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Final Exam Review Section III on the Study Guide
This exam review begins on Part III of the study guide for CP classes.
“The Cyclops” The Cyclops in this section of the epic poem the Odyssey by Homer is named Polyphemus Polyphemus’s father is Poseidon Odysseus blinds Polyphemus with an olive tree that has been sharpened into a spear and burned in a fire. The spear is on fire when Odysseus and his men stab the Cyclops in the eye with it. Homer describes the “hissing” and “popping” of Polyphemus’s giant eyeball brilliantly. We as readers feel as though we are in the cave with Odysseus and his men. Odysseus does not poison Polyphemus with wine; he uses Maron’s (the priest from the episode at Ismarus with the Cicones) very concentrated wine or brandy to intoxicate the beast Polyphemus, and then blinds him with the sharpened spear of an olive tree.
“Land of the Dead” Circe explains to Odysseus and his men that they must travel to the “Land of the Dead” or Hades to seek the counsel of Tiresias if the Achaeans are ever to make it home. The objective of the trip is to see Tiresias – others are seen in Hades, but Odysseus is there for the prophecy given by Tiresias. Tiresias is the blind prophet of Thebes, also called the prince of Thebes. It is Tiresias that Odysseus must seek out in Hades to gain a prophecy which will allow Odysseus and his men to return safely to Ithaca. Tiresias foretells that Poseidon will seek his revenge against Odysseus. Odysseus meets Elpenor, one of his soldiers, in Hades. Elpenor asks him to bury him properly. Odysseus also meets his mother – this is a surprise to him as he left her in Ithaca alive and well.
“Penelope” Penelope stalls the suitors by weaving a shroud for Laertes, Odysseus’s father, by day and unweaving it by night. She accomplishes this feat for three years until the “slinking maids” give her away. She tells Odysseus when he is transformed into a beggar by Athena, “So every day I wove on the great loom, / but every night by torchlight I unwove it; / and so for three years I deceived the Achaeans.” The Achaeans are the Greeks. The shroud is a symbol of Penelope’s cunning or intelligence. She holds the suitors at bay for three years without any line of physical defense. A symbol is something represents itself concretely and something else outside of itself (normally an abstraction).
Epic Poetry Begins in media res (in the middle of the story – not at the beginning) Tells the deeds of gods and heroes Supernatural forces intervene in the lives of human beings Has many different settings and episodes Has an epic hero – this time Odysseus, a mortal man who is King of Ithaca. Contains the values and characteristics that are valued most by the culture of the writer
Odysseus: The Epic Hero In the Odyssey, Odysseus is the very best a Greek can be. He overcomes his men’s weaknesses, he faces and overcomes supernatural forces, and he overcomes his own weaknesses. Odysseus is intensely loyal to Penelope, Telemachus, and Ithaca. Odysseus describes Ithaca as: “Where shall a man find sweetness to surpass/ his own home and his parents? In far lands/ he shall not, though he finds a house of gold.” He is the strongest of Greek men; his bow in Part II of the Odyssey represents or is a symbol of his physical superiority over men. Odysseus faces many supernatural forces including the gray monster of the rock Scylla – a six headed dragon. He describes her as: “She ate them as they shrieked there, in her den/ in the dire grapple, reaching still for me – / and deathly pity ran me through/ at that sight – far the worse I ever suffered.” He is also the most cunning of all warriors. It is no mistake that Athena, the goddess of wisdom and military strategy, is his mentor. In Part II of the Odyssey, Odysseus lets Telemachus, his son, know that Athena has counselled him regarding the upcoming conflict with the suitors by stating: “Athena/ counseling me, will give me word, and I shall signal to you, nodding: at that point! Round up all armor, lances, gear of war/ left in our hall, and stow the lot away/ back in the vaulted storeroom.”
Tiresias Tiresias is the blind prophet of Thebes, also called the Prince of Thebes, that Odysseus must seek out in Hades to gain a prophecy which will allow Odysseus and his men to return safely to Ithaca. Tiresias was struck blind by Minerva or Athena when he, as a young man, accidentally stumbled upon her bathing in the forest. The goddess regretted her actions and gave Tiresias the gift of prophetic sight to make up for her vengeful act. Odysseus carries a black ram as a sacrifice for Tiresias. Tiresias must drink the blood of the ram before he can reveal the prophecy to Odysseus. Odysseus, bravest of warriors and most loyal of leaders, travels to Hades and back to retrieve the prophecy while trying to save his men.
Antinous Antinous is the young ring leader of the suitors trying to win Penelope’s hand in marriage. He is described as the “very best of lads” or “the best of Ithaca” after Odysseus executes him for his crimes. We learn in the beginning of Part II of the Odyssey “The Return of Odysseus” that Antinous is planning to marry Penelope and then murder Telemachus, twenty years old at the time, to steal his kingdom from him. Antinous personifies the very worst qualities of men. He is a murderous traitor to his country, a petty thief, and is disrespectful to all around those him including the gods. He makes himself and his friends at home in Odysseus’s palace while rudely eating and drinking away Odysseus’s wealth for three years. He refuses to leave when Penelope asks him to. Antinous pays with his life at the hands of Odysseus.
Laertes Laertes is Odysseus’s father; when Homer refers to Odysseus as “Odysseus, son of Laertes” Homer is using a patronym. A patronym is a small phrase that refers to the family tree of a person on his or her father’s side. Pater means father – patronym, a descriptive phrase that uses the father’s family lineage to identify a person. Patronyms are typical of epic literature. Laërtes was the son of Arcesius and Chalcomedusa. Laërtes was an Argonaut and participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Bear. Laërtes's title was King of the Cephallenians, which he presumably inherited from his father Arcesius and grandfather Cephalus. His realm included Ithaca and surrounding islands, and perhaps even the neighboring part of the mainland of other Greek city-states.
Athena: Roman Name Minerva Goddess of wisdom and military strategy among other things. The Greeks valued wisdom and cunning; Athena was one of the most popular goddesses. She is Odysseus’s mentor and his connection to all things divine in the Odyssey. She helps Odysseus defeat the suitors along with Zeus during Odysseus’s supreme ordeal at the end of the Homer’s Odyssey.
Telemachus Odysseus’s son Helps Odysseus fight the suitors Travels to Sparta in search of his father Odysseus leaves right after Telemachus is born and returns when he is twenty
Eumaeus Loyal swineherd or pig farmer for Odysseus Helps Odysseus, along with the cattle hand, defeat all of the suitors
Alcinous King of the Phaeacians and aider of Odysseus in his quest to return home to Ithaca Homer uses Alcinous as a device to begin the epic In Media Res or in the middle of Odysseus’s chronological journey described by Homer as the Odyssey. Odysseus is granted safe passage if he tells the tale of his wandering to King Alcinous and his court. The Odyssey opens up in Phaeacia with Odysseus describing his home to Alcinous.