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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 75

Structure of the Odyssey. A brief summary of the structural elements of the poem may now be set forth. It falls into two grand divisions, both of which are planned by Pallas in Book I and XIII respectively. In the main these divisions are the following:—

I. The first takes up about one-half of the Odyssey—twelve Books, which have as their chief object instruction and discipline—the training for the deed. This training has two very distinct portions, as it pertains to a young man and a middle-aged man—Telemachiad and Ulyssiad.

1. The Telemachiad, or the education of Telemachus, who has been left without the influence of his father, when the latter went to Troy. But he has his father's spirit, hence he must know; from Ithaca he goes to Nestor and Menelaus for instruction. Four Books.

2. The Ulyssiad, or the discipline of Ulysses, who must have been a man over 40 years old. He is to be trained out of the negative spirit which he imbibed from the Trojan war. Herein lies his analogy to Faust, who is also a middle-aged man, and negative, but from study and thought.

Both the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad are essentially one great movement in two phases, showing the bud and the flower, the young and the mature man. Father and son reveal an overcoming of limitation; Telemachus overcomes his limit of ignorance, Ulysses overcomes his limit of negation—the one by the instruction of the wise, the other by the experience of life. Both are trained to a belief in an ethical order which rules the world; therein both are made internally ready for the great act of delivering their country. The training of both reaches forward to a supreme practical end—the destruction of the Suitors and the purification of Ithaca. (For the further structure of these two parts—the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad—see preceding commentary under these titles.)

II. The second grand division of the Odyssey is the last twelve Books. The scene is laid in Ithaca, where the great deed, to which the poem hitherto has looked forward, is to be done. The wanderings of the father have ceased, the son returns from his schooling; every movement is now directed toward action. Again Pallas (XIII. 393-415) plans two subdivisions, without the Council of the Gods however.

1. The hut of the swineherd. Here the forces hostile to the Suitors gather in secret and lay their plan. Ulysses, Telemachus, Eumaeus, the gallant army of three, get ready for the execution of the deed. Four Books.

2. The palace of the King. Ulysses in disguise beholds the Suitors in their negative acts; they are as bad as the Trojans, assailing Property, Family, State, the Gods; they are really in their way re-enacting the rape of Helen. Ulysses, as he destroyed Troy, must destroy them, yet not become merely destructive himself. Eight Books, in which we can discern the following movement: (1) Suitors as destroyers—five Books; (2) Ulysses as destroyer—one Book; (3) Ulysses as restorer—two Books. Thus the outcome is positive..

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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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