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Nausicaa, a Sicilian princess of the eighth century B.C., looks back on the events of her life and tells how she came to write the epic poem known as the Odyssey.
Posted April 11, 2001
Robert Graves, poet, novelist and scholar of things Greek, here explores the possibility that The Odyssey, successor to Homer's Iliad, was written by a princess of mixed Greek and other ancestry in a Greek-Trojan settlement in ancient Sicily some time after the Trojan War. Using internal evidence which suggests female authorship and a relationship of the terrain described to areas in the western Mediterranean, Graves speculates that the 'real' author told her own story, possibly a true one, buried within the Homeric epic which has been handed down to us via the ancient Greeks. To get it included among the Homeric canon this young, energetic and extremely intelligent woman manages to get the tale incorporated into the body of Homeric songs through the auspices of a member of the Homeric guild. But, scholarly speculation aside, this is basically a tale of adventure and intrigue as it recounts the events surrounding the siege of a king's household by rebellious nobles using a suit for his young daughter's hand as an excuse to undermine and destroy her father's rule. The princess, clever and indomitable by turns, first investigates the mystery of her elder brother's disappearance and then organizes a shrewd counterplot, reminiscent of Odysseus' triumphal and bloody return to Ithaca, to reclaim her father's holdings and the honor of his house. A bit slow and ponderous in the beginning, and somewhat too scholarly, it nevertheless comes sharply to life in the second half as the plot to undo the suitors' predations hurtles toward its bloody resolution. A good tale and worth the read, though it's not quite as compelling or erudite as Graves' other work in this vein: HERCULES, MY SHIPMATE -- a tale of Jason and his Argonauts on the quest for the Golden Fleece.
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