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.
ODYSSEY CHAT THREE:
12:02 Torrey Philemon enters...
12:02 Theseus Artistides enters...
12:02 Petra Stuyvesant enters...........
Philemon: Shall we begin, even though there's only three of us to start?
Artistides: Nice work the Hades, etc. page, by the way Torrey!
Philemon: I'm using IE for the first time. My Netscape can't connect
Philemon: Thanks Theseus. Didn't know if anyone had time to read it.
More questions than answers.
Artistides: Hey, three is a great number! Yes, let's start.
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
Stuyvesant: Well, I would like to explore the character of Circe as
well as some other things
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?
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
Artistides: I have to admit, I liked Circe. She was a pretty
good witch. *grin*
Stuyvesant: That sounds like the cycle of life to me, from the cave
(womb) to the next world :^)
Philemon: Didn't he kind of end in a cave too...Calypso was afterwards.
Philemon: The cave of the male (Cyclops) to the cave of the female
Artistides: Okay, the Lotus eaters as the prelude to the journey, and
the cave as the critical inception of his troubles...
Philemon: Sounds right.
Artistides: Everything between that and the scene in the underworld
as the voyage out (or deeper), and everything after as the voyage home,
Philemon: So what's your opinion of Circe?
Stuyvesant: I think she is very complex.
Philemon: That's a nice way of describing the voyage, Theseus.
Artistides: Yeah, there are three caves. And that matches up
better with my start, out, then back pyramid. :-)
Philemon: How is she complex, Petra? (What's the third cave?)
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
Artistides: She seems remarkably well behaved and cooperative compared
to everyone else on the journey.
Philemon: Doesn't she appear to change several times? First men into
pigs, then befriend Odysseus, then later help him.
Artistides: Three caves... Cyclops, Hades, Calypso.
Stuyvesant: Yes, it's difficult for me to figure out her motives.
Philemon: Why do you think she helps him as much as she does?
Artistides: I think she's charmed by O's natural charm.
Artistides: (so to speak)
Stuyvesant: Isn't he the first man to ever resist her transformation
Philemon: You said you liked her Theseus. Just wondering about a man's
experience of her ...how she might be attractive.
Philemon: Interesting point, Petra. Maybe she respects someone who
she isn't able to control.
Artistides: Well, she's obviously a woman to be reckoned with, powerful,
intelligent, beautiful (I think)...
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.
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
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.
Philemon: Keeps us FROM being drawn into our lower selves.
Artistides: I, personally, respect a woman who will not compromise...
Men are either good and worthwile (Odysseus) or not (swine).
Artistides: (Of course, I do seem to be identifying myself with O and
not his men.)
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?"
Philemon: Don't remember that Petra. What was that in reference to?
Stuyvesant: Because some things can NOT be overcome, just endured
Artistides: Yeah, I don't remember that line either. Maybe it's
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.
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?"
Philemon: What translations are you both reading? I have Fagles.
Artistides: Butler again.
Stuyvesant: Robert Fitzgerald
Philemon: He does want to see Scylla, right, so he takes more risks
than he's supposed to.
Artistides: Does he lose the men because he fights, or is his resistance
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
Philemon: I THINK he loses men because he tries to see her, hopes he'll
see her before she sees him.
Stuyvesant: But he knew in advance that he would lose six and said
nothing so the guilt must be greater
Philemon: He's learning when NOT to fight and when to keep silent.
A preparation for dealing with the suitors, being patient.
Stuyvesant: He did avoid losing another 6 though, which Circe said
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
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."?
Philemon: The Cyclops was a devouring male and Scylla a devouring female.
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
Artistides: Hmmm, do you think he felt worse because he lost these
to a feminine creature?
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.
Artistides: That was different, I think. He should definitely
have told them what was in that bag!
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)
Philemon: He takes a risk anyway with Scylla, sets himself against
the gods or challenges fate.
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."
Stuyvesant: oops, typo up there :give the Gods (not gove)
Philemon: Yes, Petra, it doesn't work for him to approach life like
a warrior in battle anymore.
Artistides: gove's okay, luv
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.
Artistides: She didn't.
Stuyvesant: thanks Th.
Philemon: I don't remember that part of the movie. Did they not show
the men transformed into swine?
Stuyvesant: Good, because I went back to re-read that part thinking
I had missed something.
Artistides: I thought the best thing about that mini-series is that
they chose this for their subject matter.
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 :^)
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
Philemon: Circus, interesting.
Artistides: LOL - That's funny! Circe - Circus!
Artistides: I'm sure Circus comes from Circle.
Stuyvesant: This is a side question: I know Homer was blind,
but have you noticed there are several key characters that are also blind?
Artistides: Or they come from the same latin root.
Philemon: Anyone know what Circe means?
Philemon: Yes, Tiresias is blind. The Cyclops is blinded. Anyone else?
Stuyvesant: Circus then from circle is probably the ring, like 3-ring
Artistides: Circa, circus, etc.
Stuyvesant: The singer at the party that tells the tale of O and makes
Philemon: That's right. The blind bard.
Stuyvesant: I thought that might be Homer injecting himself into the
story at that point
Philemon: Is there anything the blind seem to have in common?
Artistides: Hmmm, if we're not even sure if Homer was a real individual
person, then how can we speculate if he was blind?
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
Artistides: The blind are certainly critical to this story, but I don't
quite see their significance.
Artistides: So to speak.
Stuyvesant: Is that true Thesus? I didn't know that.
Philemon: I'm reminded of The Little Prince. "What is essential is
invisible to the eye."
Philemon: Odysseus learns not to be seduced by physical reality, and
to hold to his inner purpose.
Artistides: I have always understood there was quite a bit of controversy
surrounding the "person of Homer."
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.
Philemon: From what I know, that's true, Theseus. Some scholars still
don't think he was one person.
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.
Philemon: And making himself visible physically or by name gets him
Artistides: The bard's blindness seems incidental. The cyclops
is blinded by O. How did Tiresias lose his sight?
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
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
Stuyvesant: I think T saw Athene naked and she blinded him
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.
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.
Philemon: In a way, Tiresias is blinded for challenging the gods, gaining
power over them.
12:52 Kaliber Solon enters...
Philemon: Yes, Theseus. Sort of like making visible what should be
Philemon: Welcome Kaliber. We're talking about Tiresias' blindness.
Artistides: The truth is power, and the more powerful the truth, the
higher the price.
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,
12:53 maia Nestor enters...
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
Philemon: Welcome, Maia.
Artistides: Maia! Hi there!
Nestor: Hello all...sorry I'm late.
Stuyvesant: Good afternoon Kaliber and Maia!
Artistides: How specific is his warning? I seem to remember it
was a bit on the vague side.
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
Stuyvesant: Mine says: "Let this whole company swear me a great oath:
Any herd of cattle or flock of sheep here shall go unharmed...."
Artistides: Maybe the moral of this story is pick your crew wisely.
12:57 Petronilla Livius enters...
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?
Stuyvesant: I think they were as good a crew as he could get, they
were very tired!
Nestor: There is a theme about Odysseus...the Autolycan element perhaps;
that he is the ultimate outsider.
Philemon: Hello, Petronilla. Feel free to join in.
Stuyvesant: Hello Petronilla!!!
Livius: Hi all - just got in!
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.
How is he the ultimate outsider, Maia?
Stuyvesant: I think he is acut above the men of his time, and obviously
below the Gods, he surely does stand outside the crowd.
Artistides: No, he was clearly at fault with the windbag incident,
but the island incident is the crew's own fault.
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?
Stuyvesant: I agree, Theseus
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...
Nestor: He thinks like no one else, acts like no one else...
Philemon: And people resent authority, especially when they're tired
Stuyvesant: I agree with that too, Maia
Philemon: It didn't occur to me. He must be very lonely, in a way.
Maybe part of why he's seduced by women.
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.
Stuyvesant: I'll look it up, but I think they prefer a quick death
to stavation at that point, so they know the risk
Philemon: He has to learn when to speak and when not to speak. When
to tell the truth and when to withhold it.
Philemon: I think that's right, Petra. They figure they're done for
anyway, so they might as well die after a good meal.
Artistides: I think you're right about that Petra.
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.
Nestor: Yes, Petra is correct, I think.
Stuyvesant: "Better open your lungs to a big sea once and for all than
waste to skin and bones on a lonely island!"
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.
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.
Philemon: Yes, Maia. It appears that Odysseus' infidelity is acceptable
but Penelope's wouldn't be in those times.
Stuyvesant: I don't see that he had any choice under the circumstances,
and I'm big on fidelity :^)
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.
Livius: And he does ask if Penelope has wed another when he talks with
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?
Artistides: I don't know if we know anything about standards of fidelity
as they apply to Penelope, at least not from this book.
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.
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.
Philemon: Yes, some kind of story about Telemachus that does exist
in writing. Don't remember the author. Telemachus supposedly married Circe.
Stuyvesant: Yes, Maia, that's what I understood, thanks.
Artistides: You're right about that Petra. It would not have
been a crime if Penelope had remarried.
Philemon: But in those times, Maia, she wouldn't have had an affair
without being married, right?
Philemon: Not that the suitors were exactly appealing to her.
Nestor: And Penelope married Circe's son...Telegonus, I think. But
that wasn't Homer. That was a later convention.
Nestor: No...if she had an affair, according to the tenets laid out
by Homer, or implied, anyway, she would have been guilty.
Stuyvesant: Now it's straing to sound like "Peyton Place"
Nestor: That's what that all comes down to...a son should know who
Nestor: Yes Petra...well, the sex is hardly the issue. The journey
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
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.
Philemon: Why did he have to descend into Hades before he could go
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
Stuyvesant: Sure Torrey
Livius: I was fascinated with the list of women her saw in Hades
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.
Philemon: Say more, Petronilla. I wonder what the purpose of encountering
these specific women was.
Nestor: Hesior has a fragment that mirrors the women in hell...
Philemon: A literary device? Like Hades is Odysseus' confrontation
with his future and his past.
Stuyvesant: Jean Houston talks about these women as "the mothers"
Philemon: I noticed that too, Petra. She talks about his meeting the
fathers and meeting the mothers.
Stuyvesant: the "Realm of the Mothers" represent rebirth and transformation
Artistides: I do think it's important to remember that Homer is primarily
trying to entertain, while also creating a masterpiece.
Philemon: A writer often have several purposes. To entertain and to
Nestor: You see, this is what my friend Gnaeus Cassius calls the Gravesian
dreamworld...how many people here have ever tried to write fiction?
Philemon: Like Gulliver's travels. That's a kind of 18th century (was
it 18th?) Odyssey.
Artistides: Me, me, me!
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.
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
Artistides: But I've never heard of a "Gravesian dreamworld."
Nestor: Not Gulliver though...that was satire, and so it had to be
Philemon: I've written screenplays, in which you have to condense several
levels of meaning into one story line.
Stuyvesant: To me this is not a stream of thought work, lots of layers
and hidden meanings
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.
Philemon: I consciously construct metaphors and symbolism, Maia. I
think that writers' processes differ.
Nestor: Has to do with Rob't Graves, Theseus. His embrasure of Laura
Riding's overthetop theories...wishthink.
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
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
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."
Nestor: Yes, Theseus...the MUses! I agree...I've done the same thing.
You write your piece and the lietmotifs appear...
Philemon: Gee, Theseus, we'll have to read your heroic epic next! Sounds
interesting and challenging!
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.
Nestor: That's true Petra. But he was very connected with the gods,
no? Specifically Athena...
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
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.
Artistides: (I am planning on rewriting it, maybe soon.)
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