Parataxis Of Homer Essay, Research Paper
Throughout the epic poem The Odyssey, Homer employs a technique called parataxis.
This technique is used frequently to identify characters in the book or explaining an event.
The poem not only covers the story of Odyssey. The poem not only covers the story of
Odysseus, but also touches upon other characters as well. By using parataxis, Homer can
briefly tell and describe characters and events. Often, characters are identified by their
relationships to others, a great deed they have accomplished, to hardships they have come
In describing Odysseus in Book V, lines 97 to 115 of which lines 105 to 110 are
paratactical, Hermes says you have with you the man who is wretched beyond all the
other men of all those who fought around the city of Priam for nine years, and in the tenth
they sacked the city and set sail for home, but on the voyage home they offended Athene,
who let loose an evil tempest and tall waves against them. Then all the rest of his
excellent companions perished, but the wind and the current carried him here and here
they drove him. The original conversation between Hermes and Kalypso had little to do
with Odysseus s journey. Hermes in lines 97 to 115 tells Kalypso that Odysseus s fate lie
not on the island, but back home in Ithaka. The parataxis interrupts the line of
conversation to inform the reason why Odysseus arrives here. It gives a glimpse the span
of Odysseus s journey and the fate of his companions before the story is told. In this
instance, Hermes identifies Odysseus with the obstacles he has overcome.
At times, a parataxis of a certain character in one part of the poem help explain
matters later on. In book XI, lines 281 to 297, Odysseus tells of Chloris, a beautiful
maiden. Of those lines, lines 287 to 290 are paratactical, Also she bore that marvel
among mortals, majestic Pero, whom all the heroes round about courted, but Neleus
would not give her to any, unless he could drive away the broad-faced horn-curved cattles
of strong Iphikles out of Phylake. It talks of Chloris s daughter, Pero and the task that
all suitors must accomplish before he can have her hand. Later on in book XV, another
character is introduced. He is the son of the man who won Pero. Without mentioning
Pero or the task of the suitors in the earlier book, much more explanation would be
needed to identify other characters. This parataxis links various character and their
Another use of parataxis can be seen in book XI, lines 488 to 503, of which lines
497 to 500 are paratactical. Here, Achilleus grieves to Odysseus in the underworld
because old age constrains his hands and feet, I am no longer there under the light of the
sun to help him, not the man I used to be once, when in the wide Troad I killed the best of
their people, fighting for the Argrives. In a sentence, Homer shows Achilleus as a
warrior who killed the best of the Trojans. Parataxis helps to identify a man without
directly stating his deeds. Such technique blends a story with various information that
Homer wants to input.
The prevalent use of parataxis by Homer is a method he used to tell a story within
a story. It is especially fitting to use with an epic poem since it is difficult to tell so many
substories. With numerous characters to identify and countless events to illustrate,
parataxis offers an economic way to present it in an epic poem.