D. N. Maronitis
The book recommends a tentative reading of Odyssey on the basis of the ambiguous nature of the epic’s first four rhapsodies: the gods know that Ulysses is alive and destined to return to Ithaca; humans consider Ulysses crushed and dead. A dialogic either-or is produced through the convergence of divine knowledge and human ignorance: Ulysses may be alive, but he might as well be dead. This is how the work begins, and this is a first manifestation of poetic dialectics in Odyssey.
In the pre-epic tradition, Ulysses is resourceful: he employs his flexible smartness and his cunning tricks to serve himself, augment his goods and elevate his status. In the pre-Odyssey epic tradition, Ulysses, putting his resourcefulness to use in a collective and militant context, emerges as a sacker of cities: deceit, rhetorical prowess and protean deformations are now available as weapons in the Trojan War, which the Trojan horse symbolizes. Odyssey inherits these two aspects (the scandal of the resourceful man and the glory of the sacker of cities) and complements Ulysses’ triangle, now projecting the humanitarian leader and commiserating opponent of Poseidon. This is a second manifestation of ‘vertical’ dialectics in Odyssey.
Positively developed, the theme of homecoming is by itself soothing and pleasurable (it is in this way, for instance, that Nestor longs for home in the epic). Employed negatively, the theme can be translated into violent death (this is the tragic fate of Agamemnon in the epic). Ulysses’ homecoming in Odyssey oscillates between these two poles: the hero returns home after an adventurous ten-year journey, with all his comrades lost, and re-establishes himself in the paternal hearth through his alleged death, which is eventually reversed into a killing of the suitors. This is a third manifestation, regarding perspective now, of poetic dialectics that Odyssey provides. It seems that one of the main characteristics of this epic, and the one which renders it ahead of its time at the end of the Geometric and at the dawn of the Archaic period is its integrating articulation: it utilizes the gems of tradition, not by citing opposing themes as discrete units, but, by unifying their contrasts, it produces new, compound pairs: homecoming and quest, homecoming and sleep, homecoming and death.
D. N. Maronitis was one of the leading Greek philologists, professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Modern Greek Studies.
|Full title||Αναζήτηση και νόστος του Οδυσσέα [Ulysses’ quest and homecoming]|
|Author||D. N. Maronitis|
|Editing / Translation|