The Odyssey, like the Iliad, bears numerous indications that its creation was a process lasting many years and that its composer changed his plans on several points. Inconsistencies once seen as indications of multiple authorship are better interpreted as clues to successive alterations. The poet clearly knew more than one way of telling the various parts of his story. In particular, an earlier version in which Odysseus’ wanderings lasted not ten years but only three has left many traces; his stay with Calypso extended his absence without involving him in further adventures. Crete had a much greater importance in this earlier itinerary located in the eastern Mediterranean. In our Odyssey this is largely transferred to Menelaus, but it also provides material for Odysseus’ false stories, while the narrative of Odysseus’ adventures in Books IX-XII draws extensively on the Argonautica. Our Odyssey represents a work nearly finished, still displaying clues to the process by which it came into being.
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