This book contains only one adventure, the one described in the greatest detail: Odysseus' descent into the Underworld.1 A mortal visiting the Underworld is an epic theme;2 cf. 11.623–6 and Il. 8.366–9 (Heracles). The Odyssey contains a second 'Underworld' scene in 24.1–204, when the ghosts of the dead Suitors arrive in Hades. Yet another confrontation between the living and the dead is found in Il. 23.65–108, when Patroclus' ghost visits Achilles in a dream. There is virtually no description of Hades here. But then Odysseus does not really enter Hades: the ghosts come up to where he is, at the entrance. From 568 onwards Odysseus does describe some of the illustrious inhabitants of Hades in situ, but the suggestion is still that he is observing them from where he stands; cf. 563–4n.
The Nekuia occupies a pivotal place, both in the Apologue (cf. Introduction to 9) and in the Odyssey : Odysseus is confronted with his past and his future, with Ithaca and Troy, with his family and his comrades in arms. Whereas the Telemachy showed us his family's longing for Odysseus, the Nekuia reveals Odysseus' longing for his family. Having shared both perspectives, the narratees are looking forward to seeing the two parties reunited in the second half of the Odyssey. This episode also continues the theme of the comparison of Odysseus' nostos with those of the other Greek veterans of the Trojan War (cf. Introduction to 1), in the form of meetings with the ghosts of Achilles and Agamemnon. Thus the visit far surpasses the function which Circe sketched out for it: to consult Tiresias (10.538–40). In like manner, Menelaus' meeting with Proteus in 4.351–586 brings far____________________