This is an essay based on the Odyssy and talks about the meaning of acceptance and hospitality.

Essay by magaskaweeJunior High, 9th gradeA, April 2004

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The Odyssey

Can Odysseus reflect the cultural values of ancient Greece through his super

human qualities? Odysseus is the hero of the Odyssey, an epic poem believed to

have been composed by Homer, a blind poet, in about 800 B.C. An epic is a long,

narrative poem that tells about the escapades of a hero who reflects the ideals

and values of a nation or race. Odysseus, though he often seems

larger-than-life, reflects the cultural values of ancient Greece.

Physical strength is a quality that was greatly emphasized throughout the

Odyssey. In this epic, Odysseus is depicted as a very strong man who defeats

numerous foes, such as the Cyclops, Scylla, and Circe during his journey home to

Ithaca following the Trojan War. Upon returning home to Ithaca, Odysseus

displays his immense strength once more with the stringing of his bow, which was

very large and required a great deal of physical power to use.

"But the man

skilled in all ways of contending . . . so effortlessly in one motion strung the

bow" (Odyssey Book 21 197-203). Of the one hundred men in Odysseus' home, not

one had the strength or expertise to string his bow, but Odysseus was able to

string it and shoot with it very easily. Odysseus' great display of power shows

that physical strength was a highly regarded trait in ancient Greece.

Hospitality to guests was also very important to the ancient Greeks. The Greeks

believed that Zeus, who they believed was the god of hospitality, would punish

any person who was not hospitable to a guest. In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his

men land on the island of the Cyclopes, where they explore a cave and become

trapped inside by a savage Cyclops named Polyphemus. Odysseus warned Polyphemus

that Zeus would punish any person that mistreats a guest. "We would entreat you,

great Sir, have a care for the gods' courtesy; Zeus will avenge the unoffending

guest" (Odyssey Book 9 173-175). The Cyclops ignored this warning and devoured

several of Odysseus' men, and afterwards Odysseus blinded him with a sharpened

staff, and told him that it was punishment for being inhospitable to Odysseus

and his crew. It was an important cultural value of the ancient Greeks that a

person should accept any stranger into their home and treat them with courtesy,

and even present them with gifts.

Revenge was another value in the times of ancient Greece. In the Odyssey

revenge is taken several times by those who have been wronged. When the Cyclops

ate Odysseus' men, Odysseus avenged this by blinding the Cyclops. Even gods

sought revenge in the Odyssey. When Odysseus and his crew landed on Thrinacia,

the island of the sun god Helios, and ate Helios' cattle, Helios asked Zeus for

payment for the loss of his cattle. Zeus sent down a thunderbolt, sinking

Odysseus' ship and leaving Odysseus as the sole survivor. Again revenge was

sought when Odysseus returned home to Ithaca, and found that one hundred men had

invaded his home, seeking to wed his wife, Penelope, and take over his fortune.

"There will be killing till the score is paid. You forced yourselves upon this

house. Fight your way out, or run for it, if you think you'll escape death"

(Odyssey Book 22 296-299). Odysseus killed all of the men in his house to avenge

his home and family. The ancient Greeks felt that if a person was wronged, they

should seek revenge, and so people in ancient Greek valued vengeance.

Odysseus reflects the ancient values of physical strength, hospitality, and

revenge. However, several of these traits are not as important in current times.

Revenge is now unacceptable, though the ancient Greeks embraced it. Physical

power is still appreciated, but the significance of hospitality has decreased to

a great extent. No longer would a person accept a stranger into their home with

alacrity, but would be more likely to turn the foreigner away. Odysseus,

although he often seemed to be unrealistic, showed qualities that were greatly

esteemed by the ancient Greeks.