Language and style in Homer’s The Odyssey
- Homer writes The Odyssey in literary language that was conventional to the area in which he lived, which is mostly Old Ionic with some elements borrowed from the neighboring Aeolic dialect. The dialect is now called Homeric Greek.
- There is a catalogue of names in The Odyssey – bloodlines (esp. patriarchal) are important. Examples:
“It was Eurymachus son of Polybus who rose to deal with the old man.” – Homer page 42
“Athena, daughter of Zeus, had spoken….” – Homer page 45
- Similes are lengthy, taken from nature or animal life or everyday life, the common experience of listeners. The Odyssey is jam-packed with them. Find some. An example that I really love:
Pieces of skin stripped from his sturdy hands were left sticking to the crag, thick as the pebbles that stick to the suckers of a squid when is is torn from his hole. – Homer page 99
- Stock epithets are used and repeated numerous times. These were to help fill out the poetic meter of a verse, help the performer remember the poem, and give the listeners a better visual image in their minds as they were listening. Examples: loud-sounding sea, wine-dark sea, rosy-fingered dawn, swift-footed Achilles
Homer, The Odyssey, translated by E.V. Rieu, Penguin Classics, New York, 1985.