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The Odyssey is one of the great works of world literature. It dates from around the 8th century BC. The original was in ancient Greek and there are a number of translations available. It tells the story of Odysseus, a leader of men and his journey home to his homeland, Ithaca and to his wife and son after the end of the Trojan war. The plot of the story follows the story of another book of the time, the Illiad which tells part of the story of the Trojan war.
The Odyssey as literature
The Odyssey is one of the great epic poems. It is attributed to an ancient storyteller called Homer, but might include the work of others. The text we have written down is a transcript of a poem that would have been sung to gatherings of people by travelling story singers. It is an important book as it sets a precedent for western literature ever after.
There are positives and negatives of all of the translations available. Some translations are in prose and make following the plot of the story easier. Translations in verse tend to be less literal translations but have more of the feel of the original. Its also worth considering what commentary you want to have too as these are aimed at different readers- some have technical details about the original Greek text, others might focus on historical background and others on details most focused on explaining the text to readers who haven't experienced ancient language texts before. As the Odyssey is an ancient text some background reading on the historical setting is useful for really getting the best out of the book.
The penguin translation
The penguin translation is one of the classic translations. It is in prose and aims to be easy to understand. It includes an introduction from the original translator and an additional later introduction. There is a helpful further reading list for people who want to broaden their knowledge. There is also a map of the locations mentioned in the text in case of interest.
'the wine dark sea' -this is just one of the spectacular quotes that has stuck in my mind when since reading Homer's Odyssey. An ancient 'travel' guide to the Mediterranean as it were. Homer's rich and vivid imagery brings not only geographical locations to life, but also its characters too. You feel a real empathy for Odysseus, and Homer manages to put the reader on the edge of their seat on many an occasion, when we think our hero will either get killed or forget that his main voyage is to return to his wife Penelope, who pines for him. Even though this is an English translation from Ancient Greek, it is amazing how accessible the translation is for a modern audience. This could have been written a few years ago! The adventures that are contained within its pages, promises the reader that she/he will return to Homer's Odyssey many a times after the initial read. Best read on a beach in Greece for that 3-D effect!
I was made to read this book a few years ago as part of an A Level in Classical Civilisation. Although at the time I did enjoy it, I never truly appreciated it as studying it for exams made it more like a chore than anything that would truly affect me. Having returned to it more recently, I felt compelled to write a review.
Homer is often described as the font from which all subsequent Western literature springs and it is easy to see why. It's amazing to see how people really haven't changed so much in thousands of years. Although our customs and traditions may change, the relationships we have with one and another and with ourselves have remained unchanged.
The Odyssey charts the journey of Odysseus, returning from the Trojan War. He faces a great number of obstacles along the way and meets a number of interesting characters. The flair and style of Homer's prose is evident from the very beginning and the characters are painted perfectly. It did amuse me to draw parallels between characters in the book and people I know.
The Odyssey just goes to show that although location and time may indeed play a part in who we become, human nature, and above all love, transcend both of these things. For those who believe classical literature is irrelevant in these modern times should read this and will soon realise their mistake.
Homer's Odyssey is one of the epic classics, and it is through reading this poem that one can really appreciate Homer's poetic power. Unlike his war epic, the Iliad, this poem is a departure from the highly masculinised and warrior infatutated space of Troy. The poem, depending on the translation, can bring to life the great themes of the Odyssey, that of the oikos (household) and metis (cunning), rather than kelos (glory). The style boasts one of the earliest examples of non-linear chronology and multiple plots working together. This poem is so captivating because it teaches one about Greek mythology and the fallibility of the pagan gods in such a way that doesn't seem to come across as educational. This is definitely a work to read for the budding Classics scholar! Reading the Odyssey also enhances an appreciation of the later works of Virgil and Dante, who ech Homer's epic template. If you want an adventure and stories of crazy giants and supernatural forces - this is the poem for you. Even suitable for children (minus the scenes at the end).
Homer's Odyssey is a Greek story, written years and years ago and now translated into English.
It tells a tale of a man called Odysseus, who goes to Trojan War, and faces many troubles on his way home to his wife Penelope. He faces many challenges and trials, but so too does his wife. In his home, many of the town's suitors have come to ask his wife to marry them, but she still loves Odysseus...
Odysseus faces the great Cyclops Polyphemus, Circe the sorceress, Calypso the sea nymph and gets near wrecked through Scylla and Charybdis...
Penelope, meanwhile, is feeding all the suitors whilst their ransacking her own palace and plotting to kill her son Telemachus!
The story of Odysseus' homecoming and his return is one with ups and downs, great rollercoaster ride of adventure, tension and excitement.
Homer is a great writer, using many literary devices to make reading more fun: Calm before the storm, epithets, similes, metaphors... the descrition, imagery and characterisation of Odysseus is fantastic.
Not only is this an interesting and exciting tale, it tells of Greek culture, such as Xenia, the welcoming of guests, which is defiled by Polyphemus. It tells of religion, with the constant involvement of the Gods, mythical creatures and so on.
I studied this during my GCSE classical civilisation and learnt to appreciate this as a great adventure. it is fun to read and extremely engaging. You can easily lose yourself in this book. However, there are some minor questions that will arise, and perhaps due to the translation error, otherwise the book is near perfect.
This can be bought for under £10 and is worth it, because it literally gives you a rush of excitement and anxiety for the characters, and you relate and sympathise with them!
This is a great read for teens and older, and can be read and reread again and again!
Having studied Homer's epic 'The Odyssey' for a year while taking my AS level in Classical Civilisation, I have grown to appreciate the book and get to grips with its style which may seem a bit strange to first time readers. First of all, there are some interesting facts surrounding 'The Odyssey'. It is now called the first ever novel, and as a result is the first work of literature to be written down. Although little is known about Homer, and indeed many believe that not all of the 'Odyssey' is written by him, it is assumed that he was a Greek man who one day decided to actually write down the epic poem, that is the 'Odyssey', instead of having to listen to it all the time as it was read or sung by bards. The fact that it used to have to be memorised by the bards explains some of the stranger and sometimes irritating aspects of the book. For example, every few pages it will say something like 'Dawn woke fresh and rosy fingered' and the reason behind all the repitition is that the bards used this as a way of memorising the text. The bit about Dawn and her odd fingers acted as a kind of bookmark for the bard to help them remember where they were in the story. 'The Odyssey' has been translated many times, the most recent by headmaster Martin Hammond. I don't think that any translation is better than another and all should be good, because the writing of Homer is what counts. The story begins with a scene in a small island kingdom called Ithica, twenty years after the Trojan War. In that war, the great hero and King of Ithica, Odysseus, went to fight for the Greeks, but unlike his fellow comrades, never returned to his home. Despite being away for so long, his faithful wife Penelope and son Telemachus, still pray and hope for his return, the former is usually described crying or being generally miserable. A band of young nobles, called the 'Suitors' from Ithica and other land
s has gathered round the palace of Odysseus and are waiting to marry Penelope, but instead they are causing Odysseus' wife and son all kinds of grief as they are eating all the food and raping all the maids. The rest of story concerns Odyssues as he attempts to return home. His twenty years of travelling (a rather exicing and elongated gap year) are told in the present in in flashbacks. Will Odysseus reach Ithica? Will he be able to rid his palace of the suitors? 'The Odyssey' is a remarkable epic and has it all, action, mystery, imagination, great suspense and above all, is just a really good story. Odysseus' travels have him fighting the visualy impared Cyclops, a witch in a hut who turns his men to pigs and various other wierd and wonderful creatures. As well as all the magic involved, the Greek Gods play a vital role. Unfortunatley, the Gods despite possessing great power and mortality, lack good social skills and have rather short tempers. Zeus (the king of the gods) has a brother Posiedon who enjoys sinking ships, especially ones which contain Odysseus. He also bears a grudge against the hero for blinding his son the Cyclops (don't ask for the family tree). Odysseus himself may not seem an ideal bloke in modern ages, but a hero he is, handy with the sword and clever with the tongue. He may seem a wimp or puffy to some as he keeps breaking into tears, but they did that alot in those days. Penelope is regarded as the second hero of the novel, but feminists may think otherwise. She spends her time in tears mostly but the women in the novel are fairly strong characters, mostly the Godeses. In all, I really enjoyed the book. The morals and ideals are obviously old fashioned but its all great fun and exciting. Homer wracks up the tension near that end, and also the gore.
The main protaganist is a chauvanist pig. The female lead is weak and pathetic. The supporting cast is a group of weeping sailors. Many of the same lines are used over and over again and the whole premise of the plot is utterly ridiculous (man returning from war encounters one-eyed monsters, goddesses, giant man-eating monsters, sea monsters, witches, monsters . . . ). Yet this book has been heralded as one of the greatest adventure stories ever written Why? Partly because it is several thousand years old. Back in the good old days when men ruled the household and women were just one step above cold baked beans in the social hierarchy, the Odyssey was a poem recited by storytellers. For this reason, there are certain formulas and epiphets which appear regularly, and serve to fill out some of the lines, which explains the repetition of lines such as 'Dawn rose fresh and rosy fingered,' and why Odysseus' men always pull away from shore in exactly the same way. The characters are poorly developed and often irritating. Penelope, Odysseus' wife, may appear to do little more than look beautiful and demure, but she really is quite clever. It only took her 17 years to come up with a way of ridding herself of some unwanted Suitors (and failing miserably - bless her dizzy little head). Odysseus himself is an interesting character. He spends a lot of time communing with his great spirit, debating his every move. Often this communing will take an entire paragraph, and then he decides on the most obvious option anyway (do I throw my naked body at the feet of this woman and plead supplication, or do I speak politely from a respectable distance?). He will often chance his arm (calling out to an irate, blinded Cyclops, who starts hurling rocks), escaping by the skin of his teeth. And while his wife is expected to remain faithful and loving, Odysseus indulges in numerous liasons with passing goddesses and witches. The flip side, however
, is that he is a shrewd, courageous, and often engaging character. Moreover, he was a fine, upstanding citizen. Yes, I know I've just condemned his wicked errant ways, but Greek values were very different to ours. It was acceptable for a man to have affairs with other women, as long as he didn't endanger his marriage and home. Foreigners, slaves and goddesses, for example, were ideal mistresses. By that measure, Penelope, too, is an admirable figure. Encompassing all the Greek ideals of women - chastity, grace, demureness, beauty - she is the perfect example of the well-behaved woman. I might not like her apparent weakness but she is, in her own way, a strong character. And therein lies the crux of the matter. While Homer's treatment of his characters seems odd - strange fates befall those who cross the hero, even if they seem to be in the right - it is only when viewed from a modern perspective, applying modern-day values. When seen in the context of the time, Homer and Penelope are the epitome of propriety, the bad guys are satisfyingly loathable, and everyone lives happily every after.
This is one of the world's greatest (and oldest) stories. It can be ruined by a poor translation - and there are plenty about. My tip is to go for the edition printed by the most prestigious and well-known publisher you can find. There are many childrens' versions too, some of which are excellent. It's a story children love, of someone desperate to get home - circumstances they're all too familiar with! This book tells of the return from Troy of Ulysses / Odysseus (depending on the Greek or Latin name of the same person). The Trojan war has finally been won and the Greeks can return home after so many years away from their loved ones. Yet Ulysses stumbles from disaster to disaster, encountering many tragedies on his way, as well as adventures. There's much of interest here - Cyclops and other monsters, mad people, bad people and if you happen to be a fan of 80s band The Police, you'll at last understand the line in "Wrapped around Your Finger" about Sicylla and Charibdis - the origins of the expression of being caught between a rock and a hard place. Ulysses' biggest mistake is to anger the god of the Sea, Poseidon (I won't reveal how!). For someone dependent on ships to get him home, this is quite a problem, as Poseidon dogs his every step. The finale, surrounding his own home, is quite stupendous and there are more twists here than in a ball of yarn. Originally, this was a story that was recited, off by heart, by storytellers. There are many mnemonic devices to assist the recall of the storyteller, such as repetitive phrases they would not need to concentrate on, as they tried to recall the next phase. ("The wine-red sea" is one that comes to mind) Historically, this book is set in the pre-Archaic period of Greece, which is in turn the pre-Classical period with which so many are familiar. Historians use the anachronisms in it to learn more ab
out the Archaic period in which it was "written" or composed. This is a wonderful, stirring story, full of surprising emotions such as tenderness and romance, as well as the more martial themes. The moral seems to be to placate the gods and don't take liberties with the possessions of a hero, unless you are CERTAIN he is dead!