The ocean-river, flowing around the outermost rim of the shield

Vesey Street (The Expectation Of Divine Presence) ©MAIERMOUL
Vesey Street (The Expectation Of Divine Presence) ©MAIERMOUL

Early Greek writers did not distinguish mythic space from the real world. The gods were always available; myths about divinities were tied to specific locations; and sanctuaries were maintained with the expectation of divine presence.

The poet [Homer] describes the natural world first: Earth, Sky, Sea, Sun, Moon, and Ocean, each in their appropriate place. The gods, recognizable only by their greater size, appear together with humans.

Here the town is separated from its countryside. In the country itself the land is divided into field, vineyard, pasture for cattle, meadow for sheep, and dancing floor for young women and men of the community.

The description of the two cities ends where it began, in a ring composition, with Okeanos, the ocean-river, flowing around the outermost rim of the shield and marking the edge of the world. The poet imagines these scenes as if from a birds eye view. The poetry opens our eyes to the complex activities of human spaces while at the same time situating those spaces in their natural context. We see the scene as if we were looking simultaneously through both a telescopic lens and a wide-angle one, telescopic lens isolating and focusing on an idealized local landscape, the wide-angle expanding that landscape to represent a whole world, filling the entire space encircled by the ultimate boundary of the earth’s surface.

– Susan Guetter Cole, Geography and Difference in the Early Greek World, in Geography and Ethnography, Wiley-Blackwell.