The first time I read Homer’s epic was in high school. I remember this less because of the content of the story and more because – Holy Batman! – my classmates and I were terrible at keeping a straight face during my teacher’s dramatic reading, particularly during the final scene. I wanted to reread The Odyssey after reading a retelling of the story from Penelope’s point of view earlier this year.
The story, which is attributed to the poet Homer, recounts Odysseus’ return to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Championed by Athene but hated by the sea-god Poseidon, Odysseus encounters the ferocious Cyclops, escapes Scylla and Charybdis and yields temporarily to the lures of Circe and Calypso before he arrives home in Ithaca. Of course, he’s been long believed to be dead, and he must overcome the trials (read: wife’s suitors) awaiting him in Ithaca.
My classmates and I should not have mocked my teacher’s reading. It was much easier to understand this story when she read it rather than this time when I read a printed copy on my own. It could be because of the translation by E.V. Rieu, but I really have no way of ascertaining if this is in fact the case since I do not know what translation my teacher read from.
Some of the sections were interesting than others – The Cyclops, The Battle in the Hall – and others felt repetitive where men make one stupid mistake after the next. And, honestly, the most interesting aspect of this whole tale for me was the interference of the gods and goddesses in the affairs of humans. As though messing with Odyssey was only a game to Athene and Poseidon. The book makes me want to brush up on my Greek mythology, something I haven’t studied since sixth grade.
(Note: The book cover at right is an edition published by Penguin Classics in 2003. My edition was published in 1964. I was unable to find a copy of the cover online.)
- Homer. The Odyssey. Translated from Greek by E.V. Rieu. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964. Originally published 800 BCE. Print. 365 pgs. ISBN: 9780140449112. Source: Purchased.