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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 64

Now this is just the test which Penelope wanted, a double test indeed, not only of the head, but also of the heart. He reveals to her not merely that he knows about the bed, but how strongly he feels in reference to it, and to what it signifies. For he might be the returned Ulysses, and yet not be hers. But now she has yielded, she explains the reason of her hesitation, defends herself by the example of Helen who was cozened by a stranger. She used her craft to defend the unity and sacredness of the Family, against Suitors and even against husband. After some talk, the servant lights them to their chamber, "they in great joy take their customary place in their ancient bed."

II. With the line just quoted (296 of the original) the Alexandrian grammarians, Aristarchus and Aristophanes, concluded the Odyssey, and declared the rest to be a post-Homeric addition. Still, this part of the poem must have been in existence and accepted as Homer's long before their time. Both Aristotle and Plato cite portions of it without any declared suspicion of its genuineness. What reason the old grammarians had for this huge excision is not definitely known; we can see, however, that they wished to end the poem with complete restoration, outer and inner, of the domestic bond between husband and wife. Certainly a very noble thought in the poem, but by no means a sufficient end; beside the domestic, the political bond also must be restored, and the ethical harmony be made complete both in Family and in State. Ulysses, moreover, has spoken of the duty laid upon him by Tiresias in Hades: he must carry an oar till he comes to a land whose people take it for a winnowing fan; there he is to plant it upright and make an offering to Neptune. So there is a good deal yet to be done, which the poem has already called for.

But just now she tells him her story, quite briefly; then he tells her his story, more at length. This has the nature of a confession, with its Circe and epecially Calypso, which she has to hear and he to make. Through it all runs his yearning to reach home and wife.

But with the sun risen, new duties press upon him. First he will seek some compensation for his property taken by the Suitors; secondly, he will have to meet the vengeance of their relatives and friends. So the army of four, himself, Telemachus, swineherd and cowherd, march forth in arms from the palace gate, through the city to the country.

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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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