In this series of posts, I examine the various versions of Odysseus/Ulysses that appear in the classical texts of the Greeks and Romans in an attempt to create a clear picture of who Odysseus really is. Most of the content in this series was written in February of 2013, as part of an assignment for a advanced literature course at Santa Clara University called Classical Mythology in the Western Tradition. In this class, we traced two major mythological figures, Odysseus and Helen, through the western literary tradition, from the ancient days to their modern incarnations.
Odysseus in the Odyssey: The Man of Twists and Turns
Odysseus receives glory and honor in the bronze-age war epic that is the Iliad, but Homer’s other epic, the Odyssey, is an entirely different story. It is a post-war epic that favors the importance of culture and domestic life.
In Greek, andra, or man, is the first word of the epic, and so, it is a story of one man, Odysseus, and the challenges he must face to return from war to the domestic home life. He is a complex man, a man of “twists and turns” as translated by Fagles, so the epic also attempts to show us the full complexity of this man. (more…)