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LESSON 3
HADES - From Homer's Odyssey

by George Valsamis

 

ELPENOR EDITIONS IN PRINT



 

The Underworld 


O
DYSSEY is about the return of Odysseus to his
Οἶκος. Οἶκος (=home) means mainly one's family and kinship. The crucial point, where Odyssey meets with Iliad, is the 11th rhapsody, the so-called νέκυια (=sacrifice to the dead).

[ NEK = death, produced a series of words related with death, like νέκυς (=νεκρός=dead man, corpse), νεκὰς (a pile of corpses) or νέκταρ (=divine drink, a drink that overcomes death: -ταρ means "destroy, overcome"). ]

 

Anxious about his returning home, Odysseus visits the land of the dead to consult the prophet Teiresias. The primary characteristic of that land is what Homer calls νὺξ (night) ὀλοὴ (destructive). What exactly does this night and darkness destroy? 


I
N HOMER there is life after death. He calls the life of the dead, among other epithets,
δῆμος (community, populace) and πόλις (city). Ἀΐδης (= Πλούτων) is the God of the underworld, brother of Zeus (sometimes he is called by Homer even Ζεὺς καταχθόνιος = Zeus of the underworld). Ἀΐδης means the one that has not εἶδος (=form and visible presence). Πλούτων is related with the word Πλοῦτος (=richness, abundance). What kind of richness exists in the formless, invisible, δῆμος of the underworld? 

When Odysseus arrived in that land, he made a blood-offering to the dead, a sacrifice called in Greek νέκυια (remember what we said above for the root √NEK).

Sensing the blood (αἷμα) of the sheep the souls of the dead approached, "young bachelors, old men worn out with toil, maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had been killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood".

The souls would become able to talk with Odysseus, only if they drank from the blood. However, to ensure that he wouldn't miss the prophet Teiresias, Odysseus did not let any of them drink before he conversed with him.

There came also the soul of Odysseus' mother, sitting by the blood without saying a word and without recognising (ἀναγινώσκειν) her son. Teiresias told Odysseus that "Any one of the dead that you let taste of the blood will talk with you verily, but if you do not let them have any blood they will go away again". Odysseus let her mother drink blood and talked to her. After their talk he wanted to embrace her,

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
Greek accentuation * Greek pronunciation

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