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.


12:02 Torrey Philemon enters...
12:02 Theseus Artistides enters...
12:02 Petra Stuyvesant enters...........
12:06 Torrey Philemon: Shall we begin, even though there's only three of us to start?
12:07 Theseus Artistides: Nice work the Hades, etc. page, by the way Torrey!
12:07 Torrey Philemon: I'm using IE for the first time. My Netscape can't connect at all.
12:07 Torrey Philemon: Thanks Theseus. Didn't know if anyone had time to read it. More questions than answers.
12:07 Theseus Artistides: Hey, three is a great number!  Yes, let's start.
12:07 Petra Stuyvesant: okay!
12:08 Torrey Philemon: Any topics either of you want to bring up? We're deaing with everything from Cyclops through the Island of the Sun, including the Hades experience.
12:09 Petra Stuyvesant: Well, I would like to explore the character of Circe as well as some other things
12:09 Theseus Artistides: I was wondering if you could say that the events in the Cyclop's cave were the beginning of O's adventure, while the Hades cave experience was the beginning of the end of his adventure?
12:10 Torrey Philemon: Actually I think the Lotos Easters was first. The Jungian interpretation is that it was the entry into "the dream world" or the collective unconscious.
12:10 Theseus Artistides: I have to admit, I liked Circe.  She was a pretty good witch. *grin*
12:10 Petra Stuyvesant: That sounds like the cycle of life to me, from the cave (womb) to the next world :^)
12:11 Torrey Philemon: Didn't he kind of end in a cave too...Calypso was afterwards.
12:11 Torrey Philemon: The cave of the male (Cyclops) to the cave of the female (Calypso).
12:12 Theseus Artistides: Okay, the Lotus eaters as the prelude to the journey, and the cave as the critical inception of his troubles...
12:12 Torrey Philemon: Sounds right.
12:12 Theseus Artistides: Everything between that and the scene in the underworld as the voyage out (or deeper), and everything after as the voyage home, to himself.
12:13 Torrey Philemon: So what's your opinion of Circe?
12:13 Petra Stuyvesant: I think she is very complex.
12:13 Torrey Philemon: That's a nice way of describing the voyage, Theseus.
12:14 Theseus Artistides: Yeah, there are three caves.  And that matches up better with my start, out, then back pyramid. :-)
12:14 Torrey Philemon: How is she complex, Petra? (What's the third cave?)
12:15 Petra Stuyvesant: She obviously wields a lot of power, but it can be worked around through natural herbs and mental strength.  She seems to be a bit selfish, yet offers O the keys to overcoming the physical trials of his upcoming journey
12:15 Theseus Artistides: She seems remarkably well behaved and cooperative compared to everyone else on the journey.
12:15 Torrey Philemon: Doesn't she appear to change several times? First men into pigs, then befriend Odysseus, then later help him.
12:16 Theseus Artistides: Three caves... Cyclops, Hades, Calypso.
12:16 Petra Stuyvesant: Yes, it's difficult for me to figure out her motives.
12:16 Torrey Philemon: Why do you think she helps him as much as she does?
12:17 Theseus Artistides: I think she's charmed by O's natural charm.
12:17 Theseus Artistides: (so to speak)
12:17 Petra Stuyvesant: Isn't he the first man to ever resist her transformation to swine?
12:18 Torrey Philemon: You said you liked her Theseus. Just wondering about a man's experience of her she might be attractive.
12:19 Torrey Philemon: Interesting point, Petra. Maybe she respects someone who she isn't able to control.
12:19 Theseus Artistides: Well, she's obviously a woman to be reckoned with, powerful, intelligent, beautiful (I think)...
12:20 Theseus Artistides: She must have been looking for someone of equal stature, and was probably lonely until someone came along who she could think of as something of an equal.
12:21 Petra Stuyvesant: Then she had to swear to the Gods that she would not enchant O further, so I think after that point she had a higher authority to account to.
12:21 Torrey Philemon: In The Hero and the Goddess, Jean Houston speaks of the moly as that which keeps us being drawn into our lower selves. Our kind of divine protection which helps us resist regression.
12:22 Torrey Philemon: Keeps us FROM being drawn into our lower selves.
12:22 Theseus Artistides: I, personally, respect a woman who will not compromise... Men are either good and worthwile (Odysseus) or not (swine).
12:23 Theseus Artistides: (Of course, I do seem to be identifying myself with O and not his men.)
12:23 Petra Stuyvesant: The thing that struck me most (while she was counselling O on how to avoid the upcoming dangers) is when she asks him ''Must you have battle in your heart forever?" 
12:24 Torrey Philemon: Don't remember that Petra. What was that in reference to?
12:24 Petra Stuyvesant: Because some things can NOT be overcome, just endured
12:24 Theseus Artistides: Yeah, I don't remember that line either.  Maybe it's translation specific.
12:25 Torrey Philemon: Right. Like she counselled him to NOT try to fight Scylla. Yet he does take up arms, I think, and loses six of his men.
12:25 Petra Stuyvesant: Around line 130 in book12 after he asks "how if possible, can I pass Kharybdis, or fight off Skylla when she raids my crew?"
12:25 Torrey Philemon: What translations are you both reading? I have Fagles.
12:25 Theseus Artistides: Butler again.
12:26 Petra Stuyvesant: Robert Fitzgerald
12:26 Torrey Philemon: He does want to see Scylla, right, so he takes more risks than he's supposed to.
12:27 Theseus Artistides: Does he lose the men because he fights, or is his resistance merely futile?
12:27 Torrey Philemon: He says that was his most painful experience, losing his six men to Scylla...even though he lost men to the Cyclops who also ate them.
12:28 Torrey Philemon: I THINK he loses men because he tries to see her, hopes he'll see her before she sees him.
12:28 Petra Stuyvesant: But he knew in advance that he would lose six and said nothing so the guilt must be greater
12:28 Torrey Philemon: He's learning when NOT to fight and when to keep silent. A preparation for dealing with the suitors, being patient.
12:29 Petra Stuyvesant: He did avoid losing another 6 though, which Circe said might happen
12:29 Torrey Philemon: Did either of you see the movie? There's a big focus on the movie in regard to teaching Telemachus when to fight and when to restrain himself.
12:29 Theseus Artistides: Well, would it have been better to say, "Hey guys, we're going to lose six of you.  I don't know who exactly, but six of you are Scylla fodder."?
12:30 Torrey Philemon: The Cyclops was a devouring male and Scylla a devouring female.
12:30 Torrey Philemon: He does seem to withhold some information from his crew, doesn't he? As he did with Aeolus. They wanted to find out what was in the windbag.
12:30 Theseus Artistides: Hmmm, do you think he felt worse because he lost these to a feminine creature?
12:31 Petra Stuyvesant: in my Lawrence translation Circe asks O, "Will you not even gove the Gods best?"  which I think is even a more powerful way of showing O's determination to forge his own destiny (not allowing the Gods to play their part)  like functional atheism in a way not allowing space for the Gods in your life.  Even though in this case he knows that space will be painfully filled.
12:31 Theseus Artistides: That was different, I think.  He should definitely have told them what was in that bag!
12:32 Petra Stuyvesant: I think he felt worse because he had no control, and that is what he is used to most of the time (perhaps *that* was why he wept so much on Ogyia, lack of control)
12:32 Torrey Philemon: He takes a risk anyway with Scylla, sets himself against the gods or challenges fate.
12:33 Theseus Artistides: More power to Odysseus if that's the case! My favorite line from the new Hercules (which I infrequently watch) was from the first episode... "The gods had better stay out of my way."
12:34 Petra Stuyvesant: oops, typo up there :give the Gods (not gove)
12:34 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Petra, it doesn't work for him to approach life like a warrior in battle anymore.
12:34 Theseus Artistides: gove's okay, luv
12:35 Petra Stuyvesant: I saw the NBC version of the movie last week and it confused me a little, they didn't follow the story as much as I had hoped, was a little confusing in fact, didn't remember Circe tricking O and his men into losing 5 years of time in the book.
12:35 Theseus Artistides: She didn't.
12:36 Petra Stuyvesant: thanks Th.
12:36 Torrey Philemon: I don't remember that part of the movie. Did they not show the men transformed into swine?
12:36 Petra Stuyvesant: Good, because I went back to re-read that part thinking I had missed something.
12:37 Theseus Artistides: I thought the best thing about that mini-series is that they chose this for their subject matter.
12:38 Petra Stuyvesant: the men were transformed into all kinds of animals, Gracie Allen that I am I started thinking "Oh this is where the word Circus comes from"  but I'm sure someone will correct me on the FB BB as I always take apart words in the wrong way :^)
12:38 Torrey Philemon: Writer's license. Makes you wonder what license Homer took too. If he changed anything in the myths he had learned, for the sake of the story.
12:38 Torrey Philemon: Circus, interesting.
12:38 Theseus Artistides: LOL - That's funny!  Circe - Circus! 
12:39 Theseus Artistides: I'm sure Circus comes from Circle.
12:39 Petra Stuyvesant: This is a side question:  I know Homer was blind, but have you noticed there are several key characters that are also blind?
12:39 Theseus Artistides: Or they come from the same latin root.
12:39 Torrey Philemon: Anyone know what Circe means?
12:40 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Tiresias is blind. The Cyclops is blinded. Anyone else?
12:40 Petra Stuyvesant: Circus then from circle is probably the ring, like 3-ring circus
12:40 Theseus Artistides: Circa, circus, etc.
12:40 Petra Stuyvesant: The singer at the party that tells the tale of O and makes him cry
12:41 Torrey Philemon: That's right. The blind bard.
12:41 Petra Stuyvesant: I thought that might be Homer injecting himself into the story at that point
12:42 Torrey Philemon: Is there anything the blind seem to have in common?
12:42 Theseus Artistides: Hmmm, if we're not even sure if Homer was a real individual person, then how can we speculate if he was blind?
12:43 Petra Stuyvesant: They do not see in the physical world and to Cyclops this was a great hindrance, but for T it did not take away from his inner vision, perhaps it even clarified things for him, no distractions
12:43 Theseus Artistides: The blind are certainly critical to this story, but I don't quite see their significance.
12:43 Theseus Artistides: So to speak.
12:43 Petra Stuyvesant: Is that true Thesus?  I didn't know that.
12:43 Torrey Philemon: I'm reminded of The Little Prince. "What is essential is invisible to the eye."
12:45 Torrey Philemon: Odysseus learns not to be seduced by physical reality, and to hold to his inner purpose.
12:45 Theseus Artistides: I have always understood there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the "person of Homer."
12:45 Petra Stuyvesant: Well, I always wonder why a character is given a particular handicap, Homer could have cosen other things, why blindness?  Some handicaps have a history like Achille's heel, but sometimes you just have to figure out why a person is afflicted with something - what other things does it enhance for example.
12:46 Torrey Philemon: From what I know, that's true, Theseus. Some scholars still don't think he was one person.
12:47 Torrey Philemon: Odysseus is somewhat "blind" at first -  like unconscious. Maybe he has to learn to see more deeply into things and not just rely on his senses.
12:48 Torrey Philemon: And making himself visible physically or by name gets him into trouble.
12:48 Theseus Artistides: The bard's blindness seems incidental.  The cyclops is blinded by O.  How did Tiresias lose his sight?
12:48 Petra Stuyvesant: O is definetly a bit above the normal "limbic system" responses of his generation - I mean, he is someone who strives to oversome his more basic responses.
12:49 Torrey Philemon: There are three different stories of why Tiresias loses his sight. He tells the secrets of the gods, he tells Hera that women enjoy sex more, and I think the last is that he sees Athena naked. Something like that.
12:49 Petra Stuyvesant: I think T saw Athene naked and she blinded him
12:50 Torrey Philemon: There's an interesting story that he was transformed into a female for a number of years, and therefore knew female experience as well as male. 
12:51 Theseus Artistides: I think all three of those are related... Telling or seeing the truth... a truth which some one would rather not be seen or told.
12:51 Torrey Philemon: In a way, Tiresias is blinded for challenging the gods, gaining power over them.
12:52 Kaliber Solon enters...
12:52 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Theseus. Sort of like making visible what should be hidden.
12:52 Torrey Philemon: Welcome Kaliber. We're talking about Tiresias' blindness.
12:52 Theseus Artistides: The truth is power, and the more powerful the truth, the higher the price.
12:53 Petra Stuyvesant: Oh, I just read Joesph Campbell's student's joke about why he was blinded.  Did you read that in the Hero and the Goddess, Torrey?
12:53 maia Nestor enters...
12:53 Torrey Philemon: What do you think about Odysseus with his men? Should he tell the truth more than he does? He certainly warns them against eating the cattle.
12:54 Torrey Philemon: Welcome, Maia.
12:54 Theseus Artistides: Maia!  Hi there!
12:54 maia Nestor: Hello all...sorry I'm late.
12:54 Petra Stuyvesant: Good afternoon Kaliber and Maia!
12:55 Theseus Artistides: How specific is his warning?  I seem to remember it was a bit on the vague side.
12:56 Torrey Philemon: I think this time he learned to tell them what was going on. But he was feeling more resigned to fate, and afraid they wouldn't listen. And like with the windbag, they get into trouble when he takes a nap.
12:57 Petra Stuyvesant: Mine says: "Let this whole company swear me a great oath: Any herd of cattle or flock of sheep here shall go unharmed...."
12:57 Theseus Artistides: Maybe the moral of this story is pick your crew wisely.
12:57 Petronilla Livius enters...
12:58 Torrey Philemon: Before that, it seems like the men's disobedience may be partly Odysseus' fault as a leader. But it doesn't seem to me that he's at fault with the cattle incident. Does it to you?
12:58 Petra Stuyvesant: I think they were as good a crew as he could get, they were very tired!
12:58 maia Nestor: There is a theme about Odysseus...the Autolycan element perhaps; that he is the ultimate outsider. 
12:58 Torrey Philemon: Hello, Petronilla. Feel free to join in.
12:58 Petra Stuyvesant: Hello Petronilla!!!
12:59 Petronilla Livius: Hi all - just got in!
12:59 maia Nestor: Odysseus was not easily understood by the paradigms of the time, and I think, as much as his crew must have trusted him, they resented him. Remember, he was also their king.
12:59 Torrey Philemon: How is he the ultimate outsider, Maia?
13:00 Petra Stuyvesant: I think he is acut above the men of his time, and obviously below the Gods, he surely does stand outside the crowd.
13:00 Theseus Artistides: No, he was clearly at fault with the windbag incident, but the island incident is the crew's own fault.
13:00 maia Nestor: In Troy, he is the princeling from a little land, little known, little wealth. Do you remember how he urges the men to eat in the Iliad, and Achilles is scornful?
13:00 Petra Stuyvesant: I agree, Theseus
13:01 maia Nestor: O is like no one else, he has been described as the first modern man...excellence, such as Achilles- well that is easy to look up to. But people resent excellence of the mind...
13:01 maia Nestor: He thinks like no one else, acts like no one else...
13:01 Torrey Philemon: And people resent authority, especially when they're tired and starving.
13:02 Petra Stuyvesant: I agree with that too, Maia
13:02 Torrey Philemon: It didn't occur to me. He must be very lonely, in a way. Maybe part of why he's seduced by women.
13:02 maia Nestor: He is so used to keeping his own counsel- if there is a fault with him in the bag of winds story, it is that he didn't share with his men. But that was his way, the way of survival.
13:02 Petra Stuyvesant: I'll look it up, but I think they prefer a quick death to stavation at that point, so they know the risk
13:03 Torrey Philemon: He has to learn when to speak and when not to speak. When to tell the truth and when to withhold it.
13:03 Torrey Philemon: I think that's right, Petra. They figure they're done for anyway, so they might as well die after a good meal.
13:03 Theseus Artistides: I think you're right about that Petra.
13:04 maia Nestor: Seduced by women? You have to again, remember the times...infidelity in a man was fairly de rigeur. Odysseus had no woman at Troy that we know of. Circe...just a lull for him, I think. He was exhausted. And Calypso kept him against his will. With Circe, he had to sleep with her; Hermes (his great grandfather btw) told him to.
13:04 maia Nestor: Yes, Petra is correct, I think.
13:04 Petra Stuyvesant: "Better open your lungs to a big sea once and for all than waste to skin and bones on a lonely island!"
13:04 Torrey Philemon: Actually, I was sorry I wrote "seduced by women" after I wrote it. It sounds like the patriarchal attitude that women are to blame.
13:06 maia Nestor: I think it is hard for modern readers to reconcile his deep, all encompassing love for his wife with his two dalliances...but then we must recall what the times were, the conventions and customs.
13:06 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Maia. It appears that Odysseus' infidelity is acceptable but Penelope's wouldn't be in those times.
13:06 Petra Stuyvesant: I don't see that he had any choice under the circumstances, and I'm big on fidelity :^)
13:07 maia Nestor: Well, that, I think, is mirrored everywhere, and simply because a man needed to know who his son was. If he was indeed the father. 
13:07 Petronilla Livius: And he does ask if Penelope has wed another when he talks with his mother
13:08 Petra Stuyvesant: Am I correct though in thinking that Penelope's would be excused if she was married according to the traditions at the time, since the assembly agreed that she should remarry?
13:08 Theseus Artistides: I don't know if we know anything about standards of fidelity as they apply to Penelope, at least not from this book.
13:08 maia Nestor: There is a myth that his son by Circe came back to Ithaka and killed him, you know. But it seems to contradict Homer's canon.
13:08 maia Nestor: If she had promised O to not marry until her son was raised, and that son is now raised...there was nothing against her marrying. 
13:09 Torrey Philemon: Yes, some kind of story about Telemachus that does exist in writing. Don't remember the author. Telemachus supposedly married Circe.
13:09 Petra Stuyvesant: Yes, Maia, that's what I understood, thanks.
13:09 Theseus Artistides: You're right about that Petra.  It would not have been a crime if Penelope had remarried.
13:10 Torrey Philemon: But in those times, Maia, she wouldn't have had an affair without being married, right? 
13:10 Torrey Philemon: Not that the suitors were exactly appealing to her.
13:10 maia Nestor: And Penelope married Circe's son...Telegonus, I think. But that wasn't Homer. That was a later convention.
13:11 maia Nestor: No...if she had an affair, according to the tenets laid out by Homer, or implied, anyway, she would have been guilty. 
13:11 Petra Stuyvesant: Now it's straing to sound like "Peyton Place"
13:11 maia Nestor: That's what that all comes down to...a son should know who sired him.
13:11 Petra Stuyvesant: starting
13:12 maia Nestor: Yes Petra...well, the sex is hardly the issue. The journey is everything. 
13:12 Torrey Philemon: Do you all want to talk about Odysseus' experience in Hades? Like what he learned there, and what the purpose of all his encounters there was?
13:12 maia Nestor: Who this man was, how he thought, what he went through...his rejection of immortality, his need to be home...not just with his wife and son, but his Ithaka. 
13:13 Torrey Philemon: Why did he have to descend into Hades before he could go home (symbolically?)
13:13 Petra Stuyvesant: That's true, but there must have been a sensibilty about family roles that is MUCH different than now, I agree sex is not really the issue, but all these role reversals are difficult to manage
13:14 Petra Stuyvesant: Sure Torrey
13:14 Petronilla Livius: I was fascinated with the list of women her saw in Hades
13:14 maia Nestor: See...I think we are taking a simple story about a complex man and turning it into a complex story about a simple man. Hades? Couldn't it have just been a literary device? We have to remember what a genius, in that sense, Homer was.
13:15 Torrey Philemon: Say more, Petronilla. I wonder what the purpose of encountering these specific women was.
13:15 maia Nestor: Hesior has a fragment that mirrors the women in hell...
13:16 Torrey Philemon: A literary device? Like Hades is Odysseus' confrontation with his future and his past.
13:16 Petra Stuyvesant: Jean Houston talks about these women as "the mothers"
13:17 Torrey Philemon: I noticed that too, Petra. She talks about his meeting the fathers and meeting the mothers.
13:17 Petra Stuyvesant: the "Realm of the Mothers" represent rebirth and transformation
13:17 Theseus Artistides: I do think it's important to remember that Homer is primarily trying to entertain, while also creating a masterpiece.
13:18 Torrey Philemon: A writer often have several purposes. To entertain and to enlighten etc.
13:18 maia Nestor: You see, this is what my friend Gnaeus Cassius calls the Gravesian many people here have ever tried to write fiction? 
13:18 Torrey Philemon: Like Gulliver's travels. That's a kind of 18th century (was it 18th?) Odyssey.
13:18 Theseus Artistides: Me, me, me!
13:19 maia Nestor: Yes, Theseus, I agree! When writing fiction, do you think, ah, this would be a good metaphor for the life/death experience, this would be a good anecdote to illustrate embracing the shadow? I don't think so...I think we write to tell a story, and that kind of stuff just happens.
13:19 Petra Stuyvesant: Yes, Theseus and the entertinment part, at least for me, stems from the fact that he transcends blown-up versions of everyday trials and tribulations.  That's the great thing about myth, they are larger than life and represent life.  Micro/Macro
13:19 Theseus Artistides: But I've never heard of a "Gravesian dreamworld."
13:19 maia Nestor: Not Gulliver though...that was satire, and so it had to be intended. 
13:19 Torrey Philemon: I've written screenplays, in which you have to condense several levels of meaning into one story line.
13:20 Petra Stuyvesant: To me this is not a stream of thought work, lots of layers and hidden meanings
13:20 maia Nestor: I think Odysseus went to hades for several reasons: to see his mother, learn that loss. To hear Agamemnon's story, to have closure with Agamemnon, non-closure with Aias. To see the women of myth...just as part of the story.
13:21 Torrey Philemon: I consciously construct metaphors and symbolism, Maia. I think that writers' processes differ.
13:21 maia Nestor: Has to do with Rob't Graves, Theseus. His embrasure of Laura Riding's overthetop theories...wishthink. 
13:21 Theseus Artistides: Yes, Maia.  I wrote a very large heroic epic (unpublished), just trying to write a good story, and when I went back for the subsequent drafts I kept finding interesting little facets and connections I hadn't really intended.
13:22 maia Nestor: Well Torrey, you are very mystical...I don't think most do that. I always remember how the Beatles were lauded for their Aeolian cadence, their deliberate usage, and they had no idea what the critics were talking about...
13:22 Petra Stuyvesant: I like the idea that this mother-realm informs him of the patterns in things and how these mothers tell him of how they were intimate with the Gods.  Since he has had a similar experience now, he can understand the importance of communing with the Gods, that you don't just "go it alone."
13:22 maia Nestor: Yes, Theseus...the MUses! I agree...I've done the same thing. You write your piece and the lietmotifs appear...
13:23 Torrey Philemon: Gee, Theseus, we'll have to read your heroic epic next! Sounds interesting and challenging!
13:23 maia Nestor: Homer was a genius, unparalleled in my eyes, but we must remember he was a Dark Age poet. Simpler tools for a simpler time.
13:23 maia Nestor: That'
13:24 maia Nestor: That's true Petra. But he was very connected with the gods, no? Specifically Athena...
13:24 Petra Stuyvesant: Maia, I think your comment about the Beatles is still true, great art pulls from a source that even the artist is sometimes unaware of.
13:24 Torrey Philemon: Whatever Homer intended, Maia, we can still see deeper meanings in what he wrote, even if he wasn't conscious of them. And those deeper meanings probably spoke to the people of his times, as the myths did.
13:24 Theseus Artistides: (I am planning on rewriting it, maybe soon.)

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