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Theoclymenos, the "overlooked" Homeric refugee
Presented as part of the ANU Centre for Classical Studies seminar series.
Scholars have traditionally given short shrift to the suppliant seer Theoclymenos and his initial appearance in the 'Odyssey', in which he seeks refuge with Odysseus’ son Telemachos (15.223–286, 508–546). Theoclymenos is dismissed as an intrusive character, and his long genealogy is seen as less significant than the shorter biographies of Iliadic heroes. More positive evaluations, such as Levine’s, emphasize his prophecies (15.531–534; 17.152–161; 20.351–357, 364–370), but Theoclymenos is also important in his own right. He complements Odysseus in his need to secure lifesaving hospitality with one critical difference: Odysseus seeks to return home, but Theoclymenos can never go home. The stress on his pre-exilic elite status in the long narratorial genealogy raises the theme of mortal vulnerability that arises at critical points in the homecomings of Odysseus and his son. Despite the challenge in equating certain ancient Greek terms such as phugōn (both exile and fugitive) with modern classifications such as ‘refugee’, the case study of Theoclymenos contributes to the discussion about what we generally define as a ‘refugee’ today.
Fiona Sweet Formiatti is a Ph.D. candidate at the ANU, and is researching aspects of hospitality in Homeric epic. Fiona holds an M.Phil. (ANU) for a thesis on narratorial apostrophes of character in the 'Iliad'.