Learn the language!


A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was trying to learn Homeric Greek so I could read the Odyssey.  The course I was taking with the nice folks at the Center for Hellenic Studies was great, but was more focused on Attic Greek and was going to cover a lot that, frankly, would not be that useful.  So I decided to “go commando,” if you will, and dive right into translating it for myself.  And only myself, since the world does not need another Odyssey.  I’m actually rather embarrassed by how easy it is: I’m going to the Perseus site at Tufts University, selecting the Odyssey in Greek, and then clicking on each word, which opens a Greek study tool giving the definition.  One still has to figure out parts of speech and declensions and all that, but it saves a great deal of time.

And already I’m starting to see other resonances that are supportive of my view that it is a manual for becoming whole again, that it deals with universal human issues and not just one guy’s trip back home.  Take the first word: ἄνδρα (you can click it yourself and go to the word study tool).  It of course means “man,” as a class of being between animals and gods, and it is usually translated with an article, such as “the man” or “that man.”  One of the differences between Attic and Epic Greek is that the epics are not so big on articles, so they’re often added in translation, but it seems to me that by keeping it as plain old “man,” that it remains more universal–it can be about all mankind and not just Odysseus.  Homer is talking to and about us all as we too struggle to get back to our “native land.”

Also the themes of unity and multiplicity come through clearly, if you are inclined to look for them.  In the first few lines there are several references to πολλὰ which means “many,” and to the idea of going off course, astray.  Odysseus and the Greeks have “destroyed the sacred citadel of Troy”–that is, they

Destroying "the Sacred Citadel of Troy." Anton Mozart, 1573-1625.

Destroying “the Sacred Citadel of Troy.” Anton Mozart, 1573-1625.

have “missed the mark,” committed sacrilege and are therefore destined to wander until they have overcome the “ego” and returned to unity again.

This is not punishment in the standard religious sense of a jealous God taking it out on those who dare break his laws.  It’s just the way things are: karma, justice, balance, cleaning the slate, however you want to characterize it.  If in our arrogance we cut ourselves off from the source of our consciousness and bliss (as do the suitors, whom we will get to) we can’t expect to feel its unity.

No doubt there will be more that is revealed as I continue to study.  Feel free to join in.

This entry was posted in History, Literature, Philosophy, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.