The Odyssey is largely a sequel to the Iliad, both of them being attributed to Homer and describing events which are roughly part of a single overall story (Odysseus first fighting in the Trojan War and then returning home). Modern retellings of these stories are often sold together, like two parts of a single series. But were the original versions more independent?

Does the Odyssey, in its original version, assume or require knowledge of the Iliad? Or is all the necessary story background on Iliad events provided in the Odyssey itself?

  • 2
    Note: I say "consumed" rather than "read" because these were originally oral traditions rather than written books. For the same reason, I suspect that the Odyssey doesn't require knowledge of the Iliad, so that storytellers could recite them independently, but I don't know much about oral literature and have phrased the question neutrally. – Rand al'Thor Jun 17 at 12:50
  • So readers are consumers now, and stories are like corn flakes? – user14111 Jun 19 at 9:53
  • 1
    @user14111 Books can also be consumed by fire. In that sense, the Odyssey can definitely be consumed independently of the Iliad. – Tsundoku Jun 19 at 20:01
  • What do you mean by “in its original version”? It’s doubtful that bards in Attic Greek recited first a fixed version of the Iliad in its entirety, followed by one of the Odyssey in its entirety, if that’s what you’re asking. As you pointed out, they’re oral traditions, so positing an “original” version is begging the question, isn’t it? – verbose Jun 29 at 19:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.