The Odyssey: Three Worlds
The Odyssey is a complex text that introduces new challenges and ideas each time it is read. As Suzuki stated from Carnevale’s book, How Many Books are in The Odyssey, each book is translated by different people who “wrote it in their own language as well as by their own understanding of the original story.”
The world behind the text considers the historical and social context in which the text was written, creating a better understanding for what is happening within the world. Le’s study of Schliemann’s archaeological discoveries of Troy reveal that the Trojan War did not actually exist, but that the sites and treasures inspired Homer to create a literary reality. In addition to the locations of a combination of different countries, Nguyen noted that there are mysterious islands found in Homer’s epic that aren’t found on a real map. The world behind the text involves comparing events happening in Homer’s epic and relating it to Greek history and society.
Homer’s imagination exaggerates the truth of Greek history and society to create a fun work of literature. In many books of The Odyssey, there are parallel scenes where the heroes are greeted with xenia and encounters many ritual sacrifices. These actions are so the characters build a better relationship to the gods, just as how the ancient Greeks would sacrifice animals to gain divine favor. In Shteynman’s research on ritual sacrifice, “animal sacrifice was the most sacred form of gifts that could be offered to the gods.” These sacrifices also happened in the midst of xenia, as seen when Telemachus journeyed to Pylos. If readers wonder why these scenes occur so often, it is because these customs were sacred for the Greeks, and we would only know that by analyzing the parallel structure to explain its importance in ancient Greek.
According to Nguyen’s study about ancient warfare based on Sage’s book, Warfare in Ancient Greece, warfare brought the “acquisition of wealth in the form of land, money, and slaves.” Violence wasn’t evident in just Odysseus’s great battles in the Trojan War and the slaughter of the suitors. In fact, Odysseus often boasts about his raids of the cities he travels to and the monsters he defeated. As Odysseus triumphs over the people and its cities, he is also acquiring its wealth. At the end of his great journey, the slaughter of a hundred suitors make clear that he was trying to regain his land, money, and slaves. By critically thinking beyond the action that is happening in the book, we interpret
Homer uses ancient Greek history to create its own stylistic reality. Each line of The Odyssey cannot be fully grasped in one take because we must analyze each line of the epic and consider what Homer is trying to tell us. The world within the text concerns its own heroes, monsters, and goddesses, but what does it all mean?
By interpreting the text and relating it to our own culture, we find social implications of the modern world. After many scenes of violence, why must Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, reign down to make peace? Homer is making us question the end of the violence, and for violence to stop, a miracle such as the goddess Athena must intervene.