Male Life Lessons in Homer’s Odyssey

I recently chanced upon Homer’s Odyssey, obviously in translation, at the library. I had read it in my youth or adolescence. Then I thought of one of the dumbest statements of the huckster Tony Robbins. In one of his clips, he asks his audience, “Who of you has ever watched a movie twice?” Quite a few hands go up. This makes him scoff and tell them to get a life, to the laughter of parts of the audience. The reason why I consider this an utterly stupid statement is that great works of art speak to you differently, depending on what stage in your life you are in or possibly simply depending on your current mood. I am not even thinking of “art house” movies you have to watch several times in an attempt to extract any kind of meaning from them. It can be worth it to watch even a relatively shallow and straightforward movie twice. Thus, I picked up this book, wondering how it would appeal to me this time, now that I am a much older and, hopefully, more mature man.

In many of the great classic works of literature there are passages that make you pause. Some are generally thought-provoking, either due to their depth or because they relate to experiences you have had yourself. I want to highlight a few parts in Homer’s Odyssey, which stood out to me in my second read-through, but which I thought nothing off the first time around.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, making his way home to his wife, after the Trojan war. On this journey, he is facing a lot of distractions. This also includes women. Among others, he meets the witch Circe. Oh, wait, according to current-year leftist language-mangling, she is an “enchantress“, not a witch. Circe is able to shapeshift and turn herself into an extremely beautiful woman. This is surely not at all a jab at women who use make-up or dye their hair, which they already did even 2.500 years ago. Odysseus wants to return to his home, but Circe is able to charm him so much that he forgets (!) about his goal. He thinks about traveling to Ithaca every once in a while but then the thought slips his mind again. After all, Circe offers him all he wants or could ask for in a woman.

Odysseus and his men end up hanging out at Circe’s home for an entire year. Yet, his men are getting more and more impatient, presumably because they do not get to bone her. Eventually, they confront him and ask him what the f*** he is doing and why he is not continuing his journey. This jolts some sense back into Odysseus. The book states that it was as if he had awoken from a dream, and deep sadness overcame him for letting his men down as well as for ignoring to pursue his goal of returning home. His sanity restored, he gathers his men and tells them to prepare to leave at once.

Is the above not the most apt warning to men to not let women lead them astray? In my case, I would have been glad if I had only spent one year as if in a dream. Incidentally, I was also able to shake off this lifestyle at once, after I had made the decision to do so. This does not mean that I am as heroic as Odysseus, of course. Heroes in Greek epics and mere mortal men of today get distracted by women alike. They make you forget about your goals in life and if you do not manage to get out of this state of, quite frankly, confusion, you can easily end up completely frittering away your life while you think you are having a great time. The encounter with Circe is a great warning to young men. It just is not commonly interpreted as such.

Later on, Odysseus makes his way down to Hades, the realm of the dead. If you have played God of War III, you have seen a modern interpretation of it as well as encountered the eponymous god. Anyway, in a conversation with the dead Agamemnon, they discuss female betrayal and male madness as it pertains to women as Helena, the most beautiful woman in Greek mythology, caused the Trojan war. A modern equivalent would be if some 11/10 e-thot led to China, Russia, and the USA throwing nukes at each other until almost everybody was dead. From this perspective, it sounds bizarre, but if you look at it abstractly, it really is not. There are countless stories of men who made utterly stupid and oftentimes irreversible decisions for the sake of women. I wonder if Homer tried to tell us something.

As Agamemnon and Odysseus discuss bitches, the latter former utters, “no man shall trust any woman”, but not without adding that Odysseus’s sweetheart Penelope is the NAWALT of Greek mythology and manages to keep all suitors at bay for the entire twenty years during which she had been waiting for the return of her man. In contrast, Agamemnon who led the Greeks to victory in the Roman war, was killed by his wife while taking a bath. Presumably, Penelope had some superior genetics and did not age as otherwise this story arc does not make a lot of sense. In her case, the older she gets, the more suitors she seems to acquire, which is an odd narrative crutch. It would have made more sense to shorten the duration of Homer’s travels. His 20-year-journey may have some numerological significance but perhaps it was the result of a cabal of proto-feminists making some adjustments to the text with the goal of female empowerment. Given the shocking decline in the Classics in recent decades, this would not surprise me at all. For instance, Oxford University nowadays admits candidates to Classics, once arguably the most selective and elitist degree you could take, who have not knowledge of Latin or Greek at all, for the sake of diversity.

The most obvious metaphor of the temptation of women are the sirens. Their singing is so beautiful that sea captains who hear it end up crashing their ships into rocks, which leads to their certain demise. Odysseus makes it through this challenge by clogging the ears of his men with wax and making them tie him to the ship’s mast. The allure of the sirens is so strong that Odysseus only makes it past them because his men restrained him. Today’s equivalent are the bipolar “manic pixie dream girls” you fall in love with but who may attempt to kill you, slash your car’s tires, or falsely accuse you of rape. I know, I know, this is totally outlandish and none of this ever happens in reality. Oh no, no woman has every completely ruined a man’s life or career. Your bros could help you avoid such missteps. In reality, though, they would likely try to talk you out of banging some crazy chick, but only because they wanted to bang her themselves. Yet, this would still be better for you in the end.

As you can see, there is a lot of wisdom to be found in the foundational texts of Western civilization. In fact, if all you did was reading ancient Greek and Roman books, you would become an incredibly educated man. If you learn from those texts, you would also avoid a lot of stupid mistakes in your life. Pour one for Homer, not the homies, and be proud of the civilization our ancestors have built! If it was not so great, our enemies would not be so obsessed with wanting to destroy it.

30 thoughts on “Male Life Lessons in Homer’s Odyssey

  1. “great works of art speak to you differently, depending on what stage in your life you are in”

    That’s the trouble with schools ramming great art and literature down your throat and making you do homework on them. All it accomplishes is to teach you to hate them and never want to go near them again. You don’t get much out of them because nobody has any real knowledge or experience at that age. Unless you’re a genius, it’s very hard to learn from the mistakes of others without first making them yourself, especially emotional/hormone-driven mistakes. The only value would be if you had a very based teacher to interpret these works for you.

    Voltaire’s “Candide” has a similar lesson. The eponymous hero chases after a thot named Cunegonde, who manages to sleep with every man on Earth except him. Of course, after she has brutally hit the wall, she suddenly reappears and demands he marry her, which he does.

    “A modern equivalent would be if some 11/10 e-thot led to China, Russia, and the USA throwing nukes at each other until almost everybody was dead.”

    Sadly, in our degraded state we won’t even get that. It’ll be some sub-5 nimrod DEI hire like Kamalalala Harris or Occasional Cortex who starts it.

  2. if all you did was reading ancient Greek and Roman books, you would become an incredibly educated man.

    Aaron, I understand you can read Latin, but not Koine Greek. At which mark it makes sense to invest into learning latin? If I want to read 10 books? 100? 1000?

    1. I also took a course in Greek, at university, but dropped it after one semester. I passed the final exam, unlike more than half of the class, but it was just too time-consuming. This leads to the big issue with learning Latin (or Greek): I am not aware of any effective self-study course for adults. In the past, high schools taught Latin and Greek to all secondary school students but now that even functional retards attend high school, it does not even matter if they do not master the grammar of their native tongue. Today, Latin and Greek are normally electives, and they are taken by high-performing pupils in secondary education, arguably also to stave off boredom. I took Latin and I spent more time on it than on all other subjects combined. For calibration, I should add that I was both the top student in my entire cohort and the top student in Latin, and the latter with a pretty high margin.

      Even after a few years of study in secondary school, you will not be able to fluently read original Latin texts. Instead, you work with (marginally) edited versions. They are not necessarily dumbed down. Instead, they contain edits to make the text more readable, for instance by using standard spellings of certain words. Original Latin does not even know punctuation marks or spaced apart words, by the way. You will thus, with the exception of short phrases, never even read original Latin. The Latin books you will read, instead, are normally printed in two languages, e.g. Latin on the left and your native tongue on the right, with a line-by-line translation, or they may have footnotes that explain uncommon words. Also, keep in mind that the state examination for secondary school children in Latin in Germany consists of translating a relatively short text fragment — I don’t think it is more than 400 words — into your native tongue, and for this you have three or four hours. When I sat this exam, I was the only student to get a “B” in this part of the exam, some others got a “D”, and the rest failed. If you have passed the written exam, you have to do a brief oral exam for which you are given a much shorter text fragment, just a short paragraph. You get a fairly short amount of time to prepare for the actual exam. I think it was less than 30 minutes, perhaps only 15 minutes, to produce a translation for yourself. In the exam, it seems that a standard approach is to let the student read the text, to assess diction and prosody, then translate it, and then answer some questions about Roman history. I think the better examiners start with the text fragment and perhaps ask about the author and its time, or the significance of the text.

      I very fondly look back to my time studying Latin. It probably shaped me more than any other subject in school. I should perhaps add mathematics, but I essentially self-taught myself all the material at the start of the year and was horribly bored for the remainder of the school year.

    2. Myself, having studied Latin and Greek at a German university, I would say, that if you were REALLY interested in this language and in its culture and if you already possess solid linguistic understanding (i.e. the framework of how in this case Indogermanic languages work) you could buy a standard university language course book, a good grammar book and a book about practical exercises in writing Classical Latin (i.e. in the style of Caesar and Cicero) and get along on your own.
      If you are a German speaking person, any high school Latin books should suffice (along with a solid university grade Grammar book, e.g. the “Rubenbauer-Hoffmann” book).

      At first you should adhere religiously to a strict algorithmic system for translating from Latin into your language to get going and avoid frustration and/or confusion. This method should include a system of marking and structuring the text that you are translating.
      You can do your own translations of your schoolbook texts and then compare them to correct translations.
      Along this translation from Latin you should then also practice exercises of translating INTO Classical Latin along with a good book guiding you. Here you should find some Latin teacher, to whom you could send your translations for feedback. This process is indispensable to develop a correct sense for modeling Roman thinking and expression. This is going to be hard and occasionally even painful, but very worthwile.

      Once you’ve developed some soling experience in translating from and into Latin and have also acquired the basic vocabulary (e.g. for Caesar’s works) you should start reading a lot, e.g. the famous texts authored by C. Iulius Caesar, fables by Aesop, Catull’s love poems, maybe Martial’s epigrams and so on, nothing yet too difficult, like Cicero’s works or Tacitus’ or Sallust’s. At this stage you will want to develop a sense of immediate pattern recognition and proficiency in vocabulary. You will work towards a point where you almost do not need to consult the dictionary any longer, where you can sit down, open the book at any page, start reading and know what you are reading, because you are translating instantly. Because the is only very little to no difference left for you from reading a text in your native language.
      This would be a rough outline of a possible, viable path to take.
      It took me 2,5 years to reach that point during my university studies, so depending on how much quality time you have to devote to this endeavour , it may take you about the same time, or longer.

    3. I think you are underestimating the effort it takes to learn Latin. You surely did not start at zero when you began your degree but had up to nine years of instruction in secondary school already, if you started in grade 5. Also, you probably did not hold down a full-time job when studying Latin and Greek at university, i.e. the actual subjects and not just a language course in order to demonstrate a certain level of competency. I consider myself reasonably intelligent and arguably also more driven than the average person. However, the task of self-studying Latin or Greek I would consider too daunting, even more so if someone has never formally studied the grammar of any language. This reminds me of some people who studied mathematics at university and tell others that they could just get a bunch of books and learn the material themselves this way. Arguably, most people giving this recommendation could not have done so themselves. This does not mean that it is not possible. It is just a lot more difficult compared to receiving formal instruction.

    4. @Sleazy,
      I am happy to hear that you are a top student in your class while learning Latin. It is imperative for any Westerners, men or women, to be educated in Classics, as it is the root of your collective identity.

      As an Easterner, my main motive to self-study is because I hope to understand Western civilizations that help to shape the modern world. In our times, I believe Western moral values and political organizations have prevailed the modern world.

    5. @Cycle Path

      For Classical Greek, try Athenaze. You can easily find an ebook.

      For authentic texts that you should study after Athenaze, Plato’s dialogues should be a close candidate.

      Don’t try Herodotus and especially Thucydides because they are very difficult. Thucydides is especially challenging so leave it for years later.

      I am only studying Classical Greek so I don’t know which texts to go for Medieval Greek. But Anna Komnenos’ the Alexiad could be a good choice. I have only read its translation in English and find its prose beautiful.


      I have not studies much Latin so I don’t know which textbook should you start.

      But for those who have some backgrounds already, then Julius Ceasar’s “Commentary on the Gallic War” should be your entrance into Classical Latin.

      As a counterpart to Thucydides, Livy should be reserved for years after you read.

      Loeb Classics should be your base texts.

    6. I agree with Sleazy on the time commitment you need to reach a level comparable to an expert. My intention has never deviated from understanding another classical language to widen my scope.

      I was advised by an expert in Mongolian studies that I should, if I want to pursue a degree in History, deepen what I have learnt and not widen my scope of knowledge because I am already late to the party, aka. becoming an expert in two classical languages.

      I have spent more than 10 years to self-study Classical Chinese and my level has only reached a more mature stage recently, after receiving formal instruction. I am extremely driven and work very hard on preparing and completing my assignments, yet I still cannot independently read a highly formal Classical Chinese text (think of royal edicts, epitaphs, etc.)

      If you don’t have to worry too much about earning a living, you can try to take some non-credit classes in a nearby university to receive formal instructions on Latin or Greek.

      The way I see is that you should reach a reasonable level of competency with Classical Greek and Latin, but not Medieval Latin and Greek. I have heard from some of my acquaintances that Medieval Latin should be closer to modern European languages like English, French and Spanish. But Medieval Greek is a whole different beast.

    7. @ Cycle Path: You may find this guy and his language learning institute interesting

      American speaks Latin with Italians at the Park! ???????? Will they understand? (polýMATHY)

  3. I am currently pursuing a Master in Classical Chinese and I am learning classical Greek in my spare time.

    One story that is very poignant that is worth to point out here, from the canon of Chinese short stories:

    A merchant found himself at the lowest depth of luck after losing properties due to miscalculation. His wife abandoned him and became a concubine to a greater family.

    After some years, the merchant found ways to gain back his wealth and was now on solid footing. His wife, after being ravaged by her choiced “husband”, was kicked out of that household.

    Unashamedly, she crawled back to the merchant’s house and suggested a reunion. The merchant was so enraged that he simple smashed a bowl of water, making the water spluttering on the floor, then he turned to her and said:

    “Can you gather the water back into the broken bowl?”

    That is the state of mind most men who read this blog should understand.

    I find a life of voluntary celibacy a thousand times more fulfilling than a wasted life spent with an unworthy woman.

    1. Can you point me to some introductory resources on classical Chinese? Where should I look if I wish to dip my toe into this topic?

    2. @Sleazy Wife:





      It is very important to study a set of what in Chinese called 虛詞 (a very literal translation is empty words), I think they can be rendered as “structural words”. These words are like 之,所,以,其,於 etc.

      The second thing is to get used to what grammarians called 活用 (靈活的使用), or “flexible usage or transformation), which means nouns can be used as verbs, verbs can be used as nouns, adjective can be used as nouns, nouns can be used as adverbs.

      The third thing is to familiarise yourself with sentence elements like 主語,賓語,謂語,狀語,補語. You will need them to understand grammar comments in the text.

      Good luck!

    3. Thank you, Cuong! I’m impressed by your depth of knowledge. Why have you devoted so much time to studying Chinese? I’ve been curious about this aspect to your life ever since you mentioned that you spent a few years living in China.

    4. @Sleazy Wife
      If you mean Classical Chinese then it is because I love History in general, and Chinese History in particular. Being able to read Classical Chinese also allows you to read Vietnamese texts as they were written in Classical Chinese as well.

      It is a tough path, but I have been able to improve my skills steadily since I attended a local university in Vietnam as a non-credit student.

      What is your exposure to Classical Chinese? Did teachers introduce you to some beginner-friendly texts when you were in high school? To my knowledge, Mainland Chinese students study some of these texts in their 语文课.

    5. I didn’t study classical Chinese when I was in school. I think the furthest one could go within the school system is to take Chinese Language and Literature at the ‘A’ levels. But I’m not familiar with its syllabus.

      I did go through a calligraphy course and an ancient Chinese history course for 6 months each, but that’s just touch-and-go cultural exposure.

    6. In that case, perhaps you can try 新国文. It is an old textbook dating back to the Republic of China era. It was written in a very easy to understand Classical Chinese.

      You can also try poems, which I think is closer to the spirit of feminity. Li Qingzhao 李清照 was the most famous Chinese female poet.

      Poetry has the advantage of being simpler in syntax and grammar so some of them can be easier to understand.

    7. @Sleazy Gal
      If you like, you can post questions up on this blog. I will try to answer if I can understand the text.

      Some of the easiest texts contain ancient wisdoms that are applicable to modern times as well.

      1. 鄭人買鞋
      2. 守株待兔
      3. 矛盾
      4. 刻舟求剑

      These stories were standard texts for beginners. You could call them “fables” or 寓言 (以道寓在言中). They are kind of similar to La Fontaine in French or Aesop in Greek. They were simple in style, with wisdoms that you can discuss with your husband. Sleazy is well versed in Western classical philosophy so you could ask him to compare Western and Eastern perpectives.

      It is sad that logic did not sprout in Chinese history. The earliest school of philosophy that pay close attention to logics is Moism, but they phased out after the Warring States Period. As such, the mode of arguing in China usually relied on common wisdoms and a peculiar trust in a perfect antiquity, where the ancients had outdone their posteriors.

      I hope you two could rekindle your interest in learning classical languages. Nowadays, I do not spend much time socializing or even playing games. I just focus on studying Classical Chinese, and if I have some spare times, I switch to Classical Greek.

  4. This is a great article on Homer and what he might teach young(er) men in this current day and age, Aaron!

    I’ve always found it fascinating that Homer is more of a mythological figure (“the Maeonic sage”) than an actual real person. His Roman counterpart Virgil on the other hand, really lived as a known person. And his grand epic, The Aeneid, not only ingeniously fills in some of the gaps of the Homeric version of the Odyssee (e.g. during the encounter with the Cyclop), language-wise it is even more daring– and it also contains one of the great tragic love stories of all times: (Queen) Dido and Aeneas.
    Here too Virgil tells us a story of a man on a mission, who eventually has to forfeit the comfy prospect of female companionship and instead get on with and fulfill his calling.
    Naturally the woman goes completely crazy over this choice and destroys herself. Too bad!

  5. Aaron,
    “Odysseus wants to return to his home, but Circe is able to charm him so much that he forgets (!) about his goal.”

    “They make you forget about your goals in life and if you do not manage to get out of this state of, quite frankly, confusion, you can easily end up completely frittering away your life while you think you are having a great time.”

    Wouldn’t you say that the main reason why women often become a distraction for men is because men typically lack of sexual experience? Men are typically seeking a woman’s approval/validation, and often put a lot of energy and importance in the first whore that gives them attention, they place too much importance on a particular outcome that they tie their self-worth to that girl and treat her like a delicate flower that should be encased in a glass inside a museum? Thus, once a guy has accumulated enough sexual experience, and has demystified the pick-up process it allows them to focus on other areas of their lives and women no longer become a distraction.

    1. I think there is a bit more to that. My first wife turned out to be quite a distraction for me, but at that point I was certainly not lacking sexual experience. However, I had not yet experienced the temporary allure of a woman with a cluster-B personality disorder.

    2. “I think there is a bit more to that.”
      Can you elaborate if its not to much to ask? I’m speculating that men need to experience cluster B women in their lives since they have some kind of allure that other women don’t have?

    3. This would be broadly in line with some of the articles I have written on this topic. In short, if you have never met such a woman, they can be really intoxicating, and you will readily look past red flags. At that point, I got pretty tired of the shallow personalities of the women I met. In fact, hardly any woman exhibits any depth. If you then come across a woman who is flamboyant, outgoing, and witty, you may tell yourself that this is exactly what you have been looking for, even if you are only a moth flying towards a brightly burning flame.

    4. Greek chieftains like Odysseus were certainly not lacking sexual experience. In addition to their wives they had any number of female sex slaves captured in their wartime raids, and this was something normal and accepted. So sex in itself was not something unusual for them, or anything they were lacking.

  6. Tony Robbins is a dumb ass. I read that he called a suicidal man an ass hole. And told a woman who wanted to ask out a male coworker that the man would say no. LOL, we would love for women to make a move. Assuming we are attracted to her.

    Why is it that the most famous “self help” gurus all suck ass?

    1. I forgot to comment on watching movies more than once. I’ve seen some Scorsese movies more times than I can remember. I was criticized by a former friend for it. He liked new shitty movies. Well, he also follows the Royal Family, TMZ, and soap operas. Just a guy I knew forever.

      Why do these people think movies are for sale? To watch once?

    2. One more comment on n a girl asking you out. I believe you have commented on the his Aaron. If she was unattractive I’d be nice as hell about rejecting her. This brings us back to cluster bitches. Some treat the guys they reject like trash. Which says a hell more about them then the guy they crushed emotionally.

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