Where Does the Odyssey End (and Why?) Aristarchus, Aristotle and Eustathius

Odyssey, 23. 293-296

τοῖσιν δ’ Εὐρυνόμη θαλαμηπόλος ἡγεμόνευεν
ἐρχομένοισι λέχοσδε δάος μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσα·
ἐς θάλαμον δ’ ἀγαγοῦσα πάλιν κίεν. οἱ μὲν ἔπειτα
ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαιοῦ θεσμὸν ἵκοντο·

“Then Eurynomê the bed-maid led them
As they went to bed, holding a torch in her hands.
She left again once she led them into the bed chamber;
Then they happily entered the rite of the ancient bed.”

 

Comments from the Scholia:

ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο] “They happily and enthusiastically remembered the ancient practice of intercourse”

Aristophanes and Aristarchus believed that this was the end (peras) of the Odyssey

Aristophanes and Aristarchus claim this as the end (telos) of the Odyssey

 

ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο] ἀσπαστῶς καὶ ἐπιθυμητικῶς ὑπεμνήσθησαν τοῦ πάλαι τῆς συνουσίας νόμου.

M.V. Vind. 133: ᾿Αριστοφάνης δὲ καὶ ᾿Αρίσταρχος πέρας τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας τοῦτο ποιοῦνται.

H.M.Q.: τοῦτο τέλος τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας φησὶν ᾿Αρίσταρχος καὶ ᾿Αριστοφάνης.

 

Erbse (1972,166-177) argues that the Alexandrian scholars really meant that the natural ‘end’ of the story in an Aristotelian sense was the reunion of husband and wife. And, yet, Aristotle seems to have a different ‘end’ in mind for the epic:

Aristotle, Poetics 1455b17-24 

“In drama, the episodes are brief; while epic uses episodes for expansion.  The story of the Odyssey really is not long: a man is away from home for many years because he is detained by Poseidon and he is alone. While this is going on, at home his possessions are being wasted by suitors and there is a plot against his son. But when he returns, storm-tossed, once he reveals himself, he attacks them, saves himself and destroys his enemies. That’s the core of the tale; different episodes comprise the rest of it”

ἐν μὲν οὖν τοῖς δράμασιν τὰ ἐπεισόδια σύντομα, ἡ δ’ ἐποποιία τούτοις μηκύνεται. τῆς γὰρ ᾿Οδυσσείας οὐ μακρὸς ὁ λόγος ἐστίν· ἀποδημοῦντός τινος ἔτη πολλὰ καὶ παραφυλαττομένου ὑπὸ τοῦ Ποσειδῶνος καὶ μόνου ὄντος, ἔτι δὲ τῶν οἴκοι οὕτως ἐχόντων ὥστε τὰ χρήματα ὑπὸ μνηστήρων ἀναλίσκεσθαι καὶ τὸν υἱὸν ἐπιβουλεύεσθαι, αὐτὸς δὲ ἀφικνεῖται χειμασθείς, καὶ ἀναγνωρίσας τινὰς ἐπιθέμενος αὐτὸς μὲν ἐσώθη τοὺς δ’ ἐχθροὺς διέφθειρε. τὸ μὲν οὖν ἴδιον τοῦτο, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα ἐπεισόδια. 

 

Eustathius takes issue with the scholiasts’ choice:

Eustathius, Commentary on the Odyssey, II.308

“We should note that according to the very old accounts, Aristarchus and Aristophanes, the best of the ancient commentators, made this line (23.296) the end of the Odyssey, because they were suspicious of what remained to the end of the book. But these scholars are cutting off many critical things, which they claim to oppose, for example the immediately following rhetorical recapitulation of that has happened and then, in a way, a summary of the whole Odyssey and then, in the next book, the recognition scene between Odysseus and Laertes, and the many marvelous things that happen there.”

᾿Ιστέον δὲ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν τῶν παλαιῶν ἱστορίαν ᾿Αρίσταρχος καὶ᾿Αριστοφάνης, οἱ κορυφαῖοι τῶν τότε γραμματικῶν, εἰς τὸ, ὡς ἐῤῥέθη, ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαιοῦ θεσμὸν ἵκοντο, περατοῦσι τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν, τὰ ἐφεξῆς ἕως τέλους τοῦ βιβλίου νοθεύοντες. οἱ δὲ τοιοῦτοι πολλὰ τῶν καιριωτάτων περικόπτουσιν, ὥς φασιν οἱ αὐτοῖς ἀντιπίπτοντες, οἷον τὴν εὐθὺς ἐφεξῆς τῶν φθασάντων ῥητορικὴνἀνακεφαλαίωσιν καὶ τὴν τῆς ὅλης ὡς εἰπεῖν ᾿Οδυσσείας ἐπιτομὴν, εἶτα καὶ τὸν ὕστερον ἀναγνωρισμὸν ᾿Οδυσσέως τὸν πρὸς τὸν Λαέρτην καὶ τὰ ἐκεῖ θαυμασίως πλαττόμενα καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ὀλίγα.

 

But there’s a good deal missing from Eustathius’ ‘summary’ of book 24:

1-202: Second Underworld scene: Suitors’ ghosts descend to Hades; Achilles and Agamemnon have a conversation; Amphimedon recaps the action

202-411: Reunion of Odysseus and Laertes: Odysseus tests his father, then relents; they return to his home and dine

412-471: The Trial of Odysseus: The families of the slain gather their dead; assemble; split over whether to face Odysseus; prepare for war

472-488: Divine Council: Athena and Zeus discuss how to end the conflict

489-545: The End: Families approach; Odysseus and his household arm; they kill one man (Eupeithes); Athena intervenes

 

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