What do Odysseus' remarks to Amphinomus reveal about the nature of men and gods in Book XVIII in The Odyssey?


The Odyssey

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It is to be remembered that Amphinomus is the one suitor that treats Odysseus with kindness and respect, giving him food and using kind words towards him. Odysseus at this point in the narrative is disguised as a poor beggar, and Odysseus offers Amphinomus some central truths about the nature of being a man and how gods relate to men:

Nothing feebler does earth nurture than man, of all things that on earth are breathing and moving. For he thinks that he will never suffer evil in time to come, so long as the gods give him prosperity and his knees are quick; but when again the blessed gods decree him sorrow, this too he bears in sore despite with steadfast heart; for the spirit of men upon the earth is even such as the day which the father of gods and men brings upon them.

Odysseus therefore suggests that humans are effectively the playthings of the gods, and that their destiny is in the hands of the gods. Odysseus states that as long as the gods decree it, a human can enjoy prosperity and happiness, but the moment that the gods change their mind, sadness and woe befalls them. As a result, Odysseus maintains that the most "feeble" example of nature is actually man, because he is blind to the central truth that his happiness is not dependent on his own actions but on the gods and their attitude towards him. This is something that Odysseus has clearly had personal experience of, as the suffering he has experienced has been a direct result of the change in attitude of the gods towards him.


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