'The Odyssey' is, along with the 'Iliad', one of the two earliest pieces of Greek epic poetry to have survived, and is a story that many consider central to the evolution of Western civilization. Centred upon the eponymous hero Odysseus, it describes the adventures of the great Trojan War hero as he attempts to get home. Deprived slowly by Poseidon of men, supplies, and eventually his last ship, he struggles to return home. The book depicts Odysseus as a very human character driven by his desire to return home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus, whom he has not seen since he set off to war some twenty years prior.
Added drama revolves around Penelope's despair of seeing her husband again, and Odysseus' fear that she will be forced to re-marry in his absence. Additional themes include the question of how a father/son relationship is possible when neither know each other, the loyalty or otherwise of one's servants and the role of the Gods (the dilemma of being aloof and ignored, or intervening and making humans dependent).
Modern Baalbek in Lebanon, ancient Heliopolis, was made a colonia by the Roman Empire in 15 BC and a legion was stationed there. Work on the religious complex there lasted over a century and a half and was never completed. The dedication of the present temple ruins, the largest religious building in the entire Roman empire, dates from the reign of Septimius Severus, whose coins first show the two temples. The great courts of approach were not finished before the reigns of Caracalla and Philip. In commemoration, no doubt, of the dedication of the new sanctuaries, Severus conferred the rights of the jus italicum on the city. Today, only six Corinthian columns remain standing. Eight more were disassembled and shipped to Constantinople under Justinian's orders, for his basilica of Hagia Sophia.
The greatest of the three temples was sacred to Jupiter Baal, ("Heliopolitan Zeus"), identified here with the sun, with whom were associated a temple to Venus and a lesser temple in honor of Bacchus (though it was traditionally referred to by Neoclassical visitors as "Temple of the Sun"). Thus three Eastern deities were worshipped in Roman guise: thundering Jove, the god of storms, stood in for Baal-Hadad, Venus for ‘Ashtart (known in English as Astarte) and Bacchus for Anatolian Dionysus.
The recent book Odysseus Unbound offers a compelling argument that the Odyssey's "Ithaca," the island home of cunning Odysseus, refers not to the island today known as Ithaca, but rather to the Paliki peninsula of Kefalonia, which geological changes would have transformed from island to peninsula..
Although major articles are listed at the bottom of this page, all classics-related articles can be found in the categories below. Note that some articles may be found in subcategories, e.g. for the Parthenon, follow the Greek architecture link, then select the Ancient Greek Structures subcategory.
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