The National Hellenic Museum and the University of Illinois Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies co-hosted Homerathon: A Reading of Homer’s Odyssey.
The public reading of all 24 books of the epic poem spanned 13 hours on Friday and Saturday and featured around 200 volunteer speakers reading passages in English, Greek, Spanish and Arabic.
Students from Plato Academy in Des Plaines studied the “Odyssey” for three months leading up to the event, said teacher Chris Kruger.
Other speakers Friday included students from Koraes Elementary School in Palos Hills, UIC students, members of the community and even a local politician.
The “Odyssey” is attributed to the legendary blind poet Homer and was told orally for centuries before being written down.
That’s why reading the poem aloud in a public setting is “the way it is supposed to be heard,” Marianne Kountoures, executive director of the museum, said in her opening remarks.
National Hellenic Museum and Homer’s Odyssey
The museum is “an anchor” for the Greek community in the Chicago area, Kountoures told the Sun-Times. But, she added, she wants it to feel welcoming for people of all backgrounds.
“It’s important for us in our work to identify those universal themes that every ethnic group can relate to,” Kountoures said. And some of those themes — mortality, friendship, love and homecoming — are at the poem’s core, she said.
The National Hellenic Museum, which on May 22 will take on one of the most famous cases in history by reenacting the trial of Socrates, is dedicated to connecting generations to the legacy of Greek culture and history and the Greek story in America.
The Museum preserves and portrays Greek history and the Hellenic legacy, sparking inquiry and discussion about the broader issues in our lives and communities through educational classes, exhibitions, and programs.
Odyssey: the greatest adventure ever told
The ancient tale of Odysseus’ journey home from war, is a story filled with twists and turns, fateful discoveries, and shocking defeats. The greatest adventure story ever told.
According to Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus spent ten years fighting at Troy and then spent a further ten years getting home in the face of hostility from Poseidon, god of the earth and sea.
Odysseus’s return to his island, however, is not the end of his woes. He finds that 108 young men from the local vicinity have invaded his home to put pressure on his wife Penelope to marry one of them.
A stalemate exists, and it is only resolved by an archery contest at the end of the poem, which then leads to the slaughter of all the suitors by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.
Peace on the island is eventually restored through the intervention of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, victory, and war.