Free Essays: A Comparison of Iliad and Odyssey

Free Essays: A Comparison of Iliad and Odyssey
Although both works are credited

to Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey provide two remarkably different views

on the nature of the Olympian Gods, their relationship to humanity, and the

general lot of mortals throughout their all too brief lives. As a result of these

differences, both stories end up sending contrasting messages about life in

general. In the Iliad, the supernatural denizens of Olympus are depicted as

treacherous, power-hungry, and above all temperamental beings that are

always at each other?s throats. Factionalism abounds, and neither the bonds

of marriage, nor the ties of kinship can contain keep it under control. A perfect

example is when Ares betrays his mother, Hera, and his sister, Athene, by

aiding the Trojans instead of the Greeks. When he is discovered, Athena

strikes him down in battle through Diomedes. In the Odyssey, however, the

Gods of Olympus display far more unity and civility toward each other. They

argue and disagree, but their disagreements are never carried out to the

extremes found in the Iliad. When Poseidon punishes Odysseys for blinding

the Cyclopes, Athena does not take revenge. Even though Odyssey?s is her

favorite mortal, she respects Poseidon?s right to punish him. Also, the

treachery among the Gods that is so prevalent in the Iliad, is nowhere to be

found in the Odyssey.

In Iliad, Hera, enters into a conspiracy with Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Morpheus to aid the Greeks by putting Zeus to sleepÉ thus

rendering him unable to help his beloved Trojans. Nothing like this incident

can be found in the Odyssey. References to past disagreements and

arguments between the Gods (such as in the Poet?s tale of Ares and

Aphrodite) are scattered throughout the book, however, so the views between

the Iliad and the Odyssey are not exactly diametrically opposed. The role of

the Gods in the affairs of humanity is much greater in the Iliad then in the

Odyssey. In the Iliad, the Olympians are constantly meddling in the conflict

between the Greeks and the Trojans. At best, they view mortals as amusing

petsÉ to be cared for, played with, and loved. At worst, humans are just

pawns to be shuffled around, sacrificed, and set against each other in order to

resolve inter-Olympian ego-clashes. When Zeus wants the Trojans to win, he?ll

turn nature against the Greeks, slay one of their heroes, or send one of their

loyal immortals down to turn the tide of battle. If Hera wants to get back at him,

she will do the same thing against Zeus?s people, the Trojans. In the Odyssey,

things are very different. The Gods of Olympus generally will not intervene

unless they are asked toÉ such as when the Cyclopes invokes the wrath of

Poseidon after he is blinded by Odysseys. The Gods do not necessarily view

all humans as mere as supplicant whelps, either. Athena?s conversations with

Odysseys are remarkably free of the condescension and authoritarian

posturing that so pervades the discourse between the Gods of the Iliad. They

do not have a greater respect for human life in general (witness the casual

slaying of Odysseys companions, and the Athena backed bloodbath which

occurs when Odysseys returns home)É but they have a greater respect for

the humans they do like. Athena never kills one of Odyssey?s loved ones in

order to spur him on, unlike Zeus?s slaying of Patroclus to incite Achilles.

As a result of these differing portrayals of the Olympians in both works, the Iliad

and the Odyssesy come off as having very different worldviews. In the Iliad

struggles of man are the result of constant meddling from the Gods, who often

use hapless mortals to obtain revenge on each other for sleights, insults, and

betrayals committed in Olympus. Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, Patroclus,

PriamÉ and certainly none the poor schleps who fought under them had no

idea the war was being perpetuated by the will of the Gods alone. They never

had any say in the matter. They are but marionettes in a great cosmic "Punch

and Judy" show, and Zeus and company were pulling the strings. In the

Odyssey, however, Homer takes a different view. Odysseus, unlike the

characters in the Iliad, is ultimately the master of his own fate. Athena does

not aid him when he is forced to deal with the Cyclopes, or when he has to

pass through the ordeal of Skylla and Kharybdis. Odysseus is forced to rely

completely on his own devices, mental and physical, for much of the story. He

is not the sacrificial lamb of Zeus, like Patroclus was, or the plaything of

Aphrodite, like Paris was. When Odysseus went into battle, he did not have an

Olympian by his side like Hector or Agamemnon did in the Iliad (wellÉ he did

not until Athena aids him during the massacre of the suitors, anyway).

Ultimately, the Iliad takes the point of view that mortals are nothing more then

the puppets of Zeus?s court, while in the Odyssey, humans ultimately control

whether or not they bring death and misfortune to themselves. How the Gods

of Olympus treat you depends on how you treat themÉ Odysseus brought the

wrath of Poseidon on him when he blinded the Cyclopes, who was Poseidon?s

son. The fact that Odysseus did not know this until after the fact does not

diminish the clear cause and effect relationship. Odysseus? men bring certain

death onto themselves when they slaughter the beloved sheep of Helios. This

is another example of the clear-cut cause and effect relationship that exists in

the Odyssey. In the Iliad, things are not nearly so simple. Sometimes the Gods

just want to stir up trouble, so they break the truce between the Trojans and

the Greeks. Zeus wants to inspire Achilles to enter the fight, so he kills his

Achilles best friend Patroclus. The point is, mortals are ignorant toys to be set

up and knocked down at the Gods leisure, and for their own clandestine

reasons. That is why life is so terrible and random and short for most people.

Deal with it. In the Odyssey, life is terrible and random, but it does not always

have to be so short. If you are clever enough, strong enough, and diligent

enough, you can conquer just about anything the Gods or other men throw at

you. Well usually anyway.

Free Essays: A Comparison of Iliad and Odyssey 8 of 10 on the basis of 1726 Review.