Homer’s wine-dark sea

This is a view of Osterman Beach in Chicago from the Weatherbug weather cam website, taken on December 29, 2020, at 6:59 a.m. I can see Osterman Beach from a different angle through the window of the home office where I’m writing this.


Much has been made of the lack of the word “blue” used by Homer to describe the sea in the Illiad and the Odyssey. Instead, he often compares its color to wine.

But water is blue! So is the sky! Therefore ancient Greeks had problems with the color. Perhaps they couldn’t even see it.

To which I say: hogwash. I live next to an inland sea, Lake Michigan, and it can be a variety of colors, depending on the waves, the turbulence, and the sky. Besides many shades of blue (from pale to deep), the water can also look green, gray, brown, black (at night), and white (in winter), among other colors, sometimes several colors at once.

The sky can display a multitude of colors as well, especially at sunset and sunrise.

And so, on some wonderful mornings, water can be turned, briefly, into wine.


Tangentially, there’s this discussion of the color of the sea from Ulysses by James Joyce, about which I have no comment.


My next novel, Immunity Index, goes on sale May 4.

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