The Odyssey is a Greek epic poem traditionally attributed to Homer. The poem tells the story of the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the Trojan War. During his absence, Odysseus’s wife Penelope is courted by a group of 108 suitors. Upon his return, Odysseus takes revenge on the suitors by killing them. The question remains – did the suitors deserve to die at the hands of Odysseus?
There are several interpretations of The Odyssey, and different readers will come to different conclusions about whether or not the suitors deserved their fate. One argument in favor of the suitors’ death is that they committed a crime by trying to take Odysseus’s place in his home and taking advantage of Penelope during her husband’s absence.
The suitors also wasted a great deal of Odysseus’s resources, which they had no right to do. Another argument in favor of the suitors’ death is that their actions were an insult to the gods, who had decreed that Odysseus should return home. The suitors disobeyed the gods by trying to keep Odysseus from returning to his rightful place.
There are also arguments against the suitors’ death. One is that they were only following the customs of their time, and courtship was a matter of public interest. The suitors did not know that Odysseus was alive and would return home, so they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Another argument is that the suitors did not actually do anything wrong – they did not force themselves on Penelope or take her by force. They were simply trying to win her hand in marriage, which was a perfectly acceptable thing to do at the time.
Ultimately, whether or not the suitors deserved to die at the hands of Odysseus is up to interpretation. What is clear, however, is that Odysseus’s revenge was a bloody and brutal affair. The suitors paid a high price for their crime, whatever that crime may have been.
The suitors and disloyal servants are punished for their crimes against Odysseus in the Odyssey’s closing portions, and it does appear that Odysseus’ death sentence is harsh. However, because there was no judicial system in place to handle these issues during this period of Greek history, it appears justified that as their offenses spanned almost 20 years and were committed directly against xenia, the law of Zeus, that Odysseus take his vengeance as he sees fit.
The suitors, through their actions of disrespect and wanton destruction in Odysseus’ home, have effectively removed themselves from the protection of the gods, and are thus subject to whatever punishment Odysseus deems fit. The fact that they also refused to take responsibility for their actions and repent even when given the chance, further cements their fate.
While it could be argued that the death penalty is too harsh a punishment for what are essentially youthful indiscretions, it must be remembered that the suitors are not simply young men acting out. They are engaged in a prolonged plot to usurp Odysseus’ position and destroy his family in the process. In a very real sense, they are traitors who deserve nothing less than death.
Tityus, for example, in Book 11 of the Odyssey, is a case in point. He was attacked by vultures who were plucking at his liver while his hands were powerless to drive them off. This occurred as a result of him assaulting one of Zeus’ companions; therefore it appears just that Odysseus exacts justice in the same way.
The suitors also committed a number of crimes, for example they not only killed many of Odysseus’ animals, but also ‘wasted’ his goods and tried to take over his household. Furthermore, they had no regard for the fact that Penelope was still grieving for her husband; in fact, they saw this as an opportunity to try and force her into marriage. In light of these crimes, it seems only fitting that the suitors should meet their end at the hands of Odysseus.
Indeed, the punishment appears to fit the crime for at least some of the suitors. Antinous was the first to be murdered, and he did so in a way that is quite appropriate; he was stabbed with a spear by Odysseus because he reached for his beautiful cup to take a drink of wine. Because Antinous had transgressed xenia’s regulations and lived an extravagant lifestyle from Odysseus’ home, it seemed equitable that he be killed.
The second suitor to be killed was also a leader, Eurymachus. He was the one who implored the other suitors to kill Telemachus when he came home, so that they could continue to feast on Odysseus’ estate. The manner of his death is somewhat more complicated than Antinous’. First, he is struck by an arrow from Telemachus. Next, Odysseus hurls a spear at him. As Eurymachus was cruel and had plotted against Telemachus, it seems appropriate that he would be killed in such a way.
The last two suitors to be killed were Amphinomus and Agelaus. These two did not seem to have done anything particularly wrong, other than being part of the group of suitors. They were killed in a way that was more indiscriminate, as they were caught up in the battle and killed by spears. In this case, it seems that their deaths were more due to circumstance than anything else.
On the whole, it does seem that the suitors deserved to die at the hands of Odysseus. They had broken the rules of xenia and lived a life of luxury at Odysseus’ expense. They also plotted against Telemachus and sought to kill him. In light of all this, it is not difficult to see why Odysseus would want them dead. The manner of their deaths does seem to fit their crimes, making it clear that they got what they deserved.
Also, while returning home from the sea with Odysseus and the other survivors, Polyphemus’ son kills a young man who has emerged from his cave. The violent death of this third suitor, Amphinomus, is described when ‘Telemachus hit [s] him from behind, midway between the shoulders,’ with a spear.
As this was a prediction made by Athena, it’s easy to see how it would come true for Odysseum. Eurymachus , Antinous’ right-hand man who had previously been killed in battle (1121), attempted to talk his way out of death by claiming that he liked being kissed as much as anything else in the world.
The final suitor to be killed is Antinous himself, who was the leader of the suitors and had caused the most problems for Odysseus during his time away. He is killed by an arrow shot by Odysseus, which hits him ‘in the throat under the chin.’ The death of these three suitors is significant as it shows that no matter how powerful someone may be, they are not invincible and can be brought down.
The death of the suitors also sends a message to any other potential suitors who may have been thinking about courting Penelope in the future. The message is clear: if you attempt to court Penelope, you will meet the same fate as the suitors. This is significant as it shows that Odysseus will not tolerate anyone trying to take what is rightfully his and that he is willing to go to extreme measures to protect his family.
The death of the suitors also sends a message to other men who may be thinking about committing adultery. The message is clear: if you cheat on your wife, you will meet the same fate as the suitors. This is significant as it shows that Odysseus will not tolerate anyone disrespecting his marriage and that he is willing to go to extreme measures to protect his relationship.
In conclusion, the death of the suitors was justified as they deserved punishment for their crime. The death of the suitors also sent a clear message to anyone who may be thinking about committing the same crime in the future. The message is clear: if you attempt to court Penelope or cheat on your wife, you will meet the same fate as the suitors. Odysseus is a man who is willing to go to extreme measures to protect his family and his marriage, and the death of the suitors is a testament to that.