The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey

The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey

The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey

The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey

Synopsis

The Raft of Odysseus looks at the fascinating intersection of traditional myth with an enthnographically-viewed Homeric world. Carol Dougherty argues that the resourcefulness of Odysseus as an adventurer on perilous seas served as an example to Homer's society which also had to adjust in inventive ways to turbulent conditions. The fantastic adventures of Odysseus act as a prism for the experiences of Homer's own listeners--traders, seafarers, storytellers, soldiers--and give us a glimpse into their own world of hopes and fears, 500 years after the Iliadic events were supposed to have happened.

Excerpt

Peeping through the motif of the Phaeacians' hospitality is the image of a Phaeacia comparable to the land of the Cyclopes.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “Land and Sacrifice in the Odyssey

The world of Phaeacia, with Alcinous' spectacular palace and its wondrous garden, occupies a space in the Greek ethnographic imagination somewhere between the potential wealth of the Near East and the utopian promise of the Golden Age. This is an ideal world, or rather an idealized version of the real world of overseas commerce in metals that implicates the Greeks and Phoenicians in a network of travel and trade. the previous chapter explored the ways in which the world of the Phaeacians works together with that of the Phoenicians to articulate both the positive and negative aspects of overseas commerce in the Odyssey. Taken on its own, however, this Phaeacian/Phoenician dichotomy fails to account for some other, still puzzling aspects of the Phaeacians. Although Phaeacia seems to evoke Greek imaginings about Near Eastern cities and palaces, there are other ways in which the layout and founding of the city recall a Greek colonial settlement. in addition, as we have already noticed, in spite of the Phaeacians' famed hospitality—and their treatment of Odysseus is extremely generous—there is an undercurrent of hostility to strangers that runs through Books 6–8. What helps explain these basic inconsistencies in the Phaeacian profile is the recognition that there is a second opposition at work here as well, this time contrasting the Phaeacians with their overbearing relatives, the Cyclopes. in this context, the Phaeacians, together with the Cyclopes, both descendants of Poseidon, represent different pictures of what an overseas settler might find when he lands ashore. Again, as with issues of trade in the Odyssey, the institution of hospitality, xenia, provides a familiar framework for articulating these extreme possibilities as well as for imagining a more moderate and realistic colonial landscape. in other words, Odysseus' encounter with the Phaeacians occupies a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.