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Homer: The Worlds of the Iliad and Odyssey

2. The World of the Odyssey

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About this Lecture


In this module, we turn to the Odyssey, an epic which also seems to question how best to resolve disputes. In this case, however, the choice appears to be between impulsive violence (as with the Ciconians, where battle is immediately joined) and a more considered approach (which may nevertheless end in violence). The Odyssey, it is argued, presents a world where kleos ('glory') is ultimately won not with the impulsive, ill-tempered violence of the Iliad, but through intelligence and cunning.


In a special set of two lectures, Dr Elton Barker (Open University) explores the worlds of the Homeric epics, suggesting in particular that both the Iliad and the Odyssey question the use of violence as a means of conflict-resolution. In the first module, we focus on the Iliad and Achilles' decision to summon an assembly in response to the dispute with Chryses. While this assembly eventually descends into chaos, it sets an important precedent (it is argued) that leads to the more orderly assemblies in Books 2 and 9, and ultimately to the law court scene depicted on Achilles' shield in Book 18. In the second module, we turn to the Odyssey. Here, we find Odysseus wavering between Iliad-style, impulsive violence, and a more considered approach. As we see during an in-depth study of Book 9, it is the latter approach that wins more kleos ('glory') for the hero, and not the knee-jerk violence of the Iliad.


Dr Elton Barker is Reader in Classical Studies, having joined The Open University as a Lecturer in July 2009. Before then, he had been a Tutor and Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford (2004-9), and also lectured at Bristol, Nottingham and Reading.

He came to Classical Studies late - my "A" levels were in English, Geography and Mathematics. He studied Classical Civilisation at the University of Leeds, and went on to do a Masters in Greek Civilisation there, and then, in order to learn the languages, a further Masters in Greek and Latin at Ohio State University in the USA. For his PhD, he studied in Cambridge (Pembroke College), where he investigated representations of verbal contest - or agon - in different ancient Greek genres, under the supervision of Simon Goldhill and Paul Cartledge.

He has been a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge (2002-4) and a Visiting Fellow at Venice International University (2003-4). From 2012-2013, he had a Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for research at the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Leipzig. He has been awarded a Graduate Teaching Award from Pembroke College (Cambridge) and twice won awards from the University of Oxford for an Outstanding Contribution to Teaching.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Barker, E. (2018, August 15). Homer: The Worlds of the Iliad and Odyssey - The World of the Odyssey [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Barker, E. "Homer: The Worlds of the Iliad and Odyssey – The World of the Odyssey." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,