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THE COSMIC JOURNEY OF ODYSSEUS

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In vain have scholars tried to produce a coherent geographical picture of Odysseus' travels. It is argued here that Odysseus makes a cosmic journey at the edges of the earth (perata ges), a phrase used in the text to describe several lands that the hero visits. The cosmic journey was a genre current in the East Mediterranean region in the Iron Age. It was modeled on the Egyptian the journey of the sun god who travels twelve hours in the darkness of the underworld and twelve hours in the sky. Evidence of similar concepts in the Near East is provided by a Babylonian circular map (now in the British Museum) as well as by Phoenician circular bowls. Gilgamesh seems to perform a cosmic journey. As well, Early Greek cosmology utilizes the concept of a circular cosmos. Odysseus' journey spans the two cosmic junctures of the universe: East, where Circe resides, and West, where Calypso lives. Another polar axis is the underworld and the island of the sun.

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