6/06/2019

The Poet of the “Odyssey”

"In sum, as Achilles’ life is concentrated in camp, so Odysseus’ life extends beyond, into peace. Perhaps nothing brings this out better than the names of their only sons. Achilles’ son, who comes to Troy after him, is called Neoptolemus (Il. XIX 327), the “New Warrior,” while Odysseus’ son, who awaits him at home, is called Tele­machus, “Far-from-Battle.” It is a significant touch that in the Iliad, Odysseus assumes for himself the appellation of “Father of Telemachus” (II 260 IV 354), as if to show where his heart lies.

Now every characteristic anecdote, every revealing story of Odysseus in the Iliad has, as the references above show, its deliberate counterpart in the Odyssey, just as the under­world Achilles who will appear in the Odyssey is prefigured in the Iliad. The two epics belong together not only as the natural sequence of “War and Peace”—to give them a joint title taken from their one and only rival work—but as the two elements of a sight seen in the Iliad: Achilles bearing before him on his new shield—the shield Odysseus is to inherit (Od. XI 546)—the dancing and battling cities and the encircling Ocean of the Odyssey (XII 478 ff.). The world of Odysseus is, at it were, supported by Achilles. I shall return to this observation later."