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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 76

The career of Ulysses is now complete, and with it the Homeric Cycle has rounded itself out to fullness. The Epic Cycle in the Telegonia will expand this conclusion, but will deeply mar its idea.

Note that the structure of the two grand divisions of the Odyssey are symmetrical, each a half of the poem; then each half subdivides into two parts, and each of those parts is symmetrical, being composed of four and eight Books each. To be sure, the joint is not so plain in the second division as in the first, which has the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad. Pallas is the orderer of both divisions, and she orders them in a symmetrical manner.

For both divisions the grand horizon is the Trojan War, yet both reach beyond it, the one toward the West, the other toward the East. The one weaves into its regular narrative the Fairy Tale, the other takes up into its text what we have called the Romantic Novelette. The former looks toward the West and the Future, the latter looks back at the East and the Past. Hence the Fairy Tale is prophetic and has supernatural beings, the Novelette is retrospective, giving the experiences of life without supernatural agencies. In scenery also the contrast is great: the one is largely a sea poem, the other is a land poem.

Structural analogy between Iliad and Odyssey. We have before said, and we may repeat here at the end, that the final fruit of Homeric study is to see and to fully realize that the Iliad and Odyssey are one work, showing national consciousness, and unfolding one great epoch of the World's History. Just here we may note the fundamental analogies of structure between the two poems.

I. Both poems have the dual division, separating into two symmetrical portions. The Iliad has two Wraths of Achilles, and also two Reconciliations; thus each division is subdivided:

1. His first attitude or cycle of conduct toward the Greeks.

(a) His wrath—both rightful and wrongful.

(b) His reconciliation with Agamemnon and his own people.

2. His second attitude, or cycle of conduct toward the Trojans.

(a) His wrath—both rightful and wrongful.

(b) His reconciliation with Priam and the Trojans.

Such is the general organism of the Iliad which is seen to be perfectly symmetrical within itself. (For a fuller account see author's Commentary on the Iliad, pp. 36-8.) Note that the negative attitude of Achilles is that of wrath; in his anger he will destroy his people and his cause, and finally, in the dragging of Hector's corpse, he disregards the Gods. Yet be overcomes both these negative attitudes in himself and becomes reconciled.

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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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