Needless to say, Homer’s Odyssey is considered the oldest work in the Western history of literature and become the must-read classic in schools worldwide. As an English major, I remember how my literary professor in college introduced the journey of Odysseus, the protagonist who wins the Trojan War, and the heroic adventures he has on his way home (a journey which lasts ten years! OMG). The twist and turns in the epic have inspired so many students, scholars, and cultural influencers.
Image via BBC
Now, the poetic wave of the Odyssey is unfolded again with the discovery of the oldest extract of the Odyssey in Greece. According to the Greek culture ministry, an engraved clay has recently been found in the Temple of Zeus located in ancient Olympia, the birth place of Greek mythology, by a team of Greek and German archaeologist researchers.
On the clay, thirteen verses from the Odyssey’s 14th Rhapsody are recorded. This part of story basically focuses on Odysseus’ reunion with his old friend Eumaeus after his ten years of wandering. Though the exact date of this item is still under evaluation (probably before the 3rd century AD; the Roman era), the new discovery still marks a salient progress on its “archaeological, epigraphic, literary and historical exhibit,” claimed the ministry.
Reading this latest activity in Greek culture and literature, I cannot help but get trapped in my memory of sitting in the classroom reading the Odyssey in college. What else exciting things will be decoded on the clay? How this new interface will influence our understanding of Odyssey? As Odysseus did on his journey home, I look forward to the updates, and any twists and turns.
For me, The Odyssey has always been the dreaded epic read in class that I do not understand and rely solely on class discussion to decode, rather than actually read it myself (don’t tell my professors). Lucky for all future generations, Emily Wilson has translated The Odyssey into contemporary English that we can all understand and appreciate. The New York Times wrote a piece on Wilson’s work where she said, “the fact that it’s possible to translate the same lines a hundred different times and all of them are defensible in entirely different ways? That tells you something.” As the first woman to translate the epic, her contemporary take differs greatly from those that we’ve seen in the past.
Image Via The New York Times
Here’s an excerpt from The Odyssey ‘Book I’ translated from Greek by Emily Wilson.
Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.
All the other Greeks
who had survived the brutal sack of Troy
sailed safely home to their own wives—except
this man alone. Calypso, a great goddess,
had trapped him in her cave; she wanted him
to be her husband. When the year rolled round
in which the gods decreed he should go home
to Ithaca, his troubles still went on.
The man was friendless. All the gods took pity,
except Poseidon’s anger never ended
until Odysseus was back at home.
But now the distant Ethiopians,
who live between the sunset and the dawn,
were worshipping the Sea God with a feast,
a hundred cattle and a hundred rams.
There sat the god, delighting in his banquet.
The other gods were gathered on Olympus,
in Father Zeus’s palace. He was thinking
of fine, well-born Aegisthus, who was killed
by Agamemnon’s famous son, Orestes.
He told the deathless gods,
“This is absurd,
that mortals blame the gods! They say we cause
their suffering, but they themselves increase it
by folly. So Aegisthus overstepped:
he took the legal wife of Agamemnon,
then killed the husband when he came back home,
although he knew that it would doom them all.
We gods had warned Aegisthus; we sent down
perceptive Hermes, who flashed into sight
and told him not to murder Agamemnon
or court his wife: Orestes would grow up
and come back to his home to take revenge.
Aegisthus would not hear that good advice.
But now his death has paid all debts.”
looked at him steadily and answered, “Father,
he did deserve to die. Bring death to all
who act like him! But I am agonizing
about Odysseus and his bad luck.
For too long he has suffered, with no friends,
sea all around him, sea on every side,
out on an island where a goddess lives,
daughter of fearful Atlas, who holds up
the pillars of the sea and knows its depths—
those pillars keep the heaven and earth apart.
His daughter holds that poor unhappy man
and tries beguiling him with gentle words
to cease all thoughts of Ithaca; but he
longs to see even just the smoke that rises
from his own homeland, and he wants to die.
You do not even care, Olympian!
This fantastic and fresh version of Homer’s epic is coming out this week on November 7th. Get it here to enjoy this story in a whole new light!
Halloween is a time for spooky monsters like the well-known Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Headless Horseman. It’s also a time for scary books. After all, every monster we just mentioned shares one thing in common: a literary heritage.
Books are full of creepy ghouls, ghosts, and monsters, so it’s no surprise that a lot of our Halloween horror inspiration comes from the scary stories on our bookshelves. But how well do you know the scariest monsters in all of literature?
Get into the spirit of Halloween with this awesome infographic from the folks at the UK’s Morph Costumes. All of the classic creeps are there, and they’re all helpfully labeled with a “Scream Score,” which is calculated by evaluating their creepy appearance, supernatural powers, and evil intent. Morph Costumes says that Pennywise, from Stephen King’sIt, is the creepiest one of all. Do you agree?
Homer’s Iliad is an epic poem. Now, thanks to the British Museum and London’s Almeida Theatre, it has enjoyed the epic reading that it deserves.
The two cultural institutions got together for a 16-hour marathon reading of the Greek classic this past Friday. The work was read in its entirety by popular local actors, including Sinéad Cusack, Mark Gatiss, Rory Kinnear, Simon Russell Beale, and Ben Whishaw. The performance started in the British Museum and moved to the Almeida in the evening. All told, the epic poem took about 16 hours to read!
The reading wasn’t just for Londoners, though – the entire performance streamed online on the Almeida’s website for viewers around the world. That helped the reading go viral, and by the end of the event, #iliad was trending on Twitter worldwide.
I should be making my way to work right now, but it would be wrong to leave whilst Simon Russell Beale reads #Iliad at @BritishMuseum.
All of this took place on Friday, so the reading has already wrapped up. But don’t fret if you missed it! The Almeida Theatre has already announced that the whole performance will be released as a podcast shortly. There will also be a “making of” film, as well as interviews with some of the readers about the day’s events. Keep your eye on their website for the podcast’s release and any further updates!