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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 26


In narrative, the present Book connects directly with the preceding Book. Pallas is still with Telemachus, they continue the voyage together till they reach Pylos, the home of Nestor. They have left Ithaca, and come into another realm; this change of place, as is often the case in Homer, carries with it a change of inner condition; the voyage is not simply geographical but also spiritual; indeed it must be so, if the young man is to derive from it any experience.

Great and striking is the difference between Ithaca and Pylos. The latter is the abode of religion primarily, the new-comers find the Pylians engaged in an act of worship, in which the whole people participate, "nine rows of seats and five hundred men in each row."

Too large a number, cry some commentators, but they have not looked into the real meaning of such a multitude. Here is sacrifice, reverence, belief in the Gods; while among the Ithacans is neglect of worship, religious paralysis, and downright blasphemy on the part of the Suitors. Furthermore, in one country order reigns, in the other is anarchy. Such is the contrast between the Second and Third Books, the contrast between Ithaca and Pylos. We can well think that this contrast was intended by the poet, and thus we may catch a glimpse of his artistic procedure.

The center of the picture is Nestor, a very old man, who, accordingly, gives soul to the Book. He is so near the world of the Gods in the present life, that he seems already to dwell with them; age brings this serene piety.

No accident is it that this Book of Nestor begins and ends with a festival of sacrifice and prayer; that is the true setting of his character. What he says to the visitors will take color and meaning from his fundamental trait; we may expect in his words a full recognition of divinity in the events of the world.

But he has been a stout fighter in his time, he was in the Trojan War, though old already at that period. He will give the lesson of his life, not during that war, but afterwards. He was one of the heroes of the Iliad, which poem the Odyssey not only does not repeat, but goes out of its way to avoid any repetition thereof. Moreover he was one of those who returned home successfully, can he tell how it was done? This is the question of special interest to Telemachus, as his father, after ten years, has not yet reached home.

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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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