Analyzing Illiad and the Odyssey Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Illiad and the Odyssey

In what ways do the acts of the warriors on and off the battlefield serve as models of behavior for the Greeks?

One could contend with conviction that The Iliad appears to be celebrating war. Characters in the epic are worshipped, glorified or vilified (or ridiculed) based on their competence level and courage as warriors. Paris, for instance, does not like war, and accordingly begets the ridicule of not only his family, but also his lover. On the contrary, Achilles wins eternal glory as he openly turns down the choice of a long, comfortable, and sedentary life at home. The text appears to encourage this particular aspect of judging character and extends it even to the gods. The classic holds warlike deities like Athena in high esteem and respect, whereas it makes fun of gods that avoid or abhor violence, utilizing Aphrodite's and Artemis' timidity to create a scene of humorous relief. Fighting is simply a proof of one's integrity and honor whereas avoiding war illustrates dishonorable fear, misplaced priorities, or even laziness (SparkNotes, 2016). In the Iliad, the head warriors command troops and also occupy an active position in war; they fight at the host's front. Greek warriors were basically characters in intricate mythology, models for the ancient citizens, and subjects of local spiritual worship. The Greeks did not view them as fictional characters, instead they were seen as mortals that lived, died, and were virtuous, worthy of worship. The lives of the heroes together with the heroines were a continuous presence in daily life, given that artists illustrated the great deeds, as well as the difficulties that beset the heroes (which they overcome with valor and dignity), on monuments and other common objects.

Heroes and heroines were models of conduct for the ancient Greeks in everyday lives due to the fact that they were naturally human. The different kinds of heroes implied that many individuals pursuing different interests and vocations, varying from musicians to warriors, could look up to a particular hero as a role model. Heroes and heroines were locally worshipped all through Greece. They were actually considered as heroic protectors, helpers, healers, ancestors, or founders; however, they were also occasionally regarded as dangerous spirits. Worship entailed rituals, ceremonies, offerings, and sacrifices. One could anticipate some other form of heavenly help in return. Worshippers gave offerings of images that varied from tiny models to large reliefs. A rebuilt shrine and altar illustrate the ritual practices (Albersmeier, 2010).

It is difficult to separate the notion of heroism from morality; the Greeks considered warriors as heroes who deserved respect and emulation. However, the notion still holds the original connection to possibility. Firstly, the need of heroes to help assist in defining the boundaries of their aspirations. They greatly defined their ideals by the heroes that they chose, and their ideals (courage, justice, and honor) greatly defined them. The warriors were actually representations of all the qualities they would wish to have as well as the ambitions they would wish to meet. An individual that picks Hector or Achilles as a hero strives to have a totally different view of what human excellence entails compared to an individual that picks Agamemnon.

How do you think today's soldiers serve as models for Americans?

Returning soldiers come from varied battlefields, and comprise of a rainbow of colors, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, and shapes. Opening yourself to the inspirational experience by listening attentively to what they disclose regarding themselves and their respective lives benefits all. They act as models for Americans since they are goal-focused, emotionally mature, mission-driven, experienced leaders. They diligently work to meet their goals and search for means of making significant contributions. They are also self-sufficient; they only ask questions when they are incapable of finding answers on their own. They have understood and have lived the concept of sacrifice for the larger good. They are very respectful and protective of those around them. They think internationally and evade most things trendy or trivial. In other words, they are the type of role models that we require on our campuses (and graduating to lead easy, content lives in our workplaces). We owe them our appreciation. Most importantly, however, we owe them an opportunity to have new meaningful careers and fulfilling civilian lives amongst the common people, whereby we shall all greatly gain (Lighthall, n.d.).

Major themes of the odyssey, and how they are manifested in the work (Experience Humanities)

The main themes in The Odyssey are particularly important since they form the ethical and moral constitution of majority of the characters. The reader knows more regarding the characters via the themes. The more complex a character is, the more he/she involves these main themes. Thus, Odysseus, the most complex character, suitably represents all the themes to a certain extent.


Odysseus is affected by the presence or lack of hospitality all through the epic, and the reader could judge civility through the extent of hospitality provided. Odysseus's home has been taken over by a group of suitors that rudely exploit Ithaca's long-standing tradition of hospitality. Penelope and Telemachus do not have the wherewithal of forcing them to leave, nor can they hope for much assistance from the community, since the suitors represent some of the region's strongest families. In his wanderings, Odysseus gets remarkable assistance from the Phaeacians and, at first, from Aeolus. Circe is of great help after Odysseus defeats her, and the Lotus-eaters may also be of considerable help. Conversely, the sirens are sweet-sounding death hosts, and Polyphemus (Cyclops) makes no pretense towards hospitality. Polyphemus actually mocks the idea and the gods that back it. The King of the Gods, Zeus, is recognized as hospitality's greatest supporter and the suppliants that request it; yet even he permits the Poseidon, the sea god; to punish the Phaeacians for their generous custom of returning wayfares to their motherlands.


Loyalty is another main theme of personal virtue in the epic. The most impressionist instance of loyalty in the epic is that of Penelope waiting patiently, unwaveringly for twenty years for the return of her husband. Telemachus is also another example; he stands by his father against the suitors. Eurycelia, the old nurse of Odysseus stays loyal to Penelope and her absent husband. Eumaeus, the swineherd, makes his king proud as he respectfully talks of the royal family and detests the suitor's attack. This is, however, not the case for Melanthius and Melantho. Melanthius warms up to the suitors (awed by them and portraying opportunism) and insults Odysseus while the king was still in disguise. Melantho proceeds even further to sleep with the enemy, an act of disrespect to the queen, and insulting Odysseus/the beggar. Whereas the loyal servants are rewarded, those that betrayed the master are dealt with cruelly.


Some of the most evident representatives of the theme of vengeance are that of Odysseus and Poseidon escaping from captivity (in the cave of the (Polyphemus)). The one-eyed giant, Cyclops is rendered blind by Odysseus (Book 9). Ironically, Cyclops is actually the son of Poseidon, the sea god; Odysseus has got involved with a dreadful enemy. Posiedon is not capable of killing Odysseus since the fates have established that he shall make it home. The sea god, however, could assist in fulfilling Cyclop's wish in that, Odysseus arrives at Ithaca late, alone, and broken, his household in chaos, and his shipmates nowhere to be found (9.590-95). In one of the more contentious regions of the epic, Poseidon takes his anger out on the Phaecians whose only crime was following their custom of hospitality by sailing Odysseus home (13.142 ff.). The vengeance that Odysseus has is frightening when it gets pointed towards the unfaithful servants and the suitors. He, for instance shows notable tolerance towards preservers, in disguise, the assaults and insults of the goatherd Melanthius, the maidservant Melantho, and the suitor Antinous. All of them shall die a gruesome death.

Appearance vs. Reality

The theme of appearance versus reality is at the center of the relationship amidst Odysseus and Athena. Athena is actually an accomplished maven of makeovers. Her most outstanding illusions in the Odyssey are disguises she assumes for Odysseus or her own self. At the start of the epic, Athena appears to Telemachus as Mentes, king of Taphians, an old ally of his father who just paused to visit in Ithaca. Athena alters the appearance of Odysseus in numerous occasions, either to just disguise him or make him appear even more frightening that he usually was. For instance, as Odysseus get ready for a banquet in his honor with the Phaecians (8.20-22), she changes his appearance to make him appear taller, overbearing, and more fabulous in all ways. In Book 13 of the Odyssey, when Odysseus returns to Ithaca, he is disguised by Athena as an old beggar, even proceeding further to wrinkle his skin, remove the "russet curls" (13.456) from his head, and temper the fire in his eyes. Odysseus is certainly…

Sources Used in Document:


Albersmeier, S. (Ed.). (2010). Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece. Nashville: Walters Art Museum.

Cliff. (2016). Critical Essays Major Themes in The Odyssey. Retrieved Febuary 17, 2016, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Homer. (1990). The Iliad. (R. Fagles, Trans.) NY: Penguin Books.

Lighthall, A. (n.d.). Ten Things You Should Know About Today's Student Veteran. Retrieved Febuary 18, 2016, from

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