Sunday, February 5, 2012

What evidience is there to suggest that Schria is mythical?

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The Island of Schria is an excellent stepping-stone between the fantasy world of Calypso and the other characters Odysseus encounters on his journeys. As Schria shows both common and mythological quality’s.

Schria can be seen as an ordinary city as when Odysseus begins to start his journey to Alchinous’s palace, Athena comes down to him in the disguise of a young girl and tells him “the people have little affection for strangers and do not welcome visitor’s with open arms”. Thus suggesting that the Pheacians do not perform perfect xenia. Which is a key theme in the play. Xenia represents the Greek laws towards hospitality, so therefore reflects upon the fact that the people of Schria were not perfect or unusual. As they make mistakes like humans.

Poor xenia is also displayed when Odysseus arrives at Alchinous’s’ palace. After making his appeal he sits in the “ashes by the hearth, close to the fire”. This is seen as a place of humiliation and so this maybe reflective upon the views and attitudes of the pheacians. To strengthen the idea of poor xenia at Schria there is silence after Odysseus make’s his petition. Furthermore it is not Alchinous the king that is the first to welcome Odysseus. It is an old lord Echeneus “Sir tell him to get up and sit on one of the silver chairs”. However there is also an echo here, the echo supports the idea that the pheacians were much like normal Greeks. In book four when Telemachus visit’s Menealus and Helen in Sparta he encounter’s bad xenia at first. As they are not invited in immediately. A lord Eteoneus asks Menelaus if he should let Telemachus and Pesistratus Nestor’s son in. “Tell me whether we should un harness their horses for them or send them on to find someone else to entertain them”.

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The idea that Telemachus’s journey’s from book 1-4 may prepare the reader or audience later on in the epic poem for Odysseus journey’s is a significant reason for why the Odysseus does not enter the odyssey until book five. The idea of homosophronye (harmony and like-mindedness), which Odysseus believes should be between a woman and man, is taken one step further in Schria. As Alchinous not only believes in like-mindedness between husband and wife but also between father and son in-law. The following quote is taken from a section where Alchinous is explaining to Odysseus his wishes for a son in-law. “I wish that a man like you likeminded with myself could have my daughter”. This proposal supports the fact that Schria is in touch with views etc of the Greek world.

The importance of Alchinous understanding Odysseus is a significant factor that may suggests the pheacians are much like other Greeks, for instance during book eight he recognises Odysseus crying when a bard sings a song about the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles. “He managed to conceal his tears from everyone except Alchinous”.

Evidence to support the idea that Schria is a semi fantasy world is as followed. The large description of Alchinous’s palace during book seven seems to point out several details that do not occur in the world naturally or normally. They seem to contain an element of mystic about them. For example the gold and silver dogs that are immortal and never age. “On either side stood gold and silver dogs… to keep watch over the palace…as immortal sentries never doomed to age”.

During the description the concept of having fruit all year round is mentioned “Their fruit never fails… It comes at all seasons”. This seems particular unusual as fruit ripens and goes out of season throughout the year”. Therefore this suggests that the Schria is a fantasy world”.

There are also clues in Alchinous’s speech that indicate Schria and the Pheacians are not like normal Greek citizens. As Alchinous when asking Odysseus if he is immortal says this “The god’s must be playing trick’s on us…for we are special to them like the Cyclopes”. This impression of the Pheacians provides evidence that Schria was not a typical Greek city as the gods favoured the Pheacians. During Odysseus stay with the pheacians he is likened to a god twice. However both times he quickly rubbishes the idea as he acknowledges that liken a human to a god is wrong. In effect he does not want to offend the gods. Odysseus replies to Alchinous’s suggestion that he might be a god by saying, “Put that idea out of your head”.

However there is an echo here as during book four Telemachus suggests that Menelaus is on the same level as the gods. “The court of Zeus on Olympus must be like this inside”. Similarly Menelaus quickly resists the idea by saying, ”No mortal can compete with Zeus”.

The actual geographic position of Schria may reflect upon it’s absence from Greek society. As it was thought to be placed at the end of the earth. The theme of suffering takes a prominent role in the Odyssey, although in Schria it does not seem to be present. As the Pheacians admit they enjoy “feast” dance” and “hot baths”. The emphasis of suffering is shown by the fact Aegesistus chooses not to fight in the Trojan War, and so he is eventually fated to die.

Although the most substantial evidence to support the idea that the Schria is a semi fantasy world is the lack of conflict between the Pheacians. There inability to be competitive is very un Greek like as many features of Greek society and life was based on competition. For example the whole law system was a competition between the prosecutor and the defendant, War was also a competition between the two sides, even theatre was competition, which would be won by the best or most successful playwright and finally the Olympic games were undoubtedly the most famous competition. The following quote from Alchinous strengthens this concept. “Though our boxing and wrestling is not outstanding… We take perennial delight are the feast, the lyre, the dance”. Theses activities support the idea of there inability to be competitive.

The idea that possessions are an important devise in the Greek world is emphasised by the fact Arete gives Odysseus a chest of treasure. “A fine chest packed with splendid gifts of clothing and gold”. There is also an echo here as this is reminiscent of Menelaus who becomes extremely wealthy from gaining treasure and booty in Egypt. “It took me seven years and great hardship to amass this fortune and bring it home in my ships. My travels tome to… Egypt.

Finally during Odysseus stay with the Pheacians there is evidence for him thinking about situations. For example in a speech to Alchinous he talks about the reasons why Calypso had let him leave Ogygia. “In obedience to a message from Zeus or because her own feelings had changed she sent me off”. This is interesting as Odysseus is acknowledging the fact that the god’s helped him. We also see Odysseus thinking cleverly in book seven when he lies to Alchinous and says, “Do not rebuke your peerless daughter. She did tell me to follow along with the servants” This is showing that Odysseus understands Nausicaa and is an excellent representation of his clever speech making, that we had seen earlier in the poem with Nausicaa and Calypso.

In conclusion I feel that Schria and the Pheacians provide and ideal stepping stone between the fantasy worlds of Calypso and the other characters Odysseus meets on his journeys. As Schria shows mythological and ordinary behaviour. In is in effect a semi fantasy world.

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