Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interactions Between The Gods And The Humans

What is the relationship between the Gods and the humans in The Odyssey?

5 comments:

  1. The gods relationship with humans is manifested through their significant roles dictating the lives of the characters in this epic. On numerous occasions, Gods are seen interacting with humans. A great example of this is when Athena, in the form of Mentor, goes to Telemachus and provides information and advice about his father, Odysseus. Soon after suggesting to Telemachus that he should dismiss the suitors, Athena advises him to, “Fit out a ship with twenty oars, the best in sight, sail in quest of news of you long-lost father” (86) In addition to receiving advice about searching for his father, Telemachus receives newborn confidence. After realizing he had just talked to Athena he has a swagger that he has never had before. On the first leg of Telemachus’ journey, Athena accompanies, once again in the form of Mentor, providing confidence and advice for the anxious prince. It is typical during this epci that the gods favor specific individuals. Although many people are aided by the gods, upsetting them can lead to a humans demise. In this epic, the reader is informed thatOdysseus has yet to return because he angered the sea God Poseidon. The author of The Odyssey, Homer, puts it best by saying, “It’s the Earth-Shaker Poseidon, unappeased, forever fuming against him (Odysseus) for the Cyclops whose giant eye he blinded” (79). Poseidon is one of many examples of a God holding a grudge on a human and negatively impacting his life. As a punishment for Odysseus killing Polyphemus, Poseidon leaves him stranded on an isolated island unable to return to Ithaca. Although it is evident that there is a close bond between the gods and humans, it is obvious that there is a big difference in power between the gods and humans. Although the gods are unable to cease the death of an individual, the impact they impose on humans is immeasurable.

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  2. Eric is absolutely correct. Gods have a significant role in each human characters life, but, sometimes the Gods aren't treated "godly". Conflict with Gods is another interaction that the humans make. One example is when Menelaus wishes to return home, but his path is blocked by the Old Man of the Sea, Proteus. Menelaus is disallowed from voyaging home because of his disrespect towards the gods, and the only way to return is to go back and pay his respects to the king of the gods, zeus. Proteus says, " 'How wrong you were!'...You could have offered Zeus and the other Gods a handsome sacrifice, then embarked, if you had hoped for a rapid journey home across the wine-dark sea. It is not your destiny to see your loved ones...not till you sail back through Egyptian waters- the great Nile swelled by the rains of Zeus- and make a splendid rite to the deathless Gods who rule the vaulting skies" (139). Menelaus' dishonor towards the Gods, sets him back on a longer journey, if his hopes of a homecoming wish to become true. Another way of conflict between the Gods and the humans was blame. The humans blamed the Gods on several occasions in the Odyssey. A perfect example is when Telemachus' mother, Penelope, pleads for her husband back, and puts blame on her melodic singer, Phemius, the bard for singing a song that breaks Penelope's heart. In response, her son, heir to the throne of Ithaca, Telemachus tells his mother, "Bards are not to blame- Zeus is to blame. He deals to each and every laborer on this earth whatever doom he pleases" (89). Telemachus believes that it is not the bards' blame for singing such a song, but Zeus' fault, for allowing such an action to happen. This proves that while the Gods' have the power, sometimes the humans do not realize it, and treat the Gods' like they were below them on the hierarchy of life, which causes reactions of punishment by the Gods'. The conflict and interaction between the Gods' and humans in The Odyssey, by Homer can be best said by Isaac newtown, "To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction" (Newtown's laws of motion; Law III)

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  3. I think Eric’s point about displeasing the deities will lead to peril is very evident through the epic and I think it is a point that should be stressed. To add to Eric’s example of Poseidon’s feelings of hatred towards Odysseus, I would like to point out that meanwhile, Athena favors both Odysseus and his son. Athena has been assisting Telemachus on his quest to find his father since the beginning while Poseidon tries to torture Odysseus and keep him away from the people he loves. Athena and Poseidon, both gods, have totally different feelings towards Odysseus and have totally different feelings about what their fates should look like. I also think that another key aspect of the relationship between the gods and the humans is that since the gods have control over the fates of the humans, the humans often fear these gods, and therefore honor them. The quote that Justin found on page 89 proves that Zeus has some ultimate power, and that this power is deciding the fates of these humans. “Zeus is to blame. He deals to each and every laborer on this earth whatever doom he pleases.” Because Zeus has this power, the humans fear and honor him. As Odysseus voyages to Scheria, there are several examples of the gods controlling his fate. As he crosses the sea, Poseidon, Ino, and Athena all intervene and try to change the fate of Odysseus. Without the gods, we don’t know whether Odysseus may have been able to reach the shore because the gods seem to control or intervene with every event in the story. “Now that Zeus has granted a glimpse of land beyond my hopes..” (165) This quote mentions the fact that Zeus was the one who let Odysseus see the land. The book does not say that Odysseus himself had sailed and swam long enough to see land, it simply says that Zeus was the one who let this happen. “Athena showered sleep upon his eyes..”(167). I thought this last quote was interesting as it proves that gods control the events in the lives of the humans and even simple tasks are controlled by the gods, such as sleep. In summary, I believe that because the gods alter the lives of the characters in this epic, the characters hold Zeus and the other gods in high regards.

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  4. The role of hospitality is visible through Telemachus' numerous visits with different leader. As Telemachus seeks information on his father, he is greeted similarly by each of the different kings. Prior to Telemachus being asked about who he is and the reason for his visit, he is welcomed into the palace and treated to a delicious meal. Telemachus is treated as if the kings know him personally and are just providing a friendly meal. After Telemachus is done with his meal, Nestor says, "Now's the time, now that they've enjoyed their meal, to probe our guests and find out who they are. Strangers-friends, who are you? (109) Nestor asks this question, not knowing anything about the man that he just fed. Telemachus could have been a pirate, a beggar, or just a commoner and still received that same treatment. After Nestor learns the purpose of Telemachus’ trip, he sends him off with a chariot with his son Pisistratus. Similar to with King Nestor, King Menelaus welcomes Telemachus into his palace. Prior to him entering Eteoneus suggests that Telemachus get sent somewhere else, Menelaus exclaims” Now I see you’r babbling like a child! Think of all the hospitality we enjoyed at the hands of other me before we made it home” (125). Homer suggests that hospitality is universal, and that leaders support other leaders. Was this actually true in society, was everyone welcomed in open arms? When there was hostility or tension between city states, it is not easy to believe that everyone was hospitable towards others. Another idea that Homer passed on is the role of trust within the people. Only knowing Telemachus for less than a day, he invites him to stay at his palace. After exchanging stories, Menelaus suggests, “But come, my boy, stay on in my palace now with me, at least twelve or a dozen days have passed” (143). Although Menelaus was dear friends with Odysseus, he does not know Telemachus as an individual. He assumes that Telemachus attains that same qualities and morals as his father, even though he never knew his father. Through this epic, the reader learns the importance of trust, and hospitality within society during this time period.

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  5. For the hospitality aspect there is not actually full trust in a stranger. For example, when Athena visits Telemachus in the form of Mentes it is said that "He led the way and Pallas Athena followed. Once in the high-roofed hall, he took her lance and fixed it firm in a burnished rack against a sturdy pillar, there where row on row of spears, embattled by Odysseus' spears, stood stacked and waiting." (pg 81) This shows that there is a sense of trust and distrust along with a sense of honor. There is a sense of trust from the stranger to the person they are visiting because they go unarmed and have no way of protecting themself if there was an attack. Although, there is a sense of distrust from the person who is doing the welcoming because they disarm the stranger before knowing why they came and if they were really a threat. There is a sense of honor though becasue the stranger's weapons are treated as though they are a highly respected individual's weapons especially in the example how Telemachus puts Mentes' (Athenas')weapon with Odysseus' weapons.

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