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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Man of Sorrows

According to the Loeb Classical Library translation, the root of the name "Odysseus" is "man of pain". Athene, remonstrating with the chief of the gods, uses a pun on the hero's name to ask why he has been imprisoned on Calypso's island so long:

 τί νύ οἱ τόσον ὠδύσαο, Ζεῦ
Why then did you will him such pain (ὠδύσαο - "odusao"), O Zeus?
(Odyssey, Book I, line 62)

Something I never knew before, and which changes how I see the story: a series not of adventures, but tribulations. So it is about endurance and fidelity - Penelope waiting ten years after the Trojan war has ended for a husband that most would by then have assumed was dead; Odysseus turning down Calypso's offer of immortality so that he may spend his remaining mortal years with Penelope.

The Greeks: grief, grit and pride.

And loyalty and pathos, exemplified by the moment his ancient dog Argos is the first to recognise the much-changed man on on his return to Ithaca.


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