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Kleos in Homers Odyssey. An essay for A Level Classical Civilisation.

Kleos in Homers Odyssey. An essay for A Level Classical Civilisation.

Studies of Homer's epic, the Odyssey. What do books 1 to 10 tell us about Kleos ?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Marios N. Miliorizos Cardiff Wales & Corfu Greece ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Introduction to Kleos (Kleos) is a word still used today by Greeks and its meanings in demotic are: glory, renown and fame. This usage of kleos is very similar to the notion of kleos as a reputation which is found in ancient and classical Greek epic poems such as the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. This essay deals with four examples of kleos from books one to ten of the Odyssey. In the modern Collins English dictionary, reputation is defined in several ways: The estimation in which a person is generally held; A high opinion generally held about a person, i.e. esteem; A notoriety or fame especially for some specified characteristic e.g. courage or wisdom. The definitions above agree well with usage of kleos in demotic Greek, however the English word reputation is derived from the Latin 'reputatio' meaning a reckoning. Therefore there are two possible modern facets to kleos analogous to its ancient usage and context: A historical and tribal acquisition of heroic fame and glory; The later reckoning of this fame and privileged position of a hero, either in life or death, by the society around. Society always has opinions that are changeable and reversible, so kleos in ancient times had different levels of attainment and may also have early meanings that outstretch its modern usage. These meanings are considered in this essay within the contexts of the Greeks' heroic age and from our modern views. It is useful to introduce kleos here, firstly in its modern context. Nowadays kleos may be good or bad, useful or a hindrance. It may be inherited or earned and may be seen equally from the vantage points of the individual and society. Clearly, the conditions and situations in which kleos is achieved have changed throughout history but many common aspects of kleos are comparable and illustrated vividly in the Telemachy and early books of the Odyssey. Secondly, this essay describes the complexities of kleos in a polemic, ancient Greek culture, using different key characters: Telemachus, Nestor, Menelaus and Odysseus. In addition to the spectrum of views people in Greek society may have on kleos, there is the phenomenon of the evolution of kleos, i.e. the stages at which a man's kleos has reached, especially in the Telemachy, where its development can be seen relative to Telemachus' brave aspirations and his struggle to become a man.

Even from these cursory and introductory vantage points there is no doubt that the ancient context of kleos is still similar to our modern perspective, and, the obvious attraction of a hero towards earning "everlasting kleos" is the same as our modern notions of glory. However, a single definition of kleos is inappropriate. So this essay describes examples of kleos that show us its dichotomous romantic and sinister aspects, even relevant to the interpretation of recent political issues as much as the ancient world. Telemachus The first example of kleos is found in the Telemachy: Odysseus' young son, Telemachus, calls an assembly and debate amongst subjects of Ithaca, elders and his mother's enemy-suitors. His aim is to prove his father is still alive and to gain news of his return from Troy. Telemachus wants to preserve his father's oikos and kleos. However, he has yet to prove his own rank and thus calls on the respected elders, their wisdom and high social status, to justify a supported journey to king Menelaus of Sparta. Telemachus thus relies on family history, revered wisdom and royalty to pursue his own rise to the position of warrior (as his name suggests) and kyrios. He has dwindling reserves of food, treasure and no proper home to manage, yet Telemachus is eventually assisted in gaining provisions and a ship to embark on his journey from Ithaca to Sparta, in the southern Peloponnesus. On the one hand, Telemachus has a form of inherited kleos but on the other hand may lose everything if he does not find news of his father's whereabouts. Equally, it may just be the fear of the suitors in displacing their legitimate king Odysseus from his palace that provides Telemachus the support to proceed with his quest for heroic news. In any case Telemachus prepares to visit a war hero, veteran of Troy, and a king and kyrios of Sparta, elevating himself to the standard of royal guest. From this account, kleos is a reputation to be obtained, won and maintained under a very special condition (described below). For Telemachus it is achieved through his loyalty to his father and the belief in his safe return, the protection of his mother, and, may only be preserved if his father's oikos is rid of the unwelcome guests. All this kleos is there to be won along with the favour of goddess Athene, who no doubt protects Telemachus as if he was Odysseus himself! Nestor In book three, Nestor the elder is the second example of a character with kleos. Nestor has earned it through the special gifts of old age and wisdom. His story telling though not professional include the element of xenia and how good Greeks extend a greeting with warmth, as well as the importance of libations and religious sacrifice. Nestor the 'Geranian charioteer', as his epithet suggests, was skilled and has the role of mentor to young Telemachus, through the power of Athene, his knowledge of ancient Greek tragedy and genealogy. Nestor also has some provisions and practical experience to help direct Telemachus to king Menelaus, an old friend. On the one hand, he guides Telemachus to his goal but meanwhile, on the other hand, prepares him for the worst with words of warning founded on the Greek oral traditions of the elder generation. Wise Nestor does not give Telemachus false hope; instead he tells him that in Troy, Odysseus, Nestor's comrade in arms, did his job well. This is crucial and encouraging news for Telemachus who may still inherit his father's ultimate kleos and begin his own adult life as a kyrios. Again in this instance, Nestor's kleos is also founded on his righteous, religious links with the goddess Athene who acts through Nestor as Telemachus' mentor. Nestor son of Nelius is addressed as if he is a part of the great glory of Greece; he is a 'venerable lord' and is clearly the best hope Telemachus has to achieve his own destiny and to rediscover his lost identity amongst his own people. Finally, with his kleos, Nestor fulfils Athene's protective wishes.

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Kleos in Homers Odyssey. An essay for A Level Classical Civilisation.

Kleos in Homers Odyssey. An essay for A Level Classical Civilisation.

Menelaus A third example of kleos from the Telemachy is the reputation of king Menelaus. His royal history and military success in Troy places him amongst the Greek heroes and even the gods of Olympus. Menelaus' wealth and control of a mighty army gives him a kleos known to all Greeks. However his acceptance of Telemachus into his oikos as a guest reinforces another aspect of kleos. That is, Menelaus' empathy and support of a young man inexperienced in battle yet still the loyal son of Odysseus, a good friend and commander in the Trojan wars. Kleos of this kind emphasises the roles of wisdom, hospitality and loyalty in the making of a king's reputation. Telemachus visits Menelaus and approaches him with suitable protocol and this is reciprocated by the famous king. The king has already gained his kleos and knows how to preserve its qualities, with xenia to friends and metoikoi. Odysseus The fourth and most complex example of kleos occurs in book 8. It is a kleos intertwined with Greek epic tradition and the changing situations in which Telemachus and his father Odysseus find themselves. The hero of Troy tells a story to the Phaiakian hosts about the Trojan War and hints of his involvement. Odysseus tells his story so well that he rises to the status of hero and kyrios amongst the Phaiakians who Odysseus discovers already know all about him. Obviously his kleos arrived before him! Odysseus' tale includes the glorious victory in battle which is the ultimate heroic accolade made even more special by the support of the greatest of goddesses, Athene. Thus Odysseus' kleos is not only amongst men of Greece and metoikoi but also of a divine making. It is the blend of roles played by Odysseus and his son, in the hands of the gods that offer us the ancient context of kleos. Ancient context of kleos A refined ancient context of kleos is illustrated lucidly by Jones (1996) in the companion to the English translation of the Odyssey of Richmond Lattimore: "What people say of you". For Odysseus and the ancient Greeks it is the account of their lives by others which will live down the ages after death, where a noble kleos is the hero's consolation for dying (P.V. Jones, 1996. pp. 7-8 based on Odyssey book 1.95 ...'good reputation'... For Telemachus it begins when ...(he) finds out the opinions of the great heroes of the Trojan War about Odysseus to enable him to grow into the true son of his father, worthy of Odysseus' name. Telemachus' identity is at stake here... because even though he is the 'thoughtful son'...the ancient Greek value system put emphasis upon successful performance in the eyes of others than in inner consciousness of right and wrong...i.e. immortal kleos was preferred over purification of the soul... and is the most common and oldest theme in Greek oral epic poetry... In this very ancient context kleos is not what the classicist would expect from Homer's accounts of the sensitivity of his characters. Setting emotion aside, Odysseus' fame is the life blood of Telemachus and kleos is transmitted from father to son under the special condition of straight forward accountability. If Odysseus and memories of him die without trace then Telemachus loses all his authority and his absent father's oikos. He would be doomed to be nameless and homeless for the rest of his life (Jones, 1996. p.13). In book 2. 270-280 it is 'words and deeds' that are emphasised here, placing kleos in the hands of the orator and the skilled man like the wise Nestor. Even Athene gives Telemachus the chance to

succeed on his journey as long as he behaves like his father Odysseus, with craft. Subsequently the Telemachy and Odyssey are read as an account of two journeys overseen by Athene and define the exact routes to obtain kleos of very different kinds, yet intimately linked. These illustrate the dichotomous aspects of ancient kleos: a pretentious social facade versus an immortal glory gained through battle and a philanthropic, regal xenia. Synopsis There are as many different blends of kleos as there are named people in Homer's ancient stories. Fundamentally kleos is based on the history, genealogy and even divine links between oikos and the deities. Kleos is protected and maintained through generations with weapons, a loyal army, horses and metal. It is preserved as much by whom one is, as by whom one knows. Wealth inevitably facilitates this more modern form of kleos! However kleos is also perpetuated for many more years in the hearts of the Greeks if a kyrios knows how to go about life in a good way, if he is valiant, smart and clever. Skills in leadership, knowledge of the world and age are attributes of a kyrios with kleos. In the heroic period, loyalty to ancient family, tribe and fellow man as well as to the traditions, customs, hospitality and protocol show how a leader may gain and retain kleos. Amongst these customs lie respect of the gods and the offering of correct sacrifice. Although these examples may be noteworthy, it has been shown that even an ordinary man has kleos for special skills in sailing, horse riding, story telling or simply his strength, athletic speed and appetite for hard work. Contrary to the optimistic and simplistic account of kleos given above, a kyrios could be brought down with equal force by a kleos founded on rumours, and as in myths and later tragedies, a disloyal wife and metoikoi children. In the Odyssey, the character of Odysseus serves to illustrate this polarity in kleos: a man protected by Athene yet dishonourable to the god Poseidon; a kyrios and king of Ithaca yet destitute; a warrior and hero of Troy yet with no spoils, treasures and crew. With Odysseus, Homer serves us with good and bad aspects of a man with kleos and how this socially significant characteristic means nothing to a man placed by the gods on an ill-fated, lifelong journey. But, ultimately like many a Greek king, a victorious Odysseus rescues his oikos and accomplishes the fate laid down to him by Athene, as the most glorified hero of the ancient world. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References The following texts are the source of the cited details and greatly enabled the construction of the essay. Penguin Classics, London: Homer, The Odyssey, translated by E.V. Rieu, revised translation by D.C.H. Rieu and with a new introduction by Peter Jones, 1946, 1991. Homers Odyssey, a companion to the English translation of Richmond Lattimore, by Peter V. Jones, 1992. John H. Betts (editor), Bristol Classical Press (publisher). Secondary Texts: Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles and with an introduction and notes by Bernard Knox, 1996. The Bath Press, Bath (publisher). A Greek Anthology, Joint Association of Classical Teachers Greek Course, 2002. Cambridge University Press (publisher).

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