Author Archives: clairespears

Is Marco Polo Lying?

Posted by Claire.

Does Kubilai Khan live for over-the-top affluence, or does Marco Polo have a knack for hyperbole? Take your pick, because something about the figures in this week’s reading seems skewed. Perhaps Khan does feast with 6,000 every night and then have his pick of over 20,000 prostitutes, but I’m more inclined to believe that Polo might be stretching the facts. And, if Polo fibs the numbers in this instance, what is to say that the whole recount isn’t doused in exaggeration? With one of Polo’s main tools throughout book being embellishment, the document can’t possibly be credible as a travel resource or trade manuel and must, in fact, have another primary purpose.

Take for example the description of the Khan’s city, and the fact that “every gateway must be guarded by 1,000 men.” (131) All right, go grab 999 of your closest friends and stand by a door. Feeling important yet? Probably not, after all that is 12 percent of the undergraduate population of Notre Dame.* How big is this gate, anyway? You tell me, overkill or exaggeration?  Or how about “[Polo assuring us] for a fact that… the Great Khan receives gifts of more than 100,000 white horses… [and] elephants, fully 5,000 in number”? (139) That’s quite a herd. About the population of South Bend, actually.** Where is he keeping all those? One more example, the “two brothers [bound] by covenant to provide the Great Khan’s court every day beginning in October and continuing to the end of March, with a thousand heads of game.” (143) That’s 182,000 heads of game. One angus cow has 450 pounds of meat.*** One Big Mac is eight ounces. You do the math. Overkill or exaggeration?

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Thesis #9 Intro

Epithets as Connections and Contrasts

Epithets in the usual sense help to reinforce a character’s personality and in some way alert the reader to key aspects of the story. But Homer employs epithets to a greater degree, using them to connect and contrast characters. With a vast index of characters, these signals guide the reader to the important plots and themes. Themes including mythical deities benefit from this realism. The repeated use of epithets in Homer’s “Odyssey” serves to both highlight important character traits and ground mythological creatures in the mortal world.

Outline (Thesis #9)

Thesis: The repeated use of epithets in Homer’s “Odyssey” serve to both highlight important character traits and ground mythological creatures in the mortal world.

Body #1

  1. The epithets of the main characters, Telemakhos and Odysseus, introduce personalities that will appear throughout the epic.
    1. “clear-headed Telemakhos” (II, 137)
      1. Telemakhos visits Menelaos and rejects his invitation (IV, 635)
    2. “the stategist Odysseus” (V, 223)
      1. Odysseus flatters Kalypso (V, 224)
    3. “that kingly man, Odysseus” (VI, 231)
    4. Odysseus does not have a single epithet, but rather many. Both father and son share similar logical personality traits as indicated through their epithets. Continue reading