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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 32


Now comes the separation which marks the second portion of the Book. Pallas, in the guise of Mentor, coincides with Nestor in advising Telemachus to pay a visit to Menelaus, and then she departs, "sailing off like a sea-eagle," whereat great astonishment from all present. That is, she reveals herself; all recognize the Goddess, and probably that is the reason why she can no longer stay. She has become internal. Telemachus is now conscious, as she disappears, and he has his own wisdom; he has seen Pallas, and so he must go without her to Sparta. Hardly does he need her longer, being started upon the path of wisdom to know wisdom. At the court of Nestor, with its deeply religious atmosphere, she can appear; but she declines to go with him in person to Menelaus, though she advises the journey. All of which, to the sympathetic reader, has its significance. Still Pallas has by no means vanished out of the career of Telemachus; she at present, however, leaves him to himself, as she often does.

Nestor, too, responds to the marvelous incident in true accord with his character; he invokes her with prayer and institutes a grand sacrifice, which is now described in a good deal of detail. Just as the Book opens with a sacrifice to a deity, so it closes with one—the two form the setting of the whole description. Thus the recognition of the Gods is everywhere set forth in Nestor's world; he is the man of faith, of primitive, immediate faith, which has never felt the doubt.

It is well that Telemachus meets with such a man at the start, and gets a breath out of such an atmosphere. He has seen the ills of Ithaca from his boyhood; he may well question at times the superintendence of the Gods. His own experience of life would lead him to doubt the existence of a Divine Order. Even here in Pylos he challenges the supremacy of the Olympians. When Nestor intimates that his father will yet return and punish the Suitors, with the help of Pallas, or that he himself may possibly do so with the aid of the same Goddess, Telemachus replies: "Never will that come to pass, I think, though I hope for it; no, not even if the Gods should so will." Assuredly a young skeptic he shows himself, probably in a fit of despondency; sharp is the reproof of the Goddess: "O Telemachus, what kind of talk is that? Easily can a God, if he wills it, save a man even at a distance." Thus she, a Goddess, asserts the supremacy of the Gods, even though they cannot avert death. But the youth persists at present: "let us talk no more of this; my father never will return." But when Nestor has told the story of Aegisthus punished by the son Orestes, the impression is strong that there is a divine justice which overtakes the guilty man at last; such is the old man's lesson to the juvenile doubter. The lesson is imparted in the form of a tale, but it has its meaning, and Telemachus cannot help putting himself into the place of Orestes.

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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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