The Odyssey Book 2: lines 85-95

An impromptu shura, or town meeting, takes pla...

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Since Telemachus has just given his speech swaying the people, now Antinous chooses to address his fellow suitors instead.

Before getting to the speech itself, one should realize just how this tactic wold appear to the ancient Greek audience. Especially right after the episode of Telemachus acting like an adult and indeed a hero (literally and figuratively) the marked contrast between the behavior of Telemachus and Antinous suggests that the former was a boy acting like a man and the latter is a man acting like a child. Antinous makes no attempt to address the people, which even if he failed would be respectable conduct. Instead he ironically speaks of Telemachus’ words dishonoring the suitors– rather than their own behavior.

The speech also contains a good bit of humorous elements. For example, the root meaning of the verb αἰσχύνω which is used within a genitive absolute here to mean dishonor is to disfigure or make ugly. The usage is reminiscent of the idiomatic use of words καλός for good and κακός for bad in ancient Greek which literally mean beautiful and ugly, although those meanings are lost in modern Greek. Yet the scene does also connote Antinous complaining that he and his fellow suitors have been made to look ugly in front of Penelope; thus the ancient Greek audience would react to this speech much as the modern audience might view the scene if Antinous were talking about having a bad hair day.

The rest of the speech spells out the greed and selfishness (not to mention sheer gluttony) which motivates the suitors. Here again we have the contrast of Telemachus’ noble motives. If Telemachus has been set up as the hero, Antinous has been set up as the villain.

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2 Responses to The Odyssey Book 2: lines 85-95

  1. Pingback: Materials — Ancient Greek « Language learning for reading

  2. Pingback: The Penelopiad or The Ballad of the Dead Maids « Wandering Mirages

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