The Odyssey (Butler)/Appendix

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The House of Ulysses.

(Reprinted from The Authoress of the Odyssey.)

The only points on which I differ from Mr. Lang are in respect of the inner court, which he sees as a roofed hall, but which I hold to have been open to the sky, except the covered cloister or μέγαρα σκιόεντα, an arrangement which is still very common in Sicilian houses, especially at Trapani and Palermo. I also differ from him in so far as I see no reason to think that the "stone pavement" was raised, and as believing the ὀρσοθύρα so have been at the top of Telemachus's tower, and called "in the wall" because the tower abutted on the wall; or it may have been a window high up in the tower. These are details: substantially my view of the action and scene during the killing of the suitors agrees with Mr. Lang's. I will not give the reasons which compel me to differ from Sir Richard Jebb[1] and Mr. Platt,[2] but will leave my plan of the house and the abridged translation to the judgement of the reader.

Odyssey (Butler) House of Ulysses.png


(To face Appendix).

A was the body of the house, containing the women's apartments and other rooms. It had an upper story, in which was Penelope's room overlooking the court where the suitors passed the greater part of their time.

It also contained the store-room, which seems to have been placed at the far end of the house, perhaps in a basement. The store-room could be readied by a passage from a doorway A′, and also by back-passages from a side entrance A″, which I suppose to have been the back door of the house. The women's apartments opened on to the passage leading from A′ to the store-room.

Β and B′ were the Megaron or Megara, that is to say the inner court, of which B′ was a covered cloister with a roof supported by bearing-posts with cross-beams and rafters. The open part of the court had no flooring but the natural soil. Animals seem to have been flayed and dressed here, for Medon, who was certainly in the inner court while the suitors were being killed, concealed himself under a freshly-flayed ox (or heifer's) hide (xxii. 363).

B′ was called the μέγαρα σκιόεντα or "shaded" part of the court, to distinguish it from that which was open to the sun. The end nearest the house was paved with stone, while that nearest the outer court (and probably the other two sides) were floored with ash. The part of the cloister that was paved with stone does not appear to have been raised above the level of the rest; at one end of the stone pavement there was a door a, opening on to a narrow passage; this door, though mentioned immediately after the ὀρσοθύρα or trap door (xxii. 126), which we shall come to presently, has no connection with it. About the middle of the pavement, during the trial of the axes, there was a seat b, from which Ulysses shot through the axes, and from which he sprang when he began to shoot the suitors; against one of the bearing-posts that supported the roof of the cloister, there was c, a spear stand.

All the four sides of the cloisters were filled with small tables at which the suitors dined. A man could hold one of these tables before him as a shield (xxii. 74, 75).

In the cloisters were also,

d, an open hearth, or fire-place, in the wall at right angles to the one which abutted on the house. So, at least, I read τοίχου τοῦ ἑτέρου (xxiii. 90).

e, the table at which the wine was mixed in the mixing-bowl as well, of course, as the other tables above mentioned.

f, a door leading into g, the tower in which Telemachus used to sleep [translating ἄγχι παρ᾽ ὀρσοθύρην (xxiii. 333) not "near the ὀρσοθύρα" but "near towards the ορσοθύρα"].

At the top of this tower there was a trap door g′ (ὀρσοθύρα) through which it was possible to get out on to the roof of the tower and raise an alarm, but which afforded neither ingress nor egress—or, as I have said, the ὀρσοθύρα may have been a window.

C was the outer court or αὐλή, approached by C′ the main entrance, or πρῶται θύραι, a covered gateway with a room over it. This covered gateway was the αἰθούση ἐρίδουπος or reverberating portico which we meet with in other Odyssean houses, and with which we are so familiar in Italian and Sicilian houses at the present day. It was surrounded by C″, covered sheds, or barns, in which carts, farm implements, and probably some farm produce would be stored. It contained,

h, the prodomus, or vestibule in front of the inner court, into which the visitor would pass through

i, the πρόθυρον, or inner gateway (the word πρόθυρον, however, is used also for the outer gateway), and

k, the tholus, or vaulted room, about the exact position of which we all know is that it is described in xxii. 459, 460, as close up against the wall of the outer court. I suspect, but cannot prove it, that this was the room which Ulysses built round his bed (xxiii. 181—204).

D was the τυκτὸν δάπεδον, or level ground, in front of Ulysses' house, on which the suitors amused themselves playing at quoits, or aiming spears at a mark (iv. 625—627).


  1. See Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. VII. pp. 170—88, and Introduction to Homer, 3rd edit. 1888, pp. 57—62, and Appendix, Note 1.
  2. See Journal of Philology, Vol. XXIV. p. 39, &c.