In Homer's Odyssey, what are some differences between Ithaca and Sparta?  

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The fourth book of Homer's Odyssey provides the audience with glimpse at the town of Sparta, also known as Lacedaemon. As Homer opens Book 4, he describes the town as being "hill country" and as having "deep gorges". Ithaca also has its share of rugged terrain, but the reader should keep in mind that Ithaca is an island, whereas Sparta is in the central part of southern Greece. Later in Book 4, Telemachus contrasts the two lands. His main point is that while Sparta is a decent place to have horses, Ithaca is completely unsuited for horses, but does have terrain suitable for goats.

But I will not accept horses for Ithaca, I will leave them here for you to enjoy, since you are lord of a wide land, where lotus and sedge, and wheat and rye, and broad-eared white barley grow, while in Ithaca there are no broad plains or meadows at all. It is goat-pasture, though more varied than fields for horses. None of those islands that slope sheer to the sea are rich in meadows fit for herding them, Ithaca least of all. (A.S. Kline translation)

Of course, the main difference between Ithaca and Sparta has nothing to do with geography, but rather with domestic tranquility. Menelaus and Helen have returned to Sparta and the trouble and hardship associated with the Trojan War has been banished to the past. Menelaus and Helen are living "happily ever after" in their fabulous palace, whereas Odysseus has yet to return to Ithaca and his palace is being drained of its resources by Penelope's suitors.


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