The Odyssey Chats at Ancient Sites
Odyssey Chat Transcripts
Greek and Roman Mythology Pages from Ancient Sites by Tracy Marks
NOTE: Many Community members of "Athens" at Ancient Sites (which folded in 1999) participated in biweekly chats on the classics, including the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. Later, several of us continued with the chats, studying The Metamorphoses by Ovid and other texts related to ancient Greek and Roman history. Many of these chats have been posted online by Tracy Marks (alias Torrey Philemon from Ancient Sites). Each participant maintains his/her own copyright; this material may not be reproduced.
CHAT SIX: Odyssey, Books 21-24
11:59 Torrey Philemon enters...
Philemon: Odyssey chat starting....My impression is that most of our
regulars can't make it and some people haven't finished the book, so maybe
we're not happening!
12:12 Petronilla Livius enters...
12:12 Asterix Flavius enters...
Livius: Hello Torrey - is it time for the discussion?
Philemon: Petronilla and Asterix, are you here? No one else has shown
up...Glad you're here!
Livius: Hey Asterix!
Philemon: I was despairing that everyone has lost interest...or no
one but Theseus and I have finished the book....this is our last chat.
12:15 Alwyn Caelius enters...
Flavius: Hey, Petronilla. Windycon was last weekend. I
listened to the Fagles Odyssey audiobook there and back.
Caelius: Hiya Homer fans!
Livius: Asterix - I thought of you in the windy city - I really enjoyed
the audiobook - gives a different twist to Homer
Philemon: Welcome Alwyn! Looks like we have a small group for our last
Livius: Hi Alwyn
Flavius: "Homer fans"...sounds like a baseball game. And now
leading off for the Chios Homers is....
Caelius: FILOI OMHROY sounds better?
Philemon: So folks, who has finished the Odyssey and what would you
like to say about the last books...?
Caelius: OMHPOU I meant :-) and Philoi too
Flavius: Jump in any time, Torrey, and bring us back on track.
Philemon: (Sounds like you're speaking in Greek to me - grin!)
Caelius: I read part of the Odyssey in Greek
Flavius: Do you think Book 24 was an addendum?
Philemon: Just want to hear from you all...where you all are with the
Odyssey, any thoughts or questions you want to express....(of course I
have several handfuls I could throw at you - grin!)
Philemon: I don't think the Hades section belonged there....but the
aftermath of killing the suitors and the reunion with Laertes seemed important
to the book. What do you all think?
Philemon: Alwyn, what was it like reading it in Greek? How did it differ
Caelius: It could be... that some bard found it necessary to link to
Well, it doesn't differ that much... There are a lot of words for 'sorrow'
Flavius: Petronilla> BTW, Marcon has a price hike after 12/31, so you
may want to register now. I'm sorry, Torrey, were you saying something?
Caelius: I'm sorry, but I have to eat now. :-( Bad timing. I'll
be back later
Flavius: Yes, Alwyn, it had the feel of a link rather than necessary
to the srory. Bye, Alwyn, do it again soon.
Philemon: See you later, Alwyn....Petronilla, are you with us?
Livius: I'm curious - could only heros do the Hades thing, or did they
think given the correct circumstances anyone could? If we knew where
to go that is? Bye Alwyn - Thanx Asterix
Livius: Yes Torrey I was chasing dogs away! and trying to type
Philemon: You mean enter Hades, Petronilla? Could only heroes enter
Hades? (I think whoever did had to have instructions from the gods or immortals
in order to not be trapped there....but I'm not sure)
Philemon: Asterix mentioned in a message that he thought there
was more to talk about in regard to Odysseus and Hades...
Livius: Yes,if an "ordinary" person was given directions?
Flavius: After Iliad and Odyssey, I'm still unclear on concept of afterlife
to the Greeks of the time.
Philemon: I'm not clear either, though I put together a web page on
the subject. Also, the Elysian Fields. Some heroes go to the Elysian Fields.
Hercules was in Hades but also in the Elysian fields....What don't you
understand, Asterix? (Maybe there are contradictory interpretations)
Philemon: Also immortality....What is immortality (such as Calypso
Flavius: Well, glad you brought up Herakles. Fagles trans Book
11, lines690-92: "And next I caught a glimpse of powerful Heracles-/his
ghost, I mean: the man himself delights/in the grand feasts of the deathless
gods on high," What is with that! [gad, I sound like Seinfeld]
Philemon: From what I read about Hades, there are several sections
there, with forks in the road. Perhaps Heracles could have left the Elysian
fields to visit Hades proper then gone back to the Elysian fields. Or maybe
part of him could be in the Elysian Fields and part of him in Hades proper
at the same time?
Flavius: Is it that all "ghosts" went to Hades but some corporeal bodies
to Elysium? Most corporeals just rotted away?
Livius: If he feasted with the gods, was he then a god or demi-god
= is that the type of immortality Calypso offered?
Philemon: That's my impression. Only the chosen few go to Elysium.
Flavius: I'd have to say Demigod since he had a mortal mother.
Flavius: What is a "ghost" to them. Is it equivalent to the Christian
idea of a soul?
Philemon: Not sure, Petronilla. Hercules became an immortal and feasted
with the gods, but he didn't appear on earth again. Whereas some immortals
like Calypso can live on earth ( I wonder about the families of our cybergods
here! - grin!)
Philemon: My Odysseus in Hades page is here, with links to Hades pages...http://www.geocities.com/~webwinds/odyssey/questions3.htm
Philemon: Asterix, I've read somewhere that the shades or ghosts in
Hades aren't at all the same as the Christian idea of soul...they're "soullless",
just wisps of the former self.
Philemon: Here's the best Greek underworld link (open it in a separate
Livius: Maybe that is why blood - the life force - drew them, as I
think we discussed here once before
Flavius: If wisps, then I still don't understand the idea of afterlife.
Maybe I'm just looking for meaning where there is none. Too human,
Philemon: Good point. I had wondered why they were drawn to blood.
Philemon: Maia or others who studied the Odyssey quite a bit pointed
out that Hades after death is NOT really an afterlife. That there really
is no afterlife...except in the memory of one's ancestors. Which is part
of why honor is so impt.
Livius: It just seemed that somehow the ability to contact those dead
was important - twice in this book - the first time at quite a bit of detail.
Flavius: And don't forget the Patroclus/Achilles section in the Iliad.
Livius: That's why I was curious if anyone could do it - it must have
been important to someone
Philemon: The first time being Odysseus's venture into Hades, Petronilla?...And
what about the Patroclus/Achilles section?
Livius: Nice you guys agree - I was staying in Odyssey - we didn't
get the detail of discussion on Illiad :^)
Flavius: Patroclus seemed to say that the he could not rest until the
proper rites were done to his body. Osysseus' Hades doesn't sound
all that restful.
Philemon: Well Odysseus shuddered when Calypso told him he needed to
go to Hades....He didn't have any positive expectations of the journey.
Philemon: (Did any of you see What Dreams May Come? I can't get the
images of hell out of my head. Very powerful!)
Flavius: No, I haven't seen it.
Philemon: Hades isn't hell though. Tartarus is the PART of Hades that
is hell/where the wicked are punished. And the Elysian fields is also in
Hades. I wonder what PART of Hades Odysseus visited?
Livius: I agree with you Torrey -I noticed you used pictures on one
of your pages .
Philemon: Do you all want to get back to the last books of the Odyssey?
Like do you think it reasonable that Penelope was so cautious? Did she
suspect Odysseus was Odysseus?
Livius: I think it was reasonable for her to be cautious - it was 20
years after all. And there was the kingdom, and her experience with
Philemon: Some people/critics think that she suspected he was Odysseus,
but I don't think so. She appears to have mostly given up....
Livius: Plus that appears to be her personality - not impetuous
Philemon: Right, like Odysseus. Be cautious, test everybody.
Flavius: I think she suspected. But then, why the the disbelief
at the end. Do you think she wanted to put him through some of what
she went through?
Philemon: What makes you think she suspected, Asterix?
Flavius: That section in Book 19 I quoted earlier. Plus the note
by Knox on the section. As I said, the audiobook version was quite
blunt in the reading.
Philemon: Hadn't Athena transformed him into an old beggar? She certainly
couldn't recognize him...and I doubt if she would think that a god or goddess
has transformed him. If your husband/wife appeared looking like an old
beggar, would YOU recognize him or her?
Philemon: Don't remember the quote... maybe there's some differences
Flavius: But she was willing to believe that a gos put on the disguise
of Odysseus to overthrow the suitors.
Philemon: Once the suitors were destroyed, it was more obvious that
a god was intervening....
Livius: I think she was glad to get rid of the suitors, but didn't
want to leap from the frying pan into the fire -
Philemon: Yes, and she said many people tried to deceive
her, pretending they were Odysseus or had seen Odysseus.
13:10 Alwyn Caelius enters...
Livius: She still had her son's rights to protect - just in case.
I know we discussed that at an earlie discussion
Flavius: "Up with you now, my good Eurycleia,/come and wash your master's...equal
in years." Book 19 lines 406-7. The note reads : "The pause
indicated in the translation, allowing the reader to imagine for a second
that Penelope has penetrated Odysseus' disguise, attempts to reproduce
a similar effect that Homer produced for the ears of his audience, but
through Greek word order rather than a pause."
Philemon: I don't have much trouble accepting Penelope's testing of
Odysseus...I have more trouble understanding Odysseus' testing of Laertes.
It's as if he doesn't know how to be direct ....as if he has to test
everybody. Though a commentary I read pointed out that his test of Laertes
was purposeful. (Welcome back, Alwyn)
Flavius: Well, wily Odysseus seems to like testing people.
Philemon: Back to that quote... Interesting. Maybe it's not black and
white. Like some part of Penelope began to wonder, but it was still unconscious.
Her conscious mind hadn't seriously considered the possibility...??
Caelius: "gambros emos thugater te, tithesth' ovom' otti ken eipo:
polloisin gap egoge odussamenos tod' ikano"
Philemon: Translation, please!!
Caelius: Book 19 lines 406-407
Flavius: Penelope had apparently been fooled too many times to take
anything at face value. Gas, Alwyn, am I going to have to break out
Flavius: That lines 406-7 in Fagles. Homer was around 357-8 or
Livius: Is the sense different in Greek?
Caelius: I was wondering what was so special about that section Asterix!
*reading transcripts for English translation*
Livius: BTW Torrey, while Alwyn is translating - I liked your questions
you have been posting - your comments on the night after their reunion
Philemon: Thanks Petronilla. It did seem like all they did was talk,
didn't it? Homer left out the "good stuff!" I guess we have to read between
Livius: Even if they did have 20 years to talk about! Surely...
Flavius: I was watchng the Fawlty Towers episode last nite where Basil
tries to catch a girl in a man's room. They left out the "good parts"
of that one also.
Philemon: Even the Greek were prudish, maybe? Do any Greek epics or
dramas go into detail about sex? The most overt book I can think of is
the Lysistrata and it doesn't have any lovemaking scenes.
Caelius: In my Dutch translation it says roughly "wash the feet of
your master...'s equal in age" but in the original text I cannot find that
Flavius: Sappho perhaps. Been a long time since I read her, however.
Philemon: Hmm. Alwyn, what comes after "wash the feet of your master"
in the Greek?
Flavius: Remember, in the notes Knox said it was the word order that
Philemon: In Fagles it's: come and wash your master's...equal in years.
Odysseus must have feet and hands like his by now - hardship can age a
Caelius: I doesn't say anything about the feet, except that they must
look like Odysseuses. In Greek the text says 'wash of your master the equal
Caelius: Fagle is correct, no specific mention of washing feet is made
Caelius: So the 'equal in years' comes after 'your master'. In between
these two words there is a metric pause! Perhaps Homer halted here for
Philemon: I was trying to find Knox's commentary on this passage and
couldn't find it. How do you interpret "wash of your master the equal in
years"? My impression was that the beggar looked older than Odysseus would
have been, but maybe not.
Caelius: A metric pause could be a reason to insert the ...
Philemon: A metric pause? You mean the line doesn't flow in the right
Caelius: No it does, but in every hexameter verse there is a pause
after the first long one of the third finger
Flavius: The cadence should be dactylic hexameter in any case.
A pause like a ceasura?
Caelius: Yes, I meant caesura but I didn't know the word for it in
Philemon: Glad we have a few Greek scholars here...
Caelius: I have an Greek exam tomorrow: translate Homer *s*
Flavius: Caesura is more a poetical artifact. Best put as a "pregnant
Flavius: Did anyone see the Movie "Eddie and the Cruisers"?
Caelius: ummm.. nope
Flavius: Near the beginning Tom Berenger gives as good a definittion
of "caesura" as I've ever heard.
Philemon: I'm imagining a pause as Penelope's unconscious interrupts
her thought and brings back associations of Odysseus.
Caelius: It could be, yes
Philemon: Do you all want to stay with this subject or move on...like
anything else about the last few books?
Caelius: *thinking hard*
Flavius: *hardly thinking*
Philemon: Well, do you think that Odysseus' testing of Laertes was
Flavius: Purposeful, interesting question. Odysseus seems to
always be testing everyone. Perhaps he doesn't know when to stop.
Philemon: He goes so far again as to make up another fake story about
13:53 Gorgo Cleomenes enters...
Livius: I don't remember - does it say WHY Laertes wasn't king anymore?
or why he didn't take over when O left?
Flavius: I really found the last book unsatisfying. It seemed
to be wrapped up too neatly. deus ex machina. Or perhaps dea?
Philemon: That bothers me too, Petronilla. It says Laertes was grieved....and
probably powerless to stop the suitors. What I don't understand is why
he was in filthy rags...as if Penelope neglected him.
Philemon: Asterix, you mean Athena suddenly arriving and telling everybody
to make peace, so they all give up their anger and hold hands (this kind
of annoys me too. people don't give up hostilities so easily, esp. when
their loved ones are killed and the murderer hasn't been brought to justice)
Cleomenes: Well, there are some scholars who simply think that the
last book was tacked on as an afterthought.
Philemon: Hey Gorgo. I didn't see you enter!
Flavius: Yes, that's exactly what I meant. After the previous
couple books it was a letdown. Whoa, bummer, man!
Philemon: What did feel right in the last book was the coming
together of father/son ...Telemachus, Odysseus, Laertes. And the dealing
with the aftermath with the suitors felt important for closure...it just
was as Asterix said, deux ex machina, which I think means when some outside
intervention contrives in an artificial way to resolve a situation. (granted,
this also enabled Odysseus to leave Calypso too, but it worked better there)
Philemon: How about some alternative history? If Athena hadn't saved
the day at the end, how might resourceful Odysseus prevented fullscale
war between himself and the suitors' families?
Caelius: It is a big wrap-up indeed, with Achilles returning too to
make the whole work on big ringcomposition. It is like someone in the audience
yelled 'Hey! and what about Laertes!'
Flavius: The father-son story could be seen as the main theme of the
Philemon: The Laertes section fits though...the Achilles/Agamemnon
section doesn't seem to fit, and is anticlimactic. Does seem like
a later addon.
Livius: Thanks for the discussion everybody - I have to leave now for
Philemon: I agree, Asterix. The father/son theme is really central.
14:04 Petronilla Livius exits...
Philemon: That was a quick departure for Petronilla....I've got to
leave too in about 10 minutes...
Flavius: I must be going too. Goodbye all.
14:07 Asterix Flavius exits...
Philemon: Who's left? Gorgo? Alwyn?
Caelius: I saw that you were discussing the blood-drinking part when
I was gone
Philemon: Someone said it was the shades' attempt to feel more alive.
What do you think?
Caelius: Well, the shades couldn't talk until they drank the blood
Caelius: Except for Teiresias, he didn't have to drink
Philemon: Why didn't Teiresias have to drink?
Caelius: I don't know.. He was like a king among the dead
Caelius: That's what bothered me, and also why Elpenor, such a minor
character, gets a big speech
Philemon: Interesting observation....And the big speeches! I don't
remember what Elpenor's speech was about. What was the subject?
Caelius: Elpenor had fallen of Kirke's roof drunk, and now he requests
Philemon: That's right. A subject worthy of a few lines perhaps but
not too many.
Caelius: Before his speech he had maybe three lines
Philemon: Often in Homer there are speeches that go on and on....and
they don't always seem that necessary.
Philemon: I'm going to need to be going in a few minutes...Glad you
could join us, Alwyn. Have you read any of the other transcripts?
Caelius: No, I will though
Philemon: I think we're going to do the Aeneid next...The Iliad and
Odyssey chats have gone well. We usually get more people than this, but
a lot of those interested either couldn't make it today or didn't finish
Caelius: I read the Aeneid too! (both Latin and Dutch)
Caelius: When will this be?
Philemon: Well you're a great addition here...Got to run now. A
m glad you came... I don't think the Aeneid discussion is starting until early January.
Philemon: In addition to the transcript room here, all the Odyssey
chats (and Iliad chats too) are posted on my web pages here....
Philemon: Sounds like you're taking Greek literature classes in school
Caelius: Greek and Latin
Caelius: But I guess you must be going now
Philemon: Got to go. Glad you came...
14:25 Torrey Philemon exits...
14:25 Alwyn Caelius exits...
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