Coming towards the end of a war which has consumed an entire decade and laid waste the lives of many, the Greek warriors in Troy choose to take the time and energy to hold funeral games. This sequence of events leaves the reader feeling confused because it's not something one would expect and seems highly out of place. Throughout the epic Homer tries to describe what it is to be mortal and often contrasts it with what it means to be immortal. Homer uses the funeral games of Patroklos to show crucial differences about the lives of mortals and the lives of gods.
These games come towards the end of a war that has cost thousands of men their lives and all these men should logically want to do is go home. The games and the war are very similar to each other, in each there is a winner and a loser, with the winner taking a prize. The critical difference is that in war people die, a very real consequence. For the gods wars are no different from games, there are winners and there are losers, but there is never any real consequence, because there is no death. Both men and gods must go through trials, tests, and conflicts throughout their existence, but for the gods, life is a meaningless game, and for men, life is a war in which everyone eventually loses.
The games are part of the mourning process for humans because they are a distraction from the reality of their world: for a short time the men who survived the war and are competing in the games, become gods. While people are dying helplessly and great fighters have fallen in the dust, the men are able to forget their worries of death and tragedy and are able t...
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...d and Consulted
Clarke, Howard. Homer's Readers: A Historical Introduction to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1981.
Griffin, Jasper. Homer on Life and Death, 1980, Clarendon Press. Richard Brilliant, "Kirke's Men: Swine and Sweethearts," pp. 165-73.
Homer. The Iliad. trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin Books. New York. 1990.
Homer. The Odyssey. trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin Books. New York. 1996.
"The Odyssey, History, and Women," by A. J. Graham, pp. 3-16, and Jennifer Neils, "Les Femmes Fatales: Skylla and the Sirens in Greek Art," pp. 175-84.
Morford, Mark. Classical Mythology. 5th edition. White Plains, NY: Logman, 1995.
Steiner, George, and Fagles, Robert, eds. Homer: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views, ed. Maynard Mack. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1962.
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