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The Odyssey and The Iliad

In these epics, several female characters had a profound effect on the plot. They wielded their influence through typically feminine skills and attributes: seduction, supernatural powers, intelligence, and beauty. Some of the women of The Odyssey and The Iliad influenced the actions of men, playing key roles in the epics, such as Calypso, the Sirens, Helen, or Circe; all of these women were responsible for the actions of the men. In The Iliad, Helen and Athena are two characters who display “the influential power female sexuality has in relation to the mortal male… [they are] in control” (LeVan).

Helen’s physical beauty was her source of influence as “She plays out her role or destiny as a symbol of the beauty that men fight for… ” (Bespaloff 121). Helen was Menelaus’ beautiful wife, and when Paris kidnapped her because he wanted her to be his wife, Menelaus had to go to battle against Troy to defend his honor and retake Helen as his wife. Thus, if Helen had not possessed beauty, then Paris would not have wanted her, and the Trojan War would not have occurred. Pallas Athena also wields an influential power, through her intelligence and her supernatural power as a goddess.

She directs the actions of men, such as Achilles, by making herself invisible to all others except Achilles, and then plucking his hair and warning him not to strike Agamemnon. Achilles does not strike Agamemnon, and a grand mistake is avoided. Athena also influences the actions of Achilles by handing him a spear during the final battle against Hector. By handing Achilles the spear, Achilles knows that he is to kill him. If Athena had not interfered, Achilles would not have delivered his fatal attack. “Odysseus is successful, because he has the help of Athene” (Wright 67).

Clearly, Athena is responsible for the actions of Odysseus, and any other man whom she helps. In The Odyssey, the females who direct or influence the actions of men are Athena, Circe, Calypso, Penelope, the Sirens, and Scylla and Charybdis. Similar to her characterization in The Iliad, Athena still possesses her influential powers through her intellect and her divine powers. Nevertheless, in The Odyssey, Athena uses her intellect more and plans the adventures of Telemachos and Odysseus, disguising herself and telling Telemachos to go “to Sparta and to sandy Pylos to seek tidings of his dear father’s return… Butcher 8). She sends Odysseus off from Ogygia, setting the stage for Odysseus to return home simultaneously with Telemachos. If Athena had not interfered, Odysseus could have stayed at Calypso’s island for eternity, and Telemachos could have been slain by the suitors. Hence, Athena directs the actions of Telemachos and Odysseus. Circe directs the actions of men mainly through her “dire divine beauty… “, although she has the powers that all demi-goddesses have (LeVan).

When Odysseus “rushed on Circe as if intending to kill her… fter drinking the potion that protected him, Circe uses her beauty to change Odysseus’ action (Cook 137). Instead of killing Circe, Odysseus sleeps with her and stays at her island for one year. If Circe had been a male, then she would have surely died without the availability of her magical powers, which are associated with her femininity. Instead, she directs the action of Odysseus by utilizing her beauty. Calypso also used her powers of seduction, beauty, and supernatural powers to affect the actions of men. Calypso was a goddess who possessed supernatural powers that allowed her to seduce anyone.

By utilizing these powers and her beauty, Calypso made Odysseus forget about his journey home, and she kept him for seven years. If Calypso had not directed the action of Odysseus, then he would have been home earlier. Penelope, like Helen, indirectly influenced the actions of men. While Odysseus was gone, Penelope attracted many suitors because she was known to be one of the most beautiful women of the Greek world. If her beauty had not attracted the suitors, then Odysseus would not have faced trouble when he arrived at Ithaca. The Sirens were women whose behavior makes it certain that the “listener fails to return home” (Pucci 193).

They used their supernatural powers of instant seduction to lure the male sailors to their doom. The Sirens represented the most exaggerated absolute feminine influential characteristics, if any man had heard their songs, then the men would lose control of their actions and would go to the source of the songs at all costs, even if it meant death in the deep sea of Poseidon. The Sirens controlled the actions of men through their notorious songs. The women of Homer’s epics were truly powerful, because the only thing that prevented their ultimate success over the men was the intervention of the major gods, Athena in particular.

Since the women had this great influence over men, they could alter the actions of men so that they would do their bidding. If women like Helen and Penelope, who were exquisitely beautiful, influenced the actions of men through their physical appearance, then any woman who possessed this beauty would have a strong influence over any man, thus she would be in an advantageous position. There were also women who possessed beauty and divine power. With beauty alone, a woman could influence many men, but with the addition of divine abilities, a woman could control men’s actions.

This was the case with many of Homer’s characters, such as Circe, Calypso, or the Sirens. Since the women of Homer’s epics had so much influence over men, women could be held responsible for the actions of men. Therefore, Helen should be responsible for the Trojan War, and Calypso should be responsible for Odysseus’ transition from his primary goal. In Homer’s epics, women shared some characteristics and attributes that enabled them to have an influence over the actions of men. These characteristics and attributes were seduction, supernatural powers, intelligence, and beauty.

Women of the epics such as Circe or Helen have possessed these attributes and utilized them both directly and indirectly to direct the actions of men. It can be inferred that this female superiority over men in Homer’s epics could have been a reflection of Homer’s thoughts. Since Homer was so appreciative of the women in the epics, perhaps he was a woman, or a feminist. If Homer was a feminist or a woman, then the story of the Trojan War may not have been true, and in actuality, may be an entertaining interpretation of an actual Trojan War.

Since the Trojan War supposedly started because of a dispute between the gods and mortals, the Trojan War probably started because of a reason other than the reason Homer that gives. If Homer were a woman, then he would have directed his audience into believing that women were at a higher level than men were by use of his epics. Ultimately, Homer would be utilizing his feminine characteristics when telling his stories with underlying messages of feminine superiority or equality.

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StudyBoss » The Odyssey and The Iliad

The Odyssey and the Iliad

In our day and age, people strive for independence and a sense of authority. However, at many times this is more easily said than done. Whether it be God, or in the eyes of the Achaeans and Trojans, the immortals, lives and actions are commonly defined by a higher being. Which leads to Homer’s epic poems the Odyssey and the Iliad which deal with constant conflict in a world where the mortals are not even masters of their own destiny. The main character Odysseus, and the two armies, the Achaeans and the Trojans have little control over their own fate. Their destinies are defined by the gods.

The gods demonstrate their control through prophecy, omens, and the intervention amongst the humans below them. Because of the control exercised by the gods, the characters are forced to become dependent on them, and fear their all mighty hand. The story of The Iliad, deals with two armies, the Achaeans and the Trojans. In the war, the Achaians are trying to sack the city of Troy. The Trojans, the defenders of the city, are led by the powerful warriors Hector and Paris, while the Achaeans are led by Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus and several other powerful men.

The story concludes with the Achaeans on the verge of sacking Troy because their greatest warrior, Hector, died by the hand of Achilles. The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’s homeward journey after the Trojan War. Odysseus was afflicted with suffering on his homeward voyage, because he blinded the Cyclops, Poseidon’s son. When he finally reached his home of Ithaca, he found several men trying to steal his wealth and woo his wife, Penelope. This story ends with Odysseus saving his land Ithaca from the suitors.

In both stories, the characters respect the god’s prophecy, and assume it to be true. Odysseus, who devised the plan of the Wooden Horse knew, ‘it was their fate to perish when the city should admit the great Wooden Horse’; , and realized it was the only way to succeed in sacking the city of Troy. Similarly, never did Achilles question Zeus’s prophecy that ‘Hector was to have a short life and already the day of his death was being driven upon him by Pallas Athene through the strength of Achilles. ‘; Because of this prophecy, Achilles had immense confidence in his victory over Hector.

The characters are controlled by prophecy, concerning their own death. Achilles never doubted Hector’s predictions about his death, because he was aware of his own destiny (I, p. 444): Be careful now; for I might be made into the gods’ curse upon you, on the day when Paris and Phoibos Apollo destroy you in the Skaian gates, for all your valour. In the same way, Odysseus does not fear death when he left on his land journey to make peace with Poseidon. He knows that he will return home to his wife Penelope, because it was his fate to die at sea an old man. O, p. 126). Omens from the gods influenced many critical decisions. When a character was in need, he commonly asked for an answer from the gods.

Odysseus, unsure if he should attack the suitors, asked for an omen from Zeus (O, p. 228). In answer, Zeus sent a large thunderbolt down as a sign, and Odysseus became confident in his victory (O, p. 228). When a sign sent from above was ignored by the unknowing, disaster was upon them at once. The Trojans were hesitant to sack the Achaean boats because of an omen of an eagle carrying a snake in its claw.

However, because the Trojans were so confident in themselves, they chose to ignore this omen and paid for their insolence (I, p. 264). Constant control leads to constant dependency. Odysseus is constantly relying on Athene for help and questioned her absence when he reached conflict on his voyage home (O,p. 154). Achilles weeps to his mother Thetis (an immortal) (I,p. 68): She came and sat beside him as he wept, and stroked him with her hand and called him by name and spoke to him; ‘Why then child, do you lament?

What sorrow has come to you heart now? Achilles asks how he should handle his personal war with Agamemnon. However, as much as the characters are dependent on the immortals, they still spent much of their life in fear. During the Trojan war, Apollo carried Zeus aegis (Zeus’ shield) in front of the Trojan army, in order to strike fear into the Achaeans (I,p. 316). When Odysseus is staying on the island with Helios’s cattle, he constantly reminds his men (O,p. 144): ‘My friends, we have food and drink in the ship, so we must keep our hands off these cattle or we may suffer for it’;

Therefore, Odysseus feared the wrath of Helios. As much as the characters feared the immortals, they had no choice but to put their trust into the hands of the gods. Agamemnon was told in a dream that the gods were going to hand Troy over to the Achaians(I,p. 78). Because of the content of this single dream, the Achaeans risked the lives of many important men. Odysseus trusted Athene and Zeus with his life when he fought the suitors (O,p. 228): Odysseus was glad to hear the words of omen and the clap of thunder. Now he felt sure he should punish the guilty men.

With no doubt in his mind, Achilles puts his trust into Hera’s words that he will kill Hector, no matter what the outcome of the war (I,p. 403). The characters are only puppets in the god’s perspective. Odysseus, who was at the time unsure of his destiny, was told by Circe to go to Hades and seek the prophecy of Theban Teiresias (O,p. 122). Odysseus knows that the gods will not let him reach Ithaca, unless he embarks on this terrifying journey across the Black Sea. Zeus has decided that in order to give glory to Achilles, Patroklos must perish first (I,p. 311):

And glorious Hector shall cut down Patroklos with the spear before Ilion, after he has killed many others of the young men, and among them my own shining Sarpedon. In anger for him brilliant Achilles shall kill Hector. Achilles did not encourage his friend Patroklos’ death, however, he knew that if Zeus had pronounced it, it was inevitable. Achilles had no way of avoiding his friends destiny. Poseidon despised Odysseus, because he blinded his Cyclops son Polyphemos. Odysseus found himself in a paradox; it was his fate to blind Polyphemos, and yet he made Poseidon angry for fulfilling his prophecy (O,p. 10). In the situation there was nothing Odysseus could have done to prevent Poseidon’s wrath.

The control that the gods have over the mortals is remarkable. Zeus and the other immortals, seldom allow the mortals any freewill. The characters are forced to live their lives knowing that nothing they do, will reflect the outcome of their fate. Therefore, resisting would be a worthless gesture. Although they are known for their strength and perseverance, they are rarely considered as being pawns controlled by the all mighty gods.

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