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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 51

4. In each division, again, there is a supreme woman at the center of domestic life—Penelope in the one, Arete in the other, each being wife and mother, each supremely faithful to her institution, the Family. This predominance and glorification of the married woman and the home constitute a common characteristic of both divisions, and show the same fundamental conception of her worth, as well as of her position in the social order. It may be doubted if Modern Literature has improved upon this Homeric representation.

5. Then the contrasts between the Telemachiad and the Ulyssiad link them together. Disturbed Ithaca, peaceful Phaeacia; the theoretic education of the son, the practical discipline of the father; Telemachus, the son of his father, Nausicaa, the daughter of her mother, the Ithacan boy and the Phaeacian girl—such are a few of these contrasts. Finally father and son, strongly contrasted, yet having their unity in this family of which they are members, suggest the unity of the poem of which they are characters.

These bonds of connection are so strong that they overbalance all discrepancies of single passages, interpolations, and inconsistencies of detail. Still, if the mind of the critic refuses the general sweep, and insists upon prying asunder the joints, and upon looking through its microscope at the little things, it will find only separation, discord, and many small Homers instead of a single great Homer. The particular always divides, but the general unites; so the Homeric poems will have two sets of reader, the dividers and the unifiers.

The Education of Telemachus. This is another name, which we have frequently used, for the Telemachiad. The Homeric youth is also to get his training for life; he is to find and to take possession of his inheritance transmitted from the Past. The general statement of this educational fact occurs frequently in the work: Telemachus wishes to know about his father. That is his immediate inquiry, which will extend to knowing something about the fathers and what they did; then his investigation will go beyond the fathers and the Greek world, reaching over into Egypt and the East. The function of education is to put into possession of the coming man the wisdom of the Past, and specially the means for acquiring this wisdom; then he can transmit the intelligence of the race to those who are to follow him. So Telemachus has attained the age when he must know ancestral wisdom. Such is his strong instinct, he feels his limitation, he is penned up in a narrow life at Ithaca, whose barriers cramp his free spirit. This intense desire for education, for finding out something about the world in which he is placed, is the starting point for the boy. He shows his spirit by breaking through the restraint of the Suitors and his mother in order to get an education. Like many a youth to-day, he has to leave home, has to run away, in fact, that he may have his opportunity. What does he get? Or, what is the content of this education! Let us see.

1. We find that he gets a fair amount of religious training. He has been led through the misfortunes of his House to question the goodness of Providence and the superintendence of the Gods. But Minerva gives him a strong lesson, so does Nestor. He obtains a glimpse of the Divine Order, and feels the necessity of keeping in harmony with the same. The outcome of his visit must impress him with the providential side in human action.

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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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