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The Odyssey Book 12 Quotes

How we cite the quotes:


Quote 1

(Odysseus:) 'My men were thrown in the water, and bobbing like sea crows they were washed away on the running waves all around the black ship, and the god took away their homecoming.' (12.417-419)

Okay, but as long as we're pointing fingers: was it "the god" who took away their homecoming—or was it they themselves, when the men chose to eat Helios's cattle after they'd been specifically warned against it? Or was it Poseidon, who trapped them on the island for a month, until all their food ran out? Or was it Odysseus, who got Poseidon mad at them by telling Polyphemos his name? You get the point.


Quote 2

(Odysseus:) 'Then I went away along the island in order to pray to the gods, if any of them might show me some course to sail on, but when, crossing the isle, I had left my companions behind, I washed my hands, where there was a place sheltered from the wind, and prayed to all the gods whose hold is Olympos; but what they did was to shed a sweet sleep on my eyelids […].' (12.333-338)

Check out how Odysseus washes his hands first. This is a cool little detail about everyday religion in Ancient Greece—and it probably says something about just how dirty they were.


Quote 3

(Helios, in Odysseus's tale:) '"Father Zeus, and you other everlasting and blessed gods, punish the companions of Odysseus, son of Laertes; for they outrageously killed my cattle, in whom I always delighted, on my way up into the starry heaven, or when I turned back again from heaven toward earth. Unless these are made to give me just recompense for my cattle, I will go down to Hades' and give my light to dead men."' (12.377-383)

Okay, notice Helios's words "just recompense." We're used to a system of justice where "recompense" means either a fine or a sometime behind bars. But Helios is working from a more eye-for-an-eye sense of justice: they killed my cattle, and now I want them dead.

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