Revenge In The Odyssey Essay, Research Paper
The Greeks, as portrayed by Homer, are a very vengeful people. Throughout The Odyssey, a theme of vengeance is dominant. These displays of retribution come from different entities for fairly different reasons. So why is revenge such a factor in The Odyssey? Fear and the overwhelming feeling of payback are two answers. Homer gives numerous examples of how certain characters demonstrate their power in a fury of rage. He writes of the payback Zeus gives to those who break the rules, of Poseidon s hatred towards Odysseus, and of Odysseus s revenge to those who have dishonored his home.
Zeus is the most powerful of all gods. All the Greeks with sense know not to cross him. A major practice in their culture is to invite in visitors that come to their doorsteps. This practice involves caring for the visitor by bathing and feeding them. After the visitor has been cared for, the host and visitor discuss the lineage of the visitor. This is done with the fear of Zeus and those who don t follow the practice are dealt with. Those who don t follow this practice are considered barbarians. Homer gives a clue into the extent of the fear when he writes that Telemakhos was irked with himself / to think a visitor had been kept their waiting (5). One example in The Odyssey is when Odysseus comes to the home of the Kyklops. Odysseus states:
We will entreat you, great Sir, have a care
for the gods courtesy; Zeus will avenge
the unoffending guest (153).
Kyklops just answers that, We Kyklopes care not for your thundering Zeus (153). This is a big mistake because directly after this statement, the Kyklops eats some of Odysseus s men. Zeus does avenge the men through Odysseus. Odysseus gets the Kyklops drunk and stabs out his eye, allowing an escape. One thing that is bad for Odysseus, though, is the fact that Kyklops is the son of Poseidon, god of the earthquake. This now spurs a new challenge for Odysseus: he must get home with Poseidon s obstacles.
Poseidon has never really liked Odysseus. When Odysseus tries to make it onto the shore of Skheria, Poseidon calls up wind / from every quarter, and sends a wall of rain (89). Consequently, it is a safe assumption that Poseidon will really have it in for Odysseus. He states, I thought he should suffer all the way [home] (233). After Odysseus returns home, Poseidon talks to Zeus and says he wants to put a mountain ring around the city and crush the ship of the Phaiakians. Zeus persuades him otherwise to just turn the boat to stone. For Poseidon, this was all for naught since Odysseus is safe on his home island of Ithaka.
Odysseus, now home, must keep his true identity under wraps until he gets rid of the suitors. He also wants to find out for himself how faithful Penelope has been to him. He enters his old palace under the disguise of a beggar; in fact, he gets help from Athena to help him change his physical appearance. Once in the palace, he sees how the suitors have totally overrun his home. He also finds that Penelope has been faithful to him, even using trickery to hold off the suitors for all this time. Odysseus gets his revenge near the end of the story by killing the suitors with his great bow. He also kills every maidservant who has gone to bed with a suitor. This is also a great example of how Zeus puts doom on someone (or in this case a whole group) who abuses the host-guest relationship. With this deed now done, Odysseus has completed the task of getting on with his life with Penelope and without the traitorous suitors.
As you can clearly see, The Odyssey has an overwhelming theme of revenge. It is important to the culture as a whole. It is shown through examples of Zeus s rage and Poseidon s persistence. It is then completed through the great triumph of Odysseus. The Greeks definitely make it a point to gain retribution against those who have wronged them.