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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 74

2. Four different epics fill in between the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Æthiopis takes up the thread after the death of Hector, introducing Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, and Memnon, son of the Dawn, both of whom are slain by Achilles who is himself slain and is buried with funeral games. After the death of Achilles, the Little Iliad continues the story, installing Ulysses as hero over Ajax in the contest for the arms of Achilles. This is the grand transition from Brawn to Brain in the conduct of the war. The Wooden Horse is made, and the Palladium is carried out of Troy—both deeds being the product of the brain, if not of the hand, of Ulysses. Next comes the Sack of Troy, whose name indicates its character. Laocoon and Sinon appear in it, but the main thing is the grand slaughter (like that of the Suitors) and the dragging of women and children into captivity; the city is burned. Then follows the epic called the Nostoi or the Returns, really an elaboration of the Odyssey, specially of the Third Book, which tells of these antecedent Returns. Then comes the great Return, which is the Odyssey.

3. After the Odyssey follows the Telegonia written by Eugammon of Cyrene in two Books. It continues the life of Ulysses; he now goes to that people who take an oar for winnowing fan, and there he makes the offering to Neptune, enjoined by Tiresias in Hades. Other incidents are narrated; the final winding-up is that Ulysses is unwittingly slain by Telegonus, his and Circe's son, who appears in Ithaca and takes Telemachus and Penelope to Circe, who makes them immortal. The grand Epic Cycle concludes with the strangest set of marriages on record: Telegonus marries Penelope, his step-mother, and Telemachus marries Circe who is also a kind of step-mother.

III. After such a literary bankruptcy, it is no wonder that we find the later Greek and Roman writers using the words cyclic and cyclic poet as terms of disparagement. The great Mythus of Troy had run its course and exhausted itself; the age of imitation, formalism, erudition had come, while that of creation had passed away. Still it has preserved for us the idea of the cycle, which is necessary for the adequate comprehension of Homer, and which the Greeks themselves conceived and employed.

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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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