The Odyssey & The Oikos
Updated: Apr 5
We are back to Homer, friends. More than the Iliad, this work seems to appeal to students by virtue of its sense of adventure (literally, things "coming at you") and danger, its characterization of life as a journey or quest (where we get the meaning of the word "odyssey"), and for its deep vision of the home, family, and fatherhood.
This last point about the home and family is one of the most significant lessons from the classical world. The "oikos" matters, as Roger Scruton notes:
Home is not just any place. It is the place that contains the ones you love and need; it is the place that you share, the place that you defend, the place for which you might still be commanded to fight and die. Oikophilia is the source of many of our most generous and self-sacrificing gestures. It helps soldiers in battle to give their lives for the benefit of their ‘homeland’; it animates the place where children are raised, and in which parents make a gift of what they have been given; and it enables neighbours to overlook differences of religion and culture for the sake of their common home. ... Things seen in the light of oikophilia are not to be exploited, surrendered or exchanged. (How to Think Seriously, 239, 256)
One of the values that governs homes in the ancient world is "xenia." This is the kind of love that shows proper treatment of guests and the "hospitality" that is due to them. Consider how the violation of hospitality shows up in the opening lines of The Odyssey (Fagles' Translation):
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home. But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove – the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all, the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return. . . .
Agenda for the WEEK:
Prayer & Catechism
Read & discuss Longfellow's "Hymn to Night"
Begin Homer's Odyssey
Read up to line 200
Read Herodotus (pp. 6-10)
Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.
Finish the play
Read your Dig Deep!
Bring your Odyssey books on Monday (4/4)!
Here Odysseus is escaping from the island of the Cyclopes. But as we'll see this isn't merely a close call with a monster.