The Role of the Gods in Homer's Odyssey

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The Role of the Gods in The Odyssey In the ancient world, the gods of the Greeks had been predominately confined to cosmological deeds prior to the works of Homer. "As Hesiod laid out the roles of the gods in his Theogony and the Works and Days, it is apparent that though the gods were active in the creation of the cosmos, natural phenomenon, and cyclical events such as seasons, they were not however, functioning in any historical way"(Bloom 36). This strictly cosmological view of the gods was in no way unusual to the ancient world. Though the breech of theology into historical events was perhaps first introduced by the Hebrews at the turn of the first millennia B.C.E., it was soon echoed in the religious paradigms of homo religiosus throughout the Near East and Europe. In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. another predominate thought swept the ancient world; life is suffering. An obvious question arises from the mixture of these two thoughts; if the gods are functioning in the historical reality of mankind why do they allow and/or cause suffering? This is the dilemma that Homer sets out to solve in the epic poem The Odyssey. Holding Odysseus as the model of the homo religiosus who is well trained the rituals and ways of the gods, Homer attempts to show how the history of such a man's life can be riddled with suffering. Also, no matter whether the suffering is inflicted by fate, the will of the gods, other people, or man's own desires, the god's themselves have divined a system that will work to alleviate the intolerable condition of man. One of the central terms in The Odyssey is the heart. For Homer, the heart is the axis mundi of man. After Odysseus first arrives at the island of the Phaikians, Homer associa... ... middle of paper ... ...e life of Homer. Moreover, two and a half millennia later, this teaching is still a mainstay of all of the major world religions. Thus, Homer introduced an understanding of how if the gods participated in historical time it would allow man to establish a prosperous relationship with them, and therefore eliminate the endless cycle of suffering. Works Cited and Consulted Bloom, Harold , Homer's Odyssey: Edited and with an Introduction, NY, Chelsea House 1988 Crane, Gregory , Calypso: Backgrounds and Conventions of the Odyssey, Frankfurt, Athenaeum 1988 David W. Tandy and Walter C. Neale (edd. and trans.), Hesiod's Works and Days: A Translation and Commentary for the Social Sciences. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Pp. xiv, 149. Heubeck, Alfred, J.B. Hainsworth, et al. A commentary on Homer's Odyssey. 3 Vols. Oxford PA4167 .H4813 1988

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