Godly Intervention in Homer's The Odyssey

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Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, centers on Odysseus’s long and arduous voyage home and depicts a world in which the lives of humans and gods are intertwined, with gods often having influence in the fates of humans. Zeus, the king of gods, argues that humans wrongly blame the gods for their troubles and that when the gods intervene, it is only to try and help humans. From his standpoint, any misfortune is the sole responsibility of men and the gods are not to be held accountable. Zeus’s argument about human versus divine responsibility holds some truth, but is inadequate as he is biased towards himself and his fellow gods and only references one specific situation. (Homer I, 48-62) While it is true that men have faults that cause their troubles, the gods often have a hand in creating these dilemmas—whether out of their own whims or out of retribution for wrongs done by humans in the past. Humans and gods share equal responsibility for the fate of mankind, with both humans and gods producing struggles and providing support, which is evident in the journey of Odysseus. In his journey, Odysseus is frequently met with obstacles that prolong and disrupt his journey, most of which are created by the gods. An example of this is his captivity on the goddess Kalypso’s island. She keeps him there of her own will despite his opposition, desiring Odysseus as a mate. She “clung to him in her sea-hollowed caves—/ a nymph, immortal and most beautiful,/ who craved him for her own” (Homer I, 23-25). Her selfish actions are recognized by Athena, who tells Zeus “His daughter will not let Odysseus go,/ poor mournful man; she keeps on coaxing him/ with her beguiling talk, to turn his mind from Ithaka” (Homer I, 75-78). In Zeus’s argument, he says “My wor... ... middle of paper ... ...ed that this would lead to their doom at the hands of Odysseus through Zeus’s omen of eagles. (Homer II, 155-186) They do not heed this warning and are punished in the end by Odysseus with the help of Athena. These situations support his argument, however, there are numerous other situations in which the gods’ intervention is detrimental and due to no fault of a human. The journey of Odysseus is full of situations in which a god’s intervention is harmful or beneficial and caused by the fault of a human or the impulse of a god. Zeus’s argument is incomplete, as he removes all blame from the gods and places them on humans. These situations prove that a human’s fate lies in the responsibility of both men and gods, with both creating misfortune and providence. Works Cited Homer, and Robert Fitzgerald. The Odyssey. Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1961. Print.
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