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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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

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 12


The Introduction being concluded, the story of Telemachus begins, and continues till the Fifth Book. Two main points stand forth in the narrative. The first is the grand conflict with the suitors, the men of guilt, the disturbers of the divine order; this conflict runs through to the end of the poem, where they are swept out of the world which they have thrown into discord. The second point of the Telemachiad is the education of Telemachus, which is indeed the chief fact of these Books; the youth is to be trained to meet the conflict which is looming up before him in the distance. Thus we have one of the first educational books of the race, the very first possibly; it still has many valuable hints for the educator of the present age. Its method is that of oral tradition, which has by no means lost its place in a true discipline of the human spirit. Living wisdom has its advantage to-day over the dead lore of the text-books.

Very delightful is the school to which we see Telemachus going in these four Books. Heroes are his instructors, men of the deed as well as of the word, and the source from which all instruction is derived is the greatest event of the age, the Trojan War. The young man is to learn what that event was, what sacrifices it required, what characters it developed among his people. He is to see and converse with Nestor, famous at Troy for eloquence and wisdom. Then he will go to Menelaus, who has had an experience wider than the Trojan experience, for the latter has been in Egypt. Young Telemachus is also to behold Helen, beautiful Helen, the central figure of the great struggle. Finally, he is to learn much about his father, and thus be prepared for the approaching conflict with the suitors in Ithaca.

Book First specially. After the total Odyssey has been organized on Olympus, it begins at once to descend to earth and to realize itself there. For the great poem springs from the Divine Idea, and must show its origin in the course of its own unfolding. Hence the Gods are the starting-point of the Odyssey, and their will goes before the terrestrial deed; moreover, the one decree of theirs overarches the poem from beginning to end, as the heavens bend over man wherever he may take his stand. Still there will be many special interventions and reminders from the Gods during this poetical journey.

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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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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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