Essay about The Epic Of The Odyssey

Essay about The Epic Of The Odyssey

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Among the heroes of the Homeric epics, one who stands out as one of the greatest Achaian warriors after the Peleid Achilleus is Aias, son of Telamon. A major character in the Iliad, Aias accomplishes many martial feats, while his ghost also briefly appears in the Odyssey. Aias’ interactions with Odysseus, son of Laertes, differ fundamentally between the two works, being adversarial in the Odyssey despite being primarily fraternal in the Iliad, illuminating Odysseus’ self-serving character and potentially flawed narration.
Aias’ hostility in the Odyssey is very clearly portrayed in his only appearance. In Hades, all other souls flock to the sacrifice Odysseus makes in order to be able to briefly become substantial once more. Aias’ soul stands alone some distance away, “angry still over that decision [Odysseus] won against him” for the weapons and armor of Achilleus (Odyssey 182; XI:544-545). This image of a furious man staying apart from all others generates a threatening atmosphere between Aias and Odysseus. Furthermore, Aias’ hatred due his loss is shown to be intense enough to fuel his decisions after death, which is especially surprising given the general lack of direction of the souls in Hades. In stark contrast with Aias’ determination to not approach, Antikleia, Odysseus’ mother, does not even recognize her own son until she drinks the blood of the sacrifice, exemplifying the disconnected state of the majority of the dead. Nor do other warriors of similar stature to Aias recognize Odysseus – Agamemnon, like Antikleia, only knows Odysseus’ identity after partaking of the sacrifice. Despite the son of Laertes entreating him to speak, the soul of Aias goes off with “the souls of the perished dead men”, rather going “into the d...

... middle of paper ...

...r away, making Odysseus’ claim quite strange.
The whole section in which Aias appears in the Odyssey is odd, as the way he is described seems somewhat inconsistent with that in the Iliad. The huge difference in the relationships between him and Odysseus within the two works can be partially explained by their argument over the armor of Achilleus, but largely hints at the manipulation of his representation by Odysseus. Seeking self-glorification in the court of the Phaiakians, Odysseus repeatedly emphasizes his attempts at reconciliation in his narration, utilizing excessive praise of Aias to cast himself as a sympathetic figure who sincerely wants to repair the relationship between the two men. Ultimately, the widely diverging descriptions of the son of Telamon in the two works serve to hint at Odysseus’ scheming nature and the unreliability of whatever he narrates.

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