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Teaching The Odyssey

Materials Compiled By Nada Salem Abisamra

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The Odyssey (Robert Fagles' version)

"By its evocation of a real or imaged heroic age, its contrasts of character and its variety of adventure, above all by its sheer narrative power, the Odyssey has won and preserved its place among the greatest tales in the world. It tells of Odysseus' adventurous wanderings as he returns from the long war at Troy to his home in the Greek island of Ithaca, where his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus have been waiting for him for twenty years. He meets a one-eyed giant, Polyphemus the Cyclops; he visits the underworld; he faces the terrible monsters Scylla and Charybdis; he extricates himself from the charms of Circe and Calypso. After these and numerous other legendary encounters he finally reaches home, where, disguised as a beggar, he begins to plan revenge on the suitors who have for years been besieging Penelope and feasting on his own meat and wine with insolent impunity."
The Reader's Catalog.

Ancient Greece

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The Odyssey
Map of The Odyssey
Trojan War
The Odyssey: Adventure Map
Epic Genre
What is a myth?
THE GODS in The Odyssey
For Students & Teachers
Research Projects
Background on the Odyssey
Character List
Setting, Themes and Style
Literary Elements
Summary & Analysis of Books
Novel Analysis
Odyssey Chronology
Thematic Structure
Discussion Questions
Journal Entries
Some possible projects
Mrs. AbiSamra's Students' Projects (Grade 9-1)
Mrs. AbiSamra's Students' Projects (Grade 9- 2)
For Teachers
Suggestion for Block Division
How to Teach The Odyssey
Using Superman to Teach the Epic Hero in The Odyssey
Related Links
Directly Related Links
Indirectly Related Links
Guiding Questions & Answers
Welcome to Ancient Greece!

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Author: Homer...
Date: 9th or 8th century B.C.

The authorship of The Odyssey (and The Iliad) is not known for sure; the epic poems were passed down through an oral tradition and Homer, a figure whose existence cannot be proven, is only the name the ancient Greeks themselves attached to the poems. Whether he was the primary author of the poems, the primary recorder of the oral tradition of the poems, or a figment of someone's imagination, may never be known. However, the two works ascribed to him are of supreme importance in European classical tradition. The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, the cleverest of the Achaeans, who have just defeated the Trojans in the ten-year siege of Troy. While all the other Achaean leaders have returned to their homes, Odysseus endures a voyage filled with monsters, meddling gods, and other obstacles that lengthen his journey home to ten years. The poem tells both the story of his voyage and his experiences along the way, and the story of Penelope, his wife, who is faithfully waiting at home for him. She is under great pressure to re-marry and her numerous suitors are staying at her house, depleting her wine and food stores, because her son Telemakhos is too young to stop them. Halfway through the poem, Odysseus arrives home, and disguises himself as a begger while he plots how to get his revenge on the vile suitors. The story is one of hospitality and human kindness towards others, but it is also an exploration of story-telling, as Odysseus and others in the story demonstrate the very kind of oral storytelling that has allowed The Odyssey to survive so many centuries.


Map of the Odyssey


In the tenth year of the Trojan War, the Greeks tricked the enemy into bringing a colossal wooden horse within the walls of Troy. The Trojans had no idea that Greek soldiers were hidden inside, under the command of Odysseus. That night they emerged and opened the city gates to the Greek army. Troy was destroyed. Now it was time for Odysseus and the other Greeks to return to their kingdoms across the sea. Here begins the tale of the Odyssey, as sung by the blind minstrel Homer.


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Trojan War

Helen of Troy, daughter of Zeus and Leda, is the most beautiful woman in the world. She chooses Menelaus, King of Sparta, to be her husband and the other Kings of Greece swear an oath to support their alliance. Paris, son of Troy’s King Priam, sees Helen and desires her. She has, according to the playwright Marlowe, “the face that launched a thousand ships” because all the kings of Greece rallied to get her back. Aphrodite, goddess of love, helps Paris to kidnap Helen because he had chosen her (Aphrodite) to receive a golden apple marked “to the fairest” in a contest on Mt. Olympus between Aphrodite (Venus) and Athena.

 Following the kidnapping of Helen, the other Kings of Greece join Menelaus to fight the city of Troy and return Helen to Sparta. This is when The Trojan War began. For nearly 10 years the Greeks besieged Troy. Homer's other epic, The Iliad, concerns this siege and the many individual battles that were fought between heroes on both sides. (It also chronicles the involvement of the supreme gods, who descended from Mount Olympus to take sides in the contest.) Great warriors emerge and their fate is told again in The Odyssey. For example, Achilles and Agamemnon, Greek warriors, and Hector, the greatest Trojan Warrior. Finally, Achilles kills Hector. The war ends with a gift from the Greeks, the Trojan Horse. The Greeks build the Trojan horse and hide warriors inside while pretending to sail away. That night, the Trojans take the horse into the city and during the night the Greek warriors creep out and they open the city’s gates. The Greeks sack the city and win the war. The Trojan Horse is the idea of the Greek Warrior Odysseus. The story of The Odyssey is Odysseus’ journey home. It is now 20 years since he has seen Penelope and his son Telemachus.

The Corinthian Temple of the god Apollo, who sided with Troy in the Trojan War.

Images of the Trojan War Myth

The Odyssey: Adventure Map
1-Mt. Olympus 6-Aeolia's Island 11-Scylla & Charybdis
2-Troy 7-Laestrygonians 12-Calypso
3-Cicones 8-Circe's Kingdom 13-Ithaca
4-Lotus Eaters 9-Land of the Dead
5-Cyclops 10-Sirens

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From M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed. (1993)
1. Long narrative poem on serious subject
2. Told in formal, elevated style
3. Centers on heroic or quasi-divine figures on whose action depend the fate of a group, a nation, and/or humankind
4. Action is heroic deeds in battle, long, arduous journeys, or quests
5. Gods and other supernatural beings take an interest and an active role in human affairs.
http://www.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/epic.htm#GENERAL DEFINING FEATURES

What is A Myth?
A myth is a story. Myths were told or written to answer some of the biggest questions a person could ask -- Who are we? Where did we come from? Why do these things happen? A myth is often a story of gods and goddesses, heroes, great deeds, and supernatural powers. It may explain things that are mysterious or unknowable to us. In ancient times, myths sometimes explained things that we now understand through science, like the movement of the stars and planets and the changing of the seasons. 
Who wrote the myths? 

Ancient Greek myths evolved over hundreds of years. At first the stories were simply told by one person to another. Details changed with each telling and the stories passed through many generations this way. Eventually, some of the myths were written down. Many of the Greek myths that we know today were first recorded by the poets Homer and Hesiod in the 8th century BC.

What were the gods like? 

The most powerful Greek gods lived high atop Mt. Olympus. They looked and acted much like humans, but they were more powerful, beautiful, and far more gifted. The gods also had human feelings and emotions, like love, anger, and jealousy. They married, had children, fought with each other, and generally acted like the Greek people they ruled. 

For example Aphrodite was the goddess of love, Dionysus was the god of wine, and Zeus was the king of the gods. 

goddess of love 
Each god had a special area of influence, such as love, war, hunting, music, or agriculture. Many of the best-known gods had temples dedicated to them. People thought that the gods would treat them well if they brought offerings of grain or animals to these temples. Learn more about Greek mythology. 
Stories of ancient gods and heroes. (click here)
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THE GODS in The Odyssey
Zeus (Jupiter) god (supreme) of the Olympians
Poseidon (Neptune) god of the sea
Hades (Pluto) god of Hades or the Underworld
Apollo god of Light and Truth (oracle at Delphi)
Hermes (Mercury) messenger god
Ares (Mars) god of war
Hephaestus (Vulcan) god of fire and forge
Hera (Juno) goddess queen of Oympian; Zeus¹ wife
Artemis (Diana) goddess of the hunt and chase
Athena (Minerva) goddess of wisdom and reason
Aphrodite (Venus) goddess of love and beauty
Hestia (Vesta) goddess of hearth and home
Demeter (Ceres) goddess of corn and harvest
Dionysus (Bacchus) god of vine and wine
Thetis sea nymph; mother of Achilles
Peleus father of Achilles - mortal

1) Zeus (Jupiter, Jove). The sky and weather god, especially of rain and lightning. As the King of the gods, he legitimates the cosmic and human orders. Thus, Zeus is the god of civilization and protects human socio-political institutions, e.g. contracts, oaths and the laws of hospitality.

Zeus' attributes include: the scepter, scales, aegis, ram and lion. He is depicted at the prime of life, full of strength and vitality, with beard and long flowing hair.

 Links to original stories about Zeus

2) Hera (Juno). Zeus' sister-wife, and therefore the queen of heaven. Hera is the god of weddings and marriage. She is far more important in cult than in literature.
Hera's attributes include: crown or headdress, scepter, wedding veil, peacock, and esp. the cow.
Hera's portraits are studies in regality, stateliness. Like her husband, she is depicted in the prime of life.

Links to original stories about Hera

3) Poseidon (Neptune) Brother of Zeus, Poseidon embodies the elemental forces of nature. He is the god of water, both salt-water and fresh-water springs, earthquakes and of horses.

Poseidon's attributes include: trident, dolphin, horse, bull, and the beak of a ship. Without these attributes, his portrait is impossible to distinguish from that of Zeus.

Links to original stories about Poseidon

4) Demeter (Ceres). Goddess of agriculture, especially of cereal grains. Demeter is also a fertility goddess.

Demeter's attributes include: sheaf of grain, a headdress (called a polos), scepter, torch, sacrificial bowl.

Links to original stories about Demeter

5) Athena (Minerva). Born from the head of Zeus (Zeus had swallowed her mother Metis before she could give birth). Athena is the god of civilization and of war. Thus, she protected the state and was patron to men's and women's handicrafts. She was also the goddess of intelligence. Just as she was born without a mother, Athena remains eternally virgin.

Athena's attributes include: helmet, shield, spear, aegis, Nike, lamp, distaff, owl, snake and the olive. Athena is represented as a warrior maiden, in her twenties.

Links to original stories about Athena

6) Dionysos/Bakkhos (Dionysus/Bacchus/Liber). Born from the thigh of Zeus (Zeus had been tricked into killing his mother with a thunderbolt). Dionysos is the god of vegetable life, especially the grapevine and ivy. As such he is the god of wine, fertility and poetry (both song and drama). Dionysos is the god of altered states, of madness (perceived as possession) no less than drunkenness, and his powers disrupt the social order.

Dionysos' attributes include: grapevines, ivy, thyrsos, kantharos (drinking cup), deer and fawn skins, leopards, their skins and leopard drawn chariots, Satyrs, Pans, Bacchantes, and the phallus, especially the erect phallus. Dionysos is frequently, though not always, represented as bearded

More about Dionysos
Links to original stories about Dionysos

7) Apollo (Apollo). The twin brother of Artemis by Leto, Apollo is the god of prophecy, healing, and the arts (music, poetry, dance). He was not originally a sun-god, as is often said (that was Helios); but was connected with the sun at least by the fifth century B. C. Like his sister, Apollo is a god of archery; in contrast to her, he is god of domestic animals, flocks and herds.

Apollo's attributes include: tripod, omphalos, lyre, bow and quiver of arrows, crown of laurel, hawk, raven or crow, fawn. Apollo is always depicted as a young man without beard and his portraits represent the Greek ideal of youth and manly beauty.

Links to original stories about Apollo

8) Artemis (Diana). Artemis is depicted as an athletic maiden, more attractive and more erotic than Athena, less voluptuous than Aphrodite. The twin sister of Apollo by Leto, she is the mistress of wild animals and a goddess of hunting and archery in general. She is also the goddess of virginity and protects women in childbirth. She is not properly a moon goddess, as is often said; but she does have an early connection with the moon through her identification with the chthonic Hekate, who was in turn identified with Selene, the personified moon.

Artemis' attributes include: bow and quiver of arrows, short hunting dress, buskins, ribbon in her hair, deer, wild goat, boar, bear, quail, torch.

Links to original stories about Artemis

9) Aphrodite (Venus). Born from the semen of the castrated Ouranos which impregnated the ocean on which it fell (Homer follows Near Eastern tradition in making her the daughter of the sky-god, Zeus, by Dione). Aphrodite is the goddess of love, and hence of fertility, beauty and sexual desire.

Aphrodite's attributes include: mirror, apple, dove, gold, beautiful clothing and cosmetics. Aphrodite represents the ideal of feminine beauty for the Greeks: soft features, smallish breasts, rather heavier than the hunter Artemis or warrior Athena.

Links to original stories about Aphrodite

10) Hermes (Mercury). The son of Zeus and Maia. Hermes is a trickster (a figure well-known from folklore) and a thief. He also crosses the borders between worlds. As such, Hermes was the messenger-god and was sometimes said to convey the souls of the dead to Hades (psychopomp). Thus, he was the patron of the traveler, herald and thief. Hermes was also a god of commerce and, like Apollo, of domestic livestock and music.

Hermes' attributes include: hat, herald's staff, winged sandals, short cloak, tortoise-shell lyre, ram, shepherd's staff. Hermes is said to be a young man in Homer; elsewhere he is often depicted with a beard.

Links to original stories about Hermes

11) Ares (Mars). The son of Zeus and Hera, he is the god of war, although from Homer on, his role has been in large part usurped by Athene. Ares is sometimes made to be the husband of Aphrodite.

12) Hephaistos (Hephaestus/Vulcan/Mulciber). The son of Zeus and Hera, he is the smith-god and patron of men's handicrafts. Also worshipped as the god of volcanoes and of fire. Sometimes said to be the husband of Aphrodite.

Hephaistos' attributes include: smith's apron, hammer, anvil, bellows, forge, fire. The god is depicted as lame.

13) Hades/Pluton (Pluto or Dis) As brother of Zeus, he is an Olympian, but he does not live in heaven. Hades rules the underworld/netherworld. He is also a god of fertility and wealth.

Hades' attributes include: cap of darkness, scepter, throne, chariot and horses.

14) Hestia (Vesta). The eldest or the youngest daughter of Kronos. Hestia was the virgin god of the hearth.


When you look at the night sky you see constellations named
for heroes and heroines of ancient Greek mythology.
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Background on the Odyssey
Character List
Setting, Themes and Style
Literary Elements
Summary & Analysis of Books
Novel Analysis
Odyssey Chronology
The Thematic Structure of Odysseus' Wanderings
Discussion Questions
Journal Entries to Accompany The Odyssey
Some possible projects

Discussion Questions
1. Discuss the similarities between the journey of Odysseus and events that have occurred in your own life. Think about the different choices Odysseus is required to make during his journey.
2. Discuss the women in Homer’s work. What role do women play in the Odyssey, and how do you think they represent the women of ancient Greece?
3. Explain how the struggles of Odysseus to reach Ithaca are a contest between Poseidon and Athena as well.
4. Select an event from popular culture in which a hero or heroine is placed in a struggle. Examples from movies include Shane, Schindler’s List, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Saving Private Ryan, Patch Adams, and Alien. Describe how the director or writer makes you feel toward the hero or heroine and his or her opponents. Compare and contrast this to the characters in the Odyssey.
5. The ancient Greeks truly believed in caring for strangers. Traditional voices in our culture have attempted to continue that tradition by advising all to care for strangers in need and teaching that such assistance is particularly pleasing to God. The media is quick to praise good Samaritans, and civic groups still award medals to humanitarians. But what forces in our time threaten to extinguish this tradition of kindness to and care for strangers? What can we do to care for strangers in need?
6. Revenge as a means of obtaining justice was more acceptable in Homer’s society than in our modern society, which has a formidable criminal justice system. Even so, Homer’s idea of revenge bears qualification. Define the nature of revenge in the Odyssey that suggests under what conditions it is an acceptable means of justice.


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Suggestion for Block Division

Each class period/block being approximately 90 minutes long, could be divided into three sections. The first thirty minutes would be spent orally reviewing what was read the day before and writing journal entries. The second thirty minutes would be spent reading The Odyssey. It is suggested that the reading be done orally in class for the first two weeks and then later be done silently depending on the ability level of the class. In the event that certain pages are not covered in class, the student will be responsible for finishing the reading for homework. The third thirty minutes would be spent on writing activities or completing the written questions.


How to Teach The Odyssey
Research Projects: (Assign beforehand)
(The links provided on this page are not enough for the projects: the students need to do further research using books, videos, additional Internet sites... Visual aids [ posters,  powerpoint presentations, video clips...] are a must.)

1- Ancient Greece


a- Introduce Greek mythology and its importance.

1. Ask students what they know about Ancient Greece. On the side blackboard, record pertinent details.
2. Use the scientific and literary contributions to society to demonstrate and discuss the importance of the Greeks beyond maritime culture.

  • Philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle)
  • History (Herodotus)
  • Science/Mathematics (Pythagorus)
  • Plays, poems, myths (Homer)
  • 3. Use vocabulary words derived from Greek and Roman myths to transition into mythology. The use of audiovisuals to reinforce these words is strongly recommended.
  • Atlas
  • Ocean (Oceanus)
  • Achilles heal/tendon (Achilles)
  • Python
  • Caduceus
  • Panic (Pan)
  • Odyssey (Odysseus)
  • Other words from their weekly spelling/vocabulary list are very likely derived from Greek or Roman mythology
  • 4. Ask students how much they know about Greek mythology. On a side blackboard, record pertinent details. Remember which students are especially knowledgeable on the subject so that you may utilize them for leading classroom discussion.
    5. Give brief introduction to Greek pantheon and heroes. Move onto tales of Odysseus and his Odyssey.
    6. Ask students comprehension questions as a review.
  • Who was Odysseus? What did the Romans call him? (Ulysses)
  • What was his nickname? ("Wily Odysseus")
  • This makes him a hero in the Odyssey, why does it make him a villain in later tales?
  • Where was he from? (Ithaca)
  • What war is he famous for fighting in? (Trojan War)
  • Did he want to fight in it? Why not? Was the war worth fighting for him? For anyone?
  • What was his famous invention that won that war? (Trojan Horse)
  • What does this have to do with his nickname?
  • What caused his Odyssey? (the gods were angry at him and kept him from home)
  • Were they angry at him for good reason?
  • What are some of the problems and monsters that he faced? (Cyclops, Scylla, harrowing of Hades etc.)
  • How does he handle the problems? What does that tell us about him? What can we learn from it?


    Have students plot the course of Odysseus and his crew over the Mediterranean and calculate the distance traveled.

    b- Mythology for the Classroom by Michael Conte, Jr.

    c- Mythology Unit

    d- What is a myth?

    e- THE GODS in The Odyssey

    3- Epic Genre

    4- Homer's Iliad & The Trojan War

    5- The Odyssey: Background

    The Task

    The student will...
  • read background information on the character of Odysseus.
  • read summaries of each book completed.
  • complete questions about the epic.
  • compose a 3-5 page essay about Homer's Odyssey.
  • play the Odyssey Game.
  • place each completed activity in Odyssey folder to turn in for evaluation by teacher.
  • Resources

    Homer was one of the greatest epic writers of all time. Use the information below to guide you on your journey from Troy to Ithaca.

    1. Learn about the life of Odysseus before he goes off to the Trojan War. This link has much great information about the life of Odysseus before, during, and after the Trojan War and his journey home.

    2. If you do not understand what is happening, read the summary of each book. This will help explain what is happening in the story. This link gives you a brief summary of each book. To advance you must click on the arrow at the bottom of the page.

    3. These questions on the Odyssey will be helpful to you as you read the epic. This link has great questions. The questions are objective, yet you will use your higher order thinking skills.

    4. These essay topics will help your understanding of the interpretation of Homer's Odyssey. This link provides several essay topics about the Odyssey. Some are general, but some are very comprehensive and require a deep understanding of the epic.

    5. Who will you be as you experience the journey of Odysseus in the Odyssey Game? This site is great. This game is much fun as you decide who you want to be and the journey you will take. You must make rational decisions and use your head as you journey to Ithaca.

    The Process

    1. Learn about the life of Odysseus before he goes off to the Trojan War. Before you begin reading the Odyssey, read about the life of Odysseus. Place a brief summary of his life in your folder.

    2. If you do not understand what is happening, read the summary of each book. This will help explain what is happening in the story. After you complete each book of the Odyssey, read the summary to be sure that you completely understand what is happening in the epic. Use the provided checklist to check each book read and the date completed.

    3. These questions on the Odyssey will be helpful to you as you read the epic. Answer the questions about the Odyssey as you read. Be sure to place your answered questions in your Odyssey folder.

    4. These essay topics will help your understanding of the interpretation of Homer's Odyssey. Choose an essay topic and complete a 3-5 page essay about Homer's Odyssey. Your completed essay should be placed in your folder for evaluation.

    5. Who will you be as you experience the journey of Odysseus in the Odyssey Game? Choose a character (Odysseus, Penelope, or Telemachus) and play the game. If you have read the epic you should not have any trouble deciding which path to choose. This activity is for your enjoyment. You should have items 1-4 in your folder and your folder turned in to me before you begin playing the game.

    Learning Advice

    Make a timeline of Odysseus' adventures. This will help you keep on track. As you read, answer the questions provided. This will keep you on task and will also help your understanding of the epic. DO NOT GET BEHIND. Getting behind could be costly.


    Remember that you must have each completed activity (1-4) placed in your folder to turn in to me.  This folder will complete your grade and study of Homer's Odyssey. I hope you have enjoyed your journey to Ithaca. Keep up the good work.


    7- The Odyssey and The Morte Darthur: Reading and Making Observations for Writing and Discussion by Marie Pat Casey

    8- Make sure the students understand the Odyssey.

    1. Review details of Odysseus and the Odyssey
        (Questions & their Answers)

    2. Writing Assignment:

    Write one of the "Further Adventures of Odysseus"

    • No length requirement as long as all questions are answered:
      • Where did Odysseus go?
      • Why did he go there?
      • What did he do there?
      • How did he get away?
    • Story must be proof-read (by student, help from classmates allowed):
      • correct spelling
      • correct grammar
      • neatly printed ("publish-able")
    • Must be accompanied by illustration:
      • Must fit details of story.
      • Must be in color.
      Finished assignments will be bound.
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    Using Superman
    to Teach the Epic Hero in The Odyssey

    Literature, level: Senior
    Posted Mon Oct 11 19:47:48 PDT 1999 by Melissa Smith (thetaphi25@aol.com).
    Pflugerville HS, Pflugerville, TX US
    Materials Required: VCR, The Odyssey, Superman the movie
    Activity Time: varies depending on amount of classwork
    Concepts Taught: epic hero, compare/contrast

    After reading the Odyssey and discussing the characteristics of an epic and an epic hero, I have the students watch Superman, the movie. Many of them have never seen it before and think they are getting a "break" form school. After the movie, I list all the characteristics of an epic hero on the board:

         1. hero is of imposing stature (teach physical as well as social stature)
         2. hero and/or style is grand, yet simple
         3. setting is vast
         4. hero has super-human courage and strength
         5. hero faces supernatural forces.

    I had the kids put each of these topics on a blank piece of paper and fold the paper in half. They then brainstorm on these characteristics as they apply to Odysseus and Superman. Using whatever writing procedure you like, the students may now proceed with a compare/contrast paper. As we are on an accelerated block, this kills two birds with one stone.
    Word of caution.... make sure the kids understand the difference between the character having these characteristics as opposed to the story. Sounds simple, but it threw off MANY of my freshmen. For instance, they would say Odysseus had a vast setting, not Odysseus's story.


    Summary of "The Odyssey"

    Odysseus' return from Troy, chronicled in the Odyssey, took ten years and was beset by perils and misfortune. He freed his men from the pleasure-giving drugs of the Lotus-Eaters, rescued them from the cannibalism of the Cyclopes and the enchantments of Circe. He braved the terrors of the underworld with them, and while in the land of the dead Hades allowed Thiresias, Odysseus' mother, Ajax and others to give him adivice on his next journey. They gave him important advice about the cattle of the sun (which Apollo herds), Scylla and Charybdis and the Sirens. From there on the travels were harder for Odysseus, but they would have been much worse of it wasn't for the help of the dead.
    With this newly acquired knowledge, he steered them past the perils of the Sirens and of Scylla and Charybdis. He could not save them from their final folly, however, when they violated divine commandments by slaughtering and eating the cattle of the sun-god. As a result of this rash act, Odysseus' ship was destroyed by a thunderbolt, and only Odysseus himself survived. He came ashore on the island of the nymph Calypso, who made him her lover and refused to let him leave for seven years. When Zeus finally intervened, Odysseus sailed away on a small boat, only to be shipwrecked by another storm. He swam ashore on the island of the Phaeacians, where he was magnificently entertained and then, at long last, escorted home to Ithaca.

    There were problems in Ithaca as well, however. During Odysseus' twenty-year absence, his wife, Penelope, had remained faithful to him, but she was under enormous pressure to remarry. A whole host of suitors were occupying her palace, drinking and eating and behaving insolently to Penelope and her son, Telemachus. Odysseus arrived at the palace, disguised as a ragged beggar, and observed their behavior and his wife's fidelity. With the help of Telemachus and Laertes, he slaughtered the suitors and cleansed the palace. He then had to fight one final battle, against the outraged relatives of the men he had slain; Athena intervened to settle this battle, however, and peace was restored.


    According to Bernard Lievegood, an important development during adolescence is

         "learning to accept oneself (and thereby being able to answer questions for oneself and making choices and decisions). This is the same as being able to start bearing one’s own, individual, responsibility." Bernard Lievegood

         "To sum up, we may say that the central problem is: Who am I? What do I want? What am I capable of? The individual who has failed to ask these questions in this phase of life—even if only by realizing that he suffers from not knowing the answers—has failed to lay the foundations for the awakening of his psychological being, so that he runs the risk in the important middle phase of his life of finding himself stuck at the passionately vital stage, an eternal adolescent who in his appreciation of values remains dependent on what the world thinks of him, or who, on account of his own insecurity, continues to kick against the world."

    In class discussion students should be asked if they agree with the two statements by Lievegood and whether or not they have thought about these questions in regard to their own lives. Do they think that Telemachus could answer these questions if someone were to pose them to him? Would his answers to the question be different at the beginning of the Odyssey from what they would be at the end of the story?

    Today’s high school students are faced with a world that presents ever more complex choices: for example, careers, family, morality, and so forth. In order to choose wisely, young people need a strong sense of who they are, where they are going and what choices will get them there.

    The teacher should ask the students to consider how they would feel and how they would act if they were in the position of Telemachus. Would they, as teenagers, feel capable of taking the initiative to try to rid the household of the suitors, or would they, like Telemachus, feel paralyzed and resort to fantasies? Can they recall an incident or a situation in their lives where they felt unable to act without some magical or superhuman force such as the gods or fate or superman? Telemachus at this point, is still a child who is waiting to be told what to do by the “grownups” whoever they might be. The students should be invited to question whether they think of themselves more in terms of being children or of being adults.

    Do any events or rituals in the lives of the students function as an initiation or a ritual passage from childhood to adulthood?

    What does it mean to the students to be a mature man? What do they expect to be like when they are in their thirties, forties or fifties? Are there phases in a man’s life just as there are phases in a boy’s life? Bernard Lievegood comments on this period in a person’s life.

    "I have said before that the beginning of the forties is a sort of a fork in the road leading to the rest of our lives. Either the road goes downhill, together with the biological functions of the body and mind, or it leads into totally new territory in which quite different creative powers are awakened."

    Who is Odysseus? Is he a vital hero with whom students can identify, or is he simply an older man past his prime, a hero from a by-gone era? First of all Odysseus is the son of Laertes, the husband of Penelope, and the father of Telemachus. He is one of the heroes of the Trojan War, an ancient historical legend which was the focal point of Homer’s poem, the Iliad. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is a man of courage, of integrity, of complexity, and of maturity. He is also “nobody” as he introduces
    himself to Polyphemus, the Cyclops. To George E. Dimock, Jr. who translates his name literally from the Greek, odyssasthai, he is a “causer of pain” and a “sufferer of pain” or, in general, he is “Trouble”.

    Although Penelope is a key character in the poem, students may have a hard time identifying with her life. I think that a modern teenager would have difficulty imagining a faithful, twenty-year wait for a husband who might never return. Penelope is not the usual Twentieth Century heroine. She is, however, a woman of great inner strength who manages to outwit the suitors for three
    years by unweaving at night the shroud for Odysseus’s father Laertes that she weaves by day. When she finally yields to the pressure to choose a husband from among the suitors, she devises the test of the bow since she is unwilling to settle for a new husband who is less than the equal of Odysseus. She outwits Odysseus, the master of trickery and cunning, by telling the servant to take the bed that Odysseus used to sleep in and place it outside the room. Odysseus falls for her trick; he protests
    that he himself had constructed his bed, building it into the trunk of an old olive tree that grew in the bedroom. Such a bed could not be moved anywhere. At this point Penelope finally lets down her guard and agrees that the man who had arrived in Ithaca as a ragclad beggar has passed her test of identity and must be her husband. Thus Penelope, wise, shrewd, and prudent, is reunited with her husband. Whether or not the students identify with the life of Penelope, they are likely to be able to appreciate her strength, her intelligence, and her cunning throughout the ordeal of her long wait for Odysseus.

    Can the teenager in high school today identify with Nausicaa? Is she too innocent, too tied to her parents and the strict behavioral code that they impose on her? She has not had the travels of Telemachus to initiate her into the wider world. She is, however, a person of the students’ own age who faces many of the same problems that they do. Will she marry? Whom will she marry? How will she choose her husband? How will she please her parents and the society in which they live, and, at the same time, please herself? While she does not have the freedom of many young girls today, she is direct and assertive and confident in her dealings with the naked stranger. She is graceful and gracious in her manner and also sensitive and perceptive in the way that she sizes him up. How would the students treat such a stranger in similar circumstances? Can they appreciate the
    qualities of a girl like Nausicaa?


    http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/odyssey.html  (teachers' guide- v good)
    homer/frame.htm (excellent!)
    Search this Site with Google:

    Directly Related Links
    *The Odyssey Illustrated

    *The Odyssey: Lesson Plan
    Students will understand the following:
    1. Literature originally presented in one genre can, with care, be adapted to another genre.
    2. Adapters of a literary work into drama must consider dialogue and stage directions.

    *Odyssey Lesson Plan

    *Odyssey Lesson Plan

    *The Odyssey Lesson Plan Ideas

    *Teachers' Guide: The Odyssey

    *Study Sheet- Odyssey

    *Background Material: The Trojan War

    *THE ODYSSEY Translated by Robert Fagles

    *Homer, The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles
    Posted for course use only.

    *Homer's Odyssey resources on the Web

    *The Odyssey [UNABRIDGED]- By Robert Fagles

    *Novel Analysis: Odyssey (Novel guide)

    *Homer and Greek Mythology

    *Study Guide for Homer's Odyssey *****

    *Research Guide to Homer's Odyssey

    *Classical Epic


    *About.com page for Gods & Goddesses

    *The Illiad and The Odyssey*******
    Background + Story + Analysis

    *Travels Of Odysseus

    *The Odyssey- Story Map

    *9th Grade Literature Links

    *A Reminder of Manhood in The Odyssey

    Bartleby.com — the preeminent Internet publisher of literature, 
    reference and verse--the most comprehensive reference site on the Web.

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    Indirectly Related Links

    *A Brief Lexicon of Greek Terminology

    *American Literature Extra Glossary Terms

    *Ancient Greece- Index

    *Greece- Odyssey

    *The Greeks

    *The Classics Pages

    * The Iliad By Homer

    *The Epic of Gilgamesh

    *The Epic of Gilgamesh
    An Outline with Bibliography and Links

    *Ancient Greece: Core Values Internet Resource Library
    Curriculum : Unit 5 Ancient Greece : Sites for Kids

    *Ancient Greece Curriculum : Unit 5 Ancient Greece
    Educational Projects

    *Ancient Greek Civilizations

    *Ancient Greece- For Schools (BBC)

    *Ancient Greece Project Pages

    *Ancient World Cultures

    *Greek Civilization- Syllabus
    With study guides

    *Comparison/ Bible & The Odyssey (not free!)
    A 5 page comparison of the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible and Homer's epic poem, 'The Odyssey.' Throughout history, from the time of the earliest civilizations, there have been literary compositions that attempted to explain life and the consequences of human action as it might relate to divine will. Each culture has addressed the relationship to the divine its own fashion. Homer expressed this for the ancient Greeks and unknown Hebrew scholars recorded the oral traditions of the Jewish tribes. No additional sources cited.
    Filename: 99bibody.wps

    *Bible FAQ

    *The Holy Bible

    *Internet Classics
    E-text of the Odyssey for downloading, plus links, discussions, and more.

    A great place to start with Greek mythology. Includes an online fun quiz, an alphabetical list of the immortals, and more.

    *Approaches to Mythology

    At this site you will find a short version of the epic; teaching tips; and a character index.

    *Classical Myth- Syllabus

    *Greek Mythology Link
    A complete guide to all the individuals in mythology, with stories and information for each.

    *Climbing to the Top of Mount Olympus
    A complete unit of study on mythology for middle school students.

    *Study Guide for Classical Love Poetry
    Need some poetry to compliment your unit? Check out the study guide on this site!

    *Novel. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

    *Free term papers/essays

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    Page created on March 1, 2002 || Last updated on May 20, 2002
     Copyright © 2002-2009 Nada Salem Abisamra

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