Odysseus is an iconic figure of Greek civilization and a cultural legend as homer has described him in his book Iliad and Odyssey. Greek civilization of old age has marks of traditional and cultural values of value, Loyalty, and trickery. Moreover, Odysseus has perfectly demonstrated the cultural context of Greek. Greek culture conceived him, and later it became necessary for him to prove his valor, composure, and masculinity to settle his mettle in a patriarchal society. Odysseus’ courage in the face of danger and death and his yearning for family and home are elements that make up the culture and literature of the Odyssey and Iliad. An exhibition of fantastic interaction of these cultural aspects (Mussrat, et. al. 2017). This research paper has addressed the following thesis statement;
Significance of Odysseus as a hero and cultural legend for Greek
Odysseus proved his mettle at the war of Trojan. Furthermore, he defeated the Romans with his innate bravery and cunningness. Greek society of old ages used to honor one who is brave and always performs flawless heroism. Furthermore, throughout the literature, the creative skill of creating a horse in the Trojan War led to a definite victory for the Greeks. In book 9 of Iliad, he proved an eloquent speaker in front of the assembly. Wrestling contests and fighting among heroes were a common custom of those days, and the exhibition of fighting skills was tradition. Therefore readers can find Odysseus striving hard to be on those lines that the society had set in the name of traditions and culture, and he remained successful on all fronts. During the funeral of Patroclus, he engaged in wrestling and won the title that proved him a fighter according to the social customs of Greek. His contribution through his cunningness and skills while making Trojan horse made the day victorious for the Greek army and the entered the troy as victorious.
Odysseus proved himself a combination of self-assured and an epitome of the standards and conventions of his culture. Ancient Greek history is full of accounts of gods, goddess, and their supernatural powers. The history of Greeks is a testimony of the social and cultural mores and beliefs in god and goddess powers. In Iliad and Odyssey, Odysseus is a hero who had favoritism of many gods and received admiration from immortals. So the cultural context of Greek is very vibrant throughout the account of the Iliad.
The period in which Odysseus lived has clear marks of deep faith in God and goddesses and a culture of faith in immortals. Odysseus was eager to meet his family and his homeland on the way home, although he was aware of the hardships on waves and after the voyage.
Homer narrates the perils of the voyage and his faith in gods in the following stanza;
“We Achaians coming from Troy
Beaten off our course
So we have come
So it has pleased Zeus to arrange it” (Book 9, l. 259-262).
Odysseus’s heroism and his submission to the cultural norms are in full swing in the Odyssey Iliad is all about the heroic fights of Odysseus. At the same time, the Odyssey is an account of his journey of his back home. In order to prove himself in the eyes of his comrades, he demonstrates excellent self-control. When he meets his mother’s first time in twenty years, he restrains himself from talking to her to save his mission as he wants to enroll in history as a great warrior and wants praise from comrades his missions remained topmost for him. That was the tradition, and that was the custom of those days; what best historical-cultural context can be more elaborate than his self-control after he reaches his homeland after so many years but does not unveil his identity at once to restore his kingdom. So traditions, mores, and customs had been the lifeline of Odysseus, and his love for great Greece was above all.
The most vibrant color of Odysseus’s heroism that demonstrates that he was a true cultural representative of Greek was his navigation mission after restoring his kingdom in Ithaca when he exhibited the true spirit of Homer’s warrior and ideal man (Tartell, 2015).
Tartell explains; When Odysseus goes to the underworld, Tiresias speaks to him in the following words.
“Go forth once more [after reclaiming Ithaca], you must . . .
Carry well-planned oar until coming
To a race of people who know nothing of the sea,
Whose food is never season with salt, strangers all?
To ships with their crimson prows and long slim oars (Book. 11.138-42)
These lines depict the prophecies of Tiresias when she says that
Odysseus should sacrifice to Poseidon and other gods at home and on the spot.
Then his life journey will be complete.
“Finally, you will meet your death,
A gentle, painless death, far from the sea it comes
To take you down, borne down with the years in ripe old age
With all your people there in blessed peace around you.” (Book.11.153-56)
Having pioneered the ocean liner, Odysseus deserves such a fate because of his final accomplishment. Maritime skills of the Greeks. It is his “bladed, balanced oar” that he plants in the ground that symbolizes Odysseus introduced a culture of advancement in maritime technology to a less civilized nation. Tiresias’s prophesy here clearly describes the value of maritime skill for Greeks. When Homer wrote the Odyssey, it was a period eight centuries before Christ, and during this period, large-scale movement of Greek traders was in vogue, and there was a dream to master the sea routes and skills.
Odysseus is Greece’s most famous icon, a cultural representative and ambassador who pioneered seafaring and colonized new lands. A mix of history and fancifulness is evident in the goddesses, monsters, and utopias that await Greek explorers. This sea venture suggests that the Greeks’ imagination was their only means of crossing the Mediterranean at the time when Homer wrote down the Odyssey. Bonnard concludes. When Odysseus’ personality is a cultural icon, we can see how “In the person of Odysseus (the Odyssey) a brave and curious people were launched toward the mastery of the sea. From east to west, the Mediterranean became a Greek lake on which the main routes were mapped out and known a few generations after the Odyssey” (69).
Odysseus’ prolonged absence from his homeland elaborates the many faces of Greece culture. It was a time when social structure was masculine, and culture was patriarchal. Therefore in his absence, his faithful wife Penelope faced social pressure and could not handle her palace affairs due to the trespassing of suitors. Therefore when Odysseus returns to his homeland Ithaca, he curbed his strong desire to announce his name or reveal his presence. Being aware of the social mores of Greece, he disguises himself in the attire of a shabby beggar and tries to unearth the fundamental realities about the matters in Ithaca.
Penelope cleverly manages to deceive suitors by saying that she is busy weaving and, as soon as she fulfills the task, will marry one of the suitors.
“I had the happy thought to set up weaving on my big loom in the hall
Let me finish my weaving before I marry,
Or else my thread will have been spun in vain‖ (Book 19, l. 145-148).
Due to the culture of faithfulness toward husbands, Penelope was hopeful about her husband’s safe return, and she wanted to be loyal to Odysseus. Here again, we can find cultural discrimination regarding males and females. As Penelope remained hopeful and loyal to Odysseus, who spent seven years with Cyclops on Island (Kundmueller, 2018).
Odysseus is an epic hero of Greece. During his travel home, the most significant trait of ancient Greece was hospitality. This manifestation through the act of guest friendship is evident from Odysseus’ encounter with the Cyclops to his stay with the Phaeacians. It was a common belief that hospitality was a trait of gods. Therefore, ancient Greek had a culture of profound hospitality with a set of codes of conduct for guests. Guests used to go to visit with gifts. When Odysseus went to see his father, he took some gifts as a part of their customs.
The family was the nucleus in those days. Unity and well-being of family were the duty of the head of any family. So the social values in every narration of Odysseus depict the customs and strong culture of Loyalty, compassion, bravery, and perseverance. Despite the hardships and perils of the sea voyage, Odysseus’s struggle and yearning to go home powerfully depicts the strong family traditions of those times. When he was on Calypso’s island, he could have lived a blissful, immortal life with her, but the pleasure and happiness with Penelope ensured his return.
The return of Odysseus to his kingdom also represents a skilled and resilient king
As a sign of Greece’s evolution from primitive barbarism comes its noble king, signifying the progress of the nation toward the fertile environment that eventually spawned some of history’s greatest artists’ intellectual works of the Western world. Odysseus’s sagacity and his daunting missions restored the order to move society forward. Though this development would require the proof of a few centuries, the Odyssey again shows as a cultural document when it represents its audience’s concerns with Greece’s future. Whenever it nominates the intelligent, courageous, and innovative, its inherent qualities and optimism are displayed. The bravery of Odysseus in the Trojan war was a sound reason for his conspicuous place among the heroes of the Greeks. Nevertheless, what he did later on during his journey home was remarkable. His demonstration of hospitality, faith in gods, love for family values, and struggle for compatriots are essential elements that have made him an all-time hero for the Greeks. His struggles for Greeks in the wars have their significance, but what has made him significant and a superhero for Greeks was his struggles for maritime developments.
Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. In two volumes. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.
Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.
Kundmueller, Michelle M. “On the Importance of Penelope.” Polity50, no. 1 (2018): 43-71. Doi: 10.1086/695416.
Mussarat, Adnan, M. and Khalil, Irum. A Socio-Cultural Study of the Odyssey by Homer and the Odyssey by Usman Ali: A Comparative Analysis.International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL).2019
Tartell, H, E. The Many Faces of Odysseus in Classical Literature. Inquiries Journal.2015.