The Odyssey

Starting the Odyssey was quite a daunting task. I’ve never adventured into Greek literature of any kind, and my knowledge of Greek gods is limited at best. Yet as I read Homer’s great tale, the wide range of characters slowly began to grow on me, some which intrigued me, others which I disliked, and a select few which I liked. Ultimately it’s the characters which bring a story alive, and Homer’s tale is filled with a diverse cast of humans, gods, and other mythical creatures.

Right from the start of the book, a certain line stuck with me. It was Zeus, showing distate in the way mortals blamed and almost relied on the Gods, it starts on page 78, “Ah how shameless-the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share”. This quote has to be my favorite of The Odyssey. It shows that while the gods are… gods, they still have very human qualities. Zeus is almost annoyed at how the humans blame him, and he looks upon them as a squabbling group of children. From this quote, I began to understand that gods weren’t just benevolent entities filled with joy and kindness, each and every god had a deeper and more intricate personality, with their own principles and tempers. And so it isn’t just Telemachus, Odysseus, and other humans who are key characters throughout the story, the gods are part of the cast which makes this book so layered.

It’s from here that I slowly began to dislike a lot of the gods. With the exception of Athena, Hermes, and a few others, most gods are pretty selfish beings. Poseidon is only disturbed when he has to take vengeance for his murderous Cyclops son, and Zeus, while he shows some interest in protecting Odysseus and Telemachus, I always felt like he could’ve done more. And that’s not even starting to talk about Calypso, Circes, and some of the other nasty gods who trifled with Odysseus’s journey back home. It ultimately seemed like most of the gods were a pretty selfish bunch, not too worried about justice, or about interfering with human problems.

While I complain about the gods, Athena does really shine bright throughout the book. Like a straight-A student, she doesn’t seem to make a wrong move as she is always there to help out Telemachus, and later on Odyssues. Furthermore, one of my favorite things about the book was the fact that Odysseus built his bed from a tree. It showed how at the very foundation of everything in his life, is the love he shares with his wife. After all the toils and hardships he had to endure, at the end of the day he could return home, and crawl back into his bed, with his adoring wife. It’s almost as if it shows what he’s been surviving and fighting for, because at the center of it all, is the love of his life, Penelope, and that will never change.

6 thoughts on “The Odyssey

  1. Hi Vincent here,
    I agree, the Greek Gods are very complicated. Maybe not as complicated as the gods and goddesses of other religions, but they are very interesting characters that round out the cast. Also, I agree that some of the gods are really annoying. Poseidon in the forefront because he is the antagonist of sorts who keeps throwing obstacles in Odysseus’s path. However, I tend to forgive the gods because the thing about Greek Gods though is that they ARE annoying. From what I’ve read about Greek legends, the Gods are very demanding of respect Anybody who doesn’t give them that, gets screwed, it’s how they are supposed to keep mortals in line and in The Odyssey, they warn mortals to give them the respect they are needed.

    One more thing, Penelope is a baus wife. No wonder Odysseus wants her.

  2. It is rather interesting that the Gods in this poem are portrayed almost like super-powered humans – each with their own personality, motivation, and varying degrees of involvement in mortal affairs. Belief in the Gods is strong for that very reason as the humans in the poem are constantly given proof of their existence through direct or indirect divine intervention, which, of course, is not the case in reality. With regards to the quote you cited, do you think that Zeus’ words are true, or do you think that they are biased? Considering the large and apparent scale of involvement that the Gods have with the mortal world in The Odyssey, do you believe that the humans are right to blame them for their misfortunes? Shouldn’t the Gods stop sticking their holy noses into everyone’s business, or is it ultimately mortals who are the cause of their own problems?

    • Haha, those are some good questions. The way I read Zeus’s quote was with a lot of frustration and pity behind it. Whether the gods should involve themselves in the world of The Odyssey or not… from the perspective of the stories, the meddling of the gods is what makes these poems so great. So on that account, I’m glad they stuck their noses in.

  3. The Zeus speech also jumped out at me. I knew a thing or two about Greek mythology so I went in knowing the gods could get pretty moody from time to time. But it was strange that such great being are very involved with mortals. They are very interesting and I guess, going with the theme of our seminar, it was a great way to reason with what was unexplainable. Also a good motivator to be nice to everyone, even Cyclopes.

  4. Hey Niccolo, I agree with everything you said. I also find that the gods were pretty selfish, and very human. Sometimes it felt that the only thing separating the gods from the humans were their powers, and their meddling.

  5. The Gods are a troublesome/lazy/self serving lot aren’t they! I’m taking a Greek and Roman Mythology class and the whole time its pretty much about how lazy, selfish and troublesome the gods are! I also thought the bed made out of the tree was pretty amazing – trees grow and mature and age and become more permanent with time, kind of like his relationship (and need for?) with Penelope! I mean he gave up immortality for her!

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