I was pleased to attend lectures and participate in discussions on divine plans and poetic narrative in the Iliad and Odyssey, recently. The symposium was called; “Within the Kyklos: Whose Plan is This?”
Our guest scholars were Efimia D. Karakantza (University of Patras, Greece), and Justin Arft (University of Missouri) at a Center for Hellenic Studies Open House with the citizen scholars from Hour 25. You can enjoy the lectures too by clicking the link above.
Some highlights of the presentation by the unflappable Professor Karakantza include;
- Although at 8.473 and 15.61 Zeus foretells the death of Patroclus, it is not part of Zeus’ plan. In contrast, at 15.69 the son of Cronus says what he will cause.
- Achilles keeps changing the plot line. At 9.649 he changes his demands from getting respect before he returns to battle, to not returning until the ships are on fire. I asked whose will was stronger, Zeus’ or Achilles’? Karakantza said “The poet’s!”
- Achilles has two fits of menis, one with the Achaeans and one with Hector, hence Homer addresses the Muses again at the beginning of the new plotline (16.120)
- Patroclus (like Agamemnon) was trying to dishonor Achilles by attacking Troy and stealing his buddy’s glory
The roguish Professor Arft observed ;
- The Odyssey isn’t just about Odysseus’ return but also figuring out who he was.
- The return of Poseidon from Aethiopia in the Odyssey is comparable to Zeus awakening on Mt. Ida. (It struck me that both the Cronides returns to “reality” occur about mid-way through the chronology, that is if you straighten out the telling of the Odyssey. Which makes me wonder what insights might be gained by re-organizing the epic of Odysseus. Hmm.)
- Odysseus supplicating Arete is comparable to Thetis and Zeus
- Both Penelope and Arete are vital to his safe return. (It occurred to me or Justin said that Arete and Odysseus were xenios. I find it humorous that Odysseus claimed the same relationship with Polyphemus; that didn’t end up as well.)
- We discussed Gregory Nagy’s lecture “Was there a future for the Phaeacians of the Homeric Odyssey?” Arft wondered aloud how Poseidon could possibly doom the Phaeacians for fulfilling the will of Zeus.
- The will of Zeus is getting constantly screwed up by somebody or another all along the way
- He urged us citizen scholars to “err boldly”.
The dialogue ended with a moving speech from Professor Karakantza regarding Hector and Andromache’s final moments together, on the shallowness of the gods and profundity of the human condition .