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Explain in detail justice in Homer's (Iliad and The Odyssey) and Aeschylus's The...

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benji1026 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2013 at 2:24 AM via web

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Explain in detail justice in Homer's (Iliad and The Odyssey) and Aeschylus's The Oresteia (Libation Bearers).  What are the contrasting views of implementing justice, as a means of maintaining order in society, in these works?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM (Answer #2)

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In both Homer and Aeschylus, justice is accompanied by violent action.  The need to maintain justice and order in a social setting is substantiated through the need to act with violence.  State sanctioned violence in the name of war and conquest or individual acts of violence in which a perceived order of justice is maintained are parts of the Classical understanding.  Moral or legal justice is not an entity where compromise and negotiation are featured.  Rather, individuals feel that some transgression against the just and moral order must feature a response of violent action.

In The Orestia, the need to take violence in the name of justice is evident.  Clytemnestra feels that justice was violated in the taking of her daughter's life.  She conceives of violence against her husband because the just and moral order has been corrupted.  When Orestes recognizes the need to take action in the name of his father, he sees that justice is violated and must commit more violence in order to right that which is wrong. At the critical point, Orestes understands this need:  " "Shall I be ashamed to kill [my] mother?"  This agonizing sense of identity is prompted because he sees that implementing justice through violence is a necessary means to maintain order.  Justice is not something negotiated or bartered.  Rather, it requires swift and defining action.  It necessitates violence.

In the works of Homer, one sees that the perceived denial of justice is followed through with violence.  In The Odyssey, the confrontation with the suitors who have violated the just order in taking over Odysseus's home and wife is a violent one.  With the killing of the Cylops, one sees how Odysseus must embrace violence to ensure that his understanding of justice is kept intact.  The Iliad depicts a reality in which violence supports a need to establish justice.  Agamemnon convinces his brother that there is an issue of justice that has been offended with Paris' taking of Helen.  Hector and the Trojans recognize that there is an immediate need to support the threat to justice to Troy in fighting.  Achilles feels that justice has been violated with the death of Patroclus. Even the sacking of Troy was seen as an act of justice, punishing those who challenged the supposed just order.  In these instances, the need to maintain justice is accompanied with violence.

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