When she <= Kalypsō> had actually thus spoken she led the method rapidly prior to him, and Odysseus adhered to in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, walk on and on it rotates they involved Kalypsō’s cave, <195> where Odysseus take it the seat the Hermes had just left. <καί ῥ᾽ὁ μὲν ἔνθα καθέζετ᾽ ἐπὶ θρόνου ἔνθεν ἀνέστη Ἑρμείας> Kalypsō set meat and also drink before him all kinds that food to eat and drink, of the kind that mortals consume. Yet she herself sat opposite divine Odysseus, and before her the handmaids set ambrosia and nectar.

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Odyssey 5.192–199, adapted from Sourcebook<1>

Each time i close read the Odyssey, brand-new questions and also thoughts arise, such together this one from the over quote: “where Odysseus took the seat that Hermes had just left.” What is the significance of this line? after ~ all, come sit in Hermes’ chair implies, come me, the Odysseus is taking Hermes’ location within the story narrative, at the very least metaphorically. Walk this sentence portend Odysseus’ immortality as a cult hero? it does not seem to be a hero/antagonist situation. In the Odyssey that is Poseidon who is the antagonist to the hero, “nevertheless all the gods had now begun to pity the <20> except Poseidon, who still persecuted godlike Odysseus without ceasing and also would not let him gain home. (Odyssey 1.19–21, adjusted from Sourcebook)

The above bolded expression at 5.195: ὁ μὲν ἔνθα καθέζετ᾽ ἐπὶ θρόνου<2>, is provided only two times in every one of the Iliad and also Odyssey: in Odyssey 5, above, and in Iliad 1.536<3>—when Zeus sits under there top top his throne/chair—it occurs simply after Zeus and also Thetis conferred about the tῑmē the Achilles. The overlapping phrase, ἐπὶ θρόνου ἔνθεν ἀνέστη, meaning basically sat under on the chair from i beg your pardon he had actually risen, wake up only four times—all in the Odyssey, all including mortals: #1, Odyssey 18.155, once suitor Amphinomus’ fate is sealed; #2, Odyssey 21.139, when Telemachus chooses no to draw the bow a fourth time; #3 Odyssey 21.167 once suitor Leiodes fails at the bow; and #4 —we will get to the later, yet it appears that all of these instances are pivotal moments and also thereby Odysseus acquisition Hermes’ seat would be one also.

Although Odysseus’ seat-taking doesn’t occur until role 5, scroll 5 is the beginning of Odysseus’ stare in actual time, therefore I discover it far-reaching as come which Olympian god is existing at the beginning of his narrative—Hermes. Is it since they are so alike and is the why there is together an implicit visibility of Hermes transparent this epic? Alkinoos, the Phaeacian ruler, in his very own polite way alludes to this.

“Odysseus,” responded Alkinoos, “not one of us who sees friend has any idea that you space a charlatan or a swindler. I know there room many world <365> going about who tell together plausible stories that it is very hard come see v them, but there is a style around your language which assures me the your good disposition. Additionally you have told the story the your very own misfortunes, and also those of the Argives, together though you to be a practiced bard…”Odyssey 11.362–369, Sourcebook

Hermes, besides being a trickster, the inventor that the lyre and the flute (Homeric hymn (4) come Hermes. 39–55, 511<4>), was likewise a sent bard, and song, of course, was the ultimate mutual medium.

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Hermes

Born in a cave, the boy of Zeus and the nymph Maia, Hermes to be a son, of plenty of shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer the dreams, <15> a watcher by night, a thief in ~ the gates, one who was soon to present forth exorbitant deeds among the deathless gods (Homeric chant (4) to Hermes, Evelyn-White translation.)

In the Homeric chant (4) to Hermes whenluck-bringing (verse 29) Hermes is embraced as one immortal god by Zeus, Apollo then bestows unto Hermes this attributes: for you have an office from Zeus, to develop deeds of barter amongst men throughout the fruitful earth”(verse .516). Zeus in turn provides confirmation the Apollo’s native and additionally commands that Hermes should be lord over every birds the omen and grim-eyed lions, and also boars through gleaming tusks, <570> and over dogs and also all flocks that the vast earth nourishes, and over every sheep; likewise that he only must be the appointed messenger to Hades… (568b–572).

A many attributes! Leonard Muellner in among his Greek Office hrs sessions pointed out Hermes together a divinity who communicates between opposite poles, a messenger between gods and mortals, one that wakes and puts come sleep, the god the thieves and also merchants, a communicator, and also the god that reciprocity, physical back and forth, and exchange. And all are attributes an extremely much in keeping with Odysseus and the Odyssey.

A Persistent visibility

After thinking about all this information, many of which come up throughout the Kosmos society close analysis sessions the Scrolls 5 and 11 (“Pylians” Odyssey examine group), a lingering question I had around the Odyssey currently seem clearer. It constantly puzzled me that ideal at the start of role 1, Zeus is concentrated on the fatality of Aegisthus. Ns figured it had actually something to perform with mēnis, and also the violation that xenia which is Zeus’ round of influence. Well, yes—and that likewise involves Hermes, because Hermes is the god the exchange (a succeeding characteristic that guest/host relationships)—which provides him the perfect god selection to warn this mortal that the plan folly. Zeus says:

…<35> Look in ~ Aegisthus; he should needs do love to Agamemnon’s mam unrighteously and also then death Agamemnon, though he knew it would certainly be the fatality of him; for I sent out Hermes, the mighty watcher, come warn him not to perform either of this things, <40> inasmuch together Orestes would certainly be certain to take his revenge as soon as he grew up and wanted to return home. Hermes told that this in all good will yet he would certainly not listen, and now he has paid for whatever in full.Odyssey 1.35–43, Sourcebook

So the infrastructure of the Odyssey is currently in place and also it has really much to execute with Hermes. Odysseus, like Orestes, is an agent of dikē, “revered king(s)…by way of directly judgments <dikai> (Hesiod, Theogony 80<5>), and also so Odysseus must make his means back come Ithaca via a long journey the lies, thievery, and also timely aid native the gods—all matters for Hermes—in order to punish the suitors who space in flagrant violation the xenia and the reciprocal exchange between those who had actually a guest/host relationship.

Hermes is recognized as the “luck-bringing <ἐριούνης> god(Homeric hymn (4) come Hermes 551), but the native ἐριούνης has actually two interpretations according come Autenrieth<6>: “luck bringer, and also “the prepared helper. Now this is every connecting for me, due to the fact that Hermes, indigenous Odyssey scroll 5 on, is subtly present to watch over, and assist Odysseus with his nostos—which is the journey the return, not exclusively the endpoint.

Here are some examples: in Odyssey scroll 7. 85–135, Odysseus, before entering the home of Alkinoos look at inside: young men holding flaring torches (Hermes, follow to Homeric singing (4) to Hermes 111, developed fire and fire-sticks) so regarding shed irradiate on the feasters in ~ (Hermes, together helper), and dogs (Hermes) do of gold and also silver ~ above either side of the threshold pillars to store watch (Hermes again). And also as shortly as he crosses the copper threshold, Odysseus watch the most significant Phaeacians making drink offerings come Hermes, which is excellent each night before “going away for the night”.

More examples: in Odyssey 10.275–305, Hermes in the disguise of a young man, helps Odysseus to respond to Circe’s potions by giving him the tree moly and advice about how to totally free his comrades. And also of course there is scroll 11, Odysseus’ pilgrimage to Hādēs, where he meets his shipmate Elpenor. Hermes is not discussed in the text, but because he is the conductor the psūkhai to Hādēs, he would escort Elpenor there, for this reason his existence is implied. The ancient Greek images and vessels attesting come this knowledge may display all three together such as the one below. Image: Lykaon Painter: Jar with Odysseus and Elpenor in the underworld. Hermes is presented standing ~ above the right.

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There are much more examples in succeeding scrolls, together in role 13: When lock <= the Phaeacian seafarers> started rowing out to sea, 79 he <= Odysseus> feeling a sweet sleep falling top top his eyelids. <80> It was a deep sleep, the sweetest, and most comparable to death.” (Odyssey 13.78–80, Sourcebook). However, I will certainly forgo any extr examples together we need to proceed on through this blog journey.

Between opposite Poles

Hermes is a divinity that transitions between opposite poles; between living and also the dead, between wake and sleep, between large distances—to and also from the god in Olympus and also the mortal world. The track of Odysseus is filled with these polar opposites, geographic, emotional, physical, and metaphysical. Odysseus walk from gift the affluent king that Ithaca to a man afloat ~ above the wine-dark sea astride only one timber:

Poseidon Earthshaker aroused a an excellent swell ~ above him,deinos and difficult, overarching, and also it to win him.And just as the strong-blowing wind shakes a heap that husks <ēia>(that are) dry: and disperses them this method and that:just for this reason the lengthy timbers dispersed.…the good swelling wave dashed-with-a-roaring-sound on dry landbellowing awfully <deinos>, and had enveloped every little thing with foam <akhnē> the the salt-sea

Odyssey 5. 366–370, 402–403 .

Even within that quote, there are opposites—in the midst of surge waves keep in mind the references to dry husks or chaff <ēia>, and akhnē can mean foam or chaff (Autenrieth): —a portent to Odysseus’ future as foretold by Teiresias in role 11.

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Odysseus likewise transitions from “revered king” to a thief and also outlaw, then as soon as he journeys come the primordial floor of Polyphemus, he i do not care a male with no identity at allmy name is Noman <ou tis>” (Odyssey 9.366). He makes the sacralized journey from Ogygia, the farthest suggest from home, the allude of no-return, that lonely sea-girt island, far away,…in the really middle of the sea (Odyssey 1.50), wherein he is in the lowest depths of despair, to Scheria the floor of the Phaeacians through their ideal society, whom Zeus describes aswho are near of kin come the god <ankhitheos>, (Odyssey 5.30–37). This is whereby nameless Odysseus will ensure his nostos by to sing his very own songs, gaining an escort back to Ithaca. He likewise reveals his name and full lineage for the an initial time in the narrative, “I to be Odysseus boy of Laertes, renowned among humankind <20> for every manner the subtlety, so the my kleos ascends to the sky.” (Odyssey 9.19–20). That is amazing that heat 20 echoes and contrasts with that the Hermes in heat 16 that his Homeric chant (4): “one who was quickly to show forth exorbitant deeds among the deathless gods”.

While descending in the direction of Hādēs, Odysseus meets a mortal polar opposite, the psūkhē of Elpenor,We had actually with united state a details youth called Elpenor, not very remarkable for sense or courage” (Odyssey 10.554). Excellent Odysseus, the seasoned warrior and completed sailor, mirrors compassion because that this unseasoned, none too bright, clumsy inept youth. He guarantees to bury Elpenor’s body and place an oar ~ above his tomb. Odysseus’ compassion may stem native the brotherhood of being shipmates, but more likely it is due to the fact that Elpenor’s tomb will certainly be the version for Odysseus own sēma, quickly to be explained to the by Teiresias.

Now Odysseus is at the an extremely boundary between the living and the dead. Odysseus cannot go into Hādēs, rather, the goes to the shortest level that the undead whereby the dead in Hādēs are simply below. “And the psūkhē came up that (my) mother, (she) having actually died”, (Odyssey 11.85). Odysseus is in ~ Erebeis the place of eternal darkness, the transitional area in between states of being: alive, dead, and those who died however were not buried properly (Elpenor). Because Odysseus is alive, he can not go any kind of farther, and also eventually he has to go back—but no before, in this ar closest come the dead, the learns the his future native Teiresias the Seer:

|119 But ~ you death the suitors in your very own house, |120 killing them either by trick or openly, by means of sharp bronze, |121 you should go on a journey then, taking with you a well-made oar, |122 until you come to a location where males do not understand what the sea is |123 and execute not also eat any kind of food that is mixed with sea salt, |124 nor do they understand anything around ships, which room painted purple on each side, |125 and well-made oars the are like wings because that ships. |126 And I will certainly tell girlfriend a sign <sēma>, a very clear one, which will not acquire lost in your thinking. |127 Whenever who on the road encounters you |128 and claims that it need to be a winnowing shovel the you have actually on your radiant shoulder, |129 at that point you have to stick into the ground the well-made oar |130 and sacrifice beautiful sacrifices to lord Poseidon: |131 a ram, a bull, and a boar that mounts sows. |132 And then walk home and also offer sacred hecatombs |133 to the immortal gods that possess the substantial expanses that the skies. |134 Sacrifice to them in suitable order, one after ~ the other. Together for yourself, fatality shall come to you from the sea, |135 a gentle death, that is just how it will certainly come, and this fatality will death you |136 as you lose your strength in a prosperous old age. And the world all about |137 will it is in blessed <olbioi>. All the points I say space unmistakably true.”

Odyssey 11.118–137, Sourcebook

So in the deepest darkest place, Odysseus learns that he will travel to the high hills carrying an oar. As soon as he very first meets up through someone that does not identify an oar together an oar, he knows he has gone as far from the sea together he perhaps can—this then is an additional boundary.

Upon getting to this boundary, Odysseus is to sacrifice first to Poseidon, then to every the other gods. However why Poseidon first? This clues is the very edge of his sea domain and also Poseidon, as was proclaimed in Odyssey 1, was antagonistic towards Odysseus. All the gods pitied him except for Poseidon.”. Does this typical Odysseus ultimately resolves your conflict? Or walk this sacrifice balance the fact that he is as far from the principle of sea the he have the right to get—delineating the ultimate expanse that Poseidon’s sea domain, and thereby developing “Starting from any solitary point,” Odyssey 1.10, another suggest of departure.

According to Teiresias, Odysseus is now to return homeward. His journeys space ongoing simply as day follows night. Always circles in ~ circles, which leads me ago to the chair!…the fourth instance of “upon the seat whence he had arisen”. It occurs at Odyssey 23:

The top servant, Eurynome, washed and also anointed great-hearted Odysseus in his own home <155> and also gave the a khiton and cloak, while Athena made him look taller and stronger 보다 before; she also made the hair thrive thick ~ above the optimal of his head, and also flow under in curls like hyacinth blossoms; she melted kharis around his head and also shoulders…163 He arised from the bathtub <asaminthos>, looking like <homoios> the immortals in size, and also sat under <165> the contrary his wife on the seat he had actually left.

Odyssey 23.154–158, 162–165, Sourcebook

So Odysseus concerns the the opposite state the fortune indigenous whence he satellite in Hermes’ chair across from Kalypsō in role 5. The now, looking favor a god, sits on his own throne/chair, throughout from his mam Penelope. He has his kingdom, his wife and his son back. For this reason this circle is completed, but soon there will certainly be many much more and he will depart again per Teiresias’ prophecy.

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I carry out not really understand at which allude Odysseus’ mortal body dies, yet I guess that is the true significance of the Odyssey. Teiresias says Odysseus is come return home <οἴκαδε, homeward, home> and his death, in ~ old age, will certainly come from the sea. But according to Gregory Nagy in his Classical Inquires “A Sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 11”<7>, Odysseus’ tomb, real estate his body, is at this simultaneous of opposites. It is a allude where the sea and the negation of the sea coincide—the allude where the oar, metamorphosed right into the winnowing shovel, is planted and where Odysseus honors Poseidon.

But the end of Odysseus’ mortality echoes his beginning. When Odysseus is born, the is his maternal grandfather, Autolykos, the son of Hermes, that names Odysseus (Odyssey 19.405). The surname Odysseus relates to the Greek verb odussomai, which deserve to mean “to be angry at,” or “to be grieved.” The include reciprocity that this verb provides Odysseus,the giver and receiver the pain. It is this reciprocity that is a significant attribute of Hermes, the god the transitions, communication, to and also from, and also exchange. Odysseus’ kleos will be immortal, but at the finish of his mortal life, it will certainly be his magnificent Doppelgänger, Hermes, who will be there to escort him to Hādēs.

I common some instances of areas where Hermes shows up or is described in the Odyssey. Have actually you uncovered others? join the conversation in the forum, here.

Notes

<1> Sourcebook: The ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours Sourcebook of initial Greek Texts analyzed into English, Gregory Nagy, general Editor. 2018.12.12. Available online at the facility for Hellenic Studies.English text: Sourcebook Homeric Odyssey Translated by Samuel Butler. Amendment by Soo-Young Kim, Kelly McCray, Gregory Nagy, and Timothy Power

<2> Odyssey Greek text: Homer. The Odyssey v an English translate in by A.T. Murray, PH.D. In 2 volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard university Press; London, william Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.Online at Perseus

<3> Iliad Greek message Homer. Homeri Opera in 5 volumes. Oxford, Oxford college Press. 1920. Digital at Perseus.English text:Sourcebook Homeric Iliad Translated by Samuel Butler. Revised by Soo-Young Kim, Kelly McCray, Gregory Nagy, and Timothy Power

<4> Homeric singing (4) to HermesThe Homeric Hymns and Homerica v an English translate in by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard college Press; London, william Heinemann Ltd. 1914.Greek text online in ~ Perseus.English text online at Peresus.

<5> Sourcebook Hesiodic Theogony, translated through Gregory Nagy.

<6> Autenrieth: Georg Autenrieth. A Homeric thesaurus for Schools and Colleges. New York. Harper and also Brothers. 1891. Digital at Perseus.

<7> Classical Inquiries, Online in ~ ubraintv-jp.com:https://classical-inquiries.ubraintv-jp.com.harvard.edu/a-sampling-of-comments-on-odyssey-rhapsody-11/

Image credits

Lykaon Painter: jar (pelike) v Odysseus and also Elpenor in the Underworld. C 440 BCE.Museum of good Arts, Boston. Windy domain.

Head the Odysseus, from a marble group, probably first century CE. Photograph by Jastrow, from the Iliade exhibition in ~ the Colosseum, September 2006–February 2007. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Resting Hermes, indigenous the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum. Photo through Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011),Creative Commons CC by 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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Jacqui Rossi Donlon is a member that the Kosmos Society, in which she has actually been affiliated in ar development, and is now an active member that the “Pylians” Odyssey translation/discussion group. A retired design director, she loves reading and thinking around early Greek poetry.