The Odyssey

UPDATE: Edited my example of “unwinged words” to make it clearer.

I keep forgetting to post this.

I finished Homer’s Odyssey the other day. I enjoyed it. I have a few questions, though, on the off chance there are any bored classicists reading this:

1. People are often referred to as speaking in “winged words”. Much more rarely, words are “unwinged”, as in: “so he spoke, and the words rested with her, unwinged”. What does this idiom mean?

2. Eumaeus is often addressed in the second person, as in: “then Eumaeus, the swineherd, you spoke, saying…”. Wikipedia merely notes that this is interesting. Does anyone know why Homer does this?

It’s interesting the ways in which Odysseus differs from more modern hero-figures. He’s the Austin Powers or Zaphod Beeblebrox of ancient myth. He’s not actually bad, but he’s self-absorbed, self-pitying, brash, stubborn, prideful, an almost pathological liar, and prone to getting everyone but himself killed in satisfying his curiousity. In short, he’s a bit of a jerk, but he’s got charisma and a smooth tongue. Because of this the gods love him – or more accurately, the godesses love him; the ladies swoon over him; and men buy his story; so he wins out in the end.

View All


  1. I believe that “winged words” referred to words that were repeated, carried from person to person… whereas when she kept her own council, the words were unwinged… they rested with her and went no further.

    1. Interesting. I could swear “winged words” was used in some instances where characters were speaking privately, secretly, or in whispers.

    2. oops

      I used a lousy example of “unwinged words”. In all cases, the unwinged words are also spoken aloud to another – as in “so he spoke, and his words rested with her unwinged”.

      1. Re: oops

        he spoke to her. they remain unwinged with *her* because she isnt repeating them.

  2. Odysseus was a trickster not a super-hero fighter like an Achelles or other classic Greek warrior. He lived by his wits and oftentimes beat his opponent by out-thinking him rather than besting him by mere strength or sword-hand skill.

    He was also a lolly-gagger who couldn’t resist sticking his nose into situations that were really none of his business. Took him a long time to make his way home if I recall…

  3. winged words are spoken. they have been set free to fly like birds. it does not matter whether they are intended to be broadcast widely, kept secret, or even spoken and overheard without the speakers knowledge – uttering them make them ‘winged’.

    1. One wonders then what constitutes “unwinged” words, since they were also spoken aloud (see my clarification above).

      1. Well that would still make sense, because with her they were unwinged, (unspoken) He winged them and shee didn’t. At least that’s what I gather.

  4. Well there is quite a few repeated themes in the Odyssey, mostly dealing with females.
    But winged words being used in serect is interesting, because the hardest thing to do is keep a serect in this journey.

Comments are closed.