To get started on our reading of Homer. I thought what we'd do is concentrate on
ten of these 12,000 magnificent lines of the Odyssey, and have a look at the
opening ten lines of the Odyssey. You see, up here, I've reproduced the
Greek text. It's not expected in this class that
you've already had Greek, though it would be a good thing to do.
In the coming months and years, who knows, maybe you will learn ancient Greek, if you
don't already know it. And those of you that already have your
ancient Greek, please do jump into the forum, in the course, and help us answer
the questions that come up that make reference to the original language.
I'll go through ahead, I'll go ahead through and correlate the Greek terms such
as they show up here in these opening ten lines with some pieces of our translation
that we're using for the class. The translation from Robert Fagles.
A wonderful translation, from a colleague up at Princeton from some years ago.
Quite an amazing work in itself. So using Fagles as our guide, we'll jump
into this Greek text. The first word, in Homer's Epic, is the
Greek word andra, which indeed means man. It is the word that means a male, example
of the human species. The Greeks had another word that would,
meant, meant the general example, an un-gendered example of any, any human
being. But an andra is a male gendered version of
what the human species is all about. As the first word in the epic, in the
Greek this tells us what the epic is all about.
It is epic convention that, that first word indicate that whole and most
important theme of the story. I made reference to the Iliad, and how it
starts with the Greek word for rage. [foreign], that talks about a horrible,
menacing rage, that has to do with, even divine rage.
That's what starts off that epic. Telling us that the, the, Homer's
representation of the Trojan War is gonna have that as its focal point.
Well, starting off his epic on the, of the Odyssey, with the Greek term, andra, Homer
tells us that this is going to be a story about what it is to be a male human being.
The second term in the epic, Moy. Homer brings himself in, makes reference
to himself in this pronoun. And what he wants to have happen is that
someone should sing. Enipe is a way of giving a command to
someone to say, you, other person out there, do the singing.
And the person that Homer wants to be sung to is himself.
Sing to me. Now, who's, who's he calling on?
Who does he want to go ahead and do the singing this Greek term mousa tells us,
the muse. Homer's story, he, as he understands it
resides with this goddess, the muse, and she now is going to sing to him and use
him as a conduit to spread his, to spread her tale her story, using him as a
mouthpiece for that story. Translate it for human beings.
So this has, a, a sense of divine inspiration to it.
It's a, it's a, it's a old model. It's a tried and true kind of,
construction that the poets fall back on to say they're actually just mouth pieces
for the gods. In some cultures or some, historical
context that we know, this will, generate the idea that there was a, a sacred and
perfect text which could never be changed because it came from the god.
But in, in the Homeric case that's not. Really true, it's understood.
That's not how they think about it. They understand the muse is there as a
inspirational helper, that uses Homer's vocal cords as a way to transmit the
divine voice, yes. But it's not thought that what [foreign]
is somehow perfect and unchangeable. Although it's pretty amazing and most of
the Greeks would have thought that it was pretty amazing.
So Homer is asking the muse to sing to him about a man, an ambra.
The first descriptor Homer decides to use to tell us about this man is that its
going to be a man of twists and turns. The Greek word polytropos there.
You see the beginning polu-, that means many.
Some of you will remember from math class or where ever else you might have learned
that prefix and then tropos is a term that means a turn, a twist or a turn.
The man that we're gonna learn about, this male version of the human species, is
known to be someone who has many twists and turns.
Now that Greek term, polytropos wonderful translation that Fagles has chosen for it,
but, it means many other things as well. It means resourceful.
You might get yourself into trouble but you know you always get out of trouble.
You don't just take no for an answer. That you would just run into a problem and
then shirk away from it. You have many ways at it, you can always
get your way through some difficult situation and find your way out of it.
Also, with the twistiness of Fagle's chosen translation indicates an aspect of
the Greek term that very much present as well, which means you are a little
slippery. And maybe of a kind of trickster
characteristic to you. Odysseus is a, defined as a hero by his
cleverness and his wiliness, but also, he's kind of a wiseguy.
He sneaks around through things. He's a bit sneaky and, crafty.
So, Odysseus is going to be a character, that exhibits, all the greatness, of human
wisdom, including the sides of human wisdom that lead to craftiness,
sneakiness, and trickery. This male version of the human species is
driven, time and again off course, time and again of course.
The story that we're going to hear about what it is to be a human male talks about
resourcefulness and also talks about displacement.
It is fundamentally dislocated. He is out of place, not quite in the place
he is supposed to be. This is an aspect of what it is to be a
male human that Homer is going to explore with us.
He once had once he had pla-, plundered the hallowed trite, heights of Troy.
So Odysseus is resourceful, he has a tremendous amount of wandering, and he
also has a story in his background. He has a past.
What it is to be. And example of this human species is that
you're going to be resourceful, you're going to be dislocated and you're going to
have a past. In Odysseus's case this past is centered
on Troy, what happened there is huge and creates, stirs up an energy, negative and
positive, that's going to drive the events in this epic and in much, a huge swath of
Greek mythology, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
Now, during this wandering, during this period of dislocation Odious doesn't just
shrink into himself, feel sorry for himself, and, and fearfully stay away from
what's around him. He sees a certain amount of serendipity,
that's possible, in this situation of being dislocated.
There are lots of things to see out there in the world.
In, in his core, internal curiosity. Ramps itself up when he finds himself in
this, dislocated position. When he's out there, there are many cities
of men for him to see. He's not fearful of people that are
different or places that are different. He also is going to learn the minds of the
people that he runs into in these many cities.
When Odysseus runs into someone that doesn't think quite like him, he doesn't
sit them down and lecture them, and tries to change their mind and insists that his
way of thinking about something is right and their way must be wrong.
He's not a dogmatic man who comes in and is interested in, in different ways of,
different points of view, only so that he can change them and match his.
Odysseus is constantly curious about other ways of looking at the world.
He assimilates those, listens to them and brings them into his own character.
This is what gives him his power and his ability to be resourceful.
He knows all kinds of ways in and out because he is a wonderful student of how
different people view the world. There's a kaleidoscopic array of
viewpoints of the world out there. Odysseus fear none of them and learns from
them all. Many pains he suffered.
Heart sick on the open sea. Odysseus is a man of suffering.
He has a very intimate relationship with pain, difficulty, suffering, and also at
the same time endurance. When he undergoes awful things, again, he
doesn't just turn tail and feel sorry for himself.
He bears up under them and presses forward.
There was something about being one of these andra that is related also to the
idea of suffering and enduring pain. When Odysseus endures pain, he fights
back. Fighting to save his life and bring his
comrades home. Now, in our story earlier, in the earlier
lecture, we talked about the nostos. You'll see here, the Greek term, here in
its accusative form that has a different end point, noston, but that comes from the
Greek nominative, nostos, which means home.
A, a homeward, a journey that he is trying bring his men on.
So he's trying to move them, to find their way home.
And it's going to be a struggle through, to endure through all of these
difficulties. But, and there's the Greek [foreign] that
changes direction. But, he could not save them from disaster,
hard as he strove. His men are not quite, you know, up to the
challenges that Odysseus himself is up to and they succumb.
Odysseus could not save them from the difficulties that awaited them.
Suffering challenges at every corner, Odysseus gets through them, but not his
men. The recklessness of their own ways
destroyed them all. The recklessness of their own ways.
When you're a Greek. Male and andra, being reckless is not a
good thing. Yes, you're supposed to be fearless, yes,
you should not shrink back from difficult situations, but to walk in pell-mell into
awful situations without thinking things through first, that counts as
recklessness, and that's never a smart thing to do.
Odysseus's men are reckless, they don't think through, and they pay a terrible,
terrible price. They are indeed destroyed so, spoiler
alert, Homer is telling us all of the men are going to be destroyed.
Odysseus alone Is going to make it through.
Now what's the difficulty? What did they succumb to?
What was the problem they ran into to? The blind fools, they devoured the cattle
of the sun. And the sun got wiped from sight the day
of their return. Now, you'll remember that in the Odyssey
there are lots of different episodes. And some of you will recall very famous
ones. For example, the cyclops or maybe you'll
remember the sirens or any of the other many episodes that Odysseus and his men
get into. Cattle of the Sun is surely an important
one, but it's not always the, the foremost one in people's minds.
Homer, though, look what he's doing. He's placing this episode right at the
beginning, showing us what's really important.
I mean, the whole epic is contained in these ten lines.
Why does Homer decide to place the Cattle of the Sun as the most prominent of these
episodes? This is something we'll need to pay some
attention to, and especially when we get to our discussion of book twelve.
I'll do some talking about why it is that Homer might have placed this episode, as a
central one in, in his story. The men devour the cattle of the sun.
And when they do, the sun god wipes their homecoming from sight.
Homer then goes back to his muse, and tells, asks the muse to, continue on.
Launch out on his story muse, daughter of Zeus.
Start from where you will. Begin from where you wish to begin, muse,
and get us started on our story. The story we're gonna embark on, we're
gonna jump right into the middle. We get into the action.
And we're gonna fill in the back story with, recollections and flashbacks.
And we'll move toward the future as the story carries on.
But we're gonna launch. Right into it, from where the muse wants
us to begin, and which is right from the middle.
And she indeed is a fugatere dias. She is a daughter of Zeus.
This muse is no small goddess. She's a daughter of Zeus himself.
Then to close he's opening, Homer, re-, brings the news back into the story and
asks again, this word for sing, [foreign]. And here also brings back himself, sing
for our time, too. Sing also for us, is the very literal way
that the Greek works. [foreign], sing also for us.
Homer brings in the first person pronoun again.
In the first line, it was the first person singular.
Homer is invoking himself to get involved in his own story, asking the Muse to keep
it going. By the end of the tenth line, Homer is
saying, yes. First person, let's bring me in, But he
includes us as well. The first person singular becomes a first
person plural. So now all of us are invited to come along
with Homer on this journey that is going to be his Odyssey.
As the weeks come along in the next, in the opening weeks of this class, we're
going to spend a lot of time with Homer. It's an amazing story.
Off we launch on our own journey to learn from it and delight from it and to get a
window into what really makes myth tick. This concentration on the Odyssey and how
its, its many twists and turns are going to be kind of laboratory for us to
understand. Many details of what makes Greek myth,
Greek myth. So, pay attention as closely as you can in
your reading. It's the great part of this course, to
spend time with Homer and the other magnificent poets we're gonna spend time
with. I think is one of the great joys, so just
please be sure as I said at the beginning of the course.
Be sure to give yourself time to enjoy it. From here on, off we launch on our