Homer: The Odyssey

English (this page) Greek

Ancient Greek text and translations presented by the Classics Reader Clicking here you move to the page for downloading Classics Reader
Click here to position the text of the book at the top of this page. Please wait while the applet and the contents of the book are loading. (This is only a demo; there are no delays in the stand-alone program.) Some introductory information regarding Homer and his work follows after the book, below.

Please note: The above is only a Java applet, in which features such as “find word” are not functional. To obtain the stand-alone program in which such functions have been implemented and are working, as well as to see what else will be included in the future, go to the downloading page.

Homer (from the British Museum)
  Homer is the purported author of The Odyssey (and also of The Iliad), who presumably lived some time in the 8th or 7th century BC. His existence is disputed by some scholars who see inconsistences in the two epic poems, but supported by others who see the overal consistency and argue that the poems can only be the work of a single genius. What is definitely known is that both The Iliad and The Odyssey underwent a process of standardization and refinement, especially during the times of the Athenian tyrant Hipparchus (6th C. BC), who reformed the recitation of Homeric poetry. Almost nothing is known about Homer. The Aegean island of Chios, and ancient Greek cities in the west coast of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) have claimed to be his birthplace. When the Roman emperor Hadrian asked the Oracle at Delphi who Homer really was, Pythia answered that he was from Ithaca, the son of Telemachus and Epikaste (Telemachus was the son of Odysseus). If Homer existed, he was probably a blind bard, which is inferred from an incident assumed to be self-referential in Rhapsody Θ (8), in which the blind bard Demodocus sings for the Phaeacian king and public.

The Odyssey is composed of 24 rhapsodies (“books”). Due to their number, each is given the name of one among the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. Originally there was no such separation in rhapsodies (it was introduced in the 3rd C. BC), and the poem was not even written, only recited, and passed on to generations by memorization. However, the Greek alphabet was introduced by the 8th C. BC, shortly before Homer’s (or the Odyssey’s) birth, so it is possible that the poem was transcribed any time after its creation.

The poem recounts the 10-year-long journey of king Odysseus, from the battlefields of Troy to his kingdom in Ithaca (a little island off the west coast of Greece). It starts in the middle of Odysseus’s journey, when his son Telemachus travels to nearby kingdoms inquiring about his father, whereas Odysseus finds himself on the island of the Phaeacians and recounts prior events of his journey. However, back in Ithaca, suitors are courting his wife, queen Penelope, and are wasting his property staying at his palace and trying to persuade Penelope to choose and marry one among them. Meanwhile, with the help of the Phaeacians and of goddess Athene, Odysseus prepares to return home.

The following is an interesting depiction of the Mediterranean world as imagined by ancient Greeks at Homer’s time (picture from Wikipedia, original here):

Map of landmark places mentioned in The Odyssey

The above figure, although it grossly misrepresents reality, can be used as a reference while reading about Odysseus’s journey (which, after all, did not correspond to reality).


Known Issues regarding the Classics Reader

Why is the text printed in this funny fashion, with letters appearing to “push” each other, until they all fall in place?

That behavior is observed only in the Java applet of this page (not in the stand-alone program), and occurs because each letter is an image (a GIF). Web browsers (as well as the Java engine that’s responsible for displaying those GIFs on your screen) show images in a random order when they have to show more than one of them on the same page. Thus, character images appear on a first-loaded-first-displayed basis, until they are all in place. However, once an image is loaded it doesn’t need to be reloaded when re-printed, unless you jump out of this page; that’s why this funny behavior diminishes as you scroll down the text. However, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program, because that one runs locally on your computer.

Why is this weird font used for classical texts? Why does the circumflex look strange? Why don’t the letters look more like the usual ancient Greek letters of classical literature or the Bible?

The font employed by Classics Reader is the standard Times Roman font used in Greek literature in Greece, to print both modern and classical texts. The circumflex is correct according to that tradition. The reader who wonders about this issue is probably more familiar with fonts used in western Europe and the USA to print classical and biblical Greek texts. There is no reason why the latter tradition should be preferred over the former. Note that west European and American fonts for ancient Greek texts cannot be “closer to the original”, because ancient texts were hand-written by scribes, so their appearance depended on the scribe’s handwriting; it was only relatively recently that typography standardized what is now recognized as “ancient Greek font” in the West.

Sometimes, when using the scrollbars of the browser (not the Classics Reader’s own ones), some line or lines appear misprinted in the Reader’s text.

This is a problem created by the browser, and it appears occasionally when scrolling up or down, while a Java applet attempts to paint in its own rectangle. To refresh the text, click on the Chapter selection (the middle of the three choice-boxes) and select the same chapter that you are currently reading. Once again, this problem does not exist in the stand-alone program.

For comments, suggestions, or other correspondence please contact the author of this page. Click here to email to him.

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