Classics Essay

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1a) What has happened to Odysseus between leaving Calypso’s island and speaking to Nausicaa?
After Odysseus left Calypso’s island, he sails by the starts for 17 days. At this point Poseidon, returning from visiting the Ethiopians, sees him and decides to create a storm by lashing up the sea and bringing them the North, South , East and West winds together. Odysseus is knocked off of his raft and has to swim back to it. At this point Ino, a sea nymph, appears. Ino tells Odysseus to take off all of his clothes, take Ino’s veil and wrap it around him, and leave the raft. Odysseus doesn’t trust Ino so he takes the veil but decides to remain on the raft for the meantime.

However, at that point the raft disintergrates under the force of the storm. Poseidon leaves satisfied, as Odysseus scrambles onto a log and strips before winding the veil around his waist and starting to swim.

Once Poseidon is gone Athene calms the storm and uses the wind to flatten the waves in Odysseus’ path. He swims for 3 days before he sees land, but he despairs when he sees that the land is edged with high cliffs. He is washed inland by a breaker; Athene gives him the idea of clinging to a rock, when the breaker recedes he is wrenched from the rock leaving skin there. He swims along the coast outside the breakers until he sees a river. He prays to the river, whose flow slackens allowing him to get onto dry land. He throws Ino’s veil back in the sea and crawls inland to sleep under two olive bushes and a pile of leaves. (b) How does Odysseus try to gain the pity of Nausicaa in this passage? In your answer you should include discussion of what he says and how he says it. One of the primary ways Odysseus tries to gain Nausicaa’s pity in this passage is through flattery. He says he thinks she might be ‘Artemis’ a powerful goddess. It appears to be a high compliement in the Odyssey to say someone is ‘godlike’ but mistaking a human for a goddess must be even more flattering. This also shows that Odysseus is covering his bases – if Nausicaa were a goddess she would not be offended. Lastly the mention of gods reminds Nausicaa of her pious duty to supplicants. When Odysseus compares Nausiacaa to a ‘fresh young palm tree’ he shows his inventiveness and skill in his flattery – original and uncliched compliments sound more sincere. This strong imagery also conveys Nausicaa’s youth and height – being tall seems to be attractive among Ancient Greeks. The obvious reason for this flattery is to try to make Nausicaa like him and respond favourably to his suppliance.

The mention of the palm tree also allows Odysseus to hint at his past: ‘with a fine army at my back, that time though the expedition was doomed to end fatally for me.’ The words’at my back’ hint for nausicaa that Odysseus was a leader of the army, a hero rather than footsoldier. This in turn hints firstly that he is of noble birth and should be respected, that he is brave and heroic, and that he may be able to later repay Nausicaa for her kindness. ‘The expedition was doomed to end fatally for me’ hints that all the terrible things that have happened to Odysseus, both arousing curiosity and concern or pity in Nausicaa. Ancient greeks loved stories which were told by bards and travellers and Odysseus is suggesting he has very dramatic tales to tell. The use of language like ‘doomed’ and ‘fatally’ also shows that Odysseus is at his lowest point, eliciting sympathy.

Odysseus’ command ‘Pity me, princess’ both sums up what he wants from her (pity and aid) and shows his noble upbringing, in that he reverts to commands. This in turn shows us that being a supplicant must be very difficult for him as he is so proud. (c) How far do you think gods and goddesses are responsible for the troubles which Odysseus faces on his travels?

Although I think that the gods are obviously taking a hand in mortal affairs throughout the Odyssey, when arguing whether they are responsible for his troubles you must examine whether the...
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