Friday, The bodies have long since been

Published by admin on

Friday, September 29, 2000
English 10
How can one learn about a society which has long ceased to exist?
How can one learn about the things that were important to them once their
bodies have been interred for centuries? The bodies have long since been
part of the earth, yet the voices of many of the ancients still waif
clearly through time throughout the art, the music, and the literature they
left as their legacy. A mans lifestyle, beliefs and habits as revealed in
their art mirror the culture that created him. This certainly is true in
the Greek epic The Odyssey because the characters are not just developed
on paper, but actually are the embodiments of the Greek society. In
studying the characters in the epic, it is easy to see many of the values
of the Greeks. Hospitality is certainly a value which that society
esteemed as well as physical beauty and a clever mind. One can see all
these values distinctly in the lives and actions of Odysseus, Telemachus,
and Menelaus.

As The Odyssey opens, the reader is immediately confused. Telemachus
opens his home and prepares a banquet, yet behind closed doors Telemachus
clearly expresses his dislike for the greedy men who seek not only his
mother but all his father’s property. Why would he welcome guests who he
hates? What seems to be a paradox on the surface is actually one of the
values which is most evident in Greek literature — the value of
hospitality. Telemachus himself experiences hospitality but with a slight
variation. This helps us understand even more about the importance the
Greeks placed on this value. When Telemachus sailed into Menelaus’
kingdom, Menelaus did not recognize him at first. Yet, society dictated
that one welcomes everyone, even strangers. From these two men we get a
broad view of this Greek value. It is Odysseus who completes this view
standing in the darkness of the Cyclops cave when confronted by a one-eyed
monster. One of Odysseus’ first comments to the monster deals with the
idea of hospitality. Reminding the Cyclops that honor of others is a
directive from the gods which if ignored would be avenged by the gods. “O
mighty one respect the gods. We are your suppliants, and Zeus is the
avenger of the suppliant and the stranger; he is the strangers friend and
waits on worthy strangers.” (p.85, IX) The reader now can step back form
the epic with a clear understanding of this Greek value. People loved or
hated, known or unknown were to be welcomed and cared for. If this were
not done the gods would punish the rudeness.

Not only did the Greeks value the beauty of actions but they also
valued physical beauty. The heroes of The Odyssey are described as having
physical features which were not only eye appealing but seemed to indicate
their goodness. Menelaus is described as “Light Haired,” “Famous,” and
“Heaven Desended” (p.31,IV) These features made him seem almost god like.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Numerous times his light hair is mentioned. This is not an accidental
feature but is an archetype of goodness often ascribed to Heroes in
literature. Although the description of Telemachus’ physical features are
limited, what is given is very revealing. Homer tells us that he looked
like his father. Odysseus, the great warrior, lays upon the beach at
Phaeacia, nothing about him indicates his greatness or beauty. It is only
later as he rises up from the water that he is reborn as a beautiful man
with curly hair and glistening skin. It is this beauty that
Menelaus and Helen recognize in Telemachus. “Now I too note it, wife, even
as you suggest; such as were Odysseus’ feet and hands, his turn of eye, his
head, and hair above.” (p.32,IV)
As important as hospitality and physical beauty were in the Greek
value system, it is far more evident that a determined, clever mind focused
steadfastly is a quality that would rank above all others. It is such an
important quality that it becomes one of the themes of the epic. As well
as the major features of the three heroes. From The Iliad, the reader sees
Menelaus, the determined king who fought a ten year war in order to get his
queen back. In The Odyssey, however, we see the cleverness of his
determined mind. As Telemachus, still unknown to Menelaus feasts, Menelaus
overtly seeks to know the identity of his guest. With slight suspicions
that the stranger was related to Odysseus, Menelaus begins an emotional
warfare upon the young guest. Recounting the details of the Trojan War and
describing the deaths of many brave, Greek warriors brings a tear to
Telemachus’ eye revealing not only his emotions but his identity to
Menelaus. In this tear, the reader sees a reflection of this young mans
steadfast determination to find a father he has not yet seen since he was
an infant. Telemachus only knows his father through the stories he has
heard about him. Yet his love for Odysseus causes him to set sail on a
journey to find his father. Though faced with challenges and years of
separation, Odysseus was determined to return to Penelope and Ithaca.

Telemachus is like his father because of his determined mind set. This is
the factor that will eventually bring them both back to Ithaca.

Almost three thousand years ago a group of people sat by a flickering
fire, the breezes from the Aegean Sea blew through their hair, but they
took no notice of the fires warmth or the seas coolness where they were
enthralled by a blind poet with stories about a great war. Probably based
on real events, Homer’s epics are today not seen as works of history. The
Greeks used his epics in their schools to teach about hospitality, physical
beauty and strength, and cleverness of the mind. These virtues which were
most important to the Greeks live on today in The Odyssey. Centuries have
passed since the time of Homer, we cannot sit by the fire listening to his
stories. We can only hold his epic on our lap and travel on the adventures
road with his heroes, and when we have finished we will not only have read
a classical piece of literature but we will know a centuries dead culture
much better.

Categories: Music


I'm Iren!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out