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What are the allusions in the Odyssey?

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In contrast to the Iliad, the second work of Homer, the Odyssey, contains many allusions. They are mostly related to ancient methodology. Allusions help evaluate characters’ trials and actions. In particular, allusions include the story of the bow, Odysseus’s mother and other characters in the Underworld, the Quest for the Golden Fleece, and “sovereign Death and pale Persephone.”

Detailed answer:

The first allusion concerns the story of the bow. It is a symbol of Odysseus’s distinct heroic identity and moral complexity. It connects him with the adverse and positive traits of Herakles. Also, it serves as the instrument demonstrating Odysseus’ vested political and domestic authority. Odysseus confirms his worthiness in the contest of stringing the bow. He wins a convincing victory on the rivals and suitors for Penelope.

Odysseus also refers to the Trojan War when he descends into the Underworld and meets his mother. Here, Odysseus tells her about “endless hardship from that day [he] first set sail with King Agamemnon bound for Troy.” Therefore, he remembers one of the central initiators of the great and challenging war. Indeed, The Trojan War was a grueling test for many heroes, including Odysseus, amply narrated in The Iliad.

Besides, in the Underworld, Odysseus encounters “the mother of Oedipus, beautiful Epicaste.” She married her son, murdering his father. This episode is associated with the tragedy of Sophocles Oedipus Rex. Epicaste, the wife of Thebes’s king, obtains a prophecy. She claims that her son will kill his father and marry her when becoming an adult. Eventually, when Oedipus grows up, he kills his father accidentally during a fight in the market square. After this, without realizing it, he marries his mother. In the Underworld, Odysseus also sees Alcmena, Amphitryon’s wife. She “brought forth Heracles.” He also sees Megara, the wife of “the stalwart Heracles.”

Further, in Book 10, Hermes is assigned the epithet “Slayer of Argus.” It implies a story relating to how Hermes slay a multi-eyed monster named Argus. He was responsible for safeguarding a woman called Io. In Book 11, Homer references “sovereign Death and pale Persephone.” It suggests Hades, a demanding god of the Underworld, and Persephone, goddess of fertility and mistress of the Underworld. This allusion also hints at the urgency of the situation.

It is worth noting that Book 11 has many allusions. Here, Odysseus meets the souls of many famous dead personages of Greek mythology. For instance, Odysseus beholds, “Eriphyle, who sold her own husband’s life for gold.” This episode points to the story about Amphiaraus. Polyneices seduced his wife Eriphyle with a heavenly crafted necklace. He persuaded her husband to participate in a war that he saw would bring him only death.

The same book contains an allusion to King Eurystheus. The king sent Heracles on his glorious labors. In particular, Odysseus sees Heracles. The hero says that he “served a man far inferior to me, and he set me difficult tasks.” Lastly, in Book 12, there is an allusion to the Golden Fleece’s quest. This moment is described with the following words: “Only one ocean-going vessel has passed between them, the celebrated Argo fleeing from Aeetes.”

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