The Judeo-Christian God In Homer's Odyssey

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Most societies, both past and present, worship one or multiple deities. The powers and characteristics of these gods vary among cultures, and the personalities of one society’s deities directly influence the culture and beliefs of its people. The discrepancies between the religions of different civilizations can be observed through the literary works of their religion and mythology. The Judeo-Christian God, who is shown in the Bible to be absolute both in power and in judgment, is antithetical to the Greek gods, who are depicted as having human traits and flaws. In Homer’s Odyssey, many gods are shown to act on their own self-interest, keeping favorites among the mortals and conspiring against other gods. Zeus, however, is portrayed as just…show more content…
VII.196), for he enforces the code of hospitality. He decrees that all guests must be honored and treated with respect, and although most mortals obey his law, some do not, and they are rightfully punished. For instance, the suitors of Penelope take advantage of her hospitality to endlessly gather and feast upon Odysseus’ home in Ithaca. Telemachus prays to the gods “…in hopes / that Zeus will pay [the suitors] back with a vengeance” (Od. II.161-62). Zeus sends down a sign to acknowledge Telemachus’ prayer and promise punishment for the suitors. Antinous, the leader of the suitors, later violates the code of hospitality by spurning the beggar Odysseus. Even the other suitors turn on him, saying, “Look, Antinous, / that was a crime, to strike the luckless beggar!” (Od. XVII.532-33). They mention that gods take on the look of strangers to judge them and their keeping of the code of hospitality. Zeus punishes Antinous and the suitors, condemning them to death at the hands of Odysseus and Athena. Before the slaughter, Zeus sends a sign to Odysseus to assure him that the death of the suitors was his will. “Let this day be the last, / the last these suitors bolt their groaning feasts in King Odysseus’ house!” (Od. XX.130-31). By supporting Athena in helping Odysseus get home, Zeus carried out his justice to the suitors, who violated the code of hospitality. Zeus also punishes the Cyclops Polyphemus for ignoring the…show more content…
Early on in the epic, Zeus refutes Athena’s claim that he is against Odysseus, saying, “how on earth could I forget Odysseus? Great Odysseus / who excels all men in wisdom, excels in offerings too” (Od. I.78-79). Zeus not only praises him, but also aids Athena in planning Odysseus’ escape from Ogygia and eventual return to Ithaca. Despite having Zeus’ favor, however, Odysseus is still punished by the god of thunder for his and his crew’s trespasses. In the island of the sun, Odysseus’ crew slaughters the prized cattle of Helios. The god of the sun cries for Zeus to “punish them all. That crew of Laertes’ son Odysseus” (Od. XII.406). Zeus promises Helios that he’ll “hit their racing ship with a white hot bolt” and “tear it into splinters” (Od. XII.417-18). Zeus carries out his promise, but decides to spare Odysseus, for he warned his men and took no part in their slaughter. Zeus punishes the guilty crewmen while sparing the innocent Odysseus, showing righteousness in his
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