World Literature: the Tales of Odysseus Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


The tales of Odysseus have remained popular for several centuries. According to Griffin (2004), these tales demonstrate the social structure of ancient Greece and even part of the European countries. The humility of this great leader, his strength, and above all, his courage is demonstrated as the main factors that made him popular.

He would dare to do what others could not imagine of and strangely come out successful in such ventures. These tales reflect the spirit of the ancient Greek society, which largely influenced civilization. That is why these tales have remained relevant even in modern society. In this essay, the focus will be to determine how themes in these stories reflect the spirit of ancient Greece and its relevance to the modern world.


The tales of Odysseus have widely been told, and they help in giving insight to the social norms that were common in ancient Greece. The tales presented in by Gochberg (1988) and Homer (2007) brings the travels of this great warrior and helps in shedding light into the society in ancient Greece.

The book by Gochberg (1988) is about the Great War between the Trojans and the Achaeans (Greeks). The cause and course of the war tell a lot about the beliefs, social forms, and material traits of the ancient Greeks. In this tale, Helen- a wife to Achaean King Menelaus- elopes with the charming Trojan prince Paris. This act of ‘stealing’ the wife of the great king, coupled with the tension between the two kingdoms results into a war.

King Menelaus sends his soldiers to go and capture his wife and bring him back away from the Trojans. However, the prince of the Trojans is so passionate about the newfound love that he is willing to do everything in his powers to ensure that Helen remains with him. One unique factor that comes out of this story is the determination of the soldiers to achieve success even in the face of challenging factors facing them.

Victory in battles is seen as the only way of demonstrating the strength of a nation, and King Menelaus knows this so well that he is determined to do all within his powers to defeat the Trojans. The battle changes from a fight for passion to a fight for self-esteem and image. A loss in such decisive battles is seen as a weakness not only to the soldiers who went to the war but also the entire society.

The tale by Homer (2007) also recounts of the heroic homecoming of Odysseus after a victorious battle that took over 20 years. Odysseus left his home and went to Ithaca to fight on behalf of his country. The battle was plagued by many challenges, from the superiority of the enemy’s weapon and a number of soldiers to natural calamities that threatened their lives.

In such a challenging environment where many soldiers fell, Odysseus was determined to press on with the war. In this tale, the Greek soldiers are portrayed as daring soldiers who would stare in the face of death and still feel courageous enough to fight on. Achilles, a warrior as great as Odysseus, fought to his death- preferring to die than to lose a battle. The military skills and courage of Odysseus saw him through to victory, and he traveled home to deliver the news that the kingdom had won.

These two stories clearly show that the ancient Greeks had some standard practices that defined everything they did. Failure was something that was not tolerated in this society. In the two tales, a soldier would prefer to die than to come out alive as a failure. The society could not withstand a failure at war because it would be a sign of weakness for the society.

This closely relates to modern society. Currently, Russia is flexing its military muscle in Eastern Europe, and it is very keen on achieving success even in the face of criticism from other world powers. It is openly stating that it has enough nuclear weapons that it can use against any country that tries to invade it in any way.

In the two tales, courage is a very precious virtue. It demonstrates how the ancient Greeks valued people who were courageous such as Odysseus. Courage remains an important virtue even in modern society (Griffin, 2004). Finally, the tales bring in passion as something that can create serious conflict, especially in cases of a love triangle. In world history- and even in the current society- passion is one of the greatest factors that create conflict within society.


The tales of Odysseus brings out the socio-political structure of the ancient Greeks and the people that lived around them. During this period, peace within a given kingdom was largely defined by its ability to win battles. Although this has changed considerably in the current society, superiority at war remains one of the factors that define the position of a country in the world map in terms of the influence it commands.


Gochberg, D. (1988). Classics of Western Thought: The Ancient World. London: Wadsworth Publishing.

Griffin, J. (2004). Homer: The Odyssey: student guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Homer, S. (2007). The Essential Odyssey. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

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