The Bow and the Lyre: A Platonic Reading of the Odyssey
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In this exciting interpretation of the Odyssey, the late renowned scholar Seth Benardete suggests that Homer may have been the first to philosophize in a Platonic sense. He argues that the Odyssey concerns precisely the relation between philosophy and poetry and, more broadly, the rational and the irrational in human beings. In light of this possibility, Bernardete works back and forth from Homer to Plato to examine the relation between wisdom and justice and tries to recover an original understanding of philosophy that Plato, too, recovered by reflecting on the wisdom of the poet. At stake in his argument is no less than the history of philosophy and the ancient understanding of poetry. The Bow and the Lyre is a book that every classicist and historian of philosophy should have.
Aegyptius and his sons. One of them, Antiphus, went with Odysseus and was the last whom Polyphemus ate; another, Eurynomus, associates with the suitors, and two were occupied in their father’s fields (2.17– 24). Aegyptius, perhaps because he still mourns for one son, cannot control another; and if after so long a time he cannot but weep publicly in memory of Antiphus, who was, according to Odysseus, among the best but not among the very best (9.195, 334–35), what will happen when he has to mourn
them’’ (8.550–54). No one else in either the Odyssey or the Iliad asks about a Among the Phaeacians 61 stranger’s name so elaborately. The question, ‘‘Who are you?’’ is usually coupled with a question about parentage (1.170; 14.187; 19.162; 24.298); but Alcinous does not want to know about Odysseus’s parents. It is simply the universal practice of particularizing the child that he stresses. For us, his remark reverberates, for we learn that, on the one hand, his grandfather and not his
everyone. His policy leads him to soften the dire consequences for his men if they eat the cattle of the Sun, so that it is left to Eurylochus to formulate as a possibility what Odysseus was told was inevitable (11.112–13; 12.275–321, 348–49). A certain resignation creeps over Odysseus. He picks up a line of Nestor: ‘‘Then I knew that a god (daimo¯n) was devising evils’’ (12.295; 3.166). The first alteration Odysseus makes in Circe’s advice is to present as a command what she gave as a choice to
into the present: the descent of the suitors into Hades is being prepared.195 It is a vision without the visible. It turns hearing into sight—‘‘lamentation has flared forth’’—and sun and night into metaphors. When the suitors laugh good-humoredly at Theoclymenus, and Eurymachus suggests he needs an escort, ‘‘since he likens everything here to night,’’ Theoclymenus says he has his eyes and wits about him. His mind (noos) is sound: ‘‘I sense (noeo¯) an evil is approaching you, which no one of the
his part that he was punishing them. The execution of the slaves also belongs to necessity; that Odysseus hands it over to Telemachus and his slaves shows that he is well aware of this. It satisfies their sense of justice. The issue thus becomes once more how Odysseus understands his escape from the Cyclops’s cave. If he now thinks of the blinding of Polyphemus as merely the indispensable means of escape, then his self-address on this occasion would involve the admission that whatever insults he