Show Menu

Watch Great Books online: Episode 3 The Odyssey

Men have been embarking on odysseys since the dawn of civilization. In 1970, Captain James Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo XIII mission named his command module Odyssey. Looking up the definition of odyssey, you'll find it means a long voyage with many changes of fortune, and that it was - in spades. But the granddaddy of all odysseys comes to us from a thousand years before Christ, the story of a mythical Greek warrior named Odysseus and his search for home. Together with its companion poem, The Iliad, they form western literature's first action adventure story, written by the man we call Homer. It is a grand adventure, an allegory of all our lives, writ large. We first meet Odysseus in The Iliad, during one of the most famous wars in history, The Trojan War. We think the actual war happened, if it happened at all, around 1200 BC. It is in The Iliad that we read of Helen of Troy, "The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships", and in The Odyssey, the Trojan Horse, which taught us to beware of Greeks bearing gifts, or gifts bearing Greeks. So the warriors of The Iliad have left a legacy from the sublime to the ridiculous: Achilles can be found in medical books; Ajax is on every supermarket shelf; names and images that have survived three thousand years appear and reappear, known and unknown. It is these stories that are the first stories of Western civilization, and every time you pick up one of these stories, you're on the edge of something archetypal, something that's always - and always will be - within us.

Ready to Watch Great Books, Season 1, Episode 3?
click here to see where to watch or .