Université Stendhal MSH-alpes : Maison des Sciences de l'Homme CNRS


Nymphs in the Odyssey mediate between maritime and terrestrial perspectives, aiding the integration of the newly arrived in a foreign and alien country and that of Odysseus into Ithaca. Nymphs are particularly evocative of the experience of first encounters with new lands, conforming to an historical maritime perspective of hinterlands observed from a boat or the coast. The article discusses the general mediating function of Nymphs. It reveals the importance of points of contact associated with the Odyssey Nymphs (inland perspective: springs; maritime perspective: sea-caves) and looks at the concept of "empty place." It traces the movement from "Nymph to Nymph" (Calypso to Penelope) and Odysseus's re-integration into Ithaca. The Nymphs of the Odyssey provide an authentic mental perspective for the way Greeks envisaged initial contacts and how they articulated the notion of "places" they arrived at, before such places acquired either a territorial conceptualization, a name, or an ethnic definition. For the history of Greek religion an important "mediating" aspect of Nymphs is brought to the foreground; in terms of Greek social and colonial history a mental, "proto-colonial" viewpoint and attitude may be revealed


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