Study Questions: Odyssey 1-4

Due Wednesday, September 7, 2016

(Stanley Lombardo Translation)


Illustration: Telemachus with Penelope at her loom.

Detail of an Attic red-figure skyphos, ca. 440 BCE, from Chiusi, by the Penelope Painter. See Eric Lessing et al. The Voyages of Ulysses. Macmillan,London: 1965.


Dr. Levine's notes on the Homeric Cycle.

Dr. Levine's notes on the hero stories of Odysseus and Achilles.

 Extra Credit Lecture Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30 pm JBHT 216: "Touching Skin: Why Medieval Users Touched and Kissed their Manuscripts". For EC, type a summary and your thoughtful thoughts and hand in to Dr. Levine by Sept. 14.

1. On the map of Homeric Geography, find Ithaca, Pylos, and Sparta. Which direction did Telemachus have to sail from Ithaca to Pylos? What direction did he have to travel in order to go from Pylos to Sparta? Describe a likely sea route that Telemachus would have taken to get from Ithaca to Pylos, mentioning what he would have passed on the way. [Handy Map of Greece]

2. Describe a likely sea route that Odysseus would have taken to get from Ithaca to Troy, and mention a few places he would have passed on the way.

3. Look at the "Palace of Odysseus" plan at the beginning of the book. What surrounds the Hearth in the Hall? What flanks the Outer Porch? (What is the construction of Hall, Inner, and Outer Porch called?) (Click here for the floor plan of the bronze-age Mycenaean Megaron in the "Palace of Nestor" at Pylos.)



4. What themes do the first ten lines of the epic stress?

5. What pun on Odysseus' name does Athena make in her first speech to Zeus (p. 3)?

6. Why does Zeus mention Orestesin his speech about mortal responsibility (p. 2)?

7. In what guise does Athena approach Odysseus' house? Why does she choose this disguise?

8. Why was Telemachus indignant when he saw Athena standing on the threshold of the outer porch?

9. What is symbolic about where Telemachus places Pallas Athena's spear?

10. Phemius the bard plays for the suitors. Why does he do so?

11. Why does Telemachus say that if Odysseus had died at Troy he would have grieved less for him than he currently does? What does he think has happened to his father?

12. What does Athena mean that Telemachus should build a 'barrow,' and what do you think it will be in it? What English word describes an empty tomb?

13. Why does Athena/Mentes remind Telemachus of Orestes?

14. Why does Telemachus offer a gift to Athena/Mentes?

15. What song was Phemius singing that bothered Penelope so much? What about the song vexed her so?

16. How does Telemachus respond to his mother's tearful plea to change the subject of the singer's song? What does his response tell us about his character, and about gender roles?

17. What had the suitors done specifically to make Telemachus call them 'arrogant pigs'? (388)

18. Eurycleia was a prized slave in Odysseus' household. What relationship did she have with Odysseus' father Laertes? With Odysseus' son Telemachus?




19. Which gods does Telemachus invoke in his speech to Aegyptius (43-86), and why does he mention these specifically?

20. Antinous the suitor says that Penelope 'knows more tricks than any woman alive.' What evidence does he give of her cleverness? What three gifts does he say that Athena gave to Penelope?

21. Why does Telemachus fear the Furies? (149)

22. What part of Athena/Mentes' advice (Book 1, line 311) does Telemachus leave off when he tells the suitors what he's going to do about marrying off his mother (Book 2, lines 229-243)? Why does he leave that part off?

23. Who is Mentor? With whom is Mentor angry, and why?

24. What does Telemachus find in his father's treasure chamber? Why does Telemachus go there?

25. What oath does Telemachus make Eurycleia take, and why?

26. Athena changes to the form of Mentor at the end of the book. Why does she do so? And what does she do in his form?




27. What were Nestor's people doing when Telemachus and Athena/Mentor arrived, and why did Telemachus feel embarrassed?

28. Nestor reveals his memories of the Trojan War. What does he say about Ajax, Achilles, Patroclus, and Antilochus? What does he say about Odysseus?

29. What did the 'wrath of Athena' have to do with the disastrous homecoming of the Achaian heroes? (159)

30. Why does Nestor remind Telemachus about Orestes, and how does Telemachus respond?

31. What does Nestor say about the relationship between Athena and Odysseus? (243)

32. How had Agamemnon hoped to protect his wife, and how did Aegisthus get around that safeguard?

33. Why did Aegisthus burn ox thighs and make offerings of tapestries and gold? (303)

34. What did Orestes do after he killed Aegisthus, the day when Menelaus arrived (p. 37)? How does this differ from the myth as told in Aeschylus' Oresteia?

35. How does Athena's departure (408) impress Nestor, and what prayer and vow does he make?




36. What was Menelaus doing when Telemachus and Peisistratus come to his house? What are the names of those involved?

37. How do the physical appearances of Telemachus and Peisistratus impress Menelaus?

38. What is Telemachus' reaction to the grandeur of Menelaus' palace? (75) What does this tell us about the relative wealth of their two kingdoms? How does their later conversation confirm this? (633 ff)

39. To which goddess is Helen compared when she arrives in the hall (125)? Why do you think the poet makes this comparison?

40. Why does Helen have a spindle and yarn in her lap? What does this tell us about epic queens?

41. What is Helen's attitude towards her own role in the Trojan War?

42. Everybody cries when they remember Odysseus (192). What does Helen do to help them get over this sorrow? What was the origin of this special thing?

43. What myth does Helen tell that proves the cleverness (dolos) of Odysseus? In this story, where do Helen's loyalties lie (especially at lines 278ff)?

44. What Trojan Horse story does Menelaus tell that proves the excellence of Odysseus? What is Helen's role in that myth?

45. Who was Eidothea, and who was her father? How does she help Menelaus to get home?

46. What other myth do we think of when we read lines 440-452?

47. What use did Eidothea make of ambrosia to help Menelaus?

48. Why did Poseidon kill Oilean Ajax (the Locrian, lesser Ajax, not the Ajax of the great shield who killed himself over not getting Achilles' armor)?

49. How is Proteus' description of the death of Agamemnon (536-565) different from or similar to the version of the myth which Aeschylus gives in Agamemnon?

50. What does Proteus say is Menelaus' after-death destiny?

Illustration: Color version of the drawing at the top of this page: Telemachus with Penelope at her loom.