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Classical Greek Tutoring
Newsletter, 3rd May 2020

Welcome to the latest newsletter from Classical Greek Tutoring and I hope this finds you well.    

In this fortnightly newsletter, I bring you the latest news in the classics world, as well as hints and tips for learning Greek.  Best wishes, Helen

This newsletter's recommended podcast is "Trojan War: The Podcast".  Jeff Wright's day job is telling stories from the Trojan War live on stage. Since time constraints would never allow him to tell the entire story, he decided to produce a podcast series. And Trojan War: The Podcast was born!  Drop me a line with your own podcast suggestions!

Documentaries on Ancient Greece

Catch up on some YouTube documentaries about Ancient Greece by clicking the link here. There are ten documentaries to choose from including Secrets of the Parthenon, The Spartans, Plato's Best and Worse Ideas, and a tour of the Acropolis Museum.  

Classics on the screen

Hercules, Ovid and Circe

At the time of writing, there have been rumours that a live action version of Disney's Hercules is in the pipeline. 

Not only that, but HBO are reported to have ordered an eight episode series, Circe, based on Madeline Miller's novel.  

And just as I thought I couldn't take any more excitement, I learn that there's a movie in production about Ovid! See the trailer here

Ancient Greek Literature


Odysseus' Ithaca - The Case of the Thirteen Tripods

We like to feel the Odyssey is based on historical truth, or I do, at least.  Heinrich Schliemann believed that he had located Troy, and the ancient cities of Mycenae and Pylos have been excavated. There is no real evidence to prove that these archaeological remains were those which once housed Agamemnon or Nestor. Concerning Troy, in a future newsletter I will discuss the Hittite texts which mention 'sea peoples' and a city named Wilusa.

But what have archaeologists discovered on the Ionian island of Ithaka? 

First, let's look again at the Odyssey.

During Odysseus' time as a guest of King Alkinoos, Athene has stirred up the leaders on Phaeacia to join the king in the palace in order to find out about the mysterious visitor.  In Odyssey 9, Alkinoos suggests that he and the Phaeacian leaders provide gifts to Odysseus. He says, "... let us give him a gift of friendship, as is becoming. For here are twelve who are marked out as kings in our country with power, and they act as leaders, and I myself am the thirteenth." (Od. 9.389-91). 

Remember that. There are 13 kings. 

Later, after Odysseus has told the story of his wanderings, preparations are made to convey him home from Phaeacia to Ithaka. Mention is made again about the gifts, which are a most important element of xenia. Alkinoos says, "Come, let us man by man each one of us give a great tripod and a cauldron" (Od. 13.13-14). 

So, we have gifts of tripods from each of the 13 kings. When Odysseus lands on Ithaka, Athene helps him hide his gifts in a cave (Od. 13.363-70). Fast forward to the early 1930s and Sylvia Benton discovers 12 tripods hidden in a cave (pictured left). It is believed that a 13th tripod had been discovered some 60 years earlier and melted down. Odysseus, if he existed, might have lived sometime during the 12th or 13th centuries BC. The tripods, however, are not contemporary with this historical Odysseus and have been dated by style to 800-600BC, several hundred years later.

So how did the tripods get there and why? Perhaps someone heard Homer’s poem and set up the tripods in a cave to attract visitors or pilgrims. 

A sherd found in the cave was inscribed ‘ΕΥΧΗΝ ΟΔΥΣΣΕΙ' (a prayer to Odysseus), pictured right. This indeed proves that the island was associated with Odysseus by at least 8th century BC and locals may have thought of Odysseus as a cult-hero.  

The Greeks of the 8th century BC, when the Homeric epics were written down, believed in the reality of their heroes’ tombs. Some of those early audiences of Homer even maintained they were descended from those heroes. Or maybe the cult of Odysseus was in existence before Homer. It has been suggested that Homer or his informant visited the island in the 8th century, saw the tripods and put them into the poem. Remember, in the poem Odysseus does not return to claim his treasure.

If you have any questions about classical Greek language or literature, please drop me a line and I'll do my best to help.

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Classical Greek Tutoring

39 Old Mill Grove, Belfast
United Kingdom

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