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The invocation to the Muses in Homer’s Odyssey functions several ways. First, it identifies the genre of the poem as a traditional epic, not created by the singer but passed down orally over many generations. Next, since the Muses are telling the story through the poet, rather than the poet claiming responsibility for the composition, the words of the epic have an authority greater than mere human words. The tale itself is cast in mythic and religious perspective by the mention that Odysseus himself tried to save his men but they (not he) provoked divine retribution by eating the cattle. The delay of Odysseus and death of the mariners are thus not a purely human story, but a divine one, and thus the invocation ends with a request that the Muses, invoked as daughters of Zeus, tell the story. The invocation emphasizes the important of divine actions and intervention in shaping the rest of the story.
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