BOOK 2 – THE ASSEMBLY
Next day, Telemachus calls the men of Ithaca to an assembly, the first such
meeting since Odysseus left for Troy. He warns the suitors that they are wasting his father’s wealth and that Odysseus will return and punish them severely.
The suitors respond by saying that it is Penelope’s fault, as she will not
choose a husband thereby preventing them from selecting other wives.
Just as the suitors prepare to mock Telemachus, two eagles of Zeus appear in
the sky, a clear sign that he has the favor of the gods.
He tells the company of his proposal to take ship and seek news of Odysseus. On his return he will either bring back his father or conduct a funeral ceremony.
At the seashore, Telemachus meets with Mentor (Athena), and they plan the
journey to Pylos.
The suitors try to block Telemachus’ departure, but he leaves in the dead of
night and obtains help from his father’s faithful servants in obtaining supplies for the journey.
Whilst Telemachus is doing this, Athena now disguised as Telemachus, travels
through the town obtaining a crew for the ship.
The first thing the reader has to remember is that this story is 2,500 years
old, it has suffered many translations, and we are not seeing it in its original form.
Like The Iliad, The Odyssey was designed to be heard in public. It was
part song, part play, and part poem. That is why it is so dramatic. The dialogue is almost entirely constructed out of speeches, which would have been accompanied by the actions of the actors.
The Odyssey is in contrast to The Iliad.
It is less structured and has a much softer style. The Iliad revolves around the battlefield outside Troy and on the ships of the Greeks, whereas The Odyssey moves over several locations starting in the land of Ithaca, and then taking us to the mythical islands and coasts of Odysseus’ adventure, including the underworld itself.
In addition to this, there are two further planes – the mortals’ world, and
Mount Olympus home of the gods. These two plains are linked by the fact that the gods visit the mortals, usually in disguise.
The main god who does this is Athena, and although Poseidon rarely visits the mortals, he has many emissaries to act on his behalf. These transitions for the gods can be quite surprising, whether they are from place to place, or from god to human, and sometimes the transfer takes place in mid-verse, which can often be disconcerting for the reader.
Book 1 opens thus:
“Goddess of Song, teach me the story of a hero.
This was the man of wide-ranging spirit who had sacked the sacred town of
Troy and who wandered afterwards long and far.
Many were those whose cities he viewed and whose minds he came to know, many the troubles that vexed his heart as he sailed the seas, laboring to save himself and to bring his comrades home.”
This tells the listener what is in store for Odysseus and what his history
has been. The above passage represents the translation from Greek, and the conversion into prose.