Many cultural values are transmitted and discovered within myths, especially in the story, The Odyssey written by Homer. The Odyssey continues from the events of the The IIliad, focusing on Odysseus after the Trojan War and his long journey back home to Ithaca, to his wife Penelope and his son, Telemachus. Throughout the ten year journey, Odysseus faces many hardships and while doing so, he learns more about himself and the human condition, which helps him successfully come back home to his wife Penelope. Distinct cultural values are witnessed during the events that occur in The Odyssey. Xenia is the most prominent one.
Xenia is a term used to describe hospitality or the relationship between a host and a guest. For example in book IV, when Telemachus and King Nestor’s youngest son, Peisistratus arrive at the palace of Menelaus. Menelaus does not ask who his guests are, because proper etiquette is to feed them first before asking questions. When Telemachus and Peisistratus depart after receiving important information about the whereabouts of Odysseus, they do not leave empty-handed and are given many valuable gifts by Menelaus. The concept of hubris is denounced in Greek ulture, but can be frequently seen in many Greek tragedies.
Hubris is the notion of excessive pride and arrogance, usually described when mortals think they are better than the gods. In the Book IX, the blinding of Polyphemus, son of Poseidon demonstrates an act of hubris. Before blinding the Cyclops, Odysseus tells him his name is “Nobody. ” After escaping by clinging to the bellies of sheep that were supposed to graze, Odysseus boldly shouts to Polyphemus about the trick and reveals his true identity, while the rest of his crew members are trembling with fear. This was perceived as an offense to the gods, especially Poseidon.
As a result, Polyphemus called upon his father to punish the man who had harmed him, prolonging Odyssey’s journey home with a raging storm. Odysseus differs from that of a typical epic hero. He does not solely rely on his physical strength and valor that was portrayed in The Illiad, but he also uses his intelligence and quick-wit to be cunning. Although Odysseus has morals, he is not rigid or strict with them, so he able to adapt to various situations and circumstances rather easily. Odysseus learns more about imself and the human condition in order to survive and safely arrive back home.
In book X, after the temporary victory of escaping Polyphemus, Odysseus learns self-discipline. A lesson was learned after his crew released the bag of winds given by Aeolus because they were curious of the contents found inside. After the strong force of wind made the ship go back to Aeolia, Odysseus pleaded for assistance, but Aeolus branded him a sinner and an enemy of the gods. This shows how one can control their environment through maturity and self- control, and that relations with other individuals are usually uncertain nd temporary.
A seemingly contradictory characterization of Odysseus shows that his ultimate goal is to return home to Penelope, however he also has intellectual curiosity that gets him into much trouble. Before reaching the island of the Sirens, Circe warns Odysseus and his men of the danger ahead of them in the next step of the voyage. After learning from his past mistakes, Odysseus resists the temptation of the Sirens in Book XII. By paying no heed and not giving in to the temptation of the Sirens, Odysseus has changed and transformed.
He realizes that is thirst for knowledge cannot be fully quenched and that human attainment or perfection is impossible to achieve. Odysseus and his men face the horror of two supernatural creatures, Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla is a six headed monster who sits on a cliff and eats seamen. Right across from Scylla is Charybdis, a treacherous whirlpool. To pass between both of these immediate threats was impossible. They passed the whirlpool safely, however six of his crew members were devoured by Scylla. Odysseus chose Scylla because he will only lose six men, guaranteed.
However, if he chose Charybdis veryone will be at risk; his desire to survive at all costs to make it back to Ithaca outweighs the life of six men in the end. Odysseus acquires the skill of perseverance when he had to make a very difficult decision regarding the fate of some of his men in a very short period of time. In Books XIII – XVI, Odysseus returns to Ithaca. With the help of Athena, he is disguised as an old beggar, so he can observe what has happened in his twenty year absence. The suitors have abused Penelope and Telemachus’ hospitality to such an extent that they also laid waste to Odyssey’s wealth.
He finds his son Telemachus and they begin to plot their vengeance upon the suitors and those who have become disloyal. In Book XX, in an attempt of slumber, Odysseus asks Zeus for his support and he is answered by the sound of the god’s thunder. This symbolizes and foreshadows the next set of events. A soothsayer by the name of Theoclymenus predicts the death of the suitors, and tells them they will be punished for their unspeakable acts and misdeeds, but in disbelief, the suitors laugh at his warning. The prophecy of death among the suitors, show Odysseus’ quest of ersonal purification is soon to be achieved.
For Odysseus to live in harmony with his new self, he has to remove and expunge all the dirt and corrupt people from his home. The contest to string the bow of Odysseus begins, as a test to see who is most fitted to be Penelope’s new husband. Odysseus reveals his true identity to two loyal servants and he gives them orders to look after Penelope. In this exchange, we can see Odysseus’ compassion for others who are socially inferior to him, such as his servants. After countless attempts of stringing the bow to no avail by the suitors, Odysseus disguised as the eggar, asks for a chance.
Deftly and smoothly, he strings the weapon and it flies through the straight row of twelve axes. With Odysseus’ rightful place in sight, he begins to kill the suitors with Telemachus and his two loyal servants while announcing his identity. He calls for Eurycleia, his old nurse. As a witness of the bodies that lay, she starts to sing a hymn of triumph, but he abruptly rebukes her, claiming it is disrespectful to express joy and delight over the dead. Odysseus asks her to list the maidservants who were disloyal and she names twelve of them.
They are punished by cleaning the aftermath of battle and soon hanged. This act emphasizes the significance of loyalty. Although Odysseus was greatly outnumbered during the battle with the suitors, it re-establishes and represents Odysseus’ capability and aptitude to be King because of his courage and mastery of patience as evidence with his carefully thought-out plan to seek revenge. In the last two books of The Odyssey, Odysseus reunites with his loved ones. When Penelope is reunited with him, they spend the entire night making love and shares stories of what each of them had to endure and experience.
Later on, Odysseus visits Laertes, and while this is happening, the families of the slain suitors claim the bodies. As a result, a meeting of the Assembly is called and many citizens decide to avenge the death of their sons and march off to the farm where Laertes lives. Athena intervenes the fight to declare that everything must come to an end. Odysseus is able to continue to reign as King without a blood feud. In the ten year journey to make it home, Odysseus gained valuable and advantageous qualities that empowered him to win and conquer numerous obstacles and challenges.