Lion Guides: Literature Humanities Review
We here at the Lion understand that this is a hectic week for you leading up to Fall Break. Two or three midterms? A couple of papers? We truly feel your struggle. Thus, to take a little load off your shoulders and maybe grant you an extra hour or so of sleep, we took the liberty of compiling various study guides filled with A1 content. Hopefully, this will make your cramming a breeze (like the one Iphigenia was sacrificed for). Good luck: may the odds be ever in your favor.
The Lion team would like to credit Ryan Mandelbaum for putting together this comprehensive review guide.
(Books I – XII)
The Iliad picks up at the end of the Trojan War –a ten-year long war fought between the Achaeans (Greek) and the Trojans. Chryses, the priest of Apollo, pleads with the Achaeans to return to him his daughter who they captured in battle. When the Achaean’s refuse, Apollo plague’s the Achaean’s. Agamemnon, leader of the Achaean’s, finally gives up the daughter in order to end the plague, but only after he is fairly compensated by taking the girl previously given to Achilles. Achilles, the greatest Achaean warrior, is dishonored and insulted by the unfair exchange, and resorts to withdrawing from the war in order to punish the Achaeans. To further hinder the Achaeans in battle, Achilles also attempts to seek out help from Zeus, by asking his own mother, the goddess named Thetis, to persuade him. Without support from Achilles or Zeus, the Achaeans face difficult challenges against the powerful Trojan army.
The Achaean’s meet the Trojans and a duel between Menelaus and Paris ensues to try and settle the war for good. The gods intervene and the duel is left unresolved. Fighting continues back and forth between the two sides. Both sides agree to have a day of peace to bury their dead, and strengthen their defenses. Afterwards, the fighting continues for a few days, and the Trojans, with the help of the gods, begin to take the lead in the war. The Achaean’s unite and recall that Troy is destined to fall. Agamemnon, fearing the Trojan’s victory, offers Achilles great wealth if he rejoins the war, but Achilles refuses. The Achaean’s send spies across the Trojan border, who encounter one of their enemies. They threaten him to gain information about the Trojans, which they use to launch several successful attacks. The next day the Trojans attack the Achaean’s camp, breaking through the walls of the camp and forcing the troops all the way back to their ships.
-Achilles is so dishonored when Agamemnon takes Briseis from him, that he withdraws from the war (Book I). Later, when Agamemnon attempts to win Achilles back by offering him gifts, Achilles denies, claiming that “There was no gratitude given for fighting incessantly forever against your enemies. Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard” (Book IX: 316). This shows Achilles de-glorifying war because he chooses to stay home and live a long and happy life, rather than return to the battlefield and die “honorably.”
-As Paris and Menelaus get ready to fight, Paris begins to show signs of fear and cowardice. His brother Hector mocks him, and Paris is moved to fight, but he soon escapes from the field. Paris is looked down upon, in contrast with his brother, who is a great Trojan warrior and a well-respected leader.
– Nestor upholds honor in war by giving uplifting speeches to the Achaeans. In book VII he preaches about the glory of victory to his troops, convincing them to step forward, and fight Hector. Again, in Book IX, while Agamemnon has lost hope and is ready to head back home, Nestor brings reassurance to the troops through a sense of glory, and the troops spirits are again raised.
The Shield –
The shield which Hephaestus welds together for Achilles is described in
great detail in Book 18 (you may want to look this chapter over). The elaborate designs on shield depict not only the war, but also life outside of the war (ie dancing, children, and harvest). The shield emphasizes both peacetime and wartime to show that life exists outside of war, and that war is not all which matters.
Burial – Homer gives great importance to burial rituals:
⁃ both armies engage in a day of peace to bury their dead (Book VII)
⁃ when Patroclus dies, Achilles refuses to eat to morn his death, and he is given proper burial (Book XIX and XXIII)
⁃ when Hector dies, Priam goes to the Achaean camp to claim his body and grant him proper burial (Book XXIV)
⁃ The Iliad is divided into three 8-book units and each unit begin with a decision made by Achilles, and end with one made by Zeus.
⁃ Book I mimics events which occur in Book XXIV, Book II mimics Book XXIII, and Book III mimics Book XXII, etc, etc.
⁃ The Iliad is intended to be an enormously long poem, in order to reflect the magnitude of its greatness.
Book 13 – With Zeus backing the Trojans, the Achaeans have now been forced as far back as their ships. Zeus now takes his attention away from the battle and Poseidon takes advantage of this. In the form of Calchas, he rekindles the Achaeans’ spirit. Consequently, the Achaeans drive Hector back but Hector wounds Poseidon’s grandson and so Poseidon imbues Idomeneus with super strength. Hector continues the assault, but having lost some of their soldiers, the Trojans lose confidence. Polydamas persuades Hector to fall back and regroup. Hector tries to do so, but most of his front line is dead. Great Ajax then insults Hector and he has an eagle flying on his right, a good omen for the Achaeans.
Book 14 – The Achaeans analyze their situation and again Agamemnon suggests retreating. Odysseus calls him a coward and Diomedes rallies the troops together. Meanwhile, away from the battlefield, Hera tricks Aphrodite to give her a breast band with the power of love and longing and then by promising Sleep one of her daughters, she tricks Zeus. When Zeus sees Hera wearing the band he is immediately seduced and has sex with her. Sleep then makes Zeus fall asleep and allows Hera to tell Poseidon to help the Achaeans while Zeus is asleep. The Achaeans, with new help, charge the Trojans. Great Ajax knocks over and injures Hector with a boulder forcing him back to the city. Without Hector the Trojans are forced back easily into the city.
Book 15 – Zeus wakes up and sees the turmoil. Hera tries to direct the blame on Poseidon but Zeus promises that he will continue to help Trojans but has no personal interest in the war. He also knows that Troy is still fated to fall. Zeus then has Iris stop Poseidon from helping Achaeans and orders Apollo to help Trojans. Hector again charges and again progresses all the way to Achaean ships. Teucer who had killed many Trojans that day breaks his bow (because of Zeus) and is stopped from killing further.
Book 16 – Patroclus begs Achilles to fight or at least let him wear his armor. Achilles still refuses to fight but agrees to let him wear armor. With Patroclus wearing Achilles’ armor, the battle turns again in favor of Achaeans. Patroclus goes on a killing spree and even kills Zeus’ son Sarpedon. Zeus decides to kill Patroclus after he has slain the Trojans more. Zeus imbues Hector with cowardice and he leads the Trojan retreat. Patroclus chases the Achaeans up to the Trojan gates. Apollo finally persuades Hector to stand up to Patroclus but Patroclus spears Hector’s charioteer though and in the frenzy to get the charioteer’s armor, Apollo wounds Patroclus before Hector finishes him off.
Book 17 – A fight breaks out over Patroclus’ body in order to take the armor. In the end it is Hector who gets it. Zeus continues to support the Trojans, but not whole-heartedly. He allows the Achaeans to take away Patroclus’ body.
Book 18 – News of Patroclus’ death makes Achilles decide to rejoin war. He is convinced by Iris to make an appearance on the battlefield. His mere appearance makes the Trojans retreat in fear. That night, Hector decides foolhardily to continue with the assault, despite advice from Polydamus. The other soldiers all agree with Hector because Athena has robbed them of their wits. Hephaestus also makes Achilles a new armor. Night falls for first time since book 10 marking Achilles’ entry into the war.
Book 19 – Achilles upon getting new armor rejoins the battle. He reconciles with Agamemnon, who returns Briseis. Achilles wants to waste no time and wishes to join the fight immediately but he is persuaded to let the army eat. He, however, vows to not eat until Hector is slain. Zeus pities him and has Athena fill his stomach with food. Achilles then blames the horses for leaving Patroclus’ body behind, but horses respond by telling him that there was divinity at work.
Book 20 – Zeus fearing that Troy will fall before its fated time, allows the gods to intervene. At first the gods hurry down, but eventually they decide to let the soldiers fight for themselves. Apollo encourages Aeneas to fight Achilles. They begin dueling and as Achilles is about to kill Aeneas, Poseidon saves him. Hector then also wants a piece of Achilles but is told to wait by Apollo until Achilles comes to him. However, Hector is too anxious and challenges Achilles. He fights poorly and Apollo saves him from defeat.
Book 21 – Achilles continues to slaughter the Trojans and each time he kills someone, he tosses the body into the river Xanthus. The river god protests because the bodies are clogging up the river so Achilles agrees to stop throwing them into the river but he does not slow up on the killing. The River god, witnessing the onslaught, pities the Trojans and asks Apollo to help them. Achilles hears the plea and attacks the god. The River God takes him downstream and almost kills him but from Hephaestus saves him by setting fire to a nearby floodplain and boiling the river. The gods now begin to argue. Athena defeats Ares and Aphrodite, while Poseidon challenges Apollo. Apollo refuses to fight over mere mortals and when Artemis tries to encourage Apollo to fight, Hera overhears her and pounces on her.
Book 22 – Priam sees the carnage and opens the city gates so soldiers can come in. Hector remains only soldier left outside. Despite Priam’s pleading Hector refuses to come inside as he feels ashamed of giving the order to charge the Achaeans. As a result, Hector and Achilles finally meet. Hector flees at first. Zeus considers saving him but Hera persuades him not to. She claims Hector’s time has come. Athena appears in front of Hector as one of his allies and convinces him to fight Achilles. They exchange spear throws but both miss. When Hector turns to his ally, his ally has disappeared and he realizes he has been tricked. In a final, desperate bid for glory he charges Achilles. Hector is wearing Achilles’ old armor and Achilles knowing it’s weak points, times a spear throw that goes through Hector’s neck. While dying, Hector pleads to be returned to the Trojans but Achilles lets him get ravaged by dogs and birds.
Book 23 – Achilles holds Patroclus’ funeral the next day and then holds some ceremonious games in his honor. However, a chariot race which Diomedes wins with the help of Athena, spurs trouble. Achilles wants to give Antilochus’ 2nd place prize to the last place finisher because Athena has robbed him. The men get into a huge argument but they eventually reconcile.
Book 24 – Achilles continues to abuse Hector’s body, though Apollo prevents it from being damaged and staves of dogs and birds from feeding off it. Apollo persuades Zeus that Achilles must let Hector’s body be ransomed. Priam goes into the Achaean camp and begs for Hector’s body. Achilles finally agrees and takes the treasures offered by Priam in exchange. Priam leaves with Hector’s body and a funeral is held. Achilles finally realizes that he is soon to die and that his father will soon suffer the pain being suffered by Priam. This finally melts his rage.
Achilles – Hero of Achaean army, but to modern reader he is not so heroic. His refusal to fight is initially warranted but after Agamemmnon’s plea, his refusal is childish and stubborn. In a certain way he is the villain because many Achaeans die due to his refusal to fight. His supremacy as a warrior is unchallenged, despite his strong divine backing. Anger and Pride are his weaknesses. He prays Achaeans lose because of insult delivered by Agamemnon. Despite these 2 flaws, he is otherwise a great gentleman as shown by the way he treats his friends when they come to persuade him to rejoin the war.
Agamemnon – Leader, also short tempered like Achilles. He insults Achilles and orders him to give up Briseis. He takes the least risks in battle but expects the greatest share of the loot. He is cunning and untrusting as shown when he tests his army’s loyalty in Book 2. After reconciling with Achilles, he does not admit to his own fault but blames it on fate and the gods. His rage is based on selfishness and thus the reader does not feel sympathy for him in the same way they do for Achilles. He lacks certain kingly qualities. He panics when faced with confusion and twice he suggests fleeing. Odysseus, Nestor and Diomedes guide him and rally his troops when he is in despair. His despair is brought about by his concern for the lives of his troops though.
Odysseus – A crafty, resourceful, daring, and merciless man. While not the smartest, he makes the most of his qualities. He is the opposite of Achilles in that he does not let his passions cloud his judgment. Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon are flawed geniuses. Odysseus is an unflawed regular guy driven by his desire to go home and see bring order to his household. He is not the noblest nor stateliest but he is the only one that survives to go home. WHAT THE FUCK???
Aias – Greatest warrior after Achilles. Always fights unaided by gods. Best soldier especially when on defense.
Diomedes – The youngest of the Achaean commanders, Diomedes is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws from combat, Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually wounds two gods, Aphrodite and Ares.
Great Ajax – An Achaean commander, Great Ajax is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after Achilles. His extraordinary size and strength help him to wound Hector twice by hitting him with boulders. He often fights alongside Little Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as the “Aeantes.”
Nestor – King of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken much of Nestor’s physical strength, he still has left a great deal of wisdom. He often acts as an advisor to the military commanders, especially Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus are the Achaeans’ most deft and persuasive orators.
Menelaus – King of Sparta and the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the abduction of his wife, Helen that sparks the War, Menelaus proves quieter, less imposing, and less arrogant than Agamemnon. Though he has a brave heart, Menelaus is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.
Hector – Leader of the army. He is overrated as a warrior but still greatly feared. He kills many Achaeans but only one significant warrior, Patroclus but this is when Patroclus is already down. He is given divine support from Apollo and Zeus. He’s a big family man who loves his wife, children, and brother (Paris). He remembers his duty to the army is foremost and in the end he chooses to die in battle than live with his family. The tragedy is he is killed fighting a needless war and fights only because of his sense of duty.
Priam – King of Troy and husband to Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan warriors, including Hector and Paris. Although too old to fight, he has earned the respect of both the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue of his levelheaded, wise, and benevolent rule. He treats Helen kindly, even though he laments the war that her beauty has sparked.
Paris – A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector. Paris’s abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked the Trojan War. Paris is self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively with a bow and arrow but lacks the spirit for battle. He prefers to be at home making love to Helen while others fight for him. This earns him a great deal of disrespect.
Apollo – A son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god of the arts and archery. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes in the war on their behalf.
Book 4 a Homeric simile.
This passage describes full-scale war for the first time in the Iliad. The passage compares the two armies to fast flowing rivers, heading towards each other. When the two armies meet, the clash of their armor and the war cries are so loud that they can be heard far away, just as the shepherd can hear the crashing rivers. The rivers are carrying so much energy that they have forced a new course and discarded the original route. The streambed is described as hollow (4.454) with only the white-water generated from the collisions falling back into the original river’s course. The image of two armies traveling towards each other, eroding away the battlefield, just as the river has done, is forged into the reader’s mind. The white-water could symbolize the recoil of the two armies colliding or even slain soldiers being tossed up and aside. In addition, the white-water generated by the two rivers cannot be traced back to either river. Homer is making the statement that even though there are two armies, once a soldier dies and his armor is stripped, there is no distinction between a Greek and a Trojan body. The shepherd is a somewhat ambiguous character. In the Iliad the main focus is on the leaders and gods. There are very few references to those who live in and around Troy who are not involved with the war. The shepherd may represent these common people. The use of the word “thunder” (4.455) suggests that the shepherd does not know what the noise is nor where it is coming from. The reader also gets the impression that the shepherd doesn’t really care much about the noise either because there is no mention of him later on. This is perhaps a rare insight into civilian life around Troy and that people are generally indifferent to the conflict
Comparisons to other Texts
Odysseus can be compared to himself in the Odyssey. In both he is shown to be very smart and a good speaker, but in the Odyssey his arrogance is exposed in the land of the Cyclopes and he is constantly being aided by most of the gods.
Agamemnon can be compared to himself in Orestia.
Achilles can be compared to Medea in that they share the same reaction when their pride is wounded. They are both overcome by an uncontrollable rage and neither are willing to make compromises until they have exacted some form of revenge.
Hector and Medea make similar choices. Hector chooses to die with honor on the battlefield and lose his family. Medea chooses to lose her family in order to exact revenge and get her pride back.
The Odyssey takes place a decade after the citadel of Troy is sacked. It focuses on the journey of Odysseus from Troy to his island of Ithaca. While away, his wife Penelope is being courted by a crowd of unruly suitors who are literally eating the family “out of house and home.” She wards them off by having them wait for her to finish weaving a blanket for Odysseus’ father, but she unravels it every night. Telemachus, Odysseus’ only son who he has not seen since he left for the war, is the only one left to guard the fort. Young and inexperienced, he is really no challenge to the suitors.
The story actually begins with the Telemachia (story of Telemachus). Deeply bothered by the disrespect of the crowd in his house, and commanded by Athena, Telemachus sets off to find word about his father’s whereabouts and health. Penelope is kept in the dark of the whole but the suitors learn of his journey and conspire to kill him on his way back home so that they may marry his mother and take his household. With Athena’s protection the entire time, Telemachus travels to the homes of Nestor and Menelaus. The former does not have much information to offer, but the latter tells what he has learned from the Old Man of the Sea about Odysseus and then lets Telemachus return home.
Book five introduces Odysseus when Hermes is sent to release Odysseus from Calypso’s island. Odysseus builds a raft and travels to the land of the Phaiakians. En route, his ship is smashed by Poseidon, who is angry with him for hurting Polyphemos. He arrives at the island and is taken in by Nausikaa, who is under the influence of Athena. He enters the city and ends up at the knees of King Alkinoos. They feast and play games in which Odysseus excels and are later sung to by a singer. The songs are about Odysseus and the War and they cause him to weep. Eventually, he reveals his identity and tells the story of his long journey from Troy to their island. In order, he tells them of the Kikonians, lotus eaters, Cyclops, Aiolos, Laistrygones, Circe, Hades, Sirens (after a return to Circe), Skylla and Charybdis, island of Helios, and then Kalypso. They then offer him a high place in the city, and the hand of Nausikaa, but instead he asks for safe passage back to Ithaca. They drop him off on the island with his gifts as he sleeps. On their way back, Poseidon turns the Phaiakian ship to stone, for he is angered at the safe return of Odysseus.
Athena shrouds Odysseus in cloud so that he will not be bothered while he sleeps. She disguises herself as a young boy and eventually reveals to him the truth about where he is and the situation in Ithaca. She disguises him as an old beggar and tells him to stay with his swineherd for a while. There, Odysseus tests the swineherd’s loyalty and is briefed of the situation in Ithaca. Telemachus arrives and when they are alone together, Odysseus reveals himself to his son. The two begin plotting an attack on the suitors and Odysseus returns to his home still disguised as a beggar. He spends time amongst the suitors, testing the loyalty of his wife and his servants. After Penelope arranges for marriage games to take place, the suitors return home and in their absence, Odysseus and his son hide all the weapons. Before the games, Odysseus servant Eurikleia recognizes him by his scar. On the day of the games, none of the suitors can string the bow and Odysseus is granted a try. After stringing it and shooting an arrow through the ax-loops, he begins to attack the suitors with his son. With the help of Athena, they kill each suitor and then Odysseus cleans the house before he allows Penelope to enter. She initially does not believe it is he, but after he speaks of the bedroom he built, she is convinced of his identity. Odysseus visits Laertes, his father where he is welcomed warmly. While there, the relatives of the suitors attack Odysseus’ family but after a battle with Laertes, Odysseus, and Telemachus, Athena tells them all not to fight.
Odysseus is the protagonist of the Odyssey. He is known across the world for his wisdom and intelligence. He holds favor in the heat of Athena, but is hated by Poseidon. Though he is wise and clever, he is very flawed and he allows his pride and hasty judgment to make him do unwise things, such as taunt Polyphemos. He begins his journey from Troy with a ship full of men but ends up alone by the end. He is a war hero but he also has a place in peace. He is responsible for building his bedroom, particularly structured around a large tree.
Penelope is the wife of Odysseus. She is known repeatedly as “circumspect,” hinting that her character complements that of her husband quite well. She remains in tears and in retreat for a good part of the text, but she also demonstrates a clever side and strength of conviction in warding off the suitors. She remains faithful to Odysseus.
Telemachus is Odysseus’ only son. He is an adult, but has no battle experience and is not capable of resisting the many suitors alone. There are times when he gets bold and makes great threats, insults, and speeches, and others when he feels a bit scared. Athena helps him as well, so that the final plan may be accomplished.
Athena is the most active goddess in this tale. She supports Odysseus and his family the entire time. She transforms people and gives strength, protection and advice.
Antinous and the suitors are living off of Odysseus’ riches and preying on Penelope. They are completely violating all the rules of hospitality established elsewhere in the text. Antinous is the most hostile and bold of the suitors and Odysseus kills him first.
Eurycleia was nurse to both Odysseus and Telemachus and she is faithful to the family when other servants are not. Her recognition of Odysseus’ scar sheds light on the life of the young Odysseus.
Eumaios is Odysseus’ loyal swineherd, while Philoetius is the loyal cowherd. They rejoice at the return of their master and help secure his victory. Melanthius, however, is the goatherd who chooses sides with the suitors and is therefore brutally mutilated.
Laertes is Odysseus’ aged father who lives on a farm in Ithaca. He is in severe decline until the return of his son.
Islands (order of fabula)
The Kikonians inhabit the first island that Odysseus reaches after Ilion. He sacks their city and takes their possessions, but his men get drunk and feast, while the surviving Kikonians went to recruit others and attack them. The Achaians had to retreat.
The Lotus Eaters offer Odysseus’ men some lotus to eat, which causes them to lose sight of their “nostos” (homecoming), and makes them wish to stay with the lotus eaters.
The Cyclops’ land is plentiful in resources. Here Odysseus intrudes upon the home of Polyphemos expecting gifts, only to be trapped and have some of his crewmembers eaten. To escape, Odysseus creates a plan to poke out the eye of the Cyclops. After this is accomplished, he tells the Cyclops that his name is Nobody, so when Polyphemos cries out to the other inhabitants of the island, he will tell them that Nobody has hurt him. The men escape under some sheep. After they are in the water, an overly proud Odysseus taunts Polyphemos and reveals his true identity. For this, Polyphemos curses him and asks his father, Poseidon, to avenge him.
The Aiolian island is kind to the travelers, and gives Odysseus a skin filled with the winds. While sailing, his men get jealous of him and open his bag while he is sleeping. After unleashing all the winds, they wind up back at the island, but are refused further help.
The Laistrygones is a land of giants. Odysseus sends men in the city to see what type of people they are. While in the palace, one man is eaten while the other two run back to the ship. The entire town chases after them and kills many of his men.
In Circe’s island, Odysseus first sends men in to see who in habits the place. When they arrive at Circe’s home, they are all turned into swine who escapes to tell the story. Hermes tells Odysseus how to transform his men back into humans. He wins over Circe and becomes her lover and the witch turns his men back to humans and shows them hospitality. She tells the men that in order to get home they must first travel to the city of the Kimmerian people, or the land of the dead.
At the land of the dead, Odysseus encounters the spirit of Elpenor, one of his crew who fell of a roof at Circe’s island. They converse and then, in front of a pool of blood, he waits for Teiresias, the blind prophet, to tell him how to get back home. Teiresias tells him what he must do and then he talks to his mother, who died waiting for his return. She tells him about what is happening in Ithaca. He then sees the daughters and wives of many men, Agamemnon’s, Achilleus, Ajax and the heroes in torment, such as Tantalos, Sisyphos, and Hercules.
The island of the Sirens is one from which no man has returned. Anyone who hears their song is enchanted to their land and dies there. For this reason, Odysseus has his men jam their ears with beeswax. He, however—proud man that he is—desires to hear the song himself. Therefore he has his men tie him to a pole and when he asks to be released, they only tighten the ropes.
Skylla is a monster with multiple heads. No ship passes without losing some of its men. She lives high up in a cave and eats six of the men.
At the island of Thrinakia, the men are told that if they do not eat the cattle, they will have a safe passage. Odysseus falls asleep and the men begin to feast. This deeply angers Hyperion who smashes the ship and drowns them all.
Charybdis swallows and spits the ocean up. Odysseus escapes by holding onto a tree branch.
Kalypso is a beautiful goddess who lives on Ogygia. She is more beautiful than Penelope, but Odysseus still chooses his wife and home over immortality as Kalypso’s lover. She takes care of him and sleeps with him every night for nine years until Hermes arrives to tell her that Odysseus must be set free.
The Phaiakians are closer to the gods than humans and are the best sailors in the known world. They are somewhat inhuman because they have never known war. They listen to war stories with a somewhat voyeuristic approach but do not truly understand the nature of human failings.
The Odyssey is an epic about interpretation as well as action. Odysseus judges each place differently. Each time he lands on an island he must figure out what kind of people live there. The reader must also judge.
Odysseus thinks that he is traveling around to see who is a good host when in fact he is being judged as a good guest and in many cases is found lacking
Odysseus judges places by his own standards in an almost Herodotus way. The Cyclops are uncivilized because they are unlike him and the giants are beastly because they do not welcome him. As his journey progresses he has to learn to judge more carefully, if for no other reason but his own safety.
The order we experience Odysseus’ journey home is very different from the order in which it takes place for Odysseus.
The sujet starts with Kalypso because this is the point when he chooses mortality and makes the ultimate decision to return home. It also begins when he is alone (after he has lost all of his men). So we begin the story at its most difficult point (the temptation of Kalypso). The flashback begins with the Phaiakians because storytelling must occur with humans.
The Odyssey reveals the social climate of peacetime as well as what is possible in times of peace.
Hospitality is possible in a time of peace because you can invite strangers into your home and they are expected to be good. While wartime is based on compensation, peacetime is based on reciprocity and hospitality is the fundamental expression of the rules of reciprocity. The suitors in Odysseus’ home do not follow the rules of hospitality.
Odysseus cries when he hears the song of the Iliad. The crying and emotion repressed in war can be expressed in peacetime. After the war, warriors need to hear their story again so that they may experience it emotionally. In peacetime, you can cry.
In peace you can be clean and be concerned with bathing, bedding, games and also craftsmanship. Odysseus’ bed is a representation of the glorious things people can make during peacetime. Odysseus is not just the “sacker of cities” but also the “maker of beds”
This is the most essential human interaction and it must occur between humans. For this reason, Odysseus’ story does not begin until he is with the Phaiakians. Storytelling is expected of all guests. It is the exchange for hospitality. Storytelling is also a mark of civilization as well as intimacy and when Odysseus returns home he and Penelope tell each other stories when they make love.
Storytelling is also a way in which The Odyssey is intentionally framed and mediated. Odysseus’ storytelling is filtered and it is important to remember that everything in his account is in quotation marks. This becomes very important during his account of the Cyclops when Odysseus is revealed as an unreliable storyteller. He is inconsistent about the nature of the Cyclops and their ways of life.
– He says the Cyclops are without community, help from gods or civilization when in fact the Cyclops live within communities and are descended from the gods and take great cares with such domesticities as cheese making and goat herding.
Stories should be of things you know. In the case of the Phaiakians, they do not cry during the stories of the war because they do not know war.
Close Reading (5.55-65; 81-4; 92-4)
This is the introduction of Odysseus and also the setting in which Odysseus must make his most important decision. By this point in the Odysseus’ story he has lived and slept with Kalypso for nine years. The reader sees the scene as it unfolds before Hermes. Kalypso’s cave is surrounded by a seductive nature. The cave in lines 5.57-5.65 is described as pleasing, sweet, warm and satisfying on all sensory levels. Kalypso attempts to seduce him into staying not only by making her cave pleasing but also by creating the domesticity Odysseus so misses. There is fire, singing and even weaving but the domesticity of Kalypso’s cave is too good to be true. In this passage, Odysseus is sitting alone on the beach crying. Ultimately, Odysseus tells Kalypso he would prefer the less pretty and mortal Penelope to a life of immortality with the perfect goddess. Odysseus recognizes something trivial in the never-ending existence he is offered. Odysseus is given the choice of immortality but he denies it because he wants to complete his story and because he wants a human ending.
Comparisons to other texts…
It is very important in The Odyssey to have an appropriate homecoming. Odysseus is faced with many alternative fates.
-He could return home and be denied his nostos like Agamemnon who, upon returning, was killed by his wife.
-He could die before he gets home and be denied his nostos
-Or he could live with Kalypso forever and never complete his journey
Choice of Achilles vs. choice of Odysseus
Achilles has to choose between love at home or honor in the battlefield while Odysseus must choose between immortality with Kalypso or honor at home when he returns. Both men choose honor.
Weaving in The Iliad vs. The Odyssey
Helen represents the plot with her weaving but Penelope changes the plot with her weaving and unweaving.
The Iliad is told almost entirely in order and in The Odyssey, everything is told out of order.
Judging by inversion
On the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus’ judges by inversion just as Herodotus often does in The Histories.
The Histories by Herodotus
Selection # 1 – Book 1, Chapters 1-140; Book 2 chs. 1-5;chs. 33-51, chs.112-120; Book3 chs.17-38
Herodotus starts his story with Candaules, the king of Lydia, who was so proud of his wife’s beauty, that he made his bodyguard Gyges hide in his bedroom so that he can see his wife naked. The queen saw Gyges and made him kill the king and seize the throne in order to revenge the impropriety of the act. That’s how Gyges became the king of Lydia and a prophecy by the oracle was made that the murder would be revenged in Gyges’ fifth generation. Then Herodotus goes on to tell some memorable achievements of Ardys, Sadyattes and Alyattes which are the heirs of Gyges. Croesus (the fifth generation) overrun the Aiatic Greeks and established the Lydian empire. This is when the Athenian philosopher Solon visited him. When Croesus asks him who is the happiest person Solon knows (thinking he will say Croesus) Solon tells him that a truly happy person must have a happy death and only then can he be considered truly happy since life is a chance and happiness is temporary. After that Croesus accepts in his home and cleanses Adrastus who later goes on to kill Croesus son Atys by accident making Croesus prophetic dream come true. Later on Croesus is mislead by an oracle message and he goes on to attack Cyrus and the Persians. Cyrus manages to win the war and takes Croesus prisoner. In this way the killing of Candaules was revenged in the fifth generation. Then Herodotus goes on to explaining how Cyrus came to power. His grandfather Astyages had a dream that his daughter urinated that it swamped the whole Asia. Thus he decided to kill her son Cyrus. Through some accidents the child was not killed and later on, this was found out so Astyages sent Cyrus to Persia. When he grew up he conquered Astyages and Medes fulfilling the dream. After finishing Cyrus’ story Herodotus goes on to describe the Persian customs. Cyrus was succeeded by Cambyses who attacked Egypt and Ethiopia. The Herodotus describes Egyptian customs (who do everything opposite to the Greeks) and Ethiopian customs. Cambyses sent spies to Ethiopia and later on he becomes a mad man and starts the expedition to Ethipia. On the way to Ethiopia the soldiers are starving so they turn to cannibalism after which they head home.
Analysis of Major Characters:
Gyges – with his seizing of the throne Herodotus starts the explanation of the war. Gyges is blindly following the orders of his king and this is his main flaw. He kills the king and thus five generations later Croesus loses his throne in order to achieve the cycle of revenge. Candaules, whom Gyges kills is a representation of hubris – he thinks his wife is so pretty and in order to show off with her he comes up with the plan that Gyges must see her naked. This is only one of many incidents of hubris in the Greek texts (compare with Agamemnon mainly)
Croesus – he is in general a good king but he becomes too confident in himself which is evident in his conversation with Solon over happiness. He thinks himself to be the happiest person in the world. This is again a form of hubris but it is not as heavily punished as Candaules’ (why?) Croesus realizes the wisdom of Solon and how fleeting happiness is.
Solon – he appears for a very short time setting some very important themes in the Histories (mentioned below). He is an Athenian philosopher who goes to visit Croesus.
Cyrus -Cyrus spent his childhood in a poor family but he demonstrated his kingly blood even in the games with the other children. He conquers Croesus but keeps him in his palace and takes care of him. Cyrus is the one who brings great glory to the Persians. The first instance when a child’s character gains that much attention and still it is not fully developed but serves the larger story of the text.
Cambyses –He starts out to be a king who wants to attack Egypt and Ethiopia but later goes mad and kills his sister and his brother. He also offends the Egyptians but this is again contributed to his madness. Herodotus speaks in Book 3, ch. 38 about the importance of custom and that Cambyses couldn’t have possible outraged Apis and all customs of the Egyptians if he was not mad which is again a kind of deductive logic since for him customs are so important that only a mad man would transcend them.
Purpose of the Histories: The Histories opens with a promise by Herodotus to describe all marvelous acts both by Barbarians and by Greeks. He wants to give an account of why they fought and examine the causes of these wars, so for him it is not only important that we describe what happened in order to preserve the memories but to also understand the causes and analyze the events. Herodotus describes multiple causes of the war and he doesn’t favor one over the other because he believes that causes are immensely complicated and there are always many reasons why something happened.
What is knowledge: Herodotus says that he knows everything he writes because he asked people and these people were not eye-witnesses but their word is taken for the pure truth. Also, Herodotus deducts a lot of information. Also, Herodotus deducts his knowledge of the other barbarian1 cultures because he thinks that the further they are from Greece, they would do more things in the opposite ways. He believes that the world is symmetric. For Herodotus extremity in the customs of other cultures is worth describing. Thus, he does not describe things that the barbarians do in the same way as Greeks. Herodotus is different than Odysseus since he does not judge the other cultures but he is genuinely interested in their customs. He does not hold an ethno-centric view.
Cycle of Revenge: We may call it God, faith, destiny or just cyclical structures but in the Histories things happen because they had to. In a sense there is some very strict order of the world where everything is interconnected. Thus, if Gyges kills the king five generations later Croesus has to lose his kingdom. This feeling of order is reemphasized through the numerous omens and dreams. People try to escape their destiny but they can never do that (Cyrus vs. Croesus)
Temporal happiness: from the very beginning Herodotus says that “For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small are great.(p.5) This is the main wisdom of Solon when he visits Croesus and tells him that if he is happy today it is luck but not happiness.
Oracles: Herodotus is very skeptical of religion and the oracles and he questions them often in the Histories. This is a great major difference from the Odyssey and the Iliad of Homer. There are no gods in the Histories but there are dreams and omens which are thought to be credible by all.
Close Reading Exercise:
Book 2; 34 – This is a great example of Herodotus’ deductive extraction of knowledge. He does not know anything about Nile but he beliefs it should be in the middle of Africa and must be the longest river since in Europe the Danube (the longest river) crosses Europe through the middle. Also he says that Nile should be the same length as the Danube since the world for Herodotus is very symmetric, i.e. if Europe has a long river passing in the middle than Africa should also have a long river passing through the middle.
Points of contact:
The Iliad and the Odyssey and how Homer’s account is different than Herodotus’. How is Thucydides different in his History of the Peloponnesian war?
Why do Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides write their historical accounts? What is important to them? (to preserve, to analyze, to glorify?)
The role of Gods in this text vs. the Gods in the Homeric epics
Knowledge in the Histories and knowledge in Agamemnon and Oedipus the king
Dreams in the Homeric hymns, in other Greek texts vs. dreams in the Bible
The Oresteia is composed of three plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.
Agamemnon begins with the sudden presence of a beacon light that signals the victory of the Atreidae in Troy. The chorus, the elder men that did not go to war, enters the stage and summarizes the cause of the Trojan War as well as Agamemnon’s decision to slaughter his daughter, Iphigeneia, for the sake of the war. In the midst of the chorus speech, the Herald brings news that confirms the Achaean success and praises Agamemnon for his valiance and greatness. Agamemnon returns home with Cassandra, a captured girl from the war who is seen as a barbarian. While Agamemnon and Clytaemestra are in the house, Cassandra cries to the chorus that she will die alongside Agamemnon. Cassandra, cursed by Apollo to know the future but have no one ever believe her, prophesizes of the death of Agamemnon and the return of Orestes in vengeance. Cassandra enters the house, and Agamemnon cries offstage that he has been stabbed. The doors of the palace open and the audience sees Clytaemestra standing over the dead bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytaemestra reveals that she killed Agamemnon in revenge for her daughter and for punishment of his infidelity. Aegisthus enters and states that that he has avenged the sins of Atreus in feeding the father of Aegisthus his own children. Clytaemestra and Aegisthus are in power, while the chorus begs for the return of Orestes to purify the house of Atreidae.
The Libation Bearers opens with the return of Orestes to witness the chorus, black veiled women from the house, and Electra bearing libations to pour over the grave of Agamemnon. Electra finds a lock of hair that matches her own that Orestes in sign of grief had laid for all the dead. She begins to pray of his return, and Orestes reveals himself to them. They rejoice and Electra claims that her mother had wrongly buried her father in the absence of his citizens, and Orestes tells of the oracle from Apollo that he will punish his father’s murderers. The chorus relates a dream of Clytaemestra that she had suckled a snake and the serpent drew in blood. Orestes and Pylades devise a plan to enter the house disguised as an outlander. Orestes enters as a messenger with the news that Orestes has died and questions his parents what they would like to do with his body. Clytaemestra and Aegisthus both feign remorse over his death. Aegisthus would like to speak to the messenger alone to question him, and Orestes kills him in the room offstage. Orestes catches Clytaemestra speak words of affection over the death of Aegisthus, and takes her into the room to kill. The doors of the palace open, as Orestes stands over the bodies of Clytaemestra and Aegisthus. Nevertheless, Orestes grieves for the death of his line, and how his victory is soiled. He claims himself an outcast and leaves.
The Eumenides begins when a priestess of Apollo, the Pythia, sees the temple of Apollo with Orestes, blood dripping from his hands and sword, surrounded by black and repulsive creatures. Apollo tells Orestes to go to the citadel of Pallas Athene so that she can judge the case and clear him of his affliction. The ghost of Clytaemestra appears to waken the Furies and sends them to hunt down Orestes. Apollo rids the Furies from his home, and decides to provide help in the trial. The setting switches to Athens where Orestes is embracing the statue of Athene awaiting his trial. The Furies find him and claim that they will seek revenge for the murder of his mother. Athene asks Orestes to answer their claim, and he responds that he shall accept whatever fate that is decided. Athene claims that the case is too large even for her to analyze, and calls upon twelve of her finest citizens to judge justly. The trial is held and Apollo speaks on behalf of Orestes against the Furies. Athene claims that she has no mother and is always for the male in case of marriage. She casts her vote for Orestes in the case of a tie. When the ballots have been cast, there are an equal number on both sides, and Orestes is saved. The Furies feel they have been dishonored in the face of the new gods, and Athene appeases them with the power to straighten the lives of the citizens of Athens. The Furies become the Eumenides.
Analysis of Major Characters
Agamemnon – Agamemnon is the king of Argos, and brother of Menelaus. When the play begins, Agamemnon is not present because he is away fighting the Trojan War. Agamemnon and the men of Argos have been in Troy fighting for the last ten years. The people of Argos are angry with him because the war has lasted for such a long time, and so many young men have died. When Agamemnon returns to Argos, he brings Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, home with him.
Agamemnon is a character with immense hubris, and he displays this hubris when he walks on the purple robes that Clytaemestra laid down for him (63-64). This hubris is one of the reasons why Agamemnon’s death must occur. Another reason for Agamemnon’s death is fate because his death is completing the blood cycle that began when his father fed Thyestes his sons. His death also is revenge for his sacrifice of his own daughter, Iphigeneia.
Clyatemestra – Clytaemestra is the wife of Agamemnon, and Queen of Argos. When the play opens, she seems to be a wife very concerned about her husband’s well being and his safe return home. While he has been fighting, however, she has found a new lover, Aegisthus. Clytaemestra is portrayed with strong male qualities because she has had to rule Argos for the last ten years. Her manliness is also present when she murders Agamemnon instead of Aegisthus. She is consumed with anger at Agamemnon for his sacrifice of Iphigenia. She views her murder of him as an act of fate that had to be fulfilled.
Aegisthus – The lover of Clytaemestra. He wants revenge on Agamemnon for the murder of his two brothers. However, a weakness of character is apparent when it is Clytaemestra that performs the killing instead of he.
Cassandra – Cassandra is a woman brought to Argos from the war by Agamemnon. Apollo has given her the power to foretell prophecy, however, she is cursed for no one can understand her prophecies. When Clytaemestra takes Agamemnon into the house and kills him, Cassandra speaks of his death, as well as of the cycle of revenge that is present. However, her warnings are unrecognizable and are not understood. Clytaemestra then murders her as well.
Chorus from Agamemnon – The chorus is composed of Argive elders. They are critical of Agamemnon for the lengthy war and high death toll. Consequently, they are not completely sympathetic to him. However, they disapprove of the murder of Agamemnon and cry for their actions to be punished.
Orestes – Orestes is the son of Clytaemestra and Agamemnon. In The Libation Bearers, he slays his mother to avenge his father’s death. Apollo leads on his desire for revenge. There are many similarities between Orestes and Clytaemestra. Both kill a family member out of revenge, and their methods on stage are very similar.
Chorus from The Libation Bearers – The chorus is composed of a group of servant women from the house of Agamemnon. They clearly have sympathy for Electra and Orestes. Along with Electra, they are the first to discover the return of Orestes. The women aid in Orestes’ plan.
Electra – Electra is the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemestra, and the sister of Orestes. While her mother and Aegisthus rule, she lives in the palace as a virtual slave. Electra has immense sympathy for her father, and repeatedly fails to notice his own shortcomings. She strongly supports her brother, for he is the only person that she has.
The Furies (Chorus from The Eumenides) – The role of the chorus in society is to punish murderers. The Furies represent the older generation of gods in Greek culture. Throughout the story, there is a contrast between this older generation and the new. The ghost of Clytaemestra calls them to punish Orestes for the matricide he committed. They are angry with Apollo for his support of Orestes. They believe that the relationship between mother and son is stronger than husband and wife. At the end, they are renamed the Eumenides, which has a more neutral connotation, and they are given a real position in Athens where they can oversee the lives of the people.
Athene – Orestes escapes to Athens, so that Athene can clear him of his guilt. She calls twelve men to decide the outcome of Orestes fate. Athene ultimately casts the deciding vote that declares Orestes innocent. Athene ends the blood curse on the house of Atreus and the cycles of revenge. She represents the new generation of gods, and the new order. She is an opposition to the Furies, who are the old order of gods. Her decision celebrates an era of democracy and reliance on the justice system.
The drama of a play is immediate and simultaneously occurs to the audience and the characters in the play. Therefore, in this play, knowledge is obtained directly through seeing the action that takes place.
(The doors of the palace open, disclosing the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, with Clytaemestra standing over them.)
Stage directions: After Line 1371
Why is the murder not seen? Why must the murderer stand over the dead characters? Why does the audience only see that image?
1. When the palace doors open, the audience sees the Clytaemestra standing over the bodies at the same time as the rest of the kingdom. The actual action of the murder is hidden from sight because it is more significant that the murderer is standing over the body of the king and his mistress. The sight shows that power is now in the hands of Clytaemestra.
2. The sight of the Agamemnon’s dead body would shock the audience. The body of a dead king is a powerful symbol of the overturn of social stability.
3. The same palace doors are opened to the audience when Orestes stands over the bodies of Clytaemestra and Aegisthus. The audience sees the cycle of revenge and the prophecy being fulfilled.
“Seeing” and failing to see
The lights in the beginning of Agamemnon are beacons that signal the victory of the Argives in Troy. As the light travels from one point to the next, the audience and the characters understand the overthrow of Ilium.
Agamemnon tramples upon the robes. It is an action reserved only for the gods, but due to pride, he steps upon them.
Orestes returns to the palace disguised as an outlander. As a person exiled from his home, those people closest to him cannot recognize him and see his return.
The Pythia, Apollo’s priestess, cannot bear the sight of Orestes, his hands and sword covered in blood, surrounded by the disgusting Furies. It is a sight that relates is terrible to see.
The Oresteia creates a catharsis and serves as a social function to engage the emotions of pity and fear. Although the concept of a dead king is difficult to imagine, the audience can identify with the characters on stage simply through the way the action is presented on stage. Instead of seeing the murder occur, the audience sees the palace doors open with Clytaemestra over the bodies much like the rest of the kingdom would see it. Therefore, the play proves to cause an even more effective unsettling feeling.
Nevertheless, seeing is just one form of the discovery of information:
1. Prophecy – Cassandra speaks of the fate of Agamemnon and the return of Orestes.
2. Suffering – Stories from the characters that involve pain from surrounding forces.
3. Report – The Herlad informs both the audience and the characters that the Argives have been victorious in Troy and that Agamemnon is due home shortly.
4. Patterns – Cycles of Revenge, repetitive imagery, and metonymy trace action throughout the play. One object or piece of figurative language is used to convey a recurrent action.
2. Web/Net Imagery
In Agamemnon, there are many uses of imagery that refer to webs or nets. The meaning of this imagery changes with each different character that uses it. In one instance, Agamemnon uses the word “web” when really he is referring to the purple robes that Clytaemestra has laid on the ground for him. His odd word choice somewhat foreshadows his own death for only gods perform this action. When Clytaemestra uses the net imagery, it is twice in reference to fishing that signifies her murder of Agamemnon as something that is a necessity and life sustaining.
The Chorus: (355-60) (1047-9) AG In this quote, the chorus uses net imagery to depict the sacking of Troy. They later use it to explain the fate of Cassandra.
Clytaemestra: (866-8) (1373-5) (1381-3) AG In these passages, Clytaemestra comments on rumors she heard about Agamemnon’s death while at war. When saying this, she foreshadows her murder of him. She also describes her need to murder Agamemnon.
Agamemnon: (944-9) AG Agamemnon uses “webs” to mean the robe that Clytaemestra has put on the ground for him. His word choice is ironic.
Cassandra: (1125-8) AG Cassandra is trying to tell the chorus what is about to happen, but of course they cannot understand her. The web that she describes is much like the Clytaemestra and Agamemnon’s web that she is caught in.
Aegisthus: (1580-2) AG Aegisthus uses “nets” to refer to the cycle of revenge that is caused by the curse of the house of Atreus.
3. Old/New Order The Eumenides centers around the division between the old order of gods and the new order. The roles of Athene and Apollo represent the new order and The Furies are the old. The trial of Orestes embodies the conflict between the two sides:
Newer Generation (gods)
Relationship of husband/wife
Speak for men
Older Generation (gods)
Relationship of mother/son
Speak for women
Throughout the texts, there exist binary references that contrast the two orders of gods. The natural represents the older generation, while society signifies the new. The idea of femininity and masculinity are separated between the two orders. The old order appears to be that which is uncivilized or dark, while the new generation is the product of civilization and is seen as the light.
4. Revenge versus Justice
There are two forces that are at conflict in the motives of the characters. Equally, while Clytaemestra and Aegisthus are punished for their actions, Orestes is found to be free of punishment for his actions. The two abstract ideals are explored in contrast to each other in each story.
Why is Clytaemestra punished for killing Agamemnon, but Orestes not punished for killing his own mother?
The motive of revenge cannot be deemed right or wrong in the stories. Revenge is an action of loyalty and a protection of one’s beliefs. Aegisthus aided the killing of Agamemnon in response to Atreus feeding his father his own children.
Justice is not necessarily right or wrong, but it is guided because it seeks right. Although it may not follow morality or equality, it searches for a balance within disorder.
In The Eumenides, justice prevails to save Orestes from death. The story is a support for the system of liberal democracy and celebrates the power of the court system. There is no better judge or law than that of the divine Athene.
Lines 1371-1392 (Agamemnon)
Clytaemestra has just committed the murder of Agamemnon and is explaining to the chorus how she killed the king. She relates that it was not an act that was new in her mind, but was “pondered deep in time” (1378). She is like a hunter in this passage and is describing how she caught her prey. It is this feature of hunter that gives Clytaemestra masculine qualities throughout the play. She shares, “…as fishermen cast their huge circling nets, I spread deadly abundance of rich robes, and caught him fast” (1382-3). There is a prevalent image of pain and death in the passage, but the picture is blurred when the scattering of blood accounts for a growth and renewal of life. Within death, Clytaemestra is glad “as garden stand among the showers of God in glory at the birthtime of the buds” (1391-2). The passage is important because it helps to explain the vicious nature of Clytaemestra and her masculine description. The prevalent net imagery is also used to bind Agamemnon. The same nets or robes that he ironically stepped upon in glory are the weapons for his destruction.
Lines 179-713 (The Eumenides)
In this passage, Apollo is commanding the Furies to leave his sanctuary. This is where the struggle between the two types of gods begins. The very graphic descriptions of bodily punishment and harm depict the focus of the Furies. There is also a focus on blood in this passage. These numerous mentions of blood point to the importance of the bloodline, blood cycles, and the literal blood from mother to son. In this passage the idea of pollution of the blood is introduced. This was the Greeks’ feeling about culpability.
Newer Generation (gods)
Older Generation (gods)
Newer Generation (gods)
Older Generation (gods)
Clytaemestra and Agamemnon are involved in a web of infidelity and end up destroying each other in the end.
Penelope and Odysseus have the opposite relationship where Penelope practices complete fidelity in the face of her suitors at home.
Cycles of Revenge:
In the Iliad, a cycle of revenge begins with the destruction of Patroklos, where Achilleus, must take revenge on Hektor for the loss of his friend.
Odysseus receives a long-awaited homecoming after years of hardship at sea. Agamemnon received an inversed nostos. Agamemnon returns home quickly, only to face the most dishonorable end of his glory.
Cassandra is viewed much like the characters in Histories and The Odyssey. Those individuals that are not from Greece and far from known civilization are viewed completely as foreigners. Cassandra is seen by Clytaemestra and a Greek perspective as a barbarian.
Characters that believe they can bypass the laws of their natural surroundings. Xerxes believed he could punish the land and sea, while Agamemnon stepped upon the robes, an action reserved for the gods. Both are punished for their actions.
Oedipus study guide
The play begins with a plague that has stricken Thebes. Seeking an oracle at Delphi, Thebes and its king, Oedipus, are told the plague will end when the murderer of the former king, Laius, is caught and expelled. Teirasias, the blind prophet of Apollo, is summoned to reveal who the murderer is. Under questioning he tries to refuse to answer Oedipus; after Oedipus accuses him of being the murderer, Teirasias reveals that Oedipus is in fact the murderer. Oedipus flies into a rage and accuses his brother-in-law Creon of concocting a scheme through which to seize the throne. Creon protests that he is innocent of these charges, and to prove it explains that he and Jocasta (Creon’s sister, Oedipus’ wife, Laius’ window) are as happy as they could conceivably be and thus he has no motive to be king. Jocasta intercedes on Creon’s behalf, attesting to his innocence. Jocasta and Oedipus talk and compare stories of the dead king’s murder. Gradually, prophesies come together. Jocasta explains that her and Laius’ son was prophesied to kill Laius. Laius pierced the baby’s ankles and told others to leave him out to die. Oedipus tells how, when he was a young man, it was prophesied he would kill his father and lie with his mother, causing him to run away from his parents, Polybus and Merope of Corinth. While fleeing, Oedipus met and killed a rude old man and the better part of his entourage at a crossroads. A messenger comes to tell Oedipus and Jocasta that Polybus is dead, which initially brings them great joy because clearly Oedipus didn’t kill him, thus rendering the prophesy false. However, their joy is short lived because the messenger also reveals that Polybus is not Oedipus’ blood father; Oedipus was saved from being left out to die, and his ankles were pierced. Oedipus, being characteristically slow on the uptake, thinks that the messenger’s story just means he is of plebian rather than royal blood, even while Jocasta panics as she realizes the truth. A herdsman comes and reluctantly reveals that baby Oedipus was sent off to die, only to be saved by Polybus. After this revelation the audience learns that Jocasta has killed herself. When Oedipus discovers her, he gouges out his eyes with her “gold chased brooches, attempting to ease the pain of seeing and realizing his crime and his guilt. Oedipus prepares to go into exhile and asks Creon, the new king, to please take care of his daughters, Antigone and Ismene. After bidding his daughters a tearful farewell, Oedipus leaves.
Analysis of Major Characters
Oedipus: Powerful king of Thebes renowned for saving the city from the Sphinx. An exemplar of Freudian theory, he takes on the role of a paternal figure early in the play. He greets the townspeople numerous times as “children” (lines 1 and 57). He has a fiery temper and is quick to fly into rages. This tendency towards quick and decisive action does, however, have its good side when he is a king; he can anticipate his subject’s needs by sending Creon to the oracle at the play’s beginning. He is also the last person in this play to understand anything; not only the audience but nearly every other character understands that he murdered Laius and caused the plague on Thebes long before Oedipus himself understands. Nearly until Jocasta kills herself, Oedipus is constantly in action, threatening, calling, and commanding in a frenetic (perhaps unconscious) attempt to race his fate.
Creon: Oedipus’ brother-in-law and uncle, he is honest and loyal to what he sees as the ultimate interest of Thebes. He seeks the help of oracles and prophets and, while he makes no move to alleviate the pain of Oedipus’ final fate, he did send his daughters to say goodbye, which comforted Oedipus.
Jocasta: The sister of Creon, wife and mother of Oedipus, and widow of Laius. She stands by Oedipus throughout in the best ways she knows how. At first she joins him in trying to prove the prophecies false. Then, when she realizes the truth before Oedipus, she tries—in a notably maternal gesture—to protect him from the truth by attempting in vain to stop him from searching for the truth.
Laius: The murdered former king of Thebes and husband of Jocasta. He attempts, like nearly everyone else, to avoid their fate, and fails miserably. At a crossroads, he’s killed by Oedipus, the son he tried unsuccessfully to have killed.
Teiresias: The blind oracle who reluctantly—and only when accused of being Laius’ murderer—reveals to Oedipus that he is the polluter of Thebes. The irony is that while Teiresias doesn’t have literal sight he has metaphorical sight.
Minor characters: Chorus of Old Men of Thebes, Priest, First Messenger, Second Messenger, Herdsman
Non-speaking characters: Polybus, Merope, Ismene, Antigone
Don’t try to escape your fate. In this play pretty much everybody tried, to their eventual doom. Laius and Jocasta tried to kill their child to avoid a prophesy, Oedipus tried to run away from his fate. Fate still caught up with them, seemingly because they tried to avoid it (i.e. Oedipus wouldn’t have killed an old man on the crossroads is he hadn’t been running away from Polybus and Merope). This is a play about fate, not free will.
Sight. There’s the great irony that Teirasias, who is literally blind, is the one who actually sees, while Oedipus is metaphorically blind. He blinds himself at the play’s end, so that he “will never see the crime I have committed or had done upon me! Dark eyes, now in the days to come look on forbidden faces, do not recognize those whom you long for” (lines 1271-4). Vision is symbolic of knowledge.
Guilt and the irrelevance of intention. Intentionality is not a factor in considering guilt; Oedipus has no conscious knowledge that is committing parricide and incest, but because he committed the acts, he is equally guilty as someone who had full conscious knowledge.
Aristotle’s definition of tragedy
Hamartia: keeps character from doing what they should; tragic flaw (Greek: “to err”)
Peripeteia: change of fortune (Greek: “to change suddenly”)
Anagnoresis: moment of recognition (Greek: “recognition”)
A tragedy follows a trajectory of linear events that begin in the middle of the action. The protagonist, at the tragedy’s beginning, has a high status and generally seems to be in a great position in life. The tragedy essentially explains and chronicles his fall. The tragedy should ideally climax with anagoresis. Oedipus perfectly embodies this definition of tragedy.
From Aristotle’s Poetics, translated by Gerald Else:
“Tragedy…is a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the persons themselves and not presented through narrative; though a course of pity and fear completing the purification of tragic acts which have those emotional characteristics.”
Comparisons to Other Texts
Speech acts are actions fulfilled simply through speaking. Cursing, for instance, is a big speech act. Compare God’s creation of the world in Genesis and the power of Jesus’ Word in John with the power of speech acts in Oedipus.
Sight and knowledge
Really seeing and really knowing what’s going on isn’t necessarily such a great thing. In Oedipus knowing his own guilt and realizing what he’s done brings him torment and exile. In Genesis, Adam and Eve get expelled from Eden for eating the apple and Lott’s wife gets turned into a pillar of salt for looking back.
Structure of the city
In Oedipus, the citizens of Thebes are remarkably involved, and the play begins with Oedipus addressing them. They seem to play more of an active role in their own fate than the nameless and faceless Trojans that live behind the wall in the Iliad. Also, the violence and threat that Troy faces comes from an invasion outside its walls, while the pollution that threatens Thebes comes from within.
Jocasta’s role in Oedipus is a pawn of fate. She is not a character taking action, but riding along with those who are making action. As a mother she neither orders nor stops baby Oedipus’ death sentence nor does she appear to be any less passive as a wife. While Demeter is active in trying to rescue Persephone, Clytenmnestra avenges the death of her daughter, and Medea is responsible for the death of her children, Jocasta emerges as perhaps the most passive figure of the group.
Other prophesies about the danger posed by family members.
In The Histories, fears about the danger posed by children come not from oracles but from dreams. Astyages dreamt first that his daughter Mandane urinated so much that it swamped Asia, and then that vines grew from her genitals and spread all over Asia. An interpreter decided that this was indicative of a threat posed to Astyages by Mandane’s child, Cyrus, and Astyages ordered the death of his grandson. Like in Oedipus, the compassion of strangers botches this and Cyrus did indeed live to fulfill the prophesy (pages 49-50).
Comparison between Homer (The Iliad), Herodotus, and Thucydides.
Reason for writing:
Memorializing glory of individual warriors (to please readers)
Memorializing collective cultural glory (to please readers)
Analyzing the causes of war (not memorializing)
(not to please)
What he is doing:
Recognizing inevitability (possibly a criticism of inequality)
Individuals/culture (no distinction)
Political Systems of the cultures
(Stories to entertain)
Chain of events
Possible modes of identification:
Speaks of individuals (Achaeans and Trojans)
Speaks of foreign countries in relation to Greek
Speaks of only Greek, and they are very divided, but mostly into two major groups: Athens (and allies) vs. Sparta (and allies)
Genesis Study Guide
for Literature Humanities: Professor Claybaugh
I. Chapter-by-Chapter Plot Summary:
1,2: Creation A and B
3: Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God evicts them from Eden even though he said he would kill them.
4: Cain and Abel are born. Cain kills his brother and God curses him. Eve gives birth to Seth.
6: The Lord regrets creating man because of man’s violence and corruption. He vows to destroy all humanity but to spare Noah.
7-8: Noah enters the ark. The flood comes and goes in forty days. Noah builds an altar to god.
9: God blesses Noah, forges a covenant with Noah, symbolized by the rainbow. While Noah gets drunk and is seen by his son Ham, who he later curses.
11: People attempt to build the Tower of Babel.
12: Abram leaves his homeland at the bequest of God, who forges a covenant with him.
13: Abram leaves Egypt. He and Lot split up, and Abram moves to Hebron.
14-15: Lot is taken captive and Abram saves him. God promises Abram an heir.
16: Hagar, Sarai’s maid, gives birth to Ishmael, Abram’s first son.
17: God forms another covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah. The birth of Isaac is promised. Abraham circumcises himself and his household.
18: The birth of Isaac is predicted by three men (angels) who are on the way to destroy Sodom.
19: A mob surrounds Lot’s house, where the angels are staying. The angels save Lot and Sodom is destroyed. Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt, and he sleeps with his daughters.
20: While in Gerar, Sarah is taken by the King. He is punished, but gives gifts to Abraham.
21: Isaac is born. Sarah kicks out Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham forges a covenant with Abimelech.
22: Abraham is tested by God, who asks him to sacrifice Isaac.
23: Sarah dies. Abraham chooses to buy a cave for her burial rather than receive it as a gift.
24: Abraham sends his servant to find Isaac a wife from Abraham’s own people; Rebekah is chosen.
25: Abraham’s second wife; his death. Ishmael’s children and his death. Jacob and Esau are born.
26: Isaac moves to the land of King Abimelech. He has problems with locals over wells and leaves.
27: Jacob deceives Isaac with the help of his mother and takes Esau’s blessing.
28: Jacob leaves for Laban’s house. He dreams about the ladder.
29: Jacob marries Leah and Rachel. He only wants Rachel. Leah has four sons. Rachel is barren.
30: Leah bears more children. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Jacob wishes to return home.
31: Laban chases Jacob. Jacob curses the thief of Laban’s idols (Rachel); the men form a covenant.
32: Esau and a party of four hundred people come to greet Jacob who has split his party into two camps out of fear of his brother. Jacob wrestles with the angels and his name is changed to Israel.
33: Jacob and Esau reunite warmly.
34: Dinah is taken and raped by a local prince. His father tries to negotiate a marriage with Jacob. Simeon and Levi destroy the entire city.
35: God moves Jacob to Beth-El. Isaac dies, as does Rachel.
36: Esau and Jacob cannot inhabit the same land. Esau moves away with his large family.
37: Joseph is in constant conflict with his brothers who are annoyed with his dreams and attitude. When away from their home, they throw him into a pit and later sell him to a band of Ishmaelites.
38: The story of Judah’s sons and Tamar, and of Judah and Tamar
39-45: The stories of Joseph in Egypt. He is thrown into jail by his master, and then becomes the viceroy of Egypt after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He makes peace with his brothers and his entire family comes down to live in Egypt. Jacob dies.
II. Major Characters:
Adam: The first being. His name and the word ‘man’ are used interchangeably in the text because they are the same in Hebrew. He eats from the Tree of Knowledge because of his wife and is forever expelled from the Garden of Eden.
Eve: The first woman: created from the flesh of Adam. She is manipulated by the serpent into eating from the tree. This story, which involves a tremendous act of Hubris, can be compared to the moment when Clytaemnestra tells Agamemnon to step on the crimson robes: both women are responsible for the downfall of their husbands and they are both significantly manipulated by an outside male figure.
Noah: The only ‘righteous’ man in his generation. He is commanded to build and ark and is saved from the flood. Afterwards, god promises him that he will never again flood the earth, forming a covenant that is symbolized by the rainbow.
Abraham (also known as Abram): Is constantly being tested by god, who forms many covenants with him. As Zoe mentioned in class – it causes one to wonder why god seems to be ‘going back on his word’ again and again by constantly re-promising the land to Abraham and his descendants.
Lot: Abraham’s nephew, and a frequent ‘thorn-in-his-side.’ He is saved from the destruction of Sodom. Lot, while drunk, sleeps with his daughters.
Isaac: Abraham’s son and heir through Sarah. Husband of Rebekah and father of Jacob and Esau. Mistakenly blesses Jacob with Esau’s blessing.
Jacob (also known as Israel): Isaac’s second son. He steals the birthright from his brother and also takes his blessing. His name is changed twice: first by the angel who he wrestles with before encountering Esau, and second by the Lord.
Joseph: Jacob’s favorite son. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, but eventually becomes the viceroy of Egypt. He is very skilled at interpreting dreams.
III. Minor Characters:
Sarah (also known as Sarai): Abraham’s first wife and mother of Isaac.
Hagar: Sarah’s maid; given to Abraham as a wife. Mother of Ishamel.
Rebekah: Isaac’s wife. Mother of Jacob and Esau. She helps Jacob obtain Esau’s rightful blessing.
Esau: Firstborn son of Isaac. Is tricked out of his birthright, but eventually forgives his brother.
Laban: Father of Rachel and Leah; Jacob’s employer for a long time; deals dishonestly with him.
Rachel: Jacob’s favorite wife. Mother of Joseph and Benjamin.
Leah: Jacob’s first wife. Mother of six of his children.
Dinah: Jacob’s only daughter. She is capture by a local prince and raped.
Simeon and Levi: Two of Jacob’s sons. They destroy the city of the prince who raped their sister.
V. Important Concepts
Covenants: Covenants play an extremely significant role in Genesis. People use covenants to forge alliances and God uses them to make promises and/or to appease nervous followers. Covenants take two forms: the verbal, which is merely a promise (usually by god), and the physical, which can be anything from a monument erected from stones to a circumcision. Jacob and Laban make a covenant for the sake of peace (31). God makes a covenant with Noah and symbolizes it with a rainbow. Repeated covenants between god and Abraham make Abraham’s people the chosen people. Isaac is promised a great nation. God uses covenants to test Noah (flood), Abraham (sacrificing Isaac), and Jacob (moving his family to build a tribute). The really unique importance of covenants can best be understood through the story of Dinah (34).
Sexuality: In Genesis, sexuality is something to be ashamed of. Gaining knowledge is equated with gaining sexual humility when Adam and Eve become ashamed of their nakedness.
Sexual Ethics: Sex is appropriate and goes unpunished by god and the community when families of those involved have formally approved it or when those having sex are doing so with the intent of carrying on a family line. The rape of Dinah shows that Genesis is not tolerant of sexual acts that do not have formal and communal consent. Schehem is also punished because he isn’t circumcised. The marking of circumcision is only seen when a man is about to have sex, which shows that a person’s membership and association with a particular group is important even in the most intimate times. In contrast, Tamar is not punished because she deserved impregnation and Lot’s daughters are not punished because they only seduced him in order to carry on the family line and. Onan, however, is punished because he wasted what could have become life and the Sodomites wanted to have sex that would not lead to reproduction, so God destroyed them.
Childbirth: God has direct control over conception. The ability to have children causes contempt (Sarah and Hagar). Having children ensures that the family line will continue so investing in an area of land or in a city becomes worthwhile. God gives fetuses to women to balance uneven relationships. Since Rachel and Jacob hate Leah, God opens Leah’s womb and leaves Rachel Barren. God gave Leah three sons to compel Jacob to need Leah. After the sisters’ maids bore Jacob children and Leah had more children, God finally opens Rachel’s womb. Rachel has a second son and dies after the hard labor.
VI. Comparisons With Other Texts
Eating fruit: Adam, Eve, and Persephone all become aware of their sexuality from eating fruit. The fruit also marks a separation between parent and child where God is the parent figure in Genesis. With the attainment of sexual knowledge, the characters from both texts step into adulthood. They remove responsibility for their actions from themselves. Eve attributes responsibility to the serpent and Persephone blames Hades. This way, their deeds were reactions to a temptation, and not premeditated intentions. Persephone is tied to Hades by eating, but Adam and Eve are exiled.
Dreams: In the Iliad, Agamemnon is sent a dream of victory but he loses.
Dreams in the bible are portents of truth. Joseph’s two dreams about bushels of wheat bowing to him and stars and the moon bowing to him are signs that his brothers will be subordinate to him. The pharaoh’s dreams about seven skinny cows and seven fat cows, and seven ears of full corn and seven ears of thin corn correctly predicted dreams that his brothers’ bushels of wheat bow down even years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Punishments: The entire city of Thebes suffers because Oedipus killed Laius. Similarly, God would have punished Abimelech’s entire kingdom if he had sex with Sarah. Things happen to the nation on behalf of an individual.
Virginity: Virginity is valuable and important in Hymn to Demeter and Genesis.
Burial: Proper burial is important in Genesis (Sarah) and in the Odyssey.
Gift vs. Exchange: Any gift that Jacob gives to Esau is Esau getting back what was his in the first place. Abraham insists on paying for the cave for Sarah because he wants the land to belong to him forever. This is comparable to gifting and exchanging in the Odyssey, and the Iliad.
Curses: Clytaemnestra curses her son. Iphigenia is gagged so that she can not curse Agamemnon. Jacob says whoever took Laban’s idols will be cursed.
Sacrifices: When Noah leaves the ark he sacrifices animals to god and Abraham sacrifices a ram when God says he can spare Issac. Sacrifices are important in the Iliad, Odyssey and Hymn to Demeter.
Homosexuality: Sodom is destroyed in part because of its evil homosexual practices, but in the Symposium, homosexuality is more virtuous.
VII. Two Creation Stories Close-Reading
Differences between the two creations stories exemplify the multiple authorships in the Bible. The importance of beginnings is emphasized by having two distinct descriptions of them.
1. The first creation story has a high level of generality. God starts by creating very abstract categories and moves to more specific categories. (lightday and nightliving creaturesman) Creation A illustrates the imposition of order on chaos. The process follows a certain order. The most basic units are established first and then built upon to make higher and more complicated units. The beauty of the order of creation is celebrated.
2. The replicated use of parallel structures makes any deviation from the parallel structure stand out. For example, the use of “and it was good” verses “and it was so.” Each new day starts with “And then God said,” until the paragraph where god creates man, which starts, “Then god said.” After God created man, the text returns to using, “And then God said.”
3. An emphasis is placed on the fertility of humans and how they should be fruitful and multiply.
1. Starts en medias res
2. The repeated use of ‘and’ causes horizontal movement. Nothing is subordinate to anything else. “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree.” The creation of man and plants are explained in very similar terms where man is not explicitly superior to plants.
3. The two adjectives used in the main section detailing creation (2:5-10) are “pleasant,” and “good.” “The LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Aesthetics are mentioned before food, which is essential for survival, but Adam and Eve become aware of their bodies as visual spectacles after they eat the fruit.
4. Since woman is created as a companion for man, the emotional ties between men and women are explained.
Adam – (Eve)
Cain Seth Abel
Ham Shem Japheth
Ishmael Isaac- (Rebekah)
——————— Esau Jacob-(Leah and Rachel: Laban’s daughters, Bilhah, Zilpah: maids.)
—————————————————–Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin, and Dinah.
Bold indicates the husband of the women in the parenthesis and the father of the children listed in the next generation.
———- the dashed lines separate generations.
Creation A vs. Creation B
Plural God Singular God
“God” “the LORD God”
Man made last. Everything made for man Man created first.
Created in 6 days Created in one day
Speech acts then rests Growing and making
God is distant and all powerful God is humanlike
All things come from God’s speech acts. All things come from the earth.
Women and men equal. Women are subordinate to man.
Job Study Guide
Summary of Text
There are two stories in Job- the framing story which is 2.5 chapters long, and the interior story, which is written in poetry and is 40 books long. The beginning prose introduces Job as a ‘blameless and upright’ man who was very prosperous. God converses with Satan, and brags about Job’s goodness. Satan then challenges God to test Job. God does indeed test Job and in one day four messengers come to Job reporting that his fields, livestock, servants, and children have all been burned or perished. In response to this Job still praises God, which causes Satan to request another test. This time God afflicts Job himself. Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to mourn with him and the poetry section of the text begins. Job begins to speak after seven days and a situation similar to that in The Symposium ensues with each of the men speaking several times on the subject of suffering (chapter 3-31). The men tell stories and Job questions God and the reasons for suffering. Job, who has faith in the legal system, speaks of meeting with God and putting him on trial. Zophar leaves before the third round of speeches and is replaced by Elihu, who is very young. Job pays no attention to the speech that Elihu makes. Job rests his case in chapter 31 and the Theophany, or seeing of God, takes place from 38-42. Job questions God although differently than he had practiced earlier, and God questions Job to prove that Job knows nothing. Job admits to God’s unlimited power and ‘repents in dust and ashes” (42:6). The prose then returns for the last half of chapter 42, when He returnes to Job his health and two fold his previous fortune
The bible deals with knowledge of suffering and Gods role. Not much is know about Job except that is was written between the 9th and 11th centuries B.C. The authors are not known however it is thought that the prose was written well before the poetry. For one of the first time the subject of individual responsibility is brought into question as opposed to the group responsibility that was assumed earlier.
Analysis of Main characters
Job- Job is a God fearing man who God blessed with good fortune because of his goodness. Job remains faithful during the first course of punishments and then starts to question suffering as the text progresses. Through the conversations, Job wants to put God on trial because Job has faith in the legal system and wants a reason for why he is suffering.
Job is a representation of mankind in totality here as he suffers even after believing in God. Humans, as Job does, want to have reasons for their suffering and pain. Yet through this search for understanding in the end the only thing Job understands is the power of God and that there is no justification for his actions.
God- In this text, God tends to be condescending especially compared to Genesis. He asks Job who he is to question his power. God tests Job only to appease Satan and will provide no explanation to Job as to why he made him suffer. Instead God is sarcastic and put Job back in his place. When Job questions God and essentially put him on trial, God proves that he is above the legal process and above anything human. Because of his power and absoluteness he does not need to answer questions from a human.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar- Job’s three friends serve as a forum for suffering and God’s ways to be discussed. Eliphaz know from experience and tries to give advice via that pathway whereas Zophar knows because of the divine. And so, a balance is being stuck as they lament over why God would make them suffer. Their stories become increasingly more unreasonable as the text progresses.
Satan- Satan is not bad as we think of him to be bad, but rather the representation of the opposite of God. Satan is also a heavenly being and therefore can talk to God. Satan persuades God to test Job and to see if Job is good because he actually believes in God or because he has been prosperous.
Humans have trouble understanding why the God that loves them and created them allows them to suffer. The move to individual responsibility comes into play in this text and Job questions why he, who is a faithful man, is being punished while his neighbor, who is a sinful man, is being rewarded. Job thinks that the legal system is the answer to his problems because the legal system is a way of questioning the party who has done wrong and finding out why they did this thing. However God appears and Job does not follow through with his plans of interrogating God. Instead God interrogates Job and shows Job that not everything is suppose to make sense. Some things, such as God, are above reason and do not need reason to perform/ carry out a task and he even says that his power is beyond divine justice and humans should not expect justification.
This tension is amplified for the reader, as he knows that God is only punishing Job because Satan challenged him.
1:1 Job believes blindly and is faithful
3 Job curses the day that he was born
9 Job was to contend with God and bring him to trial
10 Job is dissatisfied with God and questions why humans were made
3-31 the four men question why suffering exists and why God inflicts it
God comes and uses rhetorical questions to prove that Job and humans are not worthy of questioning God
God emphasizes that he is far above courts of law and he does not have to justify what he does to humans
God does say that while humans are nothing compared to him, they are still important to him.
Another main theme and one that ties in closely with the previous one is that of human shortcomings. Beginning with Job praying for the sin of his children it is known that humans are not perfect and they do not worship perfectly. Job then falls by cursing his own birth and then when God comes further along, Job realizes that speech is an imperfect way of believing, even though God had to show himself and speak to Job for Job’s faith to be restored. Sight is a much more powerful way of knowing and seeing God is to realize all that you don’t know. Job has this epiphany and realizes the complete awesomeness of God in comparison to himself, while Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are stuck on the physical magnitude of God. Job understands that because he is human he cannot fully comprehend all that is God and all that God does.
Chapter 28-31- This speech of questioning delivered by Job is central to the human’s confusion concerning God. Job compares humans to gems and metals that are removed from the earth and darkness, or unknowing in the case of the humans, to be polished into bright silver or knowing of the glory of God. He shows all that man can do and know in comparison to animals in 28:7-11. Job knows that man can accomplish much on his own and is able to know much.
In 28:12 Job addresses what he does not know. He asks the source of wisdom and how it, unlike silver, cannot be found just by looking. The value of wisdom is that above any earthly product and Job says that God is the only one who knows how to obtain it. The fear of the lord is wisdom. Job goes on to explain that he had the fear of God and that everything he did was for the Lord but now he is made fun of and has been humbled by God.
This speech highlights why Job, and men in general, are baffled by the act of God and are confused about the way to wisdom. Job was innocent, always fearing God, and yet God turned on him and struck him down. This behavior is troubling to the humans who do not understand how the Lord works. The main argument of Job lies in this speech and the unrest of humans is found in his words. God speaks in response to this speech saying that Job has no right to have any of these questions.
Connections to other texts
Like The Symposium, this is a discussion of something abstract by several people with differing opinions.
Odyssey- Job has had bad and good so he knows what good is. This is a more extreme example than the one found in the Odyssey
41.11- related to Genesis and the covenant that Abraham has with God. The conflict between exchange versus giving and how since Adam everything is an exchange rather than a gift. Also exchange in Hymn to Demeter
The Gospels of
Luke and John
As Explained by: Gaby Avila-Bront, Alex Epstein, and Geo Karapetyan
The Archangel Gabriel visits Zechariah, who was a priest, while he was serving and tells him that his old wife Elizabeth is to give birth to a son whose name is to be John, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit and prepare the nation for the Lord. Yet, due to his lack of faith, Gabriel makes Zechariah mute until the birth of John. Six months later the angel goes to a virgin named Mary who is engaged to a man named Joseph and tells her that the Holy Spirit would impregnate her with a son whom she would call Jesus, who would be the Son of the Most High and have an everlasting kingdom. In Bethlehem, Jesus is born in a manger, and angels tell shepherds of His birth.
When Jesus is twelve, his family travels to Jerusalem for Passover. When they leave, Mary and Joseph think that Jesus is with their relatives, but they cannot find him. They return to Jerusalem and find him in the Temple. Many years later, John begins teaching and baptizing and telling of He who is to come (Christ). Eventually, Jesus is baptized and his lineage is traced back to Adam. Jesus then goes into the wilderness and eats nothing for forty days and is tempted by the devil who mocks and taunts him for being the Son of God.
Jesus then begins to collect disciples to follow him, eventually finding twelve main me and later, seventy others. During Jesus’ ministries, he heals many illnesses including blindness, leprosy, and withered hands, and he cures people filled with demons. Moreover, he resurrects numerous individuals and also pardons the sins of many. All of this is done through faith. The Pharisees, however, constantly try to find flaws in Jesus’ actions, yet Jesus always finds a way out of their traps.
Jesus tells numerous parables throughout the text; some of the major ones include: the parable of the brides waiting for the bridegroom; the parable of a man who throws a party and invites poor people to it; the parable of the lost sheep; of the prodigal son; and the one of a man who plants a vine in his home and is killed by the servants who tend it year after year.
Some major events and interactions during Jesus’ ministry include:
⁃ Jesus Christ is in a boat with his disciples and falls asleep while there is a storm and He reassures the disciples that nobody would perish because of their faith.
⁃ He feeds the multitudes by multiplying the two fish and five loaves of bread that a young boy supplies him with.
⁃ A rich man asks Jesus Christ what he has to do to achieve eternal life, and Jesus Christ tells him to obey the commandments and give away all of his fortune, which the man admits that he cannot do. To this, Jesus Christ says that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.
⁃ He tells the citizens to give Caesar whatever belongs to him (taxes)
Upon entry into Jerusalem, Jesus Christ prophesizes the end of the world, where one would see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and for those who have faith not to lose it because they will be saved. He then eats for the last time with his disciples: he gives them unleavened bread and wine, and washes their feet to show them brotherly love.
That night, Jesus Christ is arrested and put on trial by his enemies, the religious leaders of Israel. He is turned in by his astray follower, Judas, who sells the secret of his location. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the area, finds Jesus not guilty, but Pilate knows that he must crucify him in order to keep peace amongst the nation of Israel. Jesus is crucified and buried and then is resurrected on the third day following his death. He appears to his disciples a few days later.
John begins with a explanation of the origin of Jesus Christ with respect to God (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God”). A description of the birth of John the Baptist is provided as well. The text then skips some thirty odd years to the main part of Jesus’ ministry.
The first thing Jesus does in the text is to turn water into wine at a wedding upon the request of his mother. Later, he scolds the worshippers at the Temple because they are selling in the House of God. He heals many individuals through faith; some examples include: curing blindness and the resurrection of Lazarus.
Jesus is followed by people because they ate to their fill with him, but he tells them not to seek perishable bread, but everlasting bread from his Father. Also, on numerous occasions Jesus tells his disciples that he will be leaving soon and that one of them would betray him, however, they can never understand what he means by this. Eventually, while teaching in the Temple, some ask him to stop speaking in riddles and tell them who he truly is. Once he does, some believe his story while others do not. Still, some Jews continue to ask him who he is, and he tells them that by now they are so sinful that they no longer have the same Father as he does.
After more healings, Jesus eats his last supper with his disciples. There are few major differences in description when comparing this version to the one in Luke. The few changes include that Jesus reassures his disciples that even after his death he will still be with them. He then washes their feet, prophesizes that Peter will abandon him that night before the cock would crow three times, and sends Judas on his way to do his evil deed.
Jesus is arrested and when the soldiers come, Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek. Peter then cuts the ear of one of the high priest’s slaves. Later that night, Peter denies being one of Christ’s disciples three times, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy.
Jesus is then put on trial and mocked for claiming to be the king of the Jews. Soldiers gambled for his robe which was without seam, thus fulfilling one of Isaiah’s prophecies. On His cross was written “Here Lies the King of the Jews.”
Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb that following Monday and finds that the stone had been removed from the opening of the tomb. She calls Peter and they find the linen in which Jesus Christ’s body had been wrapped in a corner of the tomb. Mary stands weeping outside the tomb and she see a figure which is Christ. He tells her not to touch her for “[He] had not yet ascended to the Father.” Later that day, he visits the Apostles who are in hiding for fear of the Jews. One of the Apostles, Thomas, is missing and when told that Jesus Christ had visited them, did not believe it was true. Jesus comes later on to prove to Thomas that he had indeed risen from the dead. He then reveals himself to the disciples again by telling them where to cast their nets when they are fishing.
Analysis of Characters
Jesus – His name means “Lord, save,” and is also called Christ, which means “anointed one” and refers to his role as the Messiah, or Savior. As described in the Gospels, Jesus is the Son of God – the very human incarnation of God – both God and human. He is sinless, has divine knowledge, and is able to overcome death and return to visit his followers. The central character of the entire New Testament, the Gospels tell of his ministry, death, and miraculous resurrection from the dead. Both Luke and John follow Jesus’ life, telling of the miracles he performs. John refers to him as “The true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9)
John the Baptist – son of the elderly Jewish parents Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were of a priestly family. Because his mother was previously barren, his birth was miraculous. When an angel told his father about his birth, he was prophesied to “drink no wine nor strong drink,…turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,…go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17). His mission was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah by baptizing people with water.
Mary – The mother of Jesus, she is impregnated by God, the Holy Spirit, while betrothed to Joseph, and still a virgin. It is the angel Gabriel who announces her pregnancy to her, and she accepts the will of God. She is one of the few women at the crucifixion and burial of her Son.
Joseph – The husband of the Virgin Mary, and therefore the human representation of a father to Jesus.
Elizabeth – the mother of John the Baptist, daughter of Aaron, and wife of Zechariah. She was barren until she became pregnant with her son. She is also a relative of the Virgin Mary, making John the Baptist a relative of Jesus.
Zechariah – the husband of Elizabeth, and the father of John the Baptist. On the occasion of Zechariahs’ duty of burning incense in the temple at Jerusalem, an angel appeared to him, informing him that his prayers had been heard, and that his barren wife would bear a son.
Judas Iscariot – One of the first of the twelve disciples, and was personally called by Jesus. In following with Jesus’ prediction, Judas betrays Jesus for money, to the “chief priests and captains” (Luke 22:4) after the Last Supper, and therefore is the cause of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Twelve Disciples – The first twelve Disciples of Christ were: Simon Peter, Andrew, John, James, Levi, Philip, Bartholomew/Nathanael, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot. In the Gospel of John, however, the disciple preveiously referred to as Bartholomew is now called Nathanael. Christ appears to all of the disciples with the exception of Judas Iscariot – the man who betrayed Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Christ appears to them twice for all except Thomas, who, because of his initial doubt, was absent for the first appearance.
Pharisees and Scribes – The Pharisees were one of the major Jewish groups during Jesus’ lifetime. They had political power and would read the Hebrew Scriptures with strict literalism and legalism. Throughout each of the gospels, they are hostile towards Christ, constantly testing his character and knowledge of law, as they feared that he might challenge their laws. The Scribes were experts in the law and interpretation of the scriptures, and were very likely the legal counselors to the Pharisees. They were also against the “mission” of Christ, and were amongst those who plotted Christ’s murder.
Pilate – The roman Governor at the time of Jesus’ death. Although he declares Jesus innocent of any crime, he is pressured into allowing the crucifixion, sentencing Christ to death.
Mary Magdalene – One of the woman followers of Jesus, and is one of the women who sees the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and who goes to the tomb on the third day after his death to attend to the body. In the Gospel of Luke, Christ removes evil spirits from her, while in the Gospel of John, she is the first person to whom Christ appears once resurrected.
Lazarus – John tells the story of his resurrection as the seventh and last miracle that Jesus performs in his gospel. In this miracle, Jesus raises Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, after being dead for four days. John interprets the significance of Lazarus’ story from a statement that Jesus makes: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, is typical of all human beings – with the presence of the Spirit of God, one is no longer dead, but instead partakes of the (spiritual) life that is eternal.
Angel Gabriel – An archangel of God – a messenger who announces the future births of both Jesus and John the Baptist.
Joseph of Arimathea – The follower of Christ who secretly asks Pilate for the permission to take the dead body of Jesus for a proper Jewish burial. He removes Jesus from the cross, covers his body in the traditional ointments and linens, and buries him in an empty tomb.
1) Inversion (Chaismus)
Much of the structure in Luke is presented in the inversion style, which emphasizes the change in status between the world and the afterlife. Jesus, the son of God, is brought to earth to live among the lowliest individuals rather than in luxury and comfort. This inversion allows for the concentration on the afterlife rather than on the worldly: those who are poor now become rich after death, and vice versa.
Major examples include:
1) 3:5 – “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low…” Jesus is quoting Isaiah’s prophecy and begins the pattern of inversion
2) 6:20-26 – Jesus preaches to the disciples that those who are poor will reap in heaven, while those who have plenty now shall hunger later
3) 12:3 – Jesus speaks to his disciples: “Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
4) 16:19-31 – Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man, in which the poor and sick Lazarus becomes comforted in heaven, while the rich man suffers in Hades
5) 17:33 – Jesus speaks the disciples about gaining everlasting life: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
This technique of inversion is present in all three levels of Luke: the structural form of the sentence, in the parables and miracles, and finally, in the general theology of Christianity (Jesus comes to save the sinners and not the rich). At the same time, however, it is important to note that some of the inversions have no counterparts: in many of the miracles, the blind or the mute are given the ability to see or speak, respectively, and yet, there is no foil—no one is made blind literally. Yet, spiritually, those who have no faith in Jesus (and thus cannot reap the benefits of his powers) are blind to his works and his divinity.
Faith is of primary consideration in Luke rather than the idea of obedience, which is found in Genesis. While the two may appear to be equivalent, no physical action is necessary to prove one’s faith—only spiritual and emotional responses are considered. The idea of faith is prevalent throughout the text, particularly in the context of the miracles and the parables, where the faithful are blessed and the faithless criticized.
1) 8:43-48 – While passing through a city, Jesus is mobbed by people and a sick woman touches Jesus’ clothes so that she may be healed. Jesus stops and demands to know who touched him. The woman professes her faith, and Jesus responds, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
2) 19:35-43 – Once again, Jesus heals a blind man because he claimed his faith in Jesus.
3) Numerous parables deal almost exclusively with the idea of faith to God and the rewards that follow (The Faithful Steward in 12:42-8 and the Prodigal Son in 15:11-32 are key).
In the midst of all this faith, there are instances of faithlessness: the actions of the disciples are good instances. For example, the disciples are never truly convinced of Jesus’ divinity; they continually question him, and even when he has risen again, some still do not believe—and yet, they are chosen by Jesus to continue his work. Furthermore, Peter refuses to acknowledge his relationship to Jesus after Jesus is captured. Although this was predicted by Jesus, Peter’s faithlessness should still be noted.
The idea of life after death is of main concern in John, as it was in Luke, as well. Jesus comes to earth in the interest of saving souls and offering “eternal life” (3:16 and 12:47). This is the essence of Jesus’ ministries, and therefore John’s account of Jesus’ life. While Jesus travels, he often speaks that those connected with the world will not cannot reap the benefits of the afterlife:
1) 8:23-4 – Jesus speaks in the temple: “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” This idea connects with Jesus’ sayings that it is only through him that man can come to heaven (14:6).
2) 12:20 – In a parable about a seed, Jesus says, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
3) 17:9 – Jesus prays to God: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me.” By not praying/speaking for the world, and those associated with it, Jesus excludes them from the possibility of a blessed afterlife.
Yet, then the question remains as to how does one actually leave the world, become favored by Jesus, and live fruitfully in the afterlife. Jesus speaks of worship (4:22-23), faith by following (8:12), and obedience in the form of love (14:23) as the keys to a blessed eternal life.
1) Stasis/The Essence of Existence
John is a text that is very stationary in terms of syntax. Rather than incorporating verbs of action and describing the progress of events, ideas and individuals are described only in the context that is relevant to the text. For example, the narrative begins by describing the creation of the world and incorporating Jesus into the creation (something Genesis does not do). The text then skips directly to the start of Jesus’ ministry, skipping thirty years in his life to the part that is of main interest. Therefore, there is no idea of “becoming” in John, only existence in the present is valued.
Also, as was previously discussed in class, the opening lines of the text (1:1-5) reflect the stasis nature of the text: verb usage is limited to stationary words such as “was” and “has.” This is rather odd for a text that is describing the creation of the entire world, which should theoretically be full of action and moving events. Instead, the text expresses this creation with minimal action: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him…” (1:1-3).
Quick Notes of Comparison between the Gospels
1) Parable v. Metaphor
Luke relies more heavily on the parable style (Jesus tells a story that is related his mission on earth) to convey his message to the public, whereas John uses the metaphor (Jesus is “the Word” [1:14], “the bread of life” [6:35], the “good shepherd” [10:14], and “the true vine” [15:1] throughout the text.).
1) Presence of Jesus
Jesus is frequently present in Luke, while in John Jesus is constantly going away form the masses and spending time alone. For example, in John 7:10 Jesus leaves his disciples and “[goes] up, not publicly, but in private.” Also, in John, Jesus speaks much less frequently than in Luke.
1) The Human and Divine Sides of Jesus
Luke: Jesus is in theory a biological descendant of God (while Jesus has no relation to Joseph, Luke incorporates a long listing of descendents) and is born of Mary. In the divine sense, he is metaphorically associated as the Son of God.
John: Physically, Jesus is the manifestation of the Word into flesh (1:14), with no direct ties to the earth or Mary as his mother (oddly enough however, Mary is referred to on numerous occasions as Jesus’ mother—19:25 is an example). On a spiritual level, Jesus is divine as the true Son of God, no questions asked.
The passage from chapters 20 to 46 describes the kingdom of Christ, and what it means to reach it. Christ delineates that suffering in this world will be rewarded in the next (the next being an everlasting kingdom). In chapters 20 to 26, he classifies people into categories which will rejoice on the day of judgment (i.e. those who are hungry, persecuted unjustly and not consoled), and which will be led to demise on that day (i.e. the rich, the satiated and those who live in luxury). In the following chapters (27-46) Jesus tells his followers how to live their lives, with the “new commandment” he has given them (this commandment being to love one another and forgive those who do us wrong), and to live their lives without passing judgment on others and giving as much as they can and with all their hearts.
This passage encompasses the “chiasmus” of the Gospel according to Luke. Here, as before, there is an emphasis on the switching of roles that occurs as a result not of acquired wealth, but of deeds done in one’s lifetime. The “inner self” is brought into light, a concept that governs much of Jesus’ teachings. It is a self which must be in contact with God, and which must have faith in the power that God has to redeem and to make good what begins as bad: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke, 6:21). The “chiasmus” (or reversal of roles which have opposite endpoints but cross paths on their ways there) of this passage maps out what is now and what will happen. It reinforces the duality of life and how the afterlife is something completely different and unknown to the rules of man; for example, Jesus does not have to prove to the Pharisees anything and does not wash himself before dining with them. It is though this inversion that Jesus brings to light in his new way of living. In fact, this inversion becomes more of a way to dissolve the past and start anew with his followers than it is an addition onto the old rules. On the final day of judgment, there will be more chiasmus and during this time, they will be made literal. In the end of this passage, readers become aware that it is a person’s faith which lifts them to an eternal life.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’”) And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1:14-18)
The passage in verses 14-18 explains the significance of Christ’s appearance on Earth. As John’s primary mission in writing his gospel was to prove the existence of Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus’ deity is constantly emphasized. John describes metaphorically how God became human in the body of Jesus, and the good characteristics that he embodies. John’s reaffirmation of Jesus as the Son of God is used as further proof of his existence.
The structure used in the sentences is characterized by its use of repetition of sentence content by the rearranging its context. John’s heavy reliance on the words used emphasizes his own belief in the extreme significance of Jesus’ words. Throughout the text, we know that John uses Jesus’ words as a tool for the gaining of followers – the Word is the Spirit of God, and it is permeated through the body of Christ and through his Words to the people who become his followers. These Words show the glory and grace of God. And because “no one has ever seen God,” Jesus uses his words and therefore “has made him known.”
Some Quick Comparisons to Other Texts…
1) Jesus and Dionysus – In both texts, the leaders of groups are trying to persuade people to follow them and worship them. In Luke, however, those who follow Jesus are rewarded spiritually and in the afterlife. Dionysus promises only physical rewards.
2) Family Relationships – Jesus tells many to leave their families (9:60-62) for “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In Genesis, however, the major theme that carries the text is generations and the importance of biological families. Luke, on the other hand, deals exclusively with the bond between individuals and Jesus, and the new, spiritual family that is present with God as the father.
1) Love in Symposium, God in John – In Symposium, Plato describes how beauty is represented on earth in the form of beautiful boys, but their beauty is not as great as the abstract form of beauty itself. In the same sense, God comes to earth in the form of Jesus, which then raises the question, is Jesus imperfect? If so, how can Jesus be imperfect if he is a part of God (“the Word was God…and the Word became flesh” [1:1,1])? This contradiction is one to be noted.
2) Worship v. Obedience – Genesis and Job call for obedience for God in order to receive blessings and rewards. John, however, claims that worship and faith are the necessary elements to enjoy the rewards of god.
The content from this post is compiled from guides written by former Columbia student, Ryan Mandelbaum.