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Scholars now generally agree with the theory of the American scholar Milman Parry that the Iliad and Odyssey were composed by oral methods of composition rather than by means of writing. But one must hasten to add that the scale, scope, and the poetic genius of the Iliad and Odyssey raise them far above most other orally composed epics or sagas. And it is possible, as recent scholars have suggested that writing was used at some stage of their composition, though the basic technique was oral. The essential feature of the oral composition of lengthy poems is that the poet constructs his verses largely from ready made verbal formulas (i.e., groups of two or more poetic words) which have been previously constructed by the poet himself or by some predecessor to fit various metrical positions in the line and to describe recurrent situations in the kind of narrative required. Thus a formula like he then in answer addressed the godlike, patient Odysseus can be used whenever the poet wants to introduce a reply by Odysseus. The formula can be ingeniously varied to suit the poets needs. Sometimes these formulaic passages may extend over several lines, as when Homer is describing the launching of a ship or the preparation of a meal.( 10 The Classics Encyclopedia)


The Odyssey describes the long and perilous homeward journey of the Greek hero Odysseus (Oh-DIH-say-uss) from the Trojan War described in the Iliad. The poem opens at a council of the gods on Mount Olympus. After having heard the complaint of Athena, the protectress of Odysseus, Zeus decides that the time has come for Odysseus to return to his wife Penelope, in Ithaca. Athena descends to Ithaca disguised as a human and presents herself as a guest to Telemachus, son of Odysseus, who sits glowering at the noblemen devouring his fathers livestock and wooing his mother. The goddess Athena suggests that he should go on a journey to seek news of his father. Telemachus agrees and leaves Ithaca. The tale next turns to Odysseus adventures. The god Hermes makes Calypso release Odysseus. Odysseus sails away on a raft, but the sea god Poseidon causes a storm and he is shipwrecked on the Island of the Phaeacians where Alcinous (Al-KIN-oo-uss) the Generous and his noble wife Arete reign. The very next morning, Nausicaa (Now-see-KAY-ah), the beautiful daughter of the Phaeacian King, comes with her maidens to the beach, and discovers Odysseus. She has Odysseus fed and clothed, then directs him to her fathers palace. At a feast held in his honor, Odysseus describes his ten years of adventures-filled wandering since the Trojan War, while being entertained by the Phaeacians. After Odysseus finishes his story, the Phaeacians promise to fit out a ship to take him home. Meanwhile, Penelope plans an impossible feat of strength to free her of her suitors. She shows the famous bow of Eurytus, and twelve battle-axes, to them. She promises that she would give her hand to the suitor who could shoot an arrow through all twelve-ax handles. After all suitors fail even to string the bow, Odysseus, clothed as an old beggar, offers to try. He strings the bow with ease and shoots an arrow through twelve ax hafts. Then Odysseus throws aside his disguise. After Odysseus reveals his true identity, Telemachus, spear in his hand, leaps to his side. They fight a brave battle and slay all 108 suitors. The kingdom of Ithaca is regained and Odysseus reunites with his family.







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