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...
12:05 Torrey 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...
12:13 Petronilla Livius: Hello Torrey - is it time for the discussion?
12:13 Asterix Flavius: Yo!
12:13 Torrey Philemon: Petronilla and Asterix, are you here? No one else has shown up...Glad you're here!
12:14 Petronilla Livius: Hey Asterix!
12:15 Torrey 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...
12:15 Asterix Flavius: Hey, Petronilla.  Windycon was last weekend.  I listened to the Fagles Odyssey audiobook there and back.
12:15 Alwyn Caelius: Hiya Homer fans!
12:16 Petronilla Livius: Asterix - I thought of you in the windy city - I really enjoyed the audiobook - gives a different twist to Homer
12:16 Torrey Philemon: Welcome Alwyn! Looks like we have a small group for our last chat.
12:16 Petronilla Livius: Hi Alwyn
12:16 Asterix Flavius: "Homer fans"...sounds like a baseball game.  And now leading off for the Chios Homers is....
12:17 Alwyn Caelius: FILOI OMHROY sounds better?
12:18 Asterix Flavius: PHILOI
12:18 Torrey Philemon: So folks, who has finished the Odyssey and what would you like to say about the last books...?
12:18 Alwyn Caelius: OMHPOU I meant :-) and Philoi too
12:18 Asterix Flavius: Jump in any time, Torrey, and bring us back on track.
12:18 Torrey Philemon: (Sounds like you're speaking in Greek to me - grin!)
12:19 Alwyn Caelius: I read part of the Odyssey in Greek
12:19 Asterix Flavius: Do you think Book 24 was an addendum?
12:20 Torrey 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!)
12:21 Torrey 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?
12:21 Torrey Philemon: Alwyn, what was it like reading it in Greek? How did it differ from English?
12:22 Alwyn Caelius: It could be... that some bard found it necessary to link to the Ilias
12:22 Alwyn Caelius: Well, it doesn't differ that much... There are a lot of words for 'sorrow' and 'death'
12:23 Asterix 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?
12:23 Alwyn Caelius: I'm sorry, but I have to eat now.  :-( Bad timing. I'll be back later
12:24 Asterix Flavius: Yes, Alwyn, it had the feel of a link rather than necessary to the srory.  Bye, Alwyn, do it again soon.
12:25 Torrey Philemon: See you later, Alwyn....Petronilla, are you with us?
12:25 Petronilla 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
12:25 Petronilla Livius: Yes Torrey  I was chasing dogs away! and trying to type
12:26 Torrey 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)
12:26 Torrey Philemon:  Asterix mentioned in a message that he thought there was more to talk about in regard to Odysseus and Hades...
12:28 Petronilla Livius: Yes,if an "ordinary" person was given directions? 
12:28 Asterix Flavius: After Iliad and Odyssey, I'm still unclear on concept of afterlife to the Greeks of the time.
12:29 Torrey 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)
12:32 Torrey Philemon: Also immortality....What is immortality (such as Calypso offers Odysseus)....?
12:33 Asterix 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]
12:34 Torrey 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? 
12:35 Asterix Flavius: Is it that all "ghosts" went to Hades but some corporeal bodies to Elysium?  Most corporeals just rotted away?
12:35 Petronilla Livius: If he feasted with the gods, was he then a god or demi-god = is that the type of immortality Calypso offered? 
12:35 Torrey Philemon: That's my impression. Only the chosen few go to Elysium.
12:38 Asterix Flavius: I'd have to say Demigod since he had a mortal mother.
12:39 Asterix Flavius: What is a "ghost" to them.  Is it equivalent to the Christian idea of a soul?
12:39 Torrey 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!)
12:41 Torrey Philemon: My Odysseus in Hades page is here, with links to Hades pages...
12:42 Torrey 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.
12:43 Torrey Philemon: Here's the best Greek underworld link (open it in a separate window)
12:43 Petronilla Livius: Maybe that is why blood - the life force - drew them, as I think we discussed here once before
12:44 Asterix 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, I guess.
12:44 Torrey Philemon: Good point. I had wondered why they were drawn to blood.
12:46 Torrey 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.
12:49 Petronilla 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.
12:51 Asterix Flavius: And don't forget the Patroclus/Achilles section in the Iliad.
12:52 Petronilla Livius: That's why I was curious if anyone could do it - it must have been important to someone 
12:52 Torrey Philemon: The first time being Odysseus's venture into Hades, Petronilla?...And what about the Patroclus/Achilles section?
12:53 Petronilla Livius: Nice you guys agree - I was staying in Odyssey - we didn't get the detail of discussion on Illiad :^)
12:54 Asterix 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.
12:55 Torrey Philemon: Well Odysseus shuddered when Calypso told him he needed to go to Hades....He didn't have any positive expectations of the journey.
12:56 Torrey Philemon: (Did any of you see What Dreams May Come? I can't get the images of hell out of my head. Very powerful!)
12:56 Asterix Flavius: No, I haven't seen it.
12:57 Torrey 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?
12:57 Petronilla Livius: I agree with you Torrey -I noticed you used pictures on one of your pages . 
13:00 Torrey 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?
13:02 Petronilla 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 the suitors...
13:03 Torrey Philemon: Some people/critics think that she suspected he was Odysseus, but I don't think so. She appears to have mostly given up....
13:03 Petronilla Livius: Plus that appears to be her personality - not impetuous
13:04 Torrey Philemon: Right, like Odysseus. Be cautious, test everybody.
13:04 Asterix 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?
13:04 Torrey Philemon: What makes you think she suspected, Asterix?
13:06 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.
13:06 Torrey 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?
13:07 Torrey Philemon: Don't remember the quote... maybe there's some differences in translations. 
13:07 Asterix Flavius: But she was willing to believe that a gos put on the disguise of Odysseus to overthrow the suitors.
13:08 Torrey Philemon: Once the suitors were destroyed, it was more obvious that a god was intervening....
13:08 Petronilla 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 - 
13:09 Torrey Philemon: Yes, and she said  many people  tried to deceive her, pretending they were Odysseus or had seen Odysseus.
13:10 Alwyn Caelius enters...
13:10 Petronilla Livius: She still had her son's rights to protect - just in case.  I know we discussed that at an earlie discussion
13:11 Asterix 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."
13:12 Torrey 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 if he has to test everybody. Though a commentary I read pointed out that his test of Laertes was purposeful. (Welcome back, Alwyn)
13:13 Asterix Flavius: Well, wily Odysseus seems to like testing people.
13:14 Torrey 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...??
13:14 Alwyn Caelius: "gambros emos thugater te, tithesth' ovom' otti ken eipo: polloisin gap egoge odussamenos tod' ikano"
13:16 Torrey Philemon: Translation, please!!
13:16 Alwyn Caelius: Book 19 lines 406-407
13:17 Asterix 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 my Cassell's?
13:18 Asterix Flavius: That lines 406-7 in Fagles.  Homer was around 357-8 or thereabouts.
13:18 Petronilla Livius: Is the sense different in Greek? 
13:20 Alwyn Caelius: I was wondering what was so special about that section Asterix! *reading transcripts for English translation*
13:22 Petronilla Livius: BTW Torrey, while Alwyn is translating - I liked your questions you have been posting - your comments on the night after their reunion were great!
13:23 Torrey 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 the lines...
13:24 Petronilla Livius: Even if they did have 20 years to talk about!  Surely...
13:25 Asterix 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.
13:26 Torrey 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.
13:27 Alwyn 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 hesitation
13:28 Asterix Flavius: Sappho perhaps.  Been a long time since I read her, however.
13:28 Torrey Philemon: Hmm. Alwyn, what comes after "wash the feet of your master" in the Greek?
13:29 Asterix Flavius: Remember, in the notes Knox said it was the word order that did it.
13:29 Torrey 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 person overnight.
13:31 Alwyn 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 in years'
13:31 Alwyn Caelius: Fagle is correct, no specific mention of washing feet is made
13:34 Alwyn 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 a moment.
13:34 Torrey 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. 
13:35 Alwyn Caelius: A metric pause could be a reason to insert the ...
13:35 Torrey Philemon: A metric pause? You mean the line doesn't flow in the right cadence?
13:36 Alwyn Caelius: No it does, but in every hexameter verse there is a pause after the first long one of the third finger
13:36 Asterix Flavius: The cadence should be dactylic hexameter in any case.  A pause like a ceasura?
13:37 Alwyn Caelius: Yes, I meant caesura but I didn't know the word for it in English
13:38 Torrey Philemon: Glad we have a few Greek scholars here...
13:40 Alwyn Caelius: I have an Greek exam tomorrow: translate Homer *s*
13:40 Asterix Flavius: Caesura is more a poetical artifact.  Best put as a "pregnant pause."
13:42 Asterix Flavius: Did anyone see the Movie "Eddie and the Cruisers"?
13:42 Alwyn Caelius: ummm.. nope
13:43 Asterix Flavius: Near the beginning Tom Berenger gives as good a definittion of "caesura" as I've ever heard.
13:44 Torrey Philemon: I'm imagining a pause as Penelope's unconscious interrupts her thought and brings back associations of Odysseus.
13:45 Alwyn Caelius: It could be, yes
13:47 Torrey Philemon: Do you all want to stay with this subject or move anything else about the last few books?
13:49 Alwyn Caelius: *thinking hard*
13:50 Asterix Flavius: *hardly thinking*
13:51 Torrey Philemon: Well, do you think that Odysseus' testing of Laertes was purposeful?
13:52 Asterix Flavius: Purposeful, interesting question.  Odysseus seems to always be testing everyone.  Perhaps he doesn't know when to stop.
13:53 Torrey Philemon: He goes so far again as to make up another fake story about his identity.
13:53 Gorgo Cleomenes enters...
13:54 Petronilla Livius: I don't remember - does it say WHY Laertes wasn't king anymore?  or why he didn't take over when O left?
13:55 Asterix Flavius: I really found the last book unsatisfying.  It seemed to be wrapped up too neatly.  deus ex machina.  Or perhaps dea?
13:55 Torrey 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 if Penelope neglected him. 
13:56 Torrey 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)
13:56 Gorgo Cleomenes: Well, there are some scholars who simply think that the last book was tacked on as an afterthought.
13:56 Torrey Philemon: Hey Gorgo. I didn't see you enter!
13:58 Asterix Flavius: Yes, that's exactly what I meant.  After the previous couple books it was a letdown.  Whoa, bummer, man!
14:01 Torrey 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 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) 
14:02 Torrey 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?
14:02 Alwyn 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!'
14:02 Asterix Flavius: The father-son story could be seen as the main theme of the Odyssey. 
14:03 Torrey Philemon: The Laertes section fits though...the Achilles/Agamemnon section doesn't seem to fit, and is  anticlimactic. Does seem like a later addon.
14:04 Petronilla Livius: Thanks for the discussion everybody - I have to leave now for the RW
14:04 Torrey Philemon: I agree, Asterix. The father/son theme is really central.
14:04 Petronilla Livius exits...
14:05 Torrey Philemon: That was a quick departure for Petronilla....I've got to leave too in about 10 minutes...
14:07 Asterix Flavius: I must be going too.  Goodbye all. 
14:07 Asterix Flavius exits...
14:07 Torrey Philemon: Who's left? Gorgo? Alwyn?
14:07 Alwyn Caelius: I saw that you were discussing the blood-drinking part when I was gone
14:08 Torrey Philemon: Someone said it was the shades' attempt to feel more alive. What do you think?
14:09 Alwyn Caelius: Well, the shades couldn't talk until they drank the blood
14:09 Alwyn Caelius: Except for Teiresias, he didn't have to drink
14:10 Torrey Philemon: Why didn't Teiresias have to drink?
14:11 Alwyn Caelius: I don't know.. He was like a king among the dead
14:12 Alwyn Caelius: That's what bothered me, and also why Elpenor, such a minor character, gets a big speech
14:13 Torrey Philemon: Interesting observation....And the big speeches! I don't remember what Elpenor's speech was about. What was the subject?
14:13 Alwyn Caelius: Elpenor had fallen of Kirke's roof drunk, and now he requests a funeral
14:14 Torrey Philemon: That's right. A subject worthy of a few lines perhaps but not too many.
14:15 Alwyn Caelius: Before his speech he had maybe three lines
14:16 Torrey Philemon: Often in Homer there are speeches that go on and on....and they don't always seem that necessary.
14:17 Torrey 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?
14:18 Alwyn Caelius: No, I will though
14:19 Torrey 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 the Odyssey!
14:20 Alwyn Caelius: I read the Aeneid too! (both Latin and Dutch)
14:21 Alwyn Caelius: When will this be?
14:22 Torrey 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.
14:23 Torrey Philemon: In addition to the transcript room here, all the Odyssey chats (and Iliad chats too) are posted on my web pages here....
14:23 Torrey Philemon: Sounds like you're taking Greek literature classes in school now...
14:24 Alwyn Caelius: Greek and Latin
14:24 Alwyn Caelius: But I guess you must be going now
14:25 Torrey Philemon: Got to go. Glad you came...
14:25 Torrey Philemon exits...
14:25 Alwyn Caelius exits...

back to Odyssey Chat 5

GO TO: Odyssey Chat Transcripts
GO TO: Odyssey Chat Resource Pages
GO TO: Iliad chat transcripts