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The Odyssey And Ancient Greek Culture Essay, Research Paper

Homer composed the Odyssey in the 8th century BC. After the Trojan War, Greek kingdoms declined. Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey when Greece had recovered from this war and Greek city-states were going into their eminent time. The actual stories take place earlier than Homer, during and after the Trojan War which occurred around 1200 BC. Homer wrote the Odyssey with many realistic descriptions of Ancient Greek culture. He also presented more extreme lifestyles in the way that characters acted.

In the Odyssey, there is a hospitality code that represents the manner in which people should act towards strangers. Ideal treatment started when the host would bring a guest to a feast and only afterwards ask the guest about himself. Hosts would always give valuable gifts and were always helpful to a guest. Telemachus was given this fine hospitality when he traveled to see Nestor and Menelaus. Nestor s son, Peisistratus, who was the first to reach them, took them both by the hand and gave them places at the banquet (p. 31) After they had eaten, Nestor, the Gerenian charioteer, said: Now that our visitors have eaten well, it is the right moment to put some questions to them and enquire who they are. (p. 32) Later, Menelaus said to Telemachus And now my friends, do stay in my palace. Stay for twelve days or so, and then I ll send you off in style. You shall have glorious gifts from me (p. 62) In this way, Homer shows the ideal lifestyle of the Greeks. Odysseus also received the same excellent treatment from Aeolus and the Phaeacians that Telemachus did from Nestor and Menelaus. For a whole month Aeolus entertained me and questioned me (p. 142) The Phaeacians entertained Odysseus with ballads sung by a bard and with the Phaeacian Games. Telemachus shows hospitality to Athene in disguise in the beginning of the book. Even Eumaeus, the swineherd, shows hospitality to Odysseus disguised as a beggar when he offers sacrifices to the gods and gives Odysseus the best meat and a sleeping place.

Homer also wrote about atrocious violations of the hospitality code. Odysseus was received very poorly when he sailed to the realms of the Laestrygonians and Cyclops, but the primary case of a violated hospitality code is caused by the Suitors. In Odysseus estate, the Suitors were courting Penelope, Odysseus wife. They consumed the family s livestock, forced servants to wait on them, and behaved horribly.

The Odyssey contains many people whose vocations are similar to those of average Ancient Greeks. In the Odyssey, there were maids and servants of kings. Odysseus maids include Eurycleia, Melantho. Odysseus herdsmen, Eumaeus, Melanthius and Philoetius, played significant roles in The Odyssey. These herdsmen s jobs were to tend to Odysseus animals. The blind Demodocus in Sherie and Phemius in Ithaca were minstrels. We also see beggars that go from house to house looking for food and shelter. Hephaesteus was the Mastercraftsman that represents craftsmen in ancient Greece. The Pheaecians were excellent with ships. They were most likely traders that used their ships to transport goods to and from other places. Odysseus, Menelaus, and Nestor were wealthy landowners that all fought in the Trojan War. Warriors are honored and this position seems to be admired in The Odyssey.

Greek religion and ideas play very important roles in The Odyssey because of the part gods, prophets, and omens take in The Odyssey. Zeus was angry with Odysseus because he didn t want him to win the Trojan War. Zeus originally prevents Odysseus from getting home. Later, when Odysseus blinds Poseidon s son Polyphemus, Poseidon is mad at Odysseus. Poseidon is the one who prevents Odysseus from getting home for such a long time. Hermes helps Odysseus at Circe s palace so that she doesn t turn him into an animal. When the sun god Hyperion s cattle are killed by Odysseus men, Hyperion has Zeus destroy Odysseus ship. Athene is the god that is seen most. She helped Telemachus and Odysseus immensely. Athene appeared in the form of Mentes and Mentor many times to help both Telemachus and Odysseus. She traveled with Telemachus to the kingdoms of Nestor and Menelaus. She convinced Zeus to let Calypso free Odysseus and helped Odysseus in Sherie to assure him proper care. Athene also helped Odysseus when he returns to Ithaca and aided him in The Battle in the Hall .

Augury also is important in The Odyssey. The five bird omens all along the story predict the coming of Odysseus and the death of the Suitors. Halitherses, Helen, and Theoclymenus are the interpreters of these omens. Odysseus goes all the way to Hades to see the dead Theban prophet Teiresias. Teiresias foretells many things including the death of the Suitors, all of which take place. In The Odyssey, prophecies always come true.

Ancient Greeks valued their way of life. They emphasized the importance of the individual and encouraged creative thinking. Greek civilization began at about 2000 BC when the Mycenaeans moved into Greece. They fought the Trojan War with Troy. After this, the Greek kingdoms declined and people lived in small, isolated city-states that eventually recovered and grew. This was the time that Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. In ancient Greek life, the man was head of the household and was responsible for its members. A woman was controlled by her father or her husband. She would run the household and raise the children. Women of all classes also spun thread and wove cloth. Most women married in their teenage years and men married around their 30s.

For recreation men participated in sports and had drinking parties. Women were not allowed out of the house very often except for religious festivals. At these festivals, sport competitions were held, there were feast, and plays were performed. The Olympics were the most famous of these religious festivals. The first recorded Olympic Games were held in 776 BC.

Most of the Greeks support themselves by farming and herding. Farmers had wheat, barley, olive groves, vineyards, pigs, sheep, and goats. There were also many craftsmen that usually worked alone. The products from farmers, herders, and craftsmen were exported by traders to places like Egypt, Sicily, and Scythia. Sea travel was very important and people used merchant ships.

Greeks believed that the gods, who had human characteristics, watched over them daily. Each city-state had a god that was protector of it. People held offerings and ceremonies to please the gods. Annual festivals were held to revere these deities. Greeks thought that gods, oracles, and prophets could tell the future. They went to the oracle shrines to talk to priests and priestesses.

The Odyssey very accurately portrays the Greek way of life. I was shocked to see so many striking similarities. Odysseus, the main character, is a prime example of a creative thinker and hero, which were encouraged behaviors in ancient Greece. Ancient Greeks held sport competitions much like the Phaeacian Games. The first recorded Olympics were held about the time The Odyssey was written. They also had feasts and drinking parties similar to those often in The Odyssey for entertainment. Women wove cloth and spun thread. In this book, Penelope wove a shawl for Laertes and Arete, queen of Sherie, sits by the firelight of the hearth, spinning yarn dyed with sea-purple (p. 94) Eumaeus was a swineherd, Melanthius was a goatherd, and Philoetius was a cowherd. Most Greeks had these jobs of herding, along with farming. Sea travel was used more than travel on land. This can be compared to the fact that the Phaeacians were known for their strong oarsmen and excellent ships. The Odyssey shows that the people of ancient Greece thought deities were anthropomorphic. The gods had human emotions and even argued during meetings.

Homer wrote about the Greeks in a way that is consistent with other written history because he was describing a story that happened during his time period. I think that Homer wrote The Odyssey according to accurate lifestyles of the time because he wanted to portray it as a realistic story. His realistic examples of Greek culture have been very helpful for people in learning about the Greeks and many historical records have been based on his writings.


Ancient Greece. Compton s Interactive Encyclopedia. Compton s NewMedia, 1997.

Antell, Gerson and Walter Harris. Western Civilization. New York: Amsco School

Publications, 1983.

Homer. The Odyssey. England: Penguin Books, 1991.

Legon, Ronald. Ancient Greece. World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. World Book,


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