The Myth of Europa and How Europe Got its Name

Europa and Zeus in the form of Bull
The Myth of Europa and How Europe Got its Name. Credit: Following Hadrian/ Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Europe got its name from the Greek-Phoenician princess Europa. According to Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of the Olympian Gods, transfigured into a beautiful white bull to abduct the girl he loved.

The story of Europa is one of the most famous tales of love and lust between the gods.

Zeus was not only known for being the most prominent deity in the ancient Greek pantheon. He also had a reputation for his endless affairs. His many children, not all of them from the same mother, had the most extraordinary origins one could imagine.

Europa, was a princess and the only daughter of King Agenor and Telephassa, rulers of Phoenicia. The Greek historian, Herodotus, estimated that Agenor lived either 1000 or 1,600 years prior to his visit to Tyre in 450 BC.

Zeus was smitten by Europa, the beautiful Phoenician princess

As the tale goes, Zeus was so smitten by the beautiful Phoenician princess that he transfigured himself into a marvelous white bull to seduce her.

Europa was picking flowers with her helpers while suddenly she saw the bull coming from afar. The princess was astonished by the beauty of the animal. As they came close to each other he quickly leaned down at Europa’s feet, acting completely submissive to her. Encouraged by her helpers, she climbed on the animal’s back.

Zeus got up and slowly started walking around. Soon however, he accelerated his pace and eventually broke into a gallop, with Europa clinging on for her life. The king of the gods and the frightened princess reached the seaside and dived into the sea.

Zeus Europa abduction
Drawing depicting the abduction of Europa. Public Domain

Zeus carried Europa to the Island of Crete

Europa’s parents were beyond themselves, and Agenor sent out his sons to look for her but in vain, as they never found her and were eventually forced to abandon their search for their sister.

Zeus had carried Europa from Phoenicia to Crete. Once they got to the island, Zeus reclaimed his human form and finally materialized his lust by mating with her under an evergreen tree.

This whole time, Zeus was married to the goddess Hera, but he could not overcome his desire for the princess of Phoenicia.

Following their union she gave birth to three sons who were noted for their fairmindedness and justice.

Zeus Europa statue
A modern statue at Agios Nikolaos, Crete depicts the abduction of Europa. Credit: Neil Howard/Flickr

Gifts to Europa

Zeus loved Europa unconditionally; his love knew no bounds, so in addition to the three divine children she was granted with three special and invaluable gifts.

The first included Talos, a giant bronze humanoid that served as her bodyguard. He was an invincible opponent who would not back down from a fight.

The second priceless gift was Laelaps, a dog that according to Greek mythology always caught what he hunted.

The final gift was a javelin. This weapon was unique because it had the power to never miss the target.

Zeus also gifted her a beautiful ornamental necklace that the god of fire, Hephaestus, had created.

First time “Europe” is Used as Geographic Term

Although no  accounts describe what happened to Europa after her adventure with Zeus, it is clear that her influence on the ancient Greeks was so significant that they named the continent after her.

The first recorded usage of Europe as a geographic term is in Homer’s Hymn to Delian Apollo in reference to the western shore of the Aegean Sea. Additionally, the Greek philosopher Anaximander and the geographer Hecataeus used it as a name for a region of the known world for the first time in the sixth century BCE.

The word “Europe” is derived from the Greek words “eurus” (εύροσ-wide) and “ops” (ωψ-eye or face) but no one knows whether this could mean that the ancient Greeks named Europe after the facial characteristics they noticed in its inhabitants.

New Study Finds Europa’s Crust Might be Built by “Frazil Ice”

Europa Jupiter
New study finds Europa’s crust might be built by “Frazil Ice.” Credit: NASA

According to a new study published in the journal Astrobiology, the crust of Jupiter’s ice moon Europa, may have been partially formed by a fluffy buildup of ice crystals known as “frazil ice.”

Europa’s icy crystals suggest that the shell of Jupiter’s famous ice moon was formed in part by pure underwater snow that floats up rather than falls down.

This frazil ice, which also forms beneath Earth’s ice sheets, has a fraction of the salt found in ice that forms on the ice shelf itself, implying that Europa’s ice sheets may be less salty than previously thought.

According to Natalie Wolfenbarger, a graduate student researcher at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and the lead author in the study of exploring Europa, the salinity and composition of the ocean are the epitome of the study.

“When we’re exploring Europa, we’re interested in the salinity and composition of the ocean, because that’s one of the things that will govern its potential habitability or even the type of life that might live there,” she said.

According to NASA, astrobiologists identify Europa as one of the most intriguing objects in the solar system. The moon is covered by an ocean forty to one hundred miles (60 to 150 kilometers) deep, capped off by an ice crust ten to fifteen miles (15 to 25 km) thick.

NASA also claims, Europa’s surface-wide ocean may hold about twice the water as all of Earth’s oceans although it is a quarter of the size of Earth. This makes Jupiter’s moon an intriguing place to search for extraterrestrial life.

New Nasa Orbiter ‘Europa Clipper’ to be launched to aid study

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin are leading the development of a new NASA orbiter, the Europa Clipper, set to launch in October 2024.

The ice-penetrating radar instrument will fly by the ice moon to see if it might be a suitable habitat for life by peering into the ice sheet and the ocean just beneath it.

The efforts of this research are aimed at understanding how the ice sheet might be structured.

They used Earth as an analogy, looking at the two primary ways that ice originates beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica. Congelation ice is one type that develops from the ice shelf’s surface. The second type of ice, known as frazil ice, develops in frigid seawater and drifts upward as flakes like reverse snow before getting stuck beneath the ice sheet.

Europa likely to have a low-temperature gradient

Like Antarctica, Europa is likely to have a low-temperature gradient, meaning the temperature changes little with depth.

Analyzing the observed conditions, Wolfenbarger found, that frazil ice is quite common, particularly in spots where the ice thins in rifts or fractures. This is also common on Europa, and it could make a big difference in the composition of the moon’s ice shell.

Whereas congelation ice might contain ten percent of the salt of the surrounding seawater, frazil ice is far purer, containing only 0.1 percent of the salt in the seawater from which it forms.

Not only could this low-salt ice affect the structure and strength of Europa’s ice crust, but it could also impact the efficiency by which Clipper’s radar can penetrate the ice.

In a statement, Steve Vance, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said that “this paper is opening up a whole new batch of possibilities for thinking about ocean worlds and how they work.”

“It sets the stage for how we might prepare for Europa Clipper’s analysis of the ice,” he added—although he was not involved in the study.

Hearing Devices to be Sold Over the Counter as FDA Regulations Change

Hearing Aid
Hearing devices to be sold over the counter, as FDA regulations change. Credit: Michael Sauers CC BY-NC 2.0 / Flickr

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed new regulations allowing hearing devices to be sold over the counter, a move aimed at making the devices easily accessible.

On Wednesday, the regulations prompted many businesses to announce the availability of hearing products in thousands of stores across the United States this fall. Some electronic product retailers already started offering online hearing assessment tools.

The FDA said it will allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to buy devices from retailers without requiring a medical exam, prescription, or fitting adjustment, but it will continue to regulate the quality of OTC devices.

The federal agency also noted that OTC devices could be available as early as mid-October when the new policy takes effect. People with severe hearing impairment and those younger than eighteen will still require prescriptions.

The new category of OTC devices opens the door for new products to be sold, yet, many retail stores have been already selling hearing devices such as personal sound amplification products, TV amplifiers, and hearing protection devices.


FDA Regulation to lower cost of hearing devices

According to the FDA, the new regulation is expected to make hearing aids more affordable, benefiting nearly thirty million people in the United States, mostly older adults, who suffer from hearing loss.

According to the National Council on Aging, an advocacy group, the price of standard hearing aids, which often includes a consultation with an audiologist and a fitting, can be up to as much as $7,000 per pair without insurance.

The high cost of the devices discourages people from seeking help, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters on Tuesday.

Becerra said that “today’s action should help make hearing aids not only more accessible but truly more affordable.”

As per the new rule, the agency estimates consumers will save about $1,400 per individual hearing aid or more than $2,800 per pair, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said during a briefing.

In some stores, customers will be able to purchase the devices using health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, yet, some insurance providers cover the costs of the device.

Consumer advocates in the US have for years complained that the cost of hearing devices is too high in the U.S., calling on regulators to implement new rules that allow for over-the-counter devices.

Elon Musk Jokes about Buying Manchester United

Elon Musk
Elon Musk Jokes about Buying Manchester United. Credit Heisenberg Media CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk announced that he was purchasing the Manchester United team. However, a few hours later Musk clarified the tweet’s intent.

The billionaire tweeted: “To be clear, I support the left half of the Republican Party and the right half of the Democratic Party! Also, I’m buying Manchester United […You’re] welcome.”

The club’s main Twitter account received more than 500,000 likes within six hours of the billionaire’s tweet. Some users, however, didn’t take the comment seriously and compared it to Musk’s failed attempt to attain Twitter. Fans who are dissatisfied with the team’s current American owners welcomed Musk’s claim.

The club’s season has gotten off to one of its worst starts ever after losing its first two games, and it is currently in the last position in the English Premier League rankings. In addition, the Manchester United stadium, Old Trafford, is in need of major renovations.

Manchester United Owners Backlashed on Twitter

On Twitter, several of the club’s supporters pleaded Musk to seriously consider purchasing Manchester United, lamenting the Glazers’ perceived lack of investment. In 2013, in their heyday, United claimed a record twenty victories under manager Alex Ferguson, but they haven’t won the English league championship since.

According to a 2017 story in the British publication The Daily Mirror, the Glazers, who bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($957 million), were willing to sell if they received an offer of over four billion pounds.

Forbes has estimated the value of Manchester United, one of the most valued sports teams, to be at approximately $4.6 billion, and the group trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

However, Musk’s tweets about potential purchases have landed him in trouble before— specifically with U.S. regulators. In 2018, Musk tweeted about taking Tesla private and  claimed that “financing [had been] secured” with a $72 billion proposal.

Nevertheless, he never followed through with his intention to do so and received Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges pertaining to fraud and deception of investors. Musk attempted to address these charges, and both he and Tesla each paid $20 million civil fines. Subsequently, Musk resigned from his position as Tesla chairman.

Musk’s Starlink in Greece

More recently, Elon Musk also addressed the vital issue of less than ideal internet speeds by making high speed internet available in Greece. In his reputable Starlink project, internet service is beamed to subscribers who are able to connect through a small user terminal aided by numerous flat-paneled broadband satellites circling the Earth.

Elon Musk Vacationing in Mykonos, Greece

Elon Musk was spotted vacationing on the Greek island of Mykonos on Saturday, July 16th.

Local media said Elon Musk arrived at the celebrity destination in the early hours of Saturday and was seen having lunch at a restaurant on Agia Anna beach.

A video of Musk and his entourage reaching the beach on a boat, confirmed the rumors.


The Evil Bird Women of Greek Mythology

the Evil Bird Women of Greek Mythology
The Evil Bird Women of Greek Mythology. Credit: Video screenshot/Youtube/tourscotland

Harpies were described as the evil bird women of Greek mythology—and some of the most daunting creatures—which were half-woman, half-bird creatures said to be the spirits of winds during storms.

They were depicted as having a female head but the body of a bird, and although they are described by certain sources as quite attractive, they were, nonetheless, most frequently said to have had pale faces. They were supposedly rather ugly in comparison to regular women. Harpies are generally portrayed in Greek and Roman literary works of mythology and are typically found on pottery and drawings.

In particular, the Greek poet Hesiod (750 BC) made reference to two specific harpies, namely Ocypete and Aello. The two creatures were mentioned as having “lovely hair” and frequently soaring through the wind like vigorous birds.

Hesiod posited that these two harpies were the offspring of the Oceanid Electra, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and wife of sea god Thaumas. These harpies were sisters with Iris,  goddess of the rainbow and a divine messenger of the gods, especially Queen Hera.

Later Greek Authors’ Description of Harpies

Hesiod can be said to have admired harpies since he wrote beautiful poetic descriptions of them, but subsequent Greek authors were not as inspired by them at all and did not speak well of them. Those writers depicted harpies as repulsive, nasty creatures known for their dreadful acts and dark and unpleasant demeanor. They purportedly had “repulsive breath”and “hateful” tears in their eyes.

Celaeno, yet a third harpy, was later introduced to this pair of siblings by Virgil, the Roman poet. The names of harpies all referred to their specialties. Aello, for instance, means “storm” in Greek while Ocypete means “swift wing”, and Celaeno means “the dark one.” Podarge another harpy which her name means “fast”, was the mother of Balius and Xanthus, the horses of the mythical Greek hero of the Trojan war, Achilles.

Harpies were also generally known as agents of divine punishment, the reason being that they snatched wicked people and took them to Tartarus, a place of torment and suffering.

Most Popular Tale of the Evil Bird Women of Greek Mythology

The most well-known harpies tale has to be that of King Phineus of Thrace, who was bestowed with the gift of prophecy, possibly by Zeus. Because Phineus revealed the god’s secret plot to humans, Zeus punished him by blinding him.

Additionally, Phineas was punished by the torments of the Harpies, who would steal any food he would attempt to eat, thus leaving him always hungry. They would, in fact, snatch the food right from his hands before he ever got the chance to appease his hunger. Later writers specified that the harpies would either consume the food themselves or contaminate it in various ways so that it would no longer be appropriate for consumption.

In summary, harpies have apparently played a significant role in both Greek and Roman mythology as well as in more current works of art and literature. Despite being hideous and dangerous, they frequently follow orders from others and diligently carry out their masters’ orders, such as those of Zeus.

UK Price Inflation Rate Reaches 40-Year High

Big Ben
UK price inflation rate reaches 40-year high. Credit: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

Consumer price inflation in the U.K. has hit a forty-year high at 10.1 percent in the twelve months to July 2022, an increase from 9.4 percent in June; this pushes the cost of living in Britain further up, according to latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday.

This is the first time that the U.K. inflation has reached double digits since 1982, the ONS estimates.

The 10.1 percent consumer price inflation exceeded economists’ expectations that it would edge up to 9.8 percent.

The food and non-alcoholic beverages as well as the transport divisions made the largest upward contributions to the monthly rates in July 2022. In June 2021, the main upward contribution to the monthly rates came from transport overall, the ONS report says.

Core inflation, which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, came in at 6.2 percent in the year to July 2022, rising from 5.8 percent in June and ahead of an expected 5.9 percent.

Food prices drive UK inflation

Food price inflation alone hit 12.7 percent in July, the highest rate in the category for more than twenty years in the UK.

There was an overall increase of 2.3 percent between June and July 2022.

“The largest upward contributions came from bread and cereals, and from milk, cheese and eggs—where prices for shop-bought and delivered milk, cheddar cheese and yoghurts (or fromages frais) increased notably,” the report explains.

Other smaller effects came from meat, vegetables, including tubers, and sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate, and confectionery.

When it comes to energy, the report shows electricity prices rising by 54.0 percent and gas prices by 95.7 percent in the twelve months up to July 2022, leading to an unchanged contribution to the annual inflation rate of 1.87 percentage points from electricity, gas, and other fuels in total.

Energy prices are expected to rise again in October 2022.

In terms of fuel prices, those increased by 2.9 percent between June and July 2022 and by 43.7 percent in the year up to July 2022.

Heading towards lengthy recession

In the few hours following the publication of the new data, the yield on the two-year Gilt increased by more than 29 basis points to reach 2.441 percent before moderating slightly. This was the highest point since November 2008, according to CNBC.

Earlier in August, the Bank of England launched its biggest interest rate hike in 27 years as it expected headline inflation to peak at 13.3 percent in October and to remain at elevated levels throughout much of 2023.

Viber Launches Greek-Themed Free Stickers Pack

A poster of Viber's newly-launched Greek-themed sticker pack.
Viber Launches Greek-Themed Free Stickers Pack. Credit: Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT)

Rakuten’s cross-platform communication app, Viber, has launched a Greek-themed free stickers pack in collaboration with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT), titled Visit Greece.

“The new stickers are inspired by the Greek summer and the most beloved destinations, such as the Cyclades, Crete and Halkidiki, with themes such as Greek food and activities in nature, water sports, but also the most famous and favorite Greek expressions,” EOT said in a press release.

The stickers are free to download and available until November 11, 2022. Two versions were created in Greek and English, as the sticker pack is aimed at both local and foreign Greek summer enthusiasts.

Viber’s Greek information channel

Besides the sticker pack, Visit Greece also offers an information channel to help visitors plan their vacation at Greek destinations.

The channel’s subscribers can find tips and secrets about popular destinations, as well as suggestions for visits to archaeological sites and local monuments, sports activities, information about concerts and parties, or even ideas for activities with children.

Viber’s latest product, Channels, first became available in Greece in April 2022.

In Greece alone, there are 4.5 million members on Channels on Viber today, Rakuten said at the time.

According to data, some of the biggest and the most lively examples were the Greek Government’s channel set around regular updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation in the country. Other channels include those of national football teams, such as Olympiacos, PAOK, Panathinaikos, and the food inspiration channel from Greek celebrity chef Akis Petretzikis.

Viber’s smartphone penetration levels in the Greek market is estimated to be at around 91 percent.

Tentoglou Wins Long Jump Gold, Sets Record at European Championship

Greek athlete Miltiadis Tentoglou competing in men's long jump at the European Athletics Championships in Munich
Tentoglou wins long jump gold, sets record at European Championship. Credit: Twitter / European Athletics @euroathletics

Olympic gold medalist and 2021 champion Miltiadis Tentoglou retained his European long jump title and set a new championship record with his 8.52 meter jump on his fourth attempt at the 2022 European Athletics Championships on Tuesday in Munich. 

All three of his jumps would have won the competition against the 8.06 jumps of the silver and bronze winners.

His spectacular fourth jump of 8.52 meters was the best worldwide performance this year, and he told reporters that his next goal will be for 9 meters.

Tentoglou holds a personal best of 8.60 meters, which was achieved at a track and field event in Athens in 2021.

Tentoglou’s history of gold medals

This is the sixth gold medal for Tentoglou at a top-level competition.

So far, the Greek track and field athlete has attained gold at the 2018 and 2019 European Championships; the 2019 and 2021 European Indoors Championships; the 2021 Olympics; and the 2022 World Indoors Championships.

Last month, he won silver at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA.

“This guy can’t stop winning,” the official Twitter account of European Athletics Championships captioned a video of Tentoglou’s winning leap.

The 24-year-old athlete from the city of Grevena in northern Greece is considered one of the top Greek athletes of his generation. He became the youngest Greek man to win a continental title when he won his first gold medal at the 2018 European Championship in Berlin.

“Golden” day for Greek athletics

Earlier on Tuesday, Greek race walker Antigoni Ntrismpioti was crowned European champion in the 35 kilometer women’s competition.

Ntrismpioti covered the 35 kilometer distance in 2 hours and 47 minutes and crossed the finish line carrying the Greek flag over her shoulders.

She received her medal with tears of joy as the Greek national anthem began to play.

The 2022 European Athletics Championships run from August 15th to August 21st in Munich.

The Odyssey at a Glance

Odysseus and his crew escape the Cyclops Polyphemus. Odyssey homer
Odysseus and his crew escaping the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Credit: Wikipedia/Public domain.  

The Odyssey of Homer is a Greek epic poem that tells of the return journey of Odysseus to the island of Ithaca from the war at Troy, which Homer related in the Iliad. In the Greek tradition, the war lasted for ten years. Odysseus 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 a slaughter of all the suitors by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.

Peace on the island is eventually restored through the intervention of Athena, goddess of wisdom, victory, and war.

Penelope, waiting on Ithaca
Penelope waits for her husband in Ithaca. Painted by Domenico Beccafumi circa 1514. Credit: Wikimedia/Public domain. 

The quest of Odysseus to get back to his island and eject the suitors is built on the power of his love for home and family. This notion of love conquering fear and hatred is a common theme in Greek quest mythology.

The Odyssey, like the Iliad, is divided into 24 books, corresponding to the 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. Within the middle section of the poem (Books 9-12), Odysseus describes all the challenges that he has faced trying to get home. These include monsters of various sorts, a visit to the afterlife, cannibals, drugs, alluring women, and the hostility of Poseidon himself. These challenges resemble those of earlier heroes like Heracles and Jason. In the Iliad, the hero Achilles faces no such challenges, indicating that The Odyssey has a very different idea of heroism.

Cunning and courageous

The critical episode on the way home is Odysseus’s encounter with Polyphemus, a Cyclops and son of Poseidon (told in Book 9). He and his men enter into the cave of the Cyclops, get him drunk on some seriously potent wine, and then stick a large burning stake into his eye. Polyphemus is blinded but survives the attack and curses the voyage home of the Ithacans. All of Odysseus’ men are eventually killed, and he alone survives his return home, mostly because of his versatility and cleverness. There is a strong element of the trickster figure about Homer’s Odysseus.

It is very important in The Odyssey that the hero’s renown as the destroyer of Troy has quickly entered into the oral tradition of the world through which he travels. On the last leg of his return, he is entertained by the Phaeacians on the island of Scheria (perhaps modern Corfu), where Odysseus, his identity unknown to his hosts, rather cheekily asks the local bard, Demodocus, to sing the story of the wooden horse, which Odysseus had used to hide the Greek soldiers and surprise the city of Troy.

Ulysses (the Roman name for Odysseus) and the Sirens - Odyssey homer
Ulysses (the Roman name for Odysseus) and the Sirens. Credit: Wikipedia/Public domain. 

Odysseus is more than keen to hear about his own heroic exploits, and so well does Demodocus sing the story of the horse, that tears run down Odysseus’ cheeks, and he groans heavily. His reaction to the bard prompts his host, the king Alcinous, to ask him who he is and what his story is.

Odysseus can rightly claim to be the conqueror of Troy based on his creative thinking in dreaming up the idea of the horse in the first place, not to mention his courage in going into its belly with the other men.

His role in breaking the siege at Troy is a precursor to breaking the stalemate in his own house. He is a kind of “breaker of sieges” in early Greek epic. His heroism is characterized by these two elements—his cunning intelligence and his courage in the darkness of confined spaces.

This kind of heroism is very different from Achilles in the Iliad, whose renown is built on his use of the spear and shield in single combat in the bright light of day. Achilles never sees the fall of Troy because he dies beforehand (unless one watches the 2004 film “Troy”). One might say that Achilles wins his Trojan war by killing Hector with Athena’s support, but it is Odysseus who is the real destroyer of the city by virtue of a new and different kind of heroism.

Just as Odysseus is too clever for the Trojans—and the suitors—so his wife, Penelope is a model of cleverness and circumspection. She tries to avoid re-marriage and delays the event by a clever ruse. She agrees to marry a suitor only after she has finished weaving a death shroud for Odysseus’ father, Laertes. The suitors agree to this, but little do they know that she weaves the shroud by day, and un-weaves it by night. She is eventually betrayed by one of the maids in the house and forced by the suitors to complete it although the ruse does last for three years.

The Greeks had no illusion that the characteristic cleverness of Odysseus had a sinister aspect to it, not the least in the way that he deals with the Trojans after the war. Some of the atrocities at Troy, notably the killing of the young boy Astyanax (son of Hector and Andromache), are sheeted home to Odysseus by the poets.

In late-5th century BC Athens (over 200 years after Homer’s Odyssey) the rise of demagogic politicians like Cleon seems to have affected the portrayal of Odysseus in Greek drama. In works such as Sophocles’ Philoctetes and Euripides’ Trojan Women, the focus is on his appalling cruelty and duplicity. Likewise, the Roman poet Vergil in his Aeneid (Book 2) emphasises the dark trickery of Ulysses (the Roman name for Odysseus) in getting the Trojans to drag the wooden horse inside the city walls.

Returning from war

The Odyssey, therefore, is a maritime epic right up to the point where the focus of attention is the siege in Odysseus’ house. The return journey of the warrior from Troy was a favorite theme in Greek mythology, and we know of another early epic poem (simply called “Nostoi,” meaning “Returns”) which told a similar story. Even within The Odyssey, there is a significant contrast between the careful and clever return of Odysseus and that of Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, who is murdered as soon as he gets home.

There are a number of signs that The Odyssey is a later poem than the Iliad, and not necessarily by the same poet (despite the Greek tradition that they are both by “Homer”). The gods are far less prominent in The Odyssey than the Iliad although Athena, in particular, has her moments. She is associated with cleverness (metis in Greek) and victory (nike), both of which are germane to the story of Odysseus’ survival and that of his family. In many ways, Odysseus and Penelope are models of the sorts of things that Athena represents.

Odysseus and Telemachus Kill Penelope's Suitors, Odyssey homer
“Odysseus and Telemachus Kill Penelope’s Suitors” by Thomas Degeorge. Credit: Wikipedia/VladoubidoOo/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Odyssey also has a more elaborate structure and chronology than the Iliad. The first four books deal with the situation of the house invasion on Ithaca and the travels of the young Telemachus to mainland Greece. Athena takes Telemachus from the female space of the house to the outside world of male politics. Thereafter, Odysseus himself is the center of the poem’s attention as wanderer, tale teller, and siege breaker in his own home. The folktale world through which he travels (in Books 9 to 12) is told indirectly by Odysseus on his journey home to a Phaeacian audience rather than directly by the poet. This notion of Odysseus as tale teller is central to The Odyssey.

In many ways, The Odyssey is the most renowned literary work of Greek antiquity even though some people would say it lacks the radical brilliance of the Iliad. The fact that the word “odyssey” has come into our language from Homer’s poem speaks for itself. The story of The Odyssey is a quintessential quest that relates to the passage through life and the importance of love, family, and home. Many readers today find The Odyssey more accessible and more “modern” than the “archaic” Iliad.

The Odyssey in Modern interpretations

The rich variety of mythical narratives in The Odyssey (especially his wanderings through a world of wonder and mystery in Books 9 to 12) has meant that the cultural history of the poem is astonishingly large whether in literature, art, or film. Whole monographs have been written on the reception of Odysseus in later periods. When one bears in mind that Odysseus’s name in Rome, Ulysses, is often used by artists and writers, as it was by James Joyce, then we get a sense of how dominant a figure he is in western cultural history.

Creative re-tellings of The Odyssey in a modern context include films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Paris, Texas, and O Brother Where Art Thou? Likewise, the theme of the returning war veteran has Homeric overtones in films like The Manchurian Candidate, The Deer Hunter, and In the Valley of Elah.

Odysseus, moreover, probably influenced the early comic book superhero Batman in the late 1930s and 1940s, just as Greek demigods, such as Heracles and Achilles, help to inform the extra-terrestrial background of Superman. As a human bat, Batman uses disguise to good effect, as Odysseus does, and he thrives on conducting his challenges in the darkness of the night.

But the last word on the subject of Odysseus and his adventures should go to Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Dylan wrote a lecture in honor of his Nobel victory focused on some of the literature that influenced and affected him. One such work was The Odyssey, and with echoes of Constantine Cavafy’s magnificent poem “Ithaca,” Dylan reflects on Odysseus’ adventures and their immediacy as a lived experience:

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.

Chris Mackie                                                                                                          Professor of Greek Studies at La Trobe University.

This article was published in The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons License.

Scientists Decode DNA of Greek Feta Cheese

Feta cheese on a Greek salad.
Scientists Decode DNA of Greek Feta Cheese. Credit: Zone 41/Wikimedia Commons/ CC-BY-2.0

According to the Academy of Athens, scientists have recently decoded the DNA of the famous Greek Feta cheese.

Scientists from the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens studied a wide variety of feta cheese produced all across the nation of Greece in an effort to quantify the nutritional specifics of the popular Greek cheese.

According to the findings, feta cheese has 489 different types of protein, making it one of the most protein-rich cheese varieties in the entire world.

Feta cheese is a white cheese produced in Greece and made of1 sheep’s milk, but it can also be made from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.

Feta cheese is an iconic Greek product

According to the European Union’s law regarding products’ “protected designation of origin,” feta must be produced by using exclusively whole sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk. The goat’s milk can never be more than thirty percent of the total.

Greece won a long legal battle with Denmark in 2002 over the brand name “Feta.” Since then, every package of cheese sold inside the European Union that bears the name ”feta” must meet specific standards and be produced exclusively in Greece.

Cheese-making is an ancient practice in the Mediterranean with the production of cheese from goat’s or sheep’s milk dating back to the 8th century BCE in Greece.

This history is accompanied by ancient myths about cheese production, including one in which Apollo’s son Aristaios, raised by nymphs, teaches mankind the art of preparing milk for cheese production.

A cheese resembling feta is mentioned in Homer‘s Odyssey. In the ancient work, the Cyclops Polyphemus is described as a shepherd who lives with a cave full of cheese and milk taken from his flock. Feta, in the form known nowadays, was first mentioned during the Byzantine era.

Feta is a crumbly, soft, white cheese with a tangy flavor. It is created by placing the curdled milk mixture into wooden barrels. The curdled mixture is very compact and must be sliced in order to fit into the barrels. The name feta, Greek for ‘slice,’ most likely derives from this practice.

After sitting in the barrels for several days, the cheese curds are placed in brine, a salty water solution, which is essential in creating the cheese’s iconic flavor. This is why your feta is floating in liquid when you buy it in the supermarket!

Feta is used in many Greek dishes but most notably in what is known as Greek salad, or horiatiki, as well as in baked goods, such as spanakopita and tyropita. Because of its popularity, feta is now used throughout the world in many dishes.