The Enduring Loyalty, Love, and Compassion of Eumaios

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Imagine leaving your wealth, home, family, and even country behind for twenty years. While away, people will inevitably attempt to steal your possessions, seduce your spouse, and act as though you will never return. Most likely, more people will try to harm your estate than those who will continue working and behaving in an honest manner. This notion holds true in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. While Odysseus wages war and struggles to return to Ithaka , a multitude of suitors court his wife and live at the cost of his possessions. On the other hand, a few people like Eumaios remain steadfast to the truth and work to maintain Odysseus’ estate and possessions. Eumaios, Odysseus’ swineherd, embodies compassion, love, and loyalty. Throughout the poem, Homer portrays Eumaios as a compassionate character. Compassion, derived from the Greek word sympatheia and Latin term compassio, means feeling the suffering of another person. Essentially, Eumaios puts himself in the place of the misfortunate characters he encounters. To begin, when the Odysseus beggar arrives at the swineherd’s home, Eumaios tells him, “Come to the cabin. You’re a wanderer too. / You must eat something, drink some wine” (14.53-4). At this point, Eumaios does not know the true identity of the “wanderer.” He thinks the person merely needs his assistance. Not even knowing the person’s background, Eumaios benevolently invites the stranger into his home to give him food and shelter. In this same book, when the Odysseus beggar goes to sleep, “His own host threw over him / a heavy blanket cloak, his own reserve / against the winter wind” (616-8). Eumaios simply regards the needs and comfort of his guest over that of his own, as he thoughtfully places his cloak on the Ody... ... middle of paper ... ...uring this critical time. Lloyd Banks once remarked, “I take things like honor and loyalty seriously. It’s more important to me than any materialistic thing or any fame I could have.” Eumaios truly lives his life by these words. During the two decades of Odysseus’ absence, Eumaios chooses to be one of the only people to remain loyal to Odysseus. When all the other men are pursuing Penelope and worrying about obtaining wealth, Eumaios behaves as though Odysseus is still in Ithaka. He openly despises the suitors and eventually helps destroy them when Odysseus returns. Eumaios does not concern himself with wealth and possession. Instead, he follows his heart, which includes continuing the job entrusted to him, helping those in need, and standing up for what he believes in. Works Cited Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York, NY: Anchor, 1963. Print.

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