Thursday, February 10, 2011

"King of Ithaca: The Adventures of Odysseus" (Book Review)

[This was from my old defunct blog and one of the first book reviews I am attempting to blog about. I am not a good reviewer but I will try my best.]

Glyn Iliffe wrote the book and it is the first part of his series about the life and adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus. As a student of Classical Studies, I always believed that authors or movie directors should always be chronologically accurate about their writings or their films about ancient histories and mythologies. That simply because people, who doesn’t study Classics, can easily say to their children and grandchildren that Herakles was the squeaky-clean hero that Disney World was trying to portray or that Hades was evil and the bad guy.

This book is one of those that lack the chronological accuracy of the Greek mythology and the errors are very visible to those who studied Classical Studies.

Here are some errors I found in the book “King of Ithaca”:
  1. The author mentions in the book that the meeting between Odysseus and Iphitus took place during Odysseus’ journey to Sparta as a suitor of Helen while Iphitus was on journey to Tiryns looking for Herakles. The chronological error of that line is that Iphitus and Herakles should have been long dead by the time the suitors of Helen marched to Sparta.
  2. Part of the book leads up to the courting of Helen and the King of Mycenae was Agamemnon. Therefore, the hero Herakles should have been long dead, not during the courting of Helen and at least one Herakleids (sons and descendants of Herakles) invasion should have already taken place at the time of the reign of Atreus (Agamemnon’s father).
  3. If the hero Herakles were alive then, he would not waste his time courting Deianera or Iole since he can have the beautiful Helen to himself just southwest of Tiryns, forcefully if he wants to.
  4. In this book, Spartan King Tyndaerus hates Herakles. Why would the Spartan king hate Herakles when the hero himself helps restored Tyndaerus to the throne of Sparta from his brother/uncle Hippocoon.
  5. In this book, Telamonian Ajax (the Greater Ajax) and Achilles were not cousins. In most primary sources of Greek mythology, Ajax and Achilles were cousins. Their fathers, Telamon and Peleus were exiled brothers; both were Argonauts and founded their own respective kingdoms.
  6. The old swineherd Euamios is younger than Odysseus.
  7. Herakles’ arrows are magical according to the author. However, Herakles’ arrows are not magical, but rather poison arrows dipped from the deadly poisonous blood of Hydra.
  8. In this book, the Dioskouris (Castor and Pollux), the brothers of Helen were not mention at all.

Despite the errors and inaccuracy, the book is a good reading and a great story for the non-Classics students. I would say its way better than the Percy Jackson series. period.

Anyway, as a Classical Studies student, I learned to accept the story in the book and that modification of the Greek myth is necessary to spark interests to non-Classics students. I realize that Greek Mythology are bound to be modified in this modern times and that not because to degrade it but rather to enrich it. I am already looking forward to read the sequel “Gates of Troy”.

This review was also posted at Goodreads.


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