Analysis Pages

Facts in The Odyssey

Facts Examples in The Odyssey:

Book I

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"Ithaca..."   (Book I)

Odysseus' home and final destination in his journey, Ithaca is a small island west of the Peloponnese. Of the seven main Ionian islands, it's the second-smallest, with a population around 3,000. In The Odyssey, Ithaca's exact population is unclear, but would've likely been in the hundreds, with a large number of able-bodied men living at Odysseus's home as guests while they attempt to woo his wife.

"daughter of Zeus..."   (Book I)

Calliope, one of the nine Muses, saidto be a daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory) and to preside over epic poetry. The other eight Muses are: Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyric poetry), Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), and Urania (astronomy).

"to beg poison for his arrows..."   (Book I)

The Greeks (and Trojans) engaged in a form of biological and chemical warfare using poisoned arrows and spears. The arrow used by Paris to kill Achilles was, most likely, poisoned. The Greeks also developed a form of napalm, based on naphtha, which was called "Greek fire" and was used to set enemy ships ablaze.

"Pherae..."   (Book III)

Pherae is thought to be the modern Calamata in Messenia, probably about a day's journey from Pylos.

"and sprinkling the barley meal..."   (Book III)

Barley meal, whenever available, is used to sprinkle over the sacrificial animal. Barley, of all varieties of grain, is the most common in Greece because it is does not require as much water as other types of grain.

"Aegis-bearing Zeus..."   (Book III)

This epithet is often used to describe Zeus. The *aegis, *which is often described as a shield, seems to have been both a defensive and an offensive weapon. At several points in the Iliad, Zeus' thunderbolts, which are very destructive weapons, are described as coming from the aegis.

"Trito-born..."   (Book III)

This always refers to Athena, but its origin or significance is unclear. Athena is often described as having been born near the river Triton or the lake Tritonis, so that may be the source of the epithet. Gloss,

"Cauconians..."   (Book III)

A tribe thought to live slightly northeast of Nestor's home in Pylos, about halfway to the lands of Menelaus.

"Philoctetes..."   (Book III)

Philoctetes was a key Greek warrior during the Trojan War because he carried a powerful bow that Hercules had given him, and Philoctetes was the best archer in the Greek army.

"for I never yet saw the gods so openly fond of anyone as Athena then was of your father..."   (Book III)

This is an exaggeration on Nestor's part, most likely to encourage Telemachus. In the Iliad, Odysseus was not particularly singled out by Athena for any favorable treatment.

"the open sea to Euboea..."   (Book III)

Euboea is on the far eastern side of mainland Greece almost directly across the Aegean Sea from Chiros. Nestor's detailed description provides the only information about how some Greeks sailed from Troy, which is in Asia Minor, back to Greece, part of Europe. Except under unusual circumstances, Greeks sailed from island to island rather than over the open sea.

"The son of Tydeus..."   (Book III)

This is Diomedes, one of the most important and strongest of the Greek kings who fought during the Trojan War.

"Tenedos..."   (Book III)

Tenedos is just off the shore near Troy, so the Greeks had barely begun their journey home when the gods intervened to ruin their return.

"Amphitrite..."   (Book III)

The wife of Poseidon and therefore almost as powerful as he is.

"hecatomb..."   (Book III)

Originally, a sacrifice of 100 oxen, but later, any sacrifice of a large number of animals.

"Thrasymedes..."   (Book III)

Thrasymedes accompanied Nestor to the Trojan War and returned with him to Pylos.

"Poseidon, lord of the Earthquake..."   (Book III)

Poseidon, in addition to being god of the sea, controls the stability of the land.  Because he controls both land and sea, Poseidon is often referred to as "earth-encircling Poseidon."

"Nestor at Pylos..."   (Book III)

The exact location of Pylos has never been determined with certitude, but it is likely that Nestor's Pylos is in the southern Peloponnese on the southwest coast (on the Ionian Sea) of mainland Greece. Nestor is often referred to as the "Knight of Gerene," and Gerenia is within a day's riding distance of Pylos.

"to cross over to Elis..."   (Book IV)

Elis, a region in Southern Greece, was bordered on the north by Achaea, on the east by Arcadia, on the south by Messenia, and on the west by the Ionian Sea. To cross over to Elis, the mainland, from Ithaca, the sea, would've required a ship and a few days' journey.

"the Trojan women..."   (Book IV)

In Euripides' tragedy The Trojan Women, Hecuba, the Queen of Troy, and her attendant maidens famously mourn the deaths of the fallen Trojans. "Lamentation" in ancient Greece was a ritualized process involving shaved heads and funeral garb and would've lasted for an extended period of time.

"to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the Egyptians..."   (Book IV)

Troy, a city on the western shore of Turkey, was situated directly on the Aegean Sea, straight across from the Greek city-states. For Menelaus to have gone first to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and Phoenicia, a kingdom situated in the Fertile Crescent, he would've had to sail South and East, in the opposite direction of Sparta.

"city of Lacedaemon..."   (Book IV)

Lacedaemon, a city in Laconia, the principal region of the city-state Sparta. In Greek mythology, Lacedaemon also referred to the king of Laconia, son of Zeus and Taygete, one of the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas, collectively known as the Pleiades. It's said that Lacadaemon renamed the city after his wife, Sparta, who also happened to be his niece.

"hovered over her head saying..."   (Book IV)

In ancient Greece and Rome, the convention was the dreams occurred to the dreamer in a vision that hovers over or near the head of the dreamer. Thus the most effective dream visions are in the form of someone well known to and trusted by the dreamer.

"but she had no heart for sitting..."   (Book IV)

This translation alters the Greek original, which describes Penelope as not being able to bear sitting any longer. According to many scholars, the traditional posture of grieving was to sit on the floor, not on a chair, and this is consistent with Penelope throwing herself on the floor during this episode of despair.

"Proteus..."   (Book IV)

The modern English adjective *protean, *which means the ability to change into many forms or shapes, derives from the mythological Proteus, who was divinely endowed with the ability to change into many guises, including, presumably, that of other gods and mortals.

"and the sheep lamb down three times a year..."   (Book IV)

Typically, the gestation period for sheep is five months long, and thus not capable of producing offspring three times a year. Menelaus' comment suggests that Libya's natural resources are so rich that even the animals benefit from them, thereby increasing their productivity.

"Cadmus..."   (Book V)

Cadmus is the son of Phoenix, the King of Phoenicia, and brother of Europa. Europa was abducted by Zeus, and Cadmus was sent on a quest to find her. When he was unsuccessful, he consulted an oracle which advised him to give up his quest, follow a cow until she lay down, and where she lay down he was to build a city, which came to be known as Thebes.

"Pieria..."   (Book V)

Pieria is a mountain to the north of Mt. Olympus and is thought to be the home of the Muses.

"spinning her purple wool..."   (Book VI)

In the ancient world, the color purple is reserved for the garments of royalty. In many cultures, it was a capital offense for people other than royalty to wear purple.

"and have nothing to do with any other people..."   (Book VI)

This is the second mention of the Phaeacians' isolation from the rest of mankind without any explanation. Given their obvious level of civilization, their isolation is at least unusual, if not strange.

"the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus..."   (Book VI)

These are located on the main area of what is now Greece, the Peloponnese.

"Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes..."   (Book VI)

Hypereia means "beyond-the-land," that is, far away from everyone. Later, it will become clear why the Phaeacians and the Cyclops live in proximity.

"yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus the son of Gaia..."   (Book VII)

When Rhadamanthus died, he went to Elysium, the area of Hades closest to what we think of as paradise, and there judged sinners and placed them in their proper place in Hades. Having raped Leto, Tityus, the son of Gaia, the earth mother, was punished in Hades by having vultures constantly tearing out his liver.

"Pytho..."   (Book VIII)

Another name for Delphi, the home of the Oracle of Delphi, whose oracles were supposed to come from Apollo himself. Pytho was also home to the mythical Python, the earth-dragon of Delphi, depicted in art and literature as a serpent and enemy of Apollo.

"Sintians..."   (Book VIII)

A people from the far northeastern part of Europe, bordering the northern side of the Sea of Marmara, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean. The Sintians didn't speak Greek, and thus their language was considered "barbarous" or unliterary.

"the sum I gave him for his baggage..."   (Book VIII)

Hephaestus alludes to the "bride-price" he paid to Zeus for Aphrodite before they were married. A bride-price was like a dowry in reverse to recompense the father for the loss of a contributing member of his household.

"bound the oars to the thole-pins..."   (Book VIII)

The thole-pins are u-shaped wooden fixtures through which the oars are placed, and the leather thong goes across the top of the u opening to keep the oar in place. The bottom of the the thole-pin has a peg that goes into the rail of the ship to keep the whole oar in place. Most of the time, Greek ships used the sail to get them to their destination.

"Erebus..."   (Book X)

Often depicted as a primordial god, Erebus is not only the personification of darkness, but also represents a region of darkness in the underworld on the path to Hades in Greek mythology. This region is where the dead go immediately after dying and is sometimes used interchangeably with Tartarus.

"cubit..."   (Book X)

This term refers to any of various ancient units of length based on the length of one's forearm, measured from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. This distance is typically equal to about 18 inches or 46 centimeters.

"Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron..."   (Book X)

Hades includes four rivers: Pyriphlegethon, which means "covered with fire"; Cocytus, which means "lamentation" (that is, crying out for sorrow); Styx, which means "full of hate"; and Acheron, which means "over-flowing with grief."

"the waters of Oceanus..."   (Book X)

In the Greek conception of the world, the world is a disc covered by land and water and is ringed by a wide river called Oceanus. If you sail the width of Oceanus, you fall off the edge of the world.

"Pramnian wine..."   (Book X)

This wine is mentioned in the Iliad when it is used as medicine, but there is no known location for Pramnos from which it presumably originates. In the Iliad, it was either mixed with an onion or given with an onion, a scary combination.

"so that we do not even know East from West..."   (Book X)

In the Bronze Age, sailors navigated mostly by land and rarely ventured out of sight of it, sailing from island to island by reference to their knowledge of the surrounding area. Although they could and did navigate by stars when they had to, such navigation was not possible much of the time because of clouds and other weather conditions.

"West wind which was fair..."   (Book X)

In Greek culture, the west wind is typically depicted as helpful while the east wind is usually believed to be dangerous. Since Aeolus only allowed the west wind to blow as it chose, this was considered to be a good thing for the ship.

"Thetis..."   (Book XI)

Thetis, wife of Peleus and mother to Achilles. Thetis was a Nereid, or daughter of the ancient sea god Nereus, and according to some scholars was one of the first deities worshipped in ancient Greece. As mother, she would've retained rights over all of Achilles' possessions after he was killed.

"Antilochus..."   (Book XI)

Antilochus, the son of Nestor, and another friend of Achilles to be cut down during the Trojan War. Antilochus was one of the many suitors of Helen before she married Menelaus, necessitating that he fight in the Trojan war, where he sacrificed himself to save his father.

"Patroclus..."   (Book XI)

Patroclus, son of Menoetius, and best friend to Achilles. In The Iliad, he convinced Achilles to let him lead the Myrmidons in battle, driving the Trojans away from the Greek ships and killing the Trojan warrior Sarpedon before being killed by Hector, a Trojan prince.

"Dionysus..."   (Book XI)

Dionysus, the god of wine, madness, fertility, and ecstasy. His lavish and extravagant parties gave rise to the term Dionysian, a concept of irrationality and chaos that stands in contrast to the Apollonian, a philosophical concept derived from Apollo, the god of rationality and reason. Thus it's possible that what Dionysus said about Procris wasn't true, because he may just have been trying to create chaos.

"Procris..."   (Book XI)

Procris, the daughter of Erechtheus, the king of Athens. Procris suspects that her husband Cephalus has been having an affair, and when a servant tells her that Cephalus has called on Nephele (a cloud nymph), Procris follows them into a thicket, where Cephalus kills her with an arrow, thinking that she's a wild animal.

"Otus and Ephialtes..."   (Book XI)

Sons of Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, from whom they draw their name, the Aloadae. In one story, they managed to trap Ares in a bronze jar for thirteen months (a lunar year). Had their stepmother not told Hermes of this the god of war might never have been freed.

"Orion..."   (Book XI)

Orion, a giant hunter immortalized in the constellation Orion. In some stories, Orion threatened to kill all the beasts of the earth while on a hunting trip with Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, but Gaia objected and sent a scorpion to kill him. Zeus then honored Orion by placing him in the stars.

"Leda the wife of Tyndarus..."   (Book XI)

Leda, queen of Sparta, mother of both Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. According to legend, Zeus fell into Leda's arms in the guise of a swan to escape the talons of an eagle, and Zeus later forced himself on her, resulting in either the births of Castor, Pollux, Helen, or Clytemnestra (textual accounts differ).

"was a certain excellent seer..."   (Book XI)

Homer never directly names this seer, but he's commonly believed to be Melampous, a famed soothsayer and healer from Pylos who was held captive for a year in the house of Phylakos. When his prison collapsed, he was asked to cure Phylakos' wife Iphiklos of infertility, upon which he was given the cattle he tried to steal and allowed to take Pero to wed his brother.

"Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux..."   (Book XI)

Castor and Pollux, son of Leda, queen of Sparta, who was raped by Zeus after he took the form of a swan. In many pieces of literature, they're known as the Dioskuri, and are often listed as brothers of both Helen, wife of Menelaus, and Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon.

"Epicaste mother of king Oedipus..."   (Book XI)

Epicaste, unbeknownst to her, married her son Oedipus and made him king of Thebes. Oedipus had been abandoned after birth and wasn't raised by Epicaste, who had no way of recognizing her son when he was grown. This story is recounted more fully in Sophocles' iconic play, Oedipus Rex.

"Megara..."   (Book XI)

Megara, wife of Heracles, mother of his sons, whom he slaughtered in a fit of madness induced by Hera. After his madness was cured, he fled to the Oracle of Delphi, leaving Megara behind as he attempted to repent for the murder of his children.

"Antiope, daughter to Asopus..."   (Book XI)

Antiope, the daughter of the river god Asopus, in later sources thought to be the mother of the nocturnal king Nycteus of Thebes. In her youth she was said to be very beautiful, and Zeus, seeing this, transformed himself into a satyr (a man with horse-like features) and forced himself on Antiope.

"sees and gives ear to everything..."   (Book XI)

Remember that the sun, in a previous chapter, spied on Ares and Aphrodite for Hephaestus and informed him of his wife's infidelity. Make sure to differentiate between Apollo, the god of the sun, and the sun itself, Helios, a divine entity with its own powers and agendas.

"Sisyphus..."   (Book XI)

Sisyphus, king of Corinth, led a life of greed and cruelty. In one story, Hades was sent to chain Sisyphus up, but was himself chained by the king, making it impossible for anyone to die while Hades was thus restrained. As a punishment for his many sins, Sisyphus was doomed to forever push a rock up a hill and let it roll back down again.

"Tantalus..."   (Book XI)

Tantalus, a son of Zeus, divulged the secrets Zeus disclosed to him to mankind, thus resulting in the punishment of unquenchable thirst and constant torment. Our modern word tantalize, which means to tempt someone with an unobtainable goal, derives from the Tantalus myth.

"by reason of a woman's bribes..."   (Book XI)

This refers to Astyoche, Queen of the Mysians, who was bribed by King Priam to let her son, Eurypylos, fight in the Trojan War. Other Mysians, also called Ceteians, joined Eurypylos and were killed in the fighting, their deaths becoming less heroic as a result of their being the product of a bribe.

"Ajax..."   (Book XI)

A reference to Ajax the Telemonian (or, the Greater), second only to Achilles as a Greek warrior. There are two Ajaxes in The Iliad: Ajax the Greater, mentioned here, and Ajax the Lesser, also known as the Locrian Ajax. The two were not related.

"Cassandra..."   (Book XI)

King Priam of Troy's daughter, captured by Agamemnon during the fall of Troy. Cassandra was supposed to be very beautiful and was pursued by the god Apollo, who, after she rejected his advances, punished her by giving her the gift of prophecy but condemning her to never be believed.

"Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle..."   (Book XI)

Artemis killed Maera, one of here servants, for her lack of chastity. Clymene is Iphiclus' mother and queen of Phylace. Eriphyle, wife of Amphiarus, was bribed by Polyneices, son of Oedipus, to convince Amphiarus to join the Seven Against Thebes. Amphiarus died trying to escape after the battle.

"Ariadne..."   (Book XI)

Ariadne helped Theseus escape from the Labyrinth, thereby betraying her father, King Minos of Crete. Theseus then abandoned her on the island of Dia as punishment. It is unclear, however, what Dionysus might have said against her in this passage.

"Phaedra..."   (Book XI)

Phaedra, the wife of Theseus, commits suicide from shame because she loves her stepson, Hippolytus (or, more likely, to revenge herself on him for rejecting her advances by falsely charging that Hippolytus raped her). Theseus then prays to Poseidon for vengeance against his son, and Poseidon sends a sea monster who scares the horses pulling Hippolytus' chariot, throwing him out and killing him.

"Cimmerians..."   (Book XI)

Although the exact geographic location of the Cimmerians is unknown, in later times, Greeks associated Cimmeria with what is now the Crimea (far to the north). The important point is that the land is always shrouded in darkness, consistent with its being on the way to the underworld.

"For six days my men kept driving in the best cows and feasting upon them..."   (Book XII)

Again, it is unclear why Odysseus didn't at least try to stop his men from continuing this very serious sacrilege. Given what we know about Odysseus' practicality, we may assume that Odysseus realizes that their punishment would be the same whether they kill one or many of Helios' animals.

"and using young oak-shoots instead of barley-meal..."   (Book XII)

This refers to preparation of animals for sacrifice, which includes pouring barley meal over the animals' heads.

"When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to show..."   (Book XIII)

This reference to a morning star usually refers to Venus, which appears low in the east just before dawn. Notice the slight change from the rosy-fingered dawn opening that has been typical throughout.

"as a burnt sacrifice to the immortal gods..."   (Book XIV)

In ancient Greece, the gods were always given the first portion of a meal. This both showed respect for the gods, as providers of good fortune, and demonstrated a person's goodness and piety. Note that the suitors don't often make this sacrifice when they eat, which negatively impacts their fate later in the poem.

"gold with amber beads..."   (Book XV)

Amber, which most often came from the Baltic area, has always been considered a precious material for jewelry and was often paired with gold in ancient Greek and Mediterranean cultures. It would've been highly prized as a gift and would reflect well on this messenger.

"Syra that lies over above Ortygia..."   (Book XV)

There's no island named Syra, but there is a Syros, which is west of Delos, an island that also went by the name Ortygia. Keep in mind as you read that Homer wasn't a geographer and that there are many places in ancient Greece that have no real location but were invented for the purpose of a story.

"Elis, where the Epeans rule..."   (Book XV)

At this point, Telemachus is sailing along the coast of what is now northern Greece, just across from the island of Ithaca. It would be easier and quicker to sail directly across to Ithaca, but Athena has already warned him to keep to the coast and take a more round-about route, and Telemachus has wisely chosen to follow her advice.

"Dmetor by name, son of Iasus..."   (Book XVII)

There are no other accounts of these characters in Greek literature, suggesting that Homer made them up entirely, as Odysseus has, or that they were of such insignificance that they were not documented in their time.

"This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred..."   (Book XVII)

Homer may not be keeping track of dog years here. For Odysseus to have bred Argos as a pup, he would have to be at least twenty years old, which is a remarkable feat for any breed of dog. By using the name Argos, Homer may be attempting to link Odysseus loosely with Jason and the Argonauts.

"he would then go back from them and shoot an arrow through the whole twelve..."   (Book XIX)

How the axes are set up has been the subject of much debate. The most likely method has the axe heads set into the ground, with the handles straight up, and the rings at the end of the handles lined up so that an arrow could (possibly) be shot through all the rings. The ballistics of an arrow makes this feat an impossibility, but we are dealing in myth here, so anything is possible.

"Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi..."   (Book XIX)

The Eteocretans most likely refers to the original settlers on the island of Crete, and the Dorians of three-fold race probably refers to three tribes of Dorian Greeks. The noble Pelasgi are Greeks from Asia Minor, probably near modern Turkey, and they are somehow associated with Argos. The Pelasgi were thought to be the earliest inhabitants of Greece, which would explain why Odysseus calls them the noble Pelasgi.

"Sardinian fashion..."   (Book XX)

A reference to the island of Sardinia, near to Italy, located in the Mediterranean Sea. Sardinia was originally settled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians prior to the sixth century B.C. The Romans conquered the island in 238 B.C. This reference to Sardinia is one of the factors that dates the Odyssey later than 1200 B.C.

"Pandareus..."   (Book XX)

Pandareus, a resident of Miletus and son of a nymph, was urged by his friend Tantalus to steal a bronze dog from the temple of Zeus on Crete. As punishment, Zeus either turned Pandareus and his wife to stone or killed them, leaving their daughters orphans.

"among the Cephallenians..."   (Book XX)

Cephallenians seems to refer to all of Odysseus' subjects, whether from Ithaca, nearby islands, or the adjacent mainland. In Book II of The Iliad, for example, in what is known as the Catalogue of Ships, there is a reference to Odysseus commanding Cephallenians, which includes men from Ithaca, Neriton, and the large island of Samos just to the south of Ithaca. On the southern part of Samos is the land identified as Cephallenia.

"scheming Cronus..."   (Book XXI)

Cronus is referred to as scheming because, after having been warned that he would be killed by one of his children, he ate several of them. Zeus was saved when his mother, Rhea, wrapped a stone in a blanket and fed that to Cronus, allowing Zeus to later overthrew his father as prophesied.

"mighty Heracles..."   (Book XXI)

As many commentators have noted, Homer's inclusion of Heracles (Hercules) in this episode, essentially as a contemporary of Odysseus, is odd. Heracles is usually considered to pre-date the Trojan War by many years, so he would not be alive at the same time as Odysseus.

"Messene..."   (Book XXI)

Messene is far to the south of Ithaca on the mainland near Pylos, where Nestor, a warrior-king and friend of Odysseus, hosted Telemachus earlier in the narrative.

"that had been given him by a friend whom he had met in Lacedaemon—Iphitus the son of Eurytus..."   (Book XXI)

The bow, given to Odysseus by Iphitus, has a great heritage. In Greek mythology, the god Apollo gave it to Eurytus, who was considered to be the most skilled archer among gods and men. Eurytus eventually challenged Apollo with the bow, only to be killed by the god. Iphitus then inherited the bow, which he gave to Odysseus.

"shovelled up the blood and dirt..."   (Book XXII)

In the outer court, the floor wouldn't necessarily have been stone or marble, and large portions of Odysseus' outer court was simply made of packed earth, which explains the ever-present "dust" on the floor, which the suitors "bit" when they fell face-first into it as they died.

"taunted him..."   (Book XXII)

In The Iliad, it was common for a warrior to taunt another warrior in a battle or even after a killing. Taunting, which is essentially bragging, is an important part of Bronze Age warfare and reveals much about the characters involved in this fight, who draw their strength from their association with Odysseus.

"kicked the stool with his feet..."   (Book XXII)

Just as Antinous kicks a table as he dies, Eurymachus kicks a stool. The poet may be using this image to create realism. When mortally wounded men are in their death throes, they often kick reflexively, and that kick is their last movement. Hence the phrase "kick the bucket."

"pay you a fine worth twenty oxen..."   (Book XXII)

In The Iliad, a female slave is valued at four oxen, so twenty oxen is in general a substantial price for the fine proposed by Eurymachus. However, given how many oxen have already been slaughtered by the suitors (at a rate of a couple per day), this isn't nearly enough to make up for their crimes.

"be sure not to disgrace your ancestors..."   (Book XXIV)

Considering the fighting skills that Telemachus has already shown his father during the fight with the suitors, this speech seems very odd and out of place. This speech is one of several elements in Book XXIV that has led several scholars to argue that this Book was written by another poet much later than Homer's original composition.

"flew on our right hands..."   (Book XXIV)

The right hand or right-hand side is always considered a sign of good fortune; the left, always dangerous (the Latin for left is sinister, which, in English, means full of evil intent). This is why when we see a bird omen, the bird is always flying on the right hand side for Telemachus and Odysseus and on the left for the suitors.

"Alybas..."   (Book XXIV)

As scholars have noted, Alybas may have its root in the concept of wandering (al), one of the major themes of the poem. Odysseus seems to be making a self-reflexive comment about his own desire to travel and go on adventures, which we've seen throughout the poem.

"seven talents of fine gold..."   (Book XXIV)

To put this in perspective, in today's dollars, a single talent of gold is worth approximately $1.25 million. Seven talents, therefore, would be $8.75 million, and would easily make Odysseus the richest man on Ithaca. This number is meant to impress Laertes and give him hope that his son is still alive.

"He had on a dirty old shirt..."   (Book XXIV)

This is the traditional dress of an agricultural worker in Greece, who couldn't maintain fine clothes in the field. Aside from giving us a clear picture of everyday life on a farm, it also evokes sympathy for Laertes, who's been described throughout The Odyssey as being old and feeble.

"the open Hellespont..."   (Book XXIV)

The Hellespont, just north of Troy, separates Europe from Asia Minor. It's fitting that Achilles, who was instrumental in winning the Trojan War, should have his tomb essentially on the bridge between two worlds: the easternmost part of Western Europe and the westernmost part of Asia.

"the rock Leucas..."   (Book XXIV)

Leucas means white rock in Greek, but this is the only mention of such a rock in Homer. It's possible that he refers to the Greek island of Leucas, now knows as Lefkada, which lies on the west coast of Greece, not far from Ithaca (though the established geography of Oceanus makes this unlikely).

"THEN..."   (Book XXIV)

Many Homer scholars have debated the authenticity of the this part of Book XXIV, arguing that there are so many linguistic problems with it that make it seem like the work of a later poet. There's no proof of this, however, and from a narrative standpoint it makes sense to include this book, in which Odysseus reunites with his father.

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