War is not just physical combat, but also an emotional struggle. After ten years of a physically and emotionally taxing war in Troy, Odysseus had another ten-year journey of extreme physical and emotional peril before he was able to complete his nostos—his journey home. Odysseus’ behavior throughout The Odyssey bears striking similarity with those who experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after years in war: depression, extreme emotional responses, and hyperarousal. Following the ten years of combat exposure detailed in The Iliad, the succeeding ten years in The Odyssey chronicles three specific forms of trauma: combat exposure, disasters of supernatural proportions, and the loss of companions. The tension built throughout the poem culminates in the slaughter of the suitors residing in his home. Homer’s The Odyssey, stripped of the epic overtones, tells the tale of a man who is attempting to cope with the trauma he has experienced throughout the last twenty years of his life.
Janessa Weightman, ’15
Sponsor: John Gruber-Miller