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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

D. Snider
A Commentary on the Odyssey of Homer - Part II

From, Homer's Odyssey: A commentary
[Please note that the Table of Contents here published, is created by Elpenor and is not to be found in the print version]

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Page 66

II. Coming back to the Upperworld we find a series of incidents following one another both slowly and hurriedly. These we shall throw in groups for the sake of a rapid survey.

1. Ulysses with his three companions comes to the country seat of his father Laertes. With him, too, he plays the same disguise as heretofore with Penelope, Eumaeus and others, though its necessity is not now so plain. "I shall test my father, to see if he will know me;" how fond Ulysses is of this! So we have more fictions, masquerading, and final recognition by the scar and other proofs. Also an old servant here, Dolius, is recognized.

2. Now the scene passes to the city. The friends of the Suitors have called an assembly; a strong party rises in opposition to Ulysses, though two men, Medon and Halitherses, speak on his side. The result is, a band under Eupeithes, father of Antinous, marches forth to wreak vengeance upon Ulysses.

3. Hereupon a divine interference. Zeus decrees that there must be no blood-feud between the relatives of the slain and the House of Ulysses, but a league of friendship. Revenge must no longer beget revenge.

4. Still a fight occurs in which Laertes and Dolius with his six sons, take part. Old Laertes is now to have his warlike meed, be kills old Eupeithes, so that the male members of the House of Ulysses for three generations—son, grandson, grandfather—have each killed his man.

5. Pallas hereupon stops the conflict, and the last lines of the poem announce the peace which she makes under the form and voice of Mentor. Surely the work of wisdom (Pallas) as well as of supreme law (Zeus)—to stop the self-repeating blood-feud. Thus is the deep rent in the State healed by aid of Zeus and Pallas. It should be observed that Pallas at the end of the Eumenides of the poet Æschylus released Orestes, who is pursued by the Furies, from the guilt of his mother's blood, by casting the decisive ballot in the court of Areiopagus. Here we find another link between Homer and Æschylus.

Very hurried are these later incidents of the Book, but they are necessary to complete the poem. The blood-feud is harmonized, the Gods again make themselves valid in the land by introducing peace and harmony, which had been undermined by the Suitors. Property, Family, State, are restored, and the Divine Order of the World in the person of the Gods is recognized. Only with this conclusion is the negative conduct of the Suitors completely undone, and a positive institutional life becomes possible. It is true that in the hurry of coming to an end, the poet says nothing of the journey enjoined by Tiresias in Hades, the journey to a distant people who would take an oar for a winnowing fan. Still we may suppose that it was performed, and that angry Neptune, the great enemy of Ulysses among the Gods, was also reconciled. But, chiefly, Ulysses has above on this earth realized the idea of a world-justice, which we found running through all Hades, in the statements of Tiresias, in the fates of the great Greek heroes, in the punitory portion presided over by Minos. From this point of view the Odyssey may be truly regarded an image of the working of the Spirit of History, and the poem holds good for all time.

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Cf. Pharr, Homer and the study of Greek * Odyssey Complete Text
Iliad Complete Text * Homer Bilingual Anthology and Resources * Livingstone, On the Ancient Greek Literature
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