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Especially throughout Books 6, 7, and 8 in The Odyssey, why doesn't Odysseus want to...

whizkid457's profile pic

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Especially throughout Books 6, 7, and 8 in The Odyssey, why doesn't Odysseus want to reveal his identity to anyone, such as Nausicaa and Alcinous?

This is not my homework or a test question. I am just curious and I couldn't figure out while reading.

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noahvox2's profile pic

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Throughout Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is very careful about guarding his identity. One reason Odysseus does not reveal his identity when he is in the land of Phaeacia is because the people of this country are good hosts. Part of proper hospitality in the Odyssey involves not asking a guest his or her name until the guest has been fed and offered other hospitality. One reason Odysseus does not reveal his name to the Phaeacians is because they do not ask him his name until 8.521-585:

"Tell us the name you go by at home, the name your mother and father, and the rest, in the town and countryside, give you."

A second reason that Odysseus does not reveal his name to the Phaeacians until asked is because prior to his arrival on Phaeacia, Odysseus has suffered much because of the revelation of his name. In Odyssey 9, which chronologically occurs before his arrival in Phaeacia, Odysseus' revelation of his true identity to the Cyclops allowed the Cyclops to put a curse on Odysseus, a curse that led Poseidon to attack Odysseus on the open sea, wreck his raft, and wash him up on the shores of Phaeacia.

Elsewhere in the epic, Odysseus is reluctant to reveal his identity until the time is right. As Odysseus learned from his encounter with the Cyclops, revealing one's identity at the wrong time can be extremely dangerous.

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whizkid457's profile pic

Posted (Answer #2)

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Thanks, that makes more sense now.

bishopvillered's profile pic

Posted (Answer #3)

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A few other possibilities: 

While the Phaeacians eventually show hospitality, Athene did warn Odysseus that they were a somewhat xenophobic group (Book Vii, lines 30- 31).  When Odysseus first arrived and presented himself, there was a very strained silence and he was left to sit in the ashes of the hearth before Echeneus reminded Alcinous that such was not proper conduct for those looked over by Zeus, the patron saint of suppliants.(VII. 159-165)

Another possibility:

Adding to the lessons learned from the Cyclops episode, the Phaeacians do pride themselves on their seamanship.  Alcinous describes them as "first rate seamen" (VIII. 246-247).  As such, pointing out that you've offended Poseidon might not be the best tactic for success.

There is also the possibility that Odysseus is keeping his identity in check so it doesn't get home before him and negatively impact his ability to test the suitors and loyalty of his servants when he returns, or, as the lessons of Agamemnon (repeated often) showed, the sincerity of Penelope.  As we see later on, their lack of awareness of his presence allows Odysseus a proper measure of their character.

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