• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Heroism and cowardice in the Odyssey.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Name: Manya Aggarwal Date: 26/12/2003 Class: 12-H Heroism and cowardice in the Odyssey. The most respected and venerated social group in Homeric times was that of the heroic warriors and kings. These were the people who lead their armies into battle and won accolades for their valor or courage displayed on the battlefield. The cowardly on the other hand, were subjected to strong prejudice. Their existence was considered a burden on the earth and they were ignored and ridiculed by everyone. This is evident in the Odyssey when Homer describes the incident of Elpenor's death. "There was one called Elpenor, the youngest of the party, not much a fighting man and not very clever. This young man had got drunk and gone to sleep on the roof of Circe's palace. Roused in the morning by the bustle and din of departure, he leapt up suddenly, and forgetting to go down the ladder and take the proper way down, he toppled headlong down the roof." ...read more.

Middle

Homer thus defines a hero not only to be handsome and brave but also god fearing, hospitable and one who never takes unfair advantage of others, especially in their absence. This is also evident in the Iliad when Paris's abduction of Helen in Menelaus's absence seals both his fate and that of his homeland- Troy. Odysseus is the only character in the Odyssey who thus comes closest to the ideal of the 'hero'. He is strong, handsome, brave, and also intelligent and witty. In Homer's world, no hero is complete without being endowed with the gift of intelligence and astuteness. Odysseus displays his acumen on many occasions-the encounter with Polyphemus the Cyclops and Circe, just to name a few. Odysseus also seems to be the master of deceit as is evident from the countless tales of trickery he tells people in order to avoid detection. In Homer's eyes, this treachery on the part of Odysseus is justified as he is only trying to protect his own interests without harming anybody else's. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hence the impartial help of the Gods was the main reason behind Odysseus's success. But this supernatural aid can be seen as a reward for past bravery and suffering on the part of Odysseus and as a punishment for cowardly insolence on part of the suitors. Hence the theme of cowardice and bravery plays a big part in the Odyssey. The book does take a certain amount of interest in the fate of the cowardly, but its primary focus rests with the heroic. Even the Gods favor the brave over the cowardly. The Gods take a supreme interest in the death of the heroic be it through noble (e.g. Achilleus fighting on the battle field) or poor means (e.g. Agamemnon killed by his wife and her lover) but as long as the cowardly are given a decent burial, the Gods don't care about them and their name is never mentioned in their premises. (E.g. Elpenor's death) People who have behaved in a way not suiting their status are also condemned to a coward's death (e.g.: the suitors) and the Gods do not lament their end. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Classics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Classics essays

  1. Assess the significance of the Gods in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey

    Hector's Apollo is quite different from Chalcas's god of prophecy or from the local god of Chrysa, Killa, or Tenedos; the Athene of Achilles or Diomedes is quite different from the goddess of cities or from the patron of arts and crafts.

  2. history classics

    of the dead left the body as a little breath or puff of wind. Just like the Egyptians, the Greeks had weapons and gifts to take with them, so they may look their best in the afterlife. Also offerings or libations were made at the tombs usually by female relatives of the deceased.

  1. The Odyssey by Homer

    world of heroism, and frees him from the static, listless world of the gods. Calypso's reason, though divine, is naïve because of its very arrogance. She assumes that Odysseus will remain with her because her beauty is greater and longer lasting than Penelope's.

  2. Compare the treatment of the Gods in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

    This is after Odysseus's men disobey the orders of their leader and give in to their instincts and desires to slaughter the Sun's flock for food. This Sun god asks Zeus to punish Odysseus and his men. This highlights the important role that Zeus plays in the Odyssey as an overseer of human moral behaviour.

  1. How important is Book 11 to the overall meaning of The Odyssey?

    leave them untouched and fix your mind on returning home, there is some chance that all of you may yet reach Ithaca, though not without suffering.' (Book 11, lines 104-112.) To me this conjures up a picture of hungry men on a ship, sailing past a luscious island where they can see cows and fat sheep.

  2. Whom do you admire more as a leader – Odysseus in the Odyssey or ...

    He also has no alienation from his men, such as Achates, and listens to their words ("there is no danger" A.1.584). Odysseus on the other hand has a difficulty with listening to people. Despite Agamemnon's warning in Book 11 ("make a secret approach" O.11.456), it takes Athene's reminder ("tell not a single person" O.13.308)

  1. Which do you think contributes more to the success of the Odyssey, realism or ...

    This allows an ancient audience to relate more to the gods into how they should behave as well as that morals are important, however, even the gods have weak spots. Homer sustains fantasy and reality when describing the actions and intentions of the gods, merging them together to create his epic.

  2. Homer's Odyssey - role of the Gods and questions on Book 18 Lines ...

    Amphinomus fate informing us of Athene's plans for his death ?for Athene had already marked him out to fall to a spear from Telemachus's hand ? yet the reader is unsure of how it will come to happen, this ensures that the reader knows what is going to happen yet not being sure of when or how.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work