Introductory Notes for The Odyssey


v    Homer:

     Most historians believe that Homer was a blind minstrel who lived about 3000 years ago.

     He was considered by the Greeks to be their greatest and finest poet, traveling around the land singing stories to people for their entertainment and enlightenment.


v    The Iliad:

     The Prequel to The Odyssey

     In Homer's The Iliad, Odysseus participated in the Trojan War (9 years).

      The most famous story from this epic is that of the Trojan horse.

     Odysseus and his men built a giant wooden horse and left it outside the gates of Troy as a peace offering.

     The Trojans accepted it and rolled it into the city.

     However, the Greeks had hidden inside the horse, and that night, they sneaked out of the horse and opened the city gates to the entire Greek army.

     Because of this trick, the Greeks won the Trojan War.

     Troy was sacked and the Trojans utterly vanquished. Now it was time for Odysseus and his fellow warriors to return to their kingdoms across the sea. Here begins the tale of the Odyssey.


v    Epic Hero: Must have the following characteristics

     An epic hero is a man who seems able to conquer most problems he encounters, although he does not possess any "super" powers.

     He is faithful to his family, his country, and his god.

     He is a prince or noble born.

     He is brave; although he often feels fear, he overcomes his fears because he knows he has responsibilities, which are mainly to defeat evil and allow goodness to prevail.

     The epic hero is intelligent. Because he has no special powers, he must rely on his brain to get him out of difficult situations.

     Sometimes, however, a higher force or being will help guide him on his quest. This greater force does not do things for him; rather the force helps him do things for himself.  

v    Tragic Hero: Must have the following characteristics


     The theme must involve the relationship between man's fate and his free will.

     The tragic hero must have a tragic flawa strength which turns into a fault.

     The tragic hero must be of high station and suffer death, downfall or defeat.

     The result of the play must clearly show the hero's sin of hubris (pride) caused his downfall.

     It must be about important themes, such as the role of man in the universe, the relationship of man to the gods.


v    Myth:

     Mythology often addresses the theme of good conquering over evil.

     Scholars of mythology usually define a myth as a kind of story which attempts to interpret some aspect of the world around us.

     Myths are stories, usually, about gods and other supernatural beings.

     They are often stories of origins, how the world and everything in it came to be.

     They are symbolic and metaphorical.

     They validate social issues, and, on the psychological plane, address themselves to the innermost depths of the psyche.

     Religious myths are sacred histories.


v    Epic Poem:

     An epic poem is a long narrative poem.

     An epic is not something that can be told in one sitting.

     These tales are complex, revolving around several main characters and spanning many years.

     Homer's epics tell of the adventures of heroes. Some translations retain the format of a poem, while some are in prose story form.  


v    Two Story Lines:

     The first focuses on Telemachus and Penelope and events in Ithaka.

     The second focusing on the hero Odysseus.

     When we begin to follow Odysseus's adventures, we have to keep close track of where we arethe narrative uses a number of flashbacks, interruptions, and time shifts.

     The two narrative lines come together when the father and son are reunited and the two stories march toward their common conclusion.