Historical story

Guest column about 'experiencing' the Odyssey

A guest column appears on Kennislink every two weeks. The columnist is always a different researcher, who writes from his or her field about the science behind an event in society or from our daily lives. In honor of the Week of the Classics writer Imme Dros has come up with a pen especially for us. She talks about 'experiencing' the Odyssey.

Open the Odyssey. Enter an assembly of the gods in Zeus' immaculate heavenly palace, only to experience complete chaos in the next scene in and around the palace of Odysseus on Ithaca:it has been annexed by a troop of invaders hoping to marry the 'widow' of the king who has been absent for twenty years. Somewhere in a corner sits King's son Telemachus, the Hamlet of antiquity, threatened by a hundred power-hungry predators.

Behold him sitting there that impotent son of hero, reared by women and old men in a time when all able-bodied princes were at Troy. Watch the slaves crawl before the arrogant suitors, watch them leave a guest at the gate:the goddess Athena disguised as King Mentes of Tafos. See Telemachus jumping to lead Mentes/Athens himself.

Hear the dialogue between Odysseus' son and the goddess. See Telemachus, strengthened by the words of Athena, walk through the city with two swift hunting dogs on his heels. See Telemachus's ship flying off the wind towards Pylos for news of his father, and hear the purple waves hiss around the bow.

Meet Nestor of Pylos, comrade in arms of Odysseus, who reigned over three generations. In Sparta, visit Menelaus and his wife Helena, because of whom a thousand black ships sailed to Troy. Hear everyone talking about Odysseus, before you finally see Odysseus himself on the remote island of Kalypso, the enamored nymph who wants to hold him there against his will forever.

See Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, skim the waves to command Kalypso to let Odysseus depart. See Odysseus build a raft. See Kalypso in her flowy robes walking to the beach with a drill in her immortal hands.

See Odysseus, when his raft is wrecked, shivering naked and numb on the island of the Faiaken, and taking shelter in a pit of withered leaves. See him full of salt costs and earth and with only a branch to cover his shame ask for help from the king's daughter Nausikaä.

Feel the awe of the Phaeacians when Odysseus calls his name, and hang on his every word as he tells of his wandering among people who speak a different language. Descend with him into the underworld among the 'shadows of men who are dead and buried'.

Sail with Odysseus to Ithaca. Follow the king disguised as a beggar and suffer ridicule and humiliation with him until the hour of vengeance. Feel the delight of Odysseus and Penelopeia as they reunite in the twentieth year after parting. Witness peace on Ithaca after one last battle.

Read Homer's stories and you'll never forget them.