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Depiction of The Various Forms of Border Crossing in Ancient Texts

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A vast body of blue-green salt water, where if one would attempt to look as far across as the eye can see would possibly catch the sight of land on the other side; a simple door; ones’ first day of college; and even another world beyond one’s own, are all terms and phrases that seem unrelated at first glance, though, in fact, are all examples of a broader term that groups them all together but also simultaneously apart: a border. That blue-green body, an ocean, is a representation of one such border – a physical one. Similarly, the door represents a physical border, as it can separate the smaller inside from the greater outside. While these two examples of physical borders are tangible, intangible borders can exist in the form of interpersonal/emotional, and metaphysical borders, which separate the current world of life from other worlds. Though all these examples of crossing borders are similar in the sense of separation, the action of border crossing brings about something different, and a change in experience.

Just as I personally experienced the crossing of an interpersonal border by transitioning from high school to college, multiple types of crossing of borders can be observed in The Odyssey, in two excerpts from Joshua, in “The Taking of Joppa”, and in selections from The 1001 Arabian Nights. The entirety of each one of these texts demonstrates the metaphysical crossing of borders while the characters within each text demonstrate physical border crossing, interpersonal border crossing, figurative border crossing, geographical border crossing, and social border crossing. Some of the characters in these texts experience the crossing of borders in part due to travel, conquest, or return to home.

Joshua and “The Taking of Joppa” are both focused on the physical crossing of borders into a walled city through the travel aspect of certain individuals looking to expand their territory by conquest. The acts of conquest are carried out through Joshua in Joshua and by Djehuty in “The Taking of Joppa. ” Joshua sends two spies to explore Jericho and eventually, with the help of a prostitute named Rahab, manage to fulfill their duty in crossing the physical border into the city of Jericho and returning to report back successfully, “Then the two men came down again from the hills and crossed over”. Similarly, Djehuty succeeds in his physical crossing over to Joppa through trickery by getting the Rebel drunk, false surrendering to him, and releasing his men from “the baskets of gifts” to reek havoc on Joppa. Though these two examples from the texts seem to solely portray and focus on the more obvious physical border crossing for conquest through a walled city, it is important to realize that these two texts originated from different locations and at different times to weave together a motif common in the ancient world of entering cities through trickery rather than straight through the gate. This narrative element transverses the boundaries of time and place in travel to cross the boundaries from one culture to another.

Expanding beyond these two talked about border crossings in Joshua and in the “Taking of Joppa” in the first lecture, it is also crucial to connect it to another lecture on The Odyssey to bring about yet additional crossings, such as the metaphysical border crossing, as our earthly world is crossed with the realm of the divine. Though briefly stated in the lecture on Joshua and “The Taking of Joppa”, the entireties of these texts’ plots revolve around the metaphysical border crossing with the divine. The first two chapters of Joshua include the story of Joshua receiving God’s word to extend their current territory to include Jericho, “the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant: ‘My servant Moses is dead. Prepare to cross the Jordan, together with all this people, into the land that I am giving to the Israelites’”. This is a clear representation of the crossing of borders from our world, since Joshua is a human, to the divine world, since God is speaking to Joshua, the earthly human, directly.

Similarly, in the literary composition entitled “The Taking of Joppa” after Djehuty defeats the Prince of Joppa he sends a message to the King which includes this excerpt: “Send people to take them captive to you so you may fill the domain of your father Amonre, King of Gods’”. This again displays the metaphysical boundary crossing between the human world and the divine as God is communicated to easily.

Going beyond the crossing to the divine world, Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca represents the overpass to the mythological world of creatures, such as Cyclops, Cicones, Lotus-Eaters and nymphs, to name a few. In Book 9, particularly, Odysseus’ men encountered the Lotus-Eaters whom provided them with the lotus fruit, the equivalent of a real-world drug-like substance, that made his men lose, “the will to come back and bring news” to Odysseus. Albeit the metaphysical border crossing in the three texts discussed so far, a critical crossing of borders in The Odyssey is the geographical one, as mentioned in the lecture about caves. Odysseus travels to many of these caves on various islands on his journey back to Ithaca, demonstrating the obvious geographic travel border crossing between the caves on these islands since he goes from one cave on and island to another cave in a different geographic location. These caves, however, don’t only exhibit his geographical travels, but rather also illuminate Odysseus’ figurative and interpersonal border crossings. As stated in Smith’s lecture on caves, the dwellers of each cave are not human (which goes back to the metaphysical crossing over of borders – like that of the cave of Polyphemus or the goddess of Calypso) making Odysseus the only human cave dweller. This fact makes Odysseus a literal as well as figurative border crosser to the mythological gods/goddesses. Howbeit, it wasn’t touched upon, in lecture, that Odysseus experiences personal border crossing between masculinity and femininity.

Odysseus has spent many years apart from his family as he fought in the Trojan War, violently defeating and slaughtering the Trojans – his masculine and war-side prevailing. In Book 4, Helen describes Odysseus to his son, Telemachus, as a war-hero, “he used his long bronze sword to slaughter many Trojans”. This act of slaughtering and violence is associated to Odysseus’ masculinity and war-side. After spending 10 years in the war, Odysseus crosses between these two sides for an additional 10 years upon returning to his position as husband, father, and King of Ithaca – where his peace should have ultimately prevailed, though as seen in Book 24, doesn’t do so. On his 10-year journey back to home, Odysseus is still left with plenty of geographical islands to cross, as well as creatures and goddesses to deceit. Athena, a female goddess, assists Odysseus in his pursuits, and therefore influences his crossing to a feminine side in overcoming the villains through trickery, rather than the masculine strength of overpowering them, physically. For example, in Book 9, Odysseus defeats Polyphemus by intoxicating him to the point of sleepiness, “all conquering sleep took him” where he then blinded him, and escaped from him under the ram. It is significant to note that Odysseus is helped by the goddess of cunningness – Athena – who is symbolized by the “green olive wood”, and therefore femininity, in the cave where Odysseus schemed the plan to escape from the Cyclops – his crossing over from masculinity and straight up warfare fighting. Odysseus’ cunningness and wittiness, the expression of femininity, rather than physical masculine force, prevail in his minor battles to reach home. At the end, on the contrary, Odysseus’ manliness and war-side prevail as he assumes the position of King and fights against the rebels of the town with weapons and force, crossing the personal border once again.

The 1001 Arabian Nights connects to the prior texts and lectures in regards to travel and the geographic border crossings associated with Sindbad’s travels, while also introducing a new border crossing – a social one. Before delving into the new border crossing, parallels can be drawn between Sindbad’s travels and those of Odysseus as they both travel and their stories are expressed in the epic narrative. Both of these characters expect xenia, only to come across to be denied this hospitality, as shown with Sidbad’s struggle in one of his voyages, to “find some way of killing the giant”. This also portrays the metaphysical border crossing between a human character and a mythological creature, which can be seen in The Odyssey. Professor Karimov, however, expands to the migration aspect of this unit as well as introducing us to the social border crossing through the character of Sindbad as a merchant. Sindbad, as a merchant, is able to go out of his social hierarchy, as he explains to his porter. In his fourth voyage, it is seen that a man is able to marry a rich noble lady, therefore also adding on to this migration of social border crossing by travelling out of social hierarchies.

These ancient texts – Joshua, “The Taking of Joppa”, The Odyssey, and The 1001 Arabian Nights – originating in various geographical locations and in different points of time – transverse borders of travel and migration and individually depict the various forms of border crossing. All convey the metaphysical and physical border crossings, with Odysseus from The Odyssey undergoing figurative and interpersonal crossings as well. Geographic and social crossings are also observed and studied. Now, like Odysseus in the sense of interpersonal border crossing, I can say I crossed the boundary of writing my first, real college paper.

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Depiction of the Various Forms of Border Crossing in Ancient Texts. (2020, April 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
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