Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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How do Greek values as shown in the Odyssey differ from those in the Iliad?

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Honor and glory seem to be values much more paramount in the Iliad than they are in the Odyssey. The Iliad is about a war, how to fight it, and how to win it, but the Odyssey is a story about survival against all odds, against even a god's wishes. Therefore, in the Odyssey we see values such as hospitality and piety playing an even larger role than honor and glory. Odysseus must depend on the hospitality of strangers as he attempts to get home to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, in Ithaca. Sometimes the religious imperative to offer hospitality to strangers is ignored, and sometimes negative consequences result: when Polyphemus eats six of Odysseus's men, Odysseus blinds him. Moreover, when the suitors for Penelope's hand abuse the rules of hospitality, they are severely punished by Odysseus and Telemachus: revenge with which the gods seem to agree.

Further, Odysseus's religious piety helps him to gain favor with key gods like Athena and Zeus. Penelope's marital piety and faithfulness to her long-absent husband renders her a model wife for other characters and the audience alike, just as Telemachus's filial piety (exhibited by his dangerous mission to find his father or, at least, news of him as well as his keen desire to avenge the wrongs committed by the suitors). Piety, like hospitality, is thus admired and valued much more so than is discussed in the Iliad.

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