. Finley Essay, Research Paper
The World of Odysseus by Moses I. Finley analyzes the world of Ancient Greece and the important figures associated with that time period. The major events take place in the Mediterranean Basin centered upon Greece, her surrounding islands, and Asia Minor. This time period of mythological hysteria and heroic role models is explained and assessed in great detail by the author. As a well-known historian, the author provides the reader with a strong sense of reliance, as the author persistently deals out information and expresses his historically-backed opinion throughout the course of the book. The author carefully analyzes the well-known stories of Ancient Greece, primarily The Odyssey and Iliad, which are accepted as accurate sources of Ancient Greek history. As he divides the book into five chapters, the author organizes his data while carefully providing the reader with historical relevant background data.
In one of the chapters known as “Homer and the Greeks,” the author provides the reader with basic information of Ancient Greece as well as information on The Odyssey and Iliad, the two books on which this book is based upon. In another chapter, referred to as “Wealth and Labor,” the author successfully supplies the reader with a larger knowledge base for what the Ancient Greek period was like. Economic and social traits of the period are discussed, with an emphasis of the role of the average Greek man. Throughout the rest of the book, the author carefully continues to assess the roles of Greek man and his relations and beliefs as told through The Odyssey and Iliad.
The most interesting aspect of The World of Odysseus, is the smoothly flowing relationship between the mythological stories and the historical facts. The author rarely explains the great stories of the gods and heroes of Ancient Greece without identifying it’s historical impact, relating it to actual events, or explaining how it describes the values and morals of the men living in Greece in that time period. For example, after describing the relationship between Penelope and Odysseus, the author proceeds to say “Neither in the relationship between Odysseus and Penelope nor in any other relationship between man and mate in the Homeric poems was there the depth and intensity, the quality of feeling. . . .” It was pleasing to read the author’s unusual approach for writing this book by first retelling mythical stories from ancient poems and then informing the reader of the poems’ purpose. Though the author connected his thoughts and stories ingeniously, the book was quite a tedious task. Some of the stories mentioned were simply not interesting or too confusing to fully understand. The author’s amazing transition skills between stories and actual facts were outweighed by the book’s slow moving pace and sometimes uninteresting stories.
Many significant historical results came from the period in time that the author wrote about. The time period mentioned in the book was home to some famous events, including the Trojan War. However, more importantly, this time era gave birth to an early civilized society which would create a path in literature, social standards and mythology for the rest of the world to follow.
The development and advancement in literature is probably the greatest historical result occurring within the time period of Ancient Greece. This time period, with the development of written language, allowed authors and poets who emerged from nothingness to be remembered in perpetuity. This new era of written literature provided an easy access for the Greek world to become involved with the rest of the world through academics, economic and technological advancement, as well as written arts. The Iliad and Odyssey were just two poems composed in this era that would have such an impact on the future world that they would remain household names even in the twentieth century. These epic poems have been the bases for many other works of art, including movies, television shows, and books just to name a few.
The class systems in Ancient Greece were very similar to those repeated throughout different societies, including France and the United States. In Greece, there was a basic society of two classes; the wealthy noblemen and the peasants. This pattern of a two-classed society divided by one large margin continued to work its way across the world and is still existent today in some societies. In fact, it can even be argued that a society like the United States of America’s can be considered a two-class society, with the average worker and government worker separated by a large margin.
Included in this book were some extremely significant historical aspects, which helped shaped the ancient world of Greece. Though the book was basically filled with interesting mythological stories, some other significant historical aspects can be noted.
A major contribution to the development of written language and literature took place in the Ancient Grecian time period. With the Phoenician alphabet already in existence, the Greeks actually borrowed the alphabet and incorporated most of it into their own written language. This enabled the Greeks to record history and literature, which is a necessity for a civilized, intellectual society. Not only were the Greeks able to record history, but they were able to keep philosophical and scientific written works down to be permanently remembered. As a result of this newly formed written language, many poets and authors came to be, including Homer whom The World of Odysseus is based upon.
Another historical aspect of the story which is significant is the author’s informing of the religious views of the Ancient Greeks, which include their mythological beliefs. An overpowering aspect of the Ancient Greeks was their belief in Gods and other supernatural beings. Similar to early man, the Greeks felt that they needed an easy way to explain why things occurred, mythology provided that explanation. The Gods were considered superior to the Greeks, but the mortals accepted that in return for a good life. During the time era of the Ancient Greeks, men and gods were on two extremely different levels. As the author says, “Kings were honoured like gods, but never worshiped.” Man knew his place in the realm of things and was respectful of it. Religion quickly advanced from a belief in gods to an actual practice, though it is unknown who was actually responsible for this uprising. Like all other previous religions, the Greek religion was created in a sudden sweep.
The purpose of the ancient stories of Odysseus, Poseidon, Penelope, and others is an important historical aspect in the book. These stories, which have been incorporated into existent societies, were written not only as a way of preservation, but as a way to educated outsiders of the values of man living in the indicated time period. The author has a similar purpose in his reason for writing the book; his purpose is to educate.
The author of this book definitely attempts to justify his historical deductions with what
appears to be sound and genuine factual research. After paraphrasing an important aspect of Greek mythology, the author almost always describes the importance of the passage. The author’s writing is considerably well-developed in context as well as layout, allowing the reader a sense of trust in the author’s authority in knowledge. Whenever the author produces his own opinion on a subject, he almost always provides a reason for his opinion by citing a passage from another book or poem or by citing a quote of another author about the subject.
Despite the author’s concern with supporting his statements with accurate sources and quotes, he basically used secondary sources. Since the book is based upon the world of Ancient Greece, The Odyssey and Iliad were obvious tools in the author’s researching process, as they were the two of the most descriptive and informative findings from Ancient Greece. These epic poems, written by Homer, depict the lives of mythological beings as well as normal men. Though historians do no even know who exactly Homer was or if “he” was more than one person, historians do know that Homer could not have been an eyewitness to all of the events he described, assuming they actually occurred.
Besides quoting the Homeric The Odyssey and Iliad, the author of the book cites many other historians and their works. Since the author is quoting people who are just interpreting previous events in history and were not actually present during the time of those events, the author is again citing secondary sources. Though the author of a historical research book, such as The World of Odysseus, should essentially use primary resources for information, it is virtually impossible to use primary sources when writing a book about a period in time which was so long ago.
The author of The World Of Odysseus creates a picturesque perspective of how the Greeks living in a time of less scientific proof and more mythological reasoning by assessing two historic poems and other historians’ views. Though sometimes dragging on, this book should be recommended for anyone who wishes to learn about the Ancient Greeks through quality writing.