The Odyssey eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 428 pages of information about The Odyssey.
mere oddities.  The double epithets, the recurring epithets of Homer, if rendered into verse, delay and puzzle the reader, as the Greek does not delay or puzzle him.  In prose he may endure them, or even care to study them as the survivals of a stage of taste, which is to be found in its prime in the sagas.  These double and recurring epithets of Homer are a softer form of the quaint Northern periphrases, which make the sea the ‘swan’s bath,’ gold, the ‘dragon’s hoard,’ men, the ‘ring-givers,’ and so on.  We do not know whether it is necessary to defend our choice of a somewhat antiquated prose.  Homer has no ideas which cannot be expressed in words that are ’old and plain,’ and to words that are old and plain, and, as a rule, to such terms as, being used by the Translators of the Bible, are still not unfamiliar, we have tried to restrict ourselves.  It may be objected, that the employment of language which does not come spontaneously to the lips, is an affectation out of place in a version of the Odyssey.  To this we may answer that the Greek Epic dialect, like the English of our Bible, was a thing of slow growth and composite nature, that it was never a spoken language, nor, except for certain poetical purposes, a written language.  Thus the Biblical English seems as nearly analogous to the Epic Greek, as anything that our tongue has to offer.

The few foot-notes in this book are chiefly intended to make clear some passages where there is a choice of reading.  The notes at the end, which we would like to have written in the form of essays, and in company with more complete philological and archaeological studies, are chiefly meant to elucidate the life of Homer’s men.  We have received much help from many friends, and especially from Mr. R. W. Raper, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and Mr. Gerald Balfour, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who has aided us with many suggestions while the book was passing through the press.

In the interpretation of B. i.411, ii.191, v.90, and 471, we have departed from the received view, and followed Mr. Raper, who, however, has not been able to read through the proof-sheets further than Book xii.

We have adopted La Roche’s text (Homeri Odyssea, J. La Roche, Leipzig, 1867), except in a few cases where we mention our reading in a foot-note.

The Arguments prefixed to the Books are taken, with very slight alterations, from Hobbes’ Translation of the Odyssey.

It is hoped that the Introduction added to the second edition may illustrate the growth of those national legends on which Homer worked, and may elucidate the plot of the Odyssey.


Wet owe our thanks to the Rev. E. Warre, of Eton College, for certain corrections on nautical points.  In particular, he has convinced us that the raft of Odysseus in B. v. is a raft strictly so called, and that it is not, under the poet’s description, elaborated into a ship, as has been commonly supposed.  The translation of the passage (B. v.246-261) is accordingly altered.

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The Odyssey from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.