Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O for Odyssey

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The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. It was probably composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.

The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he is known in Roman myths) and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes him ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten year Trojan war. In his absence, it is assumed that he died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres (or Proci), who compete for Penelope's hand in marriage.

It's believed that the original poem was composed in the oral tradition by an epic poet/singer, perhaps a professional performer, and was more likely to be heard than read. The Odyssey was written in a regionless poetic dialect of Greek and is 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. In the English language, as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to mean an epic voyage.


  1. This post goes very well with mine today about no original ideas. The epic voyage theme goes all the way back to early literature, even so far back as the Bible. What is more of an epic voyage than Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land?

    1. Karen: How very true! The trip through the wilderness took forty years, until a whole generation had died. When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land there was much rejoicing.