The Vaphio cups should prove interesting to the student researcher because they predate the actual stories of
and its companion epic,
They depict the capture of wild bulls, are believed to be of Minoan craftsmanship, and were unearthed in Vaphio in southern Greece. They remind the reader not only of the elaborate tableware used by Menelaus and Alcinous but also of the typical guest gift. (2)
The Warrior Vase has illustrated upon it a line of soldiers outfitted for battle. They are wearing greaves, probably of linen, carrying spears and shields, and are helmeted in what appear to be boar’s tooth helmets. Because the vase is dated c. 1200 B.C., it is Quite contemporary with the events in the Homeric epics. The shape of the shield as seen on this vase is one of several believed to have been used at this time.(3) Another shape, that of a figure eight, is seen in the motif on the walls of the staircase in the living quarters of the palace at Knossos and shows the dominance of Mycenaean culture in Crete. Still another, the ‘Dipylon’ type, is pictured on a Late Geometric vase. (4)
The archaeological finds of Heinrich Schliemann eclipse any other attempt at suggesting the reality behind the myths. There is such a wealth of information about his major excavations at Troy and Mycenae that two students are needed to summarize these. The lifelong fascination, begun, says Schliemann, when he saw in his German text the picture of Aeneas carrying Anchises from the burning city of Troy, is just as compelling for most students today. (5)
Because Odysseus’ adventures are so intertwined with the sea, the ‘black-bowed ships’ (cf. Palmer translation) have a real, practical function in the story. Students will be interested to learn that they are black because they were probably covered with pitch to keep them watertight and wormproof. Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C., mentions natural pools of pitch found on the island of Zacynthos (Zante) just twenty miles south of Ithaca. (6)
Research on the Trojan War gives completeness to the study of Homer. Although the teacher will have given some brief instruction on this topic just before the actual study of The
students will get an opportunity to discover for themselves the many incidents which led, eventually, to Odysseus’ prolonged journey home.
will be 0% interest to all the students who want to know where the gods and goddesses came from. Here( the teacher may have to remind the student researcher of the civility, the order, that rested with and culminated in Zeus. Here, too, the students will note the apportionment of power and duties to other divinities like the Fates and the Muses.
The reading of Tennyson’s poem,
points out the high interest throughout literature of the epic and its hero. Tennyson’s idealized treatment of Odysseus and his quest for adventure after his return home is highly individualized and quite different from Homer’s concept. The older Odysseus, for Tennyson, is not content to rule forever at home but must “. . . seek a newer world” while Telemachus will inherit and maintain the stability of the kingdom. It is ironic that the good life for the younger man is the stability of rule while the older Odysseus seeks “newer worlds.” Understanding the age in which Tennyson wrote, the majesty of England, the poet laureateship, one might assume political overtones for a country “. . . strong in will, to strive, to seek,to find, and not to yield.”