The Odyssey of Homer is the first great piece of narrative literature of the Western World. What is the relevance of The Odyssey and its influence on the rest of world literature, including the epic, pastoral literature, and lyric and dramatic poetry?
Remember to quote from the readings to illustrate and prove your points, followed by MLA citation, both in-text and on a Works Cited page.
Homer’s literature, probably being written around 800 BCE, is classified as Preclassical. Well, we call it Homer’s literature, but it is most likely he was not the original author—he is just the one who gets the credit:
We don’t know if the originator of Iliad was the same person who first composed The Odyssey. Or if either poem was even created by a single person. Both works may have been created, revised and expanded by many hands. Some scholars argue each of the two major poems must have been brought together from numerous existing poems by a single poet, shaping it into the epic, probably around 775 BCE. The evidence for this lies in the consistency of each work’s poetic expression.
But it is generally doubted that Homer, or anyone else, wrote either of the epic poems down from the beginning. The people who became the Greeks had been literate in the golden age but they’d lost that facility in the dark years. In the oral tradition of the intervening time, these historical poems, which recalled that earlier time, would have been committed to memory and recited (chanted or sung, actually) at gatherings by storytellers, with additions made over several centuries. Among the evidence for this is the fact that the poems contain a number of gross anachronisms, with devices and practices from the dark ages inserted into the story that supposedly took place centuries earlier (McMillan).
At any rate, after Homer wrote and/or at least collected his stories and kicked off the Preclassical era, we have the Classical age of Greek literature, which gave rise to one of the most well-known of the Greek philosophers: Plato. After this, we have the Hellenistic era around 300 BCE; and, finally, the Roman Age, which lasted until 200 CE.
So, once could say whatever Homer did—whether he wrote the stories originally, or simply gathered them into one place and spread the ideas around—really kicked off this whole 1000 year period of Greek literature. These original epic Greek poems, The Odyssey and The Illiad, set up the character archetypes, story structures and motifs, and philosophies which would be used as spring boards for all the other Greek poets, authors, and philosophers to work with; archetypes which, by the way, we still use today. One might even call Homer’s work the greatest literature of all time because of the way it jumpstarted an entire millennium of Greek poetry and philosophy and continues to be borrowed from today.
The character of Odysseus and his many complexities are one of the things that resonate with me. He uses his wit to get out of many seemingly hopeless situations, all with the one goal in mind of getting home to his beloved Penelope (despite cheating on her with several goddesses for years at a time along the way). Odysseus’s embodiment of steadfastness and guile are characteristics found time and time again in literature leading right up to the modern age. Odysseus also “embodies many of the ideals the ancient Greeks aspired to: manly valour, loyalty, piety and intelligence” (Mastin). This just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. A strong, steadfast man is honored and revered today just as he was nearly 3,000 years ago. He is also called “loyal”, despite spending years at a time lounging around having sex with Calypso and Circe—and then he has the gull to fret over whether his Penelope waited for him for 20 years without ever touching another man! This is another them common in today’s world, often referred to as the “double standard.”
Mastin, Luke. “Ancient Greece – Homer – The Odyssey.” Classical Literature. 2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.
McMillan, Eric. “The Writer Who Took Centuries.” 2013. Editer Eric’s Greatest Literature of All Time: The Authors. Web. 4. Nov. 2014.