An Interview with Odysseus and Telemachas (Fictional)

An interview with Odysseus and Telemachus  (Fictional) 

We have discussed many of the Greek concepts through the Odyssey such as kleos and Xenia, guest rights. But I have always wondered what the characters really experience in their adventures, so today, I have invited Odysseus and Telemachus to do an interview with me.  

 

M: Hello Odysseus, thank you very much for joining me today. I am very excited to learn more about your life. 

O: My pleasure to be here, thanks for inviting me.  

M: Ok, for the first question, I heard that on the battlefield or any competition, you Greeks honor glory. What is your understanding of glory?  

O: Well, as you know, we respect the gods very much. The thought of power and immortality is very tantalizing. However, I know very well that unless Zeus grants me the wish, I come nowhere near being immortal. Instead of living on forever, having my name, my fame, my legacy to live on is the closest I can get to becoming a god. Just look at Achilles, that dude died for some time already in the Trojan war but people still speak about him today. So yes, we respect kleos very much and I certainly praise it highly. 

M: I see. Yet it seems to me there have been times when your desire for kleos has caused you problems. For example, when you felt the need to reveal your identity to the cyclops Polyphemus as you.

M: Has it ever occurred to you to question the value of kleos? 

O: Well, now that you mention it, I did have one experience in particular that led me to question the ultimate value of kleos. When I met Achillies in the underworld he said something I will ponder on my whole life. When I met him, he was ruling over the dead and living in fame, but he said, “I’d rather serve as another man’s labourer, as a poor peasant without land, and be alive on Earth, than be lord of all the lifeless dead.” Being as godly as he can be, having all the kleos a man can ask for, Achilles would gladly give it all up and live as a peasant. I just don’t understand why anyone would want that. I guess the underworld must have sucked really bad with no sun and everything but I can’t help but think that he is criticizing kleos. We acquire glory when we slay people on the battlefield, and the Trojan war only started because people wanted glory. If people’s need for kleos wasn’t so great, could Achilles still be alive, could my men still be alive? The talk with him down there really made me think about kleos. 

 M: Has your pursuit of kleos ever caused you any problems? 

I want people to realize that I’m not always the glorified leader/hero. I am human and, after all, I make mistakes. The incident at the cyclops, Polyphemus’s, the cave was just me going hot-headed. The cyclops eating my man really put me off and I really wanted revenge. I felt that my kleos was being invaded when I couldn’t do anything to stop him. I was stupid to stay in the cave, I thought the owner might have some respect towards the gods or honored guest rights. That cyclops just came and ate my men. After using my wits of clinging onto the sheep to escape the cave, I really felt good about my idea. On the boat, I went hot-headed and yelled my name to him. I felt that if I boasted to him, I could get my kleos. After that Poseidon has been causing me trouble all the time. I really wish I could go back and hold my tongue and allow my men to not have all the suffering they did. They were wonderful men, and I must perform ceremonial rites for them so they can pass off to the underworld. When the wave came and I woke up all alone, I was filled with guilt. I brought these men to the Trojan war, took them from their families, and now they all cannot venture back to Ithaca with me. I basically led them to destruction. That was a hard part through my journey, losing my men, but the thought of meeting my wife and son again pushed me onward. So sad my men couldn’t reunite with theirs. 

 

Telemachus 

 

Add a question about what it was like growing up amidst the suitors? Discuss their violation of guest rites/xenia,  devouring his inheritance, all of these are grievances against Odysseus and Telemachus. Highlights his powerlessness.  

You could add more detail about what exactly T learns about his father from Nestor and Pylos  

M: Good to see you Telemachus, I was just having a chat with your dad and it was very interesting. I’m excited to speak with you. So for the first question, without your dad around when you grew up, what is your understanding of kleos? 

T: As you might know, glory is something we respect, but without my father, it just isn’t the same. Sure people tell me all the time the importance of it, my mom and everyone, but I don’t know what to do to get it. Without manly guidance in my life, I often lack the courage or ability to acquire my own Kkeos. When those dreadful suitors came around, god I wished I could slay them all but, I just couldn’t. Fortunately, Athena helped me find my way and I really need to do more fatherly bonding with my dad. 

Q: Could you discuss how Athena helped you find your way and learn some of what you needed to grow up and prepare for your father’s return?  

One of the biggest things Athena told me to do is gather the assembly in objection against the suitors. For years I have been living under their shadow, flattering them. However, this meeting showed everyone, the elders, my mom, that I have my dad’s bloodline and that I can have my own kleos. This first step gave me the courage to find my own kleos. Athena also told me to gather men and go around cities in search of my father. I learned a lot during that journey. While learning about my father more deeply, I knew how to act in front of kings and act as a young man that has his own kleos. Many of my father’s old friends said they could see him in me. This encouragement along the road really motivated me to get my own life and kleos. 

 

Interview with Penelope and Calypso 

In our society, women and men are equal. Women get to do things men do such as finding a job, competing in sports, and even serving in the military. I heard that in your time, women are in charge of giving birth and taking care of the family. What are your opinions on this double standard? 

 

P: Well, there once was a time where I wished to do things as I like. As a little girl, I can remember imagining myself going into battle to acquire kleos like one of the famed Amazon warriors. But as time goes on, I have learned to accept reality. Women in our time are needed to be a housewife and as I get used to it, my longing for something else fades away. I have a handsome husband and a great son; there’s not much that I can ask for. 

M: On your husband’s journey back home, despite the physical abuse, he spends a lot of time on paradise islands with beautiful women such as Calypso and Circe. You on the other hand are stuck in Ithaca with a bunch of suitors. How do you feel about this?  

P: I try not to think about that but to be honest, this fate is quite unfair. Sure, Odysseus has many hardships along the way but my life hasn’t been easy! Taking care of a son by myself is hard work, and those suitors are just trespassing on my house freely. Then, I am expected to be a good housewife waiting for my husband’s return while he takes a vacation on Calypso’s Island? Pretty unfair if you ask me.   

M: Speaking of Calypso, my producers have informed me that she was able to make it and is backstage. If you don’t mind, I would like her to join our conversations.   

Calypso, I was talking with Penelope here about the double standard in your time. You being a goddess, is there a change? 

C: I see, Penelope’s also here…… Never mind. About that, yeah, I was flattered when Odysseus washed up on my island. This strong, muscly man. He’s always sad though, because of his wife. When Hermes came down telling me to release Odysseus, I was enraged. Like what, Zeus gets to chase different girls, immortal, and mortal, while being married. Apollo made a girl turn into a laurel tree and the other gods too and they just get away with all of it? While I, stuck on an island, lonely most of my life, and when a handsome man washes up, I’m supposed to not have the right to go after him? This is outrageous. This is why I was so fumed up to Hermes when he told me to let Odysseus go. “You unrivaled lords of jealousy-scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals,” because they can’t be upset about that if Zeus often sleeps with mortals.” This is what I said to him exactly. I find it funny how when some powerful women take action against the double standard, they are always vilified.  

P: He is a married man, you know, to me! You’re not supposed to keep him. But yes, the double standard is existent everywhere in our world. A friend of my husband’s, Agamemnon, was stabbed by his wife Clytemnestra. Now everyone hates her and views her as a bad model after running off with some guy. But if people actually know the whole story, Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter! Of course, that’s going to put Clytemnestra in a bad mood. Sure, her actions might be a bit overboard but people shouldn’t put so much hate to her just because she failed to be the nice housewife everyone thinks she should be. Also, what’s up with sacrificing daughters? Agamemnon had a son I’m pretty sure!

 

Trojan War  

Shrouded in the mists of legend and myth, the Trojan war was a watershed event in Greek history and culture. While dates are far from certain, most scholars believe the Trojan War took place somewhere between the 12th and 11th centuries BCE on the plains of Northwest Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey) outside the gates of the city of Troy. Although there is no conclusive proof that the epic battle between the Greeks and the Trojans ever took place, there is no doubt that, for the Greeks, this war was real and an important part of their history.  

The main sources of information about the war are The Iliad and The Odyssey, two long epic poems by the Greek writer, Homer. The Iliad tells the story of the war at a tipping point in its tenth and final year, as the Greeks are camped outside the walls of the city, debating whether they should pull up stakes and head home. In this story, we meet legendary heroes such as Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus and learn of their heroic actions on the battlefield. The Odyssey takes place after the Greeks sack Troy (thanks to Odysseus’s Trojan Horse) and the greek heroes journey home. Like the Iliad, the Odyssey also begins in medias res (in the “middle” of the story) as we meet Odysseus in the tenth and final year of his homeward journey and learn of his famous adventures in which we see Odysseus outwitting the cyclops Polyphemus, subduing the sorceress Circe, and sailing between Scylla and Charybdis on his way home to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus and take revenge on the evil suitors. 

The cause of the Trojan War is the stuff of legend and myth, comprising some of the most famous stories in all of Greek mythology. The war began when Trojan prince Paris abducts Queen Helen of Sparta. Menelaus, Helen’s husband, convinced Agamemnon, his brother and king of Mycenae to muster an army and sail to Troy to retrieve Helen and destroy the Trojan citadel in retribution. They were joined by many heroes such as Achilles and Odysseus who sailed across the Aegean Sea in fleet of a thousand ships. Henceforth, Helen’s has been known as “the face that launched a thousand ships.” The Greeks surround the city of Troy and demand that king Priam return queen Helen. The battle lasted almost for 10 years with many deaths including Achillies and Prince Hector of Troy. The rampage finally ended when a wooden horse was presented to the Trojans. They accepted it as a gift of victory and pulled it inside their walls. When night fell, Greek soldiers, led by Odysseus, climbed out of the horse and sacked and pillaged the city from within, taking the victory. 

The Trojan war has been an important source of inspiration in literature and life for thousands of years. Besides the previously discussed, Iliad and Odyssey, many epics and stories have been inspired by the Trojan War, most notably the great Roman epic, the Aeneid, which tells the story of the Trojan prince Aeneas’s journey to Italy and his establishing a colony that will eventually become the great Roman Empire. More generally, the Trojan War, and the stories it has inspired, served as the educational foundation for generations of school children in the West, who learned Ancient Greek by reading Homer’s epic poems. These poems were used to teach important concepts of courage, honor, and duty. Seen through the lens of Homer’s epics, , war was viewed as a noble undertaking that tested men’s valor and allowed them to achieve glory. This view of war would remain unchanged until the devastation and horror of World War I. Faced with the misery of life in the trenches, the withering fire of machine guns, the terror and destruction of high explosive artillery and poison gas, the men who marched into battle in 1914, their heads filled with these romantic ideas of war, would come home (those lucky enough to make it back alive) with a drastically different idea of war.  

 

Trojan War with The Odyssey 

The Trojan war gave Odysseus a lot to discuss. One of the most important factors is the concept of nostos (Nostalgia, the wanting to go home). When a man experienced something as brutal as the Trojan war, their longing for home is clearly presented. The idea of nostos is seen in many areas of The Odyssey. For one instance, Odysseus was trapped on the island Ogygia with an immortal goddess named Calypso. Calypso was a beautiful nymph and the island, Ogygia, is enchanted with magic so beautiful that even God Hermes was spellbound. However, Odysseus had a great will to go home and see his family, his persistence kept him conscious, and was able to leave the island.  

Odysseus as a more three-dimensional character: as a leader, as a husband, as a hero, as a strategist,  

The Trojan war also allows us to see Odysseus in a different light rather than the all-powerful king. Many of his men died in battle or at sea which he takes responsibility for. All of the people who followed him off to battle had families of their own and many times Odysseus led them into their own destruction. The mental trauma of guilt would collapse any human but Odysseus’ will of leaving the Trojan war behind drove him towards home.   

The Trojan War also depicted a concept of kleos, where personal glory is valued during ancient Greece. This was very important to the Greeks because it signified the actions soldiers take on the battlefield. In the Odyssey, Telemachus was illustrated to learn kleos. Since his father, Odysseus, left for war, Telemachus grew up without fatherly instructions. His mom conducted him to be a well-mannered man but his kleos was lacking. Despite the suitors running over his house and harassing his mother, he showed no sign of fighting back. It wasn’t until after when Athena directed him to find his own courage and value to fight back against the suitors and sail off to find his father to acquire his own kleos. 

 

Article 3: Books 9-12: Odysseus’s wanderings  

The first four books of the Odyssey begin not with Odysseus in the midst of his adventures but with an introduction of Ithaca, his homeland. There we meet important characters, most notably his son Telemachus and his wife Penelope. In the long absence of its King (Odysseus has been away for nearly twenty years), the island kingdom quickly collapses into disorder. Inside Odysseus’s own home, suitors for the hand of Penelope have become unwelcome guests, having free run over his property. Moreover, they constantly harass Penelope, pressuring her to choose one of them for a husband. In a patriarchal society in which women have very little political power, there is little that Penelope can do except delay the suitors’ advances. She does so by cleverly promising to give them an answer after she finishes weaving a funeral shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes. Her strategy is to unweave at night what she weaves during the day, thus delaying the completion of the task. Eventually, the suitors discover Penelope’s scheme and confront her, giving her an ultimatum: choose one of us or go back to your parents and have your father choose for you. Penelope is running out of time. 

We also meet Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, who must be at least twenty. He’s now a young man who should assume power in the absence of his father, but the problem is he lacks the confidence, maturity, and experience to do so. Without his father’s guidance and teaching, Telemachus is also powerless against the suitors and must abide their presence as they continue to devour his inheritance, feasting on his father’s goods in clear violation of all norms and customs such as xenia. Lack of power is the dilemma of Penelope and Telemachus and chaos reigns supreme on the island of Ithaca. Odysseus is clearly needed to set things right. 

Another important character we meet in the beginning of the Odyssey is the goddess, Athena. She first appears at the council of the Gods, as she pleads to Zeus to remember that her hero Odysseus is still stranded on the remote island of Ogygia, home of the exotic goddess Calypso, who refuses to let Odysseus go. Zeus promises to send Hermes, the messenger god to Calypso’s Island at once to demand that she send Odysseus on his way. Meanwhile, Athena appears on Ithaca, disguising herself in the form of an old man Mentes, and advises Telemachus to hold a public meeting to lodge his objections against the suitors and assembles a ship of men in search for his long-lost father and king of Ithaca.  

During Telemachus’ first journey to Pylos, we witness a ceremony in sacrifice to Poseidon with 81 bulls. With the help of Athena, he manages to make a good impression on Nestor, king of Pylos. With their conversation, Telemachus learns about his father’s glory at the Trojan war and about the death of Agamemnon. However, he has no clue for Odysseus’s location. Nestor advises Telemachus to go to Sparta to find king Menelaus in search of his father. Telemachus was warmly welcomed at Sparta; Menelaus shared many memories of Odysseus which brought Telemachus to tears. When he heard about the suitors at Ithaca he was enraged and told Telemachus that Odysseus is captive on Calypso’s Island.  

Books 3-4: Telemachus’ journey to Pylos and Sparta. What does T. learn? About his father 

Some really important concepts were presented in these first few books, one being Xenia, or guest friendship. Not only is guest friendship known in Greek culture but in many others such as Norse mythology. While this trait is illustrated by the actions of shown on Telemachus when he offers the stranger Mentes (Athena) with shelter and food, the suitors pervert the custom of xenia by trespassing and consuming Odysseus’s goods.  show a different manner. By taking over Odysseus’s house without permission they have violated guest rights to the worst extent. This also reflects on Telemachus’s life, a Although Telemachus has been raised to act the part of a gentleman, as seen by his proper treatment of Mentes, he has guidance from his mother who educated him to be a fine gentleman with guest rights, the absence of his father, lack of Odysseus, reveals a major problem: Telemachus’s inability to effectively deal with the suitors. In the context of a patriarchal society, the responsibility for dealing with the suitors, who are in clear violation of the customs of xenia, falls upon the son in the absence of his father. presents the major downfall of courage when he faces the suitors. This brings us to another idea of “coming of age” 

Many hero stories have the concept of coming of age and follow a similar plot. The hero starts out in the ordinary world until when they are called out for adventure, some heroes might turn down this call but eventually, they set foot into a new world where they discover some new things about themselves such as a special power or acquires a special weapon. Modern-day stories readings such as Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, or The Lion King all follow a similar idea. From Simba leaving his land to Percy finding out his powers of water control, it all is part of coming of age. On the road to coming to age, guidance or mentors are often existent to help these heroes. In the Odyssey, Telemachus receives guidance from the goddess, Athena. Athena gives him the idea of fighting back against the suitors and provides him with the tactics and courage necessary to do so. Not only this, she also tells Telemachus to gather men in search of Odysseus. With that, Telemachus starts his journey of Coming to age.  

 

 

Article 2: The Odyssey Books 1-4:  

The first four books of the Odyssey start with an introduction of Ithaca, the homeland of Odysseus. It depicts the life of his son Telemachus and his wife Penelope. After the disappearance of the king, the small island quickly grows into disorder. Inside Odysseus’s own home, suitors have run over his property, camping freely inside the building. Not only that, they constantly harass Penelope trying to win her love and marry her. Telemachus, being a child lacking fatherly guidance, does not know how to fight back to the suitors until one day, the goddess Athena disguises herself in the form of Mentes and, guides Telemachus to hold a meeting in objection against the suitors and assembles a ship of men in search for his lost father and lost king of Ithaca.  

During Telemachus’ first journey to Pylos, they witnessed a ceremony in sacrifice to Poseidon with 81 bulls. With the guide of Athena, he manages to put up a good impression on Nestor, king of Pylos. With their conversation, Telemachus learns about his father’s glory at the Trojan war and talks about the death of Agamemnon especially. However, he has no clue about Odysseus’s location. Nestor advises Telemachus to go to Sparta to find king Menelaus in search of his father. Telemachus was warmly welcomed at Sparta; Menelaus shared many memories of Odysseus which brought Telemachus to tears. When he heard about the suitors at Ithaca he was enraged and told Telemachus that Odysseus is captive on Calypso’s Island.  

 

Books 3-4: Telemachus’ journey to Pylos and Sparta. What does T. learn? About his father 

 

Some really important concepts were presented in these first few books, one being Xenia, or guest friendship. Not only is guest friendship known in Greek culture but in many others such as Norse mythology. While this trait is illustrated by the actions shown on Telemachus when he offers the stranger Mentes (Athena) shelter and food, the suitors pervert the custom of xenia by trespassing and consuming Odysseus’s goods.  show a different manner. By taking over Odysseus’s house without permission they have violated guest rights to the worst extent. This also reflects on Telemachus’s life, a Although Telemachus has been raised to act the part of a gentleman, as seen by his proper treatment of Mentes, he has guidance from his mother who educated him to be a fine gentleman with guest rights, the absence of his father, lack of Odysseus, reveals a major problem: Telemachus’s inability to effectively deal with the suitors. In the context of a patriarchal society, the responsibility for dealing with the suitors, who are in clear violation of the customs of xenia, falls upon the son in the absence of his father. presents the major downfall of courage when he faces the suitors. This brings us to another idea of “coming of age” 

Many hero stories have the concept of coming of age and follow a similar plot. The hero starts out in the ordinary world until when they are called out for adventure, some heroes might turn down this call but eventually, they set foot into a new world where they discover some new things about themselves such as a special power or acquires a special weapon. Modern-day stories readings such as Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, or The Lion King all follow a similar idea. From Simba leaving his land to Percy finding out his powers of water control, it all is part of coming of age. On the road to coming to age, guidance or mentors are often existent to help these heroes. In the Odyssey, Telemachus receives guidance from the goddess, Athena. Athena gives him the idea of fighting back to the suitors and provides him with tactics and courage necessary to do so. Not only this, she also tells Telemachus to gather men in search of Odysseus. With that, Telemachus starts his journey of Coming to age.