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Allusion in The Odyssey

Homer alludes multiple times to characters and events from his other epic, The Iliad. Chronologically, The Odyssey takes place after The Iliad since Odysseus is on his return trip from the Trojan War. Allusions are made to connect the two epics together.

Allusion Examples in The Odyssey:

Book IV

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"and mimicked all our wives..."   (Book IV)

Menelaus attempts to explain away this act of treachery as the gods' will, but Helen's measured and deliberate actions in this scene seem to suggest that she's trying to lead the Trojans to their hiding place. An alternate reading would be that she's trying to draw the Greeks out to ambush the Trojans, but this seems unlikely.

"that valiant warrior Achilles..."   (Book IV)

In The Iliad, Achilles was killed by Paris, Prince of Troy, who shot an arrow at Achilles' heel. According to legend, Achilles' heel was said to be his only weakness, the one part of his body that wasn't dipped into the River Styx, whose waters made him invulnerable. Homer alludes to Achilles' death to establish the timeline of events leading to this marriage.

"olive-wood handle..."   (Book V)

Homer’s specific mention of olive wood is an allusion, or reference, to the myth of Hermes’ slaying of Argus, who was protecting the heifer lo while she was chained to an olive tree. Homer’s consistent mention of olive wood is a symbol of hope and salvation throughout Odysseus’s journey.

"Aeaean island..."   (Book X)

Aeaea (also, Aiaia) is the island of Colchis, the home of King Aietes and where Jason and the Argonauts found the Golden Fleece, so Homer is making a clear connection between Odysseus's journey and the earlier Argonauts' journey.

"in my own ship from Scyros..."   (Book XI)

Scyros is an island in the southern Aegean Sea where Achilles' son was being raised. When Achilles was killed, Odysseus went to Scyros and took Neoptolemos to Troy, where he became a respected warrior in his own right. Achilles' death happened in the middle of the war, meaning Odysseus would've had to leave and return to bring his son to Troy.

"had a handle of ivory..."   (Book XXI)

Homer includes a description of the key as a way of alluding to the status of the storeroom's contents. Since it is made of bronze and ivory, precious materials, the kinds of items within the storeroom are likely valuable as well.

"Heaven's doom..."   (Book XXII)

It's very important to Odysseus that the suitors' destruction be seen as an act of the gods ("Heaven's doom") rather than an act of a man. Odysseus, Telemachus, and the other two must be seen as merely the instruments of divine justice, not as murderers bent on private revenge.

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