READING GUIDE: The Odyssey, Books 1-8
English IV AP / Mrs. Ramos
We didn’t get to it in class on Wed., so here is the ending part of the story of The Iliad. It’s pretty much how I’d say it in class:
…When Menelaus noticed that Helen had been taken from him by Paris (remember, he chose Aphrodite to receive the golden apple and that’s how he thinks he can have Helen), he sails for Troy to get her back. On the way, he calls on all of the Greek kings and they rally their troops to form a massive Greek army that grows as it sails for Troy. As a group, those Greeks who fought at Troy are called “Achaeans” (includes Menelaus, Odysseus, Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, all famous warriors). When Menelaus got to Ithaca (ITH uh kuh), King Odysseus’ wife had just given birth to his first child, a son, Telemachus. Odysseus did not want to go to war and tried to get out of it by pretending to be insane. He ran around like a madman, pushing a horseless plow through an empty field at random. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon tested Odysseus’ claim by setting his newborn son in the middle of the field, in the path of the plow. Odysseus swerved to save his son and Menelaus deemed him fit for battle. So off he left for Troy, leaving his baby son Telemachus in the care of his wife Penelope and his mother Eurycleia.
When they arrived at Troy, the Greeks created an encampment outside the strong fortress of Troy. Helen and Paris live within its walls along with all of the Trojans and King Priam (Paris’ father), Queen Hecuba, Hector and Cassandra his brother and sister. Paris’ family was not happy about Helen because she brought war to Troy. Cassandra, who is a “seer” has prophesized that Troy will be demolished. It does not look good for those Trojans.
But the war goes on for ten years mainly because of the strength of the walls of Troy, the brilliant tactics both sides employ, and the gods that can’t quit interfering in the lives of the humans. Athene (war strategy, remember) is firmly on the side of the Greeks and Odysseus is her favorite because he is so smart. The other gods flip sides on whims and to punish warrior who they think are too prideful or need to learn some kind of lesson. During the course of battle, Achilles, Ajax, and Hector all are killed. At the end of ten years, Odysseus tells the men he is sick of seeing his brothers die and devises a plan to end the war—the Trojan horse. The Achaeans create a huge hollow wooden horse and fill it with Odysseus and his men. They leave it on the shore and the rest of the Greeks pretend to sail away (they really just wait out of sight). The Trojans think the Greeks have finally given up and that they’ve left this horse on the beach as an offering to the gods for safe passage home. The Trojans wheel the horse into the gates of Troy to steal the Achaean idol. In the middle of the night, Odysseus and his men open the door for the rest of the Greek army and the Trojans are slaughtered in their sleep.
All of the Greeks head home with the spoils of war—treasure and slaves. They all return home within two weeks except Odysseus. It takes him ten more years to get back to Ithaca. The Odyssey is the story of what took him so long. The Odyssey opens in media res—in the last year of Odysseus’ wanderings. It begins with his son Telemachus who is now almost twenty years old. He is furious because a group of belligerent suitors have moved into the palace to court his mother, Penelope. She has been faithful to Odysseus all of these years. Telemachus feels that it is his duty to find out the truth about whether or not his father is alive, but he does not know how to go about this. Mentes (Athene in disguise) is about to give him a push… (now, go read Book 1—you’re going to love it).
Read Books 1-8 for Monday, Nov. 6. Take notes as you feel appropriate. I will test / quiz / discuss on any character, place, event or reference in books 1-8. The main ones, however are listed below in the reading guide. I’m sorry that they are not in any particular order, but I’ll put this doc up on the blog and if someone wants to download it and do that, go ahead. I also did not include any of the gods that are on your “Family Tree” chart. Take notes as you deem appropriate. I won’t be collecting them, but you might find them helpful.
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