The Odyssey 6 Essay, Research Paper
The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’s journey from Troy to Ithaka. During his journey Odysseus is impeded by Poseidon and assisted by Athena. The use of olive wood as a metaphor lies in the differences between Athena and her uncle Poseidon in Odysseus’s journey back to Ithaka.
Before the first time olive wood is used in the Odyssey Homer shows what side the gods are on, in book one Homer says, “all the gods had pitied Lord Odysseus, /all but Poseidon, raging cold and rough/ against the brave king till he came ashore/ at last on his own land.”(210) and in book five Homer says that “Zeus, / went to his place among the gods assembled / hearing Athena tell Odysseus’ woe. / For she, being vexed that he was still sojourning / in the sea chambers of Kalypos, “(262). Now that Homer has shown the differences between Poseidon and Athena when it is the matter of Odysseus he now shows what Zeus has intended for Odysseus. Zeus tells his son Hermes,
” Make it known to the softly-braided nymph / that we, whose will is not subject to error, / order Odysseus home; let him depart. / But let him have no company, gods or men, / only a raft that he must lash together, “(263).
Homer shows that Zeus is neutral to Odysseus return, unlike Athena and Poseidon. Homers’ first mention of Olive wood is in book five when Kalypso is helping Odysseus prepare for his departure from Kalypso’s island. Homer says ” A brazen axehead first she had to give him, / two-bladed, and agreeable to the palm / with a smooth-fitting haft of olive wood;”(268). The olive wood handle axe is the tool used to assist Odysseus in building the raft which allows him to leave Kalypso’s island, just as Athena is the tool used in persuading Zeus to allow Odysseus to leave the island.
when the city of Athens was founded they needed a patron god. Each of the gods brought gifts. The final choice was between Poseidon and Athena. Poseidon brought the horse as a gift and Athena brought the olive tree. The people chose Athena because her gift was more useful. The horse may have been seen as mostly an implement of war. Back in those days they used the oil for food, to keep the skin and hair soft, probably lots of other stuff. Athena is Odysseus patron. Odysseus is at odds with Poseidon. I see Poseidon as the god of instinct, and Athena as the goddess of wisdom.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. In The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces Volume 1, Seventh Edition. Ed. Sarah Lawall and Mark Maynard et al, New York: Norton, 1999, 209-514.