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Iliad-Odyssey Paper Essay, Research Paper

Hate to Love

?I lie upon my bed with my afflicted heart, besieged by tears so stubborn and so sharp that, even as I mourn, tear me

apart? (Odyssey 19.610-13).

The preceding quote made by the heartbroken and devoted Penelope in Homer?s the Odyssey shows an intensity of

feeling that is lacking within his earlier work, the Iliad. It is amid the latter epic that the female roles are able to step

into the limelight and express the befitting emotion that give the Odyssey a philanthropic feel. Therefore it is the

female characters within the Odyssey that incorporate attention to compassion because they demonstrate greater

altruistic expression than men especially here when compared with the Iliad.

In the Iliad the dominant role is played by men hence women had to wait backstage to prove their own complexity

of character. The highly regarded ancient Greek society was overseen by the males, that is, the women weren?t

involved unless they had permission by the men. Women were valued — the Iliad opens with the Achaian army?s

capturing of two beautiful enemy maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, who are then awarded as prizes to Agamemnon —

but, in comparison to men, their concerns weren?t as proclaimed in early epic poetry. In the Iliad, for example,

Hektor orders Andromache back into the house during the ensuing Trojan War:

Go home, attend to your own handiwork at the loom and

spindle, and command the maids to busy themselves, too. As for the war, that is for the men, all who were born at

Ilion, to put their minds on — most of all for me (Iliad 6.436- 40).

Hektor also desires his own baby son to be a great warrior rather than being active in domestic affairs as he prays:

O Zeus and all immortals, may this child, my son, become like me a prince among the Trojans. Let him be strong

and brave and rule in power at Ilion; then someday men will say ?this fellow is far better than his father!? seeing him

home from war, and in his arms the bloodstained gear of some tall warrior slain — making his mother proud (Iliad


(Ironically, just before Hektor made this plea to the gods his baby ?squirmed round…and began to wail, terrified by

his father?s great war helm? and thereafter was comforted by his mother?s ?fragrant breast? as she ?held and

cherished? her small son.) Later when Hektor becomes frightened of the realness of encountering Achilles he says,

?Aye, then and there he?ll kill me, unprotected as I am, my gear laid by, defenseless as a woman? (Iliad 22.149-51).

However, it?s in the Odyssey that a man puts his trust — his own life?s safety — in a woman to direct and protect him

on his arduous journey.

The men of the Iliad are incredibly jealous creatures whereas in the Odyssey they show sensitivity that rivals that of

the women who have enhanced their shrewdness. Achilles gets angry because Agamemnon acquires the ?best? war

prizes without fairly earning them:

You [Agamemnon] thick-skinned, shameless, greedy fool!.. . . Never have I had a plunder like your own from any

Trojan stronghold battered down by the Akhaians. I have seen more action hand to hand in those assaults than you

have, but when the time for sharing comes, the greater share is always yours. Worn out with battle I carry off some

trifle to my ships (Iliad 1.175-196).


Achilles later sits and weeps childishly to his mother, Thetis, over his prize being rewarded to his adversary. Thetis

actually feels responsible for her son?s misery as she declares, ?Oh early death! Oh broken heart! No destiny so

cruel! And I bore you to this evil!? (Iliad 1.481-2). The mother never scolds her son. In contrast, Odysseus becomes

more empathetic throughout the Odyssey because Athena brings out a new humaneness within the hero. Odysseus

refrains from gloating after he kills the suitors that have overtaken his palace and scolds his maid for rejoicing: ?Old

woman, check yourself; you must restrain your joy — don?t shout aloud. It is profane to let your voice exult when

men are slain? (Odyssey 22.480-83). His selfless attitude gives the poem passion, warmth, and balance all of which

set it apart from the tone of harshness within the Iliad.

There?s little opposition from the female characters while the revengeful men of the Iliad are constantly fighting one

another whereas in the Odyssey battle is less of a solution and more of a last resort due to the ramification of

females having voice. Homer?s theme of the Iliad is of a man?s wrath: ?Anger be now your song, immortal one,

Achilles? anger, doomed and ruinous…?(Iliad 1.1-2). Achilles truly fights out of extreme vengeance:

My greatest friend is gone: Patroklos, comrad in arms, whom I held dear above all others — dear as myself — now

gone, lost; Hektor cut him down, despoiled him of my own arms, massive and fine, a wonder in all men?s eyes.. . . I

must reject this life, my heart tells me, reject the world of men, if Hektor does not feel my battering spear tear the

life out of him, making him pay in his own blood for the slaughter of Patroklos! (Iliad 18.89-105).

Thetis, Achilles? mother, warns her son protectively but despite


her advice to circumvent battle stubborn Achilles chooses to risk his own precious life because of his attachment to

the slain Patroklos. Achilles continues to articulate, ?Now I must go to look for the destroyer of my great friend.. .

.Do not attempt to keep me from the fight, though you love me; you cannot make me listen? (Iliad 18.131-47). His

dedicated mother realizes she can?t change Achilles? mind hence she promises to acquire new armor to protect her

son in combat. Remarkably, after Hektor fleas his enemy, Athena actually encourages the progression of battle

between the two men in the Iliad. The goddess tricks Hektor into believing he?ll have help when dueling Achilles

yet she returns Achilles? spear to him when he misses stabbing Hektor:

This way, by guile, Athena led him on.. . . He [Achilles] twirled and cast his shaft with its long shadow. Splendid

Hektor, keeping his eye upon the point, eluded it by ducking at the instant of the cast, so shaft and bronze shank

passed him overhead and punched into the earth. But unperceived by Hektor, Pallas Athena plucked it out and gave

it back to Achilles (Iliad 22.292-329).

In contrast, it?s within the Odyssey that Athena stops warfare on Ithaca by taking the initiative of discussing peace

with Zeus now that Odysseus has had his revenge. Her father, king of gods, grants her permission to end the

fighting. Athena addresses the crowd of warriors: ?This gruesome war has lasted long enough.

Stop now, shed no more blood, and stand apart? (Odyssey 24.64-5). The goddess? good will accordingly saved many


The Odyssey also intertwines females aiding males and thus the women now have a more profound part which

enables them to display progressive intricacy. A prime example is how Athena assists Odysseus in several feats

during this saga. When Odysseus


is sailing from Calypso, Poseidon, who is hateful of the wanderer, becomes angry and makes a raging storm upon

which Odysseus? little boat capsizes. Odysseus is left straining to live until Athena prompts him to keep moving:

His skin would have been flayed, his bones been smashed, had not Athena spurred his wits to act: he rushed to seize

a rock with both hands and, groaning, gripped it till the surge had passed. So he escaped the wave; but its backwash

caught him; it pounded hard; it hurled him far into the open sea.

. . . And trapped within that backwash of the brine, Odysseus would have died before his time had not gray-eyed

Athena counseled him (Odyssey 5.510-23).

Athena also ensures ?sweet sleep? upon her favorite as to ?free the man of trials from harsh fatigue?. Penelope?s

weeping over remembering her lost husband is also quieted by the kind goddess. However, while there?s still a

certain sense of looking down on being a female — Athena often disguises herself as a male in order to forward her

mission of helping Odysseus — it is a heroine in the end that ultimately succeeds in accomplishing the provided

tasks: Returning the wandering Odysseus to his wife, reestablishing him as king, punishing Penelope?s suitors, and

dodging a civil war on Ithaca.

The roles portrayed by women within the Odyssey are far more understanding and charitable as a result of their

individual voices finally being heard. Without the graceful consideration of the amorous female characters within

Homer?s latter epic poem the story would have a shortcoming — the feeling of humaneness would be missing. It?s

the same benevolent manner that draws attention inward and captivates emotions of affinity thus commensurating

the saga.

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