Essay on Varying Cultural Structures in Homer's The Illiad and The Odyssey

Essay on Varying Cultural Structures in Homer's The Illiad and The Odyssey

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Greek mythology deals significantly with culture and its factors, as they describe the societies and the people inhabiting it by depicting their everyday life and the state of their land. Both Hephaestus, in Homer’s Iliad, and Odysseus, in Homer’s The Odyssey, set out to portray the cultures that they saw, yet the cultures and societies varied greatly, from Hephaestus illustrating the highly developed societies of the Greek and their culture; while on the other hand, Odysseus seems baffled by how underdeveloped the Cyclopes land and culture is. Hephaestus and Odysseus seem to have the same understanding what is normal of a culture, society, and their factors; however, there are noteworthy variations between their accounts.
In the 18th chapter of Homer’s Iliad, we see the god of forging Hephaestus “First of all he forged a shield that was huge and heavy, elaborating it about” (Iliad 18.478) and on this shield, Hephaestus proceeds to describe the economic and the political aspects of the culture that he observed. Hephaestus started his portrayal of the culture by introducing one city that had marriage festivities at night; thus, showing peace and prosperity within the city. However, he also shows the internal strife and the workings of the judicial system in the morning at the market place “where a quarrel had arisen, and two men were disputing over the blood price for a man who had been killed.” (Iliad 18.494) Here Hephaestus displays the relatively organized structure of the culture, as through depicting the scene of the market place trial Hephaestus has established the presence of some sort of laws on which the culture is based upon. Furthermore, the notion of “The two men rushed before these [The Elders], and took turns spe...


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...on of sailing was presented clearly in the recount of Odysseus’ description, while Hephaestus fails to mention the aspect of sailing and the use of ships to travel in the culture that he described on the shield.
All in all, both Hephaestus and Odysseus have the same principles and aspects in mind when describing the economic and political factors of culture. Nonetheless, Hephaestus’ shield described a culture that had and ordered structure with laws as the political support and agriculture as the economic support, leading to the formation of a highly developed society. On the other hand, Odysseus is faced with a culture of the Cyclops that has the natural resources and the potential of being highly developed, yet due to the lack of a political (laws), and economical basis, such potential is not realized and the Cyclops’ culture and society are relatively primitive.

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