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Useful weblinks: Return From Troy, Episode 2


Warriors Seeking a Welcome


Odysseus: Classical Greek portrait

    Detail of Athenian painted jar (called a pelike) dating to around 440 BC; now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Odysseus: Hellenistic / Roman portrait
    Marble head of Odysseus once set up in a seaside cave or grotto at Sperlonga in Italy. Dating perhaps to around 50 BC, it may copy an older Hellenistic statue. 
Now in the National Museum at Sperlonga.

Odysseus: 1995 portrait
    Illustration by Alan Lee.

Odysseus: 21st-century portrait
    Sean Bean played Odysseus in the 2004 movie Troy.

The Madness of Odysseus
    Illustration by Stuart Robertson, 2000. 
See special note below for additional information on this incident.

The famous incident of the feigned madness of Odysseus is not mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Its fullest classical treatment is given by the Roman author Hyginus (1st-2nd century AD) in his mythological handbook Fabulae (ch.95): 
"Odysseus had received an oracle warning him that if he went to Troy, he would return home after twenty years, alone, destitute and having lost his men. And so when he found out that an embassy was on the way to him, he pretended to be crazy by putting on a felt hat [i.e. looking like a peasant] and yoking a horse and a bull together to a plough...[their different strides would make ploughing almost impossible]. When Palamedes saw him, he sensed that he was faking it, so he took Odysseus' son Telemachus from the cradle and put him in front of the plough, saying "Put aside your trickery and join the others...". [Odysseus of course stopped the plough from cutting his son so revealing his sanity]. Odysseus promised he would go to Troy." 

The frequent, additional detail of Odysseus sowing salt instead of grain has its first known mention in the 4th-century AD by Servius ("Commentary on Virgil's Aeneid", II.81). The placing of the ploughing on the seashore (instead of in fields) is apparently first mentioned by J. Lempriere in his famous and highly-influential "Classical Dictionary" of 1788 (and numerous subsequent editions). This illustration also shows Odysseus spitting gravel and walking backwards to echo the text which it illustrates ("The Odyssey", by Adrian Mitchell, DK Books, 2000); these seem novel inventions to enliven this retelling.

The Lotus-Eaters: fantastical encounter #1
    Our version of the Odyssey skips over Odysseus' first adventure in his series of fantastical, other-worldly encounters. 
Homer tells us in Book 9 that after leaving Troy a storm sent by Zeus sweeps Odysseus and his men along for nine days before bringing them to the land of the Lotus-eaters - see ODYSSEY MAP: The Lotus-Eaters - which is usually regarded as the being the island of Djerba in modern Tunisia by those wanting to pinpoint Odyssey locations. There, the natives give some of Odysseus's men the intoxicating fruit of the lotus (until recently regarded as being jujube fruit but now increasingly seen as being the blue lotus flower, so famous and sacred in ancient Egypt, since it has now been shown to produce mind-altering effects if eaten). As soon as Odysseus' men eat the lotus, they lose all thoughts of home and long for nothing more than to stay there eating more fruit. Tempting, eh? Odysseus' desire to return home to his wife and son wins through though, and he drags his men back to the ship and resumes his journey back to Ithaca.
This wonderful dreamy painting of 1894 is by Paul Gaugin and entitled "Sacred Spring / Sweet Dreams". In many ways it presents a still-current view of Pacific South Sea islands as being a paradise-on-Earth. In the Hermitage, St Petersburg.

ODYSSEY MAP: The Cyclops
    Odysseus' journey from Troy, via the Lotus-Eaters (an incident bypassed in our version), to the home of the Cyclops: traditionally regarded as being the island of Sicily.

The Cave of the Cyclops
    Wonderful illustration by Christina Balit from 2004, illustrating Homer's details of it being a "high cave" complete with huge rock slab for the door.

Why does Odysseus refuse to take the food and animals from the Cyclops?
    Great question... with a great answer.
Source for the above section
> Hyginus, Fabulae, 95 (Madness of Odysseus); 
> Homer, Odyssey, Book 9.

An Unfriendly Host

In the Cave of the Cyclops 1: hiding
    As in the story, the cave is so big it contains pens of sheep and goats. Super illustration by Christina Balit from 2004.

In the Cave of the Cyclops 2: hiding
    And in the cave were cheeses and pails of milk... and a great big giant! Dramatic illustration by Stuart Robertson, 2000.

The Cyclops: THE IMAGE COLLECTION
    Terrific collection of images showing how various artists have depicted the cyclops through the ages: from ancient Greek times to the modern-day and beyond to a futuro-bizarro world; with one eye and with three-eyes!

The Real Cyclops
    The myth of the Cyclops - perhaps meaning "round eye" - may have been fueled by ancient discoveries of the skulls and other bones of "dwarf elephants" which populated many of the Mediterranean islands including Sicily before the arrival of men around 8,000 years ago. The preservation of the large bones - and the skull is about twice the size of a human skull - in the numerous Sicilian caves may have given rise to legends of giants in caves. But why the single eye? The central nasal cavity, where the trunk was attached, was mistaken for a single eye-socket.

The Cyclopes: two varieties
    There's the savage, pastoral type described first by Homer... and there's the skilled, industrial type first described by Hesiod. 
Source for the above section
> Homer, Odyssey, Book 9.

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