The Odyssey as an Epic Poem

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The Odyssey of Homer is a Greek epic poem that takes the readers through a journey of Odysseus’ return to his homeland of Ithaca. The Trojan war lasted ten years where Odysseus was fighting for his land and family. Unfortunately, once the war was over Odysseus got held hostage on Ogiga. This, however, was where the beloved nymph Calypso lived and whom of which created a relationship with him. Besides Calypso, another enemy Odysseus had was Poseidon, God of the sea. If Odysseus tried to leave the island of Ogiga, Poseidon would create a massive storm of waves so he could not leave.

Odysseus finds that back in his homeland of Ithaca there are over a hundred suitors who are feeding off his land, and trying to marry his wife Penelope. Ultimately, Odysseus’s quest to return home and to also get rid of the suitors is fueled by the power of his love for home and family. This notion of love conquering fear and hatred is a common theme in Greek Mythology. The Odyssey, like The Iliad, is divided into twenty four books. Within the middle of the poem, Odysseus describes all of the challenges that he has faced on his journey home.

These include monsters such as a cyclops, a visit to the underworld, drugs such as the lotus flower, alluring females like the sirens, and the hostility of Poseidon himself. These challenges resemble early heroes like Hercules, and now Odysseus. The major themes in The Odyssey are especially significant because they serve to form the moral and ethical guidelines for most of the characters. Thus the reader learns about the characters through the themes. The main three themes that were particularly highlighted in this epic poem are hospitality, loyalty, and vengeance.

Hospitality, or lack of it, affects Odysseus a great deal throughout the epic. Odysseus’ own home, the land of Ithaca, has been taken over by hundreds of persistent suitors. These suitors have taken advantage of his land by taking all the food, wine, shelter, and even staying to try and marry Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. Penelope and her son Telemachus lack the strength to evict the suitors, nor can they ask help from the community as the suitors represent the strongest families in that area.

However, he also experienced hospitality from certain individuals as well. The Paeacians provided him with a place to rest, clothing, food, water, and even a ship so that he could sail home after his ship from Calypso was no longer available. After defeating Circe, she was kind enough to tell him how he would be able to get home, as well as which islands and monsters he will need to defeat. Without hospitality throughout his journey home, he would have never made it successfully.

Another personal virtue that is a major theme in the epic is loyalty. The most prominent example of loyalty in this poem is Penelope, who waited twenty years for her husband to come back home. Instead of accepting the fallacy that her husband is dead, she followed her gut feeling and refused to remarry. Another example is their son Telemachus. He goes out searching for his father because he got a sign that he was not dead. He also stood by Odysseus’ side when he returned home and called out the suitors.

Lastly, Eumaeus (Who?) makes Odysseus proud when he speaks respectfully of his family and loathes the invasion of the suitors. Not everyone Odysseus knew was loyal to him, however. For example, Melanthius (Who?). He had become friendly with the suitors and insulted Odysseus while he was still in disguise. Luckily, the suitors and others betrayals throughout the epic got what they deserved at the end of the poem when Odysseus struck them with his arrows.

Lastly, vengeance is displayed well in Odysseus’ journey back home. Poseidon and Odysseus are the most notable representatives of this theme. In order for Odysseus to escape the cave where Polyphemus, the cyclops, lives, he had to blind the one eyed giant. Unfortunately, Polyphemus is Poseidon’s son. Thus, this was where Odysseus and Poseidon became great enemies. However, the fates had already decided that Odysseus was going to make it home, preventing Poseidon from killing Odysseus. Although Poseidon still innacts what havoc he can to make his journey difficult. Posiedon’s goal is to take vengeance for his son and have Odysseus return home broken and guilty.

For example, the Phaeacaians help Odysseus get back on track for home, and for helping him, Poseidon slaughters them. Then, Odysseus’ vengeance is forbibable when it comes to the suitors and disloyal servants. He keeps his patience with suitors like Antinous, Melanthius, and Melantho who was a handmaiden. They all die of a terrible death near the end of the poem because of their betrayal to him. Odysseus comes in with a surprise attack after he shoots his arrow through all twelve axe handles. Once he has astonished everyone, he shoots an arrow through Antinous throat, and then another arrow through Eurymachus’ liver. Odysseus is avenging his pride and punishing the suitors’ lack of respect. He also gave vengeance to his servants that lacked loyalty to his kingdom and family.

The adventure that Odysseus experienced, not just his journey home but when the Trojan War was occuring was and still is historical.


Cite this paper

The Odyssey as an Epic Poem. (2021, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-odyssey-as-an-epic-poem/

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