The first line of the second Module, that the difference between the Iliad and the Odyssey is that the latter is worth reading, sounds quite harsh! Do you think it’s fair?
No it was not too harsh in that the Odyssey is more appealing to an audience today, it’s theme of ‘homecoming’ being identifiable in a modern context and the dynamic nature of the work, with many different lands visited and fantastical characters, makes it exciting and interesting.
The motivations of the characters in the Iliad, those concerning the conduct of a warrior, are largely alien to the modern reader, making it more challenging to identify with characters or understand their psychology and there are so many characters in the Iliad that vie with the reader for attention. The theme of war as presented by Homer shows the futility of war and it more visceral in its display. The tension between characters in these circumstances though makes the Iliad a great work.
The Iliad and Odyssey are entirely different works though and, from this point of view, it is too harsh to say that the Odyssey is the ‘one worth reading’. Of the two, I prefer by far the Iliad.
I also gravitate to the Iliad, especially to the tragic losses of Sarpedon, Patroclus, and Hector. The pathos evoked felt truly universal and grabbed at me emotionally in a way that The Odyssey could not. To be fair, I am not the biggest fan of Odysseus although I do admire his strategic cleverness and would want him “on my side.” But as my leader, no. He seemed cavalier when it came to the lives of his men and his affairs raised my eyebrows. I also find his rampage on the island of Ithaca to be a serious case of projection of his own guilt. Oh, well, the bottom line is that I love Homer, so I will take it all!