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Ancient Greek Mythology

Homer's Odyssey

8th century BC, Ancient Greek.

again and againEx(change) of identity

The goddess Circe weaves an Otherworldly web in a palace that is surrounded by creatures that are all the men she has turned into animals.

'The Ancient Greek poet we know as Homer probably lived and worked in the eighth or ninth century BC and was possibly born near the coast of the eastern Aegean. There were many Greek colonies in coastal Ionia, whose mainland is present-day Turkey, and some would rise to great stature in the classical period.

'Homer was a rhapsodist, a poet and musician who sung at banquets and at festivals to celebrate the achievements of the Greek nation and to entertain an audience. The material he worked with had been handed down from generation to generation of oral poets and dealt with events that happened many centuries before, in the Bronze Age of Mycenaean Greece. It told of the siege of Troy and the protracted homecoming of one of its principal antagonists, the chieftain of the Greek island of Ithaca, Odysseus.

'Homer was the first poet to commit the oral tradition to a technology that was making its first appearance in Greece. Writing. So in Homer we have a window into a truly archaic world.

'Interesting that this piece mentions Mycenaean Greece,' said Miranda, putting down the article. 'It was just before the Mycenaean age that invaders from the north came down into an area of the Aegean Sea that was a part of the Minoan world. The ideas they came across found expression in their own myths and legends. The Eleusinian Mysteries are probably Mycenaean. Maybe the Odyssey is an old Minoan story spun and retold by Olympian poets. Just look at the islands in it. Isles of Women in a magical sea that Odysseus has to sail around after a life-threatening trauma. In fact, two life-threatening traumas. A surprise attack and then a severe storm at sea.

'And all the goddesses. Circe, daughter of the Ocean, whom Odysseus’ men find singing with a beautiful voice and weaving in her palace. She weaves a web that is more than earthly and her palace is surrounded by the creatures that are all the men she has turned into animals. Odysseus spends a year on Circe’s island. And then for seven years he lives on the island of Calypso, who weaves in a palace from which four springs issue, like those in the garden of Eden. In fact, when Odysseus leaves Circe’s island for home, he is wrecked once more and blown back again into the sea where Circe’s island lies, but this time he is cast up instead upon Calypso’s. Maybe these two islands are really one and the same – the island of the Goddess.

'But finally,' she continued, enthusiastically, 'after all these islands of giants and goddesses, Odysseus comes to an island of a king who is the great-grandson of a giant and who has a magic boat that will at last bring Odysseus home with the speed of a swallow. And in the palace of this king, when Odysseus is brought forward to be presented to King Alcinous and his wife, which the goddess Athene has made possible, it is made very clear to him that it is Queen Arete whom he has to approach first.'

Story recounted from: Shewring, Walter, with an introduction by Kirk, G. S., 1980, reprinted 2008. Homer: The Odyssey. Translated from ancient Greek with an introduction. Oxford University Press.

See for yourself

Homer – Wikipedia

Odysseus – Wikipedia

The Odyssey – Wikipedia

Circe – Wikipedia

Calypso – Wikipedia

Homer: The Odyssey – English translation, Internet Classics Archive

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