Pages: 372 pages
Published: April 1st 2004
1887. No other texts in the Western imagination occupy as central a position in the self-definition of Western culture as the two epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. They both concern the great defining moment of Greek culture, the Trojan War. The Iliad is the story of a brief event in the ninth year of the war; the great hero Achilles is offended when the leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, takes a slave girl Achilles has been awarded. The Odyssey is the story of the homecoming of another of the great Greek heroes at Troy, Odysseus. Unlike Achilles, Odysseus is not famous for his great strength or bravery, but for his ability to deceive and trick (it is Odysseus's idea to take Troy by offering the citizens a large wooden horse filled, unbeknownst to the Trojans, with Greek soldiers). His homecoming has been delayed for ten years because of the anger of the gods; finally, in the tenth year, he is allowed to go home. He hasn't been misspending his time, though; for most of the ten years he has been living on an island with the goddess Kalypso, who is madly in love with him. Odysseus, like Achilles, is offered a choice: he may either live on the island with Kalypso and be immortal like the gods, or he may return to his wife and his country and be mortal like the rest of us. He chooses to return, and much of the rest of the work is a long exposition on what it means to be mortal. This book represents stories from these two epochal poems.