The Odyssey: Thesis Paper on Men's Lust for Power
In Homer’s mythological epic: The Odessey the reader follows what is thought to be a story of a courageous soldier and his battle hardened crew fresh from their victory at the stronghold of Troy. Yet a dark shadow of greed and lust for power hangs over these heroic men. Odysseus is a supposed hero, an icon to all his men who are just as power hungry as he is thought to be heroic.
Nevertheless at the time of Greek mythology all men had a level of lust, greed, and power hunger at their side. This ultimately leads to their downfall in suffering or death.
At the beginning of Odysseus’ journey to his homeland of Ithaca, we find our so-called hero arriving with his warship on the southwestern coast of Thrace, home of the Cicones. The description of the battle is entirely from Odysseus’ massive ego: “I stormed that place and killed the men who fought…Plunder we took, and we enslaved the woman… equal shares to all…my men were mutinous, fools, on stores of wine” (152, 896), indicating that he was the brave and victorious soldier and while his crew acted more towards savages.
Yet Odysseus’ command over his soldiers reflect on himself, making him no better than them. Once sailing from Thrace and then to the island of the Lotus people, the miscreant finds himself on the island of the Cyclops, Polyphemus. On this barbaric island Odysseus’ famed curiosity, which is one of his most dreadful and distinctive characteristics that is an example of his lust: “It is Odysseus’ famed curiosity that leads him to the Cyclops’s cave” (Italics, 899). This particular characteristic only leads to the destruction of the crew.
Odysseus’ curiosity is not alone; his habit of flexing military supremacies is afoot. It alone is an example of his power hunger: “you were put to shame and blinded, tell him Odysseus, raiders of cities, you’re your eye: Leartes’ son, whose home’s on Ithaca! ” (503, 908), and eventually contributes to his downfall as well as his crew. Odysseus makes numerous unwise decisions that may not hurt him physically or mentally, but his crew will suffer a dreadful death in the process. In his urge for power, Odysseus makes an unwise decision.
By telling of who he is and where he hails from, Odysseus has given Polyphemus a sign of retribution and lets out a cry: “Let him lose all companions, and return under strange sail to bitter days as home” (537, 909). His father and foe of Odysseus, Lord Poseidon, hear this last cry. And due to this cry Lord Poseidon executes his revenge on Odysseus for his heinous crim. After most of Odysseus’ crew escapes the dreadful Cyclops, he directs his crew to the island home of the manipulate witch, Circe.
Here on this island, Odysseus expresses his lust for beautiful woman: “Odysseus shares his meat and wine, and she restores his heart…after many seasons of feasting and other pleasures” (Italic, 913); this leads to a betrayal of his faithful wife, Penelope. Odysseus does not only betray Penelope, but he also delays his journey home to Ithaca by two long and forgetful years. After the two pleasant and unfaithful years with Circe, Odysseus and his crew wish to leave her island and act like cowards doing so: “Odysseus and his men beg Circe to help them get home” (Italic, 913).
Circe tells Odysseus that his crew will all die with him to live, but also tells Odysseus if he ventures alone to the underworld he will seek wisdom form the blind prophet Teiresias. Here Odysseus sees his power hunger, greed and lust, with no thought of what is being said to him. He only thinks of what awaits him home. Once returning from the underworld, Odysseus is told of a path that will lead him to Ithaca, but at a great cost. A violent and destructive death will fall upon the crew that is done by Odysseus’s leadership. To distract the crew from their demise; he fills their hearts with joy of seeing their homeland.
Odysseus’ lust blinds him, and because of this he tells few crew members of the gruesome fate that awaits them all: “more than one man, or two, should know those things…we die with our eyes open, or know death we baffle if we can” (720, 918). Odysseus’ lusts for his home, wife and son so much, that he will risk himself and his crew for it. As the ships moves closer to the sirens, Odysseus puts beeswax in the crew’s ears to keep them from hearing the song of the Sirens, but does not do so himself. However, lust takes over and he lies to the crew of what Teiresias has predicted: “yet she urged that I alone should listen to the song” (726, 918).
With no thought of what will happen to them, the gullible crew trusts their commander and continues to make preparations for their doom. As the ship passes through the path Odysseus can only think of Ithaca, when staring into the eyes of his dieing crew. Now on the island where the sun god’s cattle graze, Odysseus knows that it has been said that his crew will die here. Odysseus thinks he can change that. By making his crew swear not to touch Helios cattle, he thinks his crew will live to see Ithaca. Yet after a month there was no more food or wine for the men.
Hunger came over and over again and began to weaken the crew. With Odysseus asleep the crew decided to eat the cattle. While feasting on them, Odysseus awoke to the fate of his crew unfolding in front of him. Instead of taking action and tiring to save his crew, Odysseus can only think of blaming the gods: “‘O Father Zeus and gods bliss forever, you made me sleep away this day of mischief! ” (915, 924). The sun god, Helios sees his cattle being slaughtered and tells Zeus if he did not strike Odysseus’ men, he will leave for the underworld forever.
Once the Ithacans set sail, a lightning bolt shot from the heavens and hit the ship. All of the crew, except Odysseus, drowns to their death. Here Odysseus’ suffering begins Ten years latter, with Odysseus as a prisoner on the island home to the beautiful goddess, Calypso. Nevertheless his lust for Penelope has transformed into a lust for any woman: “he lay with her each night, for she compelled him” (83, 892), no matter what the cost, Odysseus’s lust will be answered. Hermes then delivers a message from Zeus to Calypso for the release of Odysseus.
Odysseus is then released and sets sail for Ithaca, but Lord Poseidon does not allow him to escape so easily. As Odysseus brasses the violent storm his raft is destroyed and with the help of Athena, he arrives on the island of Scheria. After some time he is then found by the daughter of Alcinous, king of Phaeacia. She takes him to the court of Alcinous. Here Odysseus becomes even more power hungry as he tries to gain authority and respect among the people: “Men hold me formidable for guile in peace and war: this fame has gone to the sky’s rim” (128, 895), and during this speech of Odysseus’s heroic he know much is a lie.
Power can come in many forms. This form of power that is presented by Odysseus is fear and respect. In secret, Odysseus returns to Ithaca aboard a Phaeacia ship. When he finally arrives home after twenty long years it is the same day his son returns from his yearlong journey. When he meets his son an emotion of betrayal slips into his mind. Odysseus hides it, but can recall everything. Athena cleverly changes his appearance into an old beggar. Odysseus is now able to walk around Ithaca in plain site. He sees what the Suitors have done and planes to exact his revenge.
Lust drives him to this revenge and it will not stop. Odysseus finds a way to recapture his kingdom, and uses faithful servants to attack the Suitors. When the time came to make his move, the suitors where locked into a single chamber with Odysseus and Telemachus there as well. Here Odysseus shows an even darker side to his power hunger after some of the suitors plead for mercy: “Antinous was the ringleader, he whipped us on to do these things…spare you own people” (1269, 942), and with no compassion Odysseus murdered all that stood before.
None of them where armed and held no threat against Odysseus. Odysseus then went on to see his faithful wife and to know that his power hunger and lust lead to all of his crew to die. The power hunger and lust of Odysseus’s crew is no better than Odysseus himself. The fist sign of power hunger is seen after Odysseus meets Aeolus and puts all of the stormy weather in a bag. Of course, once the crew see the bag, their greedy minds think it is treasure and wish to have it for themselves: “sailors open the bag…and the evil winds roar up into a hurricanes that blow the ships back” (Italic, 911).
Power hunger surrounds the crew as they are but normal men and would take the heavens given the chance. Later on, the crew’s lust comes into affect and is seen of the island of the beautiful witch Circe. To see a young and beautiful woman filled their hearts with lust for her and so was a grave mistake: “no need for stealth: here’s a young weaver singing a pretty song to set the air…she flew at them with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty” (557, 912), and so they perished with their hideous transformation.
The final blow to lead the crew to their watery graves takes place on the island of Thrinakia, home to the sun god, Helios. On the island, Odysseus trusts the crew and makes them swear to not touch the sun god’s cattle. Yet after some months, they have run out of supplies. Their hunger drives them to rash actions: “flayed each carcass…with strips of meat, were laid upon an open fire” (903, 924), death came upon them. The crew’s actions lead them to their death.
Helios then told Zeus that if Odysseus’s crew where not punished, the he would leave for the underworld. Once seaborne Zeus struck the ship and sent all of them to their deaths. The last men that have given into their power hunger are the Suitors. The Suitors lived in the kingdom of Ithaca with their leader, Odysseus. Nevertheless, with Odysseus gone, the Suitors take advantage of his twenty years of appetence. Their treatment of Ithaca can be seen by the symbolic reference towards Odysseus faithful hound that has been beaten and abused.
Yet, now Odysseus has returned and watches the Suitors abuse his king while he is unseen. The Suitors meet their demise after they are trapped in a room and killed by the Ithacan king All in all, power hunger, and lust feel upon Odysseus and his crew as well as the Suitors, all suffered for their own doing. The power hunger and greed has left theses men broken and punished for their arrogance. This shows that the men of the Odyssey have suffered for their power hunger and lust. In suffering or death, they have paid for their greedy souls.
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