In the Odyssey the gods play a significant role throughout. Homer’s use of the gods and their decision to see “good” prosper and “bad” fail is one of the ongoing themes that runs though the narrative from beginning to end. The gods play a constant role throughout the narrative offering importance drive and substance to the plot as well as beginning culturally important to the contemporary Greeks.
Clearly all the gods play an important role in the plot of the Odyssey. Its important to understand that the gods played a vital role in the real lives of the contemporary Greeks so their place in the narrative is significant from that point alone they are a aspect of legitimacy and significance to the poem.
The actions of the gods in particular Athene are an important part of the Odyssey. We see Athene instigate Odysseus release from Calypso in book 1, resquesting that Zeus demands his freedom. In the books that follow she travels to Ithaca to persuade Telemachus to travel to his father’s old comrades and seek information regarding his whereabouts . In the early books it is clear that the gods will play an important role throughout – Athene’s rousing of both Telemachus and in particular Odysseus have instigated the narrative.
Odysseus is to be found on Calypso’s Island, where he has been for many years. Nursing Odysseus when she first found him, Calypso has kept him on her island despite his clear grief. Calypso’s role however is important we learn a lot about the gods during his time there. We learn of the relationships between gods , once Zeus has demanded that Calypso helps Odysseus leave her island she has no choice but to abide his decision – this illustrates the hierarchy that is in place between the gods. Secondly we see Calypso’s reaction to this demand ,it shows us the human nature of the gods, and how despite being immortal they share similar traits Calypso initially rages at Zeus’ double standards played towards her whilst later she attempts to save face when telling Odysseus that he is free to leave.
This information illustrates that nature of the gods which is important reading the rest of the Odyssey . After the Phoenicians drop Odysseus home on Ithaca wasPoseidon’s rage at the them help given to Odysseus, yet another example of the human traits that the gods possess. This blends well with Homer portrayal of the gods their actions are often not too bombastic or overwhelming, they are relativity restrained. Calypso sleeps with Odysseus, whist she also enjoys weaving and signing. These are entirely human thing to do by mixing fantasy with reality Homer ensures the actions and the presence of the gods are more believable and worthwhile.
Homer has inserted some key themes into the Odyssey. One of the key themes to is Justice, and the good overcoming bad. The gods play a significant role in this as during the Odyssey they are keen to see justice prevail in a number of different scenarios. The main good vs bad encounter is Odysseus and his ordeal with the Suitors, Athene assists Odysseus during the battle with the suitors as well as prior – she wants to ensure that justice is carried out and that the offending suitors suffer. This a is significant point the gods add legitimacy to Odysseus and his quest. Other examples of this are apparent, the death of the crew after eating the Sun gods flock, the swift death of Menelaus’s murder and also Odysseus who suffers at the hands of Poesidon for showing too much arrogance after his blinding on the Cyclops .
Athene’s constant help along with assistance from Circe and Ino and other that Odysseus receives further legitimises his heroic status. By assisting Odysseus the gods have shown that he is worthwhile that gods only help people who are worth it – this continued assistance gives credibility to Odysseus cause as a hero. By giving Odysseus credibility he is on par with hero’s in the Illiad such as Ajax and Aeschylus thereby adding significance to the plot and narrative as a whole
It’s clear that the importance of the gods is key to the entire poem, they add credibility to the Odysseus and his struggle whilst moving the plot forward, the play a significant role one of the poems major themes and also offers and important cultural background to the narrative.
Calypso And Circe In Homer's Odyssey
Calypso and Circe
The islands of Circe and Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey are places where Odysseus’ most challenging problems occur. In contrast to battles with men, Cyclops, or animals, sexual battles with women are sometimes much more difficult to win. These two female characters are especially enticing to Odysseus because they are goddesses. Though it is evident that Odysseus longs to return to Penelope in Ithaka, it sometimes appears that he has lost vision of what life was like with a wife, a son, and with thousands of people who regard him as King. Although his experiences on the islands of these goddesses were similar in that he was retained from Ithaka for the longest periods of his adventure, these goddesses and the ways that Odysseus reacts to his experiences with them represent two very different aspects of Odysseus’ life and disposition in life.
When Odysseus and his men arrive on Circe’s island, they are still in fairly good shape. In Book X, lines 194-196, Odysseus says: "I climbed to a rocky place of observation and looked at the island, and the endless sea lies all in a circle around it" I believe this illuminates a very important aspect in Circe’s tendencies. She doesn’t seem to want to cause any real harm to the men, but wishes to encircle these men with her food, wine, and lust. She seems to be obsessed with lust and material possessions, and it is my belief that she represents all that is weak in women (at least in Homer’s time). In lines 294-296 Hermes is consulting Odysseus on how to avoid harm from Circe: "rush forward against Circe, as if you were raging to kill her, and she will be afraid, and invite you to go to bed with her."
Circe also shows us as readers Odysseus’ weakness towards lust and sexuality. This time spent on Circe’s island was a test of whether he could resist lust from a goddess, and he fails. At first it appears as though the only reason Odysseus sleeps with Circe is to regain his companions, but she easily persuades them to stay. And what’s even worse is the fact that Odysseus isn’t even the first one ready to go. His men are the ones who urge him to leave: "What ails you now? It is time to think about our own country". So though at a glance it appears that Odysseus is merely succumbing to Circe’s schemes for reasons related to their health and well-being, if we read between the lines, we soon begin to realize that Odysseus is weak...
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