Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What does the quote "In another's ship, and find trouble at home" (book 9, lines 526–533) from the Odyssey show about how the ancient Greeks viewed the gods?

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These lines are the curse that Polyphemus invokes from his father Poseidon in the Odyssey. This actually tells us a couple of things about how the ancient Greeks viewed the gods.

We see that they believed that the gods either controlled the fate of mortals or were bound to...

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These lines are the curse that Polyphemus invokes from his father Poseidon in the Odyssey. This actually tells us a couple of things about how the ancient Greeks viewed the gods.

We see that they believed that the gods either controlled the fate of mortals or were bound to work within its confines. Odysseus is fated to have a long and difficult voyage home. Polyphemus would prefer that his divine father prevent Odysseus from returning home at all. However, he understands that this may be out of Poseidon's control if the Ithacan is fated to find his way home. However, we know by this point in the story that Odysseus is fated to suffer on his voyage.

These lines also tell us that the ancient Greeks believed that the gods could be directly appealed to. Polyphemus has a familial relation to Poseidon, and that may explain why the god takes it personally to ensure Odysseus's troubles. However, the fact that the gods would care at all to concern themselves in the affairs of mortals is telling. Throughout Greek mythology, the gods involve themselves with the goings-on of mortals. Sometimes they take it upon themselves. Other times, as in this instance, they do so after an appeal or supplication by the nondivine.

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