Odyssey quotes

  • Created by: Ash
  • Created on: 05-06-18 11:55

Epithets (explanation)


Epithets - A repeated phrase or adjective expressing a quality or attribute of the person or thing described

Homer wrote the Odyssey in a poetical meter called dactylic hexameter. This means that there are six metrical units, or feet, in each line. Homer uses the various colorful epithets to fit in with the meter's rhythm. So, for example, when he refers to Odyssey as "a man of many schemes" or "much enduring," he isn't simply making reference to Odysseus's character; he's also paying close attention to how the lines of the poem should be read. This is of particular importance in a poem that was meant to be recited aloud in public performances.

These epithets were extremely useful in this regard, as they could easily be adapted to fit into any line. But the line is the most important factor in determining what those adaptations are. For in the Odyssey, the choice of epithet is dictated by the somewhat rigid meter in which the poem is written.

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Epithets (Odysseus and gods)

Odysseus - "a man of many schemes" , "nimble witted" , "resourceful" , "the great tactician"

"much enduring" , "hapless" (unlucky) 

"the foreman of men" (leader)

"Raider of cities" , "famed" , "royal" , "great glory of the achaeans"

"noble" , "godlike" , "Gallant" (brave) , "stalwart" (loyal/hardworking) , "favourite of Zeus" , "illustrious"

Zeus - "Wide-seeing" , "Mighty" , "lord of justice" , "of the dazzling bolts" , "father of gods and men"

Athena - "bright-eyed" , "Hope of soldiers" , "tireless one"

Poseidon - "Earth-shaker" , "Encircler of the Earth" , "the god who laps the land in water"

Hermes - "god of the golden wand" , "giant-killer" , "the strong one" , "messenger of the gods"

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Epithets (others)

Calypso - "Divine" , "cunning goddess" , "beautiful nymph"

Alcinous - "Great-hearted" , "king of the Phaecians"

Arete - "White-armed queen" , "ruler of Scherie"

Polyphemus - "A shaggy mountain" , "Eater of guests" , "The son whose eye you blinded"

Circe - " the nymph with lovely braids" , "the enchantress"

Telemachus - "sensible" 

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"But here's an unlucky wanderer strayed our way,  and we must tend him well. Every stranger and beggar comes from Zeus. - Nausicaa, to her maids (book 6)     

After naked and tired Odysseus tells the princess of his hardship at sea and begs for mercy, the princess tells her servants that they should not fear Odysseus. The princess is showing hospitality to Odysseus, even though Odysseus is a stranger to the land of the Phaeacians. The aspect of xenia depicts that the Phaecians are very civilised. The god's importance is also emphasised here.

"Since we've chanced on you, we're at your knees, in hopes of a warm welcome, even a guest-gift, the sort that hosts give strangers. That's the custom. Respect the gods, my friend. We're suppliants – at your mercy! Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants: strangers are sacred – Zeus will avenge their rights!"

The hospitality of men like Menelaus and Alcinous contrasts sharply with the behavior of Polyphemus. The implication being that hospitality is not only a cultural norm (and a sign of civilisation), but to lack hospitality is to be an inhuman monster (barbarism). Whereas before hospitality may have simply seemed like a nice thing, the Cyclops’ rejection of it and his subsequent consumption of two of Odysseus’s men is an attempt by Homer to demonstrate just how important it is. As a blind bard who travelled, Homer would like to encourage xenia.

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Xenia 2

"She brought them inside ....  and mixed them a potion .... but put into the mixture malignant drugs"

Shows a lack of xenia to be evil. shows how important it it is to be "good"

"you shall not lack for clothing nor anything else, of those gifts which should befall the unhappy suppliant on his arrival.'

This shows pride in her land due to the fact they show great xenia. This pride shows Xenia to be a good concept and code of conduct and further emphasises that it is a mark of civilisation.

"Telemachus saw Athene and went straight to the forecourt, the heart within him scandalized that a guest should still be standing at the doors. He stood beside her and took her by the right hand, and relieved her of the bronze spear, and spoke to her"

Xenia is shown to be such a good characteristic because Homer sugeests Xenia can make the gods favour you, putting the concept on a pedestal, emphasising its greatness

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Gods and fate

"Fear the gods' wrath – before they wheel in outrage and make these crimes recoil on your heads." telemachus to the suitors in book 2

"Respect the gods. .... Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants: strangers are sacred – Zeus will avenge their rights!" Odysseus to polyphemus in book 9

"So stubborn! …Hell-bent again yet again on battle and feats of arms?Can't you bow to the deathless gods themselves? Scylla's no mortal, she's an immortal devastation.Terrible, savage, wild, no fighting her, no defense" Circe to Odysseus in book 9

Hints at stubbornness/foolishness of Odysseus, power of the gods and Scylla as a death machine

"Even so, you and your crew may still reach home, suffering all the way, if you only have the power to curb their wild desire and curb your own." 

Hints at failure of odysseus as leader since he can't prevent them from eating the cattle of Helios.

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Xenia 3

“Hermes of the golden wand, what brings you here? You are an honored and welcomed guest, though in the past your visits have been few . . . But first follow me inside and let me offer you hospitality.”

This tells us that the rules of xenia can be flexible and the reason behind Calypso’s questions is surprise as she did not expect a visit from Hermes and is purely curious about the reason behind it. Although Calypso starts off by asking a question she does not enforce an answer to it and in fact tells Hermes to answer it later as first she is obliged to show her hospitality.This shows us that although Calypso asked questions she was aware of the proper rules of xenia like any civilized person should and knows that first you must tend to your guest and then question them

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