The gods were integral part of ancient Greece. Sacrifices were made, shrines were burned, and people revered, as they believed that, should they remain devout, their gods would help them in times of stress. While it has yet to proven whether or not the gods did aid the Ancient Grecians, it’s evident in Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, where the part of the central conflict and most of the resolution relies on the gods’ will.
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Their willingness to help is often indicative of a person’s character and throughout the book, many gods and goddess come the aid of Odysseus. Therefore, the arete of Odysseus is established through the attention the gods warrant him, whether in the form of gifts or advice, their favor is made evident and Odysseus’ arete, clear.
Odysseus’ virtue is almost immediately established. When we start off in Book I, with Athena recounting Odysseus achievements during the Trojan War and asking why Zeus has neglected him. Zeus replies to Athena, reminding her – and informing the reader – that there is no mortal half so wise; no mortal / gave so much to the lords of the open sky (1. 88-89). The gods immediately distinguish Odysseus from other mortals, who Zeus complains about earlier in the book, saying that greed and folly / double the suffering in the lot of man (1. 50-51). Kleos is often furthered through storytelling and an indicator of one’s arete. In this scene, Odysseus’ kleos is identified by the gods, so that before we are introduced to Odysseus in Book 5, his reputation is made and his character is defined (to be continued).
There are many different gods and goddess that help Odysseus throughout his journey, more often than not, providing solutions to seemingly impossible situations. One example is after Odysseus suffers the wrath of Poseidon. He is knocked off course, but catches the attention of Ino, Ladmos’ daughter and a sea nereid, who sees him struggling. Ino attempts to help Odysseus by granting him her veil to make his stash; it is not mortal; / [Odysseus] cannot, now, be drowned or suffer harm (5. 358-359). There is no indication in this scene that notifies the reader that Ino knows who Odysseus is, believing him to be anything other than a poor seafarer. Ino is a nereid, and thought they don’t hold the same status as other gods and goddesses, but they are considered immortals and so, it makes her aid that much more special. The gift is an example of time, as it is an honor to possess and the fact that he receives it is indicative of Odysseus’ arete. However, Ino isn’t the only immortal to help Odysseus. After escaping the kyklopes, Odysseus and his shipmates end up on Aiolia Island, home of Aiolos Hippotad’s, the wind king.
There, they stay for a month and afterwards, Aiolos -in a good show of xenia – offers Odysseus means of transportation: his mighty bag, bottling storm winds; / for Zeus had long ago made Aiolos / warden of winds to rouse or calm at will (10. 21-23). It is expected that hosts grant their guests a way of continuing their next leg of travel, but the bag is a privilege, as it is a gift from Aiolos, who is a god. Not only demonstrative of tim?“, but of Odysseus’ character, as he continues to be welcomed by nearly all of his hosts. His envious shipmates discuss this later in Book 10: And who has gifts from Aiolos? / [Odysseus] has (10. 48-49). The mortals’ (the shipmates’) acknowledgment of the honor bestowed upon Odysseus and the gifts the immortals bestow upon him proves his remarkable nature and manly virtue.
There are many different gods and goddess that help Odysseus throughout his journey. However, there is one goddess in particular who remains a constant throughout the epic, invested in Odyssey’s odyssey home: Athena, goddess of wisdom and war strategy.
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