Although in Greek mythology immortality is a preserve of the gods and goddesses, human beings also have an opportunity to achieve immortal status. Human beings can achieve the status by demonstrating qualities of courage. Most warriors who go into battle in the Iliad and Odyssey hope to achieve glory on...
Although in Greek mythology immortality is a preserve of the gods and goddesses, human beings also have an opportunity to achieve immortal status. Human beings can achieve the status by demonstrating qualities of courage. Most warriors who go into battle in the Iliad and Odyssey hope to achieve glory on the battlefield. They are not afraid of death, because the idea of having their names remembered forever motivates them. Thus, through battle, they earn their immortality. Greek heroes such as Achilles and Ajax manage to achieve the status during the Trojan War. However, their immortality is restricted to their deeds and not their physical selves because according to Greek mythology, human beings and demigods are subject to death.
But you, Achilles,
there’s not a man in the world more blest than you—
there never has been, never will be one. (Conversation between Achilles and Odysseus in the underworld)
A different way that human beings can achieve immortality is if the status is conferred on them by a god, goddess, or other supernatural being with the ability. For instance, Calypso offers to make Odysseus an immortal being.
Odysseus, man of exploits,
still eager to leave at once and hurry back
to your own home, your beloved native land?
Good luck to you, even so. Farewell!
But if you only knew, down deep, what pains
are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore,
you’d stay right here, preside in our house with me
and be immortal.
In both the Iliad and the Odyssey, death is expected and considered normal, except when the gods or certain events are seen to influence the process. Throughout the Odyssey, Odysseus is protected by the goddess Athena from machinations by the god Poseidon. Athena averts Odysseus’s “unnatural” death and helps him reach home and recover his household.
The Greek attitude toward death and immortality stays the same in both works; both works acknowledge immortality as the preserve of the gods, and death is considered an expected occurrence for all human beings and demigods.
We everlasting gods. . . . Ah what chilling blows
we suffer—thanks to our own conflicting wills—
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness. (Iliad, book 5)