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Use of Disguise in Homer’s Odyssey

Use of Disguise in Homer’s Odyssey

The difference between a wise and a foolish decision is often found in discerning when to conceal and when to reveal. This discretion in concealing and revealing is a major theme within The Odyssey. There is a proper time to deceive and a proper time to tell the truth; thus, it is crucial that one act accordingly. This importance is exemplified in Odysseus’ life. When he is discreet in his timing, he achieves his goal. One example of this is the Trojan War. While the other men in the horse want to expose themselves when they hear their wives’ voices being mimicked by Helen, Odysseus forces them to stay hidden within the horse (Book IV, lines 306-311). Because of this discernment and self-control, the Trojan War is won. However, when he is careless in his timing, troubles follow. In the situation with Polyphemus, Odysseus makes an improper decision. He gives his name to Polyphemus as he is leaving the island of the Cyclopes. Although his crew urges him to stop taunting Polyphemus, he does not listen because of his pride in his skill of deception (Book IX, lines 519-552). As a result of this foolishness and pride, his return home is full of hardships and his companions die. Timing of concealment and revelation has such significant consequences because disguise is a powerful tool that needs to be handled carefully. From Books XIII to XXII, Odysseus uses it against the people of Ithaca to plan his revenge. In Book XIX, Homer employs the story of the scar and uses various literary techniques to highlight again on the power of disguise and importance of Odysseus’ maintaining his disguise until the opportune time.

By beginning the story of the scar in the middle of a sentence, Homer…

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…e. By Homer’s art of story telling, the audience, like Odysseus, learns to discern from past experience when to conceal and reveal personal information.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold , Homer’s Odyssey: Edited and with an Introduction, NY, Chelsea House 1988

Crane, Gregory , Calypso: Backgrounds and Conventions of the Odyssey, Frankfurt, Athenaeum 1988

Heubeck, Alfred, J.B. Hainsworth, et al. A commentary on Homer’s Odyssey. 3 Vols. Oxford PA4167 .H4813 1988

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Murnaghan, Sheila, Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey, Princeton UP 1987

Rengakos, Antonios. Homertext und die Hellenistichen Dichter. Hermes. Einzelschriften, Heft 64. Stuttgart, F. Steiner, 1993.

Van der Valk, Marchinus. Textual Criticism of the Odyssey. Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1949.

Virgil’s Aeneid as Roman Propaganda

Virgil’s Aeneid as Roman Propaganda

Rome was experiencing a great deal of internal turmoil during the period when Virgil wrote the Aeneid. There was somewhat of an identity crisis in Rome as it had no definitive leader, or history. With the ascension of Augustus to the throne, Rome was unified again. Still, it had no great book. The Greeks had their Odyssey, giving them a sense of history and of continuity through time. A commonly held view is that the Aeneid attempts to provide the Romans with this sense of continuity or roots. There is a great deal of textual evidence to support this interpretation. Virgil makes numerous references to the greatness of Rome through “ancient” prophecies. Clearly, the entire poem is an account of the founders of Rome. In some sense, this does make the Aeneid seem as a piece of propaganda. However, upon closer examination, there is another idea that Virgil presents. War is painted as a vicious and bloody, not some glorious event. The image of war condemns the concept of Rome as the all-powerful conqueror of other nations. Not only that, but the strong emphasis on duty is frequently mocked. These underlying ideas would seem to run contrary to the theory that Virgil was simply producing a synthesized history of ancient Romans. In order to determine the true intent of the Aeneid, it is important that both ideas presented be examined.

“I sing of warfare and a man at war…Till he could found a city…the high walls of Rome.” (Book I, 1-12) There can be no dispute that the Aeneid is an account of the history of Rome. There are several items which with Virgil links the story of Aeneas to the Rome of his time period. Probably the most obvious of these is the surplus of predictions concerning Rome’…

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…many readers today still are).

No one can be entirely sure of Virgil’s true intent in writing the Aeneid. Perhaps he meant it as a glorification of Rome that had some discrepancies in it. Perhaps he meant it as an attack upon the character of Rome with some inconsistencies. Either way, it does not work well. Whatever Virgil’s argument, he compromises it by playing up the opposite argument. If Virgil meant to attack Rome, he failed in some respects. Likewise, if he meant the Aeneid to be a work of Roman propaganda, he was ineffective.

Works Cited and Consulted

Horsfall, Nicholas, ed. A Companion to the Study of Virgil. Leiden, New York, and Köln: E. J. Brill, 1995.

Putnam, Michael C. J. “Anger, Blindness, and Insight in Virgil’s Aeneid.” Apeiron 23 (1990): 7-40.

Virgil. Aeneid. Dover Thrift Edition. Trans. Charles J. Billson. New York: Dover, 1995.

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