Homer’s Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem that chronicles the 10 years of absurd and fantastical adventures that befall war hero Odysseus, is an extremely famous historical work that most people are at least somewhat familiar with. However, due to the density of the text, not many (myself included) consider it for casual reading. So when I ultimately picked up a copy of The Odyssey for the first time, there were a few elements that came as a surprise. The most notable of these was the extremely prominent dissonance between the cultural values of the time The Odyssey was written and those of modern society. Of course, this was not entirely unexpected, as the inequalities of ancient Greek society are rather well known. Still, the dramatic clash was a bit of a shock for me, particularly the attitude towards vengeance and justice, which in this poem are presented as synonymous.
Putting aside the cultural dissonance, there were quite a few things about the poem that I genuinely enjoyed. The writing style, for one, I found very appealing, though this is more likely a factor of the translation rather than the text itself. The characterization of Odysseus I also appreciated. Rather than a flawless hero, the poem’s emphasis on his cunning (demonstrated throughout), his penchant for weaving complex lies, and his apparent lack of remorse, combined with genuinely positive attributes such as unwavering determination and love for his family, make him a much deeper character. Odysseus himself is the main standout of The Odyssey.
While there was a lot of good in The Odyssey, there was one main aspect of the poem that slightly soured my experience. Again, I probably should’ve expected this, but I was quite disappointed by just how little time was devoted to Odysseus’ iconic homeward voyage. Following along with his journey throughout the various monster-inhabited islands of the Mediterranean Sea was easily the most interesting part of the story, and I do wish we were treated to a more detailed account.