Sunday, April 22, 2007

Writing Process

The overall writing process was a positive experience. I was very interested in my focus about the use of disguises in Homer. Since I teach 9th graders to close read The Odyssey I have noticed many things about Odysseus over the course of 4 years. I really wanted to elborate my ideas about him. The most important and interesting aspect I always questioned about Odysseus is what makes him able to use a disguise so often.
The biggest struggle I have with the writing process is voicing my own opinion. The peer edit helped tremendously because I still wasn't being opinionated enough. Hopefully, with the finished product, my voice will stand out.
I enjoyed updating this blog site on the findings of my research for many reasons. I feel more in touch with up-to-date tech processes, I feel at more ease throwing out ideas, and because it was very different. It also helped to do the blog site because I was able to do it at my convenience.
In regards to the specifics of my final paper, I was unsure about how to add in the factual information when the focus was about characters within an epic poem. More specifically, what influenced Homer to credit Odysseus with the idea of the Trojan Horse- the most historically well-known disguise of all time! I had to write that section over and over again because I wanted it to flow well and not derail from the main focus. I hope it proves to be coherent. This is definitely a writing piece that I enjoyed writing from beginning to end and one that I am very proud of.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thesis Findings

Several things become apparent when examining Homer's mortal characters, Patroclus and Odysseus and their use of a disguise.

  1. The ancient Greeks were knowledgeable about myths and listened to Homer's epics.
  2. The Ancient Greeks believed that gods would enter into the mortal world, in disguise, and check on human hospitality.
  3. It was social custom to be hospitable to guests, so if the gods caught anyone not following this rule, horrible consequences could fall upon them.
  4. This is most likely the reason to how Homer came up with the idea to have his mortal characters use disguises in his epics- The gods systematically disguise themselves to fulfill a personal desire, so certain mortals decide to use a disguise for the same reason. This is seen in The Iliad and The Odyssey.
  5. It is even more interesting to see that when a mortal character uses a disguise, depending on their status of heroism, determines if they can handle the power of a disguise or not.


  1. Even though Nestor made the suggestion, Patroclus convinced Achilles to let him wear Achilles' armor in battle against the Trojans. Patroclus disguised himself to appear as Achilles, which allowed him to rally the Myrmidons, fight with voraciousness, and give the Greeks the advantage.
  2. Patroclus became entranced by the power of his disguise. So much so that he failed to follow Achilles' warning about not going into the Trojan area. The disguise overtook him and convincingly made him be Achilles. This made him feel capable of battling anyone.
  3. Homer is showing that a mere mortal like Patroclus cannot handle the power of a disguise. Especially since the overpowering of the disguise causes Patroclus to neglect orders and subsequently be killed. Only a man of superiority can partake upon this level of deceit, one who exemplifies heroic qualities.


  1. Odysseus invented the Trojan Horse. This militaristic disguise allowed the Greeks to win over the Trojans and ultimately destroyed the Trojan empire.
  2. Odysseus is clever to implement a verbal disguise to the man-eating cyclops, Polyphemus. Odysseus suavely tells Polyphemus his name is "Noman", gets him drunk, and then stabs him in the eye to try and escape out of the blocked cave. This verbal deceit works to his advantage in a most vengeful way. When the other cyclopes ask Polyphemus who caused him to yell and scream (because of his dreadful stab wound), Polyphemus responds, "Noman"! The joke is on Polyphemus and Odysseus escapes with six of his twelve crew members.
  3. In order to strategically devise a plan to rid the suitors from his home, Odysseus becomes disguised as a beggar (with the help of Athena). This enables him to be the least likely suspect and he cleverly assesses the dangerous and tense situation inside his home. Odysseus devises a successful plan, slaughters the suitors, and regains his position back on Ithaca.
  4. Homer shows in The Odyssey that Odysseus has outstanding qualities of a hero which are above the common man and therefore, he can handle the power of a disguise.
  5. Not only does Odysseus have continuous help from Athena, but he acts very much like a god by using a disguise. When he is disguised as a beggar he is truly checking on the hospitable conduct (or lack there of) the suitors are showing.
  6. For Odysseus, using a disguise allows him to fulfill his own personal desire of returning home to his position as king, husband, and father.

These are the key factors that are discussed in my research paper. It was very interesting to do intricate, close reading on Patroclus. I was able to really examine Homer's lines and find the support for my thesis. With Odysseus it was difficult to narrow down which events to focus on. I thought it was productive to show the different types of and ways Odysseus used a disguise. All in all, my biggest desire was to get enough of my voice and opinion in my research without repeating too much. I hope I have succeeded in this.

Odysseus' Disguises

Homer amplifies the use of disguise with the character Odysseus from The Odyssey. Homer's second epic follows Odysseus, the great leader and survivor of the Trojan War, back to his home of Ithaca. Unfortunately, his arduous journey takes ten years and it is filled with trials and tribulations. These dilemmas he faces often tests his capabilities and strength as a hero.
Odysseus uses disguises throughout The Odyssey, which prove his intellect and sharpness. He stays calm and pulls off the best acts of deceit in order to gain a personal desire. Often times, these personal desires involve his returning home safely. Closely examining three particular episodes of Odysseus utilizing a disguise, I came up with certain findings.

The three episodes of Odysseus facilitating a disguise are:
1. Odysseus is given credit for inventing the Trojan Horse that allowed the Greeks to destroy Troy and win the ten year war.
2. While trying to get back home, Odysseus becomes curious and wants to see a cyclops up close. He takes twelve of his crew members and gets stuck inside one cyclops' cave. Polyphemus, the cyclops, begins bashing and then eating Odysseus' crew.
3. When he finally arrives on Ithaca, Odysseus has to get rid of a hundred suitors who have overtaken his home. They have ravaged his home, schemed to kill his son Telemachus, and are forcing his wife Penelope to marry one of them. Odysseus must assess the situation at home and plan the perfect attack.
These three events marks Odysseus' greatest use of disguise.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Current findings

So far in my research I have taken a closer look at Patroclus, expecially in book 16, titled "Patroclus Fights and Dies". Analyzing the lines, it is clear that Patroclus decides to disguise himself in Achilles' armor. After he does this he seems to encompass Achilles' being. Patroclus not only rallies his men with confident battle talk, but slaughters with much force and vengeance. The disguise of Achilles' armor seems to transform Patroclus into a tenacious soldier like Achilles.
I was really interested in one particular question: when Patroclus takes on this disguise does it lead to his demise? Achilles finally agrees that Patroclus can wear his armor to get the Trojans away from destroying the Greek ships, but tells him not to go as far as Troy. This is what Patroclus fails at. He seems so caught up in the fighting that he leads the troops too far into Troy, the gods are not ok with all of his killing either, especially upon Sarpedon (son of Zeus). Greek god intervention and being"blind in his fatal frenzy" led to Patroclus' death- but this would not have happened if he wasn't wearing the mighty Achilles' armor, a powerful disguise.
Of course, just when I was satisfied with this rendering, I stumble across some brief information about who came up with the idea for Patroclus to wear Achilles' armor. It wasn't Patroclus, like I had thought. In book 11 it is Nestor who suggests to Patroclus to disguise himself in Achilles' armor. A scholarly writing by James Armostrong, written in 1958, gives a strong opinion that "It was Nestor who first suggested the exchange of armor ...[this]was to Patroclus the beginning of evil" (347). I don't want to lead off from my research in this direction, even though it is fascinating to find if Nestor is an evil presence. I still read this book 11 section understanding that even though Nestor introduced the idea of disguise, Patroclus was eager to implement Achilles' disguise upon himself. Patroclus makes the decision.
One major goal within all the reading I am doing is to find the Greek belief of disguise. Looking at many timelines, influences are very scarce. The time period of Homer was during the Greek Archaic period (800-500 B.C.). The great Greek philosophers came after Homer. Two things stand out to serve as an influence to lead Homer into using disguises in both the Iliad and the Odyssey:
1. The Greeks believed that the gods would disguise themselves
and intermingle within the human world, even to check on
mortal hospitality. We see the gods continuously fighting in the
Trojan War. Sometimes as themselves, which shock the soldiers
and in a disguise, whether it be as a person or as a whirlwind
2. There are several mythological stories that show the gods
choosing a disguise in order to hide, but most importantly, to
get something they want. Rhea disguises a rock like her
newborn infant Zeus, knowing that Cronus would swallow the
baby out of fear of the prophecy that Cronus will someday be
overtaken by one of his children.
I believe that the mythological stories and beliefs of this time period are the inspiration for Homer to include the element of disguise within his epics. So far, I am leaning more towards the idea that he is sending a message that a disguise can be handled by a god because they are the ultimate powerforces, but for a mortal, a disguise is something that must be used wisely and with great skill.

What better mortal to utilize a disguise with profound skill and astuteness? Odysseus would be the man! This is where I continue my research...............................

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Questions and Ideas

In the course of my research I plan to look closely at the character Patroclus when he is wearing Achilles' armor. Concentrating on Homer's words in this section of The Iliad I find myself interested in several things:
  • In concerning mortals, does Homer have a certain message about disguises?
  • Is Homer trying to say that only the Greek gods should toy with disguises?
  • Does the armor of the heroic Achilles lead Patrolcus to his death?

Taking another look at and rereading Book 16 will give more insight.

When thinking of Homer and the idea of using disguises, I can't help but instantly think of Odysseus from The Odyssey. Odysseus cleverly utilized disguises in different ways. He disguised his identity when he gave a false name to the cyclops, Polyphemus. Upon returning to Ithaca and gaining the help of Athena, Odysseus disguised his appearance as an old beggar in order rid the disrespectful suitors from his home.

  • Did Odysseus become a master of disguises from the successful Trojan Horse incident; afterall it was a plan that involved concealment and hiding in order to win.
  • What characteristics does Odysseus portray when he decides to disguise himself?
  • Again, does Homer offer a message here?

On the suggestion of my professor, Dr. Pollack, I will also look to find scholarly information about disguises in ancient times.

  • Can I find beliefs and customs to the idea and use of disguises?
  • Are there any possible remnants of disguises that help scientists come to conclusions about the use of disguises?

This is the organiztion that I am taking. I intend to take an even closer look at Homer's words in order to gain clues and hints. As I give this insight to my research, so many more questions fill my head about these two characters and what their disguises reveal.


Thesis: Homer creatively implements the use of disguises for both his god and mortal characters. Focusing in on the mortal characters of Patroclus, found in The Iliad, and Odysseus, the protagonist of The Odyssey, Homer has an intense message about the power of disguises and what they do for these two characters. A Homeric character must turn to manipulating his identity in order to get what they want, and perhaps, even more importantly, in order to survive.