Ancient Colonization

The map below shows the political geography of the Mediterranean in the 6th century BC.  Greek cities and colonies are labeled in red, Phoenician ones in yellow.  Greek colonization began in roughly 800 BC and is thus more or less coterminous with the development of the Odyssey.
As we launch into the middle section of the poem, the one concerned with the travels of Odysseus and with his encounters with all sorts of foreign peoples and creatures, you may want to keep this map in mind and use it to formulate preliminary answers to the question of how the Odyssey might have helped its original audience formulate a picture of “the known world.”


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6 Responses to Ancient Colonization

  1. Charlie says:

    This looks like it will be very useful to help visualize the world of the Odyssey. I prefer this kind of map, which shows land ownership by cities, over the vague, patchy kind that smears colors across huge swathes of land that couldn’t possibly be “controlled” by an empire. I also like how the geographical names are in German.

  2. Ivana Surjancev says:

    Yesterday, after class, I had another idea about how maps and known places can shape a person in different ways from how unknown places shape people. So far in the Odyssey, we have heard Odysseus’ tales about his adventures through Troy, many islands, and even the underworld. However, we have no true definition of who Odysseus was as a man living in Ithaka, before he gained glory for having fought at Troy. Knowing that Odysseus traveled through many unfamiliar lands and has faced adversity, I wonder how he will seem to the people he knew at home in Ithaka.

    Also, in class we argued about how the home shapes humans, but I feel that part of growing up and living is exploring unknown lands and ideas. By facing the unknown, the person must change so that they can accept this knowledge of new places and things. Assuming that Odysseus’ travels changed him in ways that are neither good nor bad, will his home still feel like home? Another way of thinking about this is how all of you will feel when you come home from college. I have already discovered a few new things about myself since I’ve been at Notre Dame, and I wonder how these new viewpoints on myself will connect to my home life when I go back. Will my new viewpoints also change the way I see home? What I’m really trying to ask is if the home that Odysseus believes he is returning to still exists within his scope of reality, or if he will always be stuck in the present dreaming about his true home that has remained in the past?

    • Annalise Burnett says:

      I think Ivana makes a valid point here. People are shaped by their experiences, and certainly after the past 20 years that Odysseus has had, I am almost certain he has changed in some aspects. Being exposed to new people, customs, ideas, places, etc. creates lasting impressions upon people that shape who they are and how they define themselves. I believe this is why college is always referred to as such a huge time of growth, because we are thrust into an environment which is radically different from anything we have ever known and we are forced to discover who we are and define ourselves in a place where few people have any background knowledge of who we were before.

      On the other hand, this does create an interesting situation when returning home. When thinking about what lies ahead for Odysseus as he looks forward to reuniting with his friends and family, I am reminded of soldiers returning from war. One generally imagines the happy, tearful reunion of a man with his family, but I think we often forget the readjustment to home life that comes afterward. How many stories have we heard of soldiers who came home from Vietnam, Afghanistan, or other radically different places of battle and violence who were unable to readjust to a domestic lifestyle? Many of these men fell into depression and were bored by their safe and routine home lives, often resulting in the destruction of their closest relationships. It becomes hard for these soldiers to relate to the people who have not seen the horrors of war, who have not experienced first hand the tragedies of battle, and who cannot possibly understand the things these fighters have gone through because they have been sheltered from the reality of the situation. I am not necessarily saying I predict this outcome for Odysseus, but I think it is an interesting aspect of the idea of homecoming which we have been discussing.

  3. Brenna Cashman says:

    One of the unique things I noticed about this and other colonization maps from this period that we’ve seen is the absence of defined borders. Rather than territories or nations, cities are grouped by roughly similar cultures wherein individual cities act almost as city states in possession of agency unfettered by some higher authority. This period seems unique that settlements are not characterized by the near complete isolation of earlier ages, nor have such settlements begun to blend and form larger, organized nations with an eye toward globalization.
    In the Odyssey, virtually all of the human settlements appear to be entirely autonomous and distinct from the rest, nonetheless they are all, aside from the periodically mentioned “sun-burnt races,” united under umbrella cultural values or traditions (shared gods, opinions on hospitality, honor, behaviors, ostensibly language, etc.) This unique distribution seems to be what makes an story such as the Odyssey possible: Odysseus is able to navigate the Mediterranean landscape comfortably under the cover of his familiar cultural umbrella while still embarking on adventures foreign and interesting enough to entertain a bard’s audience.

  4. Megan says:

    I definitely agree with Ivana and Annalise’s posts. Going off what they said, I definitely agree that people are shaped by their travels and the unknown lands they explore, but at the same time, I believe that home is the foundation that shapes one’s character. No matter how much of the world you see or how many people you meet, it is always important to have that foundation you can call home. As we discussed on the first day of class, home doesn’t always mean the place that you’re from or the house that you normally live in, but instead home is a place where you feel comfortable and safe, a place where you’re surrounded by people who love and accept you. As much as Odysseus learned during his nearly twenty years of travels, he was still, in a sense, “homeless,” and not just in the sense that he was away from his home in Ithaca. Between the many battles he fought and the adventures he had, he never quite had that place where he could feel completely safe, a place where he could truly be himself. In a way, I feel like we can’t even know who Odysseus really is at this point in the poem because we have yet to see him at home; we haven’t seen how he reacts in his “natural environment.”

    Odysseus’ time away from home has definitely changed him as a person. Although I have never read the Iliad, it seems like Odysseus used to be a young hero whose main concerns were glory and honor in warfare. In the Odyssey, his priorities have certainly changed. His experiences have certainly hardened him, and he doesn’t seem to care as much about showing off in battle, but instead about getting home to his wife and family, most likely because he wants to return to the place that originally shaped his character, where everything will be exactly the way it used to be. Odysseus is sure to be in for a big surprise when he gets home. Not only has he changed, but his home has been in complete disorder, taken over by his wife’s many suitors. Because the home that Odysseus expected to return to has basically escaped his scope of reality, I have a feeling that coming home will not be as rewarding an experience as Odysseus expected it to be.

    Also, going back to what Ivana said about what home will be like when we return from Notre Dame, I don’t really feel like our homecoming experience will be at all comparable to Odysseus’. Going back to my previous definition of home, a place where one can feel safe and comfortable, I feel like in a way, many of us have already found a second home here at Notre Dame. Although we will have had many life-changing experiences, learned new things, and met new people, unlike Odysseus, we’ve still had that place to call home. And when we come back from school, although some things will have changed and we’ll have new stories to tell our friends, our homes will still be the same comforting place, and we’ll still have people there who love and accept us. The only difference is that now we have two homes.

  5. Erin Rice says:

    Today in class, one of the questions that was brought up was regarding the difference between science fiction books and fictions of the known world, such as the Odyssey. There were many extremely relevant, logical arguments. One argument I want to build on is Charlie’s assessment that the characters and groups of people in science fiction books are identified by their location forming “spheres”. I agree with this statement but I also believe that the different types of people Odysseus encounters during his journey are also representational of the area they live in.. such as the Sirens and the Lotus people etc.. Another brilliant point brought up in class by Brenna was that the journey of the Odyssey wasn’t build upon the physical journey but more on the episodes, or places Odysseus and his men encounter.
    Many science fiction novels begin with a character that needs to cross into a dangerous YET known world. The challenge Odysseus faces is that every step of his journey is only guided by the step he took previously. For instance, the goes to Hades because Kirke instructed that he must go in order to meet Tiresias who will then tell him his fate. Because Greek mythological culture is so built around fate, and walking in the line fate leads you, Odysseus’s journey seems less spontaneous and adventurous and more calculated. As I said early, he takes each step of his journey based on instruction or guidance. This is understandable giving the God’s were “all knowing”.
    Bouncing back around to the original post, I want to add that the view of the maps (sky view) may have been the view the Gods could see of the Mediterranean. The people adventuring out of their home land would have to rely on the Gods because they had no other form of knowledge about the land around them. They had no maps, they hear stories, but the most reliable source of direction would be from the Gods themselves.
    This post veers a little off the original comment but visualizing what the people of the time period would have imagined the world to look like versus what the Gods were capable of seeing seems incredibly interesting to me. This comment brings up another question I have:
    How did the Gods decide what information was appropriate to pass down to mortals and when should they do it? For instance, when Athena comes down and speaks to mortals in different forms, what are her initial reasons and how does she decide to intervene in the specific events occurring?

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