The Odyssey starts by organizing itself; it maps out its own structure in what may be called a General Introduction. Herein lies a significant difference between it and the Iliad, which has simply an Invocation to the Muse, and then leaps into the thick of the action. The Iliad, accordingly, does not formulate its own organization, which fact has been one cause of the frequent assaults upon its unity. Still the architectonic principle is powerful in the Iliad, though more instinctive, and far less explicit than in the Odyssey. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the poet has reached a profounder consciousness of his art in his later poem; he has come to a knowledge of his constructive principle, and he takes the trouble to unfold the same at the beginning. To be sure, certain critics have assailed just this structural fact as not Homeric; without good grounds, in our judgment.
The First Book, accordingly, opens with an Introduction which belongs to the entire poem, and which embraces 95 lines of the original text. This portion we shall look at separately in some detail, as it throws a number of gleams forward over the whole action, and, as before said, suggests the poetic organism. It has three divisions, the Invocation, the Statement of the Obstacles to the return of the Hero, and the Assembly of the Gods, who are represented as organizing the poem from Olympus. The Divine thus hovers over the poem from the first, starting with one grand, all-embracing providential act, which, however, is supplemented by many special interventions of deities, great and small.