure out four-year periods for the event. In short, it is difficult to give someone a birth date when he was born before there was a calendar.
  • The exact location of Homer’s birth cannot be pinpointed, although that doesn't stop scholars from trying. It has been identified as Ionia, Smyrna or, at any rate, on the coast of Asia Minor or the island of Chios. But seven cities lay claim to Homer as their native son.
  • The dialect that The Iliad and The Odyssey are written in is considered Asiatic Greek, specifically Ionic. That fact, paired with frequent mentions of local phenomena such as strong winds blowing from the northwest from the direction of Thrace, suggests, scholars feel, a familiarity with that region that could only mean Homer came from there.
  • Some scholars believe him to be one man; others think these iconic stories were created by a group. A variation on the group idea stems from the fact that storytelling was an oral tradition and Homer compiled the stories, then recited them to memory.
  • Homer’s works are designated as epic rather than lyric poetry, which was originally recited with lyre in hand, much in the same vein as spoken-word performances.
  • Virtually every biographical aspect ascribed to Homer is derived entirely from his poems. Homer is thought to have been blind, based solely on a character in The Odyssey, a blind poet/minstrel called Demodokos.
  • All this speculation about who he was has inevitably led to what is known as the Homeric Question—whether he actually existed at all. This is often considered to be the greatest literary mystery.

The Trojan War and the iliad

  • The story of the Trojan War—the Bronze Age conflict between the kingdoms of Troy and Mycenaean Greece–straddles the history and mythology of ancient Greece and inspired the greatest writers.
  • According to classical sources, the war began after the abduction (or elopement) of Queen Helen of Sparta by the Trojan prince Paris. Helen’s jilted husband Menelaus convinced his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to lead an expedition to retrieve her.
  • The siege lasted more than 10 years until the morning the Greek armies retreated from their camp, leaving a large wooden horse outside the gates of Troy. After much debate, the Trojans pulled the mysterious gift into the city. When night fell, the horse opened up and a group of Greek warriors, led by Odysseus, climbed out and sacked the Troy from within.
  • The story covered by “The Iliad” begins nearly ten years into the siege of Troy by the Greek forces. The Iliad itself does not cover the early events of the Trojan War. Likewise, the death of Achilles and the eventual fall of Troy are not covered in the poem.
  • The major events in The Iliad are battles and deaths, such as Hector and Achilles.

Introduction to The Odyssey

  • It was probably composed near the end of the 8th Century BCE and is, in part, a sequel to “The Iliad”.
  • It is widely recognized as one of the great stories of all time, and has been a strong influence on later European, especially Renaissance, literature.
  • The poem focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his long journey home to Ithaca following the fall of Troy.
  • His adventure-filled ten year journey took him through the Ionian Islands and the Peloponnese and as far away as Egypt and North Africa and the western Mediterranean, as the displeased sea-god Poseidon prevented him from reaching his home.
  • Poseidon was angry at Odysseus for three reasons. First, Poseidon supported the Trojans in the Trojan war and Odysseus was a member of the Greek forces that defeated the Trojans. Second, the goddess Athena was the main patron of Odysseus and she was a rival to Poseidon, having beaten him in the contest to be the patron deity of Athens. Third, and most important, the Cyclops Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon. In book 9 of the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men blind Polyphemus. Because Poseidon is god of the sea, offending him caused numerous delays in Odysseus’ sea voyage home.

Book One: Athena Inspires the Prince

Allusions in Book One

  • Muse
  • cattle of the Sun
  • Sungod
  • Calypso
  • Poseidon
  • Aegisthus
  • Agamemnon
  • Orestes
  • Atrides (and wife)
  • giant-killer Hermes
  • Athena
  • Cronus
  • Atlas (titans)
  • Cyclops
  • Polyphemus
  • Thoosa (Phorcys)
  • Ogygia Island
  • Achaea
  • Sparta
  • Pylos
  • Ithaca
  • Mentes of Taphians, son of Anchialus
  • Temese, Rithron Cove, Mount Nion's woods
  • Laertes
  • Dulichion, Same, Zacynthus
  • Ephyra
  • Ilus, son of Mermerus
  • Menelaus
  • Hellas
  • Argos
  • Argives

The Odyssey - Book One - Athena Inspires the Prince

Book Two: Telemachus Sets Sail

Major Plot Question: If this IS a HERO'S JOURNEY, then whose journey is it?

Speaking to an audience: Rhetoric

  • Three types of rhetoric
  • Type One: LOGOS
  • the appeal to reason relies on logic or reason. Logos often depends on the use of inductive or deductive reasoning.
  • Inductive reasoning: Take a specific fact and draws general conclusions based on them Example: Michael just moved here from Chicago. Michael has red hair, therefore people from Chicago have red hair OR All cats that you have observed purr. Therefore, every cat must purr
  • Deductive reasoning: Begins with a generalization and then applies it to a specific case. The generalization you start with must have been based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. Example: All dolphins are mammals, all mammals have kidneys; therefore all dolphins have kidneys OR All cats have a keen sense of smell. Fluffy is a cat, so Fluffy has a keen sense of smell
  • Be careful of LOGICAL FALLACIES - a logical fallacy is an error of reasoning or a mistaken belief based on what you think you know
  • Types of Logical Fallacies: There are SO many, these are just a FEW!
  • Slippery slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,..., X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don't want Z to occur A must not be allowed to occur either. EXAMPLE: Don't lose your pen... Lost your pen=no pen, No pen=no notes, No notes=no study, No study=fail, Fail=no diploma, No diploma=no work, No work=no money, No money=no food, No food=skinny, Skinny=ugly, Ugly=no marriage, No marriage=no children, No children=alone, Alone=depression, Depression=sickness, Sickness=death, so Don't lose your pen
  • Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the relevant facts. EXAMPLE: Howard has short legs: therefore, he can't run fast
  • Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if 'A' occurred after 'B' then 'B' must have caused 'A.' EXAMPLE: I drank water from the school drinking fountain and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick. OR Walt wore blue socks to football practice, and he did not drop the ball a single time. Walt decides to wear blue socks to every football practice.
  • Genetic Fallacy: A conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth. EXAMPLE: My doctor is overweight, so I don't believe anything he tells me about improving my health OR It was on the news so it must be fact
  • Begging the Claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is validated within the claim. EXAMPLE: We cannot hire this loud, unqualified man
  • Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. EXAMPLE: Everyone wants the new iPhone because it's the years hottest phone!
  • Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices. EXAMPLE: Either get good grades or wind up poor!
  • Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than their opinions or arguments. EXAMPLE: Sheila could never be a good school president because she doesn't do the dishes after dinner! OR A mother says that she does not trust her pediatrician because he has never been a parent
  • Ad populum: This is an emotional appeal that speaks to positive (such as patriotism, religion, democracy) or negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concepts rather than the real issue at hand. EXAMPLE: If you were a true American, you would buy a Ford Truck
  • Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. EXAMPLE: There is a lot of commotion regarding saving the environment. We cannot make this world a Garden of Eden. What will happen if it does become Eden? Adam and Eve were in Eden once. Religion is important. God should always come first!
  • Type two: ETHOS
  • the ethical appeal is based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer. There are many ways to establish good character and credibility as an author
  • it is a means of convincing others of the character or credibility of the persuader. It is natural for us to accept the credibility of people whom we hold in reverence.
  • In an argument, it is of utmost value for a speaker or a writer to impress upon listeners and readers the idea that is worth listening to. In other words, not only the credibility of a speaker or a writer relies on his or her authority on the subject matter but also on the fact that how much he or she is liked and worthy of respect.
  • Type three: PATHOS
  • Pathos, or emotional appeal, appeals to an audience's needs, values, and emotional sensibilities.
  • Argument emphasizes reason, but used properly there is often a place for emotion as well. Emotional appeals can use sources such as interviews and individual stories to paint a more legitimate and moving picture of reality or illuminate the truth. For example, telling the story of a single child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply the number of children abused each year because it would give a human face to the numbers.
  • Pathos is a quality of an experience in life or a work of art that stirs up emotions of pity, sympathy and sorrow. Pathos can be expressed through words, pictures or even with gestures of the body.
  • Pathos is an important tool of persuasion in arguments. Pathos is a method of convincing people with an argument drawn out through an emotional response.


Created with images by Keith Yahl - "Byblos"

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