Homer And Ancient Myth: The Odyssey

The Odyssey, by Homer deals with a man who cheats death. Odysseus battles the Gods and win.

The Odyssey, by Homer deals with a man who cheats death. Odysseus battles the Gods and win. Odysseus, the archetypal Greek hero, defeats various gods with the help of other God. Odysseus is granted the help of Zeus and Athena after he demonstrates his bravery by visiting the underworld and escaping. Odysseus learns about the proper way to live on earth after visiting the underworld and the visits male them great leaders.

In the tenth year of the Trojan War, the Greeks tricked the enemy into bringing a colossal wooden horse within the walls of Troy. The Trojans had no idea that Greek soldiers were hidden inside, under the command of Odysseus. That night they emerged and opened the city gates to the Greek army. Troy was destroyed. Now it was time for Odysseus and the other Greeks to return to their kingdoms across the sea.

In the first book, we get a glimpse of life among the supreme gods on Mount Olympus. Urged on by Athena, the goddess of war, they decide that Odysseus has been marooned too long on the island of the nymph Calypso.

Meanwhile, the mansion of Odysseus is infested with suitors for the hand of his wife Penelope. Everyone assumes Odysseus is dead. His son Telemachus calls an assembly to ask for help, and Zeus sends an omen of the suitors' doom. Two eagles swoop down, tearing throats and necks with their talons. Afterwards Telemachus sets sail for the mainland to seek news of his father.

In book 3, Telemachus consults King Nestor, who led a contingent in the Trojan War when he was in his nineties. Nestor tells what he knows of the Greeks' return from Troy:

It started out badly because of Athena's anger. Half the army, your father included, stayed behind at Troy to try to appease her. The rest of us made it home safely -- all except Menelaus, who was blown off course to Egypt, where he remained for seven years. Seek advice from Menelaus. I'll lend you a chariot to travel to his kingdom.

Zeus's messenger frees Odysseus from captivity by the nymph. She releases his reluctantly and he is sent on his way. Poiseidon Zeus's enemy destroys the ship and Odysseus is once-again stranded. Odysseus is told he cannot return home unless he travels to the underworld and faces death. In book 10, the audience learns of this from Odysseus himself, when he tells the story to the people on the island where he is stranded:

Next we met the Keeper of the Winds, who sent us on our way with a steady breeze. He'd given me a leather bag, which my crew mistook for booty. They opened it and released a hurricane that blew us back to where we'd started. We ended up among the Laestrygonians, giants who bombarded our fleet with boulders and gobbled down our shipmates. The few survivors put in at the island of the enchantress Circe. My men were entertained by her and then, with a wave of her wand, turned into swine. Hermes the god gave me an herb that protected me. Circe told me that to get home I must travel to the land of Death.

In the land of death, Odysseus learns what he needs to have a good death and a good life in the afterworld. He tells what he has learned to the King and his people:

At the furthest edge of Ocean's stream is the land to which all journey when they die. Here their spirits endure a fleshless existence. They can't even talk unless re-animated with blood. Accordingly, I did as Circe instructed, bleeding a sacrificed lamb into a pit. Tiresias, the blind prophet who had accompanied us to Troy, was the soul I had to talk to. So I held all the other shades at bay with my sword until he had drunk from the pit. He gave me warnings about my journey home and told me what I must do to ensure a happy death when my time came. I met the shades of many famous women and heroes, including Achilles, best fighter of the Greeks at Troy.

Odysseus goes through various trials to prove his worth to lead hos people. Odysseus is blessed by the Gods for his bravery, and for his belief in their powers. The trip to the underworld instills this trust. He says near the end of the play that they can defeat a whole army with their small band of men, because Zeus and Athena is all they need to win. Odysseus learns he will not live forever when they visit the underworld. He also learns how to live his life in order to ensure a good death and a proper place in the next world.

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