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The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis

There is a great deal of different methods and techniques to introduce the main characters of the story, to organize the text and to make the reader interested in the book from the very beginning. Authors usually use various methodologies in their work, as they want to be unique and different from other authors by the special text organization or the characters introduction. There are occasionally situations, when one author uses different techniques within different works. Such mix of the techniques and characters introduction is provided by Homer in two of his works, The Iliad and The Odyssey, which are going to be analyzed from the point of view of the characters insertion in the description. In The Iliad, the poet begins with a description of Achilles’ “anger” (mēnis). Unlike Achilles, Odysseus’ name does not occur in The Odyssey until line twenty-one. Nevertheless, Odysseus is established as the subject of the poem in the very first line when he is described as the man of many ways. Such distinctive beginnings suggest about the difference in perception of respective protagonists, and explain in terms of larger cultural and narrative themes in both epics.

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Considering the cultural and time environment, the poems were written in ancient Greece by Homer, who is considered to be, according to the accepted information, a legendary epic poet. To consider the exact time of the poems creation with the aim to research the political and social environmental and to add to the supportive facts is impossible, as there is no exact information about Homer and the dates of his birth and death. Different versions are analyzed, but the evidences of the concrete supportive facts give us just the information that The Iliad and The Odyssey are one of the most ancient pieces of literature of ancient Greece. Nevertheless, the picture of the cultural life of people of that time may be reconstructed. The existence of lots of myths and description of the society in ancient Greece and the very development of literature, music and theater may be the main points of reviewing the life of ancient Greeks.

First of all, ancient Greece is characterized by the constant battles for the territory, love and with the aim of revenge. The myths are the main resources of information, and this information should not be trusted as the magnificent power and incredible creations are the main characters of the ancient Greek myths. The heroes were the main characters and the idols, as their power was so huge and immense, that they are introduced in many stories of that time. The difference of the characters introduction may be the reason, which is coming out of some mythological understanding of these characters. The stories about magnificent people with huge power were familiar for all and there are some distinctive features, which made them different. To be more specific, the exact examples should be discussed, in particular the first lines where the acquaintance with the main heroes takes place.

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
Far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel… (Homer, The Odyssey 27).

These are the first lines of The Odyssey, which do not mention the main character, but anyway, he may be guessed. Who is the person “of many ways” (Homer, The Odyssey 27)? Who “was driven far journeys” and “sacked Troy’s sacred citadel” (Homer, The Odyssey 27)? Considering the ancient Greece mythology, there were not so many people, who could fit the mentioned description. Being concerned about Odysseys’ 10 years journeys, when could not return home because of the Gods anger and had to float in the ocean. Reading the lines, it seems that there is no need to name the main character, as all is understood: there is no any other person, except Odyssey, who had to travel by so many ways and so much time. The association is direct, so no other variants immerge in mind. This may be one of the reasons why the author of the poem did not use the name of the main character in the first lines, and just gave the reader the opportunity to guess.

Such method, the guessing of the main character, could have been used to enhance the perception of the poem. First of all the reader is excited, as no main character is introduces, at the same time the reader surmises him, but still waits for the author to name him. This could have been supported by the cultural perception of the mythical heroes: they were familiar, discussed and popular. The cultural factor is of great importance here as to guess the hero of the myths is rather difficult if no any reminders of the heroes in the society takes place. The myth about Odyssey is familiar for all and people are just given several words “the man of many ways” (Homer, The Odyssey 27) and the reader has already guessed the main character of the play and the main idea, which is going to be developed, but still the reader is captured in the tense and interest as the language, the author uses is so exciting and easy to read, moreover, reading the poem by Homer, there is the impression that you appear near him and experience with him all the adventures.

Odyssey appears only on the 21st line, when the description of the situation takes place, but still, the name of Odyssey is mentioned in the situation and without the first line and the words “this one alone, longing for his wife and his homecomming” (Homer, The Odyssey 27) it is impossible to understand that Odyssey is the main character of the story.

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The cultural aspect is also taken into account while The Iliad creation, but in this situation, the main character of the poem is introduced in the first lines:

Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians, hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished since that time first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Acilleus (Homer, The Iliad 59).

This is the first sentence of The Iliad, which mentions the name of Achilleus for two times. One of the reasons that the name of Achileus are mentioned in the first line of The Iliad, and also the names of the other mythological heroes are mentioned, may be the fact that the poem is considered to be the first piece of literature, written in western part of the world. The description is started from the main hero and some supportive characters and the environment where the events take place, the connected elements and conditions. Being the first written piece of literature, the author wanted to give the understanding to the events, to make the reader familiar with the situation. Creating The Odyssey, such mention was not so necessary, as the author could have thought that the reader should combine these two poems, as if The Odyssey is the continuation or contribution to The Iliad.

The reason that The Odyssey had to be perceived after reading The Iliad is rather ponderous argument. The poems were titled by one and the same author and this is reasonable that one poem had to be perceived through the other. Knowing the history of literature and the progression of the poems creation, modern reader will read The Iliad first and only then will turn to The Odyssey. The perception of the poems should be provided gradually, including different aspect of The Iliad plot while perceiving The Odyssey. Moreover, the plot of The Iliad and The Odyssey are closely connected, especially in the part of the Troy war, so the author could just omit some facts as they were mentioned in the first poem. In addition, there are some other versions of the same theme, and they should also be discussed.

The problem of differences of introducing the main characters of the poems adds to the skeptical opinion of some modern scholars, who do not consider homer as the historical individual. The reasons for such point of view comes from the fact that there is no any supported and trusted documents about the existence of such personality as Homer, neither biography, no other documentary evidences. The difference of the written styles in the poems is so visual, that it may be concluded as additional support to the fact that there has never been such personality as Homer, and the works, which are titled by this name, is just the collective works of several authors, who are unknown till now. The researches on the topic continue as a lot of facts are hidden for now but there is the possibility to find them and to introduce to the society.

The both poems introduce the largest cultural and narrative themes of the discussed period. The Troy war also remains one of the most important events foe the ancient Greeks, and it is not the surprise that this theme is described by one author in different poems. The core difference is that the perspectives are different which may mean that a lot of facts could have been mentioned and there were no any importance to repeat one and the same for several times. The author could start The Odyssey with the same narration, but what for? Furthermore, the main themes of the poems are not heroes in themselves, but love and war, hope and despair, and honor and glory, and the start of the poem, which main idea (Troy war) has already been discussed, with the description of the main character is not so important. The main idea of the story had already been familiar to the reader from The Iliad, and the reader had to be captured by the other idea, by the other theme. Starting The Odyssey from the description of the main hero without naming him may be considered as the special device, thanks to which the reader is captured to the poem, to the plot and the desire to read the book till the end appears.

In conclusion, In The Iliad, the poet begins with a description of Achilles, while Odysseus’ name does not occur in The Odyssey until line twenty-one. Nevertheless, Odysseus is established as the subject of the poem in the very first line when he is described as the man of many ways. Such distinctive beginnings suggest about the difference in perception of respective protagonists, and explain in terms of larger cultural and narrative themes in both epics. Here are a lot of factors, which could promote the author of the poems, Homer, to provide such different text organization and main character introduction. First, The Iliad is the poem, which was written earlier and the author could presuppose that he reader will base his/her reading of The Odyssey on the knowledge, which were already received from the previous poem by the author. The perception of one literature piece through the other is one of the most exciting things, as the reader is already familiar with the situation, and there is no need to explain everything one more time. The other idea is that Homer is not the single personality, but he collective of writers, who created the poems by different techniques, that is why Homer’s writing style is rather different, if to analyze his works from this, technological, perspective.

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Works Cited

Homer. The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1961. Print.

Homer. The Odyssey of Homer. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1999. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 25). The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-homer-review/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 25). The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis. https://studycorgi.com/the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-homer-review/

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"The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis." StudyCorgi, 25 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-homer-review/.

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StudyCorgi. "The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis." October 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-homer-review/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis." October 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-homer-review/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Iliad and The Odyssey – Homeric Epics Analysis'. 25 October.

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