The Odyssey Questions and Answers
by Homer

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What is Odysseus' epiphany regarding mortality through his visit to the land of living dead in book 11?

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When Achilles comes forward to speak to Odysseus in the Underworld, Odysseus assures Achilles that he is awarded "'equal honor with the gods'" on earth because of how revered he is. Odysseus tells Achilles "do not grieve at having died [...]." However, Achilles is not comforted by Odysseus's words, and he says,

Mock not at death, glorious Odysseus. Better to be the hireling of a stranger, and serve a man of mean estate whose living is but small, than be the ruler over all these dead and gone.

In other words, Achilles says that any life—even one in which a person is poor and powerless—is better than death, even a death where one is honored and revered. There is no honor in death that makes up for the fact that one is no longer living. The only news that seems to bring Achilles any joy or peace is news of his son. He asks Odysseus to

[...] tell [him] tales of [his] proud son, whether or not he followed to the war to be a leader; tell what you...

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