What are some quotations about hero and catalogue conventions in Homer's Odyssey?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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One of the conventions of epic poetry is that the poet will give catalogues (lists) of various items. Perhaps the most famous such catalogue occurs in Book 2 of Homer's Iliad, where spends some two hundred lines listing the various ship groups (and their leaders) that the Greeks sent to Troy.

Homer's Odyssey also has a few catalogues, although on a much less detailed scale than we find in Iliad 2. For example, in Odyssey 8, we get a list of about a dozen young men who competed in the athletic competitions on Phaeacia.

In Odyssey 11.225-332, Odysseus provides a catalogue of the spirits of famous women that he saw after he had conjured up ghosts from the underworld.

Next I saw Antiope, Asopus’ daughter…Then came Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon, who conceived Heracles…And I saw Megara, proud Creon’s daughter…Then Oedipus’ mother came, the beautiful Jocasta… (A.S. Kline translation)

The last hundred lines of that book contains a less densely packed list of male heroes that Odysseus saw in the underworld.

In Odyssey 16, Telemachus gives a short catalogue of the number of suitors and where each of these groups has come from:

Fifty-two picked men, with their six servants, from Dulichium. Twenty-four from Same, and twenty Achaean youths from Zacynthus. Then from Ithaca itself there are twelve noblemen, not counting the herald, Medon, and the divine minstrel, and the two men who carve their meat.

This is my favorite catalogue in the Odyssey, because if we add up all the suitors, we discover the Odysseus' palace has been invaded by 108 suitors (excluding servants, minstrels, and meat carvers). Furthermore, if we think forward to Odyssey 22, when Odysseus kills the suitors, and think about what Penelope is doing while Odysseus is doing this, we realize that Penelope sleeps through the deaths of over one hundred men in her own house!!!


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