The Odyssey Background Notes
The Odyssey Background Notes
Background to The Odyssey
About the Author
He was a blind minstrel or rhapsody
Therefore, he was the first rapper
Rhapsodies are “singers of tales”
The entertainer and myth-maker of his time
Wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey
What is an Epic
Epic – a long narrative poem that tells the adventures
of heroes who embody the values of their civilization.
The Illiad is the epic of war.
The Odyssey is the epic of a long journey.
How Epics Were Told
Both are epic poems that were composed in Greece around
They were originally told aloud by people who could not read
They were composed according to a basic story line.
They were made up on the spot.
The events are based on mythology and legend, but can be
These were both told orally, and often sung.
“A long narrative poem about the adventures of a hero whose
actions reflect the ideals and values of a nation or race.” (The
Language of Literature, p. 482)
Complete Odyssey has 12,000 lines and is divided into 24 books.
Involves a hero & a villian
Starts in the middle (en medias res)
Athena – Goddess of Wisdom
Poseidon – god of Sea (Odysseus’ enemy)
Epics address universal themes:
--Good vs. Evil
--Life vs. Death
--Sin vs. Redemption
Characteristics of an Epic
(info. taken from The Language of Literature, p. 482)
The story is set in many locations, real or imaginary, across a wide
area (i.e. the land of the dead).
The hero is an important historical or legendary character of high
social position--a king or prince, for example.
The hero is usually pitted against overwhelming odds and must be
strong and courageous.
A journey is taken in search of something.
Supernatural events and beings play an important role in the plot.
The story is told in language that is formal and grand, but simple
Glorification of the hero at the end.
An epic hero is larger than life, more impressive than an
ordinary human being. An epic hero usually has these character
Why did myths exist?
Most cultures have myths that explain natural phenomena, such as:
Myths also teach moral lessons, explain history, express the deepest fears and
hopes of the human race.
Some myths describe rivalries and among the gods.
They also describe the consequences of disobeying higher powers.
Olympian Gods and Goddesses
During Homer’s time, gods
and goddesses played an
important role in their
They believed that the
gods took an active
interest in human’s affairs
and often engaged in
meddling in love affairs,
quarrels, and even were
jealous of humans.
One Minute Pause- Sevens!
Before The Odyssey
The Trojan War
Until 1871, Troy was believed to be fictional.
Archeologists found a walled city in the area
described. It is located what is now known as
Set in the 10th and final year of the Trojan War
The Greeks attacked Troy to avenge an insult
suffered by Menelaus, King of Sparta
Helen, his wife, ran off with Paris, the young
prince of Troy
How did the Trojan War end?
Odysseus, the king of the island of Ithaca, was one of the many
Greeks who sailed to Troy and besieged the walled city. He
thought of a plan that made the Trojans think the Greeks had
He devised a giant wooden horse to be built that would be left at
the gates of Troy at night.
Trojan War Continued…
The Trojans, finding the statue and no Greeks in sight (except for
one left purposefully there to validate the plan), they pulled the
Trojan horse inside their walled city.
After all had celebrated their “victory,” the Greeks snuck out of
the horse and launched a surprise attack on the Trojans eventually
burning their city to the ground and recapturing Helen.
The story of Odysseus . . .
Deals with the adventures he has to overcome as he
tries to make his way home to Ithaca where his wife,
Penelope, and child, Telemachus, whom he has not
seen since Telemachus was just born.
He leaves Troy with 12 ships and approximately 720
He does not encounter military opponents, but
monsters and enchanting women who try to keep him
from his wife.
Where The Odyssey begins…
Hero of war who has difficulty finding his way back to Ithaca
Married Penelope before leaving for war
Had one son, Telemachus, who was 3 when Odysseus went
When we first meet Odysseus, he is a prisoner on the
goddess Calypso’s island.
Zeus sends his messanger, Hermes, to set Odysseus free,
and the adventure begins.
Focus on: What the angry god of the sea, Poseidon, has in
store for our hero?
TWO MINUTE PAUSE
• Jot down 2
have about The
Words to Know
Terms to Know
A detailed comparison in simile form that is many lines in
Homer uses an object of comparison that was unfamiliar to his
Homer’s similes glorify his characters, enrich his text, and
deepen his readers’ understanding.
Words to be Familiar with
Alienation--The feeling of separation
Fate-- Something that unavoidably happens to a person
Hero-- Someone who demonstrates courage or ability
Quest-- A search or pursuit made in order to find something
LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN!!