The topic of the relationship between divine and mortal creatures in Homer’s The Odyssey can be called sophisticated. The complexity happens due to the fact that human beings do not have supernatural powers which are given to Gods in the epic poem. Creatures endowed with such forces are able to endear and seduce. Moreover, they can control, subjugate, and punish ordinary people for disobedience. It is possible to claim that interaction between Gods and humans has its own purposes and leads to the line of fascinating events throughout The Odyssey.
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The ability to see how gods and people interact becomes possible due to the preservation of the Ancient Greek myths. In Roman mythology, as well as in Greek, myths were adapted and remade in different possible ways (Hardwick 12). It is usual to encounter godlike entities in many works of Greek literature. All of them have different forces which are not available for human characters. Particularly, in The Odyssey by Homer, gods tend to be involved almost in all stories. Besides, gods interact with usual people as well, not only with their own kind.
To start with, the main hero of The Odyssey is Odysseus which is a human being. Homer’s hero has “the desire for public honor” (Kundmueller 2). It leads him to the long-lasting journey where he encounters adventures and obstacles. Despite the fact he is mortal, he faces various celestial creatures and overcomes the onslaught of their forces. Odysseus has to leave his wife Penelope and their son Telemachus. As it is seen in the first book of The Odyssey, the goddess comes to visit Telemachus. She persuades him to dismiss suitors, which aim to conquer Odysseus’ place. Odysseus manages to seek the help from her, too. This is Athene, the goddess usually associated with wisdom according to the Greek mythology. Throughout the story, by asking Zeus’ contribution, she helps Odysseus to get free from Calypso’s captivity. “King Odysseus goes utterly unremembered among the people that once he ruled with the gentleness of a father” (Homer 55). Athene claims that Odysseus used to treat his government carefully and fatherly. She is unsatisfied that his name can be forgotten by citizens, so she asks Zeus to release him from evil witch’s capture.
It is seen how courteous Athene is in relation to Odysseus; she asks Zeus, the king of the gods, to provide a service for a simple mortal man. However, Zeus himself is not always as kind as Athene: “O the waywardness of these mortals! They accuse the gods” (Homer 2). Zeus here complains about humans and shows a disliking attitude towards them. He shows disrespect because human beings blame gods for their failures. Therefore, godlike creatures believe that this is fully people’s guilt. In this case, the relationships between mortals and immortals are mutually disrespectful. “In one story Zeus is aloof and distant, while in another he might care intimately about the characters” (Jones 1). The king even tends to have some human features, demonstrating his shifting behavior and decisions.
However, sometimes the story goes in a threatening direction. Odysseus blinds Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. Polyphemus as a one-eye giant, which was aiming to capture Odysseus and his men. However, Homeric hero showed cunning and fooled the giant. This act of Odysseus makes him suffer from Polyphemus’ father. The hero is damaged by spells which the god of water imposes. Poseidon makes Odysseus’ trip home far more complicated by surrounding winds and waters over his way.
To sum up, the relationships between mortal and immortal creatures are interesting to look at. They are not one-sided, but complicated; gods, as well as people, have their own purposes. They can rush their powers for vengeance, as Poseidon floods Odysseus’ way home. On the contrary, gods may use forces to guide and help, like Athene who followed and supported Homeric hero and his son.
Hardwick, Lorna. “Myth, Creativity and Repressions in Modern Literature: Refigurations from Ancient Greek Myth.” Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, vol. 40, no. 2, 2017, pp. 11-26.
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Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Walter Shewring. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Jones, Nathanael. “The Justice of the Gods in Homer and the Early Greek Plays.” Journal of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research, vol. 9, 2016, pp. 1-12.
Kundmueller, Michelle M. Homer’s Hero: Human Excellence in the Iliad and the Odyssey. SUNY Press, 2019.