The Warriors Odyssey


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He does not return to his kingdom ostentatiously, as Agamemnon did. Fittingly for the warrior who invented the Trojan horse, who is skilled in subterfuge and military intelligence, he sneaks in, disguised in rags. He goes not to his own palace, but to the cottage of Eumaeus, a swineherd. Penelope is indeed strong and true: she has kept the suitors at bay for a decade. In Finkel's book there is a heartrending story of a war widow who, though she keeps her husband's ashes close, is at some level convinced he is alive and nearby, preparing to come back home, but biding his time; she waits patiently, loyally.

Penelope, under increasing pressure to choose a husband from among the suitors, sets them a challenge. Whoever can string the great bow of Odysseus, left behind for 20 years, and shoot an arrow through the 12 axe heads that Telemachus sets out, shall win her as his bride. In turn, the suitors try the task, and fail. Odysseus, wrapped in filthy rags, the butt of the suitors' contempt, stands up to attempt the feat. Easily, he strings the bow and flies an arrow, swift and shrill as a swallow, through the axe heads.

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Then, without a beat, he takes another arrow and switches his aim to one of the suitors' ringleaders, Antinous, who is tilting a goblet to his lips. Odysseus gets him right through his exposed neck: in one side, out the other, and the blood fountains forth. Then the bloodbath begins — or rather, a battle, the war brought literally home. The remaining suitors get their hands on weapons. Odysseus, aided by Telemachus, engages them. The father and son are vastly outnumbered: but they have a god on their side. Athene, in human disguise, weighs in. Soon the great hall is a charnel house.

Afterwards, Telemachus orders the disloyal maids to clean up the bodies and the gore. Then he takes them outside and hangs them.

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They twitch helplessly in their death throes, like thrushes in a snare. In Finkel's book there is a veteran who, after an injury, has no sensation or movement on his left side. Out and about, he wears a specially printed T-shirt. On the back: "I took a bullet in the head for mine" — a gesture of suppressed fury if ever there was one. In the Odyssey , people tell each other stories about the war.

When Odysseus himself ends up in the land of the Phaeacians, his last adventure before he finally reaches his homeland, he conceals his true identity. Entertained at the royal court, he asks the blind bard, Demodocus, to sing of the exploits of the Greeks at Troy. He does so in the late Robert Fagles' translation :. Telling stories about the war is also one way of understanding the nature of Greek tragedy, the art form that matured in Athens some years after the Homeric epics were written down.

The earliest playwright whose works survive complete is Aeschylus. His trilogy, the Oresteia , first performed in BC, is an expansion of the story of Agamemnon's return, taking its cue from the Odyssey. Like the Oresteia , many of the works of the tragedians are sequels or prequels to the stories of the Trojan war, tying up the epics' loose ends, spiralling out from their stories to go down narrative byways of their own making.

The Odyssey: a soldier's road home

He vows to kill the Greek leaders — but is sent mad by Athene, and massacres livestock instead of men, before committing suicide. It is no coincidence that this last drama has, over the past weeks, been staged in London, rewritten for our times as Our Ajax by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Suicide is now as threatening to soldiers as bombs and guns.

The causes of war, the collateral damage of war, the ghastly aftermath of war, the devastating impact of war on the self: this is Greek tragedy's stock in trade. The program ends with the establishment of SMART goals — an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound — which are set with the intention of providing warriors something to work toward after returning home from Project Odyssey.

The WWP teammates who worked with the warriors on Project Odyssey commit to a day follow-up program to help warriors achieve their goals, connecting them with additional resources as needed. Goal-setting and accountability — along with the ability to connect warriors with a myriad of additional WWP programs — are what separate Project Odyssey from other adventure-based programs.

It was the first time I felt like maybe it was okay not to be okay. It changed my life. Who is eligible? This program is not meant for warriors in crisis, and participants cannot be in detox from alcohol or drug addiction. Warriors must also be able to make a two- to three-week commitment to complete the program in its entirety.

What is it? The program is available to warriors regardless of geographic location.

Encounters with monsters like Polyphemus, soon to be described, have taught him the futility of the Danaan aretai that Penelope praises and the emptiness of the kleos that spreads far and wide over Hellas and the midst of Argos. Here he needs a larger, more universal, more convertible form of kleos. He must also exercise skills which have an ambiguous value among the warriors at Troy. Fame being as central as it is to both epics, one would expect this formula to be of frequent occurrence It is striking that neither of the other two instances describes the martial glory of a traditional epic hero.

Odyssey, VIII, 73 f. The other occurrence is more striking still.

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It describes Penelope whom Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, addresses for the first time in the darkened halls of his palace XIX, :. One of several "reverse similes" applied to Penelope 23, this one too places heroic kleos in a new and unfamiliar light. A noble queen keeping her fidelity to her absent lord in the palace has kleos as well as a warrior facing his enemies on the open field of battle. Though nothing overt is said, a situation is created in which each recognizes and begins to revivify the obscured kleos of the other.

Here the threatened queen, beset by dangers, approaching desperation, lacking a firm protector in her house, receives this formula of heroic honor from the king in the guise of a starving, homeless beggar. Not only is he without kleos at this point, but he is even without name. He explicitly asks Penelope not to inquire about his lineage or his homeland, for that would fill him with grief and painful memory Od. The situation utterly reverses heroic practice. The traditional warrior who guards his kleos as his most precious possession proudly boasts his name, his race, his origins, and his native land, as for instance Glaukos does in his encounter with Diomedes in Iliad, VI, ff.

Penelope makes the appropriate reply ; here, for the only time in the poem besides IX, 19 f. In the speech in. I and complained of the suitors' behavior, but here she tells the story of. Her tale reveals that her kleos, like Odysseus1 in. This combination of dolos and the highest heroic kleos again points up the paradoxes and contradictions in Odysseus' "heroism".

A woman can be expected to use doloi for her kleos, but a hero should win his kleos in fair fight on the battlefield. Both Penelope and Odysseus tread a fine line where dolos leads to "glory", not "shame". In this respect, as in so many others, Odysseus and Penelope complement and parallel one another.

This complementation of dolos and kleos for them both is especially clear in the second Nekyia. Odysseus, on the other hand, master of disguise and trickery, nevertheless fights an heroic battle of sorts. This last scene contrasts with the heroic exertion of Odysseus' son at the crucial moment of battle :. XI, f. Agamemnon's heroism cannot cope with a woman's doloi ; Odysseus, meeting Penelope on her own ground, can enlist their separate doloi jointly in the reestablishment, rather than the destruction, of their house and their kleos.

That remote prayer for Nausicaa and her prospective husband now becomes relevant for Penelope and himself, fulfilled in the reaffirmed kleos of his Ithacan wife The poem defines heroism through a series of symmetries and inversions : Odyssean doloi contrast with Agamemnon's kleos, the success of the one with the failure of the other. The house-destroying dolos of Clytaemnestra also contrasts with the house-preserving dolos of Penelope, as aischos contrasts with kleos. Simultaneously the kleos of Odysseus, paradoxically achieved through dolos, parallels the kleos of Penelope: she is a woman who weaves guile XIX, , but, woman though she is, still gains the kleos usually reserved for male heroes.

He, a hero of the Trojan war, possessing the masculine kleos of the warrior, wins that kleos through dolos and, in this poem, through a deed executed in the interior space of the house, the realm usually associated with women. The Iliadic warrior at once announces his name to his antagonist ; Odysseus wins his major triumphs by circumspectly and often unheroically hiding his name. Odysseus' "fame" which "reaches to the heavens" in IX, 20 recurs later in that same book in an exploit which contains one of his most brilliant doloi and forms one of the most important parts of his kleos.

In IX, ff. He addresses him, for the first time, as follows IX, :. Odysseus here presents himself in terms both of his helpless on the vast sea and of the heroic glory of his Trojan exploits, the capture and destruction of a great city which constitute the "greatest kleos under the heavens" of his leader f. That same wanderings and capturing Troy, introduces Odysseus as the hero of the poem in its very first lines I, 1 f. It certainly makes little impression on the Cyclops, who "with pitiless spirit" dismisses his appeal for suppliant rights IX, The narrative context of the wide kleos of IX, contains another irony.

Odysseus borrows from his leader at Troy a kleos which embraces the sky and the earth. He is dwarfed by the giant who towers above him cf. IX, and uses his massive strength to seal that enclosure with a rock that not even twenty-two wagons could budge IX, The rock both makes the enclosure definitive and renders futile traditional heroic battle with the sword IX, There is one further irony. Odysseus invokes with pride and confidence the kleos of a leader whose death, as he will relate in the Nekyia of book XI, was anything but glorious XI, Agamemnon illustrates the failure and inadequacy of the traditional kleos in this world.

Citing him, Odysseus will also find an alternative. The pun associates the abandonment of heroic identity with the guile upon which he has increasingly to rely in this strange world. Later he resumes the traditional heroic stance and boasts like an Iliadic warrior over a defeated enemy. The result is disastrous IX, f. He thereby identifies himself with the Iliadic kleos of his leader in whose name he introduced himself to the Cyclops.

May one speculate that by the time Odysseus has reached Alcinoos' court he is more aware of the incongruity ofthat martial epithet in this marine realm? By now he has learned to regard himself less as a "sacker of cities" than as a man of guile and tricks :. In achieving the final restoration of his heroic status too, Odysseus will need doloi more than the martial prowess of a "sacker of cities". The converse of Odysseus' inappropriately heroic address to the Cyclops occurs in the next book.

Landing on another unknown island, Odysseus confesses his disorientation X, : he does not know the celestial coordinates of east and west, sunrise and sunset, and finds himself at a loss for his usual metis X, f. In IX, 19 f. In book XI Odysseus actually performs as a bard who skilfully sings a warrior's deeds. In the Phaeacian perspective of aesthetic distance, martial exploits and painful suffering appear only as art But when Odysseus faces his great deed of restoring order on Ithaca and regaining name and kingdom, he sets up just the reverse relation of art and action.

No longer the soldier doing the work of a bard, but a beggar in disguise, he elicits from his regal weapon the sound which is music to the warrior's ears.

Holding the great bow, finally, in his hands, he handles it as a poet handles a lyre XXI, :. The order,. Disorder in Mycenae, we recall, included the banishment of the bard whom Agamemnon left to guard his queen III, Among the Phaeacians Odysseus could recreate his heroic past and its kleos only in song. Here on Ithaca he is a warrior who brings back to the palace the joy and rightful celebration of heroic deeds which earlier could only be evoked by bards whose tales made the listeners weep.

I, , ; VIII, 91 f. When Odysseus sang like a bard on Scheria, heroic kleos was a fossilized vestige in the amber of the Phaeacians' unheroic hedonism cf. VIII, In this setting a heroic declaration of kleos, like that of IX, 1 or like the reaction to a taunt about a more trivial kleos in an athletic, not a martial, competition VIII, , could appear only as incongruous VIII, Now, at the brink of heroic battle once more, the hero uses a bardic metaphor not merely to state in words, but to enact in deeds what it meant to win kleos at Troy.

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This perspective on heroic song also casts fresh light on the episode of the Sirens. XI, , a vocabulary which links them with the ambiguous and seductive magic also called thelxis of Circe X, , Their power depends emphatically on hearing XII, 41, 48, 49, 52, , , , I, , , The song's material is the epic tradition, the efforts at Troy as well as "what passes on the wide-nurturing earth" XII, The rendering of the heroic tradition which the Sirens practise, however, is akin, in a certain way, to the bardic song of Scheria : it shows heroic adventure as something frozen and crystallized into lifeless, static form, something dead and past, a subject for song and nothing more.

Thus they stand in close proximity to that dead world of purely retrospective heroism. Yet when Odysseus had related his adventure among the dead - with the Siren-like "spell" and the art of a bard, to be sure XI, , - those shades were still a living part of his past, directly related to his nostos cf. XI, , 1 96 What he hears in the Underworld stirs grief or arouses indignation XI, , f. XI, 1 What the Sirens sing is remote from any experience. The magical charm of their sweet voice on the windless sea is epic kleos in the abstract, lovely, but somehow dehumanized cf.

As the past of which the Sirens sing has the deathly vacuity of what is long dead and without flesh cf. XII, 45 f. As Odysseus and his men draw near, a windless calm forces them to take to the oars XII, This is the only place in the poem where he is so titled.

This epithet occurs seven times in the Iliad. Well might the inexperienced youth at his first direct contact with the glories of Troy address the oldest of the Achaean warriors in these terms, terms which perhaps remind us that Nestor, more than any other Homeric character, lives in the past.

The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey The Warriors Odyssey
The Warriors Odyssey

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