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For Aristotle, true freedom and liberty consists in ruling and being ruled in turn and not always insisting on fulfilling one's own personal desires at the cost of others. Thus, for Odysseus, true freedom can only come about when one is allowed to contribute to society for the betterment of everyone involved, a sure sign of moral correctness and rational thinking.
In addition, Aristotle stressed the importance of justice and goodness, for he believed that people possess a sort of inborn knowledge concerning what is right and what is wrong; however, irrational desires often overrule such knowledge and leads people to commit wrong acts or behave inappropriately. This conflict of desires in human beings could be overcome by achieving self-control via training the mind to win out over primitive instincts and passions. Thus, intelligence is the finest human quality and the mind is the true self, the god-like aspect of every human being. In Homer's Odyssey, this Greek trait of intelligence is firmly entrenched in many of Odysseus's adventures, one being his clever manipulation of Polyphemus by getting him drunk and then blinding him with a red-hot poker which saved the lives of his men and allowed them to continue on their voyage home (Connolly, 265).
One other Greek trait is related to competition, something which Homer uses to a great extent in his poem. Excellence as a competitive value for Greek males like Odysseus of the social elite shows up clearly in the Olympic Games, a religious festival linked to a large sanctuary devoted to Zeus, king of the Greek gods, and located at Olympia in the northwestern region of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, where the games were held every four years starting in 776 B.C.E. The emphasis on physical prowess, strength and fitness and the public recognition by other men are closely linked to the Greek masculine identity as seen in the Odyssey. For instance, when Odysseus finally returns home to Ithaca and finds Penelope inundated by suitors in his own house, he kills them single-handedly which demonstrates his strength and endurance as a true Greek hero and as a man with unbounded determination.
After a close reading of Homer's Odyssey, it becomes obvious that Odysseus is forced to endure many problems with the gods, particularly with Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and the father of the cyclops Polyphemus. This problematic relationship with the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus formed the basis for one of the most enduring of all Greek cultural inventions, namely, the tragic drama. These plays were presented in ancient Greece as part of a drama contest in keeping with the competitive spirit so closely associated with honoring the gods. This type of tragedy, written by such playwrights as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, reached its peak in the 5th century B.C.E.
One special dramatic festival was devoted to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, and featured what were known as satyr plays, so-called because the actors portrayed half-human, half-animal roles, often in the form of a goat. The term tragedy is derived from the words "goat" and "song" and refers to plays with plots involving fierce conflicts and characters which symbolized powerful human and divine forces. Certainly, Homer's Odyssey could be viewed as one of these types of plays, due to the conflicts encountered by Odysseus on his way home to Ithaca and the will of the gods who often attempted to complicate his journeys through sorcery and magic, such as Odysseus and his troubles with Circe, the beautiful female witch that turned his men into pigs as a form of punishment.
A the ultimate example of a democratic social system with freedom, personal responsibilities and moral direction. However, although Odysseus the man was not without his faults and failures, he does symbolize the true Greek hero and citizen elite, due to his unfaltering goal to return home to his wife Penelope and to bring peace and tranquillity to Ithaca.
Connolly, Peter. The Ancient Greece of Odysseus. UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.[continue]
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