Essay On The Role Of The Gods In Homer's Odyssey

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The Odyssey by Homer revolves around a king’s experiences in reclaiming his title and power in ancient Greece, giving modern readers insight into the ancient world’s values and beliefs surrounding life and the gods. Odysseus’ main antagonist is a group of high ranking suitors courting his wife and draining the resources in his palace. Because of the warnings from Agamemnon, a soldier killed by his wife's lover upon his return from the Trojan war, King Odysseus cautiously returns to Ithaca after many years, disguised by the goddess Athena. Odysseus and his son plot the slaughter of Penelope’s many unwelcome suitors with a copious amount of Athena’s help. The plan evolves into a massacre, causing an uprising among the suitors’ noble families,…show more content…
Because this victory is only possible with the intervention of the gods, it highlights how the ancient Greeks saw the gods's role as essential to social structure and political calm.
One clue to the role of divinities in social structure becomes apparent in the story of Telemachus, a meek character at the epic’s beginning, who allows the imposing suitors to overstay their welcome. Athena goes to Telemachus in book one of the epic to tell him, “You must not cling to your boyhood any longer” (I.341-342). Athena instructs Telemachus to voyage with her around Greece to find news of his father, though the goddess knows Odysseus is on his way home. It can be deduced that Athena’s intention for Telemachus’ voyage is to mature him into the noble man his father would need him to be upon his return. Evidence that this voyage truly shifts Telemachus’ standing from a subordinate child to an audacious man is in the epithets used to describe Telemachus. In book one, epithets attached to his name are “young” and “careful” (I.247 ) as he considers Athena’s suggested journey. However, by book seventeen Telemachus becomes “thoughtful” (XVII.116) , “canny” (XVII.667), and “steady”
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