I just saw a new book from the Cambridge UP that looks promising.
Bruce Louden\’s Homer\’s Odyssey and the Near East looks to be an intriguing look at an ignored possibility. Previous scholarship tended to believe that Hellas and the ANE never interacted prior to Alexander, but newer archeological discoveries and literary research now indicates that such boundaries were actually quite permeable. There have, therefore, been increasing numbers cross-cultural studies between Western and Near Eastern literature.
Of couse, I\’m biased since this study is of special interest to my (my MA thesis dealt with reading Chronicles through the lens of Thucydidean historiography), but it looks like something that will definitely be worth a read.
If you go here you can get a google-preview of the book, read some excerpts, etc.
The Odyssey\’s larger plot is composed of a number of distinct genres of myth, all of which are extant in various Near Eastern cultures (Mesopotamian, West Semitic, Egyptian). Unexpectedly, the Near Eastern culture with which the Odyssey has the most parallels is the Old Testament. Consideration of how much of the Odyssey focuses on non-heroic episodes – hosts receiving guests, a king disguised as a beggar, recognition scenes between long-separated family members – reaffirms the Odyssey\’s parallels with the Bible. In particular the book argues that the Odyssey is in a dialogic relationship with Genesis, which features the same three types of myth that comprise the majority of the Odyssey: theoxeny, romance (Joseph in Egypt), and Argonautic myth (Jacob winning Rachel from Laban). The Odyssey also offers intriguing parallels to the Book of Jonah, and Odysseus\’ treatment by the suitors offers close parallels to the Gospels\’ depiction of Christ in Jerusalem.
It will be interesting to read the thoughts of a well-known Homerian on this topic, and even if such parallels are merely representative of a common milieu rather than actual interaction between the texts it will still provide impetus for future forays into the topic. I certainly plan on getting this once finances allow; £60 is pretty steep for a poor student like me.
(Thanks to Charles Halton for the tip off!)