Compare and Contrast Analysis: Odysseus Vs Gilgamesh
Comparing and contrasting two stories can actually be quite interesting. It shows how characters are similar and different from one another, and it can show how the plots are similar and different. When it comes to comparing and contrasting two stories, it is usually easier to compare certain aspects than it is to contrast. Sometimes, authors are inspired by stories to write their own, which is why you can find similarities, but also some differences, between the Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh. One main detail that can be pointed out when comparing is who Gilgamesh and Odyseuss are.
Odyseuss was the king of Ithaca. Gilgamesh was also an ancient king. Odysseuss shows several examples of being a strong person. An example of Odyseuss being strong is when he said, “I long to reach my home… It is my ever-failing wish.” Throughout the novel, Odysseus got distracted. There were times he wanted to stay at certain lands he had visited. Odysseuss also came across mythical creatures like the cyclops, for example. However, he wanted to get home to Penelope, and he fought through. Gilgamesh was also a strong person. In the story, it is stated that, “Gilgamesh was called a god and a man” Gilgamesh was half god, half human. By him being called a god, considering he was part god, Gilgamesh was most likely a strong leader. This is also how Gilgamesh and Odysseus are alike.
Odyseuss would always hang around the gods and act as if he were one. Gilgamesh, being part god, didn’t really brag about it, but still shows those traits as the story goes on. Another example of how Gilgamesh and Odysseuss are alike is their confidence. Since Gilgamesh was part god, he is seen as stronger than Odysseuss, but was very confident when fighting the Trojan War. That confidence is what kept Odysseuss alive and able to go home to Penelope. Gilgamesh was also very confident, which is why he was chosen to be king. Although there are many elements that can be compared in both Odysseus and Gilgamesh, there are some differences as well.
Even though Odyseuss and Gilgamesh have a lot in common, they are also very different characters. Gilgamesh can be seen as a selfish character depending on how you look at it. An example of him being selfish is when the narrator says, “He walks around in the enclosure of Uruk, like a wild bull he makes himself mighty, head raised” This quote shows that Gilgamesh can be very arrogant. Also, in the story, Gilgamesh just wanted attention, as if being king wasn’t enough for him. In the story, Gilgamesh did hardly anything to care for or protect those he should watch over. He would kill people that he should’ve been looking out for. Unlike Gilgamesh, Odyseuss wasn’t nearly as selfish as Gilgamesh. Yes, Odyseuss did always hang around the gods, but he respected and watched out for his subjects. He would do anything he could to protect the citizens of his home, Ithaca. That is why he went to war in the first place. By looking at this comparison, people might think Gilgamesh is a bad person. He is not necessarily a bad person, but a bad leader and influence on the people he rules over.
Aside from the previously stated comparisons, there are other ways Gilgamesh and Odyseuss can be compared. Gilgamesh and Odyseuss both make mistakes. Gilgamesh, as mentioned before, was a terrible leader. He didn’t give much respect to the people he ruled over, and he wasn’t that great of a person. Odyseuss also made mistakes. There were times when Odyseuss would be with Calypso and he wanted to stay. Eventually, he came to and realized that where he needed to be home with Penelope and Telemachus. Overall, when comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey, we see similarities and differences between Gilgamesh and Odyseuss. By Homer and the author of the Epic of Gilgamesh writing similar stories, we are able to see more similarities than differences. This makes it more entertaining for readers as they could point these comparisons out. By taking the time to compare two stories, it really does show how similar and how different two main characters appear in a novel.
Gilgamesh and Odysseus: the Lessons Learned
The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey both deals with characters that question their mortality due to death. Gilgamesh and Odysseus are motivated by attaining glory and honor. Both of these stories show how fame can interact with how your life turns out in the underworld. The more people remember you, the more likely you will have an enjoyable afterlife. At the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh believes that your heroic duties count the most in the afterlife, similar to Odysseus. Gilgamesh learned the difficult lesson that he too must face the reality of his own death. Both these heroes at first believe that through battle and legendary circumstances that they will receive everlasting glory. Both of these characters learned different things while confronting death. After being confronted by death, Gilgmesh and Odysseus discovers that our accomplishments is not what makes you be remembered but through meaningful relationships with others.
At first, Gilgamesh does not worry about death. He figures if he dies doing something heroic, then people will remember him forever. That to him is like living forever. Enkidu tries to talk Gilgamesh out of going to fight, but Gilgamesh replies, ‘Who, my friend, can go up to heaven?….But people’s days are numbered….Here you are, even you, afraid of death. What good is your bravery’s might….I must establish eternal fame.’ (The Epic of Gilgamesh, 20). Gilgamesh goal is to gain everlasting fame. He believes going on this battle with Enkidu will be nothing but great success, but everything changes though after the death of Enkidu. Enkidu’s death makes Gilgamesh want to live forever. Gilgamesh wants to escape death and tries to learn from Utanapishtim how to live forever. Utnapishtim’s hints to end his life as a careless man and his dreams of immortality and return to the life of humanity and peace.
Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of the flood. He states that creation also contains the seed of death, meaning death is inescapable. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of the flood. Gilgamesh does not listen. He still wants to be immortal. Utnapishtim told him to stay up for 6 nights. Gilgamesh sleeps and wakes up and the seven day. His humanity made him fail the test, no man can stay up for that long. Utnapishtim tells him to give up his fancy life and return home. After returning to Urk Gilgamesh realized his biggest accomplishment. He built a civilization that will continue long after his death. He did not need the heroic remembrance if the people at home remember him simply from building the walls to protect them. Just like Gilgamesh, Odysseus was confronted by death. He visits the underworld with this crew. The first person he sees was his mother. While Odysseus has been seeking glory and adventure, his family was suffering at home.
After talking to his mother, his desire for glory slowly changes for the desire of going home. His central value changes from glory to family honor. He wants to go home and protect his wife and son. Odysseus is next visited by the ghost of Achilles, who has been sent to the Underworld after being killed at war. He is a king in the underworld for his glory, but he made it clear that he regrets his own choice, “No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man – “If he could go back, he would choose to live a long, forgettable life, rather than die a young death. Achilles sacrifice his pleasures in life for the abstract promise of glory. Surprising, he still happy to hear that his son has become a great warrior though, showing how family continue your legacy. Odysseus had wished he could have died on the battlefield, but through his encounter with Achilles makes him see that he should savor his home and his family. Putting this two stories together. Odysseus at first was looking towards death. Fighting in battle meant the best life in the underworld.
After visiting Odysseus realize that may not be the case. He learned what was going back at home which made him want to go back and honor his family. Gilgamesh at first had you only live once attitude. Through his friendship with Enkidu Gilgamesh became a better leader to his people. He was able to gain understanding and connect with the people of Urk. Both these heroes at first believe that through battle and legendary circumstances that they will receive everlasting glory. While confronting death, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk having learned that life is measured not by fame, but by the time he spent while alive and the people with which he surrounded himself. Family plays an important role for greek culture. Family reflects on your legacy not fame and glory.
- Homer, Fitzgerald, R., Erni, H., & Homer,. (1963). The Odyssey. Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Books.
- Sandars, N. K. (1972). The epic of Gilgamesh. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
The Angry Narrator Or Cultural Supremacist in Odysseus
The foreboding dark mist in the gloom of the night (141) shadowing Odysseus arrival to the island of the Cyclopes suggests a sinister and frightening site. Recounting the unnaturalness of the occupants and the horror of the ensuing events, Odysseus narration seemingly confirms this interpretation. However, an attentive perusal of the island’s description, presented from lines 105 to 192 of chapter nine in Homer’s Odyssey, reveals that Odysseus judgement of the island begins before his terrifying encounter with the Cyclopes. Does this suggest that Odysseus negative sentiments towards the Cyclopes derive from a staunch belief in the superiority of Greeks? Since Odysseus narrates this story after the fact, however, he could instead be ascribing his anger towards the Cyclopes onto his account of the island’s people. In this essay, I propose that Odysseus true motives actually form a nuanced junction of the two hypotheses.
Odysseus incessant criticism of the Cyclopes suggests that he views those who are different to be inhuman. The first adjectives he employs to describe the Cyclopes are lawless and outrageous (14), suggesting people who are wild since they live outside the law. While his emphasis on the fact they possess no institutions or council meetings does not intrinsically imply immorality, Odysseus believes that this represents creatures who care nothing about the others (140). Thus, not only do they lack the structure of typical Greek institutions, this dearth shows an utter lack of concern for the wellbeing of others. He subsequently narrows his discussion to a description of a single subject whom, like his fellow Cyclopes, has a lawless mind. Odysseus then boldly accuses him of being a monster of a man that was a monstrous wonder and not like a man (142). The repetition of the monster metaphor insists on Odysseus view that the Cyclopes are inhuman and grotesque creatures, confirmed by his direct accusation of him being not like a man.
Odysseus proves the Cyclopes inhumanity by juxtaposing their immorality with their lack of land cultivation. He believes that these two qualities are closely related, describing how the lawless outrageous Cyclopes who, putting all their trust in the immortal gods, neither plow with their hands nor plant anything (140). This is Odysseus first discussion of the Cyclopes, and thus his first proof of their immorality lies in their agricultural practices. He further defines a man as a cultivator of the land, as he tells how the Cyclops is, not like a man, an eater of bread (142). Bread is a food that comes from toiling and harvesting the land, showing that Odysseus believes that cultivation is a compulsory practice for men.
Odysseus condemnation of the Cyclopes is based mostly on the fact that they are unlike the Greeks, suggesting a predisposed bias against all foreigners. Odysseus criticisms of the Cyclopes are constructed by a series of oppositions, of describing what they do not do, such as planting or plowing. The unmentioned yet clear object of comparison is the Greek system. The Greeks are workers of the land and eaters of bread. While he never pronounces the Greeks to be inherently superior, his bias becomes clear through his assumption that those who do not follow the Greek practices are inhuman. Thus, when encountering foreigners Odysseus carries his predisposed confidence in the normality of the Greeks, causing him to be immediately suspicious of outsiders. Before exploring their island, Odysseus says that he seeks to discover whether they are savage and violent, and without justice (141). Odysseus already assumes the likelihood of their inhumanity before encountering them. By prematurely judging the Cyclopes, Odysseus appears to be a cultural supremacist who is so convinced of the rightness of his people that he immediately doubts all outsiders sense of humanity.
However, the retrospective element of this narration complicates the depiction of Odysseus as the judgmental visitor convinced of his nation’s superiority. Although Odysseus describes the events as they unfold, the reader cannot assume that his account accurately reflects his state of mind at the time. Intentionally or not, Odysseus later negative experiences with the Cyclops inform his narration. From a practical standpoint, it is impossible for Odysseus to immediately describe the Cyclopes as lawless and outrageous if he truly narrates his feelings and impressions as the scene progresses. Although Odysseus could speculate that these alien beings are immoral before meeting them, he could not immediately deduce such strong attributes as his initial impression. After losing a great deal of his men to the Cyclops cannibalism and almost being consumed himself, it is not at all surprising that Odysseus questions the morality of the Cyclopes. However, his opinion stems from his own subjective negative experience. Perhaps his later condemnations of their society and practices come from his trying to understand and explain the behavior of these people. Seeing how they are so morally different from the Greeks might cause him to retrospectively view everything that differentiates these two cultures as reflecting upon not only their morality, but their humanness as well.
In trying to reconcile the view of an Odysseus who judges the Cyclopes for their difference from the Greeks with an Odysseus whose projection of his subsequent negative experiences causes his estimation, the truth is that Odysseus represents a combination of these two interpretations. By contrasting his assessment of other cultures with his judgement of the Cyclopes, one realizes that Odysseus uses very similar methods of appraisal. When presenting the Lotus-Eaters, his first description of them is how they live on a flowering food (139). He shows his view that this is an unnatural, inhuman practice by requesting his men to seek out any men, eaters of bread (139) might be in the vicinity. Again, he asserts than to be a man one must be an eater of bread, a cultivator of the land. The fact that these creatures are forgetful and dreamy might suggest a negative, lazy comportment, but these traits would not seem to immediately imply inhumanity. Odysseus judges these people as being not like men since they are not bread eaters. Although the incestuous inhabitants of Aiolians consumption of bread is not discussed, they too are marked as alien in that good things beyond number are set before them (152). Bread, of course, represents land cultivation, and thus those who do not work the land and merely have unlimited stores of food are similarly inhuman. Odysseus judges other cultures by the same standards that he applies to the Cyclopes in determining every practice that is not Greek to be an example of inhumanity. Thus, Odysseus negative assessment of the Cyclopes could represent that he is merely a cultural elitist, and that his condescension would apply regardless of his later experiences.
The comparative extremeness of his description of the Cyclopes, however, indicates a specific bias not expressed towards the other foreigners. Even the deadly deceptive Sirens are modified only with the adjective magical (189). The equally formidable Charybdis and Skylla are quantified by the term dreaded (192). Odysseus reserves his most lavish insults for his deplorment of the Cyclopes. In addition to being lawless, outrageous, and monstrous, his deep voice inspires terror, his spirit is pitiless, and yet he deigns to believe that his people to be far better than the gods. When Odysseus himself proclaims that the greatest evil that he and his men have experienced is when the Cyclops had [them] cooped in his hollow cave by force and violence (190), he seems to confirm that the Cyclopes merit his most vicious defilement. His strong characterization of the inhumanity of the Cyclopes then derives from his subsequent horrifying experiences. However, given that his judgement of cultures is strongly influenced by their difference from the Greeks, Odysseus disparagement of the Cyclopes proves to be a combination of cultural supremacy and extremely negative associations.
Odysseus evaluation of the Cyclopes provides an opportunity to explore several themes relevant to the epic as a whole. His definition of the Greek system as the measuring stick against which a nation’s humanity can be assessed prompts a larger examination of the issue of cultural elitism. While this initially appears to be a negative and prejudiced quality, it could be considered an important characteristic in other contexts, as this fierce nationalism allies him with his fellow Greeks and helps them to wage successful battles. It is difficult to discern at what point national pride is necessary, and at what point it engenders an inability to understand societies other than one’s own. The issue of narrating a story with the benefit of knowing its entire course is equally problematic. Does Odysseus hindsight provide a more nuanced understanding of his adventures, or does it preclude an objective narrative? As great portions of this epic consist of various characters describing events after they have occurred, this is a provocative inquiry to pursue. The Odyssey presents complicated issues and questions that cannot easily be classified or resolved, forming instead an obscure, dark mist similar to the one that greets Odysseus as he approaches the Cyclopes island.
Analysis Of Travels Of People From The Past On The Example Of Ancient Literature Works
Thought history humanity has always traveled. From prehistoric nomads to modern day migrants and vacationers, there have always been various types of travelers who travel for different reasons. Through looking at ancient texts and observing the world today, it is evident that travelers of all types are rooted in a sense of betterment and their travels have the power to teach all kinds of lessons. People travel for many reasons including the search for a better life, to gain power, to earn wealth or to expand their knowledge. Although, not all travelers have such positive motivators.
The Jewish scriptures of Ezekiel shows travel as a result of exile, which is pretty negative motivation. The Jewish temple was over thrown by the flourishing Babylonian empire, thus sending the Jewish People into exile. The prophet Ezekiel was prophesizing in the midst of this exile, for the people needed some direction in this time of uncertainty. From the Jewish perspective the loss of their temple, God’s home, was detrimental and caused them to question if God is even still present on this earth. Although the Jewish people were forced into this exile against their own will, they searched for a new home in hopes of a better life. Ezekiel discusses the experience of the Jewish people’s exile, but doesn’t mention anything about the motivations of the Babylonians. Most ancient sources dealing with conquering are extremely biased and one sided. Ezekiel only speaks of the Jewish people and give no mention to their bad guys, the Babylonians. Ezekiel would be considered more of a lament since it is from the perceptive of those who were conquered or sent into exile. While heroic stories like Homer’s The Odyssey come from the perspective of the attackers. In order to fully understand any situation, it must be viewed from all angles.
Single sided sources are still an issue in the recording of present day events, resulting in the polarization of opposing side. This polarizing is most evident in American politics. Many information outlets are biased towards one political belief. Although there are efforts being made to combat this issue, social media is hindering these efforts. Typically, sites like Facebook and Twitter use algorithms to show users more (similar) content based off of other things a user has shown interest in. This concept may seem harmless when it comes to showing dog lovers more videos of dogs. But, only seeing opinions of likeminded people leads individuals to have more radical beliefs. In turn, this makes people less open to compromise and not fully informed on important issues. In order to make rational (not radical) opinions people must look at both sides of a situation and make their own judgements, to understand the whole picture. Once both sides of a story are heard, horrific events like bombings and mass shootings start to follow a pattern of logic that can be used to prevent more tragedies. For example, the school shooting epidemic is partly driven by people in schools not taking bullying and mental health issues seriously enough. Typically, student shooters were mistreated in school and/or deal with mental health issues. If these issues are addressed sooner and taken more seriously, less people will reach the detrimental point of seriously considering homicide. Looking at the perspective of “the bad guys” is something that helps make sense out of any situation, even seemingly unthinkable ones.
In the case of the Babylonian exile, Jewish accounts like Ezekiel only see the Babylonians as the bad guy, and don’t say much about their motives. Although exiling people isn’t the most noble thing to do, at the time that is how empires were born and able to flourish. From a Babylonian perceptive, exiling the Jewish people was merely a step on their road to success. In the grand scheme of history, the Babylonians actually were very successful and made many cultural and educational advances. They created one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And, under the rule of King Hammurabi, who united Mesopotamia through conquest, made his new laws more accessible to people. He created the code of Hammurabi and displayed his laws to all citizens by writing his laws on large stone posts around his empire. By looking at the whole story, different inferences can be made about various events both historical and fictional.
Homer’s epic the Odyssey takes a more heroic stand point. At this perspective, the thoughts of feeling of those victimized are completely ignored. In The Odyssey, Odysseus conquers and pillages towns with no remorse for the people living there. He openly admits to when he “sacked the town and killed the men…took their wives and shared their riches equally” with his men. His story of destruction is something Odysseys views to be a heroic feat, and shows no remorse for what he did to the innocent Cicones on his travels back home from Troy. Odysseus mistreats people in his travels for personal gain. And, in the case of the Trojan war for his country own to gain more power. Conquering other lands isn’t the only way people use travel to become more powerful.
In the classic middle eastern tale The Arabian Nights Tales of 1001 Nights, travel has more peaceful motivations. Sinbad the sailor is a merchant who travels “…to trade and make a profit” (night 550) among other more honorable reasons. He travels to other lands selling goods to make a profit and spreading knowledge across the world. As a merchant Sinbad was able to make “…a great deal of money and… became a man of importance in the city” (night 552). Sinbad showed the power trading and traveling can have when he introduced horse saddles to the king. Sinbad’s saddles crossed many boarders including; social boarders by receiving a higher status and cultural boarders through spreading the innovative technologies from other lands. Both Sinbad and the lands he visited benefited from his travels. While traveling Sinbad was fulfilling desires beyond simply earning a living as a merchant. Sinbad longed for adventure, he “felt a pretentious urge to travel to foreign parts, to associate with different races…”. He not only traveled for wealth but he traveled to learn.
I personally believe Sinbad had the right mindset in accepting and embracing the beauty of the world through experiencing other cultures and ways of life. This sense of adventure and the desire to immerse in to other cultures is a concept still embraced by people of today. Students today expand their knowledge about other cultures like Sinbad did through studying abroad. Students spend a few weeks in a different country not only to learn through their academic courses, but also through immersing themselves in a different culture. Learning about other cultures helps to expand peoples understanding of the world and makes them more tolerant of others. Although traveling is the best hands on experience to learn about other cultures, studying the history of other cultures has similar effects.
Through studying the travels of people and characters from the past, understandings about our world today can be made. Although these travelers had different motivations, they all show valuable lessons.
Analysis of Odysseus as an Epic Hero
Odysseus exemplifies adventure, courage, and the values of the Greeks, but does that make him a hero? An epic hero is not only a personification of that culture but also the best version of that culture. The Odyssey is a narrative poem that was sung by Homer. The Odyssey takes place after the fall of Troy in the Iliad. In Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, the character of Odysseus fits he part of an epic hero as demonstrated by his difficult trials, advanced cleverness, and superior strength.
Odysseus has completed several difficult trials. For example, Odysseus had to leave the land of the lotus-eaters despite his crew’s thoughts about it being a calm and peaceful place. “But I brought them back, back to the hollow ships, and streaming tears – I forced them…”(214). Not only does this show his physical strength but also shows his hardships as the leader. This passage demonstrates that Odysseus acted for the betterment of his crew even though it brought him pain. Not only has Odysseus gone through pain but he has also dealt his fair share. Odysseus is very strong and powerful; this is especially prevalent in battle with his enemies. “So we seized our stake with its fiery tip and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye.”(223).
It must have taken a deal of strength to bore a stake into the eye of such a great creature as the cyclops. Odysseus again faced a trial and used his great strength to protect himself and his crew. Physical strength is wasted if not matched with mental strength. That is why it is fortunate that Odysseus possesses a great deal of both. It has already been shown that Odysseus used great physical strength to defeat the cyclops, but he also required mental strength. “ I poured him another fiery bowl-three bowls I brimmed…the fool…”(222). Odysseus is using alcohol to reduce the reasoning of the cyclops a great deal and take advantage of him, therefore, increasing his own mental and physical capacities in comparison.
In Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, the character Odysseus fits the archetype of an epic hero as demonstrate by his difficult trials, advanced cleverness, and superior strength. All of which are vital factors frequently seen in the story. Odysseus needed his cleverness, power, and endurance to push through as the epic hero he is. Odysseus fully represents the ideal characteristics of his civilization. His strength, ingenuity, and perseverance through trials make Odysseus an epic hero.
The Rise and Fall of Trajan
There was once a time that if a digital designer wanted to illustrate a story that was comparably epic to that of Homer’s “Iliad and the Odyssey”, to tell a tale of historic grandeur that feels as if it were translated from ancient Roman literature itself. Trajan is the perfect example of a classically styled typeface. Trajan is a serif typeface whose design is directly influenced by Imperial letterforms that were chiseled into stone from as early as 43 B. C. American designer Carol Twombly worked as a professional type designer at the age of twenty-nine and created or helped create many fonts and typefaces we still see today. She had graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design where she earned a Masters Degree in Typographic Design. With this, she was soon hired by Adobe in 1988 and was immediately tasked with creating new and appealing typefaces for digital design software that was growing more popular with corporate media buyers. In her work, Carol Twombly studied ancient historical literature to inspire her illustrations for digital fonts and typography. She accomplished in transcribing early inscriptions from one of Roman Emperor Trajan’s stone columns, from which her first widely known font takes its name.
Trajan uses an all-capitals typeface because the Romans didn’t have a lower-case letter system of writing in place at the time, but this was remedied by Adobe’s release of “Trajan Pro 3” which featured a lower-case of small capitals. Twombly’s digitization by adding more uniformity and balance to its original counterpart very well maintained its readability and handmade calligraphic beauty. Professional Typographers typically use Trajan for its elegant look, its combination of distinct proportion and geometry. It had successfully placed itself as a “Modern Ancient” design choice, but its stoic appearance gave way as a visual cliché as more and more productions used it in later media advertisements and illustrations. With the advancement and demand of printing and design technologies that led Trajan to 1989-1990 Adobe Systems, which coincidently was part of the software that also of designers were starting to use to make branding projects particularly for corporate and apparel logos, magazines, movie posters, DVD covers and more. It was boasted as being the next new big thing. James Mosley, a renowned historian whose work specialized in the history of letter design once said, “Trajan is the new Helvetica”.
Although its popularity never exceeded that of Helvetica, its insurgent use started to grow exponentially after it had appeared on three movie posters that showed box office hits that debuted in 1993, a few years after its digital inception. Since then, it went from a typeface that beautifully captured the essence of Roman history and literature then gradually strayed far from that concept into an almost standard for movie branding that appeared everywhere hitting its peak in 2007. If you happened to be a digital designer in the mid-late 90’s and were commissioned with creating several posters within deadlines, you could almost guarantee most would default to Trajan for its distinct readability and familiarity. Furthermore, as this typefaces popularity took off, bigger movie productions eventually minimized its use to help distinguish their films from the many that still implemented it at the time. The rise and fall of Trajan can give a proper perspective on the downsides of a digital typeface.
An Analysis of the Journey of Odysseus
Prompt 2 – The Humbling of Odysseus
The Odyssey presents its readers with many moments of grief – Penelope grieves over the possible loss of her husband, Telemachus is riddled with the grief the suitors give him by trying to take over his missing father’s estate. Perhaps the most striking example of grief is during Odysseus’ entrapment on Calypso’s island, Ortygia. Odysseus’ grievance and longing for home is a departure from the strong and brave attitude we expect to see from a ‘Trojan War Hero’. An important question that we face while trying to achieve a deeper understanding of the text is what ‘nostos’ or ‘returning home’ means to soldiers. Odysseus leaves home for the same reason most other soldiers do – to attain ‘kleos’, or ‘glory’. However, ‘nostos’ holds a dual meaning for Odysseus – the general meaning of homecoming, and the personal meaning he attaches to it of ‘coming to’. By dramatizing the difference between Odysseus’ present circumstances during his homeward voyage and his internal desire to return home, grief opens up and elaborates the interior space of his character in a way that his heroic actions do not.
Until Book 5, we have only heard glorious war stories about Odysseus from King Nestor, King Menelaus and Helen as they pass on information about Odysseus to Telemachus. However, Odysseus is introduced to us in Book 5 in a very emasculated manner, crying on the beach on Calypso’s island. This underwhelming introduction is in stark contrast to the Odysseus that is portrayed in the stories and points to a change in his character.
“But as for Great Odysseus- Hermes could not find him within the cave.
Off he sat on a headland, weeping there as always,
Wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish,
During his seven years on Calypso’s island, Odysseus deals with having no active challenge. He has no way of being a hero in Ortygia. He has no control over his entrapment because he has no way to escape. The word Calypso means ‘eclipse’ and Odysseus’ stay on her island is like an eclipse of the life he has known and what he has known of himself until this point, as a warrior and a hero. He experiences an outpour of emotions like longing and frustration as he grieves for home while being stuck on Ortygia. This represents his transition from the trajectory of a ‘War Hero’ to a man who accepts his grief, desperation and helplessness on the island.
Odysseus’ identity is redefined through his grieving period. This can be seen by comparing his old behavior with the difference in the way he handles situations that happen after his encounter with the Underworld. Earlier, Odysseus’ behavior seems reckless, as he always wants to explore the new lands he comes across during his journey back home. For example, he wants to explore the land of the Cyclops, “I’ll go across with my own ship and crew/ and probe the natives living over there. What ‘are’ they- violent, savage, lawless/ or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men” [217/173-177], despite being uncertain of whether it is safe or not. He tries to attain glory by making a name for himself in as many foreign lands as he comes across. This creates a tension between ‘kleos’ and ‘nostos’ because the readers question the urgency with which Odysseus wants to return home.
Odysseus makes an error in judgment when he reveals his name to the Cyclops, putting his men and himself into danger and prolonging their suffering and arduous journey. As the ship sails away from the Cyclops’ island, Odysseus reveals his identity to the Cyclops against the wishes of his men – “So they begged but they could not bring my fighting spirit round.”[227/556-557] It is his ‘hero’s heart’ that Odysseus must learn to curb before he can return to the civilized life at Ithaca. The very qualities that served him in battle defeat him in peace.
However, after Odysseus’ encounter with the Underworld where he meets the prophet Tiresias, when his ship is reaching the island of the Sun, he says to his men, “Here they warned, the worst disaster awaits us. Row straight past these shores – race our black ship on.” [279/299-300] Here we see Odysseus trying to restrain his thirst for adventure. He seems to have learnt his lesson from the grief he experiences after his encounter with the Cyclops, caused by Poseidon, who makes his ‘nostos’ more difficult due to storms on the journey back.
This restraint is also seen when he returns to Ithaca. He avoids the pompous mistake that got Agamemnon killed. He appears to have become more cautious. Instead of arriving all puffed up and victorious, he disguises himself as a beggar. When Eumaeus, the loyal swineherd, and Odysseus are going into the city of Ithaca, they come across the goatherd Melanthius who insults and taunts them and tries to injure Odysseus. “Odysseus was torn… should he wheel with his staff and beat the scoundrel senseless? – Or hoist him by the midriff, split his skull on the rocks? He steeled himself instead, his mind in full control.”[362/256-260] This reaction is very different from the impulsive behavior we see earlier with the Cyclops. Subsequently, the Homeric epithet attached to Odysseus’ name also changes from ‘cunning’ to ‘cool tactician’ after his return.
Thus, we see that Odysseus goes to war as a masculine prototype – brave, strong and known for his ‘cunning’. However, he returns to Ithaca asleep on a bay where the Phaeacian ship had dropped him. Odysseus’ arrival at Ithaca is understated. In Book 23, when Penelope finally sees Odysseus, she thinks, ‘One moment he seemed…Odysseus, to the life- the next, no, he was not the man she knew, a huddled mass of rags was all she saw”. [458/107-110] Although this is probably meant literally because Odysseus is dressed as a beggar, it can also be interpreted in a metaphorical sense because the changed Odysseus may be unrecognizable to her. He is longer the hero who has control over his men and every situation he is in as he did during the war, but he is now vulnerable to the grief that has matured him, as he learns to curb his ‘warrior’s heart’.
The Odyssey ends without throwing light upon Odysseus’ second journey where, based on Tiresias’ advice, he must leave home again and make sacrifices to appease Poseidon. “But once you have killed those suitors in your halls – … go forth once more, you must…” [177/176-178] Only once he does this, can he finally be at peace. However, the story ending before Odysseus sets off again can suggest that he never does actually achieve peace of mind.
Thus, the Odyssey beckons the readers to think of the deeper, universal questions – Can soldiers ever truly be themselves again after experiencing war? Odysseus’ Hero’s Journey changes him as it leads to his ‘coming to’. His image of a Trojan War Hero and his heroic actions portray him as a two-dimensional and unchanging character, repeatedly depicting him as ‘cunning Odysseus’. However, his moments of grief show character development as he matures in an emotional sense because he accepts his inability to control every situation he is in and his vulnerability to grief. Thus we see in the Odyssey that grief plays a more significant role in Odysseus’ development than his heroic actions do.
The Gods of Ancient Greek Lives
Alysandra Bui Hist 010 Professor Chrissanthos TA: David Shanta July 18th 2018 The Gods of Ancient Greek Lives Starting from the Dark Ages through the Archaic period of ancient Greece, various aspects of Greek life had changed with the addition of a writing system and the development of the Greek polis as the political backbone of the civilization. However, one thing that seemed to be constant and unaffected was the religious attachment that they had to the divine beings living on Mount Olympus, whose existence predated the Bronze Age. Through examination and observation of artifacts and fictional works,knowledge has accumulated, revealing the function of the civilization from inception until its end.
The ancient Greek religion of mythological polytheism regarding the nature of society, such as natural occurrences, human thought and interaction, and war pervasively affected the typical daily life of the Greeks; their beliefs organized and gave authority to the ideas, actions, and even material objects in Greek culture and society. The actions of these gods were apparent in all parts of the Greeks’ lives, but the most well known display of this can be found in the literature of the time period. The Odyssey by Homer exhibits this, where Ulysses and his men get obstructed by the natural difficulties that came with sea voyages by Poseidon, the god of the seas and earthquakes.Through several clever tricks from Ulysses to escape a horrible fate on the land of the one-eyed cyclops, he injured and angered one of them, who was Poseidon’s son named Polyphemus. Due to Ulysses’s actions, Polyphemus prayed to his father and said, “ ‘Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home alive’…Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with prodigious force…The sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on our way towards the shore of the island.” A simple prayer from a son for some type of ill wishing upon Ulysses and his crew’s journey back home automatically garnered a response from Poseidon to wreak havoc on the sea waters. In reality, there isn’t substantial proof of Homer’s epic to be truth, but many Greeks consider the works of several writers during the time period to not only be adventure stories, but also to teach a lesson to not mess around with the gods. This instilled an idea of “getting what is coming for you” based on the actions of humans as well as the will and the power exerted by the gods.
Another significant example involved the Thesmophoria, which was a ceremonious festival to honor the goddess Demeter in hopes of having fertile crops during the harvest season. The practice of mixing parts of a sacrificial pig along with corn seeds are interpreted to be linked with the agriculture goddess’s blessing for the corn harvest to be abundant and sweet. Although such a ritual may seem completely preposterous due to today’s knowledge on agricultural practices, the Greeks truly believed that the annual festival would bring forth what they wanted if done correctly. The separated corn seeds and pig are virtually useless in the Ancient Greek society on their own. However, once combined, they collectively had some type of authority over the Greeks that resulted in several gatherings across the civilization without fail annually for the Thesmophoria. In addition, one notable point in regards to the ritual during the festival is the fact that it is always done in the presence of only adult women, with the men not even being allowed to speculate or listen to it. This could be due to the fact that the festival was for a goddess and even the daughter of Demeter, Persephone. The most believable reason is also the fact that women were often portrayed as the gender that was involved with the theme of fertility as a whole concept. Certain adult women had the sole job of being a priestess in which she would perform rituals and communicate with the gods on Mount Olympus, like an ancient version of the modern day witch.This indicated a set of principles in which the gods and the Greeks alike stuck to with their rituals.
Things like going on hunt,war, or sea faring seemed to be related to the men and the males gods such as Zeus and Ares. On the other hand, things regarding motherhood, the family, and farming were linked to the women and the female goddesses. Although not absolute,like the exception being the god of death was a male named Hades, this not only shaped the way they worshipped them, but also set precedent for societal and social rules that can be seen even in today’s modern time. Furthermore, these observations link the idea that the Greeks’ thoughts and interactions with one another were somehow led by the role that their gods had the authority to meddle within their domains. The Greeks honored the gods, not entirely due to the lack of understanding, but due to the inherent fear that the divine beings were in charge of every single aspect of their measly mortal lives. Even though the gods do more bad than good to the ancient Greeks, the power of the Gods outweighed all the suffering that they went through, showing that the “myths teach us[mortals] must struggle to appreciate and understand the advice the gods choose to give them.” Although powerful and seemingly supreme in all matters, the Gods were also flawed and dealt with many things that human beings deal with.
One human quality they possessed came with the Gods having partners who came from the mortal world. This clearly originates from the power and nature of attraction, being that their human lovers were usually very desirable in contrast to many. In spite of there being unlimited options on Olympus for polygamous partners, there have been several additional theories as to why they mixed with humans. The main one dealt with the overseeing of the mortal world, due to the reason that their mixed children wouldn’t have different loyalties being born to only one godly parent. The division of loyalties happened usually when it came to full blooded gods who sided with one parent at a time depending on the disagreement, or even other immortals, such as titans and nymphs who would slip when charged with certain tasks under the bidding of certain gods. When it came to the half mortal and half immortal children, they were better than the average human, creating an ideally good person in which the myths of “fourth generation heroes of humankind” would sprout from. As these heroes reproduced, the rest of the Greeks from then on would have some sort of belief that they were descendents of the Gods in some way. Several of these sexual interactions between gods and humans themselves spewed countless other emotions that can be shown through several different stories. In the myth, Zeus talks to Prometheus after he has stolen fire and given it to humans by saying “…surpassing all in cunning,  you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire—a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.” Later on, the readers will eventually find out that Prometheus was eternally tied to a rock with an eagle eating his daily regrown liver. As for the fate of the humans on earth, Zeus got back at at them by sending down the infamous Pandora and her “box” as a so called “gift” from the gods. The mortals then become horribly plagued with all the disastrous things inside the box as punishment.
Not only does this story explain how the humans got fire and how the world had been exposed to things such as famine and sorrow, but it shows how much of an impact that the Greeks believed that gods had. Zeus’s authority was relentless, being driven by anger and revenge, causing the Greeks to “learn from their lessons” and never attempt anything like it again. Along with the speculation and coexistence of gods amongst each other and also with humans, success and failures in wars were associated with their satisfaction or disapproval.. Even the outcomes of war, although fought by two opposing human sides for different reasons, were still in the hands of the gods and which side the gods chose to be on. This is mainly exhibited with the myth of the Trojan War, famously written about in Homer’s Iliad. The story follows along as the beginning started with quarrels and prophecies and ending with the war in which is thought to define one of the most division for the humans and for the Gods supporting either the Trojans or the Greeks. The rituals practiced by the Greeks in myths to be successful in wars also played a large role because it was decisive in who would win before any bloodshed even occurred. Functioned as sacrifices, two girls gave up their lives due to a Thebes versus Orchomenos war for the triumph of Thebes to win. This was brought on by request of an oracle, predicting that sacrifices were needed if Thebes wish to succeed in their conquest.
Furthermore, the role of the oracle was one of the most prevalent aspects of the Greek religion. Perhaps the most famous one was the Oracle of Delphi, at a major temple dedicated to Apollo. Written in about twenty pieces from various authors, the oracle “predicted and stated” over five hundred things in several anecdotes, with the most famous one being “Go, return not die in war.” Depending on the wording, the statement was ambiguous and the oracle continued to aid those who were searching for answers up until the Classical Period of Greece. People’s dependence on the oracle justifies once again how the Gods had a role in basically every part of their lives. Without the guidance and authority of the gods, the ancient civilization would be drastically changed and have a disparity from what is known about it today. As Herodotus simply said:“The Greeks lived with gods in the world, and the gods were believed to interpose constantly in the course of events,” accurately depicted what religion was like during the Dark Ages into the Archaic era for the Greeks. Although perhaps not a necessity for some in today’s world, religion was a keystone in organizing and upholding civilizations of the past. Several things, including natural processes, communication and human thought, as well as conquests of war were all believed to be affected by the Olympians and mythological creatures in the ancient Greek religion. These beliefs, in turn, allowed for certain ideas, actions, and even certain material objects to play a significant role in the Greek culture and society that is so well known today.
The Biblical Point Of View On Joseph And Odysseus
Erich Auerbach describes a model for a hero from the Hebrew bible that he believes is nearly all inclusive. Joseph and the story of his journey through slavery and imprisonment up to royalty exemplifies the journey from the deepest humiliation to exaltation, aided by God’s personal inspiration, that is described by Erich Auerbach’s model. God seems to demand absolute unquestioning faith as Joseph’s life is patterned in such a way that his humiliation turns out to be instrumental in his eventual exaltation. The journey of Odysseus, on the other hand, follows a similar pattern but doesn’t seem to have the same demands for humiliation or faith that Joseph is subject to. While Joseph’s works and faith are a journey through hardships that lead him to save an entire civilization and become a greater man than anyone could have predicted, Odysseus merely fights his way back home against the consequences of his own actions. The fact that these texts served as moral and spiritual guides for the ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures allows for the generalization of these moral teachings and standards as exemplary to each culture as a whole. While the stories were produced by their respective cultures; they, in turn, shaped the very cultures that had generated them.
In commenting on the “heroes” of the Hebrew Bible, Erich Auerbach argues that:
“There is hardly one of them who does not, like Adam, undergo the deepest humiliation–and hardly one who is not deemed worthy of God’s personal intervention and inspiration.” (Mimesis 18)
Joseph fits perfectly into the mold for a “hero” of the Hebrew Bible as laid out by Erich Auerbach. In Joseph’s childhood, “his father loved him more than all his brethren,” (Genesis 37:3) and because of his honesty his father trusted him to report to back about his brother’s evil doings; consequently placing Joseph in a position of superiority. This proved detrimental for Joseph, as his brothers felt that the older sons should receive favor and position of birthright in the family as was tradition. Later we see similar occurrences in slavery, imprisonment, and service to Pharaoh as he finds favor with his overseers and his status is elevated to nearly equal to that of his superiors just as when he served as his father’s eyes and ears in the fields with his brothers. Joseph never credits this tendency towards favoritism to himself, his own personality, wit, or skill and in the case of Joseph’s first encounter with Pharaoh he actually denies any personal credit saying, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer.” (Genesis 41:16) This personal interest that God takes in all that Joseph does is concisely summed up in the last verse of the thirty-ninth chapter of the book of Genesis that states, “…the Lord was with him and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.” (Genesis 39:23)
As we pick up the story of Joseph at his first serious misfortune it is safe to assume that at this time an average seventeen year old boy would wish to be left to die in the pit according his brothers’ original plan. However, there is no mention made that Joseph ever complained or asked God for any favors as he is thrown into the pit or sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph’s next plunge into humiliation is when he is falsely accused of attempting to sleep with Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned. Yet even in prison his status is elevated beyond that of the other prisoner’s, “And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” (Genesis 39:22) So we see that even in his humiliation he experiences the best possible situation within his given circumstances. Auerbach’s analysis of Hebrew heroes is most obvious in several such situations with Joseph. While Joseph does experience extreme humiliation, he is never abandoned by God.
Throughout Joseph’s trials it seems that each consecutive misfortune plunges him deeper into a humiliation from which there seems little escape. However, this proves not to be the case as every successive incident proves to be to Joseph’s advantage in the long run. For example, if Joseph had not been sold into slavery by his brothers they would not be able to go to Egypt to buy grain because the Pharaoh would not have consulted Joseph about his dream and not received instruction to store food for the seven years of famine. Additionally if Joseph had not served in the house of Potiphar and been falsely accused of attempting to sleep with his wife he would never have been thrown into, “the prison, a place where the kings prisoners were bound.” (Genesis 39:20) This is in an important distinction in that is recognized that among Egyptian prisons this particular prison is distinguishable from other prisons because it is where the king’s prisoners are housed. If Joseph had not served a man of such high standing such as Potiphar it is highly unlikely that he would have been sent to this particular prison. This may seem inconsequential at first but as the story continues we see that it is actually the mention of Joseph’s dream interpreting abilities to the Pharaoh by his head butler, and Joseph’s former prison mate, that facilitates Joseph’s rise from head prisoner to head of Egypt. There is no way that Joseph could have foreseen the way these events would interact to his eventual exaltation and even if he could he would be unable to control them. He merely trusts in the doctrinal teachings of his father and exhibits absolute faith in God. This is all that God seems to require of Joseph in order to receive His favor and blessings. This is unique in that while other patriarchs from the bible are asked to give sacrifice it seems that in the story of Joseph he is the sacrifice. He gives up a good 13 years of his life to slavery and imprisonment so that Egypt and his family can be saved from the seven year famine.
Throughout most of Joseph’s story it seems that God rewards Joseph for his faith only with favor in the eyes of his superiors but later God’s hand can be seen in each and every new development in Joseph’s life, not only pertaining to circumstances, but also pertaining to his ability to help others with his God-given management and dream interpreting skills. He is rewarded with an ability to interpret dreams which leads to his ability to interpret the dreams of both the head baker and head butler while in prison. The pharaoh hears of this and it is through the interpretation of the pharaoh’s dream that Joseph is made a ruler in Egypt and is able to store food and save the nation of Egypt from famine. Eventually he is rewarded with an opportunity to face his brothers and his childhood vision of the eleven sheaves and the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him is fulfilled as his brothers bow down and beg for their food. The absolute dependence of the brother’s survival on the actions of Joseph reflects the full cycle of Erich Auerbach’s observation of a journey from humiliation to exaltation and success like the journey of Adam.
In contrast Odysseus seems to bring all his trials upon himself. He begins with disrespecting the gods by failing to make the correct sacrifices before beginning his voyage home. The gods in turn cause a storm to blow him off course which results in a series of events that leave Odysseus stranded with Calypso, all his men dead, his house trashed, and his wife being constantly petitioned by suitors. One could see the similarities between the story of Joseph and Odysseus but the major character differences are too significant to ignore. Odysseus is proud and it is this pride that repeatedly angers the gods, specifically Poseidon. Also Odysseus sleeps with multiple women on his way home to his wife while Joseph flees from Potiphar’s wife. Here we see a major difference in the moral code of the ancient Greeks and Hebrews as evidenced by their religious texts. The Hebrew hero and role model, Joseph, is sexually pure and refuses to sleep with his master’s wife and perceives that to do so would be a sin while the Greek hero and role model, Odysseus, is happy to sleep with both Circe and Calypso on his way home to prove to his wife Penelope how valiant and faithful he has been.
Both the story of Joseph and the story of Odysseus served as a moral and spiritual guide to their respective cultures. We can then assume that Joseph and Odysseus would be considered as an exemplary Hebrew or Greek and that their actions would be emulated by their cultures. Following in Joseph’s example the early Hebrews believed that they had to be humiliated before they could be exalted as well as following a moral code which, while not specifically stated, is implied by the example of their heroes. The Greeks seem to have no such beliefs; at least none are exhibited by Odysseus’ story. Odysseus ends his story as not much greater of a man than he began it while Joseph is a very dynamic character. The Hebrews beliefs in faith and sacrifice allowed them to live their modest lives, generally as poor herdsmen, and feel quite fulfilled. They believed that God had a plan for them and their trials were merely Gods way of molding them. They hoped that, like Joseph, if they remained faithful and endured well they would be lifted up at the end and rewarded for their hard work by a God who had been working behind the scenes the entire time.
The Greeks, on the other hand, believed in a much more hands off approach to handling a deity. They paid their dues with burnt sacrifices and in turn received favors such as good crops or a safe journey home. This relationship is more like a business partnership than actual worship. There is however one striking similarity between Odysseus’ relationship with Athena and Joseph’s relationship with God. Both deities exhibit favoritism towards those after their own heart. Odysseus is a wise, cunning, master of war, just like Athena. Joseph is kind and benevolent without compromising his sense of justice. He demonstrates this when he is reunited with his brothers and forces them to jump through several hoops to prove themselves before he will reveal himself and reward them with the food they sought. This is very similar to God’s requirement that Joseph go through slavery and imprisonment before he is rewarded with a position rivaled only by Pharaoh.
In conclusion, it is apparent that Joseph does fit the mold for a biblical hero as laid out by Auerbach and the differences do outweigh the similarities between the stories of Odysseus and Joseph. Joseph’s humiliation gives him an edge over Odysseus in eventual exaltation. The Hebrew God seems to demand absolute unquestioning faith in contrast to the Greek gods, who demand only tokens of loyalty. While Joseph’s works and faith are a journey through hardships that lead him to save an entire civilization and become a greater man than anyone could have predicted, Odysseus merely fights his way back home against the consequences of his own actions. The two texts performed the same purpose for the ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures in shaping the moral teachings and standards of each culture. While the stories were produced by their respective cultures, they in turn shaped the very cultures that had generated them.
A Study of the Characters Odysseus and Poseidon as Depicted in Homer’s Odyssey
After the events of the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men headed back home to Ithaca. En route, they unknowingly stopped at the island of the Cyclopes to gather supplies for their long journey home. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the island were not very friendly – particularly one Cyclops named Polyphemus. In an attempt to hide from the other giants, Odysseus and his men hid in Polyphemus’s cave. Polyphemus then trapped the men inside with a massive boulder blocking the only way in and out. One by one, Polyphemus ate Odysseus’s crew.
Odysseus, keeping a level head, came up with a plan to escape. Odysseus had some undiluted wine on his person, and cleverly offered it to Polyphemus without telling him how strong the wine was. Polyphemus eagerly took the wine, became drunk, and promptly fell asleep. Odysseus and his remaining men heated a wooden stake in a fire, and proceeded to blind Polyphemus’s one eye. After howling in pain, the men hid under the giant’s sheep, where they could not be felt and eaten. The next morning, when Polyphemus let his sheep out to graze, Odysseus and his men snuck out underneath the sheep’s wooly bellies, and escaped to their ship. Polyphemus realized that the men had escaped after Odysseus was already at sea. Polyphemus threw a (poorly-aimed) boulder at the ship, and called out to his father Poseidon for vengeance. Poseidon, in his rage, destroyed Odysseus’s ship, as well as his entire crew, over a ten-year journey back to Ithaca. Odysseus only survived because he had Athena’s favor and protection.
Odysseus was acting out of self-defense. As captain and king, he had a duty to protect himself and his men at all costs. He used his wits to escape a life-threatening situation. He also did not know that Polyphemus was son of Poseidon. Regardless of who Polyphemus was, Odysseus did not kill him, despite the threat against Odysseus and his crew; it would have been just as easy to kill him while drunk or asleep. Poseidon, being a god, acts out of extreme emotion, and decides that the injury of his son warrants mass-murder. Odysseus thought rationally and spared the man-eating Polyphemus; Poseidon acted irrationally, and eradicated Odysseus’s crew. Poseidon could have been more merciful and wiped out Odysseus and his crew quickly. Instead Poseidon extended Odysseus’s punishment and caused him to suffer as he watched his entire crew die over the course of ten years. Furthermore, this extended journey caused turmoil in Odysseus’s Kingdom of Ithaca.
When Odysseus left for Troy, his son, Telemachus, was too young to take the throne. This left Penelope running the entire country. While Odysseus was gone, suitors came to court Penelope, raiding his palace while they were there. Since there was no proof that Odysseus survived the Trojan War, the suitors constantly pressured Penelope to remarry. She did not want to, instead stalling the suitors until Odysseus returned because she believed that he was still alive.
Before Poseidon did anything to Odysseus, he had to get his idea approved by Zeus, king of the gods. Furthermore, Odysseus was in Poseidon’s domain, the ocean, for most of his journey, which puts Odysseus in a precarious position already. Poseidon’s intended target was Odysseus; the rest of the crew was collateral damage, but also emotionally hurt Odysseus. Odysseus knew he was in the domain of a deity that could wreck him on every level; he had plenty of opportunities to brace himself in case things went wrong.
Poseidon, as a deity, demands more respect than a typical human. In Poseidon’s mind, this special treatment extends to his son. Injuring his son Polyphemus was considered a personal insult. Unknown to Odysseus, he had divine protection from Athena – a rival deity to Poseidon. Therefore, Poseidon already did not like Odysseus; stabbing Polyphemus in the eye just added to Poseidon’s hatred. Poseidon did not harm Odysseus, but made him suffer, just like his son, by killing his men slowly. Let the punishment fit the crime.
Moreover, there are times when Odysseus was not only selfish, but genuinely irreverent. While Penelope was upholding her marriage vows, Odysseus had an affair with Circe, a sorceress who had turned his men into pigs while he had his fling. He also deliberately went past the island of the Sirens, just because he wanted to hear their song for himself. Finally, he allowed his men to eat sacred cattle of the god Helios for a week. This one act condemned his entire fleet, ship and men, to destruction. Zeus struck the ship with lightning, forcing Odysseus to swim to an island and live with a Calypso, a sea nymph, for seven years. The rest of his men drowned. This shows that Odysseus did not always respect the gods, and acted selfishly whenever it suited him.