Numbers In Homer's The Odyssey

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In the current universe we know, numbers are everything and everywhere. They govern everything from how the universe formed to how a plant arranges its petals. There is nothing that escapes the reach of numbers, not even something as abstract and fantastical as literature. A prime example of that is The Odyssey by Homer, one of the first Greek literary works. Although Homer probably preceded the in-depth study of numbers, he lived in a very superstitious time. Anything and everything in nature was regarded as an act of the gods, so it would only make sense that Homer associated numbers with something more divine. Homer, in his renowned epic, The Odyssey, associates numbers with various themes, so readers can use that association to predict…show more content…
For example, twenty is often used in The Odyssey to represent nautical experience. Throughout the epic, Odysseus is frequently mentioned alongside the number twenty. He was gone for twenty years, Telemachus searches for Odysseus on twenty-oar craft, Odysseus drifts for twenty days before landing at Phaeacia, he fashions a raft from twenty trees, and Eumaios compares Odysseus’s wealth to that of twenty men (Homer 1.325; 5.32-47; 5.252-254; 14.120-121). From all the times Homer uses the number twenty in correlation with Odysseus, readers can infer that Odysseus was a master mariner, and his feats throughout his journey only prove that inference. Another example of numbers showing a character’s traits is with Odysseus again and the number seven. The number seven typically denotes discipline and restraint in the epic, and it is frequently mentioned with Odysseus. When his crew land on Helios’s island, they find seven herds of cattle (Homer 12.152-153). Only Odysseus does not eat the cattle, showing his own discipline and restraint. Then Odysseus lands on Calypso’s island after his entire crew was killed in a storm and has to stay there for seven years. He also is continually forced to have intercourse with Calypso despite his best efforts (Homer 7.77-78). During his stay, Odysseus continuously longs for Penolope and shows remarkable restraint by still wanting to leave Ogygia despite Calypso having everything on the island. Odysseus’s character is represented in this case by the number seven because he stays on the island for seven years and shows remarkable discipline and restraint throughout the
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