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Odysseus meets a lot of people in the Hades, the Land of the Dead.
He goes there in Book 11 because Circe tells him he has to go there to talk to the prophet Teiresias if he ever wants to get back home.
Once he gets to Hades, he meets:
- Elpenor -- a crewman of his who just died by getting drunk and falling off a roof
- Odysseus's mother, Anticleia
- Tyro, who had a child with Poseidon and was grandmother of Nestor
- Epikaste, better known as Jocasta, mother of Oedipus
- Nestor's mother Cloris
- Ariadne, lover of Thesus who went into the labyrinth
Odysseus meets many individuals in the World of the Dead, including Tiresias, Agamemnon, Anticlea, Ajax, and Achilles. While the whole World of the Dead sequence is fascinating, one of the most engrossing aspects of it is Odysseus' encounter with Achilles.
Achilles was, of course, the hero of the Trojan War, the famous warrior who chose glory in battle in exchange for a short life. In the Illiad, we primarily see Achilles as a proud and capable warrior, the most important individual on the battlefield. As a shade in the underworld, however, Achilles has quite a deflated ego, claiming that he'd rather be a lowly slave blessed with life than a king of the dead. In this scene, we are confronted with an interesting dilemma: is it better to win glory and have life cut short, or is it better to perhaps live a more ordinary life and enjoy old age? Judging from Achilles' regretful disposition, it seems as if Homer is questioning the mortal obsession with glory, and even suggesting that winning honor in life is not worth very much after all.
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