The Role and Influence of the Gods in Homer’s Odyssey
The Role of the Gods in The Odyssey
In ancient literature, it is common to see two types of characters in a story: deity and mortals. Usually, the deity are the running forces of the Earth, while mortals make problems for the deity on Earth. While these two groups are distinguishable in the literature, there is quite a bit of interaction between them. Literature shows a difference in power between deity and mortals along with an overarching relationship between the two groups. One epic that is widely known and understood is that of Homer’s The Odyssey. The divine are extremely involved in this epic, as we see the goddess Athena doing all she can to save Odysseus, while the sea god Poseidon is doing all he can to keep Odysseus from ever returning home to Ithaca. It becomes clear through following the god’s actions in The Odyssey, that mortals are merely pawns in the god’s personal schemes.
Ancient Greece has many gods, and each of which has a different purpose in keeping the world running. The mortals, on the other hand, seem to just be living their lives on Earth, trying their best to appease the gods. The gods in The Odyssey are much more involved in the lives of the mortals than in other ancient literature. They come down and interact with the mortals in order to achieve their personal goals, showing they are primarily interested in the mortals for personal gain. This is particularly seen with Calypso, as she keeps Odysseus on her island for years because all she wants is him to love her. Overall, the gods in the Odyssey are much more powerful than the mortals, but do not seem to care about them.
Throughout the poem, it is clear to understand Odysseus’s goal. He wants to be home with his family in Ithaca, but unfortunately he is consistently held back by the gods. This makes it clear that while mortals can pursue worthwhile goals, they can only reach those goals if the gods are on their side. Odysseus’s case is quite unique as he has some gods working against him while others working for him. That is why he is eventually able to achieve his goal at the end of the poem. This conflict with Odysseus’s divine aid creates a complex situation. Whereas the mortals are never able to achieve their goals without the approval of the gods, the gods have the power to obtain whatever it is they want. This becomes more difficult, however, when the gods are against each other as they are in The Odyssey. Athena is working very hard at bringing Odysseus home. Her intervention in this particular mortal’s life makes it very hard for Poseidon to achieve his goal of keeping Odysseus from Ithaca, therefore he intervenes as well, making it hard for Athena to save Odysseus. Therefore, Odysseus gets caught in the middle of the conflict between these two gods and has no control. He must wait for one of the gods to overpower the other, and hope it is in his favor.
As the gods intermingle with each other, they create complicated relationships that then constrain their power. For example, Zeus seems to be fairly separated from the entire situation with Odysseus, yet he gets involved by telling Calypso to let Odysseus go because it is the wishes of his daughter Athena. This then leads Calypso to be mad at Zeus and the other gods. Another example of this situation is when Polyphemus calls on his father Poseidon to avenge his death, “Hear me, Poseidon, who circle the earth, dark-haired. If truly I am your son, and you acknowledge yourself as my father, grant that Odysseus, sacker of cities, son of Laertes, who makes his home in Ithaka, may never reach that home” (9.528-536). Poseidon previously had no problems with Odysseus, yet due to his obligations to his son, he is then required to keep Odysseus from Ithaca. This angers Athena, therefore creating unnecessary conflict for Poseidon, due to familial obligations. While gods have the most power in the ancient greek universe, they are constrained when their family needs favors from them.
While the mortals must hope to have the god’s favor in order achieve their goals, there are certain things they can do to get the gods on their side. For example, as Paris chose Aphrodite’s beauty over Hera’s and Athena’s, he made enemies with both of them and they then fought against Troy in the Trojan War. As Athena was on the side of the Greeks, and Odysseus was one of the main Greek warriors, it’s understandable that Athena is supporting Odysseus’s journey home. On the other hand, as Odysseus blinded Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus, it makes sense that Poseidon is doing all he can to punish Odysseus for this action. Zeus comments on the control the mortals possess over their fate as he says, “Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame on us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given” (1.32-34). This shows that while the gods have power to punish or reward the mortals, the mortals have the power to appease the gods. Unfortunately for the mortals however, normally when one god is appeased, another is angered.
While the gods continually get in the way of the mortal’s goals, the mortals do seem to generally accept this unideal situation. As Odysseus tells his story, others are easily able to tell him that he should have made a sacrifice to the gods before he left on his journey in order to grant him safe passage home. In another example, when Odysseus defeats the suitors and some women begin crying over the lost men, Odysseus explains to them that the gods wanted it this way, “These were destroyed by the doom of the gods and their own hard action”’ (22.411-413). So while the gods are constantly getting in the way of the mortal’s goals, they seem to accept this way of life.
Throughout The Odyssey, the gods use the mortals to get their way while the mortals hope to find favor with the gods. While the mortals have goals they are actively pursuing, they are powerless in achieving those goals if they disrupt the will of the gods. However, the mortals can influence the gods by either appeasing them through sacrifice, or upsetting them through questionable actions. Many times, mortals are able to appease one god at the same time they upset another, and therefore, while they have some influence, they are still pawns in the gods games. While the gods have all the power, they do meet constraints on achieving their goals when they disagree with another god, or if their family members require things of them. Overall, the gods in The Odyssey are very involved in the lives of the mortals, but it is only for personal gain.
Setting as an Ideological and Plot Element in Homer’s Odyssey
Setting is Significant
One of the most important parts of a story is the setting. Setting includes not only place but period as well. In Homer’s short story, The Odyssey, the surroundings change frequently; however, the story takes place in Ancient Greece. This is vital to every aspect of the story because, if it were changed to any other time such as modern-day America, the mythological feature would be erased, the way of life for the characters would be changed, and the nature of the story would be different.
The short story is based on supernatural things such as one-eyed monsters, Greek gods, and hypnotic fruit. Odysseus, a legendary Greek hero, is known for his cunning wit and his brave actions when faced with danger. If the setting of the story were in modern-day America, the story’s unique mythological origin would be virtually eliminated, causing none of Odysseus’s challenges to be even remotely the same. He would not have defeated the Cyclopes Polyphemus, nor weathered a storm sent by Zeus. Instead, he would be battling modern-day problems like traffic and paying taxes. Without the setting of Ancient Greece, the mythology component would be erased, resulting in the whole plot needing to be altered to fit the new setting, which would result in a new story.
The human characters in the story survive by pillaging towns, stealing from others and killing those who stand in their way. If the story were set in current-day America, none of these things would be possible to do without serious repercussions. Odysseus’s men only have to worry about not being killed, whereas if they were in modern times they would have to concern themselves with abiding by laws to prevent incarceration. It would be very hard for them to do anything they do in the short story because of recent discoveries such as fingerprinting, security cameras, etc. The way of life for the characters would have to be changed to follow the normal standards of society.
What makes the short story unique is the strong connection to Ancient Greece. Although it is not the only part that provides an intriguing concept to the story, it is considered an essential piece. Without the heavily referenced period of Ancient Greece, the nature of the story would no longer have a sort of historical feel to it. A modern story does not evoke curiosity about the past or provide a mythological essence; modern stories simply relay current events in most cases. If the setting were moved to modern-day America, the plot would have to be modified from an early legend that induces wonder to a modern tale, which would create an entirely different atmosphere for the reader.
Ultimately, The Odyssey would be altered into a completely new story if the setting was changed. Anything from mythological creatures to simply the way the characters live would have to be adjusted significantly. Monsters and Gods would not be relevant challenges and, in this day and age. Also, it is nearly impossible to get away with breaking the law, so that also would have to change to fit modern American standards. If these key factors were changed, it would mean the setting, characters, and the behavior of the characters are no longer similar to the original story. These factors being changed would result in a total overhaul of the original nature of the tale. In short, it is impossible to change the setting of Ancient Greece to modern-day America without large plot changes because the mythology, way of life, and the core of the story would have to be transformed.
Power, Leadership and Gender Roles in “Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Epic Poem”
Literature refers to the art of work normally expressed in written pieces in form of poems or short stories among others. In most cases, the literary works are considered to grander artistic advantage. Literature connects with life on numerous fronts. In most cases, the literary works reflect on the day-to-day human life activities, culture, religion, politics and economic patterns. These aspects form the thematic construction of most literary works. Hence, there is a one to one connection between what is reflected in the literary works and what is in the real life. This implies that literature always breathes life through societal reflection.
The thematic construction in both the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem revolves around power, leadership and gender roles. In this essay, the theme of women role in both poems will be dominant because the women characters are used in the two poems to indicate the inequality that existed in the conventional era. In addition, the women characters are used to show how women power is strong irrespective of their traditional positions in the society.
The works to be considered in this essay includes the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem the lliad. This essay seeks to illuminate on various aspects of literature relative to the themes outlined in the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s epic poem the lliad. The epic of Gilgamesh is the very first literary work in history. The piece reflects on the myths and narratives that were told during the ancient times of Sumeria. They revolve around an establishment of a new political system, which would later expand to become, and empire. On the other hand, the lliad reflects around matters and events before the great war of Trojan. These events occurred during the last week preceding the war. In both pieces, the women characters are used to depict the strength, passion, love, and wisdom endowed in them.
The epic of Gilgamesh
In the case of this poem, the thematic construction is founded on the leadership, power, love, and wisdom. The aspect of gender roles comes in handy in this piece of work because most of the themes are intertwined with the gender roles. The women have been used in the poem to depict the great things that women can do with the aid of men. For instance, in this poem, the role of women has been well choreographed in such a manner that they shape the life of the King. King Gilgamesh of Uruk, which is a city in Mesopotamia, is seen struggling with the emotions and imaginations of having a life that is eternal. The king is convinced that there must be some powers somewhere which if granted he would live for eternity. At this point, Siduri a woman who had assumed the position of a goddess reminds the King that it is only the gods that live to eternity. It is evident that the women role is important in giving the king this kind of wise counsel, which would make the king stop his weird imaginations of eternity. In addition, Siduri gave the king all he needed which included food, rest and sex, which made the king forget his hallucinations and maintain his position as the king and leader of the Gilgamesh (John 13). Notably, the king of Gilgamesh was a strong warrior and hero not because of the might army but because of the power of women. This is evidenced by the female dominance within the realms of power. They are actually the decisions makes behind the curtains. When king Gilgamesh sensed that control for power was weakening, he summoned and urged Shamhat who was a harlot to cleanse and civilize Enkidu by offering sex so that he can be transformed into a human being who can be trusted to stay within the realms of power. Enkidu was well dressed and given food and wine thus gaining a lifeline for human-hood. Notably, the civilization and transformation of Enkidu enabled king Gilgamesh to once again secure and sustain his position as the communal king and leader. This event depicts the power of women in the realms of power. Despite the fact that women in this poem are depicted as taking the second tier in the society they play great roles about power. In an actual sense, women can be said to be powerful and kingmakers in this literacy work thus owed respect. Further, women are used in the poem to define the boundaries of existence between humans and divine powers, which are represented, by gods and goddesses. In the case of the divine powers, the women characters such as Ishtar and Siduri help in sustaining the boundaries between the demesnes of humankind and godlike. This situation is evidenced when Gilgamesh is made to remain within the humankind realm by understanding that it is only gods and goddesses who can live forever and not the goddesses. Ishtar proves to Gilgamesh that the goddesses are supernatural and powerful by killing Enkidu (John 12). This is a manifestation that women occupied strong positions, their roles changed the manner in which power, and leadership vacuums were applied and occupied respectively.
From the discussion, it is notable that women occupied a special place in the societal level regarding the overall leadership and governance of the kings. This is a true depiction of how women in diverse arenas work to ensure that the kings one men on the realms of power to maintain their positions. In addition, the discussion demonstrates how women give wise advice to the kings, which makes them continue to govern their respective societies. The gender roles are dominant in this poem and it helps in illustrating what women can do while at the leadership and power circles. It is attestable that women can change how power is exercised through diplomatic actions and wise counsel.
Homer’s epic of lliad
In this literary work, the author to indicate the role of women in the society has used a number of women characters. Despite the low level of women recognition by the time of the era of this poem, the use of the women characters indicates how influential they were in matters relating to the overall welfare of the society. The most dominant aspect among the women characters who included Thetis, Andromache and Helen is the love and passion for their loved ones. The Trojan War is one of the most dangerous wars that have ever happened on the planet earth and the show of love and passion by the women characters is a clear indication of their perception on war and conflict. In most cases, women do not support the war because war ends up to making them widows or breadwinners in families. For example, the show of compassion by Thetis on his son tells it that she never supported all the activities that preceded the Trojan War. This excerpt indicates the general perception of women in war and conflicts. It is true that the men characters in this poem were happy and eager for the commencement of the war but the women characters were against it because they knew that they would suffer at the end of it (Albert 88). For example, Thetis’s love for her son indicates how she feels for her son relative to the impending war. Despite this extent of love, Thetis allows her son to make the ultimate decision concerning the participation in the war as a warrior.
The fact that Thetis respected her son’s desires to participate in the war indicates that she is emotionally far from the war. She is not supporting war and aggression. This instance shows how women respect and love their children in equal measure. From this instance, it is understandable why most women even in the modern world do not support war and aggression. It is natural that women do not support violence actions, which may end up causing them damage and even loss of life. The other instance involves that of Andromache who indicates openly her passion for a peaceful society. She makes numerous pleas with her husband Hector to suspend the plans of joining the battle teams for fear of losing him during the war. This expression of fear and passion for having a peaceful society indicates the emotional expression of the women characters in this poem. This instance indicates that as much as it might appear that women wanted the war to begin, their emotional expression indicated that they were far from supporting war and aggregation. This implies that the women’s love for their children supersedes the passion for war and aggression. Essentially, women play a great role in the epic poem the lliad as they assume the positions of gods and goddesses (Albert 85). In addition, women play significant roles of wise advisors to the leadership and those at the helm of power. The use of the women characters in this poem has helped in understanding the role of gods and goddesses. The women have assumed the position of goddesses, which is crucial in the overall management of affairs within the leadership circles. The king listened to the goddesses’ advice and using the women characters, it is evident that the divine powers normally interfered with the humans’ lives. The understanding that women had special roles that they played in the society makes this discussion interesting since there is a lot of perception that during the ancient era women never played any role. In addition, this understanding helps in reflecting the similarities between the conventional and modern world.
When comparing the role of women in the two literary works, it is evident that women play a significant role in the society. Notably, the use of the women characters in the two poems helps in showing the difference between the roles of the men and women in the ancient world. Women characters showed their passion for family, children, and husbands. For example in the case of the Trojan War, the men were busy planning for the event with awe; however, women such as Thetis and Andromache indicated a different perspective altogether. The women were not ready for the war at all because it would cost the lives of their husbands and sons. This is a sign of passion and love for the loved ones and can only be expressed by women. On the other hand, the women in the case of the epic of Gilgamesh who include Siduri show compassion for the king by supplying all that he needed and this included food, love and clothing. Siduri showed the king that he could have happy each moment when he is with a woman. In essence, the thematic connection between the role of women in the epic of Gilgamesh and the epic of lliad is that women are used to show empathy, voice of reason and a sign of love within the society. However, the women characters were also used in depicting the gender roles in the two poems. For example, women are used to show that the roles of goddesses belonged to them. The other connection between the two poems relative to the use of the women is the depiction of the gender roles. Women are active in both the epic of Gilgamesh and epic of the lliad in the sense that they blow the first blow in case something unusual happens.
In conclusion, the two epic poems have indicated that women play significant roles despite their position in the society. It is true that most women assume a low profile in the male-dominated society, however, in the case of the two poems women are seen to offer their mind concerning the unfolding events. The women in these poems have helped in depicting the gender roles in the societal context. Essentially, the women roles in both poems have helped in shaping the overall tone, flow and thematic construction of the literary works. This implies that literary works cannot exist in a vacuum but can always be determined by the roles of women in the society. It is true that the continued comparison of the two poems brings about the general sense of the women’s’ role in the society despite the normal prejudice.