The Role of the Gods in the Odyssey Essay

The Role of the Gods in the Odyssey Essay

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Religion was deeply intertwined the culture of the ancient Greeks. In their stories, they prayed to the gods to satisfy their needs and offer assistance in their endeavors, and the gods would occasionally appear to select Greeks to give counsel, gifts, or other forms of aid. Alternatively, if the desires or endeavors of a mortal or mortals displeased one or more of the gods, they would also interfere with the fulfillment of their goals. In Homer’s Odyssey, the gods appear to or interfere with both Telemachus and Odysseus, either to help or hinder them in their journeys. Although the gods are responsible the difficulty Odysseus faces returning from Troy, they are equally responsible for motivating and assisting Odysseus and Telemachus in their respective travels. If not for divine interference, neither Odysseus nor Telemachus would have journeys to make.
The gods are first responsible for establishing the conditions under which the story begins. While the Greek soldiers had returned home from Troy, Odysseus remained trapped as “the brightest goddess, Calypso, held him her hollow grottoes” because “she wanted him as a husband” (Homer, Odyssey 1.5, Translation by Allen Mandelbaum). Calypso traps Odysseus on her island of Ogygia and “keeps the sad Odysseus there—although he weeps. Her words are fond and fragrant, sweet and soft—so she would honey him to cast far off his Ithaca” (1.7). He remains on Ogygia for years, leaving the care of his home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Because Calypso keeps him away for years, Odysseus is presumed dead and his absence invites suitors to his home. These suitors look to win the hand of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. This state of affairs is the overall cause of Telemachus’ d...


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...a, escaping Calypso and the island of Ogygia, and Telemachus from Ithaca to Pylos and Sparta in search of his lost father. While The Odyssey tells of the courage both men demonstrate during their respective travels, their quests are the results of the intentions and desires of gods. Odysseus is trapped in exile on Ogygia by the will of Poseidon, whose anger Odysseus attracts when he blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, and by the love of Calypso, who wishes to make Odysseus her husband. He is released from Ogygia and permitted to return to Ithaca only by the command of Zeus, as delivered by Hermes. Telemachus, rather than being trapped physically, was detained emotionally, feeling helpless to repel the suitors wooing Penelope. Only through the motivation of the goddess Athena did Telemachus find the will and courage to embark in search of Odysseus.

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