A re-invocation of the Muse for the Homeric Iliad

Draft of a declaration by the founding authors of A Homer commentary in progress

2017.11.12 / updated 2018.08.24 and 2020.01.19, 2020.07.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This draft of mine is meant as a first step leading toward a more formal declaration shared by the three founding authors of A Homer commentary in progress: Douglas Frame, Leonard Muellner, Gregory Nagy. The signatures for our joint declaration are represented by thumbnail images of the covers for three books of ours centering on Homer. The books are… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 24

2017.08.31 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy Before the Odyssey comes to an end, the Singer of Tales reaches back to what seems to be the beginning of the Iliad. It is as if the second epic, the Odyssey, could now restart before it ends by reaching back into the first epic, the Iliad. Still, there will be no restart here. The plot of that first epic had started… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 23

2017.08.23 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy After the killing of the suitors, Eurykleia rushes to the bedroom of Penelope, waking her up. The queen has slept through it all—the first good night’s sleep she has had in the longest time, she admits. Eurykleia goes on to tell Penelope that Odysseus has really returned and has killed the suitors, but the patient wife will need one more test, to… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 22

2017.08.17 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy At the end of Rhapsody 21, Odysseus has already passed, in rapid succession, two of three successive tests that needed to be endured by the true king of Ithaca. That is, he has already performed a stringing of his mighty bow and has already won an ultimate contest in archery by executing a perfect shot with the very first arrow that he… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 21

2017.08.10 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy Toward the end of Rhapsody 21, Odysseus will pass an all-important test set by Penelope: he will string his famous bow—which none of the suitors could string, no matter how hard they tried—and he will shoot an arrow straight through all the holes of twelve axe-heads lined up in a row for this one-time occasion, designed to be viewed as the contest… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 20

2017.08.03 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy Rhapsody 20 reveals the darkest thoughts of Penelope. There she is, lying awake in bed, unable to fall asleep, and now she starts to think the unthinkable, tearfully spilling her private thoughts by praying to Artemis: I want to die in the worst way, she confides to the goddess, so why don’t you shoot me with your arrows, putting me out of… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 19

2017.07.24 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy Rhapsody 19 is best known for a scene where Odysseus is recognized by his old nurse Eurykleia. She notices a tell-tale scar on his leg—the result of a wound that marks the moment in his youth when he was gored in a boar hunt. This scar can be seen as a sēma or ‘sign’ of the hero’s identity. [[GN 2017.07.22.]] “Euryclea Discovers… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 18

2017.07.19 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy In Rhapsody 18, Odysseus as a make-believe beggar is challenged by a most questionable character named Iros, who figures as a real beggar. What makes Iros so questionable is his similarity to characters who figure in a poetic form that can best be described as mock epic. [[GN 2017.07.20.]] “Ulysses Preparing to Fight with Irus” (1805). John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826) Purchased as… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 17

2017.07.14 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy Back in Rhapsody 16, Eumaios the swineherd had left behind in his shelter an unrecognized Odysseus and had gone off to the palace in order to contact Penelope; in the swineherd’s absence, Telemachus, left alone with Odysseus, could now get to see his father transformed into an idealized godlike hero, made visible through a luminous epiphany produced by the sacred wand of… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 16

2017.07.06 / updated 2018.10.12 | By Gregory Nagy Odysseus, because of his external appearance as an old beggar, cannot be recognized by his own son Telemachus. To make the recognition happen, the goddess Athena temporarily transforms the father into a young aristocrat. For Telemachus, however, the transformation itself can be read as the epiphany of a god. [[GN 2017.07.06.]] “Minerva Restoring Ulysses to his Own Shape” (1805). John Flaxman (English,… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 15

2017.07.03 / updated 2018.10.12 | By Gregory Nagy Now that Odysseus is back home in Ithaca, it is time for his son Telemachus to return home as well. The goddess Athena now travels to Sparta, where she will initiate the return of Telemachus back home to Ithaca. [[GN 2017.07.03.]] Detail from a fresco found at Hagia Triadha in Crete. Reconstruction by Mark Cameron, p. 96 of the catalogue Fresco: A… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 14

2017.06.29 / updated 2018.10.09 | By Gregory Nagy Now that he has finally returned to his homeland of Ithaca, Odysseus must accomplish another kind of return: he must be restored to kingship. Such a restoration, however, must start from the bottom up. The goddess Athena, his ultimate benefactor but occasional antagonist, has made Odysseus seem to be ‘base’ on the outside, hiding his inner moral nobility. Only those who are… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 13

2017.06.22 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy The storytelling of Odysseus has come to an end, and he will now be sent home to Ithaca by his hosts, Alkinoos and the Phaeacians. Sailing through the night in a ship provided by king Alkinoos, Odysseus is in a deep sleep, which is compared to death itself. At the precise moment when the ship reaches the shores of his homeland, Ithaca,… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 12

2017.06.15 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy The storytelling of Odysseus is about to confront three of its most mystical moments here: the Song of the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, the Cattle of the Sun. The myths that shape these moments will become for Odysseus a set of powerful metaphors that drive his own odyssey. [[GN 2017.06.15.]] “Ulysses and the Sirens” (ca. 1909). Herbert James Draper (English, 1863–1920).Image via… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 11

2017.06.08 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy The encounter of Odysseus with the seer Teiresias in Hādēs is a mystical experience that defines the hero of the Odyssey in a new way: Odysseus now learns that he will have a homecoming that leads to a most startling discovery of his own self as a cult hero in the making. [[GN 2017.06.08.]] “Teiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrifice,” (1780–1785).… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 10

2017.06.01 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy This Rhapsody centers on the bewitching goddess Circe, whose mystical powers will lead Odysseus to make direct contact with the dead—and with the world of heroes who have already died. “Circe Invidiosa,” (1892). J. W. Waterhouse (English, 1849–1917).Image via Wikimedia Commons.   Circe, like her mystical island, is at first disorienting for Odysseus, but the goddess will in due course reorient the… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 9

2017.05.25 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy The time has come for Odysseus himself to sing his own epic odyssey, and the hero chooses to start with the most celebrated story of the Homeric Odyssey, about the blinding of the Cyclops. “Ulysses Giving Wine to Polyphemus” (1805). John Flaxman (1755–1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, 1996.… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 8

2017.05.18 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy Odysseus encounters the blind singer Demodokos, who performs three songs that reveal hidden truths about the hero of the Odyssey. Blind Demodokos sings of the siege of Troy (1810), by John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826). Image via Wikimedia Commons.   Alkinoos prepares a feast for Odysseus, who has not yet identified himself. This feast becomes a mythologized replica of a festival that puts… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 7

2017.05.11 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy Following the instructions of Nausicaa, Odysseus approaches the palace of her father Alkinoos (latinized as Alcinous), king of the Phaeacians. This palace and the adjacent garden of Alkinoos are not only enchanting but even enchanted, as will be argued in the comments for Rhapsody 7 here. And, as we will see later in the comments for Rhapsody 13, the garden of Alkinoos… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 5

2017.04.13 / updated 2018.10.07 | By Gregory Nagy The rhapsody starts with the releasing of Odysseus by one goddess and ends with the mystical saving of his life by a second goddess, who is Leukotheā, the White Goddess. The beautiful Leukotheā saves Odysseus by undoing her hair and giving him as a life-saver the veil that had held her curls in place. As for the first goddess, who is Calypso,… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 4

2017.04.06 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy With the continued aid of the goddess Athena, young Telemachus now becomes an ideal guest for his new hosts, Menelaos together with Helen. The identity of Helen as a goddess becomes more evident now that she is back in Sparta. This divine identity will point to the future immortalization of the hero Menelaos by virtue of his winning back Helen as his… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 3

2017.03.30 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy Aided by the goddess Athena, young Telemachus becomes an ideal guest for his host, the elderly Nestor. Telemachus dearly needs the diplomatic skills of Athena, since Nestor is a prime devotee of the god Poseidon, who is not only a major rival of the goddess but also a relentless antagonist of Odysseus. Nestor’s stories about the travels of the Achaeans as they… Read more

A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 2

2017.03.09 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy The mentoring of Telemachus by Athena continues. First the goddess was Méntēs. Now she will become Méntōr to the young hero. Through the mentorship of the goddess, Telemachus modulates into mental connectivity: he will no longer be disconnected from the epic legacy of his father. As he boards the ship that will take him to Pylos, he is ready to connect with… Read more

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