•Charles River Editors original background, summary and analysis of The Odyssey
•The complete The Odyssey
“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many wiles.” – The Odyssey, Book I, Line 1
Perhaps the most famous epic poems ever written, The Iliad and the Odyssey have been read for nearly 3,000 years, making it also one of the oldest written works in the Western world. The poems made characters like Paris, Helen, Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, and Ajax instantly recognizable, and they also influenced other ancient poets like Virgil, whose Aeneid is clearly modeled after them. The epic poems also literally put Troy on the map, motivating Heinrich Schliemann to search for and ultimately find the city of Troy in the 19th century.
Believed to be penned around the 7 or 8th century B.C, the Iliad and the Odyssey served as both entertainment and a moral guidebook of sorts for ancient Greeks, as well as the foundation for Western literature. Although there is some scholarly debate regarding the epic’s authorship, It is generally attributed to a poet named Homer. Given that he lived nearly 2800 years ago, not much is actually known about Homer. His birthplace is debated, but due to the dialect of Greek in which the works attributed to him were written, it is generally believed that he lived in Iona. The only other aspect of Homer’s life that is generally agreed upon is that he was a blind poet, possibly also a bard. That naturally raises the question of how he wrote his epic poetry, but scholars assume he probably dictated them to a scribe, as the format suggests they were comprised from various shorter forms of oral poetry. In addition to the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer also wrote the popular “Homeric Hymns”, which depict the various myths regarding the origins of the Gods.
While the Iliad covered the final fighting of the Trojan War, The Odyssey covers the burning of Troy and chronicles Odysseus’ 10 year long return home to Ithaca after the war, including the adventures his crew experiences as they combat sirens, gods, and a Cyclops. It also deals with the issues surrounding his family, who have understandably believed after 20 years away that Odysseus was dead. The poem is also considered revolutionary for the fact that it has a non-linear plot and features women and servants as major characters.
This collection is the perfect resource for understanding Homer’s famous epic. Along with The Odyssey itself, this collection includes an introduction that looks at the historical basis of the Trojan War and a comprehensive explanation of the poem’s characters, plot, themes, and legacy.