Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 16 Sep 2011 09:58 and updated at 10 Jun 2019 10:51

Odyssey is the second Greek epic traditionally attributed to Homer. Most parts of this epic is a travel narrative of an Achaean hero named Odysseus who took part in the Trojan war. It describes his long return journey back to his native place through the sea. This Odyssey is a sequel to Iliad and there is a continuity of events described in Iliad into Odyssey. Odysseus' son Telemachus lives in his house on the island of Ithaca with his mother Penelope. They had to tolerate a crowd of 108 men, "the Suitors", who persuaded Penelope to marry one of them. They enjoyed the hospitality of Odysseus' household and were eating up his wealth. Odysseus finally returns to his son and wife after traversing a long journey which took him to varied islands and lands that includes the northern coast of Africa. There he deals with the suitors and saves his wife and son.

Comparison with Ramayana

Ramayana is literally 'the travels of Rama' and Odyssey is literally 'the travels of Odysseus' allowing us a comparison between Ramayana and Odyssey.

Journey to the unknown south

Indian epic Ramayana contains the travel narrative of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya into the southern lands which takes him to the island of Lanka to the south of India. Odyssey too contains the travel narrative of Odysseus into the southern lands where he reaches as far as the northern coast of Africa (Egypt and Libya). However the journey of Odysseus is mostly in a ship and across the sea, while the journey of Rama was mostly through land across mountains and forests. To reach the island of Lanka, he created a bridge across the sea. Rama's return journey from Lanka to Ayodhay could perhaps be through sea in a ship (described as an air-ship called Pushpaka that flew through the air). But this return journey is described as event-less and a straight uninterrupted journey.

Iliad & Odyssey vs Ramayana

Perhaps it is better to compare Iliad and Odyssey together to Ramayana, since the war mentioned in Ramayana was fought for the sake of a woman, viz. Sita, like the Trojan war mentioned in Iliad which was fought for the sake of a woman, viz. Helen. Sita was abducted by Ravana. Helen was abducted by Paris. Sita was the wife of Rama. Helen was the wife of Menelaus. However the comparison ends there. Sita was abducted against her own will and she was always devoted to Rama. Helen loved Paris and was happy to be with him rather than be with Menelaus. Menelaus like Ravana was a war hungry macho man while Rama, like Paris was an archer and a charming man. Rama was more courageous than Paris though.

Event sequence; Size of texts

Events described in the Ramayana epic precedes the events described in Mahabharata (the other Indian epic) by many generations , where as events described in Odyssey succeeds the events described in Iliad without any temporal gap. Ramayana is smaller in size to Mahabharata. Odyssey too is smaller in size to Iliad.

The nature of the Wars

The Trojan war described in Iliad matches more with the Kurukshetra war described in Mahabharata rather than the Rama-Ravana war described in Ramayana. Both Trojan war and Kurukshetra war contains use of chariots and horses as both were fought in a plain land. In Rama-Ravana war, the usage of chariots is very rare as it was fought in a mountainous terrain in central Lanka covered with forest and bush-lands. However the Trojan war was fought near the city of Troy and the Rama-Ravana war was fought near the city of Lanka.

Meaning of the name Odysseus

Homer is unable to give a proper etymological meaning to the name Odysseus. Some unsuccessful attempts gives the meanings like 'distasteful', 'child of anger', 'trouble' or 'curse', deriving from the Greek odussomai.

Odra-desa, Odissa

The analysis searching for Vedic roots for nouns in Iliad and Odyssey gives a promising etymology for the name Odysseus. This name is preserved in the name of a state in the eastern coast of India named Odisha or Odissa. It derives from the Vedic Sanskrit Odra-desa (the land of Odra), a sea-faring tribe inhabited in the east coast of India, who also traded with far away western lands like Egypt and Greece through sea. This land is mentioned in Mahabharata. A Yavana (Indo-Greek) city in this region near the city of Atavi is also mentioned. The famous classical dance form, Odissi originated in Odisha.

Thus the name Odysseus could mean 'the one who hails from Odra desa or the Odra country'. It could be the ancestors of Odysseus who migrated from Odisha port-city to Greece and settled in Ithaca, probably through sea-trade.

Migration of Odras to Europe

There are traces of Odra migration to Europe in the form of river names and place names. There is an Oder, a river in Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. There is an Odra river in Croatia. another in Spain. There is an Odra village in south Poland and another in north Poland.

In the Mahabharata the Odras are mentioned along with the Paundras, Utkals, Mekalas, Kalingas and Andhras, while according to Manu the Odras are associated with the Paundrakas, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas (Indo-Greeks), Sakas, Paradas, Pallavas, Chinas (China), Kiratas and Khasas. The presence of China and Greeks in this list indicate that the Odras were connected with China and Greece through sea-trade.

Further Reading

Internal Sources

  1. Odyssey Wiki - full page Wiki for Odyssey with 24 books and 630 plus noun pages
  2. Nouns in Odyssey Alphabetical - List on nouns in Odyssey
  3. Nouns in Odyssey Frequency-wise - Frequency spectral analysis of Odyssey nouns
  4. Iliad
  5. Avesta

External Sources

  1. Odyssey English Translation by Samuel Butler - sacred-text
  2. Odyssey in Greek Original - sacred-text
  3. Yavana city near Atavi in Odra-desa (Odisha, India) - mentioned in Mahabharata; probable source of the name 'Odysseus'
  4. Ancient Odisha's Links with Rome, Japan, China, Africa and SE Asia - Brave and adventurous Kalinga sailors, the Sadhabas (Oriya mariners), made daring voyages to different far-off lands of the world and had maritime contacts with Roman Empire, Africa, Persian coast, Arabian countries in the West and China, Japan, Siam, Champa, Burma, Ceylon etc in the East.
  5. Odissi - a classical dance form in Odissa
  6. Odysseus Etymology
  7. Yavanas mentioned in Indic texts-AncientVoice
  8. Vedic Family Names In Pre Historic Greece-AncientVoice
  9. Odra Migrations to Europe

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