A large number of the works of ancient poetry and literature have been said to carry a moral undertone. Homer's 'Odyssey' is no exception. This essay explores the moral positions that the poem seems to adopt. Subsequently, it will show that while the 'Odyssey' is indeed a moral epic, the moral position of the main characters themselves, namely Odysseus and the Gods, can, at times, be questionable.
Loyalty is one moral value that is evident throughout the poem. No character embodies loyalty more than Penelope who remains loyal and true to Odysseus throughout his absence, refusing to give in to the suitors' proposal of marriage and not engaging in any extramarital affair. She constantly praises Odysseus with glowing words,1 and although it may get quite annoying to the reader, she is constantly weeping for Odysseus. Penelope's loyalty to her husband is contrasted vividly in the poem with the story of Clytemnestra's betrayal of her husband. Agamemnon is perpetually wailing and lamenting about his betrayal and death in the underworld. When the slain suitors tell him how they died, he cries out that Odysseus is fortunate because he had won himself a loyal wife.2 The moral theme of loyalty is also clear when Odysseus punishes Melanthios and the serving maids gruesomely for being disloyal.3 On the other hand, Eumaios and Philoitios are praised and rewarded for remaining loyal to Odysseus. Loyalty will always be rewarded- Odysseus comes back to Penelope and the loyal oxherd and swineherd are rewarded while the disloyal are punished.
The poem places strong emphasis on intelligence as a virtue. Odysseus is strong, but it is his intelligent mind that gets him through his troubles. This ...
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...ll my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming."
18 Book 23.
20 Book 24.
21 Book 1, Line 119-20. After that he welcomes Athene, saying "Welcome, stranger, you shall be entertained as a guest among us... when you have tasted dinner, you shall tell us what your need is." Notice the emphasis on treating your guest well.
22 Book 9,. Lines 266-8.
23 Book 9, Lines475-9. "... who dared to eat your own guests in your own house, so Zeus and the rest of the gods have punished you."
24 Book 3.
25 Book 4 and Book 15.
26 Book 6-13.
27 Book 22.
28 Book 1, Lines 35-43. "... though he knew it was sheer destruction for we ourselves had told him...and now he has paid for everything."
29 Book 8, Lines 266-366. Demodokos sings about the story of Aphrodite and Ares.
30 Book 11, Lines 235-70.
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