Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What Greek values, aside from hospitality and family, are shown in the Odyssey?

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I would say that one of the most striking example of Greek values displayed in Homer's work comes when Odysseus tours the underworld.  The Greek value of honoring the dead as well as the immense respect that the Greek culture had towards the human soul comes out in this instant.  Odysseus travels through the underworld and does not silence the voices of the dead that inhabit it.  Homer is able to construct a setting in which Odysseus acknowledges a form of reverential debt that the dead have paid in order for Odysseus to be in the land of the living.  When Odysseus listens to the different stories of the different souls in the underworld, it highlights the Greek value of respecting the dead.  Odysseus does this in Book XI in his tours of the underworld.  At the same time, I think that Odysseus' experience highlights the Greek value of the immortality of the soul.  The dead are not really "dead" in the traditional sense.  Achilles embraces this as he gives his own opinion of mortality to Odysseus as one in which life, in whatever form, is to be revered.  Hearing this from one who has passed into another realm is another form of respecting the dead and the notion of the soul's immortality.  Both Greek values are present in the moment in which Odysseus voyages through the Underworld.

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How is hospitality an example of a Greek cultural value in The Odyssey?

The theme of hospitality occurs in numerous places. As Odysseus and his men are traveling, they must rely on the generosity of those whom they encounter, both gods and mortals alike. Sometimes they are not the best guests, such as when they disobediently eat the cattle of the sun god, Helios. At the other extreme, when the travelers meet Polyphemus, and Odysseus requests the culturally expected hospitality, the Cyclops decisively violates the norm: he eats some of Odysseus’s men.

The main place where hospitality figures prominently, however, is back home in Ithaca. Penelope must uphold her position as Odysseus's wife and keep a hospitable environment in their home. The suitors cluster around her, waiting for her to declare Odysseus dead and marry one of them. They test her patience with their bad behavior, which ranges from merely opportunistic to rude to homicidal. Penelope understands, however, that the honor of her and Odysseus’s family depends on her magnanimity. When their son, Telemachus, returns home from Troy, he loses his patience and starts to make the suitors feel unwelcome.

Hospitality is so crucial, in fact, that the entire resolution of the epic rests on it. Tired of waiting and concerned about Telemachus’s objections, several suitors conspire to kill him. Finally, when Odysseus himself returns disguised as a beggar, the suitors torment and attack him. Distressed that they dare to do this in her home, Penelope calls the beggar to an interview, thus beginning the process of reunion with her husband that will also result in him and Telemachus slaughtering all the suitors.

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